Diary of John Adams, volume 4

121 [June 2. Tuesday. 1778.] JA


[June 2. Tuesday. 1778.] Adams, John
June 2. Tuesday. 1778.

Went to Versailles, and found it deserted, the Court being gone to Marli....We went to Marli, met the Count de Vergennes and did some Business with him, then went to Mr. De Sartine and after doing some business dined with him. His Lady was at home and dined with the Company. The Prince de Monbarry Montbarey, then Secretary of War, dined there. After dinner went to the Spanish Ambassadors, the Count D'Aranda's Caffee, as they call it, where he gives Coffee, Ice Creams and Cakes to all the World. Marli was the most curious and beautiful place I had yet seen. In point of Magnificence it was not equal to Versailles but in Elegance and Taste, superiour. The Machinery, which conveys such a great body of Water from the Seine to Versailles, and through the Gardens of Marli is very complicated, and magnificent. The Royal Palace is handsome and the Gardens before it are grand. There are six Pavillions, on each side of the Garden, that is six Houses for the Residence of the Kings Ministers, while the Royal Family is at Marli, which is only for three Weeks. There is nothing prettier than the play of the fountains in the Garden. I saw a Rainbow in all its glory in one of them. The Shades, the Walks, the Trees were the most charming I had yet seen.

We had not time to visit Lucienne Louvecienne, the elegant retreat for devotion, Penitence and Mortification of Madam Dubarry: and indeed I had been in such a Reverie in the morning in passing Bellvue, that I was not averse to postpone the Sight of another Object of the same kind to a future Opportunity.

On the Road from Paris and from Passi to Versailles, beyond the River Seine and not far from St. Cleod Cloud but on the opposite side of the Way, stood a pallace of uncommon beauty in its Architecture, situated on one of the finest Elevations in the neighbourhood of the River, commanding a Prospect as rich and variegated as it was vast and sublime. For a few of the first times that I went to Versailles I had other Things to occupy my Attention: but after I had passed through my Ceremonies and began to feel myself more at Ease, I asked some Questions about this place and was informed that it was called Bellevue and was the Residence of the Kings Aunts Adelaide and Victoire, 1 two of the surviving Daughters of Louis the fifteenth. That this palace had been built and this Establishment made by that Monarch for Madame Pompadour, whom he visited here, almost every night for twenty Years, leaving a worthy Woman his virtuous Queen 122alone at Versailles, with whom he had sworn never to sleep again.2 I cannot describe the feelings, nor relate half the reflexions which this object and history excited. Here were made Judges and Councillors, Magistrates of all Sorts, Nobles and Knights of every order, Generals and Admirals, Ambassadors and other foreign Ministers, Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals and Popes, in the Arms of a Strumpet. Here were directed all Eyes that wished and sought for Employment, Promotion and every Species of Court favour. Here Voltaire and Richelieu and a thousand others of their Stamp, obtained Royal favour and Commissions. Travellers of all Ranks and Characters from all Parts of Europe, were continually passing from Paris to Versailles and spreading the Fame of this House, its Inhabitants and Visitors and their Commerce, infamous in every point of view, civil, political, moral and religious, all over the World. The Eyes of all France had been turned to Bellevue, more than to Paris or Versailles. Here Letters de Cachet, the highest Trust and most dangerous Instrument of arbitrary Power in France were publickly sold, to any Persons who would pay for them, for any the vilest Purposes of private Malice, Envy, Jealousy or Revenge or Cruelty. Here Licences were sold to private Smugglers to contravene the Kings own Laws, and defraud the public Revennue. Here were sold Dukedoms and Peerages, and even the Cordon blue of the Knights of the Holy Ghost. Here still lived the Daughters of the last King and the Aunts of the present. Instead of wondering that the Licentiousness of Women was so common and so public in France, I was astonished that there should be any Modesty or Purity remaining in the Kingdom, as there certainly was, though it was rare. Could there be any Morality left among such a People where such Examples were set up to the View of the whole Nation? Yes there was a Sort of Morality, there was a great deal of humanity, and what appeared to me real benevolence. Even their politeness was benevolence. There was a great deal of Charity and tenderness for the poor. There were many other qualities that I could not distinguish from Virtues.... This very Monarck had in him the Milk of human Kindness, and with all his open undisguised Vices was very superstitious. Whenever he met the Host, he would descend from his Coach and fall 3 down upon his Knees in the Dust or even in the Mud and compell all his Courtiers to follow his Example. Such are the Inconsistencies in the human Character.


