Papers of John Adams, volume 7

Descriptive List of Illustrations


xiii Introduction Introduction
Perseverance in the “Most Glorious Cause”

In a letter of 28 February 1780 to his friend Samuel Cooper, John Adams declared: “if our Enemies Can be Obstinate and desperate in a wicked and disgracful Cause, surely We can be determined and persevering in the most just, the most honourable, and most glorious Cause that ever was undertaken by Men.” Volumes 7 and 8 cover the eighteen months between 1 September 1778 and 29 February 1780, and provide ample evidence of Adams' steadfastness in his nation's cause as well as an unparalleled account of the conduct of American diplomacy in the first years of the Franco-American alliance.1 The documents in these volumes throw new light on John Adams' activities as a Commissioner, his relationship with Benjamin Franklin, the development of his attitude toward France and the Franco-American alliance, his relations with Vergennes, and his mission to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain. A few key documents highlight another aspect of Adams' career: his political thought as embodied in Massachusetts' Constitution of 1780.

It is fortunate that John Adams kept the archives of the joint commission, which he shared with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee, in good order. Adams' drafts of the Commissioners' correspondence in his own Letterbooks, combined with the file of incoming correspondence, have enabled the editors to provide an account of the Commissioners' business from September 1778 to February 1779 that is virtually complete.2 This is true of the Commissioners' exchanges not only with the French government, but also those with individuals ranging from American merchants in French ports to escaped prisoners, and on subjects as diverse as French commercial restrictions and a proposed expedition against the British whale fishery off Brazil.


The volume of correspondence with private individuals was large and its content important for what it indicates of the demands placed upon the Commissioners and their efforts to meet those demands.3 Not everyone was satisfied with their efforts, particularly in regard to the expenditure of funds for prisoners. Adams, however, spiritedly defended the Commissioners in general and their expenditures in particular, declaring that their efforts were all that could be expected in view of the fact that the public funds available to them as well as their private purses would soon be exhausted if all demands were met.4 Indeed, the amount of time spent on such matters, as well as the difficulty of dealing with problems arising at French ports far from Paris, led John Adams and later Benjamin Franklin to urge the congress to appoint consuls as provided for in the Franco-American treaty of Amity and Commerce.5

The Commissioners' correspondence with the French government in the persons of Sartine, the minister of marine, and Vergennes, the foreign minister, was substantial and has much to say about developing Franco-American commercial and political relations in the first year of the alliance. Many of the issues brought to the Commissioners' attention by Americans in France concerned routine commercial or maritime matters and were successfully taken up with Sartine, who had extensive powers in French ports. The Commissioners' requests for convoys to escort American merchant ships to their destinations and their proposed expedition against the British whale fishery, however, were denied because of the lack of French naval vessels available for such tasks.

Equally disappointing were the Commissioners' representations to Vergennes. They failed either to clarify the status of the the goods sent to America through Beaumarchais or to obtain French aid in negotiations with the Barbary pirates. But the Commissioners' most important undertaking was their memorial to Vergennes in January 1779 calling for the dispatch of additional French ships to American waters.6 Drafted by John Adams, the appeal represented his view that xvonly through decisive French naval superiority in the American theater could the war be brought to an end in a reasonable time. Benjamin Franklin toned down the original draft, but even in its final form the document implied that France was not doing enough and reflected Adams' growing belief that the United States should be more assertive of its own interests in representations to the French government.7 Vergennes did not respond to the memorial, but John Adams continued to urge such a strategy and ultimately his persistence in pressing his position on Vergennes in the spring of 1780 became a factor in producing a permanent hostility between the two men, which in turn motivated Adams' decision to go to the Netherlands in July of that year.

The Commissioners' often frustrating relations with the French government and Adams' developing attitude toward the proper conduct of American diplomacy in France must be seen against the background of a fundamental change that had occurred in Franco-American relations. With the arrival of Conrad Alexandre Gérard at Philadelphia in the summer of 1778, Vergennes determined that he would no longer settle major issues through exchanges between himself and the Commissioners, but instead would deal directly with the congress through his resident minister. He was persuaded to this resolve by the limitations of the Commissioners' instructions, and by his reluctance to deal with Arthur Lee. Most importantly, however, Vergennes' decision reflected his belief that direct representations to the congress would increase French influence over what he saw as the junior partner in the alliance and would, in particular, bring its peace objectives into conformity with those of France. John Adams received little information regarding the congress' handling of foreign relations while he was in France, thus he probably never fully understood the reasons for the “too much Reserve” shown by the French government “towards the Commissioners.”8 But the manner in which France chose to conduct relations with the United States in 1778 would have an enormous impact on Adams' diplomatic efforts in the 1780s.

