Papers of John Adams, volume 15

From Francis Dana

To Edmund Jenings

To Antoine Marie Cerisier, 9 June 1783 Adams, John Cerisier, Antoine Marie
To Antoine Marie Cerisier
Sir, Paris. June. 9th. 1783.—

I thank you for yours of the 2d. inst: The translation of my letters in the Pol: Hol: of the 2d. June: 82, fm. Parker’s Genl: Adverr: is very just as I believe. I have not the English to compare, but in memory. I am the more anxious abt: those letters as I committed a great indiscretion in sending them in the year 1780 fm. Paris without keeping a Copy of a single line of them— I am endeavoring to get the Originals; but, if I shd. fail in this I wish them to be fully published at present & reduced to a certainty, since such things are sometimes liable to change, obliterations Interpolations, &c:1

The truth is, the letters themselves have little weight & made a small impression: but hereafter, when inquisitive Spirits begin greedily to search for documents of the Peace, if any one shd. discover in those letters the characteristic features of the Provisional Treaty of the 30th. Nov. 1782. he may think the letters & Treaty had the same Sire: and if he shd. afterwards find that the Writer of the letters, 2. or 3. yrs: afterwards, really did act in the Character of first Min: Plenipo: of the U: S: at the peace, he may think those letters of more importance than you & I do.2 For this reason I wish to have them now fixed, as well as may be, that no imposture may be 22practised in future, under color of them, & I am, for this reason the more obliged to you for translating them.

Yr: &:

LbC in Charles Storer’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr: Ceresier—”; APM Reel 108.


For JA’s unsuccessful effort to obtain the manuscripts of his “Letters from a Distinguished American” from Edmund Jenings, to whom they had originally been sent and who obtained their publication in Parker’s General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer, see his letter to Jenings of 9 June and Jenings’ reply of [ca. 8 July], both below.


The anxiety expressed here and in his 9 June letter to Edmund Jenings, below, over being identified as the author of the “Letters” was due largely to the fact that he had written them in 1780 when he was the sole minister to negotiate an Anglo-American peace. In and of itself this might not have been a problem, but the “Letters” were at least an implied invitation to the North ministry from an American diplomat to conclude a separate Anglo-American peace in violation of the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance signed two years earlier. Such an offer, more than two years prior to the official opening of negotiations that resulted in a separate peace, placed JA in a somewhat awkward position, particularly since he had not informed Congress of his plans for publication (“Letters from a Distinguished American,” [ante 14–22 July] 1780, vol. 9:531–588). See also JA’s 9 June 1783 letter to Robert R. Livingston, below.