Adams Papers

To John Adams from Matthew Ridley, 20 September 1782

From Matthew Ridley

Paris Sept: 20h: 1782


I doubt not you have e’er this thought me slow in keeping the promise I made of writing to you. I have had many Reasons for defering it; but amongst others the desire of writing you with some certainty of the Tempers of People here. I have had one very serious Conversation with, J.1 He appears to me very desirous of seeing you—were it only for a few Hours—he says he has some Things to consult you upon that he cannot put to Paper. He dare not trust them even with Cypher—They relate to opinions of I suppose both Men and Things and which he says must only be talkd of, not written. I proposed his taking a Trip to Bruxelles to meet you there, that I had a chaise at his service and would if he thought proper go with him. This he said he could not do without advising F. and V. The latter would certainly know where he was gone—he would be asking F. F. would not be able to tell him. And suspicions would immediately arise that seperate treaties or some Clandestine Work was going forward. He said he saw one inconvenience that might arise from your coming here—that of giving rise to speculations with respect to Peace. Still he wishd he could see you. I know you are much engaged; but if you cannot meet could not this difficulty about meeting be in some measure obviated thro’ a mediate Person? Our Friend at Bruxelles would I am sure think nothing of a Trip to you both to be useful. My dear Sir, the present Moments are ticklish. It is with great Pleasure I find Mr. J—— firm. I wish however he was supported. Reneval is gone to England—not for any Good I believe.2 As a Negotiator he is not equal to it. To speak the words of another a mere repeating Machine very fit. I cannot for my part see what occasion France has to send any person to England. The English have come here for Peace to send there is rather relinquishing their superiority. I have an opinion V. is suspicious of too great an Intimacy with the English Commissioners here: and Indeed I have some Reason for thinking so. The departure of R was very private and sudden and entirely unknown to our Folks. There was a moment I beleive that the prospects of Peace were flattering. I do not think they remain so—on the contrary I beleive very little if any progress is made. If Gibraltar is taken it may make some difference: but between you and me I neither expect or wish it. I am firmly perswaded that every advantage gained to the S——ds will only tend to new demands from them and consequently more embarrass the business of Peace. I wish sincerely you knew all that is passing here.

I have enquired about the blank Commission you mentioned and am informed though not filled up it is promised.3 Application was made I beleive by Letter to Mr. J—— before he came here and personal application has been made since. Under such circumstances I am not surprized a promise was extorted W. T. F is the person.

Our Account with the French Court is adjusted. The King has given up all Interest due to this time and has taken all the Expences of the negotiation of the Dutch Loan on himself. All Gifts are de­ducted from the amount and one Obligation given for the whole remainder to be paid by Installments in twelve Years—the first payment to commence in three Years after the making a Peace. The Debt is much less considerable than I expected; about twenty Eight millions of Livres including the Loan from Holland.4

The Marquis de La Fayette is still here. I do not beleive he intends out. Genl. du Portail and Colo. Guvyon have been waiting untill this time to go with him but the former told me the other day he should go out next Month whether the Marquis went or not and that indeed he had no expectation he would go. The Marquis also told me he was surprized he had not heard from you lately—He loves news and I have no doubt would be very glad to know what you are about. However a Line there now and then is not amiss.5 He has been very kind to Mr B.6 respecting the stores at Brest in endeavouring to procure for him the Assistance of Government in getting them away. Mr. B. set off for that place last night.

Os and Fitz are both here. Mr. Vaughan is returned to England. Mr L. is also going there on his way to America—Indeed I imagine he may be there before this. It is I find a Step not much approved of here. I wish it does not give rise to injurious Comments.

We have nothing new from America. The present Conversation is entirely engrossd about Gibraltar. The French and Spanish Fleets are sailed from Cadiz for Algeziras. I am told by those who know the situation this position will not prevent the English throwing in supplies it being more than cannon shot distance and as the combined fleet must lay at Anchor the English may run in and do their business without much danger.

