Papers of John Adams, volume 9

From James Lovell, 4 May 1780 Lovell, James JA From James Lovell, 4 May 1780 Lovell, James Adams, John
From James Lovell
Dear Sir May 4 1780

The Bearer Mr. Mease is Brother to the late Cloathier General and is intimately connected with an Irish Gentleman here for whom I have great Regard as a zealous Republican and Friend to America.1 It is more on Account of that Connection with my Friend than of any personal Acquaintance that I have been led to introduce Mr. Mease to your Civilities. His Care of sundry Pacquets for you would indeed alone have been sufficient to merit your Attention.

I chiefly rely on them and his Conversation to what ought to be the Task of the Committee of foreign Affairs if that Committee was 271 image not a mere Shadow without a Quorum a Secretary or Clerk. I send regularly to Mrs. Adams the News Papers and Journals for you that she may not be without some Informations of that kind herself during your Absence. She sends them to the Navy Board, doubtless with the Addition of Something still more agreable to you individually considered.

This Testimony of my affectionate Remembrance of You will reach your Hand at all Events as I mean it to be useful to Mr. Mease whatever may be his Lot as to a safe Passage.

If you receive any Thing from me in Cyphers it will be upon the same Mode as that which I have communicated to Doctr. Franklin and which will serve great Numbers with equal safety. It is the Alphabet squared as on the other Side and the key Letters are the two first of the Surname of the Family where you and I spent the Evening together before we sat out from your House on our Way to Baltimore.2

Your affectionate humble Servant James Lovell

All your Letters from Spain came safely. Give my Love to your Family, to Mr. Dana in particular and tell him I imagine all his came safely too though no Body at Philada. knows any thing about them.

1 a b c
2 b c d
3 c d e
4 d e f
5 e
6 f
7 g
8 h
9 i
10 j
11 k
12 l
13 m
14 n
15 o
16 p
17 q
18 r
19 s
20 t
21 u
22 v
23 w
24 x
25 y
26 z
27 &

Make use of any of the perpendicular columns according to your key Letters. You may reply to me by the use of any new ones. For Instance you may refer to the 2 3 4 &c. Letters of a Word 1st. 2d. 3d. 4th. &c. in a Paragraph of any one of your Letters of such an such a date known to have been received by me, or you may say “reverse the Letters you have chosen,” or “add one more to those you have used,” or by any such like Direction you may give me the Key of your Answer.

I will give you a Specimen as follows. You submitted your Accounts with a Confession of your arithmetical Antipathies in that particular Line, and a Supposition of Errors. The Chamber of Accounts reported specially, not being in Capacity to judge of the Propriety of the Charges. Their Report was committed and the Result was from Mr. Forbes Mr. 272Mathews and Mr. Houston such as I imagine you yourself would have determined, on a like Committee! to you.3

“That they do not find any Vote or Proceeding of Congress, nor are they informed of any general or received Custom on which the Charge of Monies for the education of the son of the Accomptant can be admitted; and though the same is inconsiderable, they are of Opinion it ought to be rejected, that a precedent be not established.

That they are of opinion the Charge for books ought to be admitted on the ground of a practice which has obtained in different Nations respecting their public ministers and which is mentioned by Mr. Adams in the Explanations attending his Vouchers.

That they find the several Charges in the said accounts conformable to the strictest principles of Oeconomy, and that, as far as Mr. Adams has been intrusted with public money the same has been carefully and frugally expended.”

Congress agreed to the said Report.

Bal. due 2511.12. 6.4

You ought to use Cyphers in your public Letters but you should communicate your Key to Mr. Thompson to serve in my Absence.5

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Lovel. 4 May ansd. 24 June 1780 a Cypher. My Accounts &c.”


This was Robert Mease, brother of James Mease, the clothier general from early 1777 until his resignation in Sept. 1778 (vol. 5:374; JCC , 12:937). The “Irish Gentleman” was Dr. Hugh Shiell. According to Elbridge Gerry's letter of 5 May (Adams Papers), Mease was involved in the plan of Shiell and others to bring their property to America from Ireland.


Lovell's cipher consisted of an alphabetical square composed of 27 columns and 27 numbered rows, the 27th character being the ampersand. To encipher a letter one would take letters from a key word, and read down the corresponding columns to the desired letter and substitute the number of the row for the letter. In JA's case, since he and Lovell had stayed with the Richard Cranch family on their way to Baltimore in 1777, the letters were “C” and “R” from the key word “CRANCH.” According to Lovell's instructions, JA would first read down the “C” column to encipher the first letter of a passage and then read down the “R” column to encipher the second letter. He would then alternate between the “C” and the “R” columns until the encipherment of the passage was completed. Each new passage would begin with the “C” column. To decipher a passage the process was reversed.

