Adams Papers

[April 10. Fryday. 1778.]

[April 10. Fryday. 1778.]

April 10. Fryday. 1778. The first moment Dr. Franklin and I happened to be alone, he began to complain to me of the Coolness as he very coolly called it, between the American Ministers. He said there had been disputes between Mr. Deane and Mr. Lee. That Mr. Lee was a Man of an anxious uneasy temper which made it disagreable to do business with him: that he seemed to be one of those Men of whom he had known many in his day, who went on through Life quarrelling with one Person or another till they commonly ended in the loss of their reason. He said Mr. Izard was there too, and joined in close friendship with Mr. Lee. That Mr. Izard was a Man of violent and ungoverned Passions. That each of these had a Number of Americans about him, who were always exciting disputes and propagating Stories that made the Service very disagreable. That Mr. Izard, who as I knew had been appointed a Minister to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, instead of going to Italy remained there with his Lady and Children at Paris, and instead of minding his own Business, and having nothing else to do he spent his time in consultations with Mr. Lee and in interfering with the Business of the Commission to this Court. That they had made strong Objections to the Treaty, and opposed several Articles of it. That neither Mr. Lee nor Mr. Izard were liked by the French. That Mr. William Lee his Brother, who had been appointed to the Court of Vienna, had been lingering in Germany and lost his Papers, that he called upon the Ministers at Paris for considerable Sums of Money, and by his Connection with Lee and Izard and their party, increased the Uneasiness &c. &c. &c.

I heard all this with inward Grief and external patience and Composure. I only answered, that I was personally much a Stranger to Mr. Izard and both the Lees. That I was extreamly sorry to hear of any misunderstanding among the Americans and especially among the public Ministers, that it would not become me to take any part in them. That I ought to think of nothing in sucha Case, but Truth and Justice, and the means of harmonizing and composing all Parties: But that I foresaw I should have a difficult, dangerous and disagreable part to Act, but I must do my duty as well as I could.1

When Mr. Lee arrived at my Lodgings <in the> one Morning, it was proposed that a Letter should be written to Mr. Dumas at the Hague to inform him of my Arrival and my Colleagues proposed that I should write it. I thought it an awkward thing for me to write an Account of myself, and asked Dr. Franklin to write it, after We had considered and agreed upon what should be written, which I thought the more proper as he was the only one of Us who had been acquainted with Mr. Dumas. Accordingly on the tenth of May [April] the Letter was produced in these Words, which I insert at full Length because it was the only public Letter I believe which he wrote while I was with him, in that Commission.

[To C. W. F. Dumas]

Passi April 10 1778


We received duely your dispatch of the third instant, and approve very much the care and pains you constantly take, in sending Us, the best Intelligence of public2 Affairs.... We have now the Pleasure of acquainting you that Mr. John Adams, a Member of Congress appointed to succeed Mr. Deane in this Commission, is safely arrived here. He came over, in the Boston, a Frigate of thirty Guns, belonging to the United States. In the passage they met and made prize of a large English Letter of Mark Ship of fourteen Guns, the Martha, bound to New York, on whose Cargo, seventy thousand pounds Sterling was insured in London. It contains Abundance of Necessaries for America, whither she is dispatched, and We hope will get well into one of our Ports.

Mr. Adams acquaints Us, that it had been moved in Congress, to send a Minister to Holland, but, that, although there was the best disposition towards that country, and desire to have and maintain a good Understanding with their High Mightinesses, and a free commerce with their Subjects, the measure was respectfully postponed for the present, till their Sentiments on it, could be known, from an Apprehension that possibly their connections with England, might make the receiving an American Minister, as yet inconvenient, and, if Holland should have the same good Will towards Us, a little embarrassing.3 Perhaps, as our Independency begins to wear the Appearance of greater Stability, since our acknowledged Alliance with France, that difficulty may be lessened. Of this We wish you would take the most prudent methods privately to inform yourself. It seems clearly to be the Interest of Holland, to share in the rapidly growing Commerce of this young Sister Republick, and, as in the Love of Liberty, and bravery in the defence of it, she has been our great Example, We hope Circumstances and Constitutions in many respects so similar, may produce mutual benevolence: and that the unfavourable impressions made on the minds of some in America, by the rigour, with which Supplies of Arms and Ammunition were refused them in their distress may soon be worn off and obliterated, by a friendly Intercourse and reciprocal good offices.

