Papers of John Adams, volume 11

From Benjamin Franklin, 29 April 1781 Franklin, Benjamin JA


From Benjamin Franklin, 29 April 1781 Franklin, Benjamin Adams, John
From Benjamin Franklin
Sir Passy April 29th. 1781

I received the Letter you honour'd me with of the 16th. Instant. I had written to you on the 21st. which I hope you have received, that I would accept and pay your Bills, only desiring you to furnish me a List of them with the Times of their becoming due, and that you would draw, not for the whole at once, but for the Sums as wanted, and thro' the House of Fitzeaux & Grand. Since the receipt of your last, I have taken Measures to be ready for the Payment of your 66 Bills due the middle of May for 10,000 £ sterg. We have obtained the Promise of 20 Millions Aid for the current Year, so that not only the Bills above mentioned will be regularly paid, but such others as you may draw on me at the Request of Col. Lawrens, to get the Indien out and compleat her Lading. But as this Sum will be swallow'd in the Bills already drawn by Congress, and the Supplies going out, it is still necessary to entreat them not to continue that distressing Practice.1

I inclose you Extracts of two Letters ministerial found in the same Pacquet with the former, written in the fond Belief that the States were on the Point of submitting, and cautioning the Commissioners for Peace not to promise too much respecting the future Constitutions.2 They are indeed cautiously worded, but easily understood when explained by two Court Maxims or Assertions, the one of Lord Granville's late President of the Council, that the King is the Legislator of the Colonies; the other of the present Chancellor3 when in the House of Commons, that the Quebec Constitution was the only proper Constitution for Colonies, ought to have been given to them all when first planted, and what all ought now to be reduced to. We may hence see the Danger of listning to any of their deceitful Propositions, tho' piqu'd by the Negligence of some of those European Powers who will be much benefited by our Revolution. I have the Honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

This will be handed to you by Major Jackson a worthy Officer in 299the Service of the States, whom I beg leave to recommend to your Civilities.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “His Exy. Dr Franklin April 29. 1781. ansd. May 8. 1781.”


See John Laurens' letter of 28 April, and note 3, above.


For the letters taken when the Falmouth-New York packet Anna Theresa was captured, see Franklin's letter of 7 April, note 1, above. Franklin's enclosures have not been found, but they were likely letters of 7 March from Lord George Germain to the British Peace Commission headed by Sir Henry Clinton and from William Knox, undersecretary of the American Department, to James Simpson, the royal attorney general of South Carolina. Germain observed that “the narrow limits to which you have reduced your exceptions, and the generality of the assurances you have given of a restoration of the former constitutions, were, I doubt not, well considered and judged necessary and expedient; but as there are many things in the constitutions of some of the colonies, and some things in all, which the people have always wished to be altered, and others which the common advantage of both countries required to be changed, it is necessary to be attentive that either your acts or declarations preclude any disquisition of such subjects, or prevent such alterations being made in their constitutions, as the people may solicit or consent to.” Knox warned that “there is a great probability of a negociation being solicited by the inhabitants of the revolted provinces, if not by the Congress; and ... as you have so full a knowledge of the republican disposition of the Americans, and their aversion to monarchy, I doubt not that you will be able to prevail with the Commissioners not to make any concessions which may have a tendency to confirm them in those principles, and prevent any amendment of their constitutions, for the purpose of creating distinctions of ranks, and to draw them nearer to the model of the British government, which must certainly be more beneficial to the people, as it will strengthen their connection with this country, and prevent the return of the like calamities as they now suffer” (PCC, No. 51, I, f. 813–818).


Edward Thurlow.