From Edmund Jenings
Paris March 10 1779
I Hope this will meet you in good Health at Nantes and that you will find every thing there Agreable to your Wishes.1
By the Mail from England we learn Lord Norths Plan for raising the Money already voted.
1stly. a Surcharge of 5 per Cent on the Amount of all the Articles of the Duties of Excise and Customs, except, Beer, Soap, Candles and Hides
*2dly. 9d. per Stage for last Horse in Post Chaises
3dly. the Right of Franking to be Abolished.
& 4thy. a Duty to be laid on Cambricks which have been hitherto prohibited.
The whole of which Taxes will produce £478 771. to pay £472.510.2
They will fall lightly upon the several Articles; but as they go to almost all the Necessaries of Life, and as Rapine and Extortion will double them on the Consumer I have no doubt, they will Cause great Uneasiness.
When the Minister was asked About Spain, He said He [had?] not satisfied the Doubts of the Money Lenders, removed their Fears nor given them Hopes about her Conduct. That As to the American War, He certainly intended to prosecute it, but on a Narrower Scale, than it had been; that reinforcements were to be sent to Sir H. C. but it was not yet Time to send them.3
On a Supposition that One or More french fleets are out the West and East India fleets are prevented Sailing.
Keppel has been closeted by the King, but it is supposed He Will not Act with the present Ministry.4
It is positively reported in the London Papers, that the Peace between the Emperor and Prussia is concluded, that the Emperor is to establish the Paletine in his Estates in Bavaria, and is to have some foederal Rights renounced to Him in return.5
It is said in the papers that Campbel has demanded reinforcements of Clinton. They certainly do not mean to stay in Georgia unless they meet with great Success by the Countrys Coming in, but will plunder and leave it. This at least is political.6
I Trust you will excuse the Liberty I took in putting the Pamphlet, entitl’d Considerations &c. in your Hand.7 It has been published some Time in England, and gave me the opportunity of Knoing the Sense of Many Leading Men of the Minority on the important Question of Independancy, but the occasion of its publication Arose from a Conversation with one, of the Ministerial Party, of Rank and Power.
Meeting Him one day, I was long backwards in entering into discourse with Him, until He told me, that there then appeared some Signs of a Change in the Kings Mind. This lead me to open myself to Him on the Subjects, then Current about London relative to a Pacification. Having listened to me Attentively, He said He wished to talk further on the Subject, and for that purpose desird that I would go with Him into the Country. I had my reasons for refusing, but drew up a few Sheets, Containing the Substance of the Conversation, and presenting them, gave Him, at his request, the Liberty of Shewing them to others. His and their opinions were flattering; He Himself told me, in particular, that if ever the Question of Independancy came before the House it should not be lost for want of his Vote. And As Others might b’Affectd as He was, He desired it might be published. In Consequence of which, I entrusted it to the Care of a Friend who published it since I came to Paris, carefully concealing my Name, being fearful of appearing a busy Man.8 I shewed it to our Friend at Chaillot9 who told me, He had left it with You. I wish it may now Obtain your Attention, and meet with your Approbation; altho it has not succeeded in its principal object, such attention and Approbation will be a Proof your Sense of my Sentiments of my Disposition towards my Country. Should it not meet with your Approbation, I shall at least have your free thoughts, to Correct Mine.
In perusing the Pamphlet, I trust, you will not Think me presumptuous, in venturing on such a great Discussion. In particular in pointing out what Concepions and Stipulations might be made, it was necessary to point out some, to draw the Attention of a Selfish People, and to make the bitter Pill of Independancy somewhat Paleatable.10 You will see plainly, that the Propositions are grounded on such a View of the Interests of our Country, as one, who has lived too long seperated from Her, might be supposed to have. You, who have mixed in all Transactions and have a Knowledge of her True Interests, may perhaps see Matters in another Light. You may see, that tho there are things which might be adopted, yet that the workings of Ambitious Men and the temper of rising States may Expect some thing more. But you will be pleased to Observe, that the Concepions are expressed in the most general Indefinite and doubtful Manner, that the Object of the whole was to gain an Immediate Acknowledgement of the Independancy, which is so essential, as to warrant perhaps the making some Sacrifices. Sacrifices however, which the Acknowledge[ment] of the Independancy would, by a prudent Management, be soon recovered. I could have made it much fuller, but I wished to set people a thinking and reasoning on the Subject.
I Know not whether I ought not to make some Apology for what is said, relative to the Power of the Commissioners to treat of Terms of Peace in Europe.11 The Congress ought to be, and is considered by me, as the best Judges of the Interests of America, and therefore cannot be Supposed, will trust to any Man the final Adjustment of them. That is not proposed, but only, that as the Interests of one or more of the Powers of Europe may be mixt with those of America, there ought to be Authority entrusted here, not only to receive Propositions but to treat of Preliminaries. I Hope I shall not be Misunderst[ood] on this Head.
There is No one, who wishes more Earnestly than I do, that you may Arrive Safely and Soon in America; and that you may find Things there in the best Situation—you can give much Information, which is apparently much wanted. I wish I had had an opportunity and that I could have taken the Liberty of opening my Mind to You in the fullest Manner. I am Happy to think, however, that as far as I can Judge of your Sentments, mine are entirely Conformable to them. I am obliged to you for the Confidence you shewed me on your Departure. The Respect I have for You, and the Honor and Interest of my Country, will induce me to Endeavour most studiously to make myself worthy of it. The Honor you have done me in demanding my Correspondance is highly flattering to and shall be cherished by me in the most willing Obedience. For this purpose give me leave to Suggest the Necessity of Changing your Name, and writing under a feigned Signature—your real one is too Important to be seen by the Enemies of the States, and mine is of no Consequence to Keep. And therefore after praying God to bless You and Yours Give me Leave to Subscribe myself Dear Sir Your Most Faithfull & Obt Hble Servt.
