Papers of John Adams, volume 16

To John Jay

From Tristram Dalton

John Adams to Arthur Lee, 6 April 1784 Adams, John Lee, Arthur
To Arthur Lee
Dear Sir The Hague April 6. 1784

Your Favour of 14. Jan. was brought me Yesterday.1 I have been obliged to come here, in order to raise Money, for the Payment of Bills to a large amount, which Mr Morris drew, at a venture, and have at length Succeeded, but it is So lately, that I have not yet joined my Colleagues in Paris, and I am undetermined, whether I Shall go there before the Commission you mention arrives, to treat with Such Nations as desire it, which are indeed all maritime nations. at present We have no Power to treat.

I wish a Secretary of foreign Affairs appointed and that you may be the Man. There is no Man in America So well acquainted with our foreign Affairs and Surely they require a Man of Some Experience. Mr Jay merits every Thing you meditate for him: and his Country merits to have him placed, where his Abilities and Fortitude, may be a Barrier to her, where she is in danger.

The new order of Chivalry, has given me, many a melancholly 109 hour.— It is a deep design to overturn the whole Edifice of our Republican Liberty, but as I know the officers do not mean this, and were not aware of it, I hope they will lay it voluntarily aside. if they do not Knights will make Barons, Earls, Viscounts, Marquises and Dukes and these Princes and Kings, in a very Short time.

I have heretofore expressed your Regards to Mr Jay and will do it again as you desire. They have been, and will be, very acceptable to him.

A Friend of mine in the Massachusetts, in a Letter Some months ago, gave me a confused hint, that Franklin had written to somebody, at me, or towards me or against me or about me: but I could make nothing of it, and did not know, till I received your Letter, that he had written against me to Congress. What he can have Said, after allowing me to be Sensible and honest, as you Say he does, I am curious to know.2

Mr Dana’s Arrival in Boston is to me a most joyfull Event.— He has been cruelly treated. No Man has a clearer Insight into the Secret Springs of our foreign Affairs. No Man more honestly attached to his Country. few Men more judicious and able. But in all our foreign Affairs Honos pro Crimine et ob Virtutes certissimum Exitium.3 The Times for the future will be better. But no Man employed abroad will ever enjoy that Sweet Security, which you have in Perfection in America.

Let me Say one Word in favour of Sir James Jay to whom as a Physician I am under Obligations for his kind, faithfull and able assistance in a violent fever, which the putrid streets of Paris added to a long Journey in very hot weather and too close an Application to writing, brought upon me last fall. I have every Reason to think that he has been a faithfull American throughout, and not the Smallest to suspect him. I say this because I am informed he has been suspected by the People of the State of New York.4

you will oblige me, by Writing as often as you can. I have Suffered much for want of Intelligence from Congress. it is a long time Since We have recd any of the Journals.

The Arts which have been practised to embroil American Ministers, Secretaries &c have been more black, more wicked and more deep, Since you left Europe, than I ever knew them while you were here. The vilest Canaille5 have been employed to write anonimous Letters containing the devilishest Lies. Spies have been set. the most private Conversation betrayed and misrepresented. in short 110 We have all been in an Inquisition. All have not had sufficient Caution, and Sagacity to avoid the Snares. it was never a pleasant Service. But all these Attempts have failed of their final Object, and We have fish and Fur and Pine Trees in Spight of all. farewell.

J. A.

RC (Adams Papers); docketed by CFA: “To Arthur Lee?” This is one of twelve letters from JA to Arthur Lee that Lee’s grandnephew, Richard Henry Lee, returned to JQA after using them in his Life of Arthur Lee, LL.D., 2 vols., Boston, 1829. For additional information on the return and JQA’s reaction, see vol. 7:127–128. LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 107.


Vol. 15:450–452.


JA’s Massachusetts “Friend” was James Warren, who, in his letter of 27 Oct. 1783, had mentioned somewhat obscurely Benjamin Franklin’s criticism of JA in his letter of 22 July to Robert R. Livingston. Lee’s letter of 14 Jan. 1784 indicated that Franklin’s letter had been received by Congress but did not specifically refer to its content. Both men referred to Franklin’s description of JA as “always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes and in some things absolutely out of his senses.” Not until 5 May did JA receive the extract from Franklin’s letter that AA enclosed with her letter of 15 Dec. 1783 (vol. 15:323, 451; Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:581–582; AFC , 5:281).


The full passage from Tacitus to which JA refers reads, “nobilitas, opes, omissi gestique honores pro crimine et ob virtutes certissimum exitium,” that is, “high birth, wealth, the refusal or acceptance of office—all gave ground for accusations, and virtues caused the surest ruin” (Tacitus, Histories, transl. Clifford H. Moore, Cambridge, 1925, Book I, chapter ii).


For an earlier testimonial to Sir James Jay, owing to reports that his land in New York had been seized because of suspicions that he had been disloyal to the American cause, see JA’s 2 Feb. 1784 letter to Gov. George Clinton of New York, and note 2, above.


That is, the rabble; the mob.