Papers of John Adams, volume 9

From Edmund Jenings, 12 April 1780 Jenings, Edmund JA From Edmund Jenings, 12 April 1780 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Sir Brussels April 12. 1780

I Congratulate your Excellency, on the Russian Memorial; on its face, it promises much, (as it has something, that tends to a general Coalition). Surely the Independance of America is essential to the freedom of Commerce, I wish it was generally thought so; however the Invitation to Sweden, Denmark, Portugal and Holland leads to an immediate formidable Confederacy against the overgrown, and consequently insolent Power of England.

I congratulate your Excellency too that Nothing was heard, in Maryland, of Clinton with his 8000 Men the 2d of March, I trust we shall hear no more of Him.

I received yesterday a Letter from Mr Joshua Johnson at Nantes, wherein He expresses an Earnest desire of being permitted to Lay 130before you such Information, as may come to his Knowledge, and have your Correspondence and Confidence. Give me leave Sir, to recommend Him to your Excellency, as a Gentleman highly worthy of both. He has accepted, from a Sense of Duty to our Country, the painful and invidious Business of Auditing the public Accounts, and promises a Strict and faithful Discharge of that important Office.1 This I am sure will be most pleasing to You, and serve to recommend him better to your Notice, than All I can say; it is Sometime Since He Signified his Acceptance of the Employment, but has not receivd an Answer. He tells me, that Congress has said, that they intend to draw bills at 6 Months Sight for £200,000 Sterling, the buyer to pay 25000 Currency for £1000 Sterling, and to lend Congress £25000 more, which is to go in the Sinking fund, and for which they are to receive 6 per Cent Interest.2

He tells me too, that the State of Maryland, having some Money in the English Funds, have named Mr Carmichael, Mr Williams, Mr R B LLoyd, Himself and me as fit persons, out of whom His Excellency Mr Franklin is to chuse one to sell and receive and transmit the same, for which He is to have 2 1/2 per Cent.3 I am much pleasd with the Notice, that my Native Country has taken of me, and therefor, altho I am not ambitious of the Employment I shall think it my Duty in Obedience to the State to accept it if the Choice falls on me, (of which I am told there is little probability) however I must first beg your Advice and directions, Should his Excellency nominate me and you shoud approve of my Acceptance, I shall be obligd to you to make known to Him my present Residence.

Mr Carmichael writes from Madrid, that He is much satisfied with the Frankness of those, with whom He treats. He wishes my Correspondence and Every information, for altho He has written several Letters to Paris within these six weeks, He has received no Answer.

I had proposed to have gone to Boulogne, for my Baggage left there last Summer before this, as I took the Liberty of Informing your Excellency, but shall now stay here, until I have the Honor of receiving your Direction, whether it will be necessary for me to Attend yours and his Excellencys Mr Franklins Command at Paris.

I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect your Excellencys Most Obedient and Faithful Servt. Edm: Jenings

RC (Adams Papers;) endorsed: “Mr. Jennings recd & ansd. Ap. 15. 1780.”


For Johnson, a merchant and JQA's future father-in-law, see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:300. Johnson was nominated on 28 Sept. 1779, along with Jenings and a “Mr. Labouchere,” to examine the public accounts and was elected by Congress the next day 131( JCC , 15:1114–1115, 1126).


Johnson was referring to Congress' resolutions of 23 Nov. 1779 directing that £100,000 sterling in bills of exchange be drawn on John Jay in Spain and a like sum on Henry Laurens in the Netherlands, “payable at six months sight” and sold “at the current rate of exchange.” The details of the required loan of an amount equal to the purchase price of the bills of exchange were finally set on 27 Dec. ( JCC , 15:1299–1300, 1315–1316, 1326–1327, 1404– 1405, 1412–1413). Although Congress prepared the bills for sale, most were never used because of the unlikelihood that sufficient funds would be available for payment in either Spain or the Netherlands (E. James Ferguson, Power of the Purse , Williamsburg, 1961, p. 55–56).