When Mr. Adams left America, which was about the middle of February, our Affairs were daily improving, our Troops well supplied with Arms and Provisions, and in good order, and the Army of General Buorgoine, being detained for Breaches of the Capitulation, We had in our hands, above ten thousand Prisoners of the Enemy. We are Sir your most obedient Servants.4

The within Letter to you is so written that you may shew it, on Occasion. We send inclosed a proposed draft of a Letter to the Grand Pensionary, but as We are unacquainted with forms, and may not exactly have hit your idea, with regard to the matter and expression, We wish you would consult with our Friend5 upon it, and return it, with the necessary corrections.

P.S. The Letters you mention coming to you from England, are from Mr. William Lee and you will be so good as to forward them, with his name circumscribed and inclosed to Messieurs Frederic Goutard and Fils, Banquiers a Frankfort sur la Maine.

A. M. Dumas

The draft of a Letter to the Grand Pensionary was in these Words.

[To Pieter van Bleiswyck]

Passi April 10 1778


We have the honor of acquainting your Excellency, that the United States of North America, being now an independent Power, and acknowledged as such by this Court, a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, is compleated between France and the said States, of which We shall speedily send your Excellency a Copy, to be communicated if you think proper, to their High Mightinesses, for whom the United States have the greatest respect and the strongest desire, that a good Understanding may be cultivated and a mutually beneficial commerce established, between the People of the two nations, which, as will be seen, there is nothing in the above mentioned Treaty to prevent or impede. We have the Honor to be, with great respect, your Excellencys &c.6

I thought it most proper that this Letter should be signed by Mr. Franklin and Lee but as they insisted upon it, We all signed it.

It so happened or had been so contrived, that We Were invited to dine at Monsieur Brillons, a Family in which Mr. Franklin was very intimate, and in which he spent much of his Time. Here We met a large Company of both Sexes and among them were Monsieur Le Vailliant7 and his Lady. Madam Brillion was one of the most beautifull Women in France, a great Mistress of Musick, as were her two little Daughters. The Dinner was Luxury, as usual in that Country. A large Cake was brought in with three flaggs flying. On one of them “Pride subdued”: on another “Haec dies, in qua fit Congressus, exultemus et potemus in eâ.” Mr. Brillon was a rough kind of Country Squire. His Lady all softness, sweetness and politeness. I saw a Woman in Company, as a Companion of Madam Brillon who dined with her at Table, and was considered as one of the Family. She was very plain and clumzy. When I afterwards learned both from Dr. Franklin and his Grandson, and from many other Persons, that this Woman was the Amie of Mr. Brillion and that Madam Brillion consoled herself by the Amitie of Mr. Le Vailliant, I was astonished that these People could live together in such apparent Friendship and indeed without cutting each others throats. But I did not know the World. I soon saw and heard so much of these Things in other Families and among allmost all the great People of the Kingdom that I found it was a thing of course. It was universally understood and Nobody lost any reputation by it. Yet I must say that I never knew an Instance of it, without perceiving that all their Complaisancy was external and ostensible only: a mere conformity to the fashion: and that internally there was so far from being any real friendship or conjugal Affection that their minds and hearts were full of Jealousy, Envy, revenge and rancour. In short that it was deadly poison to all the calm felicity of Life. There were none of the delightful Enjoyments of conscious Innocence and mutual Confidence. It was mere brutal pleasure.

At Mr. Chaumonts in the Evening where We were invited to Supper, Two Gentlemen came in and advised me to go to Versailles, the next day. One of them was the Secretary of the Count de Noailles, the late French Ambassador in London. This Gentleman informed me that the Count De Vergennes had expressed to him his Surprize that I had not been to Court. They had been informed by the Police of my Arrival in Paris and had accidentally heard of my dining in Company at one place and another, but when any question was asked them concerning me, they could give no Answer. He supposed I was waiting to get me a french Coat, but he should be glad to see me in my American Coat.

