The Comte de Vergennes to John Adams: A Translation
Versailles, 25 July 1780
I have received, sir, the letter that you did me the honor to write on the 17th of this month. I have read it with the utmost attention and in order to make my reply all the more exact, I have placed in the margin each of the points which appear to merit observations on my part. You will see there, sir, that I still think that the moment to communicate your plenipotentiary powers to Lord Germaine has not yet arrived and the grounds upon which I base my opinion. I doubt not that you will feel the force of them and that they will determine you to think as I do. But if that should not be the case, I request and require you in the name of the King to communicate your letter and my reply to the United States and suspend, until you shall receive orders from them, vis-à-vis the English ministry. I shall, on my part, send my observations to America so that M. de La Luzerne may communicate them to the members of Congress, and I am persuaded that that assembly will judge the opinion of the Minister of France worthy of some attention and will not fear that, by adopting it as the rule of its conduct, it is neglecting or betraying the interests of the United States.1
I have the honor to be very sincerely, sir, your most humble and most obedient servant.
RCand enclosure (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “M. le Cte. de Vergennes 25th. July 1780 Recd. 26th.”; docketed by CFA: “A Translation published vol. 5. p. 287 Dipl. Correspondence.” CFA refers to Jared Sparks, ed., Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution.
1. For JA’s response to Vergennes’ request, and Congress’ reaction to his proposals and Vergennes’ criticism of them, see JA’s reply of 26 July, note 3 (below). Vergennes enclosed copies of the letters with his instructions of 7 Aug. to the Chevalier de La Luzerne. There Vergennes stated that he had replied to JA’s proposals with the frankness due any minister of an allied power, but his objections had not dissuaded JA and had brought only new evidence of his unreliability and feeble attachment to the principles of the alliance. La Luzerne was to present the matter to Congress and request that JA be instructed to attend to the views of the French government and undertake no initiatives regarding his commissions (should they remain in his hands) without prior consultation and approval. According to Vergennes, this was necessary because of JA’s delusions and willingness to discard his principles and thereby compromise both the alliance and the honor of his country (Henri Doniol, ed., Histoire de la participation de la France à l’établissement des Etats-Unis d’Amérique, 5 vols., Paris, 1886–1899, 4:424–427).