In view of John Adams' later mission to the Netherlands and his negotiation of the Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1782, the Commissioners' letters from C. W. F. Dumas, reporting on events in the Netherlands, are particularly important. Initially Dumas' letters dealt with the plan, begun in April 1778, to seek an endorse-xviment by the States General of Holland in favor of a Dutch-American treaty modeled on the just completed Franco-American commercial treaty that could then be used to influence the full States General of the Netherlands. When the abortive Lee-Neufville treaty of September 1778 compromised that effort, forcing the Commissioners to reprimand William Lee for acting without instructions and to repudiate his effort,9 the focus of Dumas' letters shifted to Dutch efforts, ultimately unsuccessful, to remain neutral in the face of competing demands by Britain and France.

One of the most important issues in these volumes is the changing relationship between John Adams and his two colleagues, Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee. The documents printed here suggest a need to alter certain commonly held assumptions about that relationship. For the greater part of his first mission, Adams sought to remain scrupulously neutral in the disputes dividing the two men and, if possible, to mediate their differences. His assumption of the day-to-day administration of the Commissioners' business required him to act as a liaison, and, in October 1778, Adams invited Lee to move into the house at Passy that he shared with Franklin, in order to bring the Commissioners together and facilitate their conduct of business. Lee's refusal had a significant impact on the relations between the Commissioners.10 But John Adams' estrangement from Arthur Lee, the diplomat, is most apparent in letters written in early 1779, particularly those concerning the approval of Jonathan Williams' accounts and the choice of an agent to be sent to England for the prisoner exchange.11 By that time it is clear that Adams, like Franklin before him, had concluded that Arthur Lee was a serious obstacle to the proper conduct of the Commission's business.

The view of the relationship between Adams and Franklin that emerges from these letters may be even more surprising. Their joint tenancy at Passy, where Adams managed the household accounts, helped to promote amicable relations, and the Commissioners' documents themselves provide ample testimony of close collaboration and mutual respect between the two men. That they worked well together xviiand came to a general agreement about the proper conduct of the Commissioners' business is evident from the numerous emendations made by Franklin on drafts in Adams' Letterbook, even in fairly routine letters. It is especially apparent in the substantial and important changes made by Franklin in Adams' draft of the memorial to Vergennes of January 1779 requesting additional French ships for service in American waters. Moreover, in numerous cases Franklin and Adams acted on important matters without consulting Arthur Lee, most notably in planning William Temple Franklin's secret mission to Dieppe in November 1778.12 In addition, between March and June 1779, Adams served as Franklin's agent at Brest, Nantes, and Lorient for the resolution of problems involving the crew of the frigate Alliance and the exchange of prisoners with Britain.

From September 1778 until he left for America in June 1779, the letters that Adams received from America were less informative and fewer in number than he wished. Cut off by three thousand miles of ocean, he had an insatiable thirst for intelligence and believed that the lack of it was impeding his and the Commissioners' efforts to serve the interests of the United States effectively. The letters that he did receive reported on the disappointments attending the arrival of Estaing's fleet in America, the general progress of the war, the state of the army and navy, the fate of the 1778 Massachusetts constitution, and, to a limited degree, the domestic ramifications of the dispute between Silas Deane and Arthur Lee. James Warren's account of the French fleet at Boston and of Massachusetts politics, especially the rivalry between the Hancock and Adams factions, was of particular interest.13 But even in letters from Samuel Adams, James Lovell, and Richard Henry Lee, John Adams received little specific information regarding that which he most wanted to know: what the congress was doing about foreign affairs.

The character of Adams' letters from France in 1778 and 1779 sustains his reputation as a keen observer and analyst of events, as well as a candid commentator on those around him. His letters to the president of the congress indicate that he had few illusions about the British ministry's determination to carry on the war or the opposition's ability or willingness to frustrate those designs. To others in America, Adams was even more emphatic about the unlikelihood of an immediate peace and the need to continue the vigorous prosecution of the xviiiwar; he also commented on French policy, the need for close cooperation with French forces in America, and the proper course for American fiscal and monetary policy.