P.S. *this tax is alterd and it now stands thus on[e] penny per mile for every pair of Horses travelling post in Chaises. Inn Keepers letting Horses pay 5 £ per Ann[um].
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Jean Clement March 10. 1779.”
1. This letter is the first of over 200 that Edmund Jenings and JA would exchange in the course of an intensive correspondence that lasted until June 1784. Relatively little is known of Jenings, and there is some debate over whether he was a loyal American living in England or a British double agent. Edmund Jenings was born in 1731 at Annapolis, Md., but early went to England, where he was educated, and remained there or on the continent until his death in 1819. With the approach of the Revolution he became a pamphlet critic of British policy and in private letters provided intelligence on British policies and actions. For detailed accounts of Jenings’ life and relationship with JA, see JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:355–356; Letters from a Distinguished American, ed. James H. Hutson, Washington, 1978, p. x–xvii.
It is unclear when Jenings arrived in Paris or when JA met him. A letter of 29 Oct. from Genet to JA seems to indicate his presence, but JA’s first mention of him occurs in a Diary entry for 4 March, which noted that he and JQA had “walked with Mr. Jenings to Calvare” (Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:355). In any event, during the time remaining before JA left for America he and Jenings exchanged twelve letters and their relationship became firmly established.
2. The new taxes were introduced in and adopted by the House of Commons on 1 March. They were intended to pay the interest (given here as £472,510, but differently elsewhere) on the £7,000,000 loan that North had announced on 23 Feb. For accounts of the budget debate, which differ in some particulars, see Parliamentary Hist. description begins The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, London, 1806–1820; 36 vols. description ends , 20:163–174; LondonChronicle, 27 Feb.–2 March. The account in the Chronicle indicates that the second point, starred by Jenings and referred to in the postscript, was changed in the course of North’s presentation.
3. No such statement by Lord North about sending reinforcements to Sir Henry Clinton has been found.
4. Following his acquittal on 11 Feb., Keppel wrote to the King concerning his reluctance to serve under the North ministry, which he naturally blamed for his court-martial. On 18 March, after a sharp exchange with the admiralty, he was ordered to strike his flag as commander of the channel fleet. His next service was in 1782 as first lord of the admiralty in the Rockingham ministry (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1900; 63 vols. plus supplements. description ends ).
5. Jenings gives the broad outline of the settlement as it appeared in the London Chronicle of 27 Feb. – 2 March. The final agreement embodied in the Treaty of Teschen was not signed, however, until 13 May (Cambridge Modern Hist. description begins The Cambridge Modern History, New York, 1909–1910; 12 vols. description ends , 6:633).
6. Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell captured Savannah on 29 Dec. 1778 with little trouble. His detailed report on the victory was dated 16 Jan. and printed in the London Chronicle of 23–25 Feb. In the Chronicle, 25–27 Feb., two items referred to reinforcements for Georgia, one reporting that Campbell had requested additional troops, “the provincials being found stronger than they imagined them.” Such reports were only rumors, for no reference to such a request appears in Campbell’s report of 16 Jan. or in later ones, and, considering the ease of his victory and the reported willingness of the populace to flock to the British flag, reinforcements were unnecessary. Campbell’s troops were joined to the force under Gen. Augustine Prevost that marched from St. Petersburg, but Clinton sent no additional troops from New York (Ward, War of the Revolution description begins Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, New York, 1952; 2 vols. description ends , 2:679–681).
7. Considerations on the Mode and Terms of a Treaty of Peace with America (London, 1778) was issued anonymously and printed for Edward and Charles Dilly and John Almon, all supporters of the American cause. A second London edition of the pamphlet also appeared in 1778. In 1779 it was reprinted in Philadelphia, Hartford, and Charleston (Evans description begins Charles Evans and others, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends , Nos. 16245, 16246, B4861).
Jenings criticized both past efforts and current proposals to end the war. He was particularly harsh in his comments on the Carlisle Commission and one of its members, George Johnstone. Jenings believed that negotiations could succeed only if recognition of American independence was granted as the first step, British negotiators proceeded in an open and candid fashion, and there was an acknowledgment that it was in the British interest to establish an amicable relationship with the new nation. From this Jenings proposed that recognition of American independence be granted immediately and then that the American Commissioners should be approached directly to act as mediators between the British and French. The novelty of the second proposal arose from his belief that the Americans would not sign a peace treaty so long as Britain and France were at war; and, therefore, since the Americans would have achieved their paramount objective, independence, they would be highly motivated to bring about an end to the Anglo-French conflict. For other points raised in the pamphlet, see notes 10 and 11 (below).
9. Arthur Lee. Jenings, Lee’s second cousin, had engaged in an extensive correspondence with him during 1777 and 1778 (Letters from a Distinguished American, ed. Hutson, p. x, xii).
10. Jenings proposed that in exchange for the British recognition of American independence and a treaty of peace, the United States might be induced to forego trade with the East Indies, guarantee British possession of the West Indies, and abandon claims to western lands. In addition, the United States might agree to supply naval stores, enter into a fisheries agreement, and refrain from interfering in the business of the Hudson’s Bay Company (p. 13–15). With all of this Jenings emphasized continually the commercial advantages that would accrue to Great Britain from its reentry into American trade.
11. Jenings was apologizing for his presumption that the American Commissioners possessed powers to negotiate a peace and that, even if they did not, their recommendations would “have the fullest effect in Congress” (p. 10–11).