Adams Papers

From John Adams to the President of Congress, No. 87, 26 June 1780

To the President of Congress, No. 87

Paris June 26th. 1780


The Resolutions of Congress of the 18th. of March respecting the paper bills, appeared first in Europe as recited in the Act of the Assembly of Pennsylvania.1 They were next published in the English News-Papers as taken from a Boston Paper published by the Council;2 at last the Resolutions appear’d in the Journals of Congress.

A great clamour was raised and spread, that the United States had violated their Faith, and had declared themselves Bankrupts unable to pay more than Two and a half pr. Cent.

A Gentleman3 soon after called upon me, and told me that the Court were alarmed, and that the Comte De Vergennes wou’d be glad to consult me upon the Subject. I then receiv’d a Letter from Boston acquainting me that the Legislature of Massachusetts had adopted the Plan. Of this letter I sent an Extract immediately to the Comte,4 and waited on him at Versailles, where I had the honor of a long Conversation with his Excellency on the Subject.5 He desired me to converse with his first Commis6 upon the Subject; which I did particularly.

He Excellency told me he had written to me upon the Subject and that I shou’d receive the letter the next Day. On my return from Versailles, I received a letter from Mr. Gerry7 informing me of the Resolutions to pay the Loan Office Certificates at the value of money at the Time when they issued. I had before told the Comte, that I was persuaded this was a part of the plan. I sent an Extract of this letter also to the Comte without loss of time. The next day I received the Letter from his Excellency; Copy of which and of my Answer are enclosed.8 Yesterday Mr. Trumbull of Connecticut, favoured me with a Law of the State, respecting this matter, and an Estimate of the gradual progress of Depreciation. Those papers I forthwith transmitted to his Excellency.9

I am determined to give my sentiments to His Majesty’s Ministers whenever they shall see Cause to ask them; altho it is not within my Department, untill I shall be forbidden by Congress and to this End, I will go to Court often enough to give them opportunity to ask them, if they wish to know them.10

The Clamour that has been raised, that has been so industriously spread, that I cannot but suspect; that the Motive at Bottom, has either been a wish to have opportunity of continuing the profitable speculations, which artful Men are able to make in a depreciating Currency, or else by spreading a diffidence in American Credit to discourage many from engaging in American Trade, that the profits of it, may still continue to be confined to a few. I have the honour with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient and most humble Servant

John Adams11

RC in Francis Dana’s hand (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 153–156); endorsed: “No. 86 Letter from John Adams June 26. 1780 Read Novr. 30. Referred to Mr. Lovell Mr. Houston Mr. Motte.” LbC (Adams Papers); notations: “Recd. in congress Nov. 25.”; by Thaxter: “No. 87” and “NB. The original of No. 87 was delivered with the Letters mentioned to be inclosed in it, to Mr. Braxton of Virginia, who was going to L’Orient. 26th June 1780. Duplicate of No. 87 & its Inclosures were delivered to Thomas Fitz Gerald an officer under Commode. Gillon, to go to Amsterdam—1st. July 1780. Triplicates of the above were delivered to Mr. Gridley a Gentleman with Commodore Gillon bound to Amsterdam—8th July 1780.”

1See Jonathan Williams to JA, 23 May, and note 3 (above).

2The resolution of 18 March, taken from the Boston Independent Chronicle of 6 April, appeared in the London Courant of 24 May.

3Probably Leray de Chaumont. If so, and if JA’s account is correct, then considerable light is shed on Vergennes’ role in initiating the exchange over the resolution of 18 March, but see Chaumont’s letter of 16 June to Joseph Mathias Gérard de Rayneval (above).

4To Vergennes, 16 June (above).

5In the Letterbook this sentence continues: “and endeavoured to convince him of the Rectitude of the Measure.” The omission was likely a copying error, for the passage appears in a duplicate of this letter received by Congress on 19 Feb. 1781 (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 157–160).

6That is, Rayneval.

7This was Gerry’s letter of 5 May (above). The extract was enclosed in JA’s letter of 20 June to Vergennes (above).

8The register of letters received by Congress indicates that the letter as received on 30 Nov. contained two enclosures: “June 21st Count De Vergennes to Mr. Ad. Objections agst. Act of Congress 18 March 22 Mr. Ad: to C. de Vergennes Answr. and vindication of sd. Act” (PCC, No. 185, II, f. 75). The “vindication” was probably JA’s first letter of 22 June to Vergennes, for no copy of the second letter is in the PCC, but see JA’s letter of 29 June to Franklin, note 1 (below). The copies received by Congress on 12 Dec. 1780 and 19 Feb. 1781, however, contained six enclosures: the two letters noted above as well as his letters of [22] and 29 June to Franklin, Vergennes’ letter of 30 June, and his reply of 1 July (PCC, No. 185, II, f. 77; No. 84, II, f. 157–159). See also Vergennes’ letter of 29 July, note 1 (below).

9For this letter to Vergennes of 25 June (Adams Papers) transmitting the information obtained from John Trumbull, see JA’s letter to Vergennes of 16 June, note 2 (above).

10This is the most determined statement concerning JA’s approach to the French government found in any of JA’s letters to date, and foreshadows the bitter exchange between JA and Vergennes in July over French aid and the disclosure of his mission to the British ministry (The Dispute with the Comte de Vergennes, 13–29 July, below). For a discussion of its implications, see the Editorial Note, 16 June–1 July (above).

11For Congress’ approval of JA’s representations regarding the revaluation described in this letter, see its resolution of 12 Dec., which was enclosed with the Committee for Foreign Affairs’ letter of that date (below).

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