Papers of John Adams, volume 12

To Benjamin Franklin

From Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol

From Benjamin Franklin, 5 October 1781 Franklin, Benjamin JA


From Benjamin Franklin, 5 October 1781 Franklin, Benjamin Adams, John
From Benjamin Franklin
Passy Oct 5 1781 Sir

I congratulate your Excellency on your Recovery.1 I hope this Seasoning will be the means of securing your future Health, by accomodating your Constitution to the Air of that Country.

Here are Advices from Admiral de Grasse, which left him the 13th of August coming out of Straits of Bahama, with 28 Sail, of the Line; bound to Chesapeak Bay: unless he should meet at Sea a call to N. York from General Washington. He took with him from the Islands 3,600 Land Troops, which with his marines make near 6,000 Men capable of acting either against Cornwallis or in the Siege of New York: and the 8 Sail under M. de Barras at Boston joining him will make a Sea Force superior to any expected of the Enemy in those Seas, so that we may hope for some good News from that Quarter.2

Since the Letter your Excellency honour’d me with of the 25 of August, I have learnt nothing new of the Mediation. It seems to be 4 at present in a State of Stagnation. Any farther Proceedings in it that may come to my Knowledge shall be immediately communicated to you. This Court appears attentive not only to the Interest of the United States, but to their Honour. England seems not yet tired enough of the War to think seriously of an Accommodation, and till then our new Commission will hardly afford us much Employment, or make it necessary for us to appoint a Secretary in its Service: I send however enclosed a Copy of the Minute of Congress relating to that Appointment.3 I have not heard of M. Dana’s Arrival at Petersburg: If your Excelly has receiv’d any communicable Advices from him, I shall be glad to see them, and to know whether he is likely to continue there. Enclosed is a Letter for him, and another for yourself:4 they appear to me to have been opened; but they are in the State I received them under Cover from M. Nesbitt of L’Orient.

A Letter from America that has been shown me, mentions a Resolution of Congress to exchange General Burgoyne for Mr. Laurens; but I have never seen that Resolution. Do you know any thing of it? I have a Letter from Mr Burke on the Subject of that General, which I am at a loss to answer.5

I received Mr. Thaxter’s Letter relating to the Mast-Contracts,6 and communicated it to Mr. de Vergennes, who I suppose will write about that Affair to M. de la Luzerne. Is it possible that a Project of supplying England with that Article from any of the Inhabitants of the United States can be executed? I have no Conception of the Means.

I am glad to hear that the Loan from Holland is likely to succeed:7 for without it, those obtain’d here for our Service will not afford Payment of the List shown me the other Day by M. Grand, of your Acceptations falling due in Novr. December, January and February next, amounting to Bo.8 217,932.2/3. It is a Demand I had no previous Knowledge of, and therefore I hope it is not expected of me to answer it. I have accepted the Bills mentioned in yours of the 24th past9 as drawn by you upon me on that day: But the great Sum abovementioned it will be out of my Power to accept if you should draw for it, no Provision being made for it in our last Grants.

With great Respect, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant B Franklin

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Dr. Franklin 5th. Octr. 1781.”


Franklin received reports from C. W. F. Dumas and Jean de Neufville & Fils (Franklin, Papers , 35:478, 510–511).


De Grasse’s fleet reached Chesapeake Bay on 30 Aug., but at the Battle of the Chesapeake on 5 Sept., the French advan-5tage was less than Franklin envisioned. This was owing to the detachment of four ships from the fleet to support the siege at Yorktown and the absence of Barras, who did not arrive until the 10th. The French margin, therefore, was 24 ships of the line to 19 for the British. Tactically the battle was indecisive, but de Grasse prevented the British fleet under Adm. Thomas Graves from entering the bay and thus gained a strategic victory. Barras’ arrival with siege artillery for Rochambeau’s army made the French position impregnable and sealed the fate of Cornwallis’ army (Mackesy, War for America , p. 423–425; Mahan, Navies in the War of Amer. Independence , p. 178–184).


On 26 June Congress named Francis Dana, until such time as he could proceed to Russia, secretary to the ministers appointed to negotiate a peace treaty. Should Dana not be available, a majority of the ministers were authorized to appoint a secretary ( JCC , 20:699). The enclosure has not been found, but a copy in William Temple Franklin’s hand is in Lb/JA/15, and was presumably done during young Franklin’s service as secretary during the peace negotiations in 1782 or 1783 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 103).


From James Lovell, 21 July (vol. 11:381–383). The letter to Dana has not been identified.


This sentence was interlined at the end of the paragraph. Edmund Burke’s appeal on Burgoyne’s behalf was dated 15 August. Franklin replied on 15 Oct., by which time he had received a copy of Congress’ resolution of 14 June authorizing him to exchange Gen. Burgoyne for Henry Laurens, which he enclosed in his letter to Burke (Franklin, Papers , 35:362–365, 594; JCC , 20:647–648). For additional information on the proposed exchange, see the letter of 5 March 1782 from Robert R. Livingston, and note 6, below; Laurens, Papers , vol. 15, passim.


Thaxter to Franklin, 30 Aug. (vol. 11:472–473).


The origin of this erroneous report is unknown.


Banco florins, the money in which accounts were kept, enjoyed approximately a four percent premium over the regular circulating florin (John J. McCusker, Money and Exchange in Europe and America, 1600–1775: A Handbook, Chapel Hill, 1978, p. 43).


LbC, Adams Papers.