Papers of John Adams, volume 16

Elbridge Gerry to John Adams, 14 February 1785 Gerry, Elbridge Adams, John
From Elbridge Gerry
My dear sir New York 14th Feby 1785

This will be delivered by Mr Jarvis lately of Boston, but formerly of this City, Son in Law to Mr Broom, whom You probably know.1

I have but two of your Letters unanswered; one of the 27th of June last, the Objects of which have I think been fully complied with, & the other of Novr 4, in which I find no Mention of a Letter I wrote You from philadelphia in July last.

Congress met in November at Trenton, but the Legislature of New Jersey being there at the same Time, & the Members of Congress badly accomodated, the Struggle was renewed respecting an adjournment to Philadelphia, & finally terminated in an Ordnance to appoint Commissioners, Vizt General Schuyler Mr R Morris & General Dickinson, to purchase a District of two Miles square on the Banks of the Delaware not more than eight Miles above or below Trenton, for a fœderal Town, & to erect Buildings for the Use of Congress & their Executive officers: & New York is to be the temporary place, or rathar the place of temporary Residence for Congress, till the Buildings are erected— each State, it is supposed will provide Buildings for its Delegates—2

the Controversy between Massachusetts & New York respecting their western Claims, is to be determined by a fœderal Court, which is to hold it’s Session at Williamsburg, & by Agreement of the Agents to consist of Judge Smith & Mr patterson Attorney General of N Jersey, Mr Reed of Delaware, the late Governor Johnson, And Mr Harrison cheif Justice of Maryland, Mr Wythe, Colonel Grayson & Colo Monroe of Virginia & Mr John Rutledge of So Carolina— June is the appointed Time for holding the Court—3

Mr Jay has taken the Oaths of Secretary of foreign Affairs, & Mr osgood of Massachusetts Mr Walter Levingston of this City & Mr Gervais of Charlestown So Carolina are elected Commissioners of the Treasury. & General Knox or Colo pickering will probably be at the Head of the War Department—4

With Respect to foreign Affairs, a Report is before Congress, for 521 accepting agreable to his repeated Request, Doctor Franklins Resignation. Mr Jefferson will I think be his Successor, You & Governor Rutledge are in Nomination for the Court of London, & I presume the prospect is not in Favour of the Election of the latter.5 Who will be sent to Madrid I know not, possibly Mr Rutledge.— the last Loan of Holland is ratified & I presume You will receive by this Conveyance official Information thereof— how far it it possible to seperate foreign from domestic Debts so as to give a preference to the paymt— of the Interest of the former, I know not, but an Attempt of the Kind would produce a great Clamor. the States to the Southard of Delaware would gladly adopt the Measure & perhaps would then avoid Contributions to pay the domestic Interest, because they have very little in the fœderal Funds; but the Citizens of the other States would probably be so dissatisfied as to withhold Taxes or apply them to the payment of the Interest due to themselves— We are greatly embarrassed with the Conduct of Spain & Great Britain but our Ministers to those Courts, with the Instructions of Congress on the interesting Subjects of their respective Measures will I hope disperse the Clouds which at present surround Us— I am not of your Opinion respecting either the policy or Necessity of having Ministers perpetually at any of the Courts of Europe. I cannot be of that Opinion because, the Reason of it is not within my perception. I never Wish to see Congress surrounded by foreign Ministers. I never shall I hope see the vicious policy of foreign Courts introduced to ours, nor the latter, distracted in their Councils & Duped by the artful Representatives of foreign powers, instead of being the wise & united Representatives of united States. the Subject is copious, I wish not, in a Letter to my Friend, to discuss a Matter that I find is disagreable to him, & therefore shall let it rest for the present—

The question respecting Salaries was agitated in Congress upon a Remonstranc from Massachusetts, respecting their Keep, & they were reduced on the principle that Articles of Subsistence, since the peace were also reduced. how far the proportion is just I cannot determine, but think it would not be easy to enhance them at present.

Pray give my Regards to Mr Jefferson & inform him that I wrote him a Letter from Boston in July last by the Way of London—

Governor Hancock has resigned, Thanks be to —

our Friend Mr Reed late Governor of Penñ is dangerously ill—6

My Respects to the Ladies & be assured I / am on every occasion your Friend / sincerely

E Gerry

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Hon Excellency / Mr Adams—”; endorsed: “Mr Gerry. 14. Feb. 1785 / ansd. 25. Ap. 1785.”


James Jarvis, the son-in-law of Samuel Broome, a merchant of New York and New Haven, reached Paris on or about 22 April. He carried this letter and a packet from John Jay (vol. 14:73; JQA, Diary , 1:254).


For the ordinance of 23 Dec. 1784, see Jay’s letter to the commissioners of 14 Jan. 1785, and note 1, above. Gen. Philip Schuyler was elected one of the commissioners on 10 Feb., and Robert Morris and Gen. Philemon Dickinson were elected on the following day ( JCC , 28:55, 58).


The commissioners to sit as a court to resolve the Massachusetts-New York boundary dispute were named in a 24 Dec. 1784 joint letter to Congress from the agents appointed by Massachusetts and New York (same, 27:709–710).


Samuel Osgood, John Lewis Gervais, and Walter Livingston were elected treasury commissioners on 25 Jan. 1785 (same, 28:18). For an earlier election of commissioners, none of whom agreed to serve, see Gerry’s letter of 16 June 1784, and note 3, above. Henry Knox was elected secretary at war on 8 March 1785 (same, 28:129).


Thomas Jefferson was appointed to replace Benjamin Franklin as minister to France on 10 March (same, 28:134), but see also JA’s 31 Jan. letter to Gerry, and note 1, above. For JA’s appointment as minister to Great Britain, see Gerry’s letter of 24 Feb., below.