1The following several paragraphs, including the two inserted letters and the comment concerning the second, were originally written by JA on a separate sheet and keyed to their place in the MS by the letter “A.” From this it would appear that the idea of adverting to his letterbooks and copying selections from them was an afterthought on his part. Farther on in Part Two of his Autobiography JA indulged in this practice very freely.

Letters inserted in Part Two have been treated editorially like those in Part One. They are printed as found in the MS of the Autobiography but have been carefully compared with the versions (in Lb/JA/4–6, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel Nos. 92–94) from which JA copied them; significant variations have been noted, but trifling differences in punctuation, &c, have been disregarded, and small copying mistakes have been silently corrected. Other MS versions (notably drafts and recipients’ copies) have also been compared, when known to the editors, but no attempt has been made to record all known versions of every letter, only those of prime textual value. The reader may once again be reminded that the suspension points JA sprinkled through the letter copies in his Autobiography seldom represent actual omissions.

CFA printed a few of the inserted letters in their places in the Autobiography, some elsewhere in JA’s Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , but most of them not at all, with or without references to texts elsewhere available in print.

2LbC: “foreign.”

3On 2 July 1777 Congress instructed the Committee on Foreign Affairs “to prepare a commission to one or more of the commissioners appointed to foreign Courts, to empower him or them to represent the Congress at the States General of the United <States of Holland> Provinces” (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 523). The Committee reported next day, and Congress voted that “the form of the commission and instructions .... be the same as those given to the commissioners to the Courts of Vienna, Berlin and .... Tuscany” but later that day Congress tabled the proposed commission and instructions (same description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , p. 527, 531)

4Here ends the letter proper as it was signed by Franklin and Lee. RC has not been found. Dft (DLC: Franklin Papers) has two attachments, both of which appear below: (1) an additional note to Dumas and a postscript (the latter being in Lee’s hand), and (2) a draft of the proposed communication to the Grand Pensionary, in Franklin’s hand but heavily corrected by him. A copy of RC is in the Koninklijk Huisarchief, The Hague, and is docketed at head of text: “Communiqué à S.A.S. Monseigneur le Prince par Mr. le Conseiller Pensionaire de Bleiswyk”; at foot of text appears the following: “Adres / à Monsr: / Monsr: Dumas, chez Madame La Veuve Loder. / à / La Haÿe.” From all this it seems clear that Dumas called on Van Bleiswyck with the original and waited while a clerk copied it.

5Doubtless the Duc de La Vauguyon (1746–1828), French ambassador to the Dutch Republic, 1776–1783, with whom JA was later to have a close and interesting diplomatic relationship during his own mission to the Netherlands (Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Générale; description begins J. C. F. Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends JA, Diary, entry of July 1781, note 1).

6In Dft (see above, p. 45, note 4) the addressee is indicated at foot of text, by title only: “Grand Pensionnaire.” The grand pensionary of Holland was Pieter van Bleiswyck, though versions of the present draft have been mistakenly catalogued and printed as if addressed to E. F. van Berckel, who was first pensionary of Amsterdam. The long and frequent letters of C. W. F. Dumas during April and May 1778 (in the Rijksarchief, The Hague, Dumas Papers, I; microfilm in DLC: Dutch Reproductions) recite in great detail what was done concerning the draft. It was approved by La Vauguyon in the language proposed, but it had to be sent back to Paris, signed, and returned, and then La Vauguyon had second thoughts, doubtless prompted by Vergennes, that prevented its being delivered until 14 May, when Dumas presented it, with due ceremony, to Van Bleiswyck. For a running account of these events and of the complexities of Franco-Dutch-American relations at this time, see F. P. Renaut, Les Provinces-Unies et la guerre d’Amérique (1775–1784), Paris, 1924–1925, 129–134.

7Possibly JA meant Louis Guillaume Le Veillard, who conducted the mineral baths in Fassy and was a member of Franklin’s intimate circle; but in the present passage JA was trusting heavily to a memory often faulty in these matters.

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