Papers of John Adams, volume 6

The Commissioners to Vergennes

From William Vernon Jr.

From James Lovell, 16 May 1778 Lovell, James JA


From James Lovell, 16 May 1778 Lovell, James Adams, John
From James Lovell
(11) Dear Sir May 16th. 1778

As I hinted to you in my letter of yesterday, which goes by a different Vessel from what bears this, Half-pay for 7 years, if they live so long, is granted to the Officers who serve the War out. It was also resolved to give 80 Dollars to the Men in addition to their Land.1

The Commissioners at the Courts of Tuscany Vienna and Berlin are to have plenipotentiary Commissions and not to be restricted to 12 years Treaties of Amity and Commerce.2 They could only propose and treat but not conclude. And I hope they will not be allowed to make Alliances. Great Caution indeed is to be used in that point. There is but one Power besides France that could tempt me, unless Minheer should incline.3

I presume our Army will now immediately be reformed the Battalions consolidated and the useless Officers dismissed. He, as your Namesake says, will soon put Things to rights,4 having been obliged to coax almost instead of order in times past. Our Soldiers deserve all praise for their perseverance in hunger and nakedness but the Gemmen have taken improper times to move their schemes of Pension and, will you believe it, Nobility. Some, in a big House, think that there is no Objection to Titles when not hereditary. Does it not look well——Lord chief Justice of Delaware.5

It is reported that Mr. S. A. is coming forward.6 I assure you we who are here have had consummate drudgery day and night ever since you left us in November. Mr. D is a very good man indeed. I wish he would consent to tarry, but his Estate is continually destroyed by his Friends who are keeping his Enemies in order. I mean the Guards over Burgoynes troops.7 I hope Mr. Deane will come over. I mean I hope he will not throw himself out of use by resenting an Act of Congress founded on Necessity. I think he is peculiarly calculated for Holland if we have a Com-125mission there.8 Howe is not gone from his Command. It is reported that the Enemy are embarking their heavy Baggage. This if fact is no proof of their quitting. It may be a prudent preparative to coming out against us: a few days will make something certain. The Council which Gates attended in his way to Peeks-kill was finished with great unanimity of Sentiment, and much Cordiality between the great men tho the latter was not expected from some foolish bickerings which had been raised out of Conways Indiscretion, whose Resignation has been accepted.9

I wish you happiness and I think you have the fund for it whether you are now in Paris or a Prisoner in England. Give my Love to your Son and tell him it is Matris Ergo,10 that he may try his talent at the Phrases which teazed me in my Infancy.

I hope soon to have from you Sic Canibus Catulos similes,11 by way of Confession, and some Substitute, more adapted to my Experience than the Cupressi of Tityrus, to mark your Sublimities. Be cautious, however, that you do not hint that you have seen any Thing superior to Philadelphia; unless you are willing instantaneously to forfeit the great Portion you hold of Mrs. Clymars good Opinion.

Genl. R—— has been from home several Weeks: he has purchased into an Estate about one hundred miles off, near to water Carriage, where is an exceeding rich Lead mine Capable of supplying the Army, and of repaying him in half a year or less.12 Your affectionate humb servt,


RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr Lovell May 16. 1778.”


On 15 May the congress passed resolutions granting allowances to those officers and men who would serve until the end of the war, the officers being obliged to take an oath of allegiance. The debate was long and controversial, beginning with the introduction of proposals on 5 Jan. and continuing through their revision and reintroduction on 26 March to their final passage. Lovell voted against the resolutions because he feared the establishment of the military as a privileged class. Widespread concern about special treatment for the military anticipated later attacks on the Society of the Cincinnati when it was established in 1783 ( JCC , 11:502–503; 10:15–21, 285–286; Louis Clinton Hatch, The Administration of the American Revolutionary Army, N.Y., 1904,p. 79–84; Edmund C. Burnett, The Continental Congress, N.Y., 1941, p. 311–316; Wallace Evan Davies, “The Society of the Cincinnati in New England, 1783–1800,” WMQ , 3d ser., 5:3–25 [Jan. 1948]).


Ralph Izard, Commissioner to Tuscany, and William Lee, Commissioner to Berlin and Vienna, were appointed on 7 and 9 May 1777 respectively ( JCC , 7: 334, 343) On 28 May the congress adopted significantly strengthened commissions, adding the words “and conclude” to the Commissioners' powers “to communicate” and “treat” and promising, “in good faith, to ratify whatever our said commissioner shall transact in the premises” ( JCC , 8:519–521; 11:505, 546–547, 559, 563).

Alterations in the commissioners' in-126structions were ordered on 16 May, presented to the congress and tabled on the 28th, and considered on 1 and 2 June ( JCC , 8:519–521; 11:505, 546–547. 559, 563). Because no further mention of new instructions occurs after 2 June and no copy of them has been found, it seems probable that none was adopted, the congress having decided to continue those of 1777. The Commissioners were, therefore, still bound by the twelve-year limitation on the length of commercial treaties based on principles in the treaty plan of 1776 (vol. 4:260–302). Lovell's apprehension about the negotiation of military alliances, probably shared by JA, proved to be needless because the missions of Izard and Lee were fruitless.


The first reference is almost certainly to Spain; the second is obviously to the Netherlands.


Presumably a reference by Samuel Adams to George Washington and the proposed plan to reorganize the Continental Army. On 10 Jan. the congress had ordered a committee to meet with Washington and devise a plan to reduce the number of battalions in the army. On 18 May such a plan was introduced and on the 27th adopted ( JCC , 10:40; 11:507, 538–543).


No explanation of Lovell's statements in the final three sentences of this paragraph has been found.


Samuel Adams had, with JA, taken a leave of absence on 7 Nov. 1777 and was about to return to the congress. He took his seat on 21 May ( JCC , 9:880; 11:517).


Francis Dana was unhappy about having to live on the congressional salary and the destruction being inflicted on his property in Cambridge by the soldiers stationed at Fort No. 2, which was partially on his land (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 15:206).


James Lovell to Benjamin Franklin, 15 May (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 3:242), contains a more explicit statement of Lovell's views on Deane's recall.


Lovell is doubtless referring to the Council of War held at Valley Forge on 8 May (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 11:363–366). That there could be “Cordiality between the great men,” would be surprizing to Lovell in view of Brig. Gen. Thomas Conway's sharp attack on Washington in a letter to Gates that gave rise to unfounded rumors of a cabal. Largely because of the furor attending this incident, Conway resigned on 28 April ( DAB ; JCC , 10:399; see also Benjamin Rush to JA, 13 Oct. 1777, note 1, above).


Because of a mother.


These words are from a speech by Tityrus in Virgil, Eclogues, 1:19–25. There the entire sentence reads “Sic canibus catulos similis, sic matribus haedos noram, sic parvis componere magna solebam” (Thus I knew that puppies are like to dogs, goats are like to their mothers; thus I was accustomed to compare large things to small). Later in the paragraph Lovell refers to the cypress trees of Tityrus— “Cupressi of Tityrus”—and is apparently alluding to Tityrus' statement, in the same speech, that the small town was to imperial Rome as the shrub is to the cypress. By his two allusions Lovell evidently means that he sees himself as the lesser of the two men and therefore hopes for something greater from JA than what he has received, something heroic or epic.


Brig. Gen. Daniel Roberdeau, because of need for bullets, established in 1778 a lead mine in western Pennsylvania at his own expense and built Fort Roberdeau to protect it ( DAB ).