Some of John Adams' most interesting letters, written between November 1778 and February 1779, resulted from his concern over Benjamin Franklin's appointment as minister, the failure of the congress either to recall him or to provide him with new instructions, and Silas Deane's address “To the Free and Virtuous Citizens of America.”14 Adams did not contest the naming of a single minister or the selection of Franklin for the post, but he did believe that the congress should be fully aware of Franklin's weaknesses and the problems that personality conflicts and unwise appointments had caused for the conduct of diplomacy. Both in his letters and in his Diary, Adams made it clear that he believed that Arthur Lee, as well as William Lee and Ralph Izard, were by temperament and attitude ill-suited for any diplomatic position.15 Commenting on Arthur Lee, he noted that he was honest and faithful to the American cause, “but there is an Acrimony in his Temper ... an Obstinacy, and a Want of Candor at times, and an Affectation of Secrecy” that made him a burden to his friends and an obstacle to the smooth operation of the Franco-American alliance. Benjamin Franklin, because of his age, lifestyle, and large personal correspondence, could not devote his full attention to diplomatic functions and was ill-suited to deal effectively with financial and commercial matters, but Adams admitted that “his Character, has excited such an Enthusiasm, that it would do us great Harm to recall him.”16

After learning, on 12 February 1779, that his commission had been superseded by Franklin's appointment as minister plenipotentiary to France, leaving him to wait for suitable passage to America, Adams' concern over his own position and the congress' handling of its affairs in Europe found increasingly candid expression in his letters. On 13 February 1779 he wrote that his new status as “a private Citizen, best becomes me, and is most agreeable to me.”17 Two weeks later, however, he declared that “I will never be again with my own Consent the sport of wise Men nor Fools.”18 And on 8 June, a little over a week before he sailed from France and perhaps contemplating inquiries into xixhis own conduct when he returned to America, he wrote, in a letter that he decided not to send: “I am not dead ... nor have I lost my own Feeling or my Love to my Country. And if I can preserve my Head from Balls and Captivity that Voice And that Pen which has been heard heretofore very often and sometimes with Indulgence, shall be heard again.”19

This rapid escalation in John Adams' criticism of the congress' management of foreign affairs resulted in part from Silas Deane's pamphlet attack on Arthur Lee, which Adams described to Franklin as “one of the most wicked and abominable Productions that ever sprung from an human Heart.”20 He believed that the failure of the congress to censure such an assault on one of its appointees by a private citizen, whose own conduct had been questionable, had undermined its credibility as well as that of its diplomats in Europe. Adams vociferously attacked the address in letters to correspondents in America and Europe,21 and even wrote to Vergennes defending Lee's integrity, although not his conduct as a Commissioner, and assuring him of the ability of the congress to formulate and articulate a coherent foreign policy.22

No account of John Adams' first diplomatic mission would be complete without recognizing the importance of two of his correspondents in Europe. Edmé Jacques Genet, editor of Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique and chief of the foreign ministry's translators bureau, provided intelligence concerning events on the continent and in England and acted as an unofficial conduit to Vergennes and Sartine for Adams' views on the need to establish French naval superiority in American waters.23 In turn, Adams supplied Genet with letters from his American correspondents for publication in Affaires; he also contributed his own writings, most notably on the status of the British army captured at Saratoga and the suitability of ports in the United States, particularly Boston, as bases for units of the French fleet.24 With Edmund Jenings, formerly of Maryland and London, who was living in Paris in 1779, John Adams began one of the more substantial correspondences in the Adams Papers,25 an exchange that soon took on an intimacy approaching that with James Warren, James Lovell, or xxElbridge Gerry. The two men commented on British policy and discussed Jenings' writings in support of the American cause and Adams' observations on the prospects for peace and the problems he had faced as a Commissioner.

