Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Adams, 14 May 1779

From John Adams

ALS: American Philosophical Society

L’orient May 14 1779


The Day before Yesterday, We arrived here, in two Days from Nantes, all well:7

There is a Frigate now turning into this Port, which is said to be Le Sensible, & if this is true, I hope, it will not be a long Time before We get to sea.

The Chevalier de La Luzerne I hope is sensible of the Value of every Moment in the last half of the Month of May towards a Voyage to America.— If We wait untill the Middle of June, We May very well chance to have a Passage of Eleven or Twelve Weeks.8

In my last Letter I mentioned my Hope that the Chevalier would go to the Northward. It is true that I am much interested in this, but I hope my own share in this Buisiness, did not entirely suggest that Wish.— The greatest Concourse of British Men of War is undoubtedly at present between the West India Islands and those Parts of America which lie between Rhode Island and Georgia. Captain Jones in a Vessell from Baltimore, whom I saw at his arrival in9 at st Nazare which was last sunday night in a Passage of Thirty days told me there were three British Frigates cruising in the Mouth of Cheasapeak Bay. As We have had no Arrival from Philadelphia so long there is great Reason to believe that there is more than one Vessell of War of the Line or Frigates cruising in Delaware Bay.— Therefore I think the Chance of getting safe into Port, is ten Times greater at Boston than Philadelphia, and I presume the Chevalier, wishes to avoid a Captivity as well as myself, altho in such an unfortunate Case he would probably be treated with more Politeness than I should.

The Transportation of his Baggage by Land, as well as that of Mr Gerard is a Thing that deserves Attention to be sure—But it had better go by Land, to Boston than by sea to New York. As to Mr Gerards I presume, he will bring nothing to Europe with him but what is absolutely necessary, as every Thing he has will fetch in America twice as much as would replace it in Europe—and in this Way Insurance & Risque will be avoided.

Mr Chaumont gave Us the Pleasure of his Company this Morning at Breakfast. His son made Us a Visit before. Both are very well.

I should be obliged to you, if you would present my Compliments to his Lady and Family, and now I have begun with the Ladies, if you think it worthwhile you will oblige me much by making my Compliments acceptable to Madame Bertin,1 Madame Brillon and Madame Helvetius, Ladies for whose Characters I have a very great Respect. I have the Honour to be with great Respect sir your humble servant

John Adams

His Excellency B. Franklin Esqr

Notation: Jonh Adams L’Orient may 14 1779.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7During the voyage JA managed to convince himself that a conspiracy of BF, Jones, and Chaumont had been responsible for the cancellation of his passage to America aboard the Alliance. He spoke “very freely” to Chaumont about his suspicions: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 369–70. See also our annotation of Sartine’s letter of April 20.

8The Sensible sailed on June 17 and JA disembarked on Aug. 2, in Nantasket Roads, near his home at Braintree: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 381; Butterfield, Adams Correspondence, III, 217n.

9JA began to write “in Nantes”; he lined through the second word when half-written, but neglected to delete “in”.

1The niece by marriage of a former controller general; JA had attended a party at Passy where she played the part of the Muse of History and he came to regard her highly: XXVI, 422–3n.

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