Papers of John Adams, volume 14

Descriptive List of Illustrations [Note: for permissions reasons, not all illustrations from the letterpress volumes are available in this digital edition.]
Descriptive List of Illustrations
1. John Laurens, by Charles Fraser, After a Miniature by Charles Willson Peale, 1780 26[unavailable]
On 6 November John Adams had the “melancholly” task of being the first to inform Henry Laurens of the death of his eldest son, John (1754–1782). Adams wrote, “I feel for you, more than I can or ought to express.— Our Country has lost its most promising Character.” Laurens responded on 12 November that “the Wound is deep, but I apply to myself the consolation which I administered to the Father, of the Brave Colonel Parker. ‘Thank God I had a Son who dared to die in defence of his Country’” (both below).
A 27-year-old former aide to George Washington, John Laurens had fallen at a meaningless skirmish at Chehaw Neck, South Carolina, on 27 August. Outnumbered three-to-one, he attacked without waiting for approaching reinforcements. Nathanael Greene lamented Laurens’ fate but noted that his “love of military glory made him seek it upon occasions unworthy his rank.”
Adams had never met John Laurens but he had exchanged letters with him in the spring of 1781. Then the South Carolinian was in Europe as special envoy from Congress to the French court seeking money to purchase military supplies. The mission ultimately resulted in a French guaranteed loan in the Netherlands (vol. 11:293–296, 310–311; vol. 13:509–510; Gregory D. Massey, John Laurens and the American Revolution, Columbia, S.C., 2000, p. 190, 225–228; Laurens, Papers, 15:605; Franklin, Papers, 35:224–225).
Courtesy of Mr. John Laurens, Charleston, S.C.
2. Bill for Payment of John Adams’ Salary 37 [page] [image]
Congress’ 1780 resolution instructing John Adams to draw his salary from French funds controlled by Benjamin Franklin was long a point of annoyance for Adams. In May 1782 he complained to Robert R. Livingston that his salary “has never been paid me without Grudging.” Adams’ irritation was only slightly less evident when he wrote to Robert Morris on 6 November, “I cannot do this without an additional and unnecessary Commission, to the Drs Banker, and therefore would wish to recieve it from Messrs Willinks &c at Amsterdam.” Despite Adams’ reluctance to depend upon Franklin for his salary, on the same day that he wrote Robert Morris to oppose the procedure, Livingston's secretary, Lewis R. Morris, was drafting this bill to be drawn on Franklin (both below).
In 1811 Adams addressed the issue again in the Boston Patriot. There he contended that he was not immediately allowed to draw xupon the Dutch loan because Franklin and his supporters coveted the money: “I did not impute this affront to Mr. Livingston; but to a Frenchified Franklinian faction; and had no doubt then, and have no doubt now in 1811, that the design was to get all the money I had borrowed or should borrow, into the power of Vergennes and Franklin, and their bankers and understrappers.” Adams in fact eventually drew upon both Franklin and the Dutch loan for his salary of £2,500, or £625 per quarter (JCC, 17:476; vol. 13:51, 166, 436, 443).
From the original in the Adams Papers.
3. The Signing of the Anglo-American Preliminary Peace Treaty, 30 November 1782, Benjamin West, Unfinished, 1784 104[unavailable]
The signing of the preliminary peace treaty ended the war between the United States and Great Britain. It closed a major chapter in the histories of both nations, and it seemed natural that a renowned historical artist such as Benjamin West (1738–1820) should commemorate the occasion. Over the next two years West endeavored to depict the participants but eventually was stymied by the refusal of the British negotiators to sit. Although unfinished, the painting has become an iconic image of the peace process. Adams does not mention sitting for the portrait in his Diary or letters. But in his Diary entry for 21 July 1817 John Quincy Adams recounts a conversation with West concerning the painting. There John Quincy recalled being present when his father posed and pronounced the likenesses of John Jay, William Temple Franklin, and Benjamin Franklin excellent while those of “Mr. Laurens and my father though less perfect resemblances are yet very good.”
The secretary to British negotiator Richard Oswald, Caleb Whitefoord, assisted West in his efforts to create the work and presumably would have been willing to sit for the group portrait. But West discontinued work on the painting when he realized that Oswald would not consent. The ignominy of signing a treaty alienating so much of the prewar British empire and the resulting criticism of his efforts partially explains Oswald's refusal, but he was also notoriously sensitive about his appearance and died without any extant portrait (D/JQA/30, APM Reel 33; Oliver, Portraits of JA and AA , p. 39–45; Arthur S. Marks, “Benjamin West and the American Revolution,” American Art Journal, 6:21–33 [Nov. 1974]).
Courtesy of the Winterthur Museum.
4. Gabriel Bonnot De Mably, Engraving By François Huot, After François Bonneville, CA. 1760S 175[unavailable]
Abbé Gabriel Bonnot de Mably (1709–1785) was a native of Grenoble who originally pursued a career in diplomacy. But at age 39 Mably retired and turned to a new calling: writer, historian, and social commentator. In 1780 John Adams called him “a great Writer of this Nation,” and there are no less than thirteen of his works, either in English or the original French, in Adams’ library at the Boston Public Library (vol. 9:37; Catalogue of JA's Library).
From dinner conversations in late 1782 and early 1783, Adams learned that Mably contemplated writing a history of the American Revolution. This led Adams to lay out a blueprint for historians who would undertake such a task (John Adams and the Writing of the History of the American Revolution, 9 January–8 March 1783, below). Adams believed that European historians faced a particularly difficult task because of their lack of access to American sources, public and private, without which it would be impossible to understand either the origins or the significance of the American Revolution. Adams’ detailed listing of and commentary on the documentation indispensable to such an effort apparently discouraged Mably, for he never undertook a history of the Revolution (Johnson Kent Wright, A Classical Republican in Eighteenth-Century France: The Political Thought of Mably, Stanford, Calif., 1997, p. 176–187; Ernest A. Whitfield, Gabriel Bonnot de Mably, London, 1930, p. 4–18).
Courtesy of the Bibliothèque publique et universitaire, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
5. Benjamin Franklin’s Draft Passport for Merchant Ships, 1 February 1783 226 [page] [image]
On 20 January 1783 a declaration of a cessation of hostilities formally ended the fighting of the American Revolution (calendared, below). The uncertainty of merchant ships moving freely in recently contested waters necessitated the creation of special passports for mariners on both sides. John Adams assumed that the duty would fall to the American Peace Commissioners as a body and was chagrined to receive a letter from John Jay on 1 February reporting that “Doctr. Franklin is preparing a number of these Passports, in his own name.” Spurred on by Jay, Adams wrote to request a meeting with Franklin the next day, and soon after—probably on 3 February—the three men agreed on a passport over the commissioners’ names (all below).
Franklin's draft passport includes language retaliating for British restrictions on American trade laid down in the Prohibitory Acts of 1775, which had not yet been repealed. Rather than providing British ships with universal protection, Franklin's version guaranteed safe passage to British ships only “to sail to any of the Ports thereof to any Port or Place, whatsoever, except those of the said States in North America.” British negotiator Alleyne Fitzherbert said Franklin “chicaned to the very last upon the business of the Passports, and finally moved for the inserting in them this odious and ungracious Clause.” Adams and Jay overruled Franklin, and the language was not included in the joint version. On 18 February Fitzherbert delivered to the Americans reciprocal British passports. The next day Adams began distributing them to American captains who had requested them (Fitzherbert to the American Peace Commissioners, 18 Feb., and to Duncan Ingraham Jr., 19 Feb., both below; Jay, Unpublished Papers, 2:491–493).
From the original in the Adams Papers.
6. Félix Vicq D’azyr, by Carrière, After Soufflot, CA. 1780S 233[unavailable]
Félix Vicq d’Azyr (1748–1794) was born in Normandy, the son of a local physician and a noble mother. Educated in Valognes and Caen, he moved to Paris at age seventeen to study medicine. An anatomist and epidemiologist who specialized in the physiology of the brain, Vicq d’Azyr's effective control of a cattle epidemic in 1774 gained him fame, as did his dissection and detailed illustration of the brain.
Vicq d’Azyr served as secretary of the French Royal Society of Medicine from its founding in 1778. In that role he had a short correspondence with John Adams in 1782. Adams began the exchange after Cotton Tufts wrote to him on 26 September to announce the founding of the Massachusetts Medical Society and to seek “the Aid and Communication of the Gentlemen of the Faculty in Europe.” Vicq d’Azyr and his fellow physicians responded enthusiastically, sending Adams a diploma signifying the new connection between the medical societies (AFC, 4:386; 3 Feb. 1783, below).
In 1789 Vicq d’Azyr was appointed personal physician to Marie Antoinette, who is said to have been fond of him and called him “my philosopher.” He was a friend of Benjamin Franklin, eulogizing him in March 1791 with the oft-quoted opening line, “A man is dead, and two worlds are in mourning” (André Parent, “Félix Vicq d’Azyr: Anatomy, Medicine and Revolution,” The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 34:30–36 [Feb. 2007]).
Courtesy of the Bibliothèque de l’Académie Nationale de Médecine, Paris.
7. American Peace Commissioners, Proclamation of the Cessation of Hostilities, 20 February 1783 282 [page] [image]
John Adams and Benjamin Franklin signed the declaration of a cessation of hostilities that formally ended the armed conflict of the American Revolution on 20 January 1783 (calendared, below). Two days later Adams wrote to his wife, “thus drops the Curtain upon this mighty Trajedy” (AFC, 5:74).
But it remained for the two nations to implement the declaration and concomitant armistice. On 14 February George III proclaimed, “We do declare, that Our Royal Will and Pleasure is, and We do hereby strictly charge and command all Our Officers, both at Sea and Land, and all other Our Subjects whatsoever, to forbear all Acts of Hostility.” Alleyne Fitzherbert wrote to the American Peace Commissioners four days later that they were expected to immediately issue a reciprocal proclamation. Adams, Franklin, and John Jay—Henry Laurens being absent—did so on 20 February. The proclamation, in Adams’ hand, notifies “the People and Citizens of the Said United States of America, that Hostilities on their Part, against his Britannic Majesty, both by Sea and Land, are to cease” (all below).
From the original in the Adams Papers.
8. Libertas Americana Medal, Augustin Dupré, April 1783 344[unavailable]
A 20 October 1781 letter from Robert R. Livingston describing the American victory at Yorktown prompted Benjamin Franklin to propose that Yorktown and Saratoga be celebrated with a medal. The result was the Libertas Americana, which modern numismatists have hailed as a masterpiece. Franklin engaged the artist Esprit Antoine Gibelin and the medal maker Augustin Dupré to design and produce the medallion. But the medal had not been completed when Adams advised C. W. F. Dumas on 28 March 1783 that “only a first Essay or two have been struck off in Lead. Mr. Franklin has promised me some of them as soon as they are out” (below). When toward the end of the year Adams did receive the finished medal and sent a copy to Jean George Holtzhey, the Dutch medal maker thanked him in a letter of 5 December for the “fine Silver medal . . . on the independency of your Illustrious Republiq” (Adams Papers).
In April 1783 Franklin presented the only gold pressings of the medal, now lost, to the king and queen of France. A silver version was sent to Elias Boudinot, president of Congress, who called it “very elegant indeed, and the device and workmanship much admired.” Despite Boudinot's compliment, Franklin never received Congress’ official support for the production of the medal and instead publicized and distributed it himself.
Franklin's medal features Lady Liberty with the motto “Libertas Americana” and the date 4 July 1776. On the reverse the infant Hercules strangles two snakes while above him Minerva battles a lion and carries a shield decorated with the arms of France. A motto reads “Non Sine Diis Animosus Infans,” or “The courageous child is not without the aid of the gods.” The dates of the British surrenders at Saratoga and Yorktown are featured (Franklin, Papers, 35:616–619; John W. Adams and Anne E. Bentley, Comitia Americana and Related Medals: Underappreciated Monuments to Our Heritage, Crestline, Calif., 2007, p. 183–197, 260–261).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
9. Harvard College Doctorate of Laws Diploma and Seal, Conferred Upon John Adams, 19 December 1781; Ordered Engrossed, 1 April 1783 382 [page] [image] , 383 [page] [image]
When Joseph Willard was installed as Harvard College president on 19 December 1781, he announced that John Adams would receive an honorary doctorate of laws. On 1 April 1783 the fellows of the college finally voted that it should be engrossed (below). Decorated with an elaborate Harvard seal that is enclosed in a silver box, the diploma was given to Abigail Adams, who delivered it to her husband when she reached Europe in September 1784.
Adams was very appreciative of the honor conferred on him. On 8 September 1784 he advised Willard that “this Mark of the approbation of so respectable a University does me great Honour, and is more especially acceptable to me, as it comes from a Society, xivwhere I had my Education, and for which I have ever entertained the highest Veneration” (MH-Ar). Along with his thanks, Adams offered to assist Willard with introductions during an upcoming visit to Europe and asked if the college would consider accepting John Quincy Adams as a student of advanced standing. With the approval of the fellows on 16 November 1784 Adams’ request was granted, and his son entered as a junior in March 1786 and graduated in 1787 (AFC, 4:243; William C. Lane, “John Adams and Harvard College,” Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 13:112–117 [Feb. 1910]).
From the original in the Adams Papers.
10. Medal Commemorating the Recognition of the Independence of the United States by Friesland, B. C. V. Calker, 1782 463 [page] [image]
“The Acknowledgment of the Sovereignty of the United States of America, and the Refusal of a seperate Peace by their High Mightinesses the States General, was one of those critical Decisions which sometimes turn the Tide of the Affairs of Men.” John Adams wrote these words on 10 May 1783 in a letter to the Société Bourgeoise of Leeuwarden, which had sent him a medal honoring Friesland as the first Dutch province to recognize the United States. According to Adams, it was “struck in great perfection” and communicated with “a beautiful Simplicity” acknowledgment of the new nation by a second political entity (below).
Soon after the 26 February 1782 vote by the States of Friesland, Adams predicted that it would be a prelude to a similar vote by the States General of the Netherlands. “Friesland is said to be a sure Index of the national Sense,” he told Robert R. Livingston. “The People of that Province have been ever famous for the Spirit of Liberty.” Within two months the remaining six provinces did indeed follow Friesland's lead and on 19 April the States General of the Netherlands voted a resolution recognizing the new American nation as an independent state (vol. 12:xi–xii, 309).
The Société Bourgeoise of Leeuwarden was a Friesland civic organization that used the motto “For Liberty and Zeal.” Included in the society's presentation letter of 29 April 1783 is a detailed explanation of the medal's symbols and a translation of its text. On the medal, America is represented by a Native American, Friesland by a Frisian warrior, and Great Britain by Britannia with a leopard at her side. Members of the society expressed the hope that the recognition would be the first step to “a glorious and durable peace” (below).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.