On 17 June, John Adams sailed from Lorient on the French frigate La Sensible, which also carried the Chevalier de La Luzerne and Francois Barbé-Marbois, the new French minister and his secretary. During the six weeks spent at sea, Adams sought to familiarize them with political and social conditions in America and, in general, to promote the smooth functioning of Franco-American relations. He formed a favorable impression of both men and, convinced that they would avoid the mistakes of the previous minister, Conrad Alexandre Gérard, recommended them in letters to the president of the congress and others.26

John Adams reached Braintree on 2 or 3 August, but had little time to recover from his voyage. Almost immediately he was selected as Braintree's representative to the state constitutional convention, and by mid-September he was at work drafting the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, which, although heavily amended, still serves the Commonwealth. It was a task for which he had been preparing throughout his career; no one had been more interested in the efforts of the former colonies to institute new governments, and his own Thoughts on Government, written in early 1776, had had considerable influence on state constitution-making in that year.27 As set down in the constitution that he drafted for Massachusetts, Adams' views regarding the rights of citizens, the organization of a constitution, and the separation of powers extended his influence still further, even to the United States Constitution of 1787.

Adams' draft of the constitution has not been found. Thus the text in Volume 8 is from The Report of a Constitution or Form of Government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Boston, 1779. This is the earliest surviving version of the document approved by the drafting committee for submission to the full convention. Little in Adams' correspondence bears directly on his composition of the text, but the editors have tried to identify his sources and innovations, the committee's changes, and the alterations made by the convention. Adams was proud of his work, and, because the convention was still in session when he sailed for Europe in November, he took copies of the printed xxi Report for distribution and republication to satisfy European curiosity about American constitution-making.

During the three months that he remained in America, the largest and most significant part of John Adams' correspondence was with the president of the congress and with Massachusetts congressmen James Lovell and Elbridge Gerry. Some of the letters dealt with matters of continuing interest to Adams, such as his plan for increased French naval presence in American waters or his opinions of former colleagues. Three subjects were of particular significance: his observations on the current European political situation; the charge of diplomatic misconduct brought against Adams by Ralph Izard that the congress had considered in the spring of 1779; and the machinations necessary to achieve Adams' appointment as minister plenipotentiary to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain.

Adams assessed the European situation in letters to Lovell and Gerry, but his most important letter on the subject was that of 4 August 1779 to the president of the congress. At great length he analyzed the positions of both great and small powers vis-à-vis the Anglo-American war, the opportunities for American diplomatic initiatives, and the prospects for postwar commercial relations. Regarding Great Britain, Adams was very pessimistic about the prospects for recognition of American independence any time soon and predicted a prolonged war that would test American resolve. He saw the Franco-American alliance as the key to victory, but favored additional French assistance together with an increased American determination to see that its interests were served by the alliance. Adams' letter of 4 August closely resembles the intelligence-laden letters that he sent to the congress during his second mission. Against the background of an almost total lack of information received by the congress from its other representatives, it stands out as the most detailed and informative report on conditions in Europe that the congress had yet received from any of its diplomats.

While in France, Adams had received little information about the congress' deliberations on foreign affairs, and the news that he did receive confirmed his opinion that the congress had been inept. Not until June, however, did he learn, and then only from La Luzerne on board La Sensible, of the Spanish offer to mediate the Anglo-French war or the imminent entry of Spain into that war. And it was not until he arrived in America that he found that, at the insistance of France, the congress had been debating the peace terms to be demanded of Great Britain since February. More important from his point of view xxiiwas the news that Ralph Izard, in a letter of 12 September 1778, had accused Adams of threatening him “with the displeasure of Congress” because of his opposition to Articles 11 and 12 of the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce. According to Izard, Adams believed that the congress “would be inattentive to the interests of nine States of America to gratify the eaters and distillers of molasses i.e. New England.”28 The charge stemmed from an exchange, both oral and written, between Adams and Izard over the suitability of various provisions of the Franco-American commercial treaty.29

Upon learning of the accusation, John Adams defended his conduct in letters to James Lovell and Elbridge Gerry and expressed outrage that the congress would take cognizance of Izard's complaint, unsupported as it was by any other evidence. Adding to his anger was what he believed was his friends' failure to defend him adequately when the congress, in March and April 1779, considered Izard's allegation during a general inquiry into the conduct of its representatives in Europe. Lovell and Gerry justified their congressional performance by noting that the peculiar political situation at the time made it impossible to consider the various charges against Franklin, Arthur and William Lee, Ralph Izard, and Silas Deane without also considering the one, minor accusation against Adams. In support of their position both men sent extracts from the Journals and Izard's letter. On first learning of what had transpired, Adams had written to the president of the congress to request all information and documents concerning it so that he might defend himself, but Lovell and Gerry dissuaded him from pursuing his quest for a public vindication, an effort they thought would be fruitless and that might destroy Adams' public career.30

