Adams Papers

Arthur Lee and John Adams to John Julius Pringle, 12 February 1779

Arthur Lee and John Adams to John Julius Pringle

Passy Feb. 12. 1779


We have received your Letter of Feb. 9. offering your Services to the public by going to England to negotiate an Exchange of Prisoners. We have considered this Subject and judging it necessary to send some Person upon this Business, We have determined to accept of your Proposition, and We desire you to prepare yourself for the Journey, with all convenient Dispatch. Your Instructions shall be prepared immediately.1

We are Sir your humble Servants

Arthur Lee
signed only
John Adams

LbC in William Temple Franklin’s hand (Adams Papers). This letter was enclosed in the preceding letter from JA to Lee and appears before that letter in JA’s Letterbook.

1This letter may be considered the last official act by Arthur Lee and JA as members of the joint commission to the French court. Benjamin Franklin’s official notification of his appointment as minister plenipotentiary arrived on 12 Feb., presumably after this letter had been drafted and sent (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). Franklin did not go forward with Pringle’s appointment, reverting instead to his plan to name Edward Bancroft as agent. But Bancroft apparently did not go to England either. According to David Hartley, to whom Franklin had written concerning a safe conduct for Bancroft, the British ministry saw no need for an American agent in England to expedite the exchange, In any event, the first shipload of American prisoners reached France on 1 April (Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. description begins I. Minis Hays, comp., Calendar of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin in the Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1908; 5 vols. description ends , 2:35; Catherine Prelinger, “Benjamin Franklin and the American Prisoners of War in England during the American Revolution,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 3d ser., 32:275–276 [April 1975]).

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