Papers of John Adams, volume 9

From Jonathan Williams, 23 May 1780 Williams, Jonathan JA


From Jonathan Williams, 23 May 1780 Williams, Jonathan Adams, John
From Jonathan Williams
Dear Sir Nantes May 23. 1780

I have received your much esteemed Favour of the 14 Instant, and find by it that the Error about my departure for America is sett right: 337My Uncle1 is, if not already sailed, ready to depart from L'Orient, and I hope your Letters by him will arrive safe.

I thank you very much for the news you give me and I wish I could in return say something decisive about Clinton, but my last Letters from America give me nothing later than 18 March from Carolina. I have received Letters to day from Boston by the way of Bilboa brought by Mr. Appleton, who I suppose to be the Son of my Friend Mr. Nat Appleton of the Loan Office.2 My last Dates are in March and I have no more News about military affairs than if we had not an Enemy in our Country.

A Dutch man is arrived here who says he saw Walsingham's Fleet standing to the Westward from the Entrance of the Channel on the 18 Instant. Greaves I understand is not with him.

I send you inclosed a News Paper, not on account of the News it contains but to show you the Pensylvania Acts, and part of one of Congress incorporated therin which perhaps you may not yet have seen.3 I observe Congress estimation of the Currency seems to be at 40 for one, for they propose to receive one hard Dollar in payment of 40 paper ones for the Taxes, yet they speak of the punctual redemption of their Bills. I am sorry to observe that all the Events which it was supposed would make the appreciation of our money as rapid as its Depreciation has been, have not had the desired Effect, and I cant see when the Evil will stop. I am for my own part an exceeding great Sufferer in this Business, but I should not regret any Loss I might suffer if it tended to relieve my Country and contribute to the public Disburse, but on the Contrary I see with Concern a number of speculators who keep our money in disgrace from imaginary Causes, and make Fortunes by their Countrys distress, for were our money to rise to its original value, or near it, these People who possess large Property bought at an extravagant Rate, would by the Consequent reduction of prices, be less affluent. Thus like Hottentots they are Feeding on the Entrails of their Neighbors.

I see by the English Papers that Genl. Conway and Mr. Hartly are for making propositions of Peace. I am surprized they think America will be guilty of such base ingratitude as to join them against the House of Bourbon.

I am with the greatest Respect & Esteem Dear Sir Your most obedient & most humble Servant

Jona. Williams

RC (Adams Papers; endorsed: “M. Williams May 23. ansd. 10. June.”; docketed by CFA: “1780.”)

338 1.

The letter of the 14th (above) referred to Jonathan Williams III (d. 1 May 1780), but he was the cousin of the author of this letter rather than his uncle.


This was John Appleton, son of Boston merchant and commissioner of the Continental Loan Office Nathaniel Appleton. He later delivered letters to JA in the Netherlands ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:390).


Williams is referring to a preliminary version of “An Act for funding and redeeming the Bills of Credit of the United States of America . . .,” which the Pennsylvania General Assembly ordered printed in the various newspapers for public comment prior to its second reading and which was adopted in its final form on 1 June (Pennsylvania Gazette, 29 March; Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Phila., 1782, p. 389– 397; Evans, No. 17656). The act was the Pennsylvania counterpart of the Massachusetts bill mentioned by Samuel Cooper in his letter of 23 May (and note 9, above). The act adopted by Congress on 18 March prescribing the redemption of Continental bills of credit at the rate of 40 to 1 served as the preamble to Pennsylvania's bill, which provided for the continuation of taxes levied to meet continental requisitions, the taxes to be paid either in bills of credit or in specie at the rate of one Spanish milled dollar to forty dollars in currency. The bills obtained were to be retired and replaced by a new issue redeemable in specie after six years at an interest rate of five percent. For the congressional act of 18 March and the ultimate failure of the redemption scheme, see Benjamin Rush's letter of 28 April, note 4 (above).

To John Bondfield, 24 May 1780 JA Bondfield, John


To John Bondfield, 24 May 1780 Adams, John Bondfield, John
To John Bondfield
Sir Paris May 24. 1780

This day I had the Pleasure of yours of the 20th. By the arrival of so many Vessells, at Bilbao, Bourdeaux Nantes, L'orient, and Amsterdam, I think We may fairly conclude that the British Vessells of War have other occupations than cruising, and that the Commerce of our Country is opening and extending in an agreable manner. But as these Vessells bring so few Letters to the Politicians I begin to fear our Countrymen are turning too much of their attention to Trade, from what is as yet, perhaps of more importance to their Safety, Policy and War. There is an elegant masterly Letter however from Sir H. Clinton, which will Supply a Volume from lesser, or even from more friendly Authorities, which you will soon see.

Congress are taking great and bold Steps in the management of their Finances. They are indeed necessary. I hope they build upon good foundations. But if they do not, Things cannot be much worse, before they will be better. The Measure they have ventured on is Evidence of a Vigour and an Activity that will work its Way.

I believe there has hardly been an Example of Such Unanimity, in the Sentiments of the European Courts upon a great question, as in that of American Liberty. It is no wonder. There has been no object in which they have been So universally interested, and there has been no point so obviously just, reasonable and humane. This Unanimity will Secure our Liberty and Safety, but I fear not very soon our peace. 339I Suspect the Ministry are now shut up in the House of Commons plotting some new System of delusions.

The Trust you mention is Sacred indeed, So much so that it is never thought of by me, without Reverence. Your approbation of its being placed where it is, does me honour, and gives me great pleasure.

The Wine is not yet arrived. I send every day to the Bureau, but can hear nothing of it. I suffer for want of it, every day. I will send, a Letter or two to go by your Vessell. I am, with much esteem,


Mr. Vernon is a young Gentleman for whom I have much esteem. But as my authority is confined to one object, it is not in my power to place him, in any situation that would be agreable to him.

LbC (Adams Papers. )