Papers of John Adams, volume 14

From Francis Dana, 27 March 1783 Dana, Francis Adams, John
From Francis Dana
Sir March 16th. 1783 [O.S., 27 March N.S.] St: Petersbourg

Yours of the 22d. of Feby: has come to hand this moment, and has given me much satisfaction. I always admired the noble and independant spirit of my friend; but I now see cause to admire it still more. You have confered additional obligations upon, or to express myself otherwise, you have rendered additional services to your Country, by breaking to peices chains forged to hold it in a state of subserviency to the interests of others. God and your Country will approve the measure. But there is nothing gives me more real pleasure than your determination to return to America. I have only one request to make to you, that you will not decline a moment taking a seat in Congress after your arrival there. They want only proper information to lead them into proper measures: the turn of thinking there must be changed; and I know no man better calculated on every account to bring this about, than yourself. I beseech you therefore never to decline such an occasion. By my last letter you will find my intention is, if not to accompany you, at least to follow you soon to America.

As to the extract of W Ls letter and your answer upon it as well as your advice to me to communicate my mission to the Minister of the Emperor, and the Ministers of all the other Courts which have acceeded to the Armed Neutrality,1 I think at present it is not adviseable to make this communication on that occasion, for first I have no authority to make any commercial Treaty with the Emperor: and as to that part of my com̃ission which respects the Armed Neutrality or Neutral Confederation, I have long since upon consideration, giving it to Congress as my opinion, that America cou'd not become a party in it, or accede formally to the marine convention so long as she continued a belligerant Power: and also, that that Convention from its terms and nature, was limited to the duration of the War.2 But if I shou'd be mistaken in this last point, I think it is not worth while for America at this time, to pay near five thousand pounds sterling to the Ministers of this Court for the liberty of acceeding to the Marine Convention: and if it was, I have not the money at my disposal. The communication you are sensible must be general to all the parties to that Confederation, and of course to this Court's To make the communication which wou'd amount to a 369proposition on any part to acceede to the Convention, and not to be able to do it for want of what I know is essential to the end, wou'd be only to expose the honour of the United States without the prospect of any advantage. It is quite enô to pay Five thousand pounds sterlg: for a Treaty of Commerce with this Empire. I think it my duty therefore to keep the Marine Convention out of sight as long as possible, and to confine myself to the Treaty of Commerce; into which I have adopted the leading principles of the Marine Convention and shall endeavour to conclude both points in one Treaty.3 If I fail in this I must fail in both, and shall immediately quit this Court. I must exercise my discretion in some things, and as you have done, submit my conduct to the judgment of those whose right it is to decide upon it. If they furnish me not with the means they must not expect the accomplishment of my Mission.— I pray you to give me your advice upon these matters with the utmost freedom, and as soon as possible. Thô I have ventured not to follow it in this particular case, yet I give you my reasons for not doing it, that you might judge upon them, and am not the less obliged to you for your advice.

I have not received an answer in form to my letter communicating my Mission to the Vice-Chancellor, but only a verbal message in excuse of the delay for a time entirely past.4 I do not like this delay— The immediate assurances mentioned in my letter in which I informed you of this Communication, came from a Member of her Majesty's private Cabinet, who sought an interview with me for that oceasion. But I refer you to a passage in my last letter “I am sick” &c God send me speedily a happy deliverance from them. Adieu my dear Sir, / Yours &c

P.S. Remember me affectionately to Mr: Thaxter & your Son. Tell the latter I have this day received his Letter from Hamborough, and that he will probably have recd. one from me on his arrival in Holland.5 He must not fail to give me a very particular account of his route, of the money proper for it, the best method of travelling it, &c &c

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Dana 16 March / ansd. 1. May 1783.” Filmed at 16 March.


For the extracts, see William Lee's letter of 18 Feb., and note 1, above.


