Adams Papers

Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners, 21 June 1778

Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners

York Town in Pennsylva June 21 1778


The British Commissioners have arrived and transmitted their powers and propositions to Congress, which have received the answer you will see in the Pennsylvania Gazette of the 20th. instant.1

On the 18th. of this month Gen. Clinton with the British army (now under his command) abandoned Philadelphia, and the City is in possession of our Troops. The enemy crossed into Jersey, but whether with design to push for So. Amboy, or to embark below Belingsport on the Delaware is yet uncertain. Gen. Washington has put his Army in motion, and is following the enemy into Jersey.

There has arrived here a Mr. Holker from France who has presented a paper to Congress declaring that he comes with a verbal message to Congress from the Minister of France touching our treating with Great Britain and some other particulars which for want of his paper we cannot at present enumerate. The Style of his paper is as from the representative of the Court, but he has no authentic voucher of his Mission for the delivery of this verbal message. We desire of you Gentlemen to give us the most exact information in your power concerning the Autenticity of Mr. Holkers Mission for this purpose.2 We are Gentlemen, with esteem and regard your most obedient and very humble servants

Richard Henry Lee

Ths. Heyward Junr.

James Lovell

RC, in the hand of Richard Henry Lee (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); addressed: “To Honble Commissioners from the United States of America Paris” docketed in an unknown hand: “James Lovell Esqr. Yorktown 21 June 78.”

1The resolution adopted on 17 June in the form of a letter from Henry Laurens to the British Commissioners. It stated that there could be no negotiations unless Britain explicitly acknowledged the independence of the United States (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 11:614–615).

2The Commissioners replied to this request for information on the status of Jean (John) Holker the younger in a letter of 17 Sept. (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 , 2:722–725). On the reverse of the present letter’s first page is a notation, probably taken from the Commissioners’ reply, in an unknown hand: “Count Vergennes Answer respecting Mr. Holker was—that he was astonish’d that Mr. Holker had no Commission verbal or other from this Ministry; and was only desird to communicate to them his observations on the Country.” In any event, the congress’ uncertainty about Holker’s status was removed when it was informed by Conrad Alexandre Gérard, the French minister, on 16 July, that Holker was an “Agent of the marine of France.” A few days later Gerard sent the congress two commissions, both dated 15 July, naming Holker agent of Marine and consul for Philadelphia (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 11:696, 713; Gérard, Despatches and Instructions description begins Despatches and Instructions of Conrad Alexandre Gérard, 1778–1780: Correspondence of the First French Minister to the United States with the Comte de Vergennes, ed. John J. Meng, Baltimore, 1939. description ends , p. 131; see also JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 4:54).

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