Diary of John Adams, volume 3

January 5. Sunday. JA January 5. Sunday. Adams, John
January 5. Sunday.

Dined with M. Vaughan, in Company with the Abbys de Mably, Chalut, Arnoux and Ter Saint Tersan.—Had more Conversation with de Mably than at any Time before. He meditates a Work upon 102 our American Constitutions.1 He says the Character he gives of Herodian in his last Work, Sur la maniere d'ecrire L'histoire, has procured to his Bookseller, Purchases, for all the Copies of that Historian which he had in his Shop.—Arnoux said that Rousseau, by his Character of Robinson Crusoe, helped his Bookseller to the Sale of an whole Edition of that Romance in a few days.


As a result of this conversation, and at the request of those present, JA on 15 Jan. addressed a long letter to Mably listing the chief sources from which a comprehensive history of the American Revolution would have to be drawn, together with advice on the subjects to be treated, including those in what would today be called social and institutional as well as political history (LbC, Adams Papers; printed in Works , 5:492–496, with an approximate date, “1782,” supplied by JA from memory). Two days later JA prepared a second letter to Mably listing his own political writings from 1761 to 1779, which he had earlier excluded; but at the foot of his retained copy he wrote: “This Letter was never sent, but the Original was burned by me. It may remain here, without Imputation of Vanity” (Lb/JA/20, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 108).

JA arranged with Cerisier for the publication at Amsterdam of Mably's Observations sur le gouvernement et les loix des Etats-Unis d'Amerique, 1784 (JA to Cerisier, 16 Oct. 1783, LbC, Adams Papers). An English translation, Remarks concerning the Government and the Laws of the United States of America: In Four Letters, Addressed to Mr. Adams , appeared in London later the same year. Copies of both are among JA's books in the Boston Public Library.

January 11. Saturday. JA January 11. Saturday. Adams, John
January 11. Saturday.

Mr. W. T. Franklin came in to talk with me, about a Subject which he said he did not often talk about, and that was himself. He produced a Commission, drawn up, for Messrs. Franklin and Jay to sign, when they only were here, before I arrived, and in fact signed by them. I took the Commission and read it. He asked me to sign it. I told him, that I considered myself as directly affronted in this Affair. That considering that I came out to Europe without any Solicitation of mine, single in the Commission for Peace, and considering that Congress had done me the Honour to place me at the head of the new Commission, I had a right to be consulted in the Appointment of a Secretary to the Commission. But that without saying or writing a Word to me, Dr. Franklin had wrote to Mr. Jay at Madrid and obtained a Promise from him. That considering the Relation to me in which Mr. Thaxter came out, and his Services and Sufferings in the Cause and the small Allowance he had received, I thought he had a better right to it. That I thought my self ill treated in this as in many other Things. That it was not from any disrespect to him, Mr. W.T.F., that I declined it. That I should not, if my Opinion had been asked, have named Mr. Thaxter but another Gentleman.1


He told me, how his Grandfather was weary, that he had renewed his Solicitation to Congress, to be relieved. That he wanted to be with his Family at Philadelphia &c. &c. &c.

I told him I was weary too, and had written an unconditional Resignation of all my Employments in Europe.2 That an Attack had been made upon me by the C. de Vergennes, and Congress had been induced to disgrace me. That I would not bear this disgrace if I could help it. That I would wear no Livery with a Spot upon it. The Stain should be taken out or I would not wear the Coat. That Congress had placed me now in a Situation, that I could do nothing without being suspected of a sinister Motive, that of aiming at being restored to the Mission to Great Britain. The Conduct of the American Cause in Europe had been a constant Scramble for Offices and was now likely to be a new and more passionate Scaene of Factions for Places. That I would have nothing to do with it, had not been used to it.

He said that Congress would have now a Number of Places and would provide for Mr. Thaxter. That they would undoubtedly give me full Satisfaction &c.

I told him that the first Wish of my Heart was to return to my Wife and Children &c.

He shewed me, Extract of a Letter of Dr. F. to Congress concerning him, containing a studied and long Eulogium—Sagacity beyond his Years, Diligence, Activity, Fidelity, genteel Address, Facility in speaking French. Recommends him to be Secretary of some Mission, thinks he would make an excellent Minister, but does not propose him for it as yet.3

This Letter and other Circumstances convince me, that the Plan is laid between the C. de Vergennes and the Dr., to get Billy made Minister to this Court and not improbably the Dr. to London. Time will shew.


See entry of 27 Oct. 1782, above, and note 3 there. JA's candidate, if Thaxter was not to be chosen, was Edmund Jenings; see JA to Laurens, 15 Aug. 1782 (LbC, Adams Papers; Works , 7:611), and JA's letter in the Boston Patriot, 24 July 1811.


JA to Livingston, 4 Dec. 1782 (LbC, Adams Papers; Works , 8:16).


Franklin to Pres. Huntington, 12 March 1781; for the passage shown to JA, see Franklin Writings, ed. Smyth, 8:221–223.