From all that I had read of History and Government, of human Life and manners, I had drawn this Conclusion, that the manners of Women were the most infallible Barometer, to ascertain the degree of Morality and Virtue in a Nation. All that I have since read and all the observations I have made in different Nations, have confirmed me in this opinion. The Manners of Women, are the surest Criterion by which to determine whether a Republican Government is practicable, in a Nation or not. The Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Swiss, the Dutch, all lost their public Spirit, their Republican Principles and habits, and their Republican Forms of Government, when they lost the Modesty and Domestic Virtues of their Women.

What havock said I to myself, would these manners make in America? Our Governors, our Judges, our Senators, or Representatives and even our Ministers would be appointed by Harlots for Money, and their Judgments, Decrees and decisions be sold to repay themselves, or perhaps to procure the smiles and Embraces of profligate Females.

The foundations of national Morality must be laid in private Families. In vain are Schools, Accademies and universities instituted, if loose Principles and licentious habits are impressed upon Children in their earliest years. The Mothers are the earliest and most important Instructors of youth....The Vices and Examples of the Parents cannot be concealed from the Children. How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn that their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers. Besides the Catholic Doctrine is, that the Contract of marriage is not only a civil and moral Engagement, but a Sacrament, one of the most solemn Vows and Oaths of Religious devotion. Can they then believe Religion and Morality too any thing more than a Veil, a Cloak, an hypocritical Pretext, for political purposes of decency and Conveniency?


Blank in MS.


This sentence (among others in the present paragraph) was silently emended by CFA. As he printed it, it reads: “... Madame de Pompadour, whom he visited here for twenty years, leaving a worthy woman, his virtuous queen, alone at Versailles, from whom he had sworn an eternal separation” (JA, Works , 3:170).


Word omitted in MS.

[June 3. Wednesday. 1778.] JA


[June 3. Wednesday. 1778.] Adams, John
June 3. Wednesday. 1778.

On this Day We sent the following Letters.

Commissioners to John Paul Jones
Sir Passi June 3. 1778

We have received sundry Letters from Lt. Simpson, and sundry Certificates from Officers and others, concerning his Behaviour in General, and particularly upon that Occasion, in which he is charged with disobedience of Orders....Without giving or forming any decided

Opinion concerning his guilt or innocence of the Crime laid to his charge, We may venture to say that the Certificates We have received 124are very favourable to his Character, and at least afford reason to hope, that he did not mean to disobey his orders.

Be this however, as it may, We are constrained to say, that his confinement on board any other Ship than the Ranger, and much more his Confinement in a Prison on Shore, appears to Us to carry in it, a degree of Severity, which cannot be justified by reason or Law.

We therefore, desire, you would release Mr. Simpson, from his imprisonment, and permit him to go at large, on his Parole to go to Nantes, there to take his passage to America, by the first favourable Opportunity, in order to take his Tryal by a Court Marshall.

We request you to transmit Us, as soon as possible, an Account of what is due to Lt. Simpson, according to the Ships Books for Wages.

An Application has been made to Us, in behalf of Mr. Andrew Fallen, one of the Prisoners lately made by you, and his case represented, with such Circumstances, as have induced Us to request you, to let Mr. Fallen go, where he will, after taking his Parole in Writing, that he will not communicate any intelligence which may be prejudicial to the United States, that he will not take Arms against them during the War, and that he will surrender himself Prisoner of War whenever called upon by Congress, or their Ministers at Paris. We are, Sir, your most obedient Servants.

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.
John Paul Jones Esqr. Captain of the Ranger.
Commissioners to Thomas Simpson
Sir Passi June 3. 1778

We have received several Letters from you,1 and several Certificates from Officers and others, respecting your Behaviour in general, as well as particularly relative to the Charge of Disobedience of orders, for which you have been confined.

It would be improper for Us, to give any Opinion concerning this charge, which is to be determined only by a Court Marshall: But We have requested Captain Jones to sett you at Liberty upon your Parol to go to Nantes, there to take your Passage to America, by the first favourable Opportunity, in order to take your Tryal by a Court Marshall. We are, Sir, your humble Servants

B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.
Lt. Simpson of the Ranger.

The Representations in favour of Simpson and against Jones, were 125very strong. His whole Ship was against the Captain, with a surprizing Unanimity, and although Jones was evidently one of Franklins Party both among the French and Americans, yet his Conduct was so evidently wrong in some Instances, and so dubious in others that Franklin could not refuse his Signature, to all the decisions of his Colleagues concerning him.

