Adams Papers

From John Adams to the President of the Congress, No. 9, 25 February 1780

To the President of the Congress, No. 9

Paris Hotel de Valois Feby. 25th. 1780


Since my Letter of the twentieth, I have recieved another Letter from his Excellency the Comte de Vergennes dated the 24th. of February, to which I answered this Day; Copies of both Letters are inclosed.

I have also the Honour to inclose a Gazette, and an Application from M. Comyn of Marseilles to be a Consul for the Ports of Provence and Languedoc.1 I know nothing of this Gentleman, but what he says of himself.

By the inclosed Gazette, as well as by many others, Congress will see, of what wonderful Efficacy in pulling down Tyranny, a Committee of Correspondence is likely to be. Ireland have done great things by means of it. England is attempting great things with it, after the Example, of the Americans, who invented it, and first taught its Use: Yet all does not seem to produce the proper Gratitude in the Minds of the English towards their Benefactors. However the Glory of the Invention is as certainly ours, as that of Electrical Rods, Hadley’s Quadrant, or Inoculation for the Small Pox.2

I have the Honour to be; with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant,

RC is an unsigned Dupl in John Thaxter’s hand (PCC, Misc. Papers, Reel No. 1, f. 39); docketed: “John Adams Feb. 25. 1780” and “dupl No. 9 J. Adams Esqr 25th Feby. 1780 Read May 15. 1780—Publicity of his Embassy.” Intended RC in Thaxter’s hand (PCC, No. 84, I, f. 281); docketed: “No. 9 Feb 25th. 1780 Letter from J Adams recd. Oct 16. Publicity of his Embassy Mr. Comin’s Memorial vid Feb. 20 vid March 30.” Tripl, unsigned, in Thaxter’s hand (PCC, Misc. Papers, Reel No. 1, f. 29–31); docketed: “No. 9 Tripl: Feb. 25. 1780 Letter from J Adams rec’d. Oct: 16th. 80 Publicity of his Embassy Mr. Comin’s memorial.” LbC (Adams Papers); notations: “No. 9” and “recd in congress Oct. 15. Triplicate”; by Thaxter: “March 31st. 1780. The Letters were delivered to M. de la Fayette on board the Hermion Frigate by Dr. Bancroft ie. those <that were delivered> him by Mr. W. Franklin.”; “Feby. 26th. 1780. This day delivered to Mr. A. Lee Triplicates of all the Letters to Congress—also a Triplicate of the Comte De Vergennes Letter of the 24th. of Feby. and the answer to it of the 25th. inclosed in the Triplicate of Number 9., and also a Number of private Letters”; and “Delivered to Mr. W. Franklin, Duplicates of all the Letters to Congress to be by him sent to Dr. Bancroft to carry to Nantes.” The Letterbook notation for 31 March was interlined between the last line of text and the notation for 26 Feb. JA wrote to Edward Bancroft on 26 Feb. (LbC, Adams Papers), requesting that, since Bancroft was reportedly leaving for Nantes on the following day, he take charge of the packet and, from there or some other port, send it by a safe conveyance to America. Lafayette reached Philadelphia on 15 May with the duplicates, and Lee on or about 16 Oct. with the triplicates. Nothing is known of the route taken by the packet containing the intended recipient’s copy and its enclosures, but JA may have sent it with his letter of 25 Feb. to Joseph Gardoqui & Sons (above), who delayed forwarding it, with the result that it did not arrive until 16 Oct.

1Neither Comyn’s letter of [ante 25 Feb.] nor JA’s answer of 25 Feb. (RC and LbC, Adams Papers) have been printed. In his reply JA promised only to send Comyn’s application to the congress.

2In the Letterbook this paragraph clearly was an afterthought. Written immediately below the formal closing, it was marked for insertion following the paragraph mentioning Comyn’s application. JA refers, in addition to Franklin’s lightning rods, to: the navigational quadrant named after its English inventor, John Hadley, but also invented, apparently independently and with some improvements, by Thomas Godfrey, a Philadelphian, in 1730; and to the pioneering work of Boston’s Zabdiel Boylston, the first American physician to inoculate against smallpox, in 1721. As with Godfrey, Boylston’s work followed that of English doctors by a few months, but was developed independently from African and Turkish practices. Boylston was JA’s great-uncle (Raymond Phineas Stearns, Science in the British Colonies of America, Urbana, Ill., 1970, p. 514; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ).

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