Papers of John Adams, volume 13

From Edmund Jenings, 29 May 1782 Jenings, Edmund JA From Edmund Jenings, 29 May 1782 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Brussels May 29. 1782 Sir

Your Excellency will permit me to Congratulate you on you having before This embraced the noble Sufferer Mr Lawrens. I wish I had been a witness of the mutual pleasure you had in meeting one Another in a free Republick.1

I doubt not that your Excellency has recievd the Pamphlets, which I sent by Mr Myers, and Mr Hollis Memoirs, conveyed to you by my Friend Mr Ridley. The Copy which Mr B Hollis sent your Excellency is I am Affraid lost. I therefore transmitted to you, that, which was given to me, according to my promise.2

I see with pleasure that Mr Cerisier has taken up the affairs of Geneva as a matter interesting to all Republicks, which have any Connection with great monarchs. I Know not whether it will fall within that Gentlemans Plan to insert the Letter of Count de Vergennes to the republic of Geneva, which appeard I think in the Amsterdam Gazette last Octobr.—it is the Letter wherein it was declared, that France woud not Continue her Protection, and disdaind all Interference in their Affairs, but to avenge those, who might suffer, by the violence of the Citizens. The Letter was written in a Stile that effected me much, and as similar Things may happen, I wish the Letter was preserved in la politique Hollandais.3


I hear that my nephew is arrivd at Boston and Therefore conceive your Son is so too.4 I congratulate your Excellency Thereon.

I beleive I need not say any thing more to recommend Mr Ridley to your Excellencys Acquaintance and Confidence. I think your Excellency must have seen something of Him by this time as to induce you to think, He is worthy of your Attention.

I am with the greatest Consideration Sir your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant

Edm: Jenings

RC (Adams Papers).


Matthew Ridley, who had left The Hague for Amsterdam on 21 May, returned to The Hague on the 25th, the same day, according to Ridley's journal (MHi), that Henry Laurens arrived for meetings with JA. Laurens apparently met twice with JA, first, according to Ridley's journal, on 26 May, and second probably on the 27th or 28th, prior to Laurens' departure for Amsterdam on the 29th. Laurens' purpose was to inquire as to whether he should take up his duties under his 1779 commissions to raise a loan and negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce. When JA informed Laurens that the objectives of his commissions either had been or were in the process of being accomplished, Laurens concluded that JA thought “my Attendance is not requisite, and that it could only be productive of unecessary Expence to the Public, which I neither wish nor would encourage.” He then set out to visit his family in the south of France (Laurens, Papers , 15:518, 521–522; JCC , 15:1198, 1210, 1235–1236). For JA's account of his exchange with Laurens, see his letter to Edmund Jenings, ante 28 Aug. , below; for the possibility of an otherwise unrecorded JA-Laurens meeting in early June, see JA to Jenings, 5 June, below.

Matthew Ridley dined with JA and Laurens on the 26th. In his journal, Ridley indicates that after Laurens left, “soon after dinner on account of his illness,” he and JA, “took a ride to Scheidam about 3 miles from Town.” In the course of their ride the two men apparently had a conversation that, as recorded by Ridley, sheds some light on what passed during JA's meeting with Laurens but also expands on JA's criticism of Benjamin Franklin raised in his first meeting with Ridley on 20 May (to Lafayette, 21 May, note 1, above). According to Ridley, JA told him that there was

“no great prospect of Peace—Mr L. will not go to Paris—intends as soon as possible out to America. There is no doubt that when Mr. L was in the Tower and wrote to D. F for money that he gave directions for £100 part of the Money sent for the Prisoners to England to be given Mr L. This Mr L refused and never after made any application to the Dr. There seems a general dissatisfaction with Dr. F. and no scruples are made in saying the time will come when his Character will be known—that he is an intriguing unfeeling Man—at Comte de Vergennes disposition has his parties and favorites &c. &c. Mr. A. cannot forgive him for sending out Mr de Vergennes complaint agt. Mr. Adams respecting his declaration of the necessity and Justice of the 18: March business and not giving Mr Adams Notice of it. Mr A hardly knew any thing of it untill he got the Resolve of the Thanks of Congress to him for his Behavior. I find Mr A has a good opinion of Mr. Morris.”

For Laurens' request for funds in late 1781 that was relayed through Benjamin Vaughan, Franklin's response, and Laurens' reaction, see Franklin, Papers , 36:59–60, 61; Laurens, Papers , 15:385. JA's comments regarding Franklin refer specifically to Congress' 18 March 1780 revaluation of its currency and his defense of that decision in correspondence with the Comte de Vergennes. In fact, however, he is referring to the entirety of his acrimonious exchange with Vergennes in the summer of 1780 and the role played by Franklin therein, for which see the editorial notes on The Revaluation Controversy, 16 June – 1 July 1780; and The Dispute with the Comte de Vergennes, 13–29 July 1780, vol. 9:427–430, 516–520.


The pamphlets sent by “Mr. Myers” have not been identified, but for Jenings' promise 84regarding the Memoires, see his letter of 17 Sept. 1781 to JA, at note 9 (vol. 11:488).


