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To John Adams from Henry Laurens, 6 March 1783

From Henry Laurens

London 6th. March 1783.

Dear Sir.

Nothing but a persuasion of duty to my Country & my friendship to you could have prevailed on me to transmit the Letter which will accompany this;1 it was originally intended an Address to Mr. Jenings, but after it was finish’d, doubts arose in my mind, whether it would work any good effect upon him, as well as whether I ought in honor to myself to hold a further correspondence with that Gentleman. Circumstances which have since occured, convince me I determined well in witholding it. The paper contains a brief history of Mr. Jenings’s misconduct respecting the Anonymos Letter, which, if he did not write, he industriosly procured & put into your hands, & upon that foundation he employ’d his “dangeros disposition” to “heal animosities” which had never existed & to “bring friends to a right understanding.” who had never been at variance. What he may have told you of the conversation at Bruxelles, I know not, but you will now perceive that when he was chased by no less than three demands for explication he sneak’d off with, “I imagined I saw.” As I am not accustomed to smile upon a Man when I am angry with him, ’tis probable I did not look very pleasant under the impertinence of his interrogatories, ’tis evident my answers were dealt with Caution, “I imagined I saw.” his imaginations had strangely deceived him, it was with his rudeness, I was “not quite satisfied.” I complained of it the moment he went from me.

Mr. Bridgen upon being informed of Mr. Jenings’s declaration, vizt. “that it was at his particular desire the anonymos Letter had been sent to you.” denied it in the most possitive terms & confirmed the denial from under his hand. he also writ to Mr. Jenings charging him with having sent or delivered that Letter to you without his “concurence or desire.” Mr. Bridgen has further informed me, that in a late conversation with Mr. Jenings he repeated the charge, Mr. Jenings acknowledged he had said “the Letter had been sent by his desire” & that “he thought he might take such a liberty with him.” Mr. Bridgen’s declarations & behavior discover that he himself entertains different Ideas of truth & honor. The subject requires no further pursuit, ’tis not my aim, to blast Mr. Jenings’s Character but to undeceive you & to prevent, if possible, the progress of future evils, from his influence over or interference in our Councils & deliberations. The knowledge of this business is confined to those, whom it doth concern, except that I have never yet given the smallest intimation to Mr. Jay, you will of course make such communication to our Colleague as you shall think necessary.

Doctor Franklin is possessed of another anonymõs, much in terms of the one before us,2 dated Amsterdam, but it not only bears the mark of Bruxelles, but contains certain strokes within, which confirm my “Belief” of the Author of both. These papers were contrived not merely for the purpose of slandering of Mr. Adams, the grand view was to excite jealousy & by degrees to produce animosity among us all, Mr. Adams in the mean time to be played upon & hoodwinked by an excess of flattery. how far in my apprehension, the scheme succeeded I shall candidly intimate, if you desire it, the next time I have the honor of conversing with you— You may recollect, a plain spoken Man3 said to you at Hotel Yorke, “this is all very pretty Drama.” but you told all he said within half an hour.

Regarding Mr. Storer as your Secretary & confidential friend & as a Servant of the United States, I have given him such information as I judged necessary for putting him upon his guard. Mr. Storer will communicate as much of the State of public affairs in this Country, as probably I know—my knowledge extends not much beyond appearances. these do not please me. but I am told that I shall be better pleased in a few days; mean time, a certain Noble Lord4 now a little be-clouded has not failed to take the necessary advantage of his success, in artfully obtaining the “Provisional Treaty” without “the knowledge or participation of the great & good Ally of America”—for argument sake, I admit the fact—what then?—John Adams & Co. may be hanged but no damage will arise to the United States. I shall endeavor honestly to defeat His Lordship’s pious designs— I suspected His Lordships goodness when he offered to make me a present of my self. Be assured of my sincerity in subscribing with great affection & regard / Dear sir Your obedient humble servt.

Henry Laurens.

RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); internal address: “John Adams Esquire / Paris.”; endorsed: “Mr Laurens 6. March / ansd 12. 1783.”

1The enclosed letter from Laurens to Edmund Jenings was dated 24 Jan. and contained a detailed accounting of why Laurens believed Jenings to be the author or sponsor of anonymous letters sent to American officials during the previous year. The enclosure carries the notation: “Intended now only for Mr. Adams’s information & for Mr. Jay’s if Mr. Adams shall think it necessary.” For more on the controversy and the Laurens-Jenings conflict, see vol. 13:64–65, and Laurens, Papers description begins The Papers of Henry Laurens, ed. Philip M. Hamer, George C. Rogers Jr., David R. Chesnutt, C. James Taylor, and others, Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003; 16 vols. description ends , 16:157–160, 277–333. Laurens also wrote to Benjamin Franklin on 6 March and noted there that he had informed JA that Franklin was “possessed of another anonymous Letter with the Bruxelles mark on it and I am now confirmed in my ‘Belief’ of the Author of both. I wish Mr. Adams may communicate all that I have further said on this occasion” (DLC:Franklin Papers). For JA’s continued efforts to avoid involvement in the affair, see his reply to Laurens of 12 March, below. Franklin replied to Laurens on 20 March and, perhaps confusing the Laurens-Jenings difficulties with those between JA and himself, wrote that “Mr. Adams has communicated nothing to me on the Subject of the anonymous Letters. I hear frequently of his Ravings against M. de Vergennes and me whom he suspects of Plots against him which have no Existence but in his own troubled Imaginations. I take no Notice, and we are civil when we meet” (NjP:De Coppet Coll.).

2Franklin sent JA copies of the anonymous letters, dated 31 Jan. and 8 May 1782 (Franklin, Papers description begins The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, William B. Willcox, Claude A. Lopez, Barbara B. Oberg, Ellen R. Cohn, and others, New Haven, 1959–. description ends , 36:499–501, 37:289–291).

3Presumably Laurens himself.

4The Earl of Shelburne. In his letter to Franklin of 6 March, Laurens wrote that he had learned from a member of Parliament that “Lord Shelburne declared to the House of Lords, the Provisional Treaty was obtained from the American Ministers without the concurrence or participation of the Court of France, that the Court was not pleased and consequently would not hereafter be so friendly to the United States.” Shelburne’s comment, however, has not been found in accounts of the debates over the preliminary treaty.

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