Joseph Reed of Pennsylvania died on 5 March ( DAB ).

Bidé de Chavagnes to John Adams, 15 February 1785 Chavagnes, Bidé de Adams, John
From Bidé de Chavagnes
Mon cher monsieur a nantes ce 15e. fevrier 1785

Depuis bien du temps jay fait des recherches inutiles sur la partie de la terre que vous habitiez, on m’avoit même dit que vous etiez retourné a boston, mais mon beaufrere qui est a paris depuis un mois et que javois chargé de prendre des informations en consequence vient de me mander que nous avions le bonheur de vous posseder encor en france et que vous habitiez auteuil, je mempresse D’avoir lhonneur de vous y ecrire pour vous reiterer mon souvenir lattachement que vous, votre aimable famille et vos compatriottes avez si bien sceus m’inspirer, les voeux enfin que je forme pour votre conservation et parfait bonheur, tous ces sentiments loin destre alterez chez moy par le temps et leloignement ne peuvent que s’accroitre par la decoration flatteuse que je nay receu qu’au mois de decembre, quoy que la lettre de mr. le comte Destaing qui mannoncoit la faveur destre associé a lordre de cincinnatus, fut du mois D’aout:1 je vous prie destre bien persuadé du prix que jy mets, jeus eté d’autant plus mortifié de navoir pas eu ainsi que bien Dautres cette grace dont je fais plus de cas que quique ce soit, et si je ne suis plus dans le cas de rendre des services militaires a votre patrie je me croirois bien heureux destre a même de deployer un cœur qui vous est devoué en pouvant un jour vous estre utile ou a vos chers enfants ou a vos compatriottes en quelquechose mde. De chavagnes 523 qui ainsi que moy se porte tres bien partage ces sentiments, nous menons une vie douce et tranquille, ayants besoin lun et lautre de bien du menagement pour vous, mon cher monsieur vous estes un heros de sacrifices votre patrie doit vous en scavoir grand gré car ayant le bonheur de connoitre les thresors que vous avez laissé a boston il seroit bien doux pour vous de les aller rejoindre quand vous leur ecrirez je vous prieray de leur presenter mes respects, hommages et vœux. jen fais de bien sinceres pour que vous mettiez une fin prompte et heureuse a vos grandes et belles entreprises, pour votre conservation et parfaite santé, je vous demande la continuation de votre souvenir et amitié en vous priant de ne point douter des sentiments du sincere et respectueux attachement avec lesquels jauray toutte ma vie lhonneur d’estre / Mon cher monsieur / Votre tres humble et tres / obeissant serviteur

Bidé de chavagnes, ancien capne. des vaux. Du roy de france

Si vous aviez occasion de faire passer mes respects et mon souvenir a mr. dena joserois presenter ces lers. a mr. franklin.

My dear sir Nantes, 15 February 1785

For quite some time I have made fruitless inquiries to find out what part of the world you inhabit. I was even told that you had returned to Boston, but my brother-in-law, who has been at Paris for a month and whom I accordingly charged with making inquiries, just sent me word that we have the good fortune to have you still in France and that you are living at Auteuil. I hurry to write to you there in order to relive my memories with you. The affection that you, your kind family, and your countrymen so deeply inspired in me, the wishes that I at length make for your preservation and perfect happiness, all these feelings, far from being altered in me by time and distance, can only increase with the flattering decoration that I received only this past December, though the letter from the Comte d’Estaing that informed me of the honor of admission to the Society of the Cincinnati was from the month of August.1 Please be fully convinced of the value that I place on it. I would have been so much the more mortified not to have had, the same as many others, this honor, which I prize more than anyone. Even if I am no longer in a position to render military service to your country, I would consider myself very fortunate to be able to deploy a heart that is devoted to you, to have it in my power some day to be useful to you or your dear children or your countrymen in some way. Madame de 524 Chavagnes, who is very well, just as I am, shares these feelings. We lead a sweet and tranquil life, both of us needing much solicitude. For your part, my dear sir, you are a hero of sacrifice. Your country must be extremely grateful to you. Having the good fortune to be acquainted with the treasures that you left at Boston, I know that it would be very pleasant for you to go and rejoin them. When you write to them, I beg you to give them my respects, compliments, and prayers. I offer very sincere ones for a quick and happy end to your great and noble enterprises and for your preservation and perfect health. I ask you to keep me in your memory and friendship and not to doubt at all the feelings of sincere and respectful affection with which I will have the honor my entire life of being, my dear sir, your very humble and very obedient servant

Bidé de chavagnes, late post captain of the king of France

If you have an opportunity, pass along my respects and my regards to Mr. Dana. I would be so bold as to present the former to Mr. Franklin.

RC (Adams Papers).


Bidé de Chavagnes was the former captain of the French frigate La Sensible, on which JA sailed to America in the spring of 1779 and returned to Europe later in the same year. Chavagnes lost his command in 1780 when La Sensible was stricken from the French Navy, but for his previous correspondence with JA, see vols. 8–12. Chavagnes’ reference to his pleasure at being admitted to the French branch of the Society of the Cincinnati is interesting both because of JA’s attitude toward the society and because the admission of captains of French naval vessels was a matter of some controversy. The original institution, or constitution, of the society provided membership to generals and admirals who had served in America as well as generals and colonels who had served in the French expeditionary force but not post captains—captains of ships of the line—the naval equivalent of colonels. This was remedied at the meeting of the French society in May 1784 (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 358; Myers, Liberty without Anarchy , p. 149–151, 153).