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From John Adams to Arthur Lee, 24 March 1779

To Arthur Lee

Brest. March 24. 1779

Dear Sir

I have this Moment the Honour of yours of 18.

I am perfectly of your Opinion that We have yet a hard Battle to fight. The Struggle will yet be long, and painfull, and the Difficulty of it will arise from nothing more than the weak Disposition <both> in our Country men, as well as our Allies to think it will be short.

Long before, this War began I expected, a severe Tryal: but I never foresaw so much Embarrassement, from selfishness, Vanity, flattery and Corruption, as I find.

If these proceed much longer in their Career, it will not be worth the while of Men of Virtue, to make themselves miserable by continuing in the service.

If they leave it, the American system of Flattery and Corruption, will still prevail over the British. But there will be an End of our virtuous Vision of a Kingdom of the just.

I wrote Mr Issard from Nantes.1 My Regards to him and your Brother.

I am no Hand at a Cypher, but will endeavour, to unridel if you write in it. With much Esteem, your huml sert

John Adams

RC (DLC); addressed: “A Monsieur Monsieur Lee, Ministre Plenipotentiaire, des Etats Unis D’L’Amerique. Hotel D’Espagne, Rue Guenegaud A Paris Per Mr Blodget.”; docketings or notations made in various hands and at different times: above the address, “The Honble. J. Adams”; in the upper left corner of the address page, “Given me in 1837 by the Hon. John Quincy Adams. L. J. Cist”; at the top of the first page, “Hon J Q Adams”; in the left margin of the first page, “Hon J Q Adams.” This is one of thirteen letters sent to JQA by the grandson of Richard Henry Lee in 1827 and 1828 (see JA to Arthur Lee, 10 Oct. 1778, descriptive note). According to JQA, “I selected the Letter of 24 March 1779, written at Brest, to send as an Autograph to Lewis J. Cist at Cincinnati, Ohio, taking first a copy of it for preservation” (JQA, Diary description begins Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allen, Robert J. Taylor, and others, Cambridge, 1981– description ends , 26 April 1837, Memoirs, 9:353). The copy by JQA is in the Adams Papers, and with it is a document, in Cist’s hand, containing copies of the letter of 24 March as well as those from JA to Elbridge Gerry of 28 May 1780 and to John Trumbull of 28 April 1785. The three letters were part of Cist’s autograph collection and the copies were enclosed, according to a note by HA2, in a letter from Cist to CFA of 30 Dec. 1854. In his remarks on this letter of 24 March, JQA stated that it was done “when my father was about to return to the United States. I was then reading Don Quichotte de la Manche in the Cabin of the Frigate Alliance, or walking the Streets of Brest with Captain Landais” (same).

1Presumably the letter of 12 March mentioned by Izard in his reply of 20 March (above), but which has not been found.

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