The overriding interest of both Lovell and Gerry in the early fall of 1779 was the appointment of John Adams as minister plenipotentiary to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain. They were anxious for him to accept the post so that the interests of New England would be protected. Both men wrote about the machinations xxiiiinvolved in the appointments of ministers to Spain and for the peace negotiations, especially in view of the fact that the appointment to Spain would supersede Arthur Lee's appointment as a commissioner to that nation. Lovell provided Adams with accounts of the votes taken and the positions of various members of the congress regarding his own appointment, which was approved on 27 September, and even reported the nomination and election of secretaries for the American ministers in Europe, which was also controversial.31 Much to the relief of his two friends, Adams accepted his appointment with little protest. In taking on this new assignment his major concern was with the means by which he and his official secretary, Francis Dana, were to receive their salaries. He wished to have specific authority to draw on Benjamin Franklin for compensation, so that he would have a definite claim to a portion of the limited funds under Franklin's control. This would serve to stabilize Adams' financial situation and to preserve the independence of his mission.32

On 15 November John Adams sailed from Boston, once again on La Sensible, with Francis Dana, his private secretary John Thaxter, and his sons John Quincy, age twelve, and Charles, age nine. Twenty-four days later, with the frigate in danger of sinking, Adams and his party landed at El Ferrol in northwest Spain and soon set out overland for Paris. Several letters describe Adams' preparations for this journey and the arduous trek through mountainous terrain on primitive roads in the middle of winter. But he was not too busy to report on conditions in Spain, the Spanish attitude toward recognizing American independence, prospects for Spanish-American trade, and even the cultural and political makeup of the Basque provinces. His correspondence is a valuable supplement to accounts of the journey in his Diary, and in the diaries of John Quincy Adams and Francis Dana.33

John Adams arrived at Paris on 9 February 1780, and almost immediately he was at odds with Vergennes over the proper way to announce his diplomatic mission. Adams believed that nothing would be lost and perhaps much gained by disclosing the presence of an American minister empowered to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce. Vergennes objected that premature disclosure, particularly of Adams' authority to negotiate an Anglo-American commercial treaty, might xxivindicate a desire for a separate peace and thus a split in the alliance. In February 1780 Adams deferred to Vergennes' judgment, but he did so reluctantly and expressed his misgivings in letters to the president of the congress.

Despite his differences with Vergennes and his lack of any official status in France, Adams was at least as busy during the first month of his second mission as he had been at any time during his first. Even had Vergennes allowed him to announce the mission in detail, Adams was under no illusions that such a disclosure would bring about early negotiations. The prospect of inactivity spurred him to a concerted effort to gather intelligence that would be useful to the congress in its deliberations. He wrote to Edward and Charles Dilly and to Richard Lloyd in London and renewed his correspondence with Edmé Jacques Genet and with Edmund Jenings, who was then at Brussels, to further this objective. As a result, Adams' letters to the president of the congress and to his friends in America contain a wealth of information on events in England and the continent. Of special interest are his reports on the movements of the belligerent fleets and an initially overoptimistic analysis of the probable impact on the British war effort of the volunteer and association movements in Ireland and England respectively.34

Adams' inability to pursue the objectives of his mission directly had a negative side. If he was driven to seek out new sources of intelligence to inform the congress more effectively, he also was led to question whether such activity, in the absence of any prospects for substantive negotiations, justified the expense of keeping him and Francis Dana in Europe.35 More important, although Vergennes had not been elated at Adams' appointment, his opposition to the disclosure of the details of the mission was not as serious, at least in February 1780, as Adams' letters indicated. By emphasizing his conflict with Vergennes, Adams helped create a climate of hostility and suspicion that would ultimately lead to a final rupture between the two men.

Yet, while John Adams faced serious problems at the beginning of his new mission and was quite aware of the many obstacles ahead, he was determined to pursue his vision of the proper course for American policy. Never deviating from his essential optimism, he remained secure in his belief that the “most glorious Cause that ever was undertaken by Men” could not fail to be ultimately victorious.

