Papers of John Adams, volume 10

From William Vernon Sr.

From Mercy Otis Warren

To the President of Congress, No. 99, 23 July 1780 JA President of Congress Huntington, Samuel


To the President of Congress, No. 99, 23 July 1780 Adams, John President of Congress Huntington, Samuel
To the President of Congress, No. 99
No. 99. Duplicate Sir Paris July 23d 1780

I have been amused sometime with dark and unintelligible hints in Letters from London of some Messenger sent from Lord North to Madrid.1

Three weeks ago, I waited on the Comte de Vergennes at Versailles to acquaint him that I had an intention of making a Journey to Amsterdam for a few weeks, as I flattered myself I might form some Acquaintances or Correspondences there and collect some Intelligence that might be useful the United States.2 His Excellency desired me to wait some time, for that in eight or ten days he believed he should have something to communicate to me. I assured him I would not go 'till I saw him again or heard further from him. This day sennight,3 his Excellency informed me that he was ready to let me know, that a Messenger from the Court of London had arrived at Madrid: that the Spanish Ministry had demanded the sentiments of the British Court concerning America. He said he was not instructed. He was told that he must previously explain himself upon that subject. He determined to send an Express to London for instructions. This the Comte de Vergennes said would take up two months, and consequently leave me time enough to go to Holland, but if any thing should happen in the mean time, he would give me the earliest Information of it.

In the Courier de l'Europe of the 14th of July is this paragraph.

“The report runs, that a person, who has been Secretary of M. le Marquiss D'Almodavar during his Embassy from the Court of Madrid to that of London, arrived here, London, some weeks ago, on board the Milford coming from Oporto: that after a stay of eight days, this Frigate had orders to transport this Person to Lisbon, accompanied by Mr. Cumberland, Secretary of Lord George Germaine, whose instructions imply, that if at the End of twenty days, he is not called 27to Madrid, he is to return here immediately. As soon as this Person arrived at Lisbon he set out for Madrid, where fifteen after Mr. Cumberland was invited to go, and where he is at present.”4

There is a body of people in England, who are zealous and clamorous for Peace, and the Ministry find their Account in amusing and silencing them, by some equivocal Appearances of Negotiation. They have ever made it a part of their political System to hold out to America some false hopes of reconciliation and peace, in order to slacken our Nerves and retard our preparations. They think also that they can amuse the Courts of France and Spain, with a talk about Conferances and Negotiations, while they are secretly concerting measures to succour Gibralter, and carry on their operations the next Campaign: but serious thoughts of Peace upon any terms that We can agree I am well persuaded they never had. But if they ever did entertain any thoughts of negotiation, it must have been at the time of their Consternation for Sir Henry Clinton and their despair of his success.

The total and absolute suppression of the Tumults in London, and the triumphant success of Clinton beyond their most sanguine Expectations, has now given them such Exultation and Confidence, that the People of America will dethrone the Congress and like the Israelites demand a King, that they now think of nothing but unconditional submission, or at least of delusive proffers of terms which they know the majority of the People in America will not agree to, in order to divide Us, make a few Gentlemen Apostates, and some Soldiers deserters.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant

John Adams

Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 219–222); endorsed: “No. 99 John Adams July 23. 1780 Read Decr. 26.” LbC with closing by John Thaxter (Adams Papers); notations by Thaxter: “No. 99.” and “Paris 12th. August 1780. This day Mr. Dana delivered the originals of Nos. 91. 92 93. 94. 95. 96. 97. 98 & 99. & duplicates of Nos. 89 & 90 to Dr. Franklin, who was to send them by a Gentleman going to L'Orient to Capt. J. P. Jones who is at that place.” This is the final letter written by JA to the president of Congress during his residence in Paris in 1780 for which a Letterbook copy exists in Lb/JA/12 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 100). An additional letter in this Letterbook, dated 14 Aug. at Paris and numbered “100,” was inserted while JA was in Amsterdam. For that letter, see JA's letter from Amsterdam of 14 Aug. to the president of Congress, No. 1, note 1 (below). For information regarding this Letterbook, see part 2 of the Introduction: “John Adams and His Letterbooks” (above).


JA is likely referring to Edmund Jenings' letters of 22 May (Adams Papers), 27 May, 2 June, and 5 June (all above) in which Jenings related information received from an uniden-28tified correspondent in London concerning the Hussey-Cumberland mission to Spain. For JA's reaction to the reports and an account of the ill-fated mission, see JA's letter to Jenings of 29 May, and note 4 (above).


This is the earliest known letter in which JA indicates his intention to go to the Netherlands and the only letter in which he gives his reasons for doing so and that his decision had apparently been made on or about 2 July. This was immediately after his exchange with Vergennes over Congress' revaluation of its currency and prior to his correspondence with Vergennes over his mission and the need for additional French aid, but there is no indication that either confrontation significantly influenced JA's decision. In fact, there is no evidence that he planned to do anything more during his visit than is indicated in this letter or that he viewed his departure on 27 July as either permanent or a turning point in his diplomatic career. This seems borne out by his failure, except for his letters of 14, 22, and 23 Aug. to the president of Congress (Nos. 1–3, all below), to write to anyone in America concerning his departure from Paris until his letter of 4 Sept. to AA ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:409–410). Indeed, the first known letter to AA concerning JA's residence in Amsterdam was John Thaxter's of 21 Aug. (same, 3:397).


That is, a week ago. For the impact of the information provided by Vergennes concerning the Hussey-Cumberland mission, see JA's letter to Vergennes of 17 July, and note 6 (above).


This passage is an English translation of the French text in the Courier de l'Europe; opening quotation marks have been supplied. The same report appeared earlier in various other London newspapers, including the London Courant of 12 July and the London Chronicle of 11–13 July.