Papers of John Adams, volume 15

From Matthew Ridley, 27 December 1783 Ridley, Matthew Adams, John
From Matthew Ridley
Dear Sir Auteiul Decemr. 27t. 1783

I was honored with your two esteem’d Favors of the 18t. & 21st. Ulto.1 I should have been a better Correspondent to you since your departure had I not been & still continue to be, under the greatest distress of a kind for Mrs Ridley’s health. I fear she will not recover.

I am happy to hear that you have profited so well by your Journey— May you continue to reap every advantage from it, you can wish—

If we may believe Reports from England, those People are at this time in great confusion— The most of them may mean well, but they have not the understanding to execute; and as to those who take the lead, I believe they may know how to do right, but as you observe their oppositions Parties & Passions prevent them—

You may remember I told you that there would be a change in the 437Comptroller-ship— do you recollect that I told you one was a half-commonsense, another an Honest Man & the third a Knave? I lay my Life you are at no loss to guess which prevailed.—2 A New Loan is opened for 100 Millions & I am told it fills pretty fast—

The King has given permission for the French Officers who served in America to wear the Badge of the Cincinati— Major L’Enfant is come over with Barney & was charged with the application for the permission & also to get the several emblematical Medals struck.—3 As there is no doubt the Heirs will be as good Men as the Fathers, the Order I am told is to be Hereditary; but this is confined to the Military only— a few Honorary Members are to be admitted; but their Medals, after their Deaths, are to grace the Cabinets of the Curious.—

You will have no doubt heard that Mr Morris’s Bills on Holland are noted. It makes great noise & particularly in Holland— I wish you may be able to do something effectual in this Business, otherways I fear the effect of it—

Congress I learn are a moving Body— By the last Accounts they were going to Annapolis— I wish you were in America— Without flattery I think you might be of essential service—

The Alliance after having taken onboard her Carg[o for Vir]ginia was obliged to put into Phila where she has [been u]nloaded—4

The Affairs of the Caisse-Descompte seem to be arranged.—

I beg to be kindly remembered to your son & remain with esteem & Respect / Dear Sir / Your most Obedt servt

Matt: Ridley

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency / John Adams Esqr.”; endorsed: “Mr Ridley. Decr. 27. / Ansd. Jany. 25. 1784.”; notation: “favd by / Mr Barclay.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


Neither letter has been found.


The three men characterized by Ridley, probably in conversation with JA, cannot be identified with certainty. But in November Charles Alexandre de Calonne replaced Henri François de Paule Lefèvre d’Ormesson as French finance minister. The new minister was the last under Louis XVI to attempt the reform of the French fiscal system. The 1787 need to resolve the ongoing financial crisis led him to call together an Assembly of Notables, which in turn led to the meeting of the Estates General and the subsequent slide of France into revolution (Morris, Papers , 8:759; Murphy, Vergennes , p. 403–404).


Pierre Charles L’Enfant left America in Nov. 1783 charged by the Society of the Cincinnati with contacting other French officers who had served in America and forming a chapter in France. He was also to obtain reproductions of the society’s diploma, or certificate of membership, and the eagle that served as its membership badge. His efforts soon bore fruit. On 18 Dec. Louis XVI gave his blessing to the society and agreed be its patron, and on 7 Jan. 1784 the first meeting of the French branch was held in Paris ( DAB ; Minor Myers Jr., Liberty without Anarchy: A History of the Society of the Cincinnati, Charlottesville, Va., 1983, p. 146–149). For reproductions of the diploma and the eagle, both designed by L’Enfant, see same, between pages 176 and 177.


In August 1783 the frigate Alliance, 438Capt. John Barry, had loaded 500 hogsheads of tobacco in Virginia consigned to the loan consortium in Amsterdam. Sailing for Europe on 21 Aug., the vessel soon began to leak badly and was forced to put in at Philadelphia on the 27th. In letters of 18 Sept. and 9 Oct., Robert Morris informed the consortium of the Alliance’s misfortune and indicated that the tobacco was being reloaded on two other vessels, the Princess Ulrica, Capt. Anders Askelin, and the Four Friends, Capt. Peter Cornelis (Morris, Papers , 7:736; 8:529–531, 597–598). The Princess Ulrica was damaged on its voyage. A letter from Robert W. Fox, dated 23 Dec. at the London Coffeehouse, indicated that he had received word from his firm, George C. Fox & Sons of Falmouth, England, that “a Swedish Ship loaded with 480 Hhds of Tobacco at Philadelphia for Amsterdam by Rob. Morris” had been forced to put in at that port for repairs (Adams Papers). No response by JA to that letter has been found. When the Princess Ulrica and the Four Friends reached Amsterdam, their cargoes were sold for f26,157.9. and f4,277.10., respectively (DNA:RG 39, Foreign Ledgers, Public Agents in Europe, 1776–1787, Microfilm, Reel 1, f. 135, 259).