Papers of John Adams, volume 16

366 John Adams to Francis Dana, 4 November 1784 Adams, John Dana, Francis
To Francis Dana
My dear Friend Auteuil Nov. 4. 1784

I presume this will meet you in Congress where No Doubt it is less irksome to Serve than heretofore, but not yet So agreable as it ought to be, and must be made.— The States will find themselves obliged to make their Delegates more comfortable & more honourable, if they do not See a Necessity of giving more Power to that assembly.— Many Gentlemen in Europe think the Powers in the Confederation are not adequate. Abby de Mably and Dr Price have taken the Pains to publish their Advice.1 They may be right, but I am not yet of their Opinion.

But most certainly the Resolutions of Congress must have weight, and the Members should be the best Men. while the Principal Men in every State prefer to be Governors, Magistrats &c at home, which will be the Case while they can live with their families in more honour and greater Ease, it cannot be expected that the Decisions of Congress will have the weight which they had while those who had the first Place in the Confidence of the People, composed that assembly. I Suppose at present, altho Some of the first Characters, are in Congress, the Members in general have less Influence than many of the Magistrates at home.

By all the Accounts I read and hear, which deserve Attention, the People are very happy, and getting fast into flourishing Circumstances in their Agriculture Commerce and Fisheries. May God prosper them in all.— I enjoy at this humble distance their Felicity, but I wish they would enable me to do them a little more honour by my manner of living. I consider this however as their Affair and dont distress myself much about it. I Shall See at the End of the Year, how much I am in debt and if I find myself deeper than I expect I must run away. I cant well be worse, any where.— You know We must live altogether out of Character and avoid all Company especially all great Company, which We ought to be able to see and entertain, in return for the Civilities We cannot refuse from them.

You have given me an excellent Colleague and a good Friend in Mr Jefferson, and the Dr 2 is very gracious never so much so Since he was born, at least since I knew him. Nothing on my Part Shall give him cause to be otherwise.

Shall I Say a Word for Dumas? The good old Man will die, if you drop him, and he will be usefull I think if you continue him.— if 367 there should be War his Intelligence will be wanted. indeed there should be a Chargé des affairs there, and he will do as well as any Body you could Send there, at as moderate Expene.

Will you be so good as to write me, and let me know a little of your Politicks.— Cant you order your Minister of foreign Affairs to send Us the Journals regularly to each of Us. We ought to have them. Mr Morris’s Retreat I hope will not interrupt or retard, your fiscal Arrangements. These are pressing. Dr F. is dunn’d on all Sides, and We must all cutt and run like Mr Jay, if you dont provide for Us.

I Should be obliged to you, if you will write me what I am indebt to you on Account of my Son, and draw upon me for it, whatever it is. unless you can perswade Congress to allow it you. They ought to allow you for a Clerk, and if they do, this Expence may be saved to me, and I am very little able or willing to bear it. Yet if it is not allowed to you I ought to bear and will bear it, and still be much obliged to you for your kind parental Care of my Boy who loves and reveres you as he ought. He is a noble Fellow, and will make a good Greek or Roman I hope, for he Spends his whole Time in their Company when he is not writing for me.

I am as happy as a Lord with my Family who Send Abundance of Friendship to you & yours.

your Sincere Frnd & obliged / humble sert

John Adams

RC (MHi:Dana Family Papers); addressed by JQA: “Honourable / Francis Dana Esqr. / Member of Congress”; internal address: “Mr Dana”; endorsed: “Mr. J: Adams’s Letter / Dated Novr: 4th: 1784 / Recd. Jany: 28th: 1785 / Account”; notations: “Courier,” “New York 19th. Jany. 1785— / forwarded by your very / Humber Servts. / R King,” and “Private? R. H. D.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 107.


These are the Abbé de Mably’s Observations sur le gouvernement et les loix des États-Unis d’Amérique, and Richard Price’s Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution, London, 1784. JA subsequently framed his Defence of the Constitutions as a response to the writings of Mably, Price, and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de l’Aulne (JA, Defence of the Const. , 1:3). For Dana’s comments on Mably and Price and relevant passages from the works of both men, see his reply of 30 Jan. 1785, and note 3, below.


