Adams Papers

Benjamin Franklin to John Adams, 5 February 1784

From Benjamin Franklin

Passy, Feb. 5. 1784—


I received the Letter you did me the Honour of writing to me the 24th past.1 You have had a terrible Passage indeed, taking it all together from London to Amsterdam. The Season has been, and continues, uncommonly severe, and you must have suffered much. It is a Pity that the good Purpose of your Voyage, to save if possible the Credit of Mr Morris’s Bills could not be accomplished, by your obtaining a Loan from the Regency. I do not wonder at their declining it, nor at the Stop you mention as put to the general Loan by the News of the Diversity of Sentiments among the States about the Plan of Impost. I hope these mischievous events will at length convince our People of the Truth of what I long since wrote to them, that the Foundation of Credit abroad must be laid at home.2 When the States have not Faith enough in a Congress of their own chusing, to trust it with Money for the Payment of their common Debt, how can they expect that that Congress should meet with Credit when it wants to borrow more Money for their Use from Strangers?—

Your Excellency saw in England, the Instructions brought to us by Capt. Jones from the Congress, and which you forwarded to me.3 Expecting your & Mr Jay’s speedy Return hither, I took no Step in consequence of them. Mr Jay is now return’d. And we are both desirous of knowing whether it is your Intention to join us again here, in order to execute those Instructions; because in that Case we should wait your Arrival.4

I have the honour to be, / Your Excellency’s most obedient / & most humble Servant

B. Franklin

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency John Adams, Esqr.”; endorsed: “Dr Franklin Feb 5 / ansd 11. 1784.”

1Of 24 Jan., vol. 15:467–468.

2Franklin paraphrases a passage from his 23 Dec. 1782 letter to Robert Morris. There he was complaining about newspaper reports of American opposition to taxes that were affecting U.S. credit in Europe (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, 1959–. description ends 38:487–489).

3These were Congress’ 29 Oct. 1783 instructions to the commissioners—JA, Franklin, and John Jay—that were enclosed in a 1 Nov. letter from the president of Congress. Brought by John Paul Jones, JA received them on 5 Dec. at London and, after copying them, forwarded the letter and instructions to Franklin (vol. 15:329, 331–334, 337, 339, 387–388).

4JA did not return to Paris until Aug. 1784, and by then a new joint commission, composed of JA, Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, had been named to negotiate treaties with the nations of Europe and North Africa.

Index Entries