Papers of John Adams, volume 10

From William Lee, 29 November 1780 Lee, William JA


From William Lee, 29 November 1780 Lee, William Adams, John
From William Lee
Dear Sir Bruxelles Nov. 29/80

I am honor'd with your favor of the 19th. and am happy to hear that you and your Sons have escaped the general contagion of the Season.


I flatter myself with the Idea that Arnolds Apostacy will not be attended with any inconvenience to America, but I cannot help regretting that a Man who has render'd essential service to his Country and laid a solid foundation for permanent and substantial Glory, shou'd blast the whole by a baseness and profligacy that wou'd disgrace, even our Enemies. On the whole, I feel much easier about the fate of America than I have done for some time past, hoping that as the plot is discover'd, the principal agents will be found out and meet exemplary punishment; for there seems to be little doubt of Arnold having been only a subaltern in the business. The most superficial observer may now be able to see from what source have sprung all the dissensions and mischeifs that have for some years distress'd and nearly ruin'd America.

By the vessel arrived in France from N. England I presume you will have a full and particular account of this business, of which we know nothing here but what we learn from the English papers.

I agree with you that the three systems I formerly mention'd are highly absurd and I will add that they appear to me highly wicked, however as two of them have been hitherto adopted, it is one melancholy proof among many others, that well meaning and honest men, are too often deceived by the wicked and artful into their measures; but it may teach them hereafter to weigh with caution whatever comes recommended or insinuated from the same quarter. The conquest of Canada is said to be a favorite object with the Eastern States; in this I shall heartily agree with them at a proper season, but an attempt of that sort while the Enemy is in possession of any part of the territory of the 13 States, appears to me begining at the wrong end; however I shall submit my judgement readily to those on the spot, who have seldom determin'd wrong when their councils have been unclouded with faction.

The packet with the English mail of the 21. being taken and that of the 24 being not arriv'd, tho' due two days and fair winds, leaves us without any late papers, but the B. Minister it seems gives out that Gates has obtain'd a considerable advantage over Ld. Cornwillis and that the latter was in a disagreeable and precarious situation. As the States General have agreed to enter into the system of the arm'd neutrality, the English must either adopt pacific measures or determine on a War with all the Maritime powers of Europe and in their present state of phrenzy I should not be surprized at their choosing the latter; but in the meantime it might be of essential service if the associated powers cou'd be induced to agree on jointly acknowleging 383the Independence of Ama. Tho' G.B. may not be able to send all the reinforcements that they propose to Ama., it seems to me quite proper that our friends on the other side of the Water should be advised of their intentions, that preparations may be made against the worst that can happen. I refer'd to the debates on the 7th instant only relative to what fell from Colo. Hartly.1 With high Esteem & respect I am Dr. Sir Yr. most Obedt & Hble Sert.

W. Lee

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “A Son Excellence Monsieur John Adams a Amsterdam”; endorsed: “H.W. Lee. recd & ansd. 6 decr. 1780”; docketed by CFA: “Novr 29th.”


See Lee's letter of 15 Nov., note 1 (above).

To Benjamin Franklin, 30 November 1780 JA Franklin, Benjamin


To Benjamin Franklin, 30 November 1780 Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin
To Benjamin Franklin
Sir Amsterdam Nov. 30. 1780

I have already accepted Bills drawn upon Mr. Laurens, to the Amount of Thirty four Thousand three hundred and fifty Eight Guilders. How many more will arrive I know not. I shall inform your Excellency from Time to Time, as they appear, and I accept them.

This Republick is in a violent Crisis. If a certain Party prevails, We Shall raise no Money here. If they do not We shall raise very little. Patience is recommended to me and Delay in hopes of a Turn of affairs. I am advised to do nothing: to attempt nothing: not even to choose an House, at present.

I am vexed and grieved beyond measure at the Fate of poor Trumbull and Tyler. It will have one good Effect, however. It will be a Warning. It will break up a weak Communication that common Discretion ought to have prevented long ago. I have the Honour to be, Sir, your respectfull humble sert

LbC (Adams Papers).

