Papers of John Adams, volume 11

From Jean de Neufville & Fils

From William McCarty

From James Lovell, 15 March 1781 Lovell, James JA


From James Lovell, 15 March 1781 Lovell, James Adams, John
From James Lovell
Confidential Dear Sir ca. 15 March 1781 1

I wrote you a few days ago the Impromptú. I send much the same Papers now as then.2

Beg if the others have not arrived before this reaches you, that you will order Copies of the Resolves3 to be taken for your own and Mr. Danas Information. For really, Sir I cannot attend in Congress and on Committees, and have my Chamber continually full of Petitioners or Idlers, and yet without even a Boy-Clerk or one of the members of the standing Committee of for. Affairs present, embrace the Opportunities which occur of giving you Information, and which Opportunities are not subservient to the lethargic modes of C——ss.

Some Goods by Jones have come to hand damaged as you may well suppose. I hope they are in Quantity according to their Invoices which I have not seen at any Time. I spent Nights in wiping, drying and repacking if they may be said to have been packed, but I verily believe you put them up yourself. The Case was so far from full that I wonder the Articles were not rubbed to Ruin. However, after all these Snarls, the Damage will be much less than you will conjecture. I have forwarded Mrs. A's small Articles chiefly already and will continue my Care of the whole.4 I have acted the Will. Wimble5 for Madam and Co., Mr. Gerry and Mr. Peabody who were in need of it—Mr. G. is by far worst off.

I sent you, and will again send Copies of 2 fr: Letters and an Extract of one English to be contemplated as Snake-Rattles, tho they were not used, I believe, in a generous Way of Warning, which your old Blue-Hill-neighbours were in the Practice of. I do not think you can with Propriety make other Use of them than what I have above named, because I send them not officially; and I think it would be not proper so to send them.6


I imagine you will think my Sentiment about the Timeliness of the Ratification are just,7 for you know thoroughly the late lying Conduct of the Br: Ministry and ministerial Writers.

Congress did not take a measure, on the Resolutions upon the late Transmission of your Correspondence; But Decency demands of the Committee what I have done to Inform the Parties. As you are not to be answered I presume you show no Forwardness to write. The Information goes better as I send it.

Connecticut has already given us the Power of laying and collecting an Impost of 5 pr. Ct. as a Fund for Payment of Interest and other Debts. I have no Doubt the Rest of the States will as readily come into the Measure, and that it will be followed by other Powers which we shall call for on the same Principles as we did for that; so that Congress will be evidently and substantially in Condition to borrow differently from former Practice which was Faith alone. Money Holders being accustomed to something more solid than that is reconed to be.

I have not lately had a Line from Mrs. A but shall doubtless have in two days. If this Vessel does not sail before I will add.

Yr. affectte: JL

You have not confidentially said any thing of Monsr. D– “Concordia.”8

RC and enclosures (Adams Papers). addressed: “Hon John Adams Minister Plenipoy. now in Holland”; endorsed: “Confidential Letter.” This letter was originally filmed at 1783 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 362). Lovell sent a number of enclosures, but only four extant documents in the Adams Papers can be identified with confidence as having been among them. For those documents see notes 6 and 8. For other documents that may have been enclosed, see note 3.


This date derives from the arrival at Congress on 15 March of Connecticut's legislation empowering Congress to lay an impost, which is mentioned in the second to last paragraph of this letter ( JCC , 19:262).


Neither the letter nor its enclosures, which Lovell apparently sent on board the privateer brigantine Impromptu (PCC, No. 196, VIII, f. 34), have been found. The letter, however, was likely dated 9 March, the same day on which Lovell wrote to Benjamin Franklin and John Jay (Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates , 17:43–44).


Among the resolves that Lovell likely enclosed with this letter were those of 12 Dec. 1780, commending JA for his representations on behalf of Congress' revaluation of the currency; 10 Jan. 1781, cautioning him about communicating his plenipotentiary powers to the British ministry; and 1 March, proclaiming that the ratification of the Articles of Confederation was complete ( JCC , 18:1147; 19:41–42, 213–214). Lovell mentioned the first two in his letter to Franklin of 9 March and the third in his letter to Jay of the same date.


JA entrusted a trunk to John Paul Jones in Feb. 1780, prior to Jones' displacement as captain of the frigate Alliance. It arrived in Philadelphia aboard Jones' new command, the Ariel. For the trunk's much delayed passage, see JA's letters of 22 Feb. and 6 March 1780 to Jones and James Moylan respectively, and references there (vol. 8:350; 9:22). For its arrival and Lovell's efforts to forward the goods to AA and others, see John Paul Jones' letter of 10 Dec. (Adams Papers), and Adams Family Correspondence , 4:81–83, 85–86, 88, 102–103, 107, 114–115.

204 5.

A character in the Spectator who was revered for the services he rendered to others.


The French letters, for which translations were included, were those of 30 June and 31 July 1780 from the Comte de Vergennes to Benjamin Franklin. The English letter was an extract from Franklin's letter of 9 Aug. 1780 to the president of Congress (Franklin, Papers , 32:625– 627; 33:160–166; translations of Vergennes' letters are in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:827; 4:18–19). Vergennes' first letter reflected his concern over JA's spirited support for Congress' revaluation of its currency on 18 March 1780, while the second resulted from his apprehensions over JA's proposals to execute his mission to negotiate Anglo-American peace and commercial treaties. In both letters he asked Franklin to write to Congress in support of the French position. In his letter to Congress, which was probably not sent until sometime in Oct. 1780, Franklin wrote that JA thought that more “Stoutness and a greater Air of Independence and Boldness in our Demands, will procure us more ample Assistance.” For an examination of the events that produced the three letters, see vol. 9:427–430, 516–520; 10:258–260.


Lovell probably commented on the ratification of the Articles of Confederation in his letter to JA of 9 March, not found. Writing to John Jay on that date, Lovell indicated that the ratification “appears now like all the other Circumstances of our Rise and Growth: For the present is really the best of all Times for that particular Event. Our Enemies have been ripening themselves for this capital Mentitis” (Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates , 17:44).


In his letter of 14 Dec. 1780, Lovell requested information about Dumas, who often used the code name Concordia in correspondence with Congress (Weber, Codes and Ciphers , p. 24–25; vol. 10:411–413). Lovell also referred to Dumas as Concordia in an undated list of letters received by Congress between 16 Jan. and 22 Feb. that was probably enclosed with this letter (filmed at [1782–1783], Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 359). JA mentions both the list and Lovell's letter of ca. 15 March in his letter of 26 May to Dumas, below.