Papers of John Adams, volume 9

To Edmé Jacques Genet, 9 May 1780 JA Genet, Edmé Jacques To Edmé Jacques Genet, 9 May 1780 Adams, John Genet, Edmé Jacques
To Edmé Jacques Genet
Dear Sir Paris May 9. 1780

I thank you for your Note of yesterday and the Papers inclosed. The Proposals for a general Pacification, by the Dean of Gloucester, whether they were written by him, or another, were probably intended to feel the pulse, of France, or Spain, or America, nay it is not impossible that they might be intended to Sound, So inconsiderable a Portion of Existence as Mr. John Adams: but it must be Something rather more plausibly written: Something a little more consonant to Reason, and to common Sense, which will draw out of Mr. Adams, his sentiments on the great Work of Pacification, if ever he should enter into any detail upon this subject, before general Conferences take place, which he at present believes he shall not do.1

Concealing however my Name, you may take these few observations upon these Proposals.

1. England may be heartily sick of the imprudent Part she has taken.2 This Point I shall not dispute with the Dean of Gloucester. Yet I wish she would give some better proofs of it, than she has done, hitherto. But of America, I can Speak with Confidence and Certainty, and So far from being Sick of the part they have taken, they look upon the past Madness of Great Britain, which has compelled them to overcome all the Prejudices, and weak Passions, which heretofore bound them to her, and to become independant as the greatest Blessing which Providence, ever bestowed upon them from the first Plantation in the new World. They look upon it, that a Council of the wisest statesmen and Legislators, consulting together on the best means of rendering America, happy, free, and great, could not have discovered and digested a system so perfectly adapted to that End, as the one which the folly and Wickedness of Britain has contrived for them. They not only See and feel, and rejoice in the glorious Amelioration of their Forms of Government, but in the Improvement of their Agriculture, and their Manufactures, and in the discovery that all the Omnipotence of British Talents, has not been able to 291prevent their Commerce, which is opening and extending every year, as their Population is increasing in the Midst of the War.

To suppose that France is Sick of the War the Part she has taken3 is to suppose her to be sick of that Conduct which has procured her more Respect and Consideration in Europe than any step she ever took. It is to suppose her sick of that system which enabled her to negotiate the Peace between Russia and the Ottoman Port, as well as the Peace of Teschen:4 that system which has enabled her to unite in sentiment and affection all the maritime Powers, even the United Provinces, in her favour and against England. It is to suppose her sick of that system, which has broke off, from her rival and natural Ennemy, the most solid Part of his Strength. A strength that had become So terrible to France and would soon have been So fatal to her. I dont mean to enlarge.

As to the Propositions themselves it would be wasting time to consider them. Of all the malicious Plans of the English against America, none has ever been more so than this. Tis calculated only to make America the Sport of Britain, in future, to put it in her Power, to be forever fomenting Quarrells and Wars. And I am well persuaded, that America, would sooner vote for a Thirty Thousand hundred Years War.5

I may be thought, again too sanguine. I have been too sanguine these twenty Years, constantly too Sanguine: yet eternally right.

Adieu John Adams

I dont see Captain Waters's Engagement yet in any other of the Papers.6 I would have sent it to England and Holland for Publication, if I had known it could not be printed here.

LbC (Adams Papers).


Genet's note of 8 May (Adams Papers) enclosed peace proposals from an unidentified issue of the London General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer (from Genet, 11 May, below); they were also printed in the May issue of Gentleman's Magazine (50:221–222) under the heading of “Proposals for a General Pacification. By the Dean of Gloucester.” For the specific proposals, which included the partition of America, with Britain retaining the territory between the Connecticut and Delaware Rivers and the land below North Carolina, and the cession of Gibraltar to Spain, see JA's letter of 9 May to the president of Congress (No. 62, below). Such proposals were being considered in the spring of 1780 in the course of informal contacts between the British and French governments (Morris, Peacemakers , p. 101–102).

