Adams Papers

To John Adams from Matthew Ridley, 13 July 1782

From Matthew Ridley

Amsterdam July 13h. 1782


I did not write you last Tuesday as I had it not in my power to inform you with any certainty on the Subject my Letter was intended for.1 I can now assure you the Marquis de la Fayette will not leave home this summer. Monsieur de la Touche with the Eagle2 and some other Frigates have by this time sailed, with sundry Vessels under Convoy, having on board Stores Cloathing &ce for both Armies. A number of Officers are also gone.

Monsieur de Guichen has arrived off Ushant. They have taken 18 sail of Quebec Vessels and a small Frigate.3

The business of peace drag’d on very slowly. There was no probability of doing any thing this summer. This was before the late sudden change in England.4 I think a person may venture to pronounce now that it will drag on yet more heavily if not be entirely broke off. We have it here that Mr. Fox’s open declaration for an avowal of American Independancy in a clear and explicit manner: and saying the Cabinet were unanimously of the same opinion was the occasion of his Resignation. Both the King and Lord shelburne denied the latter part. I have a Letter from there telling me several more Resignations were talkd of and that every thing was in great confusion.

I have the honor to be with great respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient & most humble Servant

Matt: Ridley

RC (Adams Papers).

1Tuesday was 9 July. Ridley went to The Hague on Sunday, 7 July, and returned to Amsterdam the next day. Ridley and JA had a long conversation over tea on the afternoon of the 7th, recorded in Ridley’s journal (MHi), during which he may have promised JA that he would write upon his return to Amsterdam. At their meeting on the 7th, JA indicated, based on what he had learned from Franklin’s letter of 2 June (above), that Grenville had received new powers to negotiate with the belligerent powers but not specifically with the United States, and that Grenville had been informed that those powers were insufficient. JA was also critical of William Alexander’s visit to London in the winter of 1781–1782, during which Alexander stated that formal recognition of American independence was not required as a preliminary to Anglo-American peace negotiations. JA believed that Alexander, a bankrupt who was arrested during his visit, had been sent by Franklin as his agent to sound out the British government regarding peace negotiations, and that Alexander’s statement regarding recognition reflected Franklin’s position. Ridley indicated that he was “realy amazed” at this, but JA responded that it was true, for “Dr F had sent him Letters relating to it.” The letters JA referred to were those between Franklin and David Hartley that Franklin enclosed with his of 13 April to JA (vol. 12:407–408, and references there; see also, Morris, Peacemakers description begins Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence, New York, 1965. description ends , p. 303–304). It was also during his meeting with Ridley that JA apparently first learned of John Jay’s arrival at Paris, leading him to writeto Jay on 8 July, above.

2This was the forty-gun frigate Aigle. The Gazette d’Amsterdam reported on 12 July that the Aigle was carrying a number of French officers to America but that Lafayette was not, as previously thought, among them. Upon its arrival in America in September, with British warships in close pursuit, the frigate ran aground in the Delaware River and was lost, but its dispatches and passengers were saved (Franklin, Papers description begins The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, William B. Willcox, Claude A. Lopez, Barbara B. Oberg, Ellen R. Cohn, and others, New Haven, Conn., 1959–?. description ends , 37:539–540; from Robert R. Livingston, 15 Sept., below).

3Guichen’s vessels were part of the combined fleet then patrolling off Ushant at the mouth of the English Channel. The Gazette d’Amsterdam of 12 July reported the capture of eighteen vessels of a convoy bound to Newfoundland and Quebec, and on the 16th it provided a list of the captured vessels taken from Guichen’s report dated 27 June. No frigate is listed as taken.

4The Marquis of Rockingham died on 1 July after a long illness, bringing to a close a ministry established only four months earlier. George III immediately named the Earl of Shelburne to form a new ministry. For the controversy over the change in ministries, particularly Charles James Fox’s resignation from the cabinet, see JA’s letter of 17 July to Edmund Jenings, and note 3, below.

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