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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 6

Docno: ADMS-06-06-02-0096

Author: First Joint Commission at Paris
Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Grand, Ferdinand
Date: 1778-05-17

The Commissioners to Ferdinand Grand

[salute] Sir

It is our desire that you accept no Bills nor pay any money out of the funds which are or may be in your hands to the credit of us three jointly without our joint order. As it has been the practice to address Letters upon the business of the Commission to Mr. Deane we desire that you will send to us all the Letters you receive so directed, and not give them to any private person. We have the honor to be &c.
Dft in Arthur Lee's hand (PPAmP: Franklin Papers).
{ 130 }
1. This letter was never sent. In a memorandum in his fragmentary journal for the period 25 May to 4 July (MH-H: Lee Papers), Arthur Lee explained that:
“Soon after Mr. Adams arrived, Mr. L. proposed that they should join in a letter to Mr. Grand the Banker forbidding him to pay any of the public money but to their joint order; to which Dr. F. would not agree saying he did not know but Mr. L. might starve him, that Mr. L. kept all the Spanish funds to himself. Upon his disagreeing the measure was dropt.”
Franklin's reference to the “spanish money” is a reflection of his sensitivity about his position vis-à-vis Arthur Lee in regard to Spain, to which both men held commissions. For a more detailed description of this conflict, see the Commissioners to J. D. Schweighauser, 10 June (calendared below).
Franklin also explained his reasons for not signing the order to Grand in a draft letter to Arthur Lee of the same date (Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S., 3:510; Franklin, Writings, ed. Smyth, 7:154–155). There he stated that he knew of no problems caused by orders by the separate Commissioners, declined to depend on Lee for his “Subsistence,” and would not agree to have all letters to Silas Deane delivered to the Commissioners for what would be essentially a “Gratification of private Curiosity.”

Docno: ADMS-06-06-02-0097

Author: Lee, Arthur
Recipient: Franklin, Benjamin
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1778-05-17

Arthur Lee to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams

[salute] Gentlemen

Being too much indisposd to come to Passi this morning, and thinking the subjects of the enclosd Letters of pressing importance; I have sent you what I think shoud be written. You will make such Alterations as you think proper.1 But if the subordinate Servants of the public continue to obey or not obey our Orders as they please—to act as they will, without taking our orders—to involve us in debt at their pleasure—and give us no account of the expenditure of large Sums of public money committed to them—we may expect the worst consequences both to the public and ourselves. I have the honor to be with the greatest esteem Gentlemen yr. most Obedt. Servt.
[signed] Arthur Lee
RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); addressed: “The Honble B. Franklin & J. Adams”; docketed in an unknown hand: “A Lee Esqr Challiet 7th. May 1778.”
1. Although it cannot be stated with certainty, these “Letters” were probably drafts of letters dated 16 May to Thomas Simpson (DLC: Franklin Papers) and 17 May to Ferdinand Grand (above) and John Paul Jones. For the Commissioners' letter to Jones, see 25 May (calendared below).

Docno: ADMS-06-06-02-0098

Author: Franklin, Benjamin
Author: Adams, John
Recipient: American State Officials
Date: 1778-05-18

This is a summary of a document and does not contain a transcription. If it is available elsewhere in this digital edition, a page number link will be provided below in the paragraph beginning "Printed."

Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to American State Officials

Paris, 18 May 1778. printed:JA, Diary and Autobiography, 4:102; ordered printed by the congress as a broadside (illustration facing p. 99). This letter was signed by Adams and Franklin because, according to Arthur Lee in his Letterbook (PCC, No. 102, IV, f. 7), “this Intelligence { 131 } was sent to the Commissioners from M. de Sartine by M. de Chaumont who came accompanied by Dr. Bancroft and the two Commissioners at Passi having signed the above Letters they were sent away without communicating them to Mr. Lee who was signing the Bills for borrowing money in Holland. Mr. Adams informed him of it [thursday].” The two Commissioners requested that French naval commanders be notified of the impending departure of eleven British warships for North America.
Although the Commissioners' information concerning the imminent departure of Vice Adm. John Byron's fleet was accurate, the warning was premature. Contrary winds and indecision caused by uncertainty about the destination of Comte d'Estaing's fleet, which had left Toulon on 13 April, delayed Byron's sailing until 9 June. Even then, Byron's arrival in American waters was delayed by the severe storms encountered on his passage, which scattered the fleet. The first vessel arrived at New York on 30 July, and Byron himself, at the end of September (Piers Mackesy, The War for America, 1775–1783, Cambridge, 1964, p. 196–202, 212; Mahan, Navies in the War of Amer. Independence, P.58–59).
The Commissioners were apparently unaware of the delay until they received “advices from London” dated 5 June, which erroneously reported that Byron's squadron, which had sailed from Portsmouth on 20 May, had put into Plymouth and been ordered not to proceed to America. Actually, the ships from Portsmouth were only a reinforcement for Byron's fleet, which was based at Plymouth. Nevertheless, on 10 June, the day after Byron had sailed, the Commissioners incorporated the new information into a circular letter directed to “any Captain bound to America” (Diary and Autobiography, 4:135; Mackesy, War for America, p. 200–201). For later intelligence on British naval operations, see letters to the Commissioners from Francis Coffyn of 18 and 19 June (both below).
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, 2018.