Jones had obtained the Command of the Ranger, under the Auspices of Mr. Robert Morris in Philadelphia, and I understood carried Letters to Mr. Deane and Dr. Franklin, which upon his first Arrival in France he carried to Paris. They introduced him to their friends among the French and Americans, particularly to Mr. Williams, and he was so universally considered as the Partisan of Deane and Franklin, that as soon as he had made a Prize of an English Ship of War the Drake, the Cry of Versailles and the Clamour of Paris became as loud in favour of Monsieur Jones as of Monsieur Franklin and the Inclination of the Ladies to embrace him almost as fashionable and as strong.2 Jones's personal Behaviour to me was always, to the time of his Death as civil and respectful as I could wish: But I suppose that means were found to insinuate into him that the refusal of his Draught and the Lenity to Lt. Simpson were the Effects of my Uniting with Mr. Lee against Mr. Franklin, although Franklin had agreed to both. The Impressions he received from that Party I suppose were the cause of his impertinent Enquiries after my Conduct in Holland and his Wish that I was in America expressed in a Letter to Mr. Dumas which was published in the Portfolio at Philadelphia a few Years ago.3 What became of Lt. Simpson I know not, but I have always thought that the arbitrary Conduct of Jones was the cause of great Injustice to him.

Commissioners to Gabriel de Sartine
To his Excellency Monsieur De Sartine at Versailles.
Passi June 3. 1778

We have the honour of inclosing to your Excellency, an Account of Duties paid by the Agent for necessary Supplies to the Ship of War the 126Boston, in the Port of Bourdeaux. As these duties are very heavy, and the payment of any Duties on mere Supplies to Ships of War, as on Merchandizes exported, appears to Us uncommon, We beg the favour of your Excellency to give such orders, relative to it, in all his Majestys Ports, as may regulate this, for the future.

The Captain of the Ship of War the Ranger, belonging to the United States, has We understand, put his Prizes into the hands of the Intendant or Commandant at Brest, and no Account has been rendered of them, to the Public Agent or to Us. We are also given to understand, that in Consequence of this proceeding, very heavy Fees are to be paid upon the Sale of them. As the Transaction is altogether improper, We must trouble your Excellency for an order to the Commandant to deliver them, without delay, or extraordinary Charges to the Public Agent, Mr. Schweighauser of Nantes or to his order.

It would give Us Satisfaction to annoy our Ennemies, by granting a Letter of Marque, as is desired, for a Vessell fitted out at Dunkquerque, and as it is represented to Us, containing a mixed Crew of French, Americans and English: But if this should seem improper to your Excellency, We will not do it. We have the Honour to be &c.

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.

40 Coats for Marines Do. Waistcoats and Breeches—260 Outside Jacketts—250 inside—260 Pair of Breeches—66 Blankets—330 Pr. of Shoes—108 Hatts—108 Caps—Duties paid on the whole seven hundred and ninety Livres.

To John Bondfield
Sir Passi June 3. 1778

Two days ago I had the pleasure of your Letter of the 26 May4 inclosing an Account of Cash and Payments made to and for me, at Bourdeaux, amounting to 1404 Livres, in which Sum it ought to be remembered, are included the Expences of Captain Palmes, Dr. Noel and Mr. Jesse Deane at Bourdeaux and from thence to Paris, as well as my own, excepting 231 Livres and six Sous paid to Dr. Noel by an order on the Banker at Paris, for the ballance of all Expences.

Your Letter incloses also an Account of sundry Articles of Merchandizes shipped by you in a Trunk for my Family, to the Amount of 888 Livres and twelve Sous, which Sum together with your Commissions please to charge to the public Account, as you propose, and I will be responsible for the Money here. I am much obliged to you, Sir, for your Care in this Business and am your most obedient Servant

John Adams
John Bondfield Esqr
Commissioners to John Bondfield
Sir Passi June 4. 1778

Your Letters of the 26th and 30th. of May, We have received:5 the first accompanying the Accounts of Supplies &c. for the Boston; the last inclosing an Affidavit of a Plott against her Safety. Upon looking over the Accounts, We find some Articles, particularly fresh Beef, charged at a very high rate; but We suppose this Article must be dearer at Bourdeaux, than it is at Paris or Nantes, as We depend upon your Attention to procure every Thing, at the most reasonable rate. By the Rangers Account, she was supplied with fresh Beef, at five Sols and an half a pound, whereas in your Account fifteen Sols are charged....Your Bills will be honoured as you have drawn them. We hope, the Boston, before this time is gone. As the Expence of supporting such Ships is very great, they ought not to be in port one moment longer than is necessary.

