Papers of John Adams, volume 11

From Francis Dana, 7 January 1781 Dana, Francis JA From Francis Dana, 7 January 1781 Dana, Francis Adams, John
From Francis Dana
(No. 8)1 Dear Sir Paris Jany. 7th. 1781

I seize with avidity upon the opportunity of sending You the enclosed Philadelphia Paper of the 25th. of October, and, in the words of Govr. Jefferson, your much respected Friend, “of congratulating your Excellency on the small dawn of good Fortune, which at length appears in the South.”2 Our Countreymen seem to be in motion, and at least are bravely attempting to bring about a happy change in the face of southern affairs. When they once take a turn, we shall see them followed up with a spirit that will bear down all opposition. I am pleased to find our friend Gates is still there. His head and his heart are good: but if Heaven favours his plans, he must take care to give us no more conventions.3 I did myself the honor of writing you on the 1st. instant; and shall hope for your favour by the first post after that may come to hand. Wishing to be in a situation where, I think, I can render some little service to our Country, I shou'd be glad to remain here, till it becomes necessary for me to join you. I will not fail to forward you any intelligence I may receive, which it concerns us to know. In my last, I desired you to give me a secrete address. I have some things upon my mind I wish to communicate. I have my suspicions of Francisco Silas Deane, and if they are well founded, and my information is good, he has taken a step which may enable him to do us much injury, if the knowledge of our affairs, will afford him an opportunity. I have not yet returned his visit, and, what is more, I have thought it my duty not to do it. This draws the Line between us.

I am sorry to acquaint you that we have not as yet, any news of Comte D'Estaing—his late arrival at Brest, even if his ships shou'd not have sustained any considerable damage, will much retard the operations of the next Campaign.4

I beg you to present my regards to Mr. Searle, Mr. Thaxter, and the Children. I have not had leisure to write the two former, having been engaged in the business which cheifly brought me here.

I am, dear Sir, with much respect, your much obliged Friend and obedient humble Servant


P.S. The papers viz. the two English papers,5 Gazette de France, Journal de Paris, Leyden Gazette, Amsterdam, and the Hague, together with the Mercure de France, are still continued. I know not the period of your subscriptions, or whether you wou'd have them continued. But I think one good paper from Holland, perhaps Luzac's, wou'd be enough from that quarter—and the Journal de Paris is next to nothing. When I see M. Genet I will pay him for the English papers. In answer to one I wrote him on my arrival here, he says, “I am happy, Sir, to find you are well in Paris, and thank you for your kind attention in letting me know it. I'll seize all the opportunities that will offer, to convince you of my sincere regard to you, Sir, and to the American Cause. You'll oblige me infinitely in mentioning my regards to Mr. Adams, and to Mr. Thaxter.”6 Said like a Courtier, but I hope with more sincerity. You will please to deliver the enclosed paper to Mr. Edwards, to whom it is directed, when you done with it. Dr. Foulke who begs your acceptance of his best regards, furnished me with it. I am this moment told Comte D'Estaing and the whole fleet are arrived in safety at Brest, but I cannot give it to you as matter of fact. I enclose you a letter from Mr. Mazzei, which was delivered me by Mr. Favy, who at the same time informed me it enclosed one for America, and desired me to open it.7 I thought it unnecessary to forward that also, to you, but shall send it from hence, as I know of no opportunity from Holland, supposing the Commodore has sailed before this day. Your's above


This instant the enclosed Letter from L'Orient has come to hand.8

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed “Mr. Dana. Jan. 7. ansd. 18. 1781”; by John Thaxter: “Mr Dana Jany 7th 1781.”


Dana numbered his Letterbook copies, but not always the recipient's copies, of letters to JA (MHi: Dana Family Papers, Francis Dana Letterbook, 1780–1781). This is the 8th letter since Dana's of 31 July 1780 (vol. 10:60–62).