We seem convinced here Vaudreuel is on our Coast—if he is we may expect some Arrivals soon. Should there be any news you shall have it. With kind Wishes I have the honor to be: respectfully sir Yr. &c.

You know my address. Can you send a Cyhr for Mr. J——?

It is necessary to observe to you that as Reneval went off Secretly no Body here seems to know of it—you will therefore take no notice about it.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Ridley 20 Septr 1782 ansd 29.”

1This conversation occurred on 18 Sept., and the account given here follows very closely Ridley’s journal entry for that date insofar as it concerned the proposed meeting between JA and Jay at Brussels. In the course of the conversation, Ridley also recommended Edmund Jenings to Jay as a “well informed Man and in whom he might confide every Thing and whose only wish was to serve his Country.” Ridley then asked Jay “if he knew the cause of the difference between Mr A and Dr F. He said not.” Ridley proceeded to inform Jay “of it in the manner Mr A. had told it me—he seemed surprized” (MHi: Ridley Journal). Ridley’s account of the “difference” between JA and Franklin was probably derived from his conversation with JA on 7 July, for which see Ridley’s letter of 13 July, note 1, above.

2JA may have learned of Gérard de Rayneval’s mission to London unofficially from a newspaper account such as that in the Gazette d’Amsterdam of 20 Sept., but a more official notification came from the Duc de La Vauguyon, and, owing to the ambassador’s explanation of its purpose, he did not share the apprehensions of the Americans in Paris (to Robert R. Livingston, 23 Sept.; to Ridley, 29 Sept. [2d letter], both below). Rayneval was sent principally to discuss with Shelburne the principles on which a peace settlement between Britain, France, and Spain would be based. However, the mission’s secrecy led the American negotiators at Paris, particularly John Jay, to fear that Rayneval’s intention was to encourage the British to refuse recognition of American fishing rights off Newfoundland or to agree to a western border on and free navigation of the Mississippi River. Such fears were heightened by the disclosure to John Jay by the British negotiators at Paris of an intercepted letter from François de Barbé-Marbois, secretary of the French legation in Philadelphia, to the Comte de Vergennes. There Barbé-Marbois dismissed the more expansive objectives contained in Congress’ instructions to its negotiators and indicated French support for little more than recognition of American independence in any Anglo-American peace treaty (Morris, Peacemakers description begins Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence, New York, 1965. description ends , p. 320–330; Murphy, Vergennes description begins Orville T. Murphy, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes: French Diplomacy in the Age of Revolution, 1719–1787, Albany, N.Y., 1982. description ends , p. 359). Had JA known of Barbé-Marbois’ letter in September he too would have been concerned because it confirmed his suspicions of French policy toward the United States, but in the end Rayneval’s mission had no tangible effect on the peace treaty.

3This was the commission to be secretary of the peace commission. JA favored the appointment of Edmund Jenings, but in a conversation with Ridley at dinner on 5 Aug., JA indicated that he did not know if Franklin would agree or if Jenings would accept the position and asked Ridley “to sound Mr Jay on the subject” (MHi: Ridley Journal).

4Ridley’s journal entry for 18 Sept. indicates that Benjamin Franklin informed him that day of the contract signed on 16 July by himself and the Comte de Vergennes, setting down the conditions under which the United States would repay the loans that it had received from France, including the one guaranteed by France and raised in the Netherlands (vol. 12:94). The agreement was ratified by Congress on 22 Jan. and France on 21 Dec. 1783 (Miller, Treaties description begins Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, ed. Hunter Miller, Washington, D.C., 1931–1948; 8 vols. description ends , 2:48–56). The account Ridley gives here is virtually the same as in his journal.

5JA last wrote to Lafayette on 21 May, above, and, presumably responding to Ridley’s advice, wrote next on 29 Sept., below. Lafayette’s comment on JA’s correspondence may have been made during his visit to Ridley on the evening of the 16th (MHi: Ridley Journal).

6Thomas Barclay.

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