Papers of John Adams, volume 11

From Winslow Warren

From Benjamin Franklin

John Thaxter to Benjamin Franklin, 30 August 1781 Thaxter, John Franklin, Benjamin John Thaxter to Benjamin Franklin, 30 August 1781 Thaxter, John Franklin, Benjamin
John Thaxter to Benjamin Franklin
Sir Amsterdam August 30th. 1781 1

I have the honor to acquaint your Excellency, that Mr. Adams has been much indisposed for three weeks past with the fever of this Country, and is now so ill with it as to be confined to his Bed, and unable to write. In a few days however it is probable that the Violence of the Fever will abate. In the meantime, he has desired me to advise your Excellency that he has recieved Information, that the British Government are endeavouring to make secret Contracts by their 473Agents with the Americans for Masts, Yards and Bowsprits, of which they are in want, and for which they offer very great Prices.2

He submits it to your Excellency's Consideration, whether it would not be proper to consult the French Court on this Occasion to know whether they would have any Objection to Congress laying an Embargo on the Exportation of those Articles. Mr. Adams is of opinion, that if an Exportation of them is permitted, those Agents will find methods to accomplish their End, and give effectual Aid to the British Marine at this Juncture.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your Excellency's most obedient and most humble Servant

John Thaxter

RC (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 18:175); endorsed: “30 aout 1781.”


This is the first of four extant letters that John Thaxter wrote on behalf of JA during his illness. The others are of 10 and 24 Sept. to C. W. F. Dumas and 19 Sept. to Joseph Reed, all below. For an indication that there may have been others, now lost, see the letters of 6 and 17 Sept. from Jean Luzac and Edmund Jenings respectively, both below.


JA's source of information is unknown. Franklin did send the letter to Vergennes, thus explaining its presence in the French archives. For Franklin's views on the matter, see Franklin, Papers , 35:566–567; 36:24. JA communicated the information to Congress in a letter of 4 Dec. (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:36–38), but there is no indication that any action was taken.