Papers of John Adams, volume 11

To Benjamin Franklin, 8 May 1781 JA Franklin, Benjamin


To Benjamin Franklin, 8 May 1781 Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin
To Benjamin Franklin
Sir Amsterdam May 8. 1781

I have the Honour of yours of the 29th. of April, and according to your desire, have inclosed a List of the Bills accepted with the Times of their becoming due, and Shall draw for the Money to discharge them, only as they become payable, and through the House of Fizeaux & Grand.1

I Sincerely congratulate you, upon the noble Aid obtained, from the French Court for the currant Service of the Year. Aids like this, for two or three Years, while the United States are arranging their Finances, will be a most essential Service to the Common Cause, and will lay a Foundation of Confidence and Affection between France and the United States, which may last forever and be worth ten times the Sum of Money. It is in the Power of America to tax all Europe, whenever She pleases, by laying Duties upon her Exports, enough to pay the Interest of Money enough to answer all their Purposes. England received into her Exchequer four hundred Thousand Pounds sterling, in Duties upon the Single Article of Tobacco imported from Virginia, annually. What should hinder the Government of Virginia, from laying on the Same, or a greater duty on the Exportation. Europe would Still purchase Virginia Tobacco if there were 8 Pounds per Hogshead duty to be paid. Virginia alone, therefore could in this Way easily pay, the Interest of Money enough to carry on the whole War for the 13 states for many Years. The Same Reasoning is applicable to every other Article of Export.


Yesterday were presented to me by Mr. de Neufville 2 fifty Bills of Exchange, for Eleven hundred Guilders each, drawn by Congress upon me on the 27 day of January 1781 at Six Months Sight.

And on the Same day other Bills from No. 37. to No. 76 inclusively, drawn on me on the Same 27 day of January 1781, for Five hundred and Fifty Guilders each, payable at Six Months Sight, were presented, to me. I asked Time to write to your Excellency to know, if those Bills, and the others drawn at the same time, can be discharged by you. If they can not, it will be wrong to accept them, for I have no Prospect at all of getting the Money here, unless the States General, who have taken the Independance of America Ad Referendum should determine to acknowledge it.

About the Same Time that their High Mightinesses took the Acknowledgment of the Independance of the United States ad Referendum, Mr. Van Berkel demanded a Declaration of his Innocence or a Tryal,3 whether the two Affairs will aid, or counteract each other I cant tell.

I have the Honour to be, your Excellencys most obedient and most humble servant

LbC (Adams Papers).


Fizeaux, Grand & Co. wrote to JA on 10 May to request payment of bills amounting to 77,000 ecus or 231,000 livres, which they converted into 100,340.12.8 florins at the rate of 52.125 stuivers per livre (Adams Papers). The bills paid were the 66 that Franklin approved in his letter of 29 April, above. JA wrote his reply of the same date at the bottom of the note from Fizeaux, Grand & Co., there stating that “Mr. Adams returns Compliments to Mr. Fizeaux and informs him that his acceptations are in Bank.” On 17 May the bankers returned the paid bills to JA (Adams Papers). Later on 10 May, JA wrote to Franklin to inform him of the transaction (Franklin, Papers , 35:50).


This interlined passage is heavily smudged.


Engelbert François van Berckel was removed from political office in March. See Dumas' letter of 12 Jan. , and note 8, above.

To John Laurens, 8 May 1781 JA Laurens, John


To John Laurens, 8 May 1781 Adams, John Laurens, John
To John Laurens
Sir Amsterdam May 8. 1781

I have received the Letter you did me the Honour to write me, on the 28th. of April. I most Sincerely congratulate you, on the most essential Aid you have obtained from the Court of Versailles, who upon this Occasion have done as much Honour to their own Policy, as essential Service to the United States. By a Conduct like this, which it is easy for France to hold, and which does as much service to the common Cause as the Same Sum of Money possibly could in any other Way, a Foundation will be laid of Affection and Confidence which will last long after this War shall be finished. I wish that other 311Nations had as much Wisdom and Benevolence as France, indeed as much Knowledge of their true Interests. In this Case the Burden upon France would be less.

I accept with Pleasure the Trust with which you Honour me, but I Shall not think my self at Liberty to draw any Bills in Consequence of it, untill the Invoices and Vouchers, are produced to me, to the Satisfaction of Major Jackson, who will be so good as to give me his Approbation in Writing. I am very happy to find that it is in your Power to assist Commodore Gillon upon this occasion, whose Industry, Skill and Perseverance, have merited every assistance that can be legally given him.

Major Jackson, Sir shall have every Advice and Assistance in my Power to afford him, and I am much mortified that I am not to have an opportunity of shewing you, in Person, the Respect which I have for your Character, as well as that affection which I feel for the son of one of the worthiest Friends I ever had. Alass! When will he be able to obtain his own Liberty, who has so nobly contended for that of others?1

I have communicated my Credentials to the States General, who after the Deliberations which the Form of their Constitution requires, will determine whether they can receive them or not. It will probably be long, before they decide. It is of vast Importance to obtain, if possible, an Acknowledgment of our Independance, by the maritime Powers, before the Conferences for Peace Shall be opened. Otherwise, it is not possible to foresee, how many Intrigues and how much Chicanery, We may have to encounter.

I have the Honour to be, with very great Esteem and Respect, sir your most obedient and most humble servant.

LbC (Adams Papers).


Henry Laurens.