John Thaxter to John Adams
York Town April 30th. 1778
I should have done myself the honor of addressing you before this, had I been so fortunate as to have known of opportunities previous to their passing. I have a prospect of sending this soon, and gladly embrace the opportunity.
Ld. North’s propositions have occasioned much speculation here. Congress have expressed their opinion of them in their resolutions, which will doubtless have a good effect.1
Delusion and Division (the two old objects) appear to be the design of his lordship. As far as I have been able to see, neither the one nor the other will take place. The people at large are possessed of too much penetration to be gulled by the chicanery of him or his venal master.
The Olive Branch seems to be held out, but Sir, it rests upon the Sword. Admirals and Generals are sent to treat.2
In short, the Ability and Inability, the Hopes and Fears of his Lordship are uttered in the same breath.
Mr. L[ovell] will send you the papers containing the propositions and the observations of Congress. His exertions in the Common Cause and indefatigable Industry render him very useful. He is an excellent man.
I have the pleasure to inform that Mrs. A. and family are well. Agreeably to your directions I write her often. Every thing that I am allowed to mention I transmit to her.3 I think my[self] honoured by the Correspondence.
Please to remember [me] to Master John. I should have wrote to him, but the absence of my Companion occasions double duty, and leaves me scarcely time to write to a friend.
I shall [be] very happy in hearing of your safe arrival in France as also my friend John.
I have the honor to be with the greatest respect, your very Humle. Servt.,
J Thaxter Jur.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr. Thaxter”; docketed in an unidentified hand. French translation of first 5 paragraphs only (Archives Aff. Etr., Paris: Etats-Unis, Corr. pol., vol. 3) bears these notations: “Thaxter A Adams. Traduit de l’Anglois. Interceptée.” Unless RC had first been captured by the British and then recovered by the French, it is not easy to explain the term “Interceptée.” Or did the French authorities secretly inspect the American Commissioners’ mail? On the other hand it would have been characteristic of JA to volunteer to the French ministry this earliest report on the reception in America of “Ld. North’s propositions,” and this may, alternatively, explain the existence and location of the French version. (See also descriptive note on Isaac Smith Sr. to JA, following.) JA replied to the present letter—saying he had received it “by the Saratoga” with a “Packett of Newspapers”—in a letter dated from Passy, 10 July (LbC, Adams Papers); his reply is not included in the present volume because already printed in his Diary and Autobiography, description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends 4:156.
1. North’s conciliatory proposals and bills of 19–20 Feb. were considered and unanimously rejected by Congress on 22 April (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 10:374–380). On 24 April they were printed, with Congress’ resolutions, in Penna. Gazette.
2. A misleading rumor that was widely circulated; see Burnett, ed., Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1921–1936; 8 vols. description ends , 3:198. The members of the Carlisle conciliatory commission who came over to treat on the basis of North’s proposals were not “Admirals and Generals.”
3. Thus on this same day Thaxter began a longer letter to AA, which he continued on 3 May and which is not printed here, reporting much the same news but adding that “A Treaty of friendship and Alliance [with France] is closed. . . . They have treated with us upon the footing of equality. It was finished the 8th of Feby.” (Adams Papers).