Adams Papers

From John Adams to Elbridge Gerry, 13 April 1785

To Elbridge Gerry

Auteuil near Paris April 13. 1785

Dear sir

I am, this moment informed, that the Packet is arrived but neither Dr F. nor I have any Letters as yet.1 this is unlucky, because We Shall not be able to answer by this Packet.

I Suppose it is a question with you whether you shall Send a Minister to Spain; I really hope you will. it is a question too no doubt, who to send.— There will be some perhaps many, perhaps all for Mr Charmichael. I know not this Gentn personally. He is active and intelligent, by all, I have learnt. He has made himself Friends among the Spanyards, and among the foreign Ministers, and at the French Court, and at Passy.2 I see that the Comte de Vergennes, the Duc de la Vauguion who is gone to Spain,3 and Dr Franklin, have an affection for him, and are labouring to Support him. These Circumstances are much in favour of his Happiness, and if he has that pure and inflexible Virtue, that thorough Penetration into the Hearts of Men and the Systems of Affairs, and that unchangeable Attachment to our Country that you require in a public Man you will honour him with your Support. You know from his Correspondence with Congress whether he is this Man. I know nothing to the Contrary. But I confess to you, that the ardent Friendship of Courtiers and Diplomatick Characters, to any American Ministers is to me, a Cause of Suspicion. I know it to be impossible for any Man to do his Duty to his Country, and preserve it, all he can hope for is to be esteemed and respected, it is well if he is not hated and despised.

But Mr Jay is Master of the Character in question. I have heard with Pleasure that Mr Charmichael in their last Interview Settled Things to the satisfaction of Mr Jay, and cleared up some Things which Mr Jay had not been Satisfied in. You may know the Truth from him. I am, disposed to favour Charmichael, from all I have heard of him, and know of him, at least so far as to wish for his Continuance in service provided you dont see Symptoms of his Endeavours to Support his Character upon foreign Interests, at the Expence of those of our Country. But there is too marked a Love for him for my Taste, in Characters in whose Friendship for America I have no Confidence. The greatest Danger to our foreign affairs has ever arisen from this, and ever will. from an Endeavour to obtain a Reputation in America, by gaining the Friendship of Courtiers and obtaining their Recommendations in their private Letters for themselves And their Connections. These favours are never obtained but by Sacrifices.— it is remarkable that Native Americans are rather avoided and there is a constant Endeavour to throw American Employment in Europe into the Hands of Persons born or educated in Europe, or at least Such as have lived long enough in Europe to become assimilated.

There is nothing more dreadfull to America, than to have the Honour, the Reputation and the Bread of their Ministers abroad depend upon their adopting Sentiments in American affairs conformable to those which may be entertained and endeavored to be propagated by the Ministers with whom they treat.— You had infinitely better choose the Comte de Florida Blanca & the Comte de Vergennes at once for your foreign Ambassadors. I have seen and felt so much of it, that I dread it, like Death and Mr Jay does not dread it less.—

And you have not a lesse important Thing to attend to in the Choice of a Minister for St. James’s.— Whoever he is, he will be in more danger there than any where, of too much complaisance to Ministers Courtiers, Princes & King. indeed, it is probable to me that whoever goes there, first if he is honest will have his Reputation ruined in America, by the Insinuations which will go against him, both in public Papers and private Letters. Lyars and Slanderers are more impudent there than any where, and they have more old Connections in America among whom to circulate them.

With much Affection your old Fred & very humble / servant.

John Adams

My Regards to your Colleagues. if Temple comes to N. York and is received as Consull I hope you will continue some way to make Peace or Truce between him and Sullivan.— I hope Temple will be prudent and cautious if not he may do Mischief. But you have Weight with him, I know.4

RC (ICHi:John Adams Papers); internal address: “Hon. Mr Gerry.”; endorsed: “Auteiul Lettr / His Excelly Mr / Adams April / 13 1785 / ansd July 14.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 107.

1In a note to Benjamin Franklin of 13 April, JA expressed his gratitude “for the Information that the Packet is arrived, which he had not heard of before” (PPAmP:Franklin Papers). The French packet Courier de L’Orient sailed from New York for Lorient on 19 March (Pennsylvania Packet).

2William Carmichael, John Jay’s former secretary, was currently serving as the unofficial U.S. chargé d’affaires at Madrid. He remained in that capacity until 1790, when he finally received a formal appointment as such. Never appointed minister, he was replaced by William Short, who was appointed minister, in 1793 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty, Mark C. Carnes, and Paul Betz, eds., American National Biography, New York, 1999–2002; 24 vols. plus supplement; rev. edn., description ends ; Repertorium description begins Ludwig Bittner and others, eds., Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder seit dem Westfälischen Frieden (1648), Oldenburg, 1936–1965; 3 vols. description ends , 3:469).

3Paul François de Quélen de Stuer de Causade, Duc de La Vauguyon, served as French ambassador to the Netherlands from 1776 to 1784. JA counted him as a friend despite the French diplomat’s opposition, on orders from Versailles, to JA’s efforts to obtain Dutch recognition of the United States (vol. 16:567, 568). La Vauguyon took up his new post as ambassador to Spain in May 1785 and served until June 1790 (Repertorium description begins Ludwig Bittner and others, eds., Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder seit dem Westfälischen Frieden (1648), Oldenburg, 1936–1965; 3 vols. description ends , 3:125–126, 140).

4John Temple, a native Bostonian, former customs official, and one of the numerous Temple family in England, was appointed the first British consul general to the United States in Feb. 1785. Temple was well known to JA, and in July Temple and his wife, Elizabeth Bowdoin Temple, were guests at the Adamses’ first formal dinner after their arrival in London (AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 6:81, 214).

JA’s reference to James Sullivan alludes to the newspaper war that broke out between Sullivan and Temple in 1781 during Temple’s visit to America to seek an Anglo-American peace through reconciliation. For the controversy, which turned on where Temple’s loyalties really lay, see vol. 11:xiv, 452; and for JA’s view of Temple and the likelihood that he would be effective as the British consul, see JA’s 11 Sept. letter to Gerry, below.

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