John Adams and His Letterbooks

“Sense or Nonsense frivolous or weighty, I must copy every line I write, for I know not what Accusations may be brought against me, grounded on my Letters if I do not.”36 Thus did John Adams explain to James Warren his reasons for devoting an immense amount of time to copying his and the Commissioners' letters. During the period from his arrival in France in April 1778 through his departure for the Netherlands in July 1780, coverage of which began in Volume 6 and will be concluded in Volume 9, Adams used seven Letterbooks to record 736 letters. These copies constitute an almost complete record of the Commissioners' correspondence as well as his own, both public and private. Adams' Letterbooks, of which there are 35 in the Adams Papers, have been assigned numbers corresponding roughly to the date on which each began. Those being considered in these volumes are 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,37 10, and 1138; they appear respectively on reels 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 98, and 99 of the Adams Papers, Microfilms. Each Letterbook, with certain exceptions noted below, was devoted to correspondence of a particular nature: public or private, or with particular correspondents, such as the president of the congress or the French ministers. They were for the most part not Letterbooks in the classic sense, for they did not contain many exact copies of letters as sent. In fact, most notably in the Letterbooks kept prior to Adams' departure from America in November 1779 on his second mission to Europe, the texts are largely drafts that were then copied into the form actually sent. Only with Adams' second mission and his hiring of John Thaxter as his personal secretary did the Letterbooks become such in the traditional sense.

Letterbooks 4, 5, and 639 were begun at approximately the same time and for the same purpose: to bring order to the Commissioners' business and provide Adams with a record of his own correspondence. xxviLetterbook 4 begins with the Commissioners' letter to Bersolle of 3 May 1778 and concludes with a letter of 12 February 1779 from Adams to Arthur Lee. It contains 183 letters, most of them clearly drafts and all the product of the Commissioners' business. The presence of copies in the hands of Arthur Lee and William Temple Franklin, as well as numerous emendations by Benjamin Franklin, provide information concerning the functioning of the joint commission and its members' relations with each other. Letterbook 5 is devoted to Adams' personal correspondence; it begins with his letter to William Vernon Jr. of 12 May 1778 and ends with that to Elbridge Gerry of 8 November 1779. It contains 156 letters to friends and acquaintances, as well as to the president of the congress and officials of the French government. The value of this Letterbook is clearly demonstrated by the one period when no drafts or copies of Adams' letters survive, in this book or elsewhere, from early March to mid-May 1779. Although most letters received by Adams during this brief period are extant, the great majority of his replies have been lost. Letterbook 6 contains copies of 43 letters, all in French, received by the Commissioners from Vergennes and Sartine between 15 May 1778 and 9 January 1779. In part this Letterbook may have been an exercise by Adams in learning the French language, but here too in many cases the copies are the only extant versions of the letters.

Adams may have intended Letterbook 7 to be a full record of his letters to members of his family. In fact, however, it contains only 9 letters for the period from 3 June 1778 to 9 February 1779.40 Seven are to his wife, the others to Richard Cranch and Mercy Otis Warren.

Shortly before he sailed for Europe in November 1779, John Adams began Letterbook 8.41 It contains 217 letters, beginning with one of 14 November 1779 to Samuel Cooper and concluding with that of 28 July 1780 to Mark Lynch, a merchant at Nantes. This Letterbook differs from the earlier ones in that, while many of the letters are drafts in Adams' hand, a significant number are by John Thaxter, his secretary, and are true copies. Through 15 February 1780 its content is also determined by the fact that Adams apparently had only one Letterbook at his disposal. It thus contains copies of his letters to friends and associates, as well as to the president of the congress, Vergennes, and Sartine.


On or about 15 February, Adams purchased Letterbooks 10 and 11 from “Furgault,” a “Marchand de Papiers”42 near his quarters in Paris at the Hotel de Valois on the Rue de Richelieu, and set about organizing his correspondence in a more orderly fashion. Letterbook 10 contains 81 letters, numbered serially, to the president of the congress, written between 11 December 1779 and 5 June 1780. When Adams obtained this Letterbook he had John Thaxter copy Letterbook 8's 4 letters to the president into the new Letterbook, thus explaining why there are two copies of them in the Adams Papers. A high proportion of the letters in this Letterbook are in John Thaxter's hand, and there are numerous notations regarding the means by which they were sent to the congress.

