Papers of John Adams, volume 6

From Samuel Adams

Joy Castle to the Commissioners

Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners, 21 June 1778 Lee, Richard Henry Heyward, Thomas Jr. Lovell, James First Joint Commission at Paris JA


Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners, 21 June 1778 Lee, Richard Henry Heyward, Thomas Jr. Lovell, James First Joint Commission at Paris Adams, John
Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners
Gentlemen York Town in Pennsylva June 21 1778

The British Commissioners have arrived and transmitted their powers and propositions to Congress, which have received the answer you will see in the Pennsylvania Gazette of the 20th. instant.1

On the 18th. of this month Gen. Clinton with the British army (now under his command) abandoned Philadelphia, and the 228City is in possession of our Troops. The enemy crossed into Jersey, but whether with design to push for So. Amboy, or to embark below Belingsport on the Delaware is yet uncertain. Gen. Washington has put his Army in motion, and is following the enemy into Jersey.

There has arrived here a Mr. Holker from France who has presented a paper to Congress declaring that he comes with a verbal message to Congress from the Minister of France touching our treating with Great Britain and some other particulars which for want of his paper we cannot at present enumerate. The Style of his paper is as from the representative of the Court, but he has no authentic voucher of his Mission for the delivery of this verbal message. We desire of you Gentlemen to give us the most exact information in your power concerning the Autenticity of Mr. Holkers Mission for this purpose.2 We are Gentlemen, with esteem and regard your most obedient and very humble servants

Richard Henry Lee Ths. Heyward Junr. James Lovell

RC, in the hand of Richard Henry Lee (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); addressed: “To Honble Commissioners from the United States of America Paris” docketed in an unknown hand: “James Lovell Esqr. Yorktown 21 June 78.”


The resolution adopted on 17 June in the form of a letter from Henry Laurens to the British Commissioners. It stated that there could be no negotiations unless Britain explicitly acknowledged the independence of the United States ( JCC , 11:614–615).


The Commissioners replied to this request for information on the status of Jean (John) Holker the younger in a letter of 17 Sept. (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:722–725). On the reverse of the present letter's first page is a notation, probably taken from the Commissioners' reply, in an unknown hand: “Count Vergennes Answer respecting Mr. Holker was—that he was astonish'd that Mr. Holker had no Commission verbal or other from this Ministry; and was only desird to communicate to them his observations on the Country.” In any event, the congress' uncertainty about Holker's status was removed when it was informed by Conrad Alexandre Gérard, the French minister, on 16 July, that Holker was an “Agent of the marine of France.” A few days later Gerard sent the congress two commissions, both dated 15 July, naming Holker agent of Marine and consul for Philadelphia ( JCC , 11:696, 713; Gérard, Despatches and Instructions , p. 131; see also JA, Diary and Autobiography , 4:54).