Elbridge Gerry to Abigail Adams
Marblehead July 30 1781
My dear Madam
I have been honored with your Letter of the 20th Instant, on a Matter of the highest Concern to the Continent, as well as to our mutual Friend, who represents it in Europe.
Previous to the Receipt of the Letter I saw a Copy of one from Dr. F[ranklin] to C[ongress],1 and was soon after confidentially informed by a Gentleman at the southard of the proceedings thereon, which I confess have given me the greatest Pain and uneasiness. I cannot write so freely, Madam, as I shall confer with You, at a convenient Opportunity; but thus much I am greived to impart, that the Decree is past for revoking all the former Powers of our Friend, and for appointing him to execute new Instructions, with a Fraternity, some of whom to injure him, would I fear go greater Lengths than Judas did, to betray his Lord.2
I think it no difficult Task to trace the Vestiges of an undue Influence, which dared to approach our publick Councils as early as the period of the first Instructions, and which appears to me, for political purposes foreign to the Interest of America, to have produced a deep layed Plan for removing a Gentleman from office, upon whom alone many of the States could rely for obtaining a safe and honorable Peace.
If I have a right Idea of the last Powers, there can be no great Honor in executing them, either seperately or jointly; and the only object worth contending for in C[ongress] will be, a Revocation of these, and a Confirmation of the former Instructions with one Minister to execute them: but it is a Matter of Doubt in my Mind, whether the proceedings of C[ongress] have not made such a Measure altogether impracticable.
We shall however, Madam, be better able to judge understandingly, on the Return of Mr. L[ovell] who in his last Letter proposed soon to be in Boston: and altho the Times may justify the Sentiment that “the Post of Honor is a private Station”3 I shall not decline a publick one, whilst there is the least prospect of serving my Country on so important an occasion. I need not add Madam that nothing will afford me greater pleasure than an opportunity of rendering Services to Yourself and Family, and that I have the Honor to be with the sincerest Esteem your most obedt. & very hum. sert:,
1. Franklin’s controversial letter to Huntington, 9 Aug. 1780, criticizing JA’s conduct toward Vergennes; see above, Lovell to AA, 13 July, and note 7 there. Gerry’s allusion makes clear that copies of Franklin’s letter were sent to Boston at this time through more than one channel.
2. In a letter of the present date to Lovell (Dft, heavily corrected, on verso of Lovell to Gerry, 17 June 1781, MHi: Gerry-Knight Coll.), Gerry wrote:
“I have seen a Copy of the Letter from <
Doctor Franklin> to < Congress> respecting < Mr. J. Adams>and fear that his Zeal for his Country has far exceeded his usual Caution. Be that as it may I feel a deep Concern for our worthy Friend, and apprehend that the< ungrateful and>ungenerous Treatment he has received will be productive of Disgrace and irreparable Injury to his Country. < Gerard> You well remember was ever against our saving the Fishery, and as he received his Instructions from the < Court of France>, is it not probable they have layed a plan to oust Mr.< Adams> in order to carry their Measures into Effect.”
Whether the names stricken by Gerry in his Dft, and which appear here as cancellations, were replaced in RC with identifying initials, were written in cipher in keeping with Lovell’s usage in his letter on recto, or were left blank to be supplied by Lovell, cannot be known.
3. In Dft, Gerry at this point wrote and then cancelled: “I would chearfully make a Tour to the southard.”