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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0009-0001-0004

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1779-02-08

1779. Feb. 8.

In Conversation with Dr. Franklin, in the Morning I gave him my Opinion, of Mr. Deanes Address to the People of America, with great Freedom and perhaps with too much Warmth. I told him that it was one of the most wicked and abominable Productions that ever sprung from an human Heart. That there was no safety in Integrity against such a Man. That I should wait upon The Comte de Vergennes, and the other Ministers, and see in what light they considerd this Conduct of Mr. Deane. That if they, and their Representatives in America, were determined to countenance and support by their Influence such Men and Measures in America, it was no matter how soon the Alliance was broke. That no Evil could be greater, nor any Government worse, than the Toleration of such Conduct. No one was present, but the Doctor and his Grandson.1
In the Evening, I told Dr. Bancroft, to the same Effect, that the Address appeared to me in a very attrocious Light, that however difficult Mr. Lees Temper might be, in my Opinion he was an honest Man, and had the utmost fidelity towards the united States. That such a Contempt of Congress committed in the City where they set, and the Publication of such Accusations in the Face of the Universe, so false and groundless as the most heinous of them appeared to me, these Accusations attempted to be coloured by such frivolous Tittle Tattle, such Accusations made too by a Man who had been in high Trust, against two others, who were still so, appeared to me, Evidence of such a Complication of vile Passions, of Vanity, Arrogance and Presumption, of Malice, Envy and Revenge, and at the same Time of such Weakness, Indiscretion and Folly, as ought to unite every honest and wise Man against him. That there appeared to me no Alternative left but the Ruin of Mr. Deane, or the Ruin of his Country. That he appeared to me in the Light of a wild boar, that ought to be hunted down for the Benefit of Mankind. That I would start fair with him, Dr. Bancroft, and give him Notice that I had hitherto been loath to give up Mr. Deane. But that this Measure of his appeared to Me to be so decisive against him that I had given him up to Satan to be buffeted.
In all this it is easy to see there is too much Declamation, but the { 346 } substa[n]tial Meaning of it, is, as appears to me, exactly true, as such as I will abide by, unless, future Evidence which I dont expect should convince me, of any Error in it.2
1. Silas Deane had arrived in Philadelphia on 12 July 1778, and had promptly requested an audience of Congress to enable him to defend his conduct in Europe, which had been severely impugned by his colleague Arthur Lee. Lee's charges, supported by relatives and friends, split Congress into warring factions, and Deane failed to get a satisfactory hearing. His patience at last exhausted, he took his case to the country by publishing in the Pennsylvania Packet, 5 Dec. 1778, an address “To the Free and Virtuous Citizens of America” (reprinted in Deane Papers, 3:66–76). Intended as the first in a series of public letters, this one contained violent counter-charges against Arthur and William Lee, treated certain members of Congress with great freedom, and led to a controversy that can hardly be said to be settled even yet by historians. The strength of JA's feelings about Deane's publication is revealed in his letter to Vergennes, drafted in his Diary and printed under 10–11 Feb., below.
2. The final sentence of this heated entry is obviously defective but is here printed literally. It was silently (and plausibly) corrected by CFA to read: “... but the substantial meaning of it is such as appears to me exactly true, and such as I will abide by, unless future evidence, which I don't expect, should convince me of any error in it” (JA, Works, 3:187).

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0009-0001-0005

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1779-02-09

1779 Feb. 9.

Abbe C.1

Terruit Hispanos, Ruiter, qui terruit Anglos

Ter ruit in Gallos, territus ipse ruit.2

Cum fueris Romae, Romano vivito more

Si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi.

Any Thing to divert Melancholly, and to sooth an aking Heart. The Uncandor, the Prejudices, the Rage, among several Persons here, make me Sick as Death.
Virtue is not always amiable. Integrity is sometimes ruined by Prejudices and by Passions. There are two Men in the World who are Men of Honour and Integrity I believe, but whose Prejudices and violent Tempers would raise Quarrells in the Elisian Fields if not in Heaven. On die other Hand there is another, whose Love of Ease, and Dissipation, will prevent any thorough Reformation of any Thing—and his <Cunning and> Silence and Reserve, render it very difficult to do any Thing with him. One of the other[s], whom I have allowed to be honest, has such a bitter, such a Sour in him, and so few of the nice feelings, that G[od] knows what will be the Consequence to himself and to others. Besides he has as much Cunning, and as much Secrecy.3
Called at Mr. Garniers—he not at home. At Mr. Grands. He and his Son began about the Address—bien faché. &c. I said, cooly, that I was { 347 } astonished at the Publication of it without sending it to congress. That I believed Mr. Lee a Man of Integrity, and that all Suggestions of improper Correspondences in England, were groundless. That my Br[other] L[ee] was not of the sweetest disposition perhaps, but he was honest. That Virtue was not always amiable....4 M. G. replyed, ilest soupsonneux—il n'a du Confiance en Personne. II croit que toutele Monde est—I cant remember the precise Word.... I believe this is a just Observation. He has Confidence in no body. He believes all Men selfish—And, no Man honest or sincere. This, I fear, is his Creed, from what I have heard him say. I have often in Conversation disputed with him, on this Point. However I never was so nearly in his Situation before. There is no Man here that I dare Trust, at present. They are all too much heated with Passions and Prejudices and party disputes. Some are too violent, others too jealous—others too cool, and too reserved at all Times, and at the same time, every day betraying Symptoms of a Rancour quite as deep.
The Wisdom of Solomon, the Meekness of Moses, and the Patience of Job, all united in one Character, would not be sufficient, to qualify a Man to act in the Situation in which I am at present—and I have scarcely a Spice of either of these Virtues.
On Dr. F. the Eyes of all Europe are fixed, as the most important Character, in American Affairs in Europe. Neither L. nor myself, are looked upon of much Consequence. The Attention of the Court seems most to F. and no Wonder. His long and great Rep[utation] to which L's and mine are in their infancy, are enough to Account for this. His Age, and real Character render it impossible for him to search every Thing to the Bottom, and L. with his privy Council, are evermore, contriving. The Results of their Contrivances, render many Measures more difficult.
1. Chalut?
2. A punning distich based on the life of the famous Dutch admiral M. A. de Ruyter (1607–1676), who had sailed up the Thames and Medway in 1667 but was mortally wounded fighting the French in the Mediterranean. Literally: “Ruyter, who terrified the Spaniards, who terrified the English, [and] thrice fell upon the French, himself has fallen, terrified himself.”
3. “It is almost needless to say that Mr. Arthur Lee, Mr. Izard, and Dr. Franklin, are the persons referred to” (note by CFA, in JA, Works, 3:188).
4. Suspension points, here and below, in MS.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2016.