Papers of John Adams, volume 11

From William Lee, 31 January 1781 Lee, William JA From William Lee, 31 January 1781 Lee, William Adams, John
From William Lee
Bruxelles 31 Jany. 1781 Dear Sir

I had the Honor of writing to you the 28th. but omitted answering your Quere about the Southern States determining to embody Ne- 94 image 95 groes as an Army.1 I never heard of such an Idea but in the letter forged, as from Genl. Clinton,2 nor do I immagine such a one will ever be entertain'd seriously in those States, for exclusive of many reasons against it that appear unanswerable, those who know the nature and talents of those people, know well that all the art of Man can never make them even tolerable Soldiers.

It is said that France has lately engaged to guarantie all the Dutch Possessions; if so, as a Quid pro Quo, surely it has been insisted on by France that the States General shall immediately acknowlege the Independence of America: if this has been omitted it will not be a subject of much pleasure to me. We have here the London papers to the 26th. by which it appears that on the 25. public dispatches had been received from N. York to Decr. 20, but not a syllable good or bad had transpir'd that I see, tho' former ministerial papers say, an advice from N. Y. the 20 Nov. that all the Grenadeirs, and light Infantry of the British Army were immediately to embark to the number of 5 or 6000 Men for So. Carolina and we see that the reinforcements from England for N. York are already embark'd at Portsmouth to sail with Darby and all the Ships of Force they can muster, which will not exceed 20 or 25 Ships of the Line at the utmost, as a Convoy; The East India Ships and the expedition under Govr. Johnstone and Genl. Meadows and supplies for the W. Indias go at the same time; when Darby has seen this valuable Convoy, perhaps the most valuable and important that has sail'd from England during the War, to a certain distance, he is either to attempt the releif of Giberalter or to convoy back the 11 East Indiamen lately arriv'd safe in Ireland, to the value of above 3 Millions sterling, while the French and Spanish Fleets, each of them singly superior to anything England can put to Sea in Europe, are Snug in Cadiz and Brest.3

The Dutch War hardly created a Debate in the Ho. of Comns. where the address to the King, promising support &c., as usual, was carried without even a division.4 There was some debate in the Ho. of Lords, but the address passed there by a greater majority than on many other occasions lately and from the general complexion of their minds, I am apt to beleive they have determin'd already to attack unawares, the Russian Swedish and Danish Ships, as they have done those of Holland, if they find that those 3 Powers, mean to take any part with the Dutch. Nothing but sound beating will recover these Madmen from their Frenzy.

Adieu 96

P.S. I have lately observ'd that they have imprison'd in England some Captains and Sailors taken with American Commissions as Pirates and have order'd them to be tryed as such.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Mr. W Lee 31st. Jany. 1781.”


JA apparently asked this question in his letter of 20 Jan., which has not been found.


The forged letter from Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton to Lord George Germain, dated 30 Jan. 1780 at Savannah, was widely published in Europe and the U.S. It reported that North Carolina had determined to augment its forces by using slaves as soldiers. For the letter and its publication, see vol. 9:331, and references there.


The Channel Fleet, commanded by Adm. George Darby and composed of 28 ships of the line, 2 of fifty guns, and several frigates, was being sent to relieve Gibraltar. It sailed on 13 March. Accompanying it part way was a smaller force commanded by Como. George Johnstone composed of 2 ships of the line, 3 fifty-gun ships, and several frigates. It was to attack the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope and carried three infantry battalions under the command of Gen. William Medows. Owing to various delays, Johnstone's expedition did not reach the Cape until after a French squadron under Bailli de Suffren had arrived and landed its troops, thereby making a seaborne assault a dubious venture at best. The only positive result of the expedition from the British standpoint was that Medows, having learned of the outbreak of the Second Mysore War and the dire situation of the British forces, acted on his own initiative and took his troops to India (Mackesy, War for America , p. 388–390). For lists of the vessels making up the two task forces, see the London Chronicle of 13–15 March.


For George III's message of 25 Jan. “relative to the Rupture with Holland,” its supporting documents, and the debates in both Houses of Parliament, see Parliamentary Hist. , 21:960–1106. In fact, both Houses approved the message without division.

