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John Adams to William Stephens Smith, 17 January 1795

John Adams to William Stephens Smith

Philadelphia, January 17, 1795.

My Dear Sir:

I received yesterday your kind letter of the 9th of the month. The letters to Vergennes were sent to him, not presented. He acknowledged the receipt of them; and Congress acknowledged the receipt of the copies of them, and several others written before those two, upon the same subject, in a vote they passed about Sir John Temple. They say, that although Mr. Adams had thought fit to write a letter to Congress in favour of Sir John Temple, yet he had not confided to his care other despatches of infinitely more importance, which he transmitted to Congress by the same vessel, or words to that effect.1 These despatches were copies of all my correspondence with Vergennes on the subject of the imperial mediation, including the two letters which Mrs. Smith now has.

Delicacy towards Mr. Jay will restrain me from publishing in print, at present, any part of these letters. The reason why I did not go to Paris sooner in 1782, was, that the British court had not sent any one with a commission acknowledging our independence. The peace being of more importance than my treaty of commerce with Holland, I should have gone to Paris and left that treaty unfinished: but as neither Mr. Grenville, Mr. Fitzherbert, nor Mr. Oswald, had yet received a commission to treat with the United States of America by name, and I was determined not to treat without it, as well as Mr. Jay, I had time to finish off my business at the Hague on the 8th of October, 1782, before I set off on my journey to Paris.2

You may show these letters in confidence to Mr. Webster, and to Mr. McCormic, if you think it worth the pains.

By this time, or very soon, I hope to have to congratulate you and Mrs. Smith on the birth of a daughter. My love to her and my young gentlemen.

I am, with great regard, dear sir, / Yours,

John Adams.

Enclosed is a Grub-street production, fit to amuse you for half an hour, when you can find no better employment.3

MS not found. Printed from AA2, Jour. and Corr., description begins Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, Daughter of John Adams, … Edited by Her Daughter [Caroline Amelia (Smith) de Windt], New York and London, 1841– [1849]; 3 vols. description ends 2:136–138.

1Congress acknowledged the receipt of JA’s diplomatic dispatch on 27 Feb. 1782 (JCC, description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford, Gaillard Hunt, John C. Fitzpatrick, Roscoe R. Hill, and others, Washington, D.C., 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends 22:102). For the discussion surrounding John Temple, see JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint, and others, Cambridge, 1977– . description ends , 10:418; 11:xiv, 452.

2Britain effectively recognized the United States on 21 Sept. 1782 when, at the behest of the American peace commissioners, it issued a commission to Richard Oswald that authorized him to negotiate with the “Thirteen United States of America.” Formal peace negotiations began shortly thereafter with John Jay serving as the principal negotiator owing to the ill health of Benjamin Franklin and JA’s absence in the Netherlands. JA’s negotiations with the Dutch concluded with the signing of the Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce on 8 Oct., and he departed for Paris nine days later, arriving on 26 Oct. (JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint, and others, Cambridge, 1977– . description ends , 13:xviii, xxii, 412–413, 483–485; 14:xvi).

3Possibly William Cobbett, writing under the pseudonym Peter Porcupine, A Bone to Gnaw, for the Democrats; or, Observations on a Pamphlet, Entitled, “The Political Progress of Britain,” Part I, Phila., 1795, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 28431. Offering a satirical condemnation of the Democrats, especially the recent pamphlet by James Thomson Callender, for whom see JA to AA, 26 Nov. 1794, and note 1, above, Cobbett wrote in his preface, “I throw it in amongst them, as amongst a kennel of hounds: let them snarl and growl over it, and gnaw it, and slaver it; the more they wear out their fangs this way, the less dangerous will be their bite hereafter.” See also JA to AA, 9 June 1795, and note 1, below.

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