Papers of John Adams, volume 7

Tristram Barnard to the Commissioners

The Commissioners to C. W. F. Dumas

To Arthur Lee, 10 October 1778 JA Lee, Arthur


To Arthur Lee, 10 October 1778 Adams, John Lee, Arthur
To Arthur Lee
Dear Sir Passy Octr 10. 1778

I have sometimes complained, that having no Place appointed for the public Papers, nor any Person to keep them in order, was an Inconvenience and Interruption to the public Business; I have added, that to have the Papers in my Chamber, as they are in disorder, and many Persons going to them at Pleasure, taking out Some, and removing others, was unequal upon me, as making me in a Sort responsible for the order, which I could not preserve, and for Papers themselves which I could not secure: Besides that it occasioned continual Applications to me alone, and necessitated me, to Spend a great Part of my Time, in writing orders, Notes of Hand, Copies of Letters, Passports, and twenty other Things, which ought at all Times to be written by our Clerks; at least as long as it is thought necessary to put the public to the Expence, of keeping so many.

I have not asked Dr. Franklins opinion concerning your Proposal of a Room in your House, for the Papers, and an Hour to meet there; because I knew it would be in vain: for I think it must appear to him as it does to me, more unequal still. It cannot be expected that two should go to one, when it is as easy again for one to go to two: not to mention Dr. Franklins Age, his Rank in the Commission, or his Character in the World: nor that nine tenths of the public Letters, are constantly brought to this House, and will ever be carried where Dr. Franklin is.

I will venture to make a Proposition in my Turn in which I am very 127Sincere. It is, that you would join Familys with Us. There is Room enough in this House to accommodate Us all. You shall take the Appartments which belong to me at present, and I will content myself with the Library Room and the next to it. Appoint a Room for Business, any that you please, mine or another. A Person to keep the Papers, and certain Hours to do Business.

This Arrangement will save a large sum of Money to the Public, and as it would give us a Thousand Opportunities of conversing together1 which now We have not, and by having but one Place for our Countrymen and others to go to, who have occasion to visit Us, would greatly facilitate the public Business. It would remove the Reproach We lye under, of which I conf ess myself very much ashamed, of not being able to agree together, and will render the Commission more respectable, if not in itself, yet in the Eyes of the English the French and the American Nations,2 and I am Sure, if we judge by the Letters We receive, it wants to be made more respectable, at least in the Eyes of many Persons of the Latter.

If it is any objection to this, that We live here, at no Rent, I will agree with you in fixing the Rent or leave the House.

As I Suppose the Proposal I made of appointing Mr. W. T. Franklin to take the Care of the Papers, occasioned your Letter of the sixth Instant, I cannot conclude this Answer to it, without repeating that Proposal. This Appointment can be but temporary, as a secretary will probably arrive from Congress, e'er long.

But in the mean Time Mr. Franklin, who keeps Papers in good order, and writes very well, may be of more service to Us than he is at present. We shall then have a Right to call upon him to do Business, and We shall know what situation he is in, and what reward he is to have.

I3 agree perfectly with you, that an Hour should be fixed for Business and I beg Leave to propose Nine O Clock in the Morning, to which Hour and from thence to any other Hour in the Day, you please, I will endeavour to be punctual. If you have any Objection to this Hour, you will be so good as to name another. I am, dear sir, with an earnest Desire and a Settled4 Determination to cultivate an Harmony, nay more a Friendship,5 with both my Colleagues,6 as far as I can consistently with the public service, and with great Respect and Esteem, your Friend and Colleague

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers). LbC (Adams Papers). Where damage to the right margin has resulted in the loss of letters and words, these have been supplied from the Letterbook and are placed in brackets. This was one of 128twelve letters written by JA, from this date through 6 Sept. 1785, that were sent to JQA by Richard Henry Lee, Arthur Lee's grandnephew, who had used them in preparing his Life of Arthur Lee, LL.D. (2 vols., Boston, 1829). JQA received the letters, and an additional one from Arthur Lee to JA written in 1788, in 1827 and 1828. In April 1837, as JQA was organizing his papers, he reread them and was deeply affected by the memories they evoked. In his Diary he wrote: “I now read them all, and they took me back a full half century, and more; even to the days of my boyhood. The Letters written at different times mark each the feelings and the interests of a different epoch.” JQA, then nearly seventy, continued: “there is a character of romantic wildness about the memory of my travels in Europe, from 1778 to 1785, which gives to it a tinge, as if it was the recollection of something in another world. Life was new—everything was surprizing—everything carried with it a deep interest” (JQA, Diary, 26 April 1837, Memoirs, 9:352–353).


In the Letterbook copy this word was followed by “upon the pub,” which has been canceled.


In the Letterbook this passage, from the preceding comma, reads: “yet in the Eyes both of the English Nation the French Nation, and above all the American Nation.”


In the Letterbook this paragraph began: “But whether you approve of these Ideas, or not.”


In the Letterbook JA substituted “Settled” for “fixed.”


In the Letterbook “Friendship” was originally followed by “between,” which was canceled.


In the Letterbook the following ten words were interlined for insertion. In that passage “my duty” originally followed “consistent with,” but was canceled.