Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From Daniel Roberdeau

From the Foreign Affairs Committee

From James Lovell, 1 December 1777 Lovell, James JA


From James Lovell, 1 December 1777 Lovell, James Adams, John
From James Lovell
Dear Sir Decr. 1st: 1777

As I was at the Secretaries yesterday I took off a few Resolutions from the Journals for your view, supposing as to the above,1 that you might have forgotten them, and as to the following, wishing to have your Sentiments. I doubt not you will think it may or may not be proper to take from the minds of foreign Courts the Idea that we are absolutely determind about our conduct towards Great Britain in regard to Treaties; therefore the Guard which you see in the Resolves about the time of communicating the different Resolves, which the Commissioners only ought to determine.

Being one of the Committee with F L Lee and Duer to conduct the Resolve of Novr. 29th respecting Canada2 I wish your Sentiments, promising to you that I am altogether averse from strong sollicitations to that People to become immediately active. They will fall to us of Course. I wish to have them acquainted with the nature of our union. But I would not wish to be bound to carry an Expedition into their Country till their Friendship was certain and quite General: But, I stand ready for conviction upon hearing Arguments for it founded in evident Policy.


It could not be brought about that a Commission be sent you by this Post, which perhaps you may be led to expect by Letters delivered to the Express two days ago: But a second messenger will be sent with it and all the proper papers.

Genl. Howe will not exchange prisoners till those murthered at New York are paid for with fresh and good Soldiers.3 He is ready to exchange Officers to be on parole. He wants Burgoyn's Embarkation to be from Rhode Island: but Genl. Washington thinks a whole Season would be gained to the Enemy by that; and wishes a refusal. It will be hard for Massachusetts to have so many additional mouths to feed; but there are good Arguments for denying Howe's Proposition.4

Resolved that a Committee of 3 be appointed to procure a translation to be made of the articles of Confederation into the french Languge; and to report an address to the Inhabitants of Canada inviting them to accede to the union of these States; that the said Committee be further directed to report a plan for facilitating the distribution of the said Articles and Address, and for conciliating the Affections of the Canadians towards these United States.5

Dear Sir Decr. 1st: 10 o'Clock a.m.

We have nothing of much Importance this morning. Fayettee being with Genl. Greene in the Jersies fell upon a Pickett of the Enemy killed 20 took 20 and wounded many without loss. He is delighted with the Militia; and Genl. Greene says the Marquis seems determined to court Danger. I wish more were so determined.6 Some of the Enemy's Ships have passed up to the City.

We yet hear Nothing from Spencer; but we resolved on the 28th. That Enquiry should be made into the Causes of the Evacuation of Fort Mercer7 and the Conduct of the principal Officers commanding there—also an immediate Enquiry into the Causes of the Failure at Rhode Island8 and the Conduct of the principal Officers commanding there—also into the loss of Forts Montgomery and Clinton and Fort Mifflin on the Delaware9—and into all losses in future of Forts posts and Shipping.

These Resolves will be printed at large. I give you only the Skeleton, for any use within your discretion. I am dear Sir your most humb Servt.

James Lovell

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr Lovells Letter to me Dec. 1. 1777 Sundry Resns. respecting the Comrs. of Septr. 28. 1776 and Novr. 29. 1777”; in CFA's hand: “Mr. Lovell. Decr. 1st. 1777.” A small hole in the MS has obliterated parts of several words.

342 1.

Lovell began his letter on the same sheet and below the transcription of the congressional resolution of 28 Sept. 1776, which provided for the payment of salaries and expenses for the Commissioners so that they could live in a style suitable to their dignity ( JCC , 5:833–834).


See note 5 (below).


The allusion here remains obscure. This may be a reference to the killing of German soldiers at the Battle of Bennington because their wish to surrender was not understood; but none of the letters exchanged between Washington and Howe on the subject of prisoner exchange makes reference to murdered men (Ward, War of the Revolution , 1:430).


Here follow four resolutions regarding reconciliation with Britain, which were passed on 22 Nov. See James Lovell to JA, 22 Nov., note 2 (above).


JCC , 9:981.


Lovell's account of Lafayette's energetic assault on the British pickets is taken from Washington's letter to the congress of 27 Nov., which quoted Gen. Greene's assessment of the Marquis ( Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 10:109–110). For additional details see Henry Laurens to JA, 3 Dec. (below).


Fort Mercer was abandoned on the night of 20–21 Nov. (Freeman, Washington , 4:551–552).


As early as the spring of 1777 the congress had suggested an expedition against the British at Newport and urged Massachusetts and Connecticut to contribute troops. Yet it was October before Gen. Spencer had assembled nine or ten thousand troops and the necessary boats to ferry them from the mainland to the island on which Newport is located. Then bad winds so delayed embarkation that the expedition was called off. Many of the militiamen blamed Spencer for indecisive leadership (JA to James Bowdoin, 16 April and notes there, above; Benjamin Cowell, The Spirit of '76 in Rhode Island . . ., Boston, 1850, p. 144–146; Samuel Greene Arnold, History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 2 vols., N.Y., 1858 and 1860, 2:406–408).


On the capture of Forts Montgomery and Clinton, see James Warren to JA, 12 Oct., note 6 (above). Fort Mifflin was evacuated during the night of 15–16 Nov. (Freeman, Washington , 4:551).