Letterbook 11, entitled “Letters to and from the French Ministry,” contains 47 letters. Forty-four are to or from Vergennes and Sartine; 3 are copies of letters to Benjamin Franklin. With the exception of one from Sartine dated 31 December 1779, all were written between 12 February and 29 July 1780. Most of the 31 letters sent by Adams are in his hand and appear to be drafts. The first two letters to Vergennes and Sartine, of 12 and 13 February respectively, were originally written in Letterbook 8, then were copied by Adams into Letterbook 11, thus providing duplicate Letterbook copies of them. Of the 16 letters from Vergennes and Sartine, all were copied in the original French, most by Adams, a few by John Thaxter.

Notes on Editorial Method

The principles that have guided the editors of previous volumes of the Paper of John Adams and which have been set down in earlier “Notes on Editorial Method,” also apply here, but some additions must be noted. The statement regarding selectivity that appeared in the introduction to Volume 5 continues to be the standard for determining what documents will be printed. Volumes 7 and 8 are more selective than Volumes 5 and 6: 724 documents were considered for inclusion; 200 were omitted. In a departure from previous practice, however, the editors have included a list of omitted documents as an Appendix to Volume 8. Because such a list was not part of previous volumes, this Appendix also includes letters and documents omitted xxviiifrom Volumes 1 through 6. Each entry will identify the repository holding the letter or document and, where applicable, its location in a printed source.

John Adams' arrival in Europe in December 1779 to begin his second mission presented the editors with a new problem: the large number of letters written by him to the president of the congress, most of which appear in Francis Wharton's Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution . Although from Adams' arrival at El Ferrol in December 1779 to the end of Volume 8 he wrote only 11 letters to the president of the congress, between 1 March and 31 December 1780 he sent 124. The editors, therefore, thought it appropriate to establish in Volume 8 the procedure to be followed in later volumes. The number of such letters, their inclusion in Wharton's collection, and their character (most consist largely of extracts from printed sources, material taken from letters received by Adams, or comments repeated by him in letters to others) led to the conclusion that it would be inappropriate to print the majority of them. Instead, most will be calendared. This will allow the editors to include information that is not found in Wharton. John Adams' letters to the president of the congress will be printed, however, when the version included by Wharton differs significantly from either the recipient's or Letterbook copy, or when the letter led directly to congressional action, was a request for instructions, or constituted a significant analysis of an important issue not repeated elsewhere. It is unlikely that more than 10 to 15 percent of these letters will be printed.


See also Part 2 of the introduction to Vols. 5 and 6; much of what is said there regarding the first months of JA's tenure as a Commissioner applies with equal force to his final months in that capacity.


See Part 2 of this introduction, “John Adams and his Letterbooks.”


See, for example, letters to the Commissioners from John Gilbank, 4, 16 Nov., 29 Dec. 1778; and 21 Jan. 1779; and from James Smith, Nov. 1778.


To William MacCreery, 7 Sept.; to Thomas Greenleaf, 8 Sept. 1778; and to James Lovell, 3 Jan. 1779. See also the Commissioners' letter to John Gilbank, 10 Nov. 1778.


To Samuel Adams, 7 Dec. 1778. This is one of many letters in which JA called for the appointment of consuls, largely because he did not think Benjamin Franklin qualified to act in that capacity. In a letter to JA of 5 June 1779, Franklin agreed, noting, “I find myself too little acquainted with Mercantile Business,” and urged JA to press the matter on the congress.


Commissioners to Vergennes, ante 20 Dec. 1778 – ante 9 Jan. 1779. The editors have indicated Franklin's emendations to the text.


See, for example, JA's letter to Roger Sherman, 6 Dec. 1778.


To Elbridge Gerry, 5 Dec. 1778, and note 2.


See Dumas to the Commissioners, 4 Sept., and note 2; William Lee to the Commissioners, 17 Sept.; and the Commissioners to William Lee, 22–26 Sept. 1778. A copy of the Lee-Neufville treaty used by JA when he negotiated the Dutch-American commercial treaty of 1782 is in the Adams Papers.


Arthur Lee to JA, 6, 12 Oct.; JA to Arthur Lee, 10 Oct. 1778.


Jonathan Williams to Benjamin Franklin and JA, 31 Jan., and note 1; Arthur Lee to Benjamin Franklin and JA, 7 Feb.; Arthur Lee to Benjamin Franklin and JA, 8 Feb.; Commissioners to Jonathan Williams, 9 Feb., and note 2; JA and Benjamin Franklin to Arthur Lee, 12 Feb. 1779.


