Papers of John Adams, volume 8

To the President of the Congress, No. 8

To Bidé de Chavagnes

To James Warren, 23 February 1780 JA Warren, James To James Warren, 23 February 1780 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Dear Sir Paris Feby. 23d. 1780

The French Court seem to be now every day more and more convinced of the good Policy, and indeed the Necessity of prosecuting the War with Vigour in the American Seas. They have been and are making great Preparations accordingly, and are determined to maintain a clear Superiority.

M. de la Motte Piquet has with him, the Hannibal, the Magnifique, the Diadem, the Dauphin Royal, the Artesien, the Reflechi, and the Vengeur, and if M. de Grace Grasse has joined him from Chesapeak Bay, the Robuste, the Fendant and the Sphinx, in all ten Ships of the Line.

M. de Guichen is gone to join him, with the Couronne, eighty Guns, the Triomphant, eighty, the Palmier, seventy four, the Victoire, the Destin, the Conquerant: the Citoyen, the Intrepide, the Hercule, the Souverain, all of seventy four—the Jason, the Actionaire, the Caton, the Julien, the Solitaire, the St. Michel, the Triton, all of sixty four. The Frigates the Medee, Courageuse, Gentille and the Charmante all of thirty two. He had above an hundred Sail of Vessels under his Convoy, and the Regiments of Touraine and Enghien, of more than thirteen hundred Men each, and the second Battalion of Royal Comtois and of Walsh of seven hundred men each—making in the whole more than four thousand Troops. Besides these, there are seven more preparing at Brest to sail.1

Messrs. Gerard, Jay and Charmichael are arrived at Cadiz in a French Frigate—the Confederacy having been dismasted and driven to Martinique. The Alliance carries this with Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard, who will no doubt be treated with all Respect at Boston.


Notwithstanding the Commotions in England and Ireland, the Success of Prevost at Savannah, and of Rodney off Gibralter, and even the silly Story of Omoa in South America, is enough to embolden the Ministry to go on with a Debt of two hundred Millions already contracted, to borrow twelve or fourteen Millions a Year in the Beginning of a War with France and Spain—each having a greater Navy than they ever had, each discovering a greater fighting Spirit than they ever did before,2 and obliging the English to purchase every Advantage at a dear Rate.

The Premiums and Bounties, that they are obliged to give to raise Men, both for the Service by Sea and Land, and the Interest of Money they borrow, are greater than were ever given in any former Wars, even in the last Year of the last War. This cannot always last, nor indeed long. Yet I dont expect to see Peace very soon.

I have sent a Trunk to the Care of the Navy Board, for my dear Mrs. A., in which is something for Mrs. W. Pray write me as often as possible, and send the News papers to me.

Your Friend and Servant John Adams

RC in John Thaxter's hand (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.); docketed: “Mr J Adams Lettr Feby. 1780.” LbC (Adams Papers).


JA's information regarding the naval force available to the French in the West Indies, as well as the ships and troops convoyed by Guichen to Martinique, is substantially correct. With the exception of the ships of the line Hannibal, Diadem, Dauphin Royal, Reflechi, Conquerant, Jason, and Julien and the frigate Charmante, all of the vessels named participated in the battle against Rodney's fleet off Martinique on 17 April. The four ships of the line under La Motte-Piquet that were not available for the battle had left Martinique before Guichen's arrival to escort to St. Domingo merchant ships returning to France. The absence of La Motte-Piquet and his ships on the 17th may have denied Guichen a decisive victory, for their presence would have given Guichen a margin of 26 ships of the line to 20 for Rodney (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, London, 1926, p. 441–442; Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 187–188).


In the Letterbook copy, a draft, JA wrote: “each discovering a fighting Spirit, which they never did before,” and then altered it to the text given here.