Papers of John Adams, volume 15

From Elbridge Gerry

From Samuel Osgood

From Arthur Lee, 14 January [1784] Lee, Arthur Adams, John
From Arthur Lee
Dear Sir. In Congress Jany. 14th. 1783 [1784]

The Ratification having this day, the first on which nine States were represented, been unanimously passed; a special Messenger will be immediately dispatchd with it which gives me an opportunity of writing a few words to you which may arrive speedily & safely.

The department of foreing Affairs being not yet filld, the business is of course in disorder & neglected. The arrangement of that department, & the appointment of a Minister to England, will soon be taken up. I cannot say who will be chosen Secretary for foreign Affairs; but I think you stand fairest for the Embassy to the Court of St. James.1 Dr. F. has desird leave to resign unless his grandson is appointed Minister to some Court. Neither of these things has been yet noticd. The latter I beleive will hardly be agreed to.2 The resignation many desire to accept, & if it can be carried Mr. Jay’s merit, will probably place him in the old man’s place. We are sensible that to the firmness & integrity of yourself & of the former Gentleman, we owe the peace, the good conditions, & our escape from the snares of an artful friend. Snares infinitly more dangerous to the Independence, honor & happiness of the U. S. than the arms of the most powerful Enemy can ever be.


Powers to you Mr Jay & Dr. F. (provided he remains) will be sent, I beleive, soon, constituting you joint negociators of treaties with such Nations as may propose to be so connected with us. The present Express goes so instantaneously that it cannot as I wishd be done in time for him.

The 5 Pr Ct. Impost gains ground but Connecticut & Rhode Island seem very little disposd to it as yet. The Commutation or halfpay to the Army is strongly remonstrated against by the former. Virginia has passed an Act for ceding all the ultramontane Country, northwest of the Ohio, to the U. S.3 This is the fund on which I rely for the payment of our public debt, & supporting the future expence of the Union. The finest & most fertile Country in the world, if properly managd will be a source of wealth to the U. S. superior to that of any Power upon Earth. The Officers of our late Army, have constituted themselves a perpetual Body under the title of Cincinnati. Genl. Washington is at their head. It gives alarm to the People, & this seems to increase. To one of your discernment it is unnecessary to say what may probably be the consequences of such an Association. It is conjecturd that the french are at the bottom of it. What intentions some may have in it, I will not conjecture; but very manifestly it may be productive of Monar[chy] in this Country.

If you think it will be acceptable to Mr. Jay, I shoud wish you to make my respects to him. His conduct abroad has given me the highest opinion of his abilities & virtue.

Col. Harmar (who is sent with the Ratification) is a gentleman of very approvd integrity, & on whom you may rely shoud you want a person of such a character.



P.S. Mr. Dana arrivd at Boston from Petersbourg a few weeks since

P.S. I presume you have heard that Dr. F. has written to Congress against you. His enmity you cannot be a stranger to, & you will be inducd to dispise this effort of it, when I assure you it, has no manner of effect. It is however justice due to him to say that he allows you to be sensible & honest.4

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Lee 14. Jan. 1784 / ansd 6 April. / recd / Arthur Lee.” Filmed at 14 Jan. 1783. Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


Congress appointed John Jay secretary for foreign affairs on 7 May but did not appoint JA minister to Great Britain until 24 Feb. 1785 ( JCC , 26:355; 28:98).


Benjamin Franklin offered his resignation several times, most notably in letters to the president of Congress or Robert R. Livingston of 12 March 1781, 5 Dec. 1782, 22 July 4521783, and, in a letter not yet received by Congress, 26 Dec. 1783 (Franklin, Papers , 34:446–447; 38:416–417; Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:585–586, 746–747). Congress did not approve Franklin’s return until 7 March 1785 ( JCC , 28:122). For Franklin’s efforts to convince Congress to provide a diplomatic post for William Temple Franklin, see Samuel Osgood’s letter of 7 Dec. 1783, and note 20, above.


On 20 Oct. the Va. General Assembly voted to cede its land claims northwest of the Ohio River to the United States, and on 1 March 1784, Congress accepted title to the land. The significance of Virginia’s cession was that it, together with those by other states, permitted Congress to begin efforts to organize and administer the territory. The most important result of this effort was the adoption of the 1787 Northwest Ordinance ( JCC , 26:112–117; 32:334–343).


Lee refers to Franklin’s criticism of JA in his 22 July 1783 letter to Robert R. Livingston, as being “in some things absolutely out of his senses.” For the full quotation and its origins, see the Editorial Note to the commissioners’ 18 July letter to Livingston, above. The only previous letter in this volume to mention Franklin’s charge was James Warren’s of 27 Oct., and note 4, above. But see also AA’s letter of 15 Dec., with which she enclosed an extract from Franklin’s letter, AFC , 5:278–282.