The end of hostilities ostensibly removed the Armed Neutrality's raison d’être, but not necessarily, so far as Americans were concerned, its importance. There had always been an illogic in the United States as a belligerent seeking to join a league of neutrals. The real problem, however, was that Russia had never recognized the United States as a 370sovereign nation, much less a belligerent under the law of nations. For Catherine II's 1780 declaration and the American view of it, see vol. 9:121–126.


No draft treaty has been found. Dana's instructions of 19 Dec. 1780 empowered him “to enter into a treaty of friendship and commerce with her on terms of the most perfect equality, reciprocity and mutual advantage, and similar to those expressed in our treaty with his Most Christian Majesty” ( JCC , 18:1172). It seems likely, therefore, that Dana used the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce as his guide and incorporated into it provisions derived from the principles of the Declaration of the Armed Neutrality.


For Dana's letter to Count Ivan A. Osterman of [7 March], to which he had received no reply, see his letter to JA of [7 March], and note 5, above; and for the progress of his efforts, see his letters of [9], [12], and [15 May], all below.


Neither letter has been found.

From William Lee, 27 March 1783 Lee, William Adams, John
From William Lee
Dear Sir. Bruxelles 27 March 1783

Your obliging favor of the 15th. instt. did not come to my hands ’till the 8th day after its date, but it did not appear to have been open'd, tho’ the direction was in a handwriting that I am not acquainted with.

I can readily, from my own experience, subscribe to the Truth of every thing you have said in your Letter, & to prevent Dr. Franklin from repeating the same unwarrantable practice with the Emperor, (which from some expressions drop'd I have reason to think was in agitation) as with the K. of S.1 I have plainly Inform'd the Government here, that no Person in Europe is authorized by Congress to treat with the Emperor but Mr. Dana—who is now at Petersburg, & was I in Paris, I wou'd make a point of giving the same explicit information to the Imperial Ambassador there.2

I know it has always been the Creed at Passy that Congress ought not to presume to make any appointments in Europe which Dr. Franklin was not at the head of, or commanded to be done; upon this principle it is I suppose, that he has had the effrontery, as I am told, to nominate Mr. W. T. Franklin to Congress to be appointed Amn. Minister at the Court of Versailles; it having been previously settled between the Doctr. & Cte. DeV. that the Doctr. himself, as being the most trusty Person, shou'd be sent as Amern. Minister to London.

Doctr. Franklin I see has the superlative Modesty, by his Agents in London, to style himself, in the English papers the founder of the new American Empire;3 but I have look'd upon him to have been Born, to be a Scourge to Ama., therefore considering the penetrating & Sagacious Judgemt. of your particular Countrymen, it has surpriz'd me to see him blazon'd out in the Boston Papers,4 in nearly as 371fulsome terms, as in the Buletins that are sent from the Genl. Post Office in Paris, to most of the Gazettes in Europe. The contending Parties there, like Mr. Deane, seem to place a great deal of their merit in the Share they enjoy in his good Graces. (See the writings abt. Mr. Jno Temple &c).5

It wd. give me most sincere pleasure if our country wd. learn wisdom from experience, in that case I shall think it fortunate, that we have receiv'd such imperious & iniquitous treatment from a certain quarter, as they ought to convince every American that there is nothing due from us on the score of Gratitude, which may prevent us from hereafter being intrigued into schemes that can only be productive of injury & disgrace to us.

A plot seems already form'd to get Gl. Washington to Paris,6 which I trust America will have Wisdom enough to prevent, for I can never forget from what source the K. of Sweeden imbibed the Idea, nor by whose assistance he carried in to execution the Nefarious plan of depriving his Country of its Liberties, which he had sworn to maintain, & immediately afterwards attempted to cloath his Sacrilege with the mask of religion, by going to church Taking a Prayer Book out of his pocket, & singing Psalms; thus making a mockery both of God & Man.—7 What a Pity it was, that the genius of Sweeden did not at that moment furnish a Brutus, or a Cassius.

Please to give me a safe direction to Mr. Dana that I may write to him, tho’ I am much employed at present in preparing for my voyage to America, which may take place in the course of next month & shall be happy to be Bearer of your commands. Pray tell me if you think British Manufactures will now be admited, as I shall be almost obliged to take some of them for my own private use.