JA placed a cross at this point leading to an insertion just below this paragraph of perhaps a half dozen words, all of which were scraped off the page.

John Adams to Elbridge Gerry, 4 November 1784 Adams, John Gerry, Elbridge
To Elbridge Gerry
My dear Friend. Auteuil near Paris Nov. 4. 1784

We are going on, with as much dispatch as the Nature of our Business will admit of, and We proceed with wonderful Harmony, 368 good Humour and Unanimity. The Dr, is confined to his House and Garden by the Stone as he thinks. He has not been farther from Home, than my House at Auteuil which is within a mile of his, for these twelve months. He cannot ride in a Carriage, because the motion of that machine in the Posture in which he must sit gives him too much pain, and makes him void blood. He cannot walk out, nor in the House without Suffering as I am told. All these Things considered, We are obliged to conduct all our Negotiations at Passy. There is Some Reason to think that Spain, will urge Us to go to Madrid. The Dr cannot go, and the Journey would be horrible to Mr Jefferson and me. We cannot go before the other Business is finished here, which will take up the two Years probably. Besides Congress have pinched Us, in our Salaries to Such a degree, that it is impossible for Us to bear double Expences. indeed it is impossible for Us to See any Company or to live in Character.

My Loan of last Spring, has not yet been ratified and My Bankers at Amsterdam are uneasy on that Score. I beg it may be dispatched. Do you consider, that Holland has furnished Us as much Money as France.— I have obtained there half a Million Sterling, and another half a Million was there furnished Us, at the Requisition of France, and France herself has furnished Us but One Million, exclusive of that which she obtained for Us in holland. if to these Considerations We add, that the Dutch Money has all been remitted in hard Dollars, or paid to redeem Bills at an advantageous Exchange instead of being eaten up by the Rats, as a great Part of the French Money was, We shall find ourselves much more obliged in the article of Money in Holland than France. Besides Holland is in future our only Resource

I wish Congress would Seperate the foreign from the Domestic Debt.— I foresee Such delays, in Consequence of keeping them united, as will ruin our Credit abroad. if the States all agree in giving to Congress the Power they ask, it will be so long before they agree upon an Act, and that Act will be attended with Such difficulties in the Execution, that We shall fail of our Promisses and break.— at least it appears so to me at this distance. perhaps I am mistaken.

I have Small hopes of doing any Thing with England. I See no Symptoms of a Disposition there. and I am afraid We shall not agree with Spain. God grant We may not get involved in a War with both these Powers at a Time. in Such a Case, I knew not where We should find Aids or Friends and I am Sure We should want both.


The Project of doing without Ministers in Europe is as wild and impracticable as any in the flying Island of Lagado.—1 You will find yourselves obliged to have Ministers and Ambassaders too, and to support them like other Ministers and Ambassaders. and the Fact will be, when you have ruined & discouraged Us who are new here and driven Us home in dispair it will not be three Years afterwards, before You will Send a Number of Ambassadors to Europe with Six or Eight Thousand Pounds a Year.

There is no Man more averse to unnecessary foreign Connections, or less addicted to expensive showy Life, than I have been all my Days. But I see and feel every Day, that you must have Ambassadors to maintain or Generals and Admirals, who will cost you ten thousand times as much, Money besides shedding your Blood like Water.

Thank God, We shall no longer fight with Halters about our Necks or Axes brandishing over our Heads and therefore if our Countrymen delight in War they may have it without giving you and me, so much Chagrin and Vexation as We have seen

I am my dear Friend with the / most affectionate Esteem & Respect / your humble servt

John Adams

RC (CSmH:HM 22793); internal address: “Mr Gerry.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 107.


JA means the flying island of Laputa, which in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels hovered over the kingdom of Balnibarbi, the capital of which was the city of Lagado. Under the governance of Laputa, the people of Balnibarbi invested tremendous effort in an assortment of visionary schemes that promised the perfection of all arts and sciences but in the meantime only laid waste to the country.