Diary of John Adams, volume 2

364 1779. May 7th or 8th. Fryday.<a xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/1.0" href="#DJA02d456n1" class="note" id="DJA02d456n1a">1</a> JA 1779. May 7th or 8th. Fryday. Adams, John
1779. May 7th or 8th. Fryday.1

Mr. Odea of Paimbœuf, Coll. Wibirt2 and Mr. Ford, dined in the Cabin. O. speaks English perfectly, appears to have read much, is an Admirer of Rousseau and Buffon. W. is silent; has something little in his Face and Air: and makes no great Discovery of Skill or Science.

F. talks as much as ever.3

Says, that the Americans at Paris, wished I had remained at Passy, instead of Franklin—that Passy is deserted by the Americans since I came away—that nobody goes there now but B., W. and a young Williams, (which is my Ws. I suppose)4 who dine there every Sunday. That he has copied Papers for Mr. William Lee which prove upon F. many Contradictions of himself, &c. That F. told him he did not believe I should go to America—that the Alliance would not be ready for some time—that a Commission would come for me, for some other Court, &c.

That F. did not shew his Greatness in the Contract for old Arms, for Soldiers Cloaths at 37 Livres a Suit, or for Virginia Tobacco. Is much puzzled at the Mystery of Jones's Ship, says she is private Property, that therefore Landais ought not to be under his Command &c. &c. &c.

I undertook to sound our Engineer this Evening and find he has Knowledge. He says one should begin with the Architecture of Vignol, and draw the five ordres, the Doric, Ionic, Tuscan, Corinthian and composite—Begin with a Pedastal, then the Column, then the Capital, then the ornaments—from civil you may go to military Architecture, and naval if you will. Ces cinque ordres D'Architecture se construissent, par le moyen d'une Echelle divisée en modules, le module en Parties, demi Parties et quart de Partie &c.

He made many Observations to my Son about the Ink, the Instruments, the Pens, the manner of holding the Hand, sitting to the Light of Day or Candle &c. which shew that he knows Something of these Sciences. He is a Designateur. He never had a Master he says.

This Evening arrived Capt. Jones from Baltimore. He sailed 28 March—brings no News Papers nor News. No Dispatches from Congress. No Letters but to Mr. Johnson, and a Packet for Bourdeaux.


Friday fell on 7 May 1779.


Antoine Felix Wuibert (Viebert, Weibert) de Mézières had served as a military engineer in America from June 1776, was captured and exchanged, and later in 1779 accompanied John Paul Jones on the voyage of the Bonhomme Richard as an officer of marines (Lasseray, Les français sous les treize étoiles , 2:485–487).


Hezekiah Ford was an Anglican clergyman in Virginia before the Revolution (Frederick L. Weis, The Colonial Churches and the Colonial Clergy of the 365Middle and Southern Colonies, Lancaster, Mass., 1938, p. 116), but there is the utmost variance between his own account and reports widely current in America of how he got to France in the spring of 1778. Ford told the American Commissioners in Paris that he had served as a fighting chaplain of two North Carolina regiments in the service of the United States and that he had been captured and brought to England, whence he “found his Way to Paris” (American Commissioners to Abraham Whipple, 13 June 1778, recommending Ford for the post of chaplain on Whipple's frigate Providence; LbC, Adams Papers, copied into JA's Autobiography under its date). (That he actually served in North Carolina is verified by an entry in The State Records of North Carolina, 16:1056.) Whipple needed no chaplain, and Ford started for America on a small cutter, only to be captured (again?) and carried into the island of Jersey, whence he made his way back once more to Paris (Ford to the Commissioners, 25 June, 21 July 1778, PPAmP). Arthur Lee now engaged him as secretary, and he served in that capacity for some months before JA encountered him at Nantes trying again to find passage to Virginia and (as the present and following entries show) displaying very little of the discretion suitable to an impostor, renegade, or spy. In Virginia, however, he was thought by influential persons to be all or at least most of these. When word had reached Virginia that Ford had become a member of Arthur Lee's staff in Paris, Gov. Patrick Henry wrote the Virginia delegates in Congress, 9 Jan. 1779, that Ford had left the state under British protection, charged with “seditious” activities, and suspected of counterfeiting, and consequently that “Every member of the privy council ... is exceedingly alarmed at the circumstance [of Ford's relationship with Lee], having the most perfect conviction that Mr. Ford is altogether unfit to be near the person[s] of the American commissioners” (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 1:539–540). On 26 Jan. Congress voted to communicate this information to Lee and did so ( JCC , 13:116). Lee and Izard refused to believe any part of it, but by the time they heard it Ford was at last on his way home. He arrived early in August and went directly to visit Richard Henry Lee, who advised him to seek a hearing before the Governor and Council of Virginia instead of going to Philadelphia to deliver his dispatches (R. H. Lee, Letters, ed., Ballagh, 2:112–113, 119, 122, 145). Soon afterward Ford appeared in Williamsburg and posted a bond of £1,000 for his appearance to answer charges “of certain treasonable practices,” but though witnesses were assembled and the hearing put off from time to time, it is not on record that Ford ever appeared to vindicate himself (Virginia Gazette [Dixon & Nicolson], 16 Oct. 1779).


