Papers of John Adams, volume 14

To Mercy Otis Warren, 29 January 1783 Adams, John Warren, Mercy Otis
To Mercy Otis Warren
Madam Paris January 29. 1783.

Your Favour of the 25 of October never reached me till to day, but it has given me great Pleasure as your Letters always do.— I was disappointed however in finding no Line from Mr Warren except the Superscription of yours.1

I assure you, Madam, what I Said about certain Annals was no Sarcasm. I have the Utmost Veneration for them, although I never was honoured with a Sight of any of them.2

Let me intreat you not to reserve any Place in them for the Dutch Negotiation, if you intend to celebrate my Patience, of all Virtues or Qualities I hate Most to be praised for my Patience. I had rather you Should immortalize my Impudence, for I rather think it was this quality, than the other which produced the Effect in Holland.— I entered into the Seven United Provinces with as much Impudence, as I should have appeared in the 13 United States of America. As Johnny Morehead Said to Mr Bollan. “Mr Such an one used, Sir, to come into my House with as much Impudence, as you would come into your own.[”]3 If the Word Shocks you Madam call it modest Assurance, or honest Boldness, or almost what you will except Patience.

The Times, Madam have made a Strange Being of me. I shall appear a Domestic Animal, never at home, a bashfull Creature, braving the Fronts of the greatest ones of the Earth.—a timid Man, venturing on a long Series of the greatest dangers.—an irritable fiery Mortal, enduring every Provocation and Disgust—a delicate Valeludinarian4 bearing the greatest Hardships.—an humble Farmer, despising Pomp, shew Power and Weath, as profuse as a Prodigal and as Proud as Cæsar— But an honest Man in all and to the Death.—

Alass! who would wish for Such a Character? Who would wish to live in Times and Circumstances when to be an honest Man, one must be all the rest.? Not I.— it can never be the Duty of one Man 220to be concerned in more than one Revolution. And therefore I will never have any Thing to do with another.

But to be more to the Purpose—I Sincerely hope my Friend Mr Warren will go to Congress. I am astonished to learn that at a Time when a large Portion of the Massachusetts was at Stake and in question, and all their Fisheries there should be, but one Member attending the Great Wheel from that State.

I have never had an Opportunity, Madam, to see your Son since he has been in Europe, but once or twice at Amsterdam, and that before I had an House there. He has been travelling from Place to Place; and altho’ I have often enquired after him, I have seldom been able to hear of him. I have heard nothing to his disadvantage; except a Shyness and Secrecy, which, as it is uncommon in young Gentlemen of his Age and Education is the more remarked, and a general Reputation which he brought with him from Boston of loving Play. But I have not been able to learn, that he has indulged it improperly in Europe. But my Advice to him and every young American is and uniformly will be, to stay in Europe but a little while.5

The Reflection, Mrs Warren, that We are now at Peace after the Contest of one and twenty years, which you and I have been witnesses of, is Sweet indeed.— Those Qualities which through the Course of that Period have attracted the Attention and Confidence of the People, will now be little regarded, content, They have answered their End, and may now be laid aside.— Yet it is too Soon for Mr Warren or me to retire— Stability and Dignity must be given to the Laws, or our Labours have all been in vain and the old Hands must do this or it will not be done.

I hope to have the Pleasure of renewing old Acquaintances e’er long, and of being no stranger at the Blue Hills.

There is but one Case in which it is possible that I should Stay in Europe another year, and that is that Congress should renew the Commission with which I came out to make a Treaty of Commerce with Great Britain, in that Case I should hope my Dr Mrs Adams would come to me. But there is not I think the least Probability of that, nor indeed do I desire it.6 The first and strongest Wish of my Heart is to go home to my Family.— But in all Events The Mountain shall come to Mahomet or Mahomet shall go to the Mountain. My Family shall come to me or I will go to them.

With the greatest Esteem and Respect, Madam, / I have the Honour to be, your Fred, & sert

John Adams—

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); internal address: “Mrs Warren.” endorsed: “J Adams Esqr. / Jany 29th 1783 / Paris—” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.


For Mercy Otis Warren's letter, see vol. 13:541–544. James Warren wrote on 1 Nov., above, but the dispatch of his letter was delayed and it apparently did not reach JA until early April. For the letter's arrival and its effect, see note 1 to Warren's 1 Nov. letter and JA's reply of 9 April, and note 2, below.


This reference is to Mercy Warren's comment regarding JA's letter to James Warren of 17 June 1782 (vol. 13:127–128). There JA speculates about how his negotiations in the Netherlands would be treated in her proposed history of the Revolution, but see note 2 to her letter of 25 October (same, p. 543).


This exchange was probably between Rev. John Moorehead, minister of the Presbyterian Church in Long Lane, Boston, who was noted for his irascibility, and William Bollan, one-time Massachusetts agent in London and former owner of the Brattle Square house that JA purchased in 1768 ( Warren-Adams Letters , 2:188; JA, D&A , 3:286–287). The origin of this anecdote is unknown, but for another concerning Moorehead, see JA, D&A , 2:65.


JA likely meant “valetudinarian,” and John Thaxter changed it to such in the Letterbook. The word refers to a person in ill health, particularly one who is preoccupied with his complaints ( OED ).


When Winslow Warren visited JA at Amsterdam in April 1781, JA had recommended him to Edmund Jenings (vol. 11:296). For Warren's adventures since his departure from America in the summer of 1780, including his capture on his voyage to Europe and 1781 arrest in London in the aftermath of John André's execution, see vols. 9:289; 11:75–76; AFC , 3:359–360.