Benjamin Franklin and JA to William Temple Franklin, 20, 21 Nov. 1778.


James Warren to JA, 7 Oct. 1778.


Deane's address was published in the Pennsylvania Packet, 5 Dec. 1778; by late January it was being reprinted in London newspapers.


JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:347. In his Diary entries JA was much more critical of Arthur Lee and his associates than he was of Benjamin Franklin. In his Autobiography, written years after the event, the reverse was true.


JA to James Lovell, 3 Jan., 20 Feb. 1779.


To Richard Henry Lee, 13 Feb. 1779.


To James Warren, 25 Feb. 1779.


To Edmund Jenings, 8 June 1779.


JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:345.


See, for example, JA's letter to Samuel Cooper, 28 Feb. 1779.


To Vergennes, 11 Feb. 1779.


Edmé Jacques Genet to JA, 29 Oct., and JA to Genet, 31 Oct. 1778.


JA to Edmé Jacques Genet, post 24 Oct. , ante 30 Dec. 1778.


For the period between 10 March 1779 and 23 June 1784, the Adams Papers Editorial Files contain entries for more than 200 letters.


To the president of the congress, 3 Aug. 1779.


Vol. 4:65–93.


Ralph Izard to the president of the congress, 12 Sept. 1778, Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:710–714.


JA to Ralph Izard, 20, 25 Sept., and 2 Oct.; Izard to JA, 24, 28 Sept., 8 Oct. 1778.


JCC , 13:363–368, 479–487; to Elbridge Gerry, 10 Sept., 17 Oct.; to James Lovell, 10 Sept., 17 Oct.; to the president of the congress, 10 Sept.; from James Lovell, 13 June, 27 Sept.; from Elbridge Gerry, 29 Sept. 1779. JA was also angry with Samuel Adams, who had been a member of the committee that had reported the charges, but as Samuel Adams was in Massachusetts and on the committee to draft the state's new constitution, any complaints that JA may have made to him presumably were delivered orally, for in this period there are no letters between the two men.


From James Lovell, 27, 28 Sept., 1 Oct.; from Elbridge Gerry, 29 Sept., 12 Oct. 1779.


To James Lovell, 25 Oct., 4 Nov., 16 Dec. 1779; and 19 Feb. 1780; to Elbridge Gerry, 4 Nov. 1779; to the president of the congress, 17 Feb. 1780.


To the president of the congress, 16 Dec. 1779, 16 Jan. 1780, calendar entries; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 4:204–206, 230–236; see also the Diary entries in 2:404–434; and JQA, Diary , 1:9–32.


See, for example, his letters to Samuel Adams and Elbridge Gerry, 23 Feb. 1780.


To James Lovell, 4 March 1780 (LbC, Adams Papers).


JA to James Warren, 25 Feb. 1779.


Letterbook 9, Reel 97, of the Adams Papers, Microfilms, is AA's only effort at maintaining a Letterbook and contains copies of 13 letters written between November 1779 and December 1780. For a more complete description, see Adams Family Correspondence , 3:237.


JA used two additional Letterbooks to record accounts. Letterbook 34, Reel 122, contains a record of his personal expenses between 13 Feb. and 28 July 1780 (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:435–442). In Letterbook 35, Reel 123, he recorded the household accounts at Passy after he began keeping them in October 1778. For the accounts from 9 April to 24 Aug. 1778, see vol. 6:16–21; for those from 1 Oct. 1778 to 23 Feb. 1779, see below. This Letterbook was later used by JA to record 353 letters written between 13 Nov. 1816 and 12 Aug. 1819.


For additional information concerning the purchase and use of these Letterbooks, see vol. 6:22, 108, 43.


The remainder of this Letterbook contains copies of 183 letters written by JA between 25 March 1809 and 6 May 1814.


The first twelve pages of Letterbook 8, purchased at Paris during JA's first mission, were used by JQA to record 15 letters to his mother, sister, brothers, and John Thaxter between 29 May 1778 and 20 Feb. 1779.


See the microfilm for the bookplates on the inside of the front cover of both Letterbooks, where Furgault's address is given as “A l'entrée de la rue de Richelieu, près des Quinze-Vingts a hospital for the blind.”