As to the Plott: We shall communicate the Affidavit to the Ministry: But in the mean time, We depend upon it, that Captain Tucker will make some Example among the Guilty, on board of his Ship, if there are any, and that the Government at Bourdeaux, will punish any Person, at Land, who shall be found guilty of this Conspiracy or any other like it.

By all that We can learn there is a Junto of Ennemies in that Neighbourhood, who must be brought to reason by Severity, if nothing else will do. We have the Honor to be, with very great respect, Sir, your most obedient Servants

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.
John Bondfield Esqr.

P.S. Your Bills are accepted

Commissioners to Gabriel de Sartine
Sir Passi June 4. 1778

We have the Honor of inclosing to your Excellency, a Copy of a Letter from Captain Whipple of the Providence Ship of War, of Thirty Guns, in the Service of the United States.6 As she brought no dispatches for Us, the Letter from the Captain, is all her Intelligence. We have the Honor to be with the greatest respect, your Excellencys most obedient &c.

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams
Mr. Le Comte de Vergennes.

On the same day We wrote to Lord North

Commissioners to Lord North
My Lord

The Fortune of War, having again made a Number of British Sea-128men Prisoners to the United States, it is our Duty to trouble you with a renewal of our former request, for an immediate Exchange of Prisoners in Europe. To detain unfortunate Men, for months in Prison, and send them, three thousand Miles to make an Exchange, which might take place immediately and on the Spot, is a most grievous and unnecessary Addition to the Calamities of War, in which We cannot believe the British Government will persist.

It is, with the utmost regret, that We find ourselves compelled to reitterate, to your Lordship, our Remonstrances against your treating the Citizens of the United States, made Prisoners by the Arms of the King of Great Britain, in a manner unexampled, in the practice of civilized Nations. We have received late and authentic Information, that numbers of such Prisoners, some of them Fathers of Families in America, having been sent to Africa, are now in the Fort of Senegal, condemned, in that unwholesome Climate, to the hardest labour, and most inhuman Treatment. It will be our indispensable Duty, to report this to the Congress of the United States of America, and Retaliation will be the inevitable Consequence, in Europe as well as America, unless your Lordship will authorize Us to assure Congress that these unhappy Men, as well as all others of our Nation, who have been treated in a similar manner, shall be immediately brought back and exchanged.

Most earnestly We beseach your Lordship, no longer to sacrifice the essential Interests of Humanity, to the Claims of Sovereignty,7 which your Experience must by this time have convinced you, are not to be maintained. We have the Honor to be &c.

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams
To Lord North.

Simpson's letters of 8 and 25 May are in PPAmP: Franklin Papers, both endorsed by JA. On the case of Thomas Simpson, lieutenant of the Ranger and prizemaster of the Drake, see the Autobiography entry dated 14 July 1778, below, and within it the four relevant letters dated 16 July: To Thomas Simpson, To Abraham Whipple, To J. D. Schweighauser, and From John Paul Jones letters and comment under 16 July, below ; also S. E. Morison, John Paul Jones, Boston, 1959, p. 160–172.


This is to some extent anachronistic. The adulation of Jones by French ladies and others did not occur after his Ranger cruise in 1778 but upon his return to Paris two years later following his more spectacular cruise with the Bonhomme Richard squadron. See S. E. Morison, John Paul Jones, Boston, 1959, ch. 15.


Let me know how Mr. Round Face, first letter, that went lately from Paris to the Hague, is proceeding? I understand he is gone to Amsterdam. I wish he may be doing good. If he should, inadvertantly, do evil, as a stranger, I shall, as his fellow-citizen, be very sorry for it, but you, being a native, will hear of it. I confess I am anxious about his situation. The man has a family, and these troublesome times, I wish he were at home to mind his trade and his fireside, for I think he has travelled more than his fortune can well bear. (Jones to Dumas, Ariel, Road of Croix, 8 Sept. 1780, Port Folio, 1st ser., 4 [1804]:43).


Not found.


Not found.


Abraham Whipple to Franklin, Paimboeuf Harbor, 31 May (PPAmP); see the Commissioners' answer of 6 June, below.


LbC: “to Claims of Sovereignty.”