Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Adams

James Lovell to Abigail Adams

James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 9 August 1779 Lovell, James AA


James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 9 August 1779 Lovell, James Adams, Abigail
James Lovell to Abigail Adams
Aug. 9th. 1779

Indeed, my lovely anxious Friend, you lead me to doubt whether Mr. A. is really on the Water: The Report of the Alliance being in Concert with a 40 Gun Ship on a secret Expedition tallies with Something of which I am certain. A Man of War of that Size has been given up to the “Direction” of John Paul Jones, and the Name has been changed to“Poor Richard” that it may not appear to belong to the french Marine. Our Commissioners have moreover certified under their Hands to Jones that he is still in the American Navy tho' he had quitted it some time ago for that of France, but did not give up his Commission. I formed my Conjectures upon first receiving that Intelligence, and your Anecdote confirms me therein so far as that I expect soon to hear of blazing Retaliation.

And has not that very philosophic Politician1 been yet to see you? I shall grow highly disgusted at my public Employment if its certain or even natural Tendency is to make me insensible of “the thousand nameless Anxieties that distress the tender hearts of your Sex” or inattentive to a proper Call to exert myself in relieving them.

My Letter in answer to a former one of yours is before this in your Hand and will convince you that the dreaded Callosity has not yet fixed upon my Heart. I have therein attempted, nor ought it to be in vain on such grounds, to give your Bosom Ease by directing you to repose it on that Assemblage of Merit which originates and finishes 220your Husband's Conduct uniformly. Good as he was, when I first had the pleasure of knowing him, I do not recollect that he was quite such a Man as he now appears. Indeed, it was before his Marriage. He did full credit to the Books he had studied. He now shows that it is more efficacious to read Virtue in a living Character.

Whether he is on his Way home or not, it may be a satisfaction to you to have the following copy.

In Congress Aug. 6. 1779

Resolved That an Allowance of eleven thousand four hundred & twenty eight Livres Tournois per Annum be made to the several Commissioners of the United States in Europe for their Services, besides their reasonable Expences respectively.

That the Salary as well as the Expences be computed from the Time of their leaving their places of abode to enter on their offices, and be continued three months after Notice of their Recall, to enable them to return to their families respectively.

That the several Commissioners, Commercial Agents and others in Europe entrusted with public Money be directed to transmit without delay their Accounts and Vouchers, and also triplicate Copies of the same to the Board of Treasury of these United States in order for Settlement.

Resolved That a suitable Person be appointed by Congress to examine the said Accounts in Europe and certify his Opinion thereon previous to their being transmitted.2

Extracted from the Minutes by JL

There is an authentic account that France has absolutely refused the Mediation of Spain; and that the latter would declare herself speedily after the 20th. of June.

That the Count D'Orvilliers had sail'd towards Corunna with 30 Ships of the Line where he was to be joined by 20 spanish.

25,000 Troops are ready on the Coast of France for a Descent on Ireland.

With respectful Tenderness your humb. Servt., JL

RC (Adams Papers).


Samuel Adams; see AA to Lovell, 28 July, above.


These resolutions were adopted in consequence of a report by the Board of Treasury. The text in JCC , 14:928–929, varies slightly but not significantly.

On 2 Sept. Robert Troup, secretary of the Treasury Board, transmitted copies of these resolutions to JA, together with an order of Congress of 26 Aug. requesting JA “to inclose his Accounts and Vouchers to the Board of Treasury that they may take Order thereon” (letter and enclosures in Adams Papers). JA 221had been prepared for this by Lovell's letter of 9 Aug. and was apparently quite ready to submit his accounts when Troup's notification reached him in mid-September while he was deeply engaged in drafting the Massachusetts Constitution. On 19 Sept. he addressed a long and illuminating letter to the Board of Treasury covering his accounts for his recently completed diplomatic mission, in four separate schedules, A through D, together with all the vouchers for expenditures that he could supply and an explanation of how the joint commissioners and he personally had recorded receipts and expenditures (LbC, Adams Papers, printed in JA, Works , 7:111–114, without the schedules and vouchers, of which JA did not retain copies; see further on in this note). From the beginning of Oct. 1778 he had himself kept the Commission's books, finding the Franklins' method too desultory, and of course he was unable to supply vouchers that were still in their hands.