In Nov. 1779 the Maryland Assembly, seeking to obtain funds for the redemption of its bills of credit, authorized Benjamin Franklin (or John Jay, in Franklin's absence) to order the pre-Revolutionary trustees of Maryland's stock in the Bank of England, resident in Britain, to sell the stock and transfer the funds to a bank in Paris or Amsterdam. If the trustees refused, Franklin was to appoint a trustee from among the five men named by Jenings in his letter. The new trustee would then go to London and through some unspecified means take control of the state's funds. JA later discussed the matter with Franklin and on 30 April forwarded to Jenings the substance of the legislation (Adams Papers). As events transpired, the pre-war trustees refused to act and Franklin apparently named William Carmichael as trustee, but he never took up his post. Maryland did not finally obtain access to its funds until 1806, after much negotiation and litigation (Kathryn L. Behrens, Paper Money in Maryland, 1727–1789, in Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Baltimore, 1923, Ser. 41, No. 1, p. 88–94; Archives of Maryland, Baltimore, 1883– , 43:50–51).

From Arthur Lee, 12 April 1780 Lee, Arthur JA From Arthur Lee, 12 April 1780 Lee, Arthur Adams, John
From Arthur Lee
Dear Sir L'Orient April 12th. 1780

I am obliged to you for yours of the 31st. which I received by Capt. Landais. You will have perceived by my last,1 that what you write relative to an application to Mr. Grand was what struck me upon reflection. Far from wishing to involve you with such People, I am clearly of opinion that it never will be for your honor or interest, or those of the public, to have any connection with them. The character you are in, will introduce you to the best families in Paris; and if you shoud ever want their advice or influence in transacting the public business, I am sure they will give it. There is not a man upon earth of more honor, worth, and wisdom, than Count Sarsfield; nor any one who woud more readily promote the success of your Mission for the benefit of our Country. The Men who have hitherto been permitted and encouraged to meddle with our affairs, and even presume to direct them, are fit only for such dirty and dishonest jobs as fitting out the Bon Homme Richard, or robbing dispatches.2 And as I am very sure you will have no such jobs for them, I am most convinced, and my regard for you and the public makes me venture to offer it as my opinion, that you will with difficulty escape the injuries which I have experienced, if you have any society or connection with them. Your character places you in a Sphere far above them; and beleive 132me, your honor and success are greatly concernd in not discending from it as others have done.

I wrote to Mr. Grand himself, and, with a very puppyish preamble, received the following answer, “Je suis faché de ne pouvoir vous donner une explication telle que vous la desireriez, parceque je ne puis vous dissimuler, ni a moi, qu'il etoit connu que vous n'aviez pas la confiance de la Cour, je puis même en être convenu sans avoir cru vous faire tord, avec gens qui le savoient aussi bien, et peut être meux que moi; mais ce n'etoit pas une chose assez agréable pour la dire, et encore moins l'ecrire sans avoir une vocation expresse.”3

We have not yet any prospect of the Crew being paid their wages and prise money; nor of our going this three weeks.

My Compliments to Mr. Dana.

Adieu A. Lee

RC (Adams Papers;) endorsed: “Mr Lee. ansd. 25. May”; and docketed by CFA: “Arthur Lee April 12th. 1780.”


Of 26 March (above).


Presumably Le Ray de Chaumont, certainly one of those whom Arthur Lee would describe in the terms used in this letter. Chaumont had been the chief agent of the French government during the outfitting of the Bonhomme Richard squadron in 1779 and Lee suspected that he had been involved in the 1777 theft of the Commissioners' dispatches to Congress carried by Capt. John Folger (Morison, John Paul Jones , p. 192–193; vol. 6:320; 7:134–135).


The extract from Ferdinand Grand's reply of 8 April (ViU: Lee Papers) to Arthur Lee's letter of 30 March (PCC, No. 102, III, f. 170–171) is accurate, aside from slight variations in spelling and punctuation. As translated the passage reads: I am displeased not to be able to give you an explanation of the sort you desire, because I cannot conceal from you or from myself that it was known that you did not have the confidence of the Court, I myself can be in sympathy with people who knew it as well and perhaps better than myself, without having knowingly wronged you; but it is too unpleasant a thing to discuss, much less write about without having an express purpose.