In the recipient's copy, this paragraph is heavily canceled and for the most part unreadable. The text here is provided from the Letterbook, where the corresponding paragraph is not canceled. The cancellation of the text in the recipient's copy was most likely done by Mercy Warren, as it is very unlikely that JA would send a letter with a heavily canceled passage to anyone, much less a friend. Mercy Warren's motive in canceling the passage may have been to remove the perceived criticism in JA's references to her son's “Shyness and Secrecy” and reputation for “loving Play.”


Compare JA's comment here on the possibility that he would remain in Europe with that in his letter to AA of this date ( AFC , 5:82–83).

From C. W. F. Dumas, 30 January 1783 Dumas, C. W. F. Adams, John
From C. W. F. Dumas
Monsieur, Lahaie 30e. Janvr. 1783.

Les Lettres que j’ai eu l’honneur de vous écrire Vendredi 24 & mardi 28e. ne sont que l’Expression la plus fidele des sentimens de nos Républicains. Je n’y ai rien mis du mien: au contraire, j’ai adouci tant que j’ai pu. Si l’on ne trouve à racom̃oder la chose de la maniere que je l’ai proposée, c’en est fait pour toujours du Crédit ici de la Fce. Voici la Copie promise de la Lettre; & d’une autre de la même main, reçue ce matin.1 La Fce. & nos Republicains, depuis tous ces jours, Sont l’objet des Sarcasmes, & des railleries ameres des malintentionnés; & nos Republicains, sans avoir NB. perdu courage vis-à-vis de leurs Antagonistes internes, sont outrés, & n’ont plus aucune confiance en ce qui leur est dit Ministériellement de la part de la Fce., pour colorer ce qui vient de se passer, ou pour leur faire faire quelque démarche ultérieure.— Ils plaignent 222personnellement Mr. le D. de la V., & disent que Mr. le C. de V. le sacrifie, & lui fait perdre d’un coup de plume tout le fruit de ses sages, infatigables & brillants travaux ici. Du reste ils déclarent, qu’ils ne veulent être dominés, ou influés, ou menés à la lisiere, ni par l’Angleterre ni par la Fce.; & que, quoiqu’on leur propose de la part de la Fce., ils ne le porteront plus devant leurs Villes, que moyennant des sûretés suffisantes en poche. Si vous pouvez faire réussir, Monsieur, ce que j’ai proposé, je crois que ce sera une opération politique importante, un coup de partie pour l’honneur & l’avantage des Etats-Unis, parce qu’elle établira leur crédit, leur dignité & leur gloire ici pour toujours. Votre Jugement & profonde pénétratrion, Monsieur, n’a pas besoin que j’entre dans de plus longs raisonnemens là-dessus. Il suffit que cette affaire sera également avantageuse à tous, puisque tous y participeront & se l’assûreront.

Mr. le Comte de Llano m’a fait prier ce matin de lui com̃uniquer les Préliminaires dont Mr. l’Ambr. lui a dit que j’avois copie.2 Mais il s’est contenté de mes raisons pour ne pouvoir lui donner qu’une idée verbale des dits Préliminaires. J’ai cru pouvoir & devoir faire le même plaisir à Mr. D’Asp.

Voici quelques Lettres arrivées pour V. E.,3 avec les respects de ma famille. Vous connaissez toute la vérité de celui avec lequel je suis / Monsieur, De Votre Excellence / le très humble & trèsobeissant / serviteur,

C W. f. Dumas
Sir The Hague, 30 January 1783

The letters I had the honor of writing to you on Friday the 24th and Tuesday the 28th are simply a faithful expression of our republicans’ feelings. I added nothing of my own; to the contrary, I toned it down as much as I could. If the matter cannot be patched up in the manner I propose, any credibility that France enjoys here is doomed forever. Here is the promised copy of the letter and of another in the same hand, received this morning.1 In recent days France and our republicans have been the object of sarcasm and galling humor from the ill-intentioned, and while our republicans have not lost courage in confrontations with their domestic opponents, they are outraged and no longer have any confidence in what is said ministerially by France, whether it be to gloss over what has just taken place or to induce them to undertake some further step. They feel sorry for the Duc de La Vauguyon and say that the Comte de Vergennes is sacrificing him, causing him to lose with a single pen stroke all the fruits of his wise, tireless, and brilliant work here. Moreover, they declare that they are unwilling to be dominated, influenced, or led about by either England or 223France and that, whatever proposals France may make, they will no longer place them before their towns unless they possess sufficient guarantees. If, sir, you can bring about what I suggested, I think it will be a major political achievement, a major coup for the honor and advantage of the United States, because it here will establish forever their credibility, dignity, and glory. Your judgment and deep understanding have no need of further arguments. It is enough that this matter will be equally advantageous to all, since all will take part in it and guarantee it.

The Conde de Llano begged me this morning to show him the preliminary accords, of which the ambassador told him I had a copy.2 But he was satisfied with my reasons for only being able to give him an oral account of the said preliminaries. I thought I could and should pay Mr. Asp the same courtesy.

Here are some letters that arrived for your excellency,3 together with the respects of my family. You know the truth of those with which I am, sir, your excellency's very humble and very obedient servant

C W. f. Dumas

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Paris à Son Exce. Mr. Adams, Esqr. Min. Pl. des Et. Un.”


The author of the enclosed letters has not been identified nor have the enclosures themselves been found, but for their content, see JA's reply of 5 Feb., below.


That is, the Spanish minister, the Conde de Llano, had been told of Dumas’ copy by the Duc de La Vauguyon.


JA indicates in his 5 Feb. reply to Dumas, below, that this letter had arrived on the evening of 4 February. This likely means that one of the enclosed letters was Francis Dana's of [10 Jan.], above, which JA said arrived the previous evening, when he replied to Dana on 5 February.