Adams Papers

John Adams to Richard Cranch, 15 December 1782

John Adams to Richard Cranch

Paris. Decr 15. 1782

My dear Brother

Since my Arrival here 26 October, untill the 30 of November, We had a constant Scuffle Morning noon and night about Cod and Haddock on the Grand Bank Deer skins on the Ohio and Pine Trees at Penobscat, and what were worse than all the Refugees.1

The Denouement of the Plott has had in it as much of the sublime and Pathetic as any Part of the Piece. It was comical too as you shall one day know in detail.

I look back with Wonder upon the scenes; and with Gratitude. We shall be afflicted with Disputes about the Refugees, and criticks will pick holes and discover flaws and Blemishes, But We have done the best We could.

My affectionate Remembrance to sister & the Children.


RC (MHi: Cranch Family Papers); endorsed: “Letter from his Exy. J. Adams Decr. 15th. 1782.”

1The cod and the haddock, the deer skins, and the pine trees are symbolic of the most important issues in the peace negotiations with Great Britain. JA was a staunch advocate of freedom to fish and had made inquiries better to understand the nature of the business and its requirements. He refused to yield on access to the Grand Banks and nearby waters for Americans, although he had to make some concessions on the wording of America’s access to fishing along the Newfoundland coast. Another major issue was the western boundary of the United States. From the outset, John Jay had insisted upon the Mississippi River, and JA had strongly supported this position. He was outspoken, too, in pushing the northeastern boundary as far northward as possible in opposition to the British desire to retain a good part of Maine as a source of mast trees. “Refugees” referred to the problem of Britain’s attempting to obtain amnesty for loyalists and restitution or indemnification for those who suffered losses of property. For an account of the negotiating positions and concessions, see Morris, Peacemakers description begins Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence, New York, 1965. description ends , ch. xi, and p. 363–364, 373–380.

JA later included images of the fish, the deer, and the pine tree in a seal designed to commemorate the victory that the Americans had won in the negotiations. Fashioned in 1783, it consisted of thirteen stars arranged to enclose the tree and the deer above a swimming fish. After JQA helped to win similar concessions at the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, JA asked him to have a new seal engraved, adding a phrase from Horace (Epistles, I, vi, 57), arranged to enclose the sea: Piscemur, venemur, ut olim; that is: “Let us fish, let us hunt, as in the past” (Catalogue of JQA’s Books description begins Worthington C. Ford, ed., A Catalogue of the Books of John Quincy Adams Deposited in the Boston Athenaeum. With Notes on Books, Adams Seals and Book–Plates, by Henry Adams, Boston, 1938. description ends , facing p. 135 and p. 140).

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