Papers of John Adams, volume 10

From Stephen Sayre, 1 November 1780 Sayre, Stephen JA From Stephen Sayre, 1 November 1780 Sayre, Stephen Adams, John
From Stephen Sayre
Sir St. Petersburg 21 Octr. 1 November 1780

I make no Apology for troubling you with a Letter, because your Excellency must know me by reputation, and because the purport of it is of a public nature.1 As to myself, I trust, you must be persuaded, there is not an American, now in arms, more ardent in our cause—I am sure none can have more reason to detest the British Government. When I left Great Britain, I did it with a full determination of risqing my life in service, either by Sea or land. Unfortunately, those Gentlemen who directed our affairs on the Continent of Europe, could not agree how I should be employ'd—nor did they give me any reason to hope for release, should I have been made prisoner in my way to America. The hayzard at that time was extremely great—and I well knew that if once I fell into the hands of the English, my treatment must have been fatally cruel—the Idea of a languishing and ignominious confinement before I had opportunity of distinguishing myself, was, I own, insupportable. My former conduct, situation and suffering led me to hope that I could render my Country real Services by staying in Europe—In this my wishes have been extremely disappointed; because I have had no public support. My only consolation 322is, that, tho' a private Gentleman, I have render'd our cause somewhat more respectable in many parts of Europe, by Information, as to what we really are; and what our Enemies wish to represent us. In short it requires no great abilities to convince the intelligent of Europe that they are exceedingly interested in our welfare and however I may seem engaged in a private pursuit of commerce, I never lose sight of the public good. On that ground I now give you the following Information—perhaps your powers may admit your improving it to advantage. I am now building four Ships of 900 Tons each—they are after the best English Models: for I have a Russian Carpenter who has work'd five years in Deptford Yard. They are under Russian Noblemen—will have every quality of neutrallity—will be ready to take in goods in June next—perhaps in May. They will probably proceed from hence to France with Hemp &c.—from thence to the French or Dutch Islands &c. &c. Now if you have instructions that may warrant the venture; those Ships, or part of them might be loaded from hence, with such articles as America may demand, directly for St. Eustatia, Curasoa, Martineco, or any other West India Island. The property would be most sacredly cover'd; for the Merchants here who charge the Ship, would never know that it could be for other than Russian Account. A prince Niswisky, and General Borosdin—men of honest fame and of Influence here, are concern'd with me. The General goes in one of the Ships himself. They are promised by the Empress herself, the most decided protection in this trade: and you may suppose I could improve the begining of such a commerce to very good purpose, were I to have the ability to bigin it. Nothing would render her Majesty more pleasure—or make her more our freind.2 Your answer will greatly oblige me, whither any thing is dicided or not. I have been honor'd with the correspondence of Mr. Sam: Adams, before I left England. Shall ever esteem your Excellency's freindship. I am with all due respect your most obt. humb Servt

Stephen Sayre

Messrs. Delalande and Fynie3 are my Correspondents in Amsterdam. They are worthy your freindship.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr &c. &c. &c.”; endorsed: “Mr Sayre. 21. Oct. ansd. 6. Decr. 1780.” The removal of the seal has resulted in the loss of portions of four words.


Stephen Sayre had previously written to JA on 15 June 1778, regarding his treatment by Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee. For a sketch of Sayre's career, which included a term in the Tower of London in 1775, see the note to that letter (vol. 6:209).


Sayre's scheme for establishing a clandestine trade covered by the Russian flag was 323totally illusory. Catherine II actively opposed Sayre's efforts and was unwilling to do anything with regard to America that would compromise her neutrality or further exacerbate her relations with Great Britain (David W. Griffiths, “American Commercial Diplomacy in Russia, 1780 to 1783,” WMQ , 3d ser., 27:384–389 [July 1970]).


The firm of De la Lande & Fynje was one of those that participated in the Dutch loan of 1782 (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:451).

To Henry Grand, 3 November 1780 JA Grand, Henry To Henry Grand, 3 November 1780 Adams, John Grand, Henry
To Henry Grand
Sir Amsterdam Novr. 3d. 1780

I have recieved your favor of Octr. 13th and thank You for your Care in sending the Letters. The News Papers may come by any Opportunity. I should be obliged to You to send the News Papers regularly to Congress. The Journal1 des Scavans and that of Mr. Linguet, You may keep or send along to me, as You please: but I shall not renew the Subscription for these.

I thank You for paying the twenty Louis to Mr. Austin and request it may be charged to me.2

I return to You a Letter from an Officer at Orleans. Mr. Williams it seems has been so good as to send me some Madeira Wine: but it seems it has met with some misfortune. I must beg the favor of You to write to the Gentleman, and let it be sent on to Paris. If You will either sell it for my Account or store it, I will answer the Expence. Perhaps, if it is in good Order, Dr. Franklin would take it. If not it must be disposed of, as well as possible, and if there is any loss it must be mine.3

My best Regards to your good Family, and believe me to be respectfully your's.