For the dissatisfaction with the oligarchical government of Geneva that led to unrest in 1781 and to a full-scale revolution in 1782, see vol. 12:47–49. The Comte de Vergennes' letter to the government of Geneva, in which he stated the French position and laid the groundwork for intervention, appeared in the Gazette d'Amsterdam of 19 Oct. 1781. For an English translation, see vol. 2 of the Remembrancer for 1781, p. 302–304. With the 6 May 1782 issue of Le politique hollandais, Cerisier began a series entitled “Sur la Contitution & les Troubles de la République de Geneve,” which continued in the issues of 20, 27 May; 17, 24 June; and 1, 22 July.


Jenings presumably refers to John or Matthias Bordley. CA had sailed from Bilbao, Spain, on the Cicero in early Dec. 1781 and reached Massachusetts in late Jan. 1782 (vol. 11:286; 12:324, 410).

From Robert R. Livingston, 29 May 1782 Livingston, Robert R. JA From Robert R. Livingston, 29 May 1782 Livingston, Robert R. Adams, John
From Robert R. Livingston
No 7 Duplicate Philadelphia 29th May 17821 Dear Sir

It is with equal Surprize and concern that I find not the least attention paid to the several Letters I have written you since I have had the honor to be in Office. I attributed this to their not having reached you, till I saw an extract of a letter which I had written to Mr Dumas, and which went by the Same conveyance with one to you published in the Courier de l'Europe, from which circumstance I conclude it must have been received.2 It would give me pleasure to learn that I had been deceived in this particular—Because the punctuality with which your correspondence with Congress has hitherto been maintained would otherwise lead me to conclude that you were not satisfied with the present arrangement of the department for foreign affairs—a reflection which would be painful to me in proportion to the value I put upon your esteem. I have seen your letter of the 26th: of March to Doctor Franklin, in which you speak of the application you have had on the score of your powers to treat of a truce.3 This together with similar applications to Doctor Franklin, and the proposals made to the Court of Versailles convince me that it is their wish to endeavour to detach us from each other. What an insult it is to our intellects to suppose that we can be catched by this cobweb System of politicks. I entertain hopes that your answer together with that of the Count de Vergennes will teach them to think more honorably of us. Our expectations with respect to the success of your mission are considerably raised, as well by your Letter, as by other circumstances that we have learned thro' different channels, by this time I hope you are in full possession of your diplomatic rights.


I wrote to you three days ago, since which we have nothing that deserves your attention except what you will learn by reading the enclosed to Mr Dana, sent you under a flying seal.4 It may be well to take some notice of this affair in the Leyden Gazette, as I doubt not, if Asgill is executed, that it will make some noise in Europe.5 We are distracted here by various relations of a battle fought between the fleets in the West Indies on the 12th of April.6 The Antigua and New York account is that the British have been victorious—that the Ville de Paris and six other ships were taken or destroyed. The French account that Rodney was defeated, and that Count de Grasse had gone to Leeward with his transports. Tho' it is now six weeks since the action, we have nothing that can be depended upon.

I am sir, with great respect & esteem Your most obedt. humble servt

Robt R Livingston

Dupl (MHi: John Adams, Embassy MSS); endorsed: “Secy. Livingston 29 May ansd 6. Sept. 1782 no 7.” Although JA wrote a detailed reply to this letter on 6 Sept., he acknowledged its arrival in the form of a duplicate in his letter of 4 Sept., both below.


This letter bears the date on which it was dispatched (from Livingston, 30 May, below), but Livingston may have drafted it as early as 25 May, for which see note 4.


The Courier de l'Europe of 26 Feb. contained a French translation of the final two paragraphs of Livingston's letter to Dumas of 28 Nov. 1781 (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:30–32). The extract from the letter to Dumas formed the first third of a longer passage entitled “Extrait d'une Lettre d'un Américain à son Correspondant en Hollande.” The source of the remainder of the text is unknown, but it contained references that appear in other letters written by Livingston in late November.


JA's letter to Franklin had reached Livingston as an enclosure in Benjamin Franklin's letter of 30 March 1782 to the secretary for foreign affairs, for which see note 3 to JA's letter of 26 March (vol. 12:352).


Since there is no extant letter from Livingston to JA of 26 May, he may be referring to his letter of 22 May, above. That would suggest that this letter of the 29th, and the letter to Francis Dana bearing the same date (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:446–447), may have been drafted on or about 25 May.


The letter to Francis Dana of the 29th contained a detailed account of the case of Capt. Charles Asgill of the 1st Foot Guards. Captured at Yorktown, Asgill was selected for execution in retaliation for the murder of an American prisoner, Capt. Josiah Huddy, by a loyalist officer, Capt. Richard Lippincott. George Washington demanded that Lippincott be turned over to the Americans for trial. General Clinton condemned the actions of the loyalists, but he refused Washington's request, ordering instead that Lippincott be court-martialed. This led to Asgill's selection to be executed in Lippincott's stead. For a variety of reasons, including an appeal by his mother through the French government, Captain Asgill was released and returned to England on parole ( DNB ; Mackesy, War for America , p. 490–491; JCC , 23:845–846). In his reply of 6 Sept., below, JA indicates that Dumas translated the portion of Livingston's letter to Dana pertaining to Asgill. It appeared in the Gazette d'Amsterdam of 13 September.


This is the first mention in any letter to or from JA of Rodney's victory over the French fleet commanded by the Comte de Grasse at the Battle of the Saints on 12 April. News of the battle, which resulted in de Grasse's capture and the loss of seven French ships of the line, reached London on 18 May (London Gazette, 14–18 May; Mackesy, War for America , p. 456–459). For JA's first comment on the battle, see his brief note of 5 June to Edmund Jenings, below.