Adams Papers

Elbridge Gerry to Abigail Adams, 16 May 1780

Elbridge Gerry to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia 16th. May 1780

Dear Madam

I had the pleasure of addressing You on the 17th of April last, since which Congress have received several Letters from our worthy Friend at Paris, containing Copies of his Correspondence with the Count de V[e]rg[enne]s, Primier of F[ranc]e. In one of his Letters to Mr. A[dam]s the Count says “the principal object of your Mission, I mean what regards the future Pacification, shall be announced in the Gazette of France, when a Mention is made of your presentation to the K[in]g and R[oya]l F[amil]y”: and also proposes, that an Extract of Mr. A——s Commission of M[iniste]r P[lenipotentiar]y should at the same Time be published, and that similar Insertions should be made in the Leyden Gazette: all of which will undoubtedly be sent to America and communicated to the publick.1 Previous to this Intelligence, I had prepared for the press a paragraph to rectify the partiality of the P[hilosophica]l S[ociet]y, but as the Inconveniences apprehended from their publication in Europe will be now effectually prevented, I think it best to take no other Notice thereof, than to hint to one of their Members who is a Friend to Mr. A——s, that their Appointment, circumstanced as it was, could not be supposed honorary, but must appear deficient in Delicacy to Mr. A——s as well as to the State in which he resided.

I had the pleasure last Evening of a Visit from the Marquis la Fayette with a Letter of the 29th Feby. from Mr. A——s2 and one of the 26th from Mr. D[an]a, both of whom were happy in the Friendship and Confidence of the Court of F[ranc]e, and in the Hopes of seeing in due Time, the present tragical Scene closed, and the Cause of Liberty established on a permanent Foundation. I remain Madam with the sincerety, Friendship & Esteem your most obedt. & very hum. ser.,


RC (Adams Papers). At foot of text: “Portia.”

1Vergennes’ note to JA quoted by Gerry was dated 24 Feb. (Adams Papers), and a translation of it was enclosed in JA’s letter to President Huntington on the 25th (PCC, No. 84, I; 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 , 3:518–519). Having had his presentation at Versailles on 7 March, JA waited a fortnight and then inquired concerning the promised official announcement of his mission (letter to Vergennes, 21 March; copy enclosed to Huntington in PCC, No. 84, I; Wharton, 3:564–565). In a reply nine days later Vergennes suavely explained that, upon inquiry, he had found that the presentations of neither ambassadors nor ministers plenipotentiary were announced in the Gazette de France and consequently that an announcement there of JA’s presentation would appear an “affectation.” He proposed instead to insert a notice of it in the Mercure de France (an organ of the French government, but not officially so), whence JA himself could see to it that it was copied in “les gazettes étrangères” in a postscript he subjoined a text for JA’s approval, as follows: “Le S[ieur] Adams que le Congrès des Etats Unis de l’Amérique a désigné pour assister aux conférences pour la paix lorsqui’il y aura lieu, est arrivé depuis quelque tems ici et a eû I’honneur d’être présenté au Roi et à la famille royale” (Adams Papers; translation in Wharton, 3:580). JA had to be satisfied with this brief and bare gesture, which was made on 5 April, but in reporting it and his compliance therewith to Congress on the same day he could not refrain from commenting: “I ought to confess . . . that the Delicacies of the Comte de Vergennes about communicating my Powers, are not perfectly consonant to my manner of thinking” (letter to Huntington, 30 March, PCC No. 84, I; Wharton description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 3: 581). Needless to say, the result of these “Delicacies” fell far below the expectations of Gerry as expressed in the present letter.

2LbC, Adams Papers; printed in Austin, Gerry description begins James T. Austin, The Life of Elbridge Gerry. With Contemporary Letters, Boston, 1828–1829; 2 vols. Vol. 1: To the Close of the American Revolution; vol. 2: From the Close of the American Revolution. description ends , 1:333–334.

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