LbC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers).


The word “Journal” is interlined in JA's hand because Thaxter miscopied it as “several.”


In his letter of 13 Oct. (Adams Papers), Grand indicated that, in obedience to John Thaxter's instructions, he was forwarding letters received for JA and Francis Dana, keeping the American newspapers until he found a less expensive conveyance, and sending the European newspapers, except for the two mentioned here, to Congress. In a postscript he noted the payment to Jonathan Loring Austin, for which see Austin's letter of 23 Oct. (above).


For the wine sent by Jonathan Williams, the letter from Orleans concerning it, and Henry Grand's effort to settle the matter, see Grand's letter of 24 Nov. (below).

From Thomas Digges, 3 November 1780 Digges, Thomas Hamilton, Alexander JA From Thomas Digges, 3 November 1780 Digges, Thomas Hamilton, Alexander Adams, John
From Thomas Digges
Dr. Sir Novr. 3 1780

I have received your line with an inclosure the 24th. ultimo, wrote to the partys, and am now busey in putting forward four of the Horses 324requird by my new Correspondant.1 By the time limited, I hope to send Him a set that will compleat His Carriage. As 17 or 18 have been sent from me since the 6th of last mo., I hope a considerable part of them will answer and give a good temporary lift. A Bundle of Books will go in a day or two coverd to Messrs. JDN and Son.2 I hope those sent the 10 Octor. have got safe.

No abatement whatever as to the person I lately wrote about—His health good, Spirits better, and communications as usual. Mr. Searles letter, will be with Him tomorrow, He has had the contents of it before. The Youth3 is totally forbid further admittance and no hopes of him or any friend seeing him for some time.4 When I do not write, you may assure yourself that nothing new since the last written letter has transpird.

You see the sum and substance of the Speech and debates &ca. &ca. There was nevertheless no strong appearances in the House that the American War would be vigorously carryd on—at present no appearances of troops going there. Ten to 12,000 are likely to go in a month or two to the Wt. Inds. The Carolina fleet is to sail with that fleet, so that it is at present not easy to decide whether there are any going to Chas. Town, but I should rather suppose some were to be sent there.5

Several Ships for a week or ten days past have continued to slide away seperately from Portsmouth but whether meant, as is now reported, in order to form a part of a fleet going from the channel Squadron to Gibraltar, or as was before given out, to rienforce the fleet in the Wt. Indies, is not easy to say. I rather think they are gone for the Wt. Indies, to which quarter Sr. Saml. Hood is to follow with 5 Sail of the line. It is said troops are to go with Sr. Samuel (and I beleive some thousands are) but none appear moving towards the seaports yet except a part of Fullartons ragged Regiment6 who are a sad disgrace to every thing like a Soldier.

I am with high Esteem Yr very obligd & Ob ser Alexr. Hamilton

RC (Adams Papers).


Digges' meaning here and in the following two sentences is unclear. None of JA's extant letters seem likely candidates for that received on 24 Oct., but Digges may be referring to a brief covering letter by JA for an enclosure (not found) from Digges' unidentified “new Correspondant.”


Jean de Neufville & Son.


Henry Laurens Jr.


To this point, this paragraph was translated and printed in the Gazette de Leyde of 14 November.


The figures on reinforcements for America, given by Digges here and in earlier letters, are in line with the requests of Gens. John Vaughan and Henry Clinton, the former for the Leeward Islands. The appeals, however, notably Clinton's for 10,000 troops that reached London in late September, were far beyond the means of the North ministry to 325meet, particularly with the French and Spanish capture in August of a convoy to the Indies carrying a sizable contingent of troops. Only with great difficulty did the ministry find six battalions in England and Ireland that, with recruits for regiments already in place and additional German troops, meant 6,000 additional men for Clinton. Of those, however, the Germans would not go out until the spring and three battalions were intended first for the West Indies and would only reach Clinton in Sept. 1781. Those going to the West Indies sailed with Sir Samuel Hood in late November, the remainder, except for the Germans, left for Charleston in Jan. 1781 (Mackesy, War for America , p. 375–377).


William Fullarton's regiment was intended for use against Spanish possessions in the Pacific, but the shortage of transports resulting from the capture of the English convoy in August (see note 5) caused its departure to be postponed. With the outbreak of war against the Netherlands the regiment was used against the Dutch in South Africa and India (from William Lee, 30 March, and note 7, above; Mackesy, War for America , p. 376).