Papers of John Adams, volume 12

From Francis Dana

From the Duc de La Vauguyon

287 From Edmund Jenings, 4 March 1782 Jenings, Edmund JA


From Edmund Jenings, 4 March 1782 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Brussels March 4th. 1782 Sir

I have the Honor of receiving your Excellencys Letter of the 21st ultimo and by the next post to England executed your Excellencys Command with respect to our unhappy Countrymen, who I doubt not will soon receive the relief, your Excellency has sent them.

I wrote at the same time what I had in Command from your Excellency about Mr Lawrens. A Letter lately come to hand from my Friend tells me that His Health is much better, but says no more about Him.

Give me Leave, Sir, to thank your Excellency for paying on my account Eight Ducats to Messrs De Neufville. I Hope to discharge my obligation to you soon on that account.

Your Excellency will do me the Honor to accept my Congratulations on the rumors lately receivd from S Carolina,1 and on the Confirmed news of the taking of Minorca. It is a greater blow on the English than they will be ready to acknowledge because it is of little Consequence in the present war. But it must be of importance, if ever they attempt to recover the mediterranean Trade. I find by the Capitulation that the Troops are not to Act against Spain or her allies.2 As america does not come under the latter description they may be sent there as the Pensacola Prisoners were—this Confers no Obligation on France or Us.

I have heard that the Russians Troops have marched into or about Dantzic to protect that City against the Prussian Impositions on the Vistula. The King of Prussia sees perhaps by this and many other events, that there is a design to Quarrel with Him, and therefore He may break out first. But the Combination is agst Him, and he has no allies. He has endeavourd it is said to get money from England, but she is affraid He will not use it to Serve Her Interest but his own. The Emperor is raising his Army to 250,000 men. The officers here are ordered to buy their Horses.

Has your Excellency heard of a remarkable debate in the House of Commons the week before last, on the motion of General Conway, to discontinue the war agst the United States. It Continued to three oClock in the Morning with the utmost Heat, in the Course of which Lord North said with much rage that some words, which had dropt from Col Barré were brutal, on which his Lordship was called to order, whereupon He apologized by saying in general that288 He had exceeded his Usual moderation. This not contenting the opposition, He asked Pardon of the House, but the Friends of Col Barré not being satisfied, He asked the Colonels pardon. Likewise, General Conway having said, that England might Treat of Peace with America, because there were Gentlemen authorizd for that purpose not far off. Welbore Ellis, the new Secretary of State, said that He found no such information among his Official Papers, and that the war now was not an American but a French one. The minister carried His Point by one Voice only the numbers being 194 to 193. This gave the minority such encouragement that it proposes to renew the same Question in other words.3 I have not yet seen the debates, but I am told it was a most masterly one. As the assizes are beginning I expect to hear that the Grand Juries will address the Crown on the Subject of the American war and against the whole administration of English Affairs.

If the news of the Taking fort st Philips had arrivd before the opening of the Budget it woud have cost the nation something more to raise the Supplies, as it is it may sink the Profit of the Subscribers by lowering the Stocks.

I am with the greatest Consideration Sir your Excellencys most Faithful & Obedient Humble Servant Edm: Jenings

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Mr. Jenings 4th. March 1782.”


It is impossible to identify with certainty the rumor to which Jenings refers. Two possibilities are reports appearing in the London Chronicle of 21–23 Feb. and the Gazette de Leyde of 1 March. The first, from Nantes, reported the arrival of two ships from Charleston intended for England, but which were sent to France in the wake of a revolt by Charleston’s inhabitants. In the second, a ship’s captain who left Philadelphia on 1 Jan. reported that Nathanael Greene’s army defeated a large British force detached from the garrison at Charleston. This was apparently another account of the Battle of Eutaw Springs.


For Art. 5 of the articles of capitulation, see The Remembrancer . . . for the Year 1782, pt. 1, p. 242.


Here and in his letter of 7 March, below, Jenings refers to the momentous debates on the American war that occurred in the House of Commons on 22 and 27 February. They revealed that the North ministry had lost the support of the country gentlemen, the main pillar of its parliamentary majority for its American policy. The ministry lingered until 20 March, when Lord North resigned and was replaced by the Marquis of Rockingham (Alan Valentine, Lord North, 2 vols., Norman, Okla., 1967, 2:301–316).

The debate that began on 22 Feb. and extended into the early morning of the 23d was over a motion by Henry Seymour Conway to inform George III that the war in America could “no longer be pursued for the impracticable purpose of reducing the inhabitants of that country to obedience by force” and that all efforts be made to bring about a reconciliation “with the revolted colonies.” Conway’s motion was defeated 194 to 193, but it was a clear victory for the opposition and Charles James Fox immediately arose to promise that the question would be raised again and to predict correctly that “it would then be carried.”

Jenings’ account reports the exchange between Conway and Welbore Ellis, Lord George Germaine’s replacement as American secretary, as well as that between Lord North and Isaac Barré. According to David Hartley,289 it was Conway’s statement, “which was supposed to allude to Mr. Adams, and some friends of his in London,” that led to Thomas Digges’ mission to the Netherlands to meet with JA (Franklin, Papers , 36:684–685; from Thomas Digges, 20 March , below). After the vote on Conway’s motion, Barré harshly criticized North for giving inadequate notice for the opening of the budget. North responded that in exchanges between Barré and himself, Barré habitually used uncivil, brutal, and insolent language. This led to a spirited debate and ultimately to North’s apology ( Parliamentary Hist. , 22:1028–1051).