Adams Papers

To John Adams from Robert R. Livingston, 30 May 1782

From Robert R. Livingston

No. 8

Philadelphia 30th. May 1782


After I had wrote the letter of yesterday and sent it off, I recieved your favours of the 4th.1 21. 27 of Feby, 10. &c. 11 of March; the three last I laid before Congress this morning, that of the 21st. I have kept by me for further consideration, tho’ I think upon the whole, as you have submitted them to my discretion, that I shall lay it also before Congress.2

I know they have been very solicituous to have some explanation of the Reasons, which induced you to take the step you did, those you assign in your letter are very full, and I see nothing in it, which it will not be proper for you to state to them, and it may remove some objections, that have been raised to the measure.

I frankly confess to you that the stile of that letter, pleases me better than any one you have written, it goes into minutia, that we ought to exact from all our Ministers, since nothing short of it can give us a just Idea of our foreign Politicks, as for a general state of them it may be got thro’ various channels. But every word or look of a foreign Minister or popular Leader may serve to explain matters, which are otherways inexplicable.

I am sorry for the difficulty the cypher occasions you, it was one found in the Office, and is very incomplete. I enclose one that you will find easy in the practice, and will therefore write with freedom directing your letters not to be sunk in case of danger as many are lost by that means, want of time induces me to send you a sett of Blanks for Mr. Dana, which you will oblige me by having filled up from yours, with the same Cyphers, and transmitted by a careful hand to him, this will make one cypher common to all three, which I think will on many occasions be of use to you and Mr. Dana.3

I am very glad to hear of your proposed removal to the Hague, as it is the proper stage on which to display your Abilities and Address. I cannot hope to get any determination of Congress on the subject of your purchase in time to be transmitted by this conveyance, when another offers, you shall hear from me, can nothing be done towards procuring a loan from Holland on account of the public 10,000000 of Livres would set our Affairs here on the most respectable footing, we have just recieved an account from Charles Town of the victory obtained by Rodney, this is a severe blow, but I hope will come too late to effect the Politicks of the United Provinces. In the United States it will I hope have no other effect, than to urge us to greater exertions, and a reliance upon our own strength, rather than on foreign Aid, you will be pleased to furnish me with the most minute details of every step that Britain may take towards a negotiation for a general or partial peace.

I am Sir with great Respect and Esteem your Excellency’s most obedient humble servant

Robt R Livingston

Dupl (MHi: John Adams, Embassy MSS); endorsed: “Secy. Livingston 30 May ansd 6: Sept. 1782 no 8.” Although JA wrote a detailed reply to this letter on 6 Sept., he acknowledged its arrival in the form of a duplicate in his letter of 4 Sept., both below.

1Livingston probably means JA’s letter of 14 Feb. (vol. 12:233–235), for there is no indication that he wrote on the 4th.

2Congress’ dispatch book indicates that it received JA’s letters of 27 Feb. and 10 and 11 March (vol. 12:274–277, 304–305, 308–310) on 31 May, but there is no entry marking the receipt of JA’s letters of 14 or 21 Feb. (vol. 12:250–259; PCC, No. 185, III, f. 29).

3Livingston refers to the Lovell cipher, which he replaced with a nomenclator code. He may have enclosed the code only with the original of this letter, for in his reply of 6 Sept., below, JA indicated it had not arrived with the duplicate. The original, and very likely the code, were sent with numerous other letters, including that of 31 May from Livingston to Thomas Barclay. Livingston wrote to Barclay that the packet intended for JA contained “papers of great consequence, that you will keep by you, till you can be sure they will go safe to his hands without inspection at the post offices—perhaps for greater precaution it would be well to enclose them to some Banker in Amsterdam upon whom you can rely” (PCC, No. 79, I, f. 444–445). This may indicate that the code was enclosed only with the original that Barclay received, for Barclay wrote to JA on 4 Sept., below, that he was sending the packet under cover to Ingraham & Bromfield at Amsterdam. He then apparently changed his mind and gave the packet to John Jay to give to JA whenever he arrived in Paris (from Barclay, 27 Sept., below). But JA did not report receiving the code until his letter of 30 May 1783 to Livingston (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, ed. Francis Wharton, Washington, D.C., 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 6:457).

The code that Livingston sent is in the Adams Papers on two large sheets of paper, one intended for encoding and the other for decoding a document. The first contains an alphabetical list of printed words or parts of words, after which are written the code numbers. The second contains a printed list of numbers from 1 to 1,000, after which are written the words or parts of words that the numbers represent. It should be noted that the list of words is endorsed “Mr Dana’s Papers.” and “Cypher Amsterdam Provinces,” while the list of numbers is endorsed “Cypher No. 1. to No. 1011.” For both documents see Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 602; for a printed version of the first document, see Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, Chicago, 1979, p. 328–336.

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