From Francis Dana
Paris Feby. 25th. 1781
Hotel Valois, Rue Richelieu
The enclosed letter came to hand the last Evening; I was about breaking it open, agreable to your directions, but observing it marked Cadiz, and supposing it to be a mear private Letter, I desisted.1 If it shou’d contain any news from our Country, I doubt not you will advise me of it by the first opportunity. Mr. Bondfield, who has lately been at Paris, writes me from Bordeaux on the 20th. instant: “By this day’s post from Cadiz, we are advised of the sailing of the Spanish Fleet to cruise off Cape St. Vincent, consisting of 30 Sail of the Line”—“Letters from England mention a suspension of the Condemnation of the Dutch Ships,2 and they are full of the Mediatrix’s influence;3 notwithstanding these reports, every species of West-India produce are buying up at the most extravagant prices”—“By advices from Amsterdam the Indiana is purchased by the States-General,4 and the other Frigate on the Stocks, of the same Construction, is finishing with all possible diligence.” Thus far He. What real foundation there is for any part of his Intelligence, I know not.
May I venture to congratulate with you, upon the Commencement of a certain business. You are wholly silent on this head, but he, who stands between KnobbEngelbert François van Berckel and VArthur Lee, has mentioned the matter to Funn James Searle, in a letter he received yesterday.5<
However it rest with us, for ought we know.>6One, at a time, will do. Applicatio non deest.7 Francisco Silas Deane is here. The Relation of Missa John Jay has been for about a month past, in the Sea-Ports.8 Tis said he means not to visit this great City; at which, I much wonder, seeing he has come so far, and means to return back upon the same paces. The particular business I can learn nothing of.9 I hope the workmen have left open a passage for the Alewives, otherwise there is danger of the dam’s being broken down by the people there abouts, who make use of them, not only in their families, but they are a great article for Bait: besides, if the superfluous water is not let off, it will, upon the first freshets, form such a head as will bear all down before it. Is it possible this danger can be overlooked by any of the proprietors of the Mill?
D.D.J. William Temple Franklin called upon me, and enquired with apparent agitation of spirits whether I had heard of the appointment of ——.10 I am afraid that he has been taken, and that the particular business with which he was charged may be deranged by that accident. I suppose it was in the line of his profession; and that A.Z. Congress was at last convinced of the necessity, that, as he was to share at least equally according to the terms of the Copartnership, in the profits and losses, he ought to be consulted about the outfits, and the course of the voyage. The very mischeifs have in fact happened, for want of this measure, which SteadyJohn Adams pointed out to, Angelica Comte de Vergennes, in the time of it; but her ear had been so long accustomed to the fulsome language of Adulation, that plain Truth and sound sense did not fail to disgust her. I believe they have however made an impression upon her mind. The folly of her conduct is plainly perceived by all the Family of Steady John Adams, yet out of regard to the Interests of both Families, they prudently say little about it, and hope she will, upon mature reflexion, lay aside her Coquetry, and pursue her true Interests.
My dear Sir, I have been seriously reflecting upon the general State of our Affairs, and having settled it in my own mind, that it is highly probable I shall remain an idle Man, long enough to allow of a visit to AZCongress, and to converse freely with him upon some things touching the commands he was pleased to honour us with, as also upon some other matters, which perhaps might be productive of some good. This Idea I have communicated to Funn James Searle, who seems highly to approve of it, and has begged me to communicate it to you, without loss of time. I have my doubts upon the expediency of the measure—but if, upon full consideration, you approve of it, I wou’d, notwithstanding I so much abominate remounting Mules, and passing over the frightful precipices, set off on my journey resigned to my Fate. I wou’d perform it as quick as possible, and give in person an account of my transactions to you, on my return. In order to go with expedition, I wou’d apply to De NovoMarquis de Castries11 for a birth in one of his light carriages as far as tis possible to travel with them. He has one frequently passing towards the Seat of AZ Congress, and I have no reason to think he wou’d not readily oblige me in this respect. After quitting that I cou’d take a Mule and trip it over the Mountains as before. Having once passed in safety those of Galice I shall not be much concerned about those which lay in my route. I lay this Idea before you with much diffidence and submit it to your friendly and better consideration. You will do me the justice to believe that I have no private views in this matter—my feelings, in the course of it, must undergo a very severe trial; yet I wou’d once more sustain it, if any benefit cou’d be obtained by it. My reflections are uncomfortable, when I look over the Map. I am, dear Sir, with much respect and esteem your obliged Friend and obedient hble Servt:
P.S. Has Mr. Grand advised you of my transfer?12 If so, you will please to cancel the Note.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “25. Feb. Dana ansd 12 Mar.”
2. Probably a reference to the Order in Council of 16 Feb., which appeared in various London papers on or about 17 Feb. (London Chronicle, 15–17 Feb.). Responding to a reciprocal order by the States General, it permitted Dutch ships found in British ports at the beginning of the war to return home. The only exceptions were those ships carrying contraband.
3. Catherine II in her role as mediator between Britain and its enemies. Her first involvement was with the joint Austro-Russian mediation of the Anglo-French war and her second was as sole mediator of the Anglo-Dutch conflict. The Austro-Russian mediation discussed here was the more important of the two because of its effect on European diplomacy and JA’s diplomatic status. For the parallel effort to mediate between Britain and the Netherlands, see Jean de Neufville’s letter of 2 March, and note 2, below.
The joint mediation grew out of a meeting on 16 Dec. 1780 between Lord Stormont, the British foreign minister, and I. M. Simolin, the Russian ambassador to Britain. There the Russian diplomat officially informed Stormont of the creation of the armed neutrality and provided him with a verbal explanation of its purpose. He indicated that Catherine II expected the belligerents to abide by its principles and hoped that a mutually acceptable basis would be found to end the Anglo-French war. At no time did Simolin indicate that his statements were to be construed as a proposal to mediate the Anglo-French war.
Simolin’s meeting with Stormont came on the eve of Britain’s declaration of war against the Netherlands. Since the principal, if unstated, reason for the war was the Dutch accession to the League of Armed Neutrality, Britain’s declaration constituted a direct challenge to the armed neutrality and its architect, Catherine II. This meant that Stormont needed to find some means to forestall intervention by Russia and the other members of the neutral confederation on behalf of the Netherlands, avoid alienating Catherine any further, and not further isolate Britain diplomatically and militarily. Stormont’s solution was clear from his reply to Simolin on 23 Dec., in which he chose to take the Russian’s comments on settling the Anglo-French war as an offer to mediate it. The resulting Austro-Russian mediation came to nothing because Britain demanded that France renounce its treaty with the U.S. as a precondition for negotiations and would not countenance any participation by the U.S. The mediation attempt did, however, create a diversion and lessen the pressure that might otherwise have been brought against Britain to make peace. For a detailed examination of the joint mediation and the motives of those involved, see De Madariaga, Armed Neutrality of 1780 description begins Isabel de Madariaga, Britain, Russia and the Armed Neutrality of 1780, New Haven, 1962. description ends , p. 264–288, 313–360.
Although JA never saw the Austro-Russian mediation as a viable option and expected it to fail, it significantly affected his efforts as a diplomat. France used the prospective mediation to convince Congress to replace JA as sole peace negotiator. The resulting five-member commission had instructions that seemed to tie any peace settlement to the dictates of French foreign policy. It also led to JA’s journey to Paris in July to discuss with Vergennes the mediation and the role of the U.S. at any peace conference under its auspices. For JA’s views on the Austro-Russian mediation as well as their effect on him, see Commissions and Instructions for Mediation and Peace, 15 June, Editorial Note; JA’s second letter of 16 May to Congress, note 1 and references there; and his correspondence with the Comte de Vergennes in July, all below.
4. The frigate Indien, purchased by Alexander Gillon and renamed the South Carolina, was then being outfitted for a voyage to America.
5. Dana refers to JA’s pending agreement with Jean de Neufville & Fils for raising a loan in the Netherlands. On the list of code names used by Dana, Neufville’s name was listed between van Berckel and Arthur Lee (, above).
6. This passage was interlined and marked for insertion at this point, but then was canceled.
7. The diligence is not lacking.
8. Henry Brockholst Livingston, John Jay’s brother-in-law and private secretary, visited Lorient and Nantes (John Jay: Unpublished Papers, 1745–1784, ed. Richard B. Morris, 2 vols., N.Y., 1975, 1980, 2:175–177).
9. The editors have been unable to divine Dana’s meaning in the remainder of this paragraph.
11. The French naval minister.