To Benjamin Franklin, 30 November 1780 JA Franklin, Benjamin


To Benjamin Franklin, 30 November 1780 Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin
To Benjamin Franklin
Sir Amsterdam Novr: 30th 1780

I was duly honoured with your Excellency's Letter of the eighth of October by Mr. Searle.

I thank You, Sir, for inclosing the Resolution of Congress respecting my Salary and Mr. Dana's. I wish I could see a prospect of relieving You from this Burthen, as well as that of the Bills of 384Exchange drawn upon Mr. Laurens, but at present there is not a prospect of obtaining a Shilling. What Turn Affairs may take, it is impossible to foresee. Some Gentlemen tell me that a few Months or indeed Weeks may produce Events which will open the Purses to me; but I think that our Want of Credit here, is owing to Causes that are more permanent. I never had any just Idea of this Country until I came here; if indeed I have now.

I have recieved Money of the House of Horneca, Fitzeau and Grand, on account of Mr. F. Grand of Paris, for my Subsistence, and if You have no Objection, I will continue in this Way.1

Mr. Searle's Conversation is a Cordial to me. He gives a charming sanguine Representation of our Affairs, such as I am very well disposed to believe, and such as I should give myself, if interrogated, according to the best of my Knowledge. But We have an hard Conflict to go through yet.

The Correspondence You mention, between his Excellency the C. de V. and me, I transmitted regularly to Congress in the Season of it from Paris, and other Copies since my Arrival in Amsterdam, both without any Comments.2

The Letter I mentioned, I believe was from your Excellency to M. Dumas, who informs me, that there has been none to the Grand Pensionary, but the one which your Excellency wrote when I was at Passy, which I remember very well.3

The Republick, it is said, for it is hard to come at the Truth, have on the one hand acceeded to the Armed Neutrality, and on the other have disavowed the Conduct of Amsterdam. This it is hoped will appease all Nations for the present, and it may for what I know. We shall see.

I should be the less surprised at Great Britain's treating the United Provinces like an English Colony, if I did not every day hear the Language and Sentiments of English Colonists. But if She treats all her Colonies with equal Tyranny, it may make them all in time equally independent.

A Gentleman here has recieved a Commission from England, to hire as many Vessels as he possibly can, to carry Troops to America. This I have certain Information of. It is also given out, that Sir Joseph Yorke has demanded and obtained Permission of the States to do it, but this I believe is an English Report. It is also said that the Burgomasters of the City have signified abroad that it would be disagreable, if any body should hire the Ships. But this may be only 385 image Bruit. It shews the English want of Shipping—their Intention to send Troops, and their Cunning to get away from this Nation both their Ships and Seamen.

I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your Excellency's most obedient Servant

John Adams

RC in John Thaxter's hand (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); endorsed by William Temple Franklin: “J. Adams Nov. 30. 1780.”


On 4 Nov. JA received 6,812.14. 3 from Horneca, Fizeaux & Co. for his own expenses and on 28 Nov. the firm supplied him with an additional 2,400 for Francis Dana (Accounts, Dec. 1779 – 10 June 1782, MH-H: Scheffner Coll.).


In 1809, when this letter appeared in the Boston Patriot, JA italicized this paragraph and stated that “the lines in Italics, Messieurs Printers, . . . would require one of your proposed numbers of forty pages to explain them.” But in far less space, JA sought to do just that, writing that “the count de Vergennes, who had courted and forced me into conferences and correspondence with him, on the abolition of paper money, of the 13th 18th of March, 1780, and had insisted that congress should discriminate Frenchmen from all other nations, and even from their own citizens, by paying them for the bills they possessed, in silver and gold, at their full nominal value. I had demonstrated the injustice and impracticability of this project, though with perfect civility and decency, in so clear a light, that the count was pleased to take offence. . . . I was offended in my turn, and returned him irony for irony, and sarcasm for sarcasm, determined to put an end to such a style of negociation with me, or put an end to my existence as an ambassador.” Vergennes “finding that I would not, or could not say at his bidding, that two and two made five, determined to ruin me at home: and try if he could not get some other person appointed in the commission for peace, who would be more complaisant” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot , p. 283–286).


See Franklin's letter of 8 Oct., notes 2 and 5 (above).