Adams Papers
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From John Adams to the President of Congress, 11 July 1781

To the President of Congress


Paris July 11th. 1781


I have only time, by Major Jackson,2 to inform Congress, that upon Information from the Comte de Vergennes, that questions concerning Peace, under the Mediation of the two imperial Courts,3 were in agitation that required my Presence,4 I undertook the Journey and arrived here last Friday Night the 6th. of the month, and have twice waited on the Comte de Vergennes at Versailles,5 who this day communicated to me the inclosed Propositions.6

These Propositions are made to all the belligerent Powers by the Courts of Petersbourg and Vienna,7 in consequence of some wild propositions made to them by the Court of London, that they would undertake the Office of Mediators upon Condition that the League, as they call it, between France and their Rebel Subjects in8 America should be dissolved, and these left to make their terms with Great Britain, after having returned to their Allegiance and Obedience.

France and Spain have prepared their Answers to these Propositions of the Empress and Emperor, and I am desired to give my Answer to the Articles inclosed. It is not in my Power at this time to inclose to Congress my Answer, because I have not made it nor written it,9 but Congress must see that nothing can come out of this Maneuvre, at least for a long time. Thus much I may say, that I have no Objection to the proposition of treating with the English seperately, in the manner proposed, upon a Peace with them and a Treaty of Commerce10 consistent with our Engagements with France and Spain: but that the Armistice never can be agreed to by me. The Objections against it are as numerous as they are momentous and decisive. I may say farther, that as there is no Judge upon Earth of a sovereign Power, but the Nation that composes it, I can never agree to the Mediation of any Powers however respectable, until they have acknowledged our Sovereignty so far11 at least, as to admit a Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States as the Representative of a free and independent Power. After this We might discuss Questions of Peace or Truce with Great Britain, without her Acknowledging our Sovereignty,12 but not before.

I fancy however that Congress will be applied to for their sentiments, and I shall be ever ready and happy to obey their Instructions, because I have a full Confidence that nothing will be decided by them, but what will be consistent with their Character and Dignity.

Peace will only be retarded by Relaxations and Concessions, whereas Firmness, Patience and Perseverance will insure Us a good, and lasting one in the End.

The English are obliged to keep up the talk of Peace to lull their Enemies and to sustain their Credit. But I hope the People of America will not be decieved. Nothing will obtain them real Peace, but skillful and successfull War.

I have the honor to be with great Respect, Sir, your most obedient and humble Servant.

J. Adams

RC in John Thaxter’s hand, enclosure in JA’s hand (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 272–277); endorsed: “Letter July 11. 1781 Paris J Adams. Read Oct 3 Propositions of the mediating to the belligerent Powers.” For the enclosure, see note 6, below. Congress received a second copy of this letter, written by JA at Paris, on 1 March 1782 (PCC, Misc. Papers, Reel No. 1, f. 471–474). LbC (Adams Papers).

1This word is in JA’s hand.

2William Jackson was at Paris to confer with Benjamin Franklin regarding the latter’s decision to stop the specie that John Laurens had intended to send to the U.S. on the South Carolina. See Franklin’s letter of 30 June, and note 1, above.

3In the Letterbook the preceding eight words are interlined.

4At this point in the Letterbook, JA originally wrote “at Paris,” but then replaced it with “here.” In the copy received by Congress in March 1782, JA wrote “here.”

5In the Letterbook the preceding two words are interlined.

6The enclosure, written in French, was the proposed articles for an Austro-Russian mediation of the Anglo-American war. See the Austro-Russian proposal, [11 July] , above.

7In the Letterbook this sentence originally began: “These propositions are made by the two Imperial Courts.”

8In the Letterbook the preceding four words are interlined and, later in the sentence, JA replaced “America” with “these.”

9JA apparently was engaged in drafting his answer. In his Letterbook this letter to the president of Congress interrupts JA’s first Letterbook copy of his response. See JA to Vergