Papers of John Adams, volume 14

To C. W. F. Dumas

To Robert R. Livingston

To Elbridge Gerry, 14 December 1782 Adams, John Gerry, Elbridge
To Elbridge Gerry
Paris Decr 14. 1782

Thanks be to God, my dear Gerry, that our Tom Cod are Safe, in Spight of the Malice of Ennemies the Finesse of Allies and the Mistakes of Congress.—

The Fisheries were attacked through my Sides, but they have not been wounded. We have obtained an explicit Acknowledgment of our Right to all the Fisheries, and the most unlimited Liberty to catch Fish, and Liberty to dry them on Nova scotia, Magdalene Islands, and Labradore— We are only restrained from drying on Newfoundland. This Article cost Us all the Industry all the Skill and Address, that We were masters of, We omitted no Argument to 125convince the English Ministry that it was their Interest to Secure it to Us. But the Argument that depriving Us of it would be a certain source of another War, was Strengthened a great deal by the Evidence there is that the French Minister was very willing that this Bone of Contention should be left.

Sagadahock is Safe too, as far as st Croix. The Navigation of the Missisippi, and the Western Lands as far as the Great Lakes, is ours too, unless Spain should defeat Us, which I hope will not be.

Was it perceived in America, that I was attacked as Standing in the Way of certain Views upon the Western Lands and the Fishery? and Was I given up.?— Was my Commission to make a Treaty of Commerce with the King of Great Britain, attacked because of my Instruction not to make Such a Treaty, without an express Article in the Treaty of Peace, acknowledging our Right to the Fishery?1 And were Congress either So incapable of penetrating into a little Finenesse, or so indifferent about the Fishery? and in the Name of God was there a New England man or a New England State in this predicament? British Finesse did not Use to impose upon any Americans much less Yankees.— French Finesse has been more successfull, for a Time, but in the End has been defeated, very fairly and honestly defeated.— undisciplined Marines as we were we were better Tacticians than was imagined.2

I congratulate you, upon the Event and shall ever be your Friend

RC (CtY:Franklin Coll.); internal address: “Mr Gerry.”; endorsed: “82 / J Adams / 1782 / no 2. no 3.” Gerry presumably means that this is the third letter that he had received from JA in 1782. The others were of 2 July and 19 Aug. (vol. 13:146–148, 254–255).


The 12 July 1781 revocation of JA's 29 Sept. 1779 commission to negotiate an Anglo-American commercial treaty proceeded directly from the creation of the joint peace commission in June 1781 (vol. 11:434–435). JA's instructions made American access to the fisheries on the Grand Banks a sine qua non for such a treaty, but that, and to some degree the commission to negotiate a commercial treaty itself, was owing to Congress’ decision not to make fishing rights a peace objective for fear that doing so would delay or obstruct a peace settlement (JA, D&A , 4:181–185). For JA's more detailed comments on the decision to revoke his commission, see his 5 Feb. 1783 letter to the president of Congress, below.


Compare JA's comment here about American diplomats as “undisciplined Marines” with the description of them in his 21 Feb. letter to Robert R. Livingston as “a kind of Militia” (vol. 12:254).