Papers of John Adams, volume 11

Enclosure: John Adams’ Memorandum, 7 July 1781 JA


Enclosure: John Adams’ Memorandum, 7 July 1781 Adams, John
Enclosure: John Adams' Memorandum

This Letter I sent by My Servant, who, waited, untill the Comte descended from the Council, when he delivered it, into his Hand. He broke the Seal read the Letter and Said “He was Sorry, he could not See Mr. Adams but he was obliged to go into the Country, immediately after dinner but that Mr. Adams, Seroit dans le Cas de voir Mr. De Raineval who lived at Such a Sign,1 in the Ruë St. Honore.” After Dinner I called on Mr. Rayneval,—Who Said M. le Duke de la Vauguion has informed you, that there is a Question of a Pacification, under the Mediation of the Emperor, of Germany and the Empress of Russia, and it was necessary that I Should have Some Consultations, at Leisure, (a Loisir) with the Comte de Vergennes, that We might understand each others Views. That he would See the Comte tomorrow Morning and write me, when he would meet me. That they, had not changed their Principles, nor their System: that the Treaties, were the foundation of all Negotiation.

I Said, I lodged, at the Hotel de Valois, where I did formerly, that I should be ready to wait on the Comte when it would be agreable to him, and to confer with him, upon every Thing relative to any Propositions, which the English might have made. He Said the English had not made any Propositions, but, it was necessary to consider certain Points, and make certain preparatory arrangements, 406to know whether We were, British subjects, or in what light We were to be considered.2 I Said I was not a British subject: that I had renounced that Character many years ago forever: and that I should rather be a fugitive in China or Malebar, than ever reassume that Character.3 He repeated that he would see the Comte in the Morning and write me, where he would meet me.4

The content of all or some notes that appeared on this page in the printed volume has been moved to the end of the preceding document.

RC (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 17:304); endorsed: “M. adams il fait part Son arrivée à Paris.” LbC's (Adams Papers). JA made two Letterbook copies of his letter to Vergennes and inserted at the bottom of each the memorandum printed here. The first Letterbook copy is written on a sheet of paper and tipped into Lb/JA/16 between pages 166 and 167 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 104). The second Letterbook copy is the first entry in Lb/JA/17 (same, Reel No. 105). It is likely that JA did not bring a Letterbook to Paris and therefore copied the letters on a sheet of paper until he could procure a new one. On the assumption that it was done first, the text of the memorandum printed here is from the first Letterbook copy. Significant differences between it and the second copy are indicated in the notes. In 1809, when JA printed his letter to Vergennes and his memorandum in the Boston Patriot, he took his text from the second Letterbook copy (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot , p. 107–108).


In the second Letterbook copy the remainder of this sentence reads “in such a Street.”


At this point in the second Letterbook copy JA wrote “&c. Smiling.”


Few statements could have caused JA more anxiety than Rayneval's suggestion that Americans might consider themselves British subjects rather than citizens of the U.S. JA's apprehensions likely were compounded when he received the Austro-Russian proposal for Anglo-American peace negotiations ( 11 July , below) at his meeting with Vergennes on 11 July. The first article referred to “grande Bretagne, et les Colonies américaines.” It was one thing for Austria and Russia, who had not recognized the new nation as sovereign and independent, to refer to the U.S. as colonies. It was quite another for a French official even to imply that Americans might still be considered British subjects. To do so would call into question the Franco-American treaties because by definition a treaty can only exist between sovereign states. Moreover, it might indicate that France was seriously considering the British demand that it dissolve its treaties with the American colonies prior to any negotiations. JA's response to the proposals for peace negotiations understandably focused on the status of the U.S. at any such meeting (to Vergennes, 13 July, below). For JA's later observations on this issue, see Vergennes' letter of 18 July, descriptive note, and JA's letters to Vergennes of the 19th and 21st, all below.


This final sentence does not appear in the second Letterbook copy.