Among his own expenses, he pointed out, were some for books, which he explained as follows:

“I found myself in France, ill versed in the Language, the Literature, the Science, the Laws, Customs and Manners of that Country, and had the Mortification to find my Colleagues, very little better informed than myself, vain as this may seem. I found also that Dr. Franklin, Mr. Deane and Mr. Lee, had expended considerable sums for Books, and this appeared to me, one of the most necessary, and usefull Ways in which Money had ever been spent in that Country. I therefore did not hesitate to spend the sums mentioned in this Account in this Way, in the Purchase of such a Collection of Books, as were calculated to qualify me for Conversation and for Business, especially the science of Negotiation. Accordingly the Books are a Collection, of Books concerning the french Language and Criticism, concerning french History, Laws, Customs and Manners, but above all a large Collection of Books on the public Right of Europe and the Letters and Memoirs of those Ambassadors and public Ministers who had acquired the fairest Fame and done the greatest services to their Countries in this Way.

“The Honourable Board will judge whether this is a 'reasonable expence,' and whether it ought, or ought not to be deducted from the Allowance I shall submit to their Judgment with entire Satisfaction.”

JA was also diffident about the items for his son's keep and schooling and supposed they would “be deducted from the Allowance. Yet I ought to observe,” he added,“that Mr. Izard and Mr. William Lee, have supported their Families, Dr. Franklin has two Grandsons and Mr. A. Lee a Nephew, Mr. Deane two Brothers, and afterwards a son. All that I desire is that I may be treated like the others.” Some other interesting but restrained observations on the Commissioners' expenses for servants, clerical assistance, rent, furniture, horses, &c., follow.

All of these papers were sent in two“large Packetts” to John Lowell in Boston, who was intending an immediate trip to Philadelphia (JA to Lowell, 21 Sept., DLC: Morgan Coll. of Signers). At the same time JA wrote to Elbridge Gerry in Congress asking him to see that the vouchers were returned “by a safe Hand” when the Treasury had no more need of them (20 Sept., LbC, Adams Papers).

JA's original letter to Congress, his accounts as submitted, and the supporting vouchers have all disappeared. Gerry wrote JA after receiving the packets from Lowell that he doubted whether the Treasury Board would “be able to comply with the proposition of returning the vouchers, which is contrary to their usual Practice” (12 Oct., Adams Papers). The Board evidently did not comply, but intensive searches have failed to locate the originals in the Papers of the Continental Congress or in other likely sources.

What survives is a bare three-page summary in JA's hand, filed in the Adams Papers under date of Aug. 1779, showing that for twenty months' service with a salary of 11,428 livres per month there was due to JA, on the basis of his own reckoning of receipts and expenditures, the sum of 4,594 livres 12s. 9d. Concerning this he remarked: “If the Honourable Board do not approve of this state, they will make what altera-222tions they judge right. It is very probable there may be Errors in Casting and otherwise. The Business of keeping Accounts is a very dull Occupation to me, and that of transmitting them and casting anew, still more so. I confess I have not Patience for it. The Board will correct it as they think just. If they adjudge me in Debt the Ballance shall be paid to their order on demand.”

There survives also a detailed record of JA's receipts and expenditures for the period 12 Feb. 1778 – 2 Aug. 1779, entered in one of his bound diary volumes. The final balance was never reckoned there and would be difficult if not impossible to cast up now because of cancellations and notations not easy to interpret, but the entries supply some of the details, often of considerable interest, that the lost vouchers would have supplied more fully. These accounts have been printed and annotated in JA's Diary and Autobiography , 2:325–344.

An incomplete or interim report on JA's accounts was made by the Treasury Board accountants on 25 Oct. 1779 and read in Congress on the 27th ( JCC , 15:1212; text not printed, but a copy was enclosed in James Lovell's letter to AA of 14 May 1780, printed below). It was referred on the same day to a committee of three members, who reported on 15 Dec. and admitted all of JA's expenses except those for JQA ( JCC , 15:1383; original in William Churchill Houston's hand, PCC, No. 19, I). For reasons unknown, Congress did not act on the committee's recommendation until 15 April 1780, when it voted to adopt it without change. The text as entered in the Secret Journal reads:

“That they [the committee] do not find any vote or proceeding of Congress, nor are they informed of any general or received custom, on which the charge of moneys for the education of the accomptant's son can be admitted; and though the same [i.e. sum?] is inconsiderable, they are of opinion it ought to be rejected, that a precedent be not established. That they are of opinion that the charge for books ought to be admitted, on the ground of a practice which has obtained in different nations respecting their publick ministers, and which is mentioned by Mr. Adams in the explanations attending his vouchers. That they find the several charges in the said accounts conformable to the strictest principles of economy; and that as far as Mr. Adams has been entrusted with publick money, the same has been carefully and frugally expended” ( JCC , 16:368–369).

See, further, Lovell to JA, 4 May 1780 (Adams Papers); also Lovell to AA, 14 May 1780; AA to Lovell, 11 June 1780; AA to JA, 5 July 1780; all below.