Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Adams, 4 February 1782

From John Adams

LS:3 American Philosophical Society; AL (draft): Massachusetts Historical Society

Amsterdam Feby. 4th 1782.


Yesterday was presented to me another Bill of Exchange for 1100 Guilders, drawn on Mr Laurens 25th. Feby. 1780. I have, as usual, asked time to write to your Excellency, to know if You can be responsible for the payment: if not, they must be protested, for there is no Money to be had here.

Indeed if there was a probability of obtaining any small Sum here, quaere,4 whether it would not be impolitick to start the subject at this critical moment, when the Republick is seriously thinking of an Alliance with France and America. There are great appearances of Anxiety for the Return of the Duke de la Vauguyon, and great Expectations are formed from his Presence.5

I think it certain, that the States will not make a separate Peace, nor accept the Mediation of Russia, but upon Conditions which France shall acquiesce in. Upon such Conditions, I presume England will not make a seperate Peace, nor even accept the Mediation: so that I am well persuaded there will be no Peace nor Mediation.6 These points once settled, there is great reason to believe they will make a Treaty with France and America. Indeed an apprehension prevails, that France is not fond of an Alliance, and this apprehension damps the Ardor of the Favourers of such a Measure.7

If the Proposition suggested in my Instructions should be now made,8 I think it would succeed; but I may be mistaken, and it is now under the Consideration of abler Judges, whose Determination I shall wait very respectfully.

This moment six other Bills drawn on Mr. Laurens 6th. July 1780 are brought to Me. Nos. 83. 86. 92. 132. 136. 137—all 550 Guilders each. Without your Excellency’s Consent to discharge them, they must be protested.

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. Amsterdam Feby. 4. 1782.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3In Thaxter’s hand except for the complimentary Close and name of the addressee, which are in JA’s hand.

4The imperative of quaero, Latin for “to seek.”

5Ambassador La Vauguyon was visiting Versailles, having left on Dec. 22; he returned to his post on Feb. 6: La Vauguyon to Vergennes, Dec. 21, 1781, and Feb. 8, 1782 (AAE); James H. Hutson, John Adams and the Diplomacy of the American Revolution (Lexington, Ky., 1980), p. 105.

6The British had in fact already accepted Russian mediation, but Empress Catherine II refused to accept as a basis for discussion the terms they offered. She chose to await Dutch terms, hoping to preserve dutch rights to carry Russian exports: Madariaga, Harris’s Mission, pp. 348–50. At the beginning of February, however, secret discussions about a separate British-Dutch peace began between Paul Wentworth (XXI, 338n), an agent of Lord North, and the Dutch government. To forestall their success, La Vauguyon worked to procure Dutch recognition of American independence: Hutson, John Adams, pp. 105–7.

7This no longer was true. Although a formal alliance was not under discussion, Vergennes by now was anxious to coordinate military operations with the Dutch and opposed their acceptance of Russian Mediation: Dull, French Navy, p. 266.

8Presumably the proposition was that of an American-Dutch commercial treaty.

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