Adams Papers

From John Adams to Boston Patriot, 10 April 1809

Quincy, April, [10] 1809.


FROM Mr. Murray, the American Minister at the Hague, who had been appointed by President Washington, I received assurances from the French government similar to those in Mr. Barlow’s letter and so many others. They were conveyed from the French Directory to Mr. Pichon, Secretary of Legation and Charge des Affaires of the French Republic near the Batavian Republic, in the absence of the French Ambassador, by him officially communicated to Mr. Murray, and by him to the Executive of the United States. The communication was in these words:


Exterior Relations.

3d division.

N. B. The good order of the Correspondence requires, the answer should relate the number of the division above indicated.

liberty. equality.

French Seal of the Department of Exterior Relations.

Paris, the 7th Vendimaire, of the 7th year of the French Republic, one and indivisible.

The Minister of Exterior Relations to Citizen Pichon, Secretary of Legation of the French Republic, near the Batavian Republic.

I have received successively, citizen, your letters of the 22d and 23d Fructidore. They afford me more and more reason to be pleased with the measure you have adopted to detail to me your conversations with Mr. Murray. These conversations, at first merely friendly, have acquired consistency by the sanction I have given to them, by my letter of the eleventh Fructidore. I do not regret that you have trusted to Mr. Murray’s honor a copy of my letter. It was intended for you only, and contains nothing but what is conformable to the intentions of government. I am thoroughly convinced that should explanations take place, with confidence, between the two Cabinets irritation would cease; a croud of misunderstandings would disappear; and the ties of friendship would be more strongly united, as each party would discover the hand which sought to disunite them. But I will not conceal from you that your letters of the 2d and 3d Vendimaire, just received, surprise me much. What Mr. Murray is still dubious of, has been very explicitly declared even before the President’s message to Congress, of the 3d Messidore, (21 of June) last, was known in France. I had written it to Mr. Gerry, namely, on the 24th Messidore, and the 4th Messidore. I did repeat it to him before he sat out. A whole paragraph of my letter to you of the 11th Fructidore, of which Mr. Murry has a copy, is devoted to develope still more the fixed determination of the French Republic. According to these bases you were right to assert that whatever Plenipotentiary the government of the United States might send to France, to put an end to the existing differences between the two countries, would be undoubtedly received with the respect due to the representative of a free, independent, and powerful nation. I cannot persuade myself, citizen, that the American Government need any further declarations from us to induce them, in order to renew the negociations, to adopt such measures as would be suggested to them, by their desire to bring the differences to a peaceable end. If misunderstandings on both sides have prevented former explanations from reaching that end, it is presumable that these misunderstandings being done away, nothing, henceforth, will bring obstacles to the reciprocal dispositions. The President’s instructions to his envoys at Paris, which I have only known by the copy given you by Mr. Murray, and received by me the 21st Messidore, (9th July) announce, if they contain the whole of the American government’s intentions, and dispositions, which could only have added to those which the directory has always entertained; and notwithstanding the posterior acts of that government, notwithstanding the irritating and almost hostile measures they have adopted, the Directory has manifested its perseverance in the sentiments which are deposited both in my correspondence with Mr. Gerry, and in my letter to you of the 11th Fructidore, and which I have herein before repeated in the most explicit manner. Carry, therefore, citizen, to Mr. Murray, those positive expressions, in order to convince him of our sincerity, and prevail upon him to transmit them to his government.

I presume, citizen, that this letter will find you at the Hague; if not, I ask it may be sent back to you at Paris.

Salute and fraternity,

(Signed) Ch. Mau. Talleyrand.

This letter was transmitted by Mr. Murray to the American government, and I own I am not acquainted with any words, either in the French or English language, which could have expressed in a more solemn, a more explicit, or a more decided manner assurances of all that I had demanded as conditions of negociation. How could I get rid of it, with honor, or even without infamy? If ever there was a regular diplomatic communication, this was one. The diplomatic organs were all perfect and complete. Mr. Pichon was well known at Philadelphia, where he had resided some years in a public employment in the family of the French ambassador, as a respectable man and a man of letters. He was now Secretary of Legation, held a commission from his sovereign as much as a minister plenipotentiary; and every secretary of legation in the absence of his principal minister, is, of course, Charge des affaires; and the acts of a Charge des affaires are as official, as legal and authentic, as those of an Ambassador Extraordinary.

In what other manner could Mr. Talleyrand have transmitted the assurances demanded? He had communicated them to Mr. Gerry, but was desirous of sending them by another way, that he might increase the chances of their arrival. At war with England, he could not send them to Mr. King. If he had lent them to Madrid to Col. Humphreys, there was no probability of their arriving in America so soon as through Holland. If he had sent them to Berlin, to Mr. Adams, the course would have been still more circuitous and the probability much greater of long delay and uncertain arrival. If he had sent them to Mr. Smith, at Lisbon, there would have been the same difficulties. Of all the diplomatic organs, therefore in Europe, he chose the best, the shortest, the safest and the most certain.

Mr. Gerry’s Letter to the Secretary of State, dated Nantasket Road, October the 1st, 1798, confirmed these assurances beyond all doubt, in my mind, and his conversations with me, at my own house, in Quincy, if any thing further had been wanting, would have corroborated the whole. As I have not a copy of that gentleman’s letter, if he should chance to read this paper, I ask the favor of him to publish copies of his letter and of Mr. Talleyrand’s letters to him, and, if he pleases, to repeat the assurances he gave me in conversation. This gentleman’s merit in this transaction was very great. They have been treated like all his other sacrifices, services and sufferings in the cause of his country.

If, with all this information, I had refused to institute a negociation or had not persevered in it, aster it was instituted, I should have been degraded in my own estimation as a man of honor; I should have disgraced the nation I represented, in their own opinion and in the judgment of all Europe.

John Adams

Printed Source--Boston Patriot.

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