Lovell's cipher was not in itself complex, but his explanation did much to make it so. Had he been satisfied to explain the system just as it was sent to JA, it seems likely that JA would have understood the process. By indicating variations in the system, such as using different letters from the key word; the possibility of devising a new key word; and failing to note that numbers higher than 27 were blinds; Lovell managed only to confuse, a confusion magnified by Lovell's own tendency to make errors when he used the cipher. In any event, JA's replies of 24 June (below) indicated that neither he nor Franklin, who had also received a copy of the cipher in a letter of this same date ( Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 2:245), could understand Lovell's system. The reproduction of JA's flawed key to the cipher and a more detailed explanation of the Lovell cipher are in Adams Family Correspondence , 4:viii, 188, 393–399. The first extant letter to JA in which Lovell used his cipher was that of 14 Dec. (below).

273 3.

JA submitted his accounts to the Board of Treasury under a covering letter of 19 Sept. 1779 (vol. 8:154). The committee that considered the accounts reported on 15 Dec. 1779 and its report was adopted on 15 April 1780 ( JCC , 15:1363–1364; 16:368–369). Except for minor differences, Lovell quotes the report exactly.


This figure was inserted by Lovell, it was not in the report. It is derived from subtracting the expenditure of 1,861 livres 1s for JQA's education from 4,372 livres 13s 6d, the balance due JA before the deduction. For the audit of JA's accounts, see Lovell's letter to AA of 14 May ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:343–346). AA ultimately received the money in September (same, 3:415–416).


This sentence was written in the left margin.

To Francis Bowens, 5 May 1780 Bowens, Francis JA To Francis Bowens, 5 May 1780 Bowens, Francis Adams, John
To Francis Bowens
Sir Paris Hotel de Valois Ruë de Richelieu May 5. 1780

A Gentleman in London,1 who corresponds with you sometimes, writes me, 28 April that he had, a few days before Sent to your Care, a Box marked A, containing a few Pamphlets and Newspapers, for me, with a desire that you would forward it on to me in the manner you should think Safest, and that you would hereafter attend to any other Parcell that he may send in the Same Way.

I am not well acquainted with the Usages and Regulations in France, or in Ostend which may obstruct or embarrass this Channell of Communication. But in the first Place I shall order nothing of a religious or irreligious nature, which might allarm the Church, or militate against any Regulations which there may be against irreligious or heretical Writings. They will be merely Newspapers and Pamphlets relating to the present State of public Affairs, and the Course and Tendency of the present War.

I should esteem it as a favour, sir, if you would inform me, what is the best Channel of Conveyance from you to me, and in Case I should have any Papers or Pamphlets to send to the same Gentleman in London from me to you—and whether there is any thing for me to do, or to pay, and what it may be to facilitate a Communication of this Nature. I should be glad also to know, by what Conveyance you sent the Packet marked A, and when I may expect it. I am, sir, with Respect, your most obedient servant

LbC (Adams Papers).


Thomas Digges.

From Elbridge Gerry, 5 May 1780 Gerry, Elbridge JA From Elbridge Gerry, 5 May 1780 Gerry, Elbridge Adams, John
From Elbridge Gerry
My dear sir Philadelphia 5th May 1780

It gave me great Pleasure to learn by Your Letter of the 11th. Decr.1 274that You had safely arrived, and had met with so agreable a Reception in Spain: and I hope soon to have the Satisfaction of hearing from You at Paris.

Mr. Lovell informs me that he shall transmit You the Journals of Congress and News Papers by the latter of which You will perceive that the Enemy have invested Charlestown, and that it is defended by General Lincoln with about four or five thousand Men, the greatest part whereof are continental Troops. General DeKalb with the whole of the Maryland Corps, consisting as I am informed of between two and three thousand Men, is ordered to Charlestown from the main Army, and has by this Time probably crossed the Cheesapeak: Reinforcements of Militia are also on the March from Virginia and North Carolina, all of which should Charlestown hold out about a Month or five Week's must I think make a formidable Army, in the rear of the Enemy. The Garrison by the best Accounts are supplied with five or six Months provission, and have a sufficiency of military Stores; and altho the General in his publick Letters is exceedingly modest and confines himself to States of Facts, yet in one of his private confidential Letters he expresses his Hopes and Expectations of being able to defend the City, or of making the Acquisition expensive to the Enemy.2

