Papers of John Adams, volume 15

From John Jay

From C. W. F. Dumas

From Benjamin Franklin, 10 December 1783 Franklin, Benjamin Adams, John
From Benjamin Franklin
Sir, Passy, Dec. 10. 1783.

I received the Letter you did me the honour of writing to me the 5th. Instant by Commo. Jones, with the Dispatches he brought. The Packet directed to me alone, contain’d only a Letter to the Magistrates of Hambourg,1 and a Diploma of Doctor of Divinity from the College at Princetown for the Reverend Mr Wren:2 No Commission, nor any Mention of it; so that it seems to have been forgotten or dropt. Perhaps our Letter which went with the Definitive Treaty may remind the Congress of it.

I received the Letter you mention from Messrs Willink & Compa. I immediately consulted Mr Grand, who brought me a Sketch of his Account with Mr Morris, by which it appeared that it was not in our Power to give Relief. I hope your Presence in Holland may be of Service3

With great Respect I have the honour to be / Sir / Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Honble John Adams Esqe.


For the 1 Nov. letter from the president of Congress to the Burgomasters and Senate of Hamburg, see Smith, Letters of Delegates , 21:133. The letter proceeded from Congress’ resolution of 29 Oct. expressing its appreciation of the proposals made by the city’s representative, John Abraham de Boor, regarding the establishment of a commercial relationship between the United States and the city of Hamburg ( JCC , 25:757–758).


Rev. Thomas Wren of Portsmouth, England, had long been associated with Benjamin Franklin in efforts to assist American prisoners of war in England. In his 22 July letter to the president of Congress, Franklin said that “some public notice should be taken of this good man” and expressed the hope “that some of our universities would confer upon him the degree of Doctor” (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:588). Princeton acted at its commencement on 24 Sept., and Congress resolved on 29 Sept. to thank Wren “for his humane and benevolent attention to the citizens of these United States who were prisoners at Portsmouth.” The diploma and the resolution were enclosed with a letter from the president of Congress to Wren of 1 Nov. (Varnum Lansing Collins, The Continental Congress at Princeton, Princeton, N.J., 1908, p. 156–157; 417 JCC , 25:632; Smith, Letters of Delegates , 21:136–137).


For the consortium’s letter to Franklin, his meeting with Ferdinand Grand about it, and the 3 Dec. letters from Franklin and Grand to the consortium in reply, see the consortium’s 2 Dec. letter to JA, and note 5, above.

Although he never replied to or even acknowledged it, JA probably received this letter at Bath on 27 Dec. (from John Jay, 9 Dec., note 1, above). The crux of this paragraph is that if the financial crisis was to be resolved it was JA’s responsibility to do so. It was imperative, therefore, that JA immediately return to London and go on to the Netherlands, a decision that took on additional urgency when on the day after his arrival in London he received the consortium’s letter of 23 Dec., below, with its enclosed letters from Franklin and Grand. That this letter was responsible for JA’s decision to deal with the situation at Amsterdam himself seems at odds with his retrospective account first published in the Boston Patriot in 1812 and republished in JA, D&A , 3:151–152. There JA attributes his abrupt departure from Bath and subsequent Dutch journey to receiving “dispatches from America, from London, and from Amsterdam, informing me that the drafts of congress by Mr. Morris . . . had exhausted all my loan of the last summer . . . and that an immense flock of new bills had arrived.” But JA seems, from the distance of almost forty years, to have conflated all the dispatches, regardless of origin, received at London prior to visiting Bath (to Franklin, 5 Dec., above; to the president of Congress, 14 Dec., below). JA clearly had not received Franklin’s 10 Dec. letter when he wrote on 14 Dec. to him and the consortium, both below, indicating in each his need to know Franklin’s course of action so that he could determine his own. Nor does it seem likely that he received the 10 Dec. letter before, according to JQA, his “sudden Resolution” to visit Bath (JQA to Peter Jay Munro, 23 Dec., NNMus). Considering JA’s anxiety over the looming “Catastrophe to American Credit” (to Franklin, 14 Dec., below), it is inconceivable that he would have contemplated taking the waters if he had received the letter at London.