Intelligence from London mentions that great Intrigue & exertion were used from a certain quarter, to prevent the Bill for opening a Commercial Intercourse between G. B. & the U. S. from passing, in the original form, as introduced by Mr. Pitt; in which they have pretty well succeeded, but all that is wrong may be cured by a judicious Treaty.

Have you heard latelly from my Brother or do you know if he is still in Congress?8 who has succeeded Mr. Livingston as Secretary?—

With very great Esteem & Respect, I have the Honor to be / Dear Sir, / Your most Obedient / & most Hb̃le Servant

W. Lee.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency John Adams Esq. / at / Paris—”; endorsed: “Mr W. Lee. March 27. / ansd. April 6. / 1783.”

372 1.

The King of Sweden.


For Lee's ultimate decision not to write Dana, see his letter of 24 April, below.


There had been numerous reports in London newspapers that Benjamin Franklin had been or would be appointed minister to Great Britain. The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser of 16 Jan. quoted a 4 Jan. Paris letter indicating that “Dr. Franklyn's friends openly declared, that he had already the appointment of Plenipotentiary from Congress to the Court of London.” In the issue of 27 Jan. Dr. Franklin was reported to be coming to London as the American minister and to have “taken lodgings in Surry-street, which he occupied some years ago, and is expected in London in a few days.” On 5 Feb. the paper carried an excerpt from a Paris letter of 29 Jan. that referred to Franklin as “the father of the Revolution in America.”


It is not known what Boston newspaper Lee may have seen, but the Continental Journal on 6 Feb. published excerpts from four letters by Franklin in which he reported that he saw “all the Marks of a constantly growing Regard for us, and Confidence in us, among those in whom such Sentiments are most to be desired” and that “our Reputation rises throughout Europe” and “our public Affairs go on swimmingly in Holland.”


John Temple, a Boston native and the son-in-law of James Bowdoin, had returned from England to America as an emissary for reconciliation and touched off a newspaper war between himself and James Sullivan over Temple's patriotism and intentions. In the Boston Evening Post of 30 Nov. 1782, Temple's supporters called Sullivan's claim that Temple and Franklin were “bitter enemies” a “groundless, inscendiary assertion.” For more on Temple, the controversy over his return, and JA's unintentional involvement in it, see vol. 11:449–452 and AFC , 4:385–388.


It is not known where Lee obtained his information, but a report from Paris in the London Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser of 22 March stated that “a pressing invitation has been sent by the King and Queen of France to General Washington, to come for some months at least to Versailles, and in person receive the investiture of the honors that await him.” A French ship of the line reportedly had been dispatched to Philadelphia to carry Washington should he accept the invitation.


Lee refers to the Comte de Vergennes’ service as the French ambassador to Sweden from 1771 to 1774. In August 1772 Gustavus III staged a successful coup d’état against the Swedish Diet to reestablish his authority and prerogatives, an event that served French policy by diminishing Russian influence. Vergennes as ambassador did not instigate the plot, but he was the paymaster who made it possible and he reaped the rewards from its success. In his biography of Vergennes, Orville T. Murphy rejects the view that Vergennes plotted against the interests of the United States but nevertheless sees the suspicions expressed by Lee, which JA shared, as “understandable” because “they knew, as well as other diplomats of Europe, that Vergennes was capable of intrigue and plotting” and his role “in the Swedish coup d’état of 1772 was public knowledge” (Murphy, Vergennes , p. 176–206, 394).


Arthur Lee served in Congress, with relatively few interruptions, from mid-Feb. 1782 to early June 1784 (Smith, Letters of Delegates , 18:xxiii; 19:xxv; 20:xxiii; 21:xxvi). He wrote to JA on 7 Aug. and 1 Oct. 1782. JA replied to the first on 10 Oct. (vol. 13:219–222, 508–510, 523–526). No reply to Arthur Lee's second letter has been found, but see JA's 12 April letter to Lee, note 1, below.