The Resolutions of Congress for calling in and cancelling the two hundred Million of Dollars emitted by them, have in general been well received.3 The Depreciation is stopd, and Specie, which before the passing of the Resolves was sold for upwards of 70 for 1, is now current at 60 and has been lately @ 55. The Advantage of this Plan will be great to the Landholders, inasmuch as the national Debt including Certificates and foreign Demands does not now much exceed five Million sterling, which is but a trifling Sum compared with the two hundred Millions sterling due from G Britain. Another Benefit resulting from it, is a Supply of five Million Dollars of the new Emission, every Dollar of which is equal to 40 Dollars of the old Emission; indeed this must be called in before that can be realized, nevertheless, there is a greater Demand amongst all Ranks for continental Money, than there has been since the Commencement of the War, and Specie is no longer hoarded by the disaffected or timid. So much for the Value and Stability of the Medium. With Respect to our Resources Congress are at present much in Want of Money, and it is a happy Circumstance; for, their Oeconomy is in proportion to their Wants. The Demands on the Treasury are generally answered by Warrants on the several States which are careful by some Means 275or other to discharge the Draughts. The Taxes are indeed very heavy, but the Collection goes on, and I doubt not that the Army will be well fed and paid. Military Stores of Cloathing must however be procured on Credit in Europe, as well as a considerable loan to serve as a Fund for drawing in Case of Necessity. Since the Treasury, Admiralty, and Court of Appeals have been put in Commission, Congress have not been troubled much with their respective Concerns, and for several Days past have adjourned before the usual Time from a Want of Business.

Trade and privateering are brisk, and there is aplenty of Goods of every Kind (excepting military),4 but no Money to purchase them. This is easily accounted for, since the whole Sum in Circulation as Congress have fixed it, is only five Million Dollars, and these are not one third of what are necessary for a Medium for the several States. Our privateers and Commerce have nevertheless lately suffered much by the Cruisers of the Enemy, who have the entire Command of the Coast. It is much to be wished that the Court of France would order a squadron superior to the Enemy to be stationed in some part of the united States, as the best and only Means of putting a speedy End to the War. It is almost impossible to conceive the Havock that our privateers made of the Enemy's Cruisers and Transports during the Time that the Count D'Estaign was at Rhode Island and Charlestown, but our Losses at present nearly equal our Captures. Indeed that worthy Officer aware of those and other Advantages5 ordered the Count de Gras to be stationed at the Cheesapeak, but his plan was defeated by the Tempestuousness of the Weather: had the latter arrived with his squadron, Charlestown could not have been beseiged and three or four of our Frigates which are now in Ashley River and will probably be destroyed, would have been employed in intercepting the Enemy's Transports.

We have had a very severe Winter and backward Spring, but the prospects are not unfavorable.

I had forgot to mention a Resolution of Congress to pay off the Continental Certificates according to the Value of Money at the Time of their being respectively issued. This is but Justice, and will undoubtedly be satisfactory to Foreigners.6

Bills of Exchange are now at 45 for one, and will be higher, in Consequence of the great Risque of sending Vessels from the eastern States to the southern for produce.

I have had the pleasure of a Line from Portia,7 whose Sentiments are sufficient proof of a Mens sana in Corpore sano.8 Poor Don Juan 276de Merailles lately died at Camp, on a Visit with the Minister of France to General Washington.9 I have many Things more to say to You but the Vessel is to sail immediately and I have scarcely Time to send my sincere Regards to brother Dana or to assure You that I remain sir with every Sentiment of Esteem & Respect Your affectionate Friend

E Gerry

Mr Lovell will give You the necessary Information respecting your Accounts.10 The recruiting goes on, and it will be less difficult to find Men than to pay and subsist them.

RC (Adams Papers).


Vol. 8:294–295.


Charleston fell on 12 May. For an account of the siege, see Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789, N.Y., 1982, p. 441–449.


See Benjamin Rush's letter of 28 April, note 4 (above).


Gerry interlined “(excepting military).”


The preceding three words were interlined.


The resolution was adopted on 18 April and proceeded from Congress' consideration of a report on the redemption of loan office certificates presented on 25 March. The means by which the resolution was to be implemented were not adopted until 28 June ( JCC , 16:374–375, 287–288; 17:566–569).


AA to Gerry, 13 March ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:297–300).


A healthy mind in a healthy body.


Don Juan de Miralles, a Cuban merchant, served as the unofficial Spanish representative in America from early 1778 until his death at Washington's camp on 28 April (Bemis, Diplomacy of the Amer. Revolution , p. 88).


See James Lovell's letter of 4 May, and note 3 (above).