Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Adams, 26 November 1781

From John Adams

LS:2 American Philosophical Society; AL (draft): Massachusetts Historical Society

Amsterdam Novr 26th 1781.


I presume You have a Copy from Congress of their Instructions to me of the 16th of August:3 but as it is possible it may be otherwise, I have inclosed one. I have communicated them to the Duke de la Vauguion, who says they are très bien vues, très bien combinées. I shall do nothing in the business, without communicating it beforehand to him, with the most entire Confidence, and recieving his Approbation and Advice.4 He informs me, that he has not yet recieved any Instructions from his Court respecting it. These Instructions have arrived in a very proper time to counteract another insidious trick of the British Ministry, in agreeing to the Mediation of Russia for a seperate Peace with Holland.5

With unfeigned Joy I congratulate your Excellency on the glorious News of the surrender of Cornwallis, to the Arms of the Allies. How easy a thing would it be to bring this War to an happy Conclusion, if Spain & Holland would adopt the System of France, and cooperate in it with the same Honor and Sincerity? There is nothing wanting but a constant naval Superiority in the West Indies and on the Coast of the United States, to obtain Triumphs upon Triumphs over the English, in all quarters of the Globe. The Allies now carry on the War in America, with an infinite Advantage over the English, whose Infatuation nevertheless will continue to make them exhaust themselves there, to the neglect of all their possessions in other parts of the World.

I have the honor to inclose to your Excellency some proposals made to me by the House of Ingraham and Bromfield respecting the Continental Goods. These are two Merchants from Boston, who have established a House here.6 They are industrious Men, and I believe well capable of performing what they propose, which is submitted to your Excellency. With great Respect I have the Honour to be, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant

J. Adams

His Excellency Benjamin Franklin Esqr

Notation: John Adams Novr. 26. 1781

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2In Thaxter’s hand, except for the complimentary close and the name of the addressee, which are in JA’s hand.

3He was instructed to propose a treaty of amity and commerce to the Netherlands. Congress also resolved that BF and Jay be directed to furnish information and aid to him: JCC, XXI, 876–80. James Lovell sent JA a set of instructions on Sept. 1, noting that another set had been sent via BF (Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, IV, 683). We have not found a covering letter to BF, but four copies of JA’s instructions are with BF’s papers at the Library of Congress. In July Congress had circumscribed JA’s powers as peace commissioner; see Livingston’s letter of the present date, below.

4JA had disregarded La Vauguyon’s advice in the past, such as that of April 19 and 20, 1781, when the French minister tried to dissuade him from presenting an ill-timed memorial to the Dutch government: XXXV, 43–4n; James H. Hutson, John Adams and the Diplomacy of the American Revolution (Lexington, Ky., 1980), pp. 87–95.

5News of this British reversal of policy reached St. Petersburg at the beginning of October: Madariaga, Harris’s Mission, pp. 303–4, 308, 330–2, 335–9, 348. A Russian representative, Arkady Markov, went to The Hague in January: ibid., pp. 350–1; Edler, Dutch Republic, pp. 197–8.

6Its partners were Duncan Ingraham, Jr., and Henry Bromfield, Jr.: XXVII, 503n; XXVIII, 144n; XXXIII, 78; XXXIV, 277n; Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 453–4n.

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