Probably Bancroft, possibly one of the Whartons, and certainly the Jonathan Williams (d. 1780) who had been JA's law clerk. (Franklin's grandnephew Jonathan Williams was at Nantes at this time.)

1779. May 9. <del>Saturday</del> Sunday. JA 1779. May 9. Sunday. Adams, John
1779. May 9. Saturday Sunday.

The Pilot came on Board this Morning from St. Nazare, and pronounced it unsafe to go out, with this Wind.

F. this Morning, fell to talking.— “Above half the Gentlemen of Paris are Atheists, and the other half Deists. No Body goes to Church but the common People. I wish I could find one honest Man among their Merchants and Tradesmen” &c. &c.

Mr. F., says I, let me be so free as to request of you, when you arrive in America, not to talk in this Style. It will do a great deal of Harm. These Sentiments are not just, they are contracted Prejudices, 366and Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard too have hurt them selves and the public too by indulging in a similar Language.

F. “Oh! I am no Hypocrite.”—Thus this Prater goes on. Yesterday he wanted me, to get him a Passage on board the french Frigate, that I am to go in. I told him I did not think it would be practicable. And I hope it will not, for I dont wish such a Man to go, in that Ship.

At Dinner, much Conversation about the Electrical Eel which gives a Shock to a ring of Persons like the Touch of a Bottle or Conductor. —What is the Name of this fish?

The Magnet is nothing but Iron Oar, Somebody said at Table, and that the Tendency towards the Pole is in all Iron.—Query.

This afternoon, a Mr. Watkin a Disciple of the great Whitfield as he calls himself, performed divine Service upon the Quarter Deck. He is not learned, but his Prayer was very good for the united States and their Allies, their Army and General, their Navy and this Ship and her Commander. His Sermon also was passable.

Our Captain talks much about Batavia, is an Admirer of that Duch Settlement in the East Indies.1

This Gentleman has been disappointed in Love and in his Ambition—disappointed in the Promotion to which he aspired, and in a Marriage of which he thought himself sure. He has not so much Activity, Dispatch and Decision as one could wish. He seems not to know how to gain or preserve the Affections of his Officers, nor yet how to keep them in Awe. Complaisance, firmness and Steadiness are necessary to the Command of a Ship. Whether it is his imperfect Knowledge of the Language, or his Absence of Mind when poring upon his Disappointments, or any defect in his Temper or Judgment, I know not, but this happy Mixture seems to be wanting. His Lieutenants are smart Men, quick and active—not lettered it is true, but good Seamen, and brave.


Landais had accompanied Bougainville in his voyage of circumnavigation, 1766–1769; see entry of 16 May, below. This officer's fantastically checkered career in the French, American, and French Republican navies has been narrated in Charles O. Paullin, “Admiral Pierre Landais,” Catholic Hist. Rev., 17:296–307 (Oct. 1931). Lasseray, Les français sous les treize çtoiles , 1:255–264, provides a more sympathetic estimate of Landais than can be found in American accounts.