Although JA's doubts as to whether the plan was by Josiah Tucker, dean of Gloucester, proved groundless, they may have stemmed from the apparent variance of the specific proposals made by Tucker from his previous writings. In both The True Interest of Great-Britain set forth in Regard to the Colonies (London, 1774; reprinted at Philadelphia in 1776, Evans, No. 15119) and Dispassionate Thoughts on the American War Addressed to Moderates of All Parties (London, 1780), Tucker had argued that it was in Britain's economic self-interest to withdraw completely 292from the colonies and give them the independence they so desired. Such action would remove the expense of maintaining a colonial presence, but would not mean the loss of the American markets or sources of raw materials, for even as independent states the former colonies would be drawn economically to their former mother country. Tucker's position in his pamphlets, therefore, does not seem dramatically different from Thomas Pownall's in his Memorial or from JA's position in his reworking of Pownall's pamphlet (A Translation of Thomas Pownall's Memorial, 19 April – ca. 14 July , above).


In introducing the proposals, Tucker began “all the powers at war are heartily sick of the imprudent parts they have taken.”


The preceding five words were interlined.


For the Treaty of Kutschuk-Kainardji (1774) and the Convention of Ainali-Kavak (1779), and the Treaty of Teschen (1779), see vol. 8:index, under Treaties.


In a letter of 10 May (Adams Papers), Genet thanked JA for his observations on the peace proposals, but stated that he had decided not to publish them so as to avoid the appearance of paying too much attention to the Dean of Gloucester's “Agri Somnia.” That is, the empty visions of a sick man.


See JA's letter of 3 May to Genet, note 1 (above).

To the President of Congress, No. 62, 9 May 1780 JA Huntington, Samuel President of Congress To the President of Congress, No. 62, 9 May 1780 Adams, John Huntington, Samuel President of Congress
To the President of Congress, No. 62
Sir Paris May 9. 1780

I have the Honour to inclose to Congress, Proposals for a general Pacification, by the Dean of Gloucester.1

Proposed to the English, Americans, French and Spaniards, now at War.

1. That Great Britain Shall retain Newfoundland, with the Desert Coasts of Labradore, also Canada Nova Scotia, and the Country bordering on the Bay of Fundy, as far as the Bay and River of Penobscot.

2. That all the Country from the Penobscot River to the River Connecticut, containing almost all the four populous provinces of New England, Shall be ceded to the Americans.

3. That all the Country from the Connecticut to the River Delaware, containing the whole of New York Long Island, and the Jersies with Some parts of two other Provinces indenting with them, shall return to Great Britain.

4. That all the Country from the Delaware to the Northern boundary of South Carolina, containing the greatest part of Pennsylvania, all Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, shall be ceded to the Americans.

5. That all the Country from the Northern boundary of South Carolina to the extreme point of the eastern Florida, containing three whole Provinces, shall be retained by Great Britain.

6. That West Florida, chiefly barren Sand, and the Fortress of Gibralter (totally useless) Shall be ceded to Spain, in order to Satisfy 293the Punto2 of that nation, and that the Spaniards shall give Porto Rico in Exchange—an Island, on which they seem to set no Value, and which indeed is of no Use to them, though large in itself, Stored with good ports, well situated, and capable (in the Hands of the English) of great Improvements.

7. Lastly that the English Shall give up the Conquests they have made on the French in the East Indies who shall do the like to the English in the West Indies.

I shall make no Remarks upon this Plan. But there is no Englishman thinks of a wiser, or at least who dares propose one. All who talk of Propositions, throw out something as absurd, and idle as this, which will convince Congress that We shall have no Peace for Sometime.

The French Armament which sailed from Brest the second of May, under the Command of M. De Rochambeau of the Troops and M. de Ternay of the Fleet—and the Armament from Cadiz of twelve ships of the Line besides Frigates and other armed Vessels, with Eleven thousand five hundred Land Forces, with a fine Train of Artillery which were to sail about the same time or earlier,3 both destined for America, as it is supposed, will I hope bring the English to think of some Plan a little more rational.

I have the Honour to be, with great Regard, sir your most obedient servant, John Adams

RC (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 35–36); endorsed: “No. 63 Letter from J Adams May 9. 1780 Read Sept 20 Dean of Glocester's plan of pacification.” LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers); notation by Thaxter: “No. 62.”


For the source of these proposals and additional comments by JA on them, see his letter of 9 May to Genet, and note 1 (above).


That is, to satisfy Spanish honor.


The Spanish fleet commanded by Como. José Solano sailed from Cádiz on 28 April and arrived at Guadaloupe on 9 June. Its twelve ships of the line convoyed 146 transports and other vessels carrying 11,000 troops (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 188–189).