Papers of John Adams, volume 14

248 To Thomas McKean, 6 February 1783 Adams, John McKean, Thomas
To Thomas McKean
My dear Sir Paris. February 6. 17831

Your Favour by Mr Randall, I received last Night,2 by the Way of Marseilles, where I Suppose that Gentleman landed and Still remains, as he is not arrived here Whenever I may meet him, all that Attention shall be Shewn him which is due from me, to your Recommendation.— I wish you had oftener laid me under Obligation to you in this Way.— The Sight of your Letter refreshed me like the Countenance of an old Friend.— it gave me Such a kind of Pleasure as I shall feel at the Sight of our worthy Friend Jefferson, if he Should arrive.

The Business of Peace is done, in Substance, and will be compleated formally in the definitive Treaty in a few Days, So that this worthy Gentleman will probably arrive too late for this Business.— But Congress may probably destine him to Some other.— There are openings enough at present. But the Business is all done in a manner. a Treaty of Commerce was Signed Yesterday with Sweeden, by the Sweedish Ambassador here and Dr Franklin.3 Mr Dana will probably be received too by the Court of Russia, and all the Neutrals. It is a Pity that Sweeden had not been referred to him. Congress must take the Resolution of Supporting their own Systems and their own Elections or they will become the Sport of every intriguing Minister at every foreign Court.

The most important Mission of all is now opened to the Court of Great Britain. You know very well, that I have been unfairly treated in that matter, and you must be Sensible that it is impossible for me to Stay in Europe at any other Court.— in the Name of common Justice then give me my Quietus and let me return home, by accepting my Resignation immediately, that I may not be exposed to the further disgrace of waiting in Europe with the Air of a Candidate and an Expectant of that Mission, if foreign Finesse and domestic faction have determined that I shall not have it.— I dont like the Air of coming home without Leave or I would embark in the first ship.

Pray has Mr Livingston laid before Congress a Letter of Mr Marbois,—this will explain to you, the Attack which was made upon me.4 But are the essential Interests of our Country, and those servants of Congress who have been determined to defend them to be thus Sacrificed. depend upon it, you have been egregiously imposed upon. it is time to assert your own Dignity The Attack that was 249made upon me, was an Attack upon your Western Lands and Fisheries, and to betray me in such a Case would be an eternal opprobium to our Country.

If you take the Recommendations of foreign Courts or foreign Ministers or secretaries, you will be the meerest Dupes & Bubbles in the World, you will have ignorant Boys imposed upon you, or dishonest Dotards in their Second Childhood, for the most important Places in your disposal.

With great Esteem and Affection, I have the Honour / to be sir your most obedient & most humble servant

John Adams

RC (PHi:McKean Papers); internal address: “Chief Justice McKean.”; endorsed: “Lre. Febry. 6th. 1783. / Excellency John Adams Esqre. / No. 173.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.


A notation by John Thaxter on the Letterbook copy indicates that on 13 Feb. he “delivered the above to Capt. Cox of No. Carolina bound from hence to Nantes, inclosed as the Letter to the President of Congress preceeding this & in the same Packet.”


McKean's letter was of 18 Nov., above.


For the repercussions of JA's announcement of the signing of the Swedish-American Treaty, see his 7 Feb. letter to Dumas, note 2, below.


For François de Barbé-Marbois’ letter of 13 March 1782 to the Comte de Vergennes, which had been intercepted by the British and supplied to the American negotiators at Paris, see Henry Laurens’ account of a conversation with JA on 19 Dec. 1782, note 4, above.

From C. W. F. Dumas, 6 February 1783 Dumas, C. W. F. Adams, John
From C. W. F. Dumas
Monsieur, Lahaie 6e. fev. 1783.

Mrs. Jn. De Neufville & fils d’Amsterdam m’écrivent ce qui suit

“Nous vous prions de nous procurer un Passeport, pour le Brig. Américain le Firebrand de Boston, d’environ cent quarante toñeaux com̃andé par le Capne. Phoenix Frazier, qui desire profiter aussitot que possible de la cessation d’hostilités. Et les Vaisseaux de Nantes & de l’Orient obtenant des Passeports sur la requisition qui en est faite aux Ministres, s’il n’est pas de votre ressort d’en accorder, nous vous prions pour le susdit Capitaine d’en obtenir un de Paris, pour le garantir de tous inconvénients en cas de mauvaises rencontres.”1

Je suis avec les respects de ma famille, joints au mien, Monsieur, de Votre Excellence / le très-humble & très obéis- / sant serviteur


Demain se prendra aux Et. d’hollde. la résolution finale de poursuivre criminellement la désobéissance quant à la sortie de l’Escadre pour Brest2

Le reglemt de la jurisdiction militaire est tonjours sérieusemt. sur 250le tapis de L. N. & Gr. P. Ce sera le croc en jambe du Haut Conseil de Guerre. La Mémoire là-dessus de Mr. Van Berkel, fait & rejeté il y a 10 ans, est adopté par les Etats d’Hollde. & inséré dans leurs registres. Quel triomphe pour l’Auteur!

Sir The Hague, 6 February 1783

Jean de Neufville & Fils of Amsterdam writes to me as follows:

“Please would you obtain for us a passport for the American brigantine Firebrand of Boston, approximately 140 tons, commanded by Capt. Phoenix Frazier, who would like to take advantage as soon as possible of the cessation of hostilities. Since ships from Nantes and Lorient obtain passports by requesting them from ministers, if it is not in your power to grant this, we ask that you obtain one from Paris for the said captain as a safeguard in the event of hostile encounters.”1

I am, with the respects of my family joined to my own, sir, your excellency's very humble and very obedient servant


Tomorrow the States of Holland will pass a final resolution to prosecute criminally the disobedience regarding the sortie of the squadron for Brest.2

The administration of military justice is still seriously on the agenda of their Noble and Great Mightinesses. It will be the Achilles heel of the High Council of War. Mr. Van Berckel's memorandum on this subject, written and rejected ten years ago, has been adopted by the States of Holland and inserted into their registers. What a triumph for the author!

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Paris à Son Exce. M. Adams M. P.”


See JA's letter to Duncan Ingraham Jr., 19 Feb., below.


Dumas refers to the controversy over naval preparedness that had been festering since the previous autumn and that he had first described in his serial letter to Livingston of 27 Sept. to 22 Oct. 1782. In early Oct. 1782 a Dutch squadron of ten ships commanded by Vice Admiral Hartsinck was to have sailed for Brest to join the French fleet in operations against the British. The admiral and his subordinates refused to sail, however, citing the lack of provisions and the poor condition of their vessels (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:776–778; Gazette d’Amsterdam, 15 Oct.). The failure of the squadron to sail provoked the States of Holland and West Friesland to demand that William V, in his capacity as admiral general, explain the Dutch Navy's unpreparedness and its consequent failure to take effective action against the British. For the resolution adopted by the States of Holland and West Friesland on 7 Feb. and that province's correspondence with William V leading to it, see the Gazette d’Amsterdam of 18 February. For the stadholder's response of 13 Feb., see the Gazette of 11, 14, 18, and 21 March. In fact, while the questions of naval preparedness and William V's competence as admiral general fueled the ongoing dispute between stadholder and anti-stadholder factions, the issue had been rendered moot by the inclusion of the Netherlands in the armistice that resulted from the signature of the preliminary treaties between Britain, France, and Spain on 20 January.