John Adams to Abigail Adams
Passy Novr. 27. 1778
My dearest Friend
Mr. Brown1 is here, and I cannot miss the Opportunity by him, to write you a Line.
I know not how often you receive Letters from me, so many are taken, or sunk: but I write as often as I can.
I have received some Letters from you, which will occasion your Name to be classed with Mrs. McCaulay and Mad[ame] Dacier2 for ought I know. Johnny is very well. Stevens had a fall Yesterday which hurt him a little: but not very badly. He is in a good Way this Morning. The Things inclosed which were a present to me you will do as you please with.
Europe is the dullest Place in the World. No News but the Lyes, which the Emmissaries of England are making and spreading, in every Part. We get no News from Congress or any Part of America.
By some Hints in some Letters which I have heard of I expect that the first Vessells will bring us News of some new Regulations of Congress, concerning foreign Affairs.—It is said that Congress have determined to have but one Commissioner at this Court. If this is true, as I suppose it is as it comes from Mr. D[eane], I am uncertain what is to be done with me. It is said that I am to be sent to some other Court,3 and that the Dr. is to be here alone. If this should be the Case, I shall be puzzled what to do.
The Motives of Congress are very good to save Expences, but this Motive will not have its Effect, if I am to be maintained here, in Idleness, or sent upon my Travells to other Countries, where I shall not be received, which would be the most painfull situation imaginable to me. In this Case I should be at a Loss, whether to return home immediately or wait untill I could write to Congress and obtain Leave.—Some of my friends here are of opinion that I ought not to return without Leave. I would not take any step that should give any just Cause of offence, to Congress or the People. But I cannot eat Pensions and Sinecures, they would stick in my Throat.4
I wish some honest Vessell would arrive and remove my Doubts.
RC and LbC (Adams Papers). Enclosures not found or identified.
1. Not identified.
2. Anne (Tanneguy Lefèvre) Dacier (1654–1720), the celebrated French classical scholar, translator, and woman of letters (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 ).
3. LbC adds: “that of Vienna is mentioned”; see the following note.
“Congress yesterday chose you to be their Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of France, and You will very soon receive their Letters, and Credentials. I am very happy on the Occasion, and the more so on Account of the Unanimity with which I learn it was carried; what other arrangements will take place I know not, nor do I much Interest myself on the Subject.” (Silas Deane to Benjamin Franklin, Phila., 15 Sept. 1778, PPAmP.)
For the election on 14 Sept. of Franklin as sole minister to France, which dissolved the Franklin-Lee-Adams commission, see JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 12:908. The vote is not recorded. A committee of five was at the same time appointed to prepare Franklin’s letter of credence and instructions. The instructions as drafted led to debate, were not adopted until 26 Oct., were not sent until Lafayette sailed from Boston for France in mid-January, and were not received in Paris until almost mid-February (same, 12:1035–1038, 1039–1042, 1064; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 2:807–809; JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:353–354).
It was JA in the first place who had suggested, within a few weeks of his arrival in France, that trying to do business through three diplomatic representatives in Paris was a serious mistake when “one alone would be obliged to no greater Expence, and would be quite sufficient for all the Business of a Public Minister” (to Samuel Adams, 21 May 1778, JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 4:107). But in appointing Franklin, Congress neither recalled JA nor gave him notice of what further was expected of him beyond saying that something more on this score would follow, and that “In the mean Time we hope you will exercise your whole extensive Abilities on the Subject of our Finances” (R. H. Lee and James Lovell, for the Committee for Foreign Affairs, to JA, 28 Oct. 1778, Adams Papers; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 2:814–815).
On the very day he wrote the present letter to AA, JA wrote Lovell imploring him to hasten Congress’ determination of what was to be done with him:
“f you appoint me for any other , especially that which is mentioned to me, Vienna, it will be more disagreable to me than to be recalled. Because Vienna is the Court of all Europe, as I conceive at present, the least likely to receive your Agent. I should therefore be reduced to the Necessity of residing at Paris in Idleness, or of travelling to Germany and living there in greater Idleness still, in either Case at a great and useless Expence.
“In Time of Peace, nothing would give me greater Pleasure, than travelling: but at present my Heart is too much affected, with the Miseries of this War, for me to take Pleasure in a mere Gratification of Curiosity, or even in a Pursuit of Taste in Arts, or Knowledge in the Sciences.
“To return home immediately, some Persons here say would give Offence, and be wrong. To wait to write for Leave, would be loosing Time, and putting you to some Expence.—However, I will determine nothing untill I know what is done.” (LbC, Adams Papers.)