To the President of Congress, 1 February 1781 JA President of Congress Huntington, Samuel To the President of Congress, 1 February 1781 Adams, John President of Congress Huntington, Samuel
To the President of Congress

Amsterdam, 1 February 1781. RC in John Thaxter's hand PCC, Misc. Papers, Reel No. 1, f. 244–254. printed: Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 4:244–248.

In this letter, read in Congress on 19 Nov., John Adams provided an English translation of the Convention for an Armed Neutrality that Russia and Denmark signed on 28 June 9 July N.S. 1780. It was, according to Adams, “one of the most brilliant Events, which has yet been produced by the American Revolution.” He then commented on the Convention's provisions with regard to contraband and noted that Sweden had acceded to it on 21 July 1 Aug. N.S. 1780 followed by the Netherlands on 5 i.e. 4 Jan. 1781. For additional information regarding the accession of Denmark and Sweden to the armed neutrality, see Adams' letter of 14 Aug. 1780 to the president of Congress (vol. 10:68–74).

RC in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, Misc. Papers, Reel No. 1, f. 244–254). printed: Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 4:244–248.

From Francis Dana, 1 February 1781 Dana, Francis JA From Francis Dana, 1 February 1781 Dana, Francis Adams, John
From Francis Dana
Paris Feby. 1st. 1781 Hotel Valois, Rue Richelieu My dear Sir

The enclosed letters of our Friend, of the 12th. and 14th. of last Month, the Resolution of Congress of the 12th.1 together with the journals of Congress for Septr. and Octr. and a number of News-97papers down to the 19th. Decr. came to hand yesterday eveng. These, all together, wou'd make a large budget to no good purpose, I have cut out of the papers, every peice of intelligence of which, I imagine, you are not fully informed, and shall send them on, as also the Journals. No person cou'd receive a more sincere satisfaction, than I do, in having an opportunity to forward to you, a Resolution of Congress which reflects so much honor upon you as the distinguished Servant of our Country. I have long been a Witness that it is not unmerited. I wish, to make the matter more certain in my mind, you wou'd inform me of the subject of your letter on which this honourable testimony is grounded, and also of the two papers received in the duplicate.2 A short hint will suffice. I am fearful you are not furnished with a proper key to your cyphers: if that shou'd be the case, I will endeavour to procure one, you know where.3 Mr. Searle and I dined yesterday with the Abbés; they all desire their sincere regards to you, as does Mr. Adinet4 who has just left me. I wrote you yesterday to communicate some news brought from Martinique, &c. Please to inform Messrs. Ingraham and Sigourney, that the Amsterdam Capt. Magee and the Rambler, Capt. Lovett, from Gottenbourgh, are safe arrived: the first at Boston, in 44 days, who carried in with him a prize ship ladened with provisions and dry goods—the last at Beverly in 48. days.5 I think they were concerned in these vessels. Pray let me know when the Commodore will probably sail. I am, dear Sir, with the greatest respect and esteem, your much obliged Friend and obedient humble Servant


P.S. I find no mention in the American Papers of the victory which the British tell us, from a Charlestown Gazette of the 27th. Novr.; Tarleton had gained over Genl. Sumpter—'Tis possible it may be true, but not probable.6

RC (Adams Papers).


For James Lovell's letters of 12 and 14 Dec. 1780, his first as a member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs, and Congress' resolution of 12 Dec. 1780, see Lovell's letters of 2 and 6 Jan., and references there, both above.


See JA's letter of 26 June 1780 to the president of Congress (vol. 9:477–479).


Dana refers to the cipher Lovell used to encrypt parts of his letter of 14 December. The source for a “proper key” was probably Benjamin Franklin. For Lovell's cipher and the difficulties that JA had in using it, see vol. 9:271–272; Adams Family Correspondence , 4:393–399.


For Addenet, who had served JA as a translator, see vol. 9:411–412.


The Massachusetts privateers Amsterdam, Capt. James Magee, and Rambler, Capt. Benjamin Lovett, reached their respective ports on 14 Nov. 1780 (Independent Chronicle, 16 Nov. 1780; Allen, Mass. Privateers , p. 74, 248).


For a report on the battle at Blackstock Plantation, S.C., on 20 Nov., see Thomas Digges' letter of 9 Jan. , calendared above.