Papers of John Adams, volume 14

The Marquis de Lafayette to the American Peace Commissioners, 12 May 1783 Lafayette, Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin Jay, John
The Marquis de Lafayette to the American Peace Commissioners
Gentlemen, Paris, May 12th. 1783.

Having yesterday conferred with Count de Vergennes upon some Public Concerns, He requested I would tell you what, instead of troubling you with the Demand of a meeting, I think better to mention in this Note.

The several Powers said he, are going to make up their Treaties, and when ready to sign, they will of Course meet to do it alltogether. The Mediation of the Emperor and that of Russia have been required, and under that Mediation the French Treaty will be signed, it now rests with America to know if She will conclude her Treaty under the Mediation, or chooses to let it alone. There is no Necessity for it, But in Case you prefer to have it, Count de Vergennes thinks it is time to join with England in making a combined Application to the Court of Vienna and that of Petersbourg.1


So far Gentlemen I have been requested to speak to you, I will add that from my last Conferences on the Subject, I hope we may get the Harbour of L’orient, as we have wished, for the American Trade.2

Be pleased to accept the Assurances of my great and affectionate Respect.

(signed) La Fayette.

LbC-Tr in Jean L’Air de Lamotte's hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “To the American Ministers for negociating / a Peace.”; APM Reel 103.


Henry Laurens replied to Lafayette on 13 May, indicating that the mediation would be taken up whenever JA called the commissioners together to discuss the issue (ScHi: Laurens Papers). JA in particular and his colleagues in general were not enthusiastic about the revived Austro-Russian mediation, and there is no indication that they took any action regarding Lafayette's letter. Not until mid-July did they even draft a letter to the Russian and Austrian ministers at Paris, and ultimately the issue died when the British refused to participate (to Francis Dana, 1 May, above; Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:551, 674–676).


Lafayette refers to the thus far unfulfilled French promise in Art. 30 of the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce to grant to the United States “in Europe one or more free Ports” (Miller, Treaties , 2:26–27). Nothing was done until 1784 when the ports of Lorient, Dunkerque, Marseilles, and Bayonne were opened, but France's reluctance to modify its mercantilist system meant that Franco-American trade would never become a viable alternative to that between Britain and America (Laurens, Papers , 16:198–199).

To Antoine Marie Cerisier, 13 May 1783 Adams, John Cerisier, Antoine Marie
To Antoine Marie Cerisier
Dear Sir Paris May 13. 1783

I had not Seen for many Months, any one Number of the Politique hollandois, until Yesterday, when a Friend Sent me Several Numbers of them up to the 22 of April.— Will you be So good as to desire Mr Crayenschot to Send them to me Weekly, and address them by the Post to Monsieur Mathew Ridley, Rue de Claire No. 60.— Let him Send them every Monday as soon as they come out.

I always read them with great Pleasure, and I find they have lost none of their Elegance, their Wisdom or their Spirit. You will continue them I hope at least untill the final Establishment of the Peace.—

The Confusions in England, and the Interruption of News from America, have kept me here much against my will for a long time, and I have Reason to fear that the Conferences for the definitive Treaty will be drawn out into greater Length than will be convenient to my Wishes or Feelings.

Your Countrymen the Dutch are determined to draw back their Constitution to its first Principles and to remount their Liberties, by which Means they will derive from the American War civil and 479political Benefits more than enough to indemnify them for all that has been plundered from them, besides Securing their full share in American Commerce.— May their Liberties be perpetual.

Pray what have you done with the Essay on the Cannon Law &c.?

You ask my opinion concerning some late English Pamphlets.— The Controversy between Clinton and Cornwallis, cannot be less interesting to you as an Historian than that between Burgoine and How and Galloway.1 There are also some Pamphlets upon the Peace, worth reading.

You See, by my Seal, that the benign Influences of the thirteen Stars Still Shine, on the Noble Sports of Hunting and Fishing, for the Purposes of Navigation.—2

With great Esteem I have the Honour to be, Sir your obliged and obedient Servant

John Adams.

RC (private owner, 1990); addressed: “A Monsieur / Monsieur Alexandre Marie Cerisier / sur le Cingel, Vis a Vis la Tour / de la Monnoie / A. Amsterdam”; internal address: “Mr Ceresier.”


Generals Henry Clinton and Charles Cornwallis were engaged in a pamphlet war over their respective roles in the American Revolution. In the first four months of 1783 three of their pamphlets were published in London by John Debrett: Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, K.B., Relative to His Conduct during Part of His Command of the King's Troop in North America; An Answer to That Part of the Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, K.B. which Pertains to the Conduct of Lieutenant-General Earl Cornwallis; and Observations on Some Parts of the Answer of Earl Cornwallis to Sir Henry Clinton's Narrative ( AFC , 4:266; Laurens, Papers , 16:191). For the controversy between Joseph Galloway and Generals William Howe and John Burgoyne, see vol. 10:312–314.


Only a remnant of the seal remains on this letter, but JA had recently commissioned an engraved seal to commemorate his efforts to secure the fisheries and the western boundary in the peace negotiations. For a representation of the seal, which features a pine tree, deer, and fish surrounded by thirteen stars, portions of which were later incorporated into a bookplate by JQA, see Catalogue of JQA's Books , p. 140–144.