Dana quotes Thomas Jefferson's letter to the president of Congress in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 25 Oct. 1780. Jefferson enclosed a letter from Horatio Gates of 12 Oct. that served as a covering letter for dispatches describing the American victory at King's Mountain on 7 October. See also, Jefferson, Papers , 4:32, 42.


Dana did not want another convention like the one that Generals Horatio Gates and John Burgoyne signed at Saratoga on 16 Oct. 1777. Congress nullified the agreement in early 1778, ostensibly because of British violations, but actually to prevent the convention troops repatriated to Britain from replacing troops there that would then be sent to America. Dana served on one of the congressional committees that considered the convention (vol. 5:320, 380–381).


Estaing first sailed from Cádiz on 7 Nov. 1780, but contrary winds delayed his arrival at Brest until 3 Jan., for which see the first paragraph of the postscript (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 205, 216).


The two English newspapers cannot be identified with certainty, but in the past JA subscribed to or received on a regular basis the London Courant and Westminster Chronicle, General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer, and Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (vol. 9:13, 139–141).

25 6.

Dana's letter to Edmé Jacques Genet was of 29 Dec. 1780 (MHi: Dana Family Papers, Francis Dana Letterbook, 1780–1781). Genet's reply has not been found.


Philip Mazzei's letter was of 19 Oct. 1780 (vol. 10:292–293), to which JA replied on 18 Jan., below. The enclosure was Mazzei's letter of 19 Oct. to Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson, Papers , 4:51–52).


The enclosed letter from Lorient has not been identified.

From James Lovell, 8 January 1781 Lovell, James JA From James Lovell, 8 January 1781 Lovell, James Adams, John
From James Lovell
Dear Sir Jan. 8th. 1781

Herewith goes a Letter which I this day received from Mrs. Adams with a Request that I would superscribe it and deliver it to the Care of Colonel Palfrey, or of some other, he being gone.1

The Discontent in the Pensylvania Line of the Army can give the Enemy no solid Satisfaction; for, an evident Proof that it does not rise from Disaffection to our Cause has been given by a Discovery and Delivery made by them of two Spies from Clinton, sent to make them the most tempting Offers. Perhaps the Gazette Tomorrow may be minute on this Point.2

I was yesterday vexed by a Packet of Mr. Jona. Williams's Letters Sextuples I imagine of Dates March, Apr. and July tho the Vessels left France in November.3 It is poor Comfort to our Soldiers this Janry. to know that last March and April Cloathing was sent from Nantes to Brest and Rochelle. The Execrations of Thousands are sent out to fall upon the right Pate, be it whose it may. I am not willing to give a decided Opinion upon the strange Appearances in the Conduct of our Affairs in France till I shall see each Man's Story from his own Pen, but it is almost too much to be obliged to wait from May 21st. last year till now for such Information.

I hope the Powers made out for you by Congress similar to those for Mr. Laurens of Novr. 1st. 1779 may prove usefull according to your expressed Fancy; It is even now as heretofore, our misfortune to be months behind hand in our Measures: had Mr. Searle carried what now goes, we might have been reaping the first Fruits of the Trial, to our great Satisfaction.4

If we go into the Choice of a Minister or Secretary of Finance there will be some Chance of Secrecy in Measures by which the Currency might be reduced before Speculators were aware of it and the Public might make Savings for the People in Spight of their own Plots against themselves: For, I cannot help using an Expression justified by what is every day before my Eyes. The Interest on the new Bills must be paid; if they are issued at 40 and expended at that, while Exchange 26is wickedly called eighty, He that with 80 old purchases two new gets ten pr. Ct. Interest, to be raised out of the Labour of the Land hereafter. Pensylvania and Jersey make Tendry Laws, Mass: lets exchange take its Course.5 Hence a new Speculation. We must obtain some permanent Fund from the States on which to build Plans of Finance before we can have a fair Prospect of borrowing from Strangers. Faith, Words, will not answer to our own monied Chaps much less to Foreigners.

The States are 179 millions of old Dollars behind upon our past Calls and such has been the Depreciation since the Estimates founding those Calls that the whole if now in hand would be but a pittance very inadequate to present Necessities. If Maryland was fully in Confederation,6 I do not see that our Capacity for the necessary Vigor of a Time of War would be much bettered. I am at this Moment much under the Influence of those Ideas which founded the Stadtholderate according to your History of it, but the Stadtholder does not manage the Finances.7 Therein the People must look out for, and be true to themselves.

The Enemy have met with many Disasters at the Southward, but yet they will be immensely troublesome to us in that Part unless we can get their Facility of Transportation.

Major Rogers was yesterday brought Prisoner in a little Schooner taken by Capt. Reid from France just off Penobscot River.8 The Major looks much out of Place.

Norton Braylesford from Boston tells me Monsr. Ternay died of the hyde Park Fever catched from the fr: General.9

Yrs. affectionately JL

I hope the Enemy have no Letter from you to your Lady. I do not remember forwarding more than two.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Lovel Jany. 8 1781.”


Enclosed was AA's letter of 25 Dec. 1780 ( Adams Family Correspondence , 4:50–52, 61–63).


The terms Gen. Clinton offered for a mass desertion were rejected immediately by the leaders of the mutiny and to demonstrate their continuing loyalty to the American cause they arrested Clinton's emissaries: John Mason and James Ogden. The two men were tried as spies on 10 Jan. and hanged the following day (Carl Van Doren, Mutiny in January, N.Y., 1943, p. 117–118, 154–157).


For Jonathan Williams' letters, see Lovell's letter of 6 Jan., and note 5, above.


James Searle, whom Pennsylvania charged with raising funds in Europe, had reached Paris on 10 Sept. 1780 with dispatches from Congress that included JA's commission to raise a Dutch loan in Henry Laurens' absence. Lovell laments that Searle had not then carried JA's commission to negotiate a commercial treaty with the Netherlands that Congress had approved on 29 Dec., particularly since it was virtually identical to Laurens' original commission for the same purpose (vol. 9:453; 10:159, 449; JCC , 15:1232–1236).


Lovell's concern was understandable, but Congress' election of Robert Morris as superintendent of finance on 20 Feb. ( JCC , 19:180) 27did not stem the continuing depreciation of bills of credit despite Congress' revaluation of them in March 1780 at forty to one, thus explaining Lovell's reference to “80 old purchases” equaling “two new” ones. Complicating the situation were laws like that Pennsylvania adopted in Dec. 1780, which imposed fines and imprisonment for not accepting the bills as legal tender and set the exchange rate at 75 dollars in continental currency to 1 dollar in silver (James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, eds., The Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania, 1682–1801, 18 vols. Harrisburg, 1896– 1911, 10:249; for JA's view on the matter, see his letter of 8 Feb. to James Searle, below). Pennsylvania's effort to fix the exchange rate and Massachusetts' decision to let it float were of little consequence, for by June 1781 the currency was valueless except as a means for speculation. Note, however, that Lovell's meaning in this paragraph is not entirely clear. He may also have been referring to loan office certificates, which were “preferred securities,” on which interest continued to be paid (Ferguson, Power of the Purse , p. 65–69).


Maryland had not yet acceded to the Articles of Confederation because of concerns about western lands. The issue was resolved when Virginia ceded her lands north of the Ohio River to Congress on 2 January. On 12 Feb., the Maryland Assembly authorized its delegates to sign the Articles, which they did on 1 March, thus completing the ratification process ( JCC , 19:213–214; see also, vol. 10:132).


Lovell refers to JA's letter of 11 Oct. 1780 to the president of Congress, which contained a lengthy history of the stadholderate. Congress received the letter on 27 Dec. (vol. 10:262, calendared).


For an account of the capture of Maj. Robert Rogers by Capt. Read of the brigantine Patty, see the Pennsylvania Gazette of 10 January.


The Chevalier de Ternay, commander of the French fleet at Newport, died of a fever on 15 Dec. 1780, but Lovell's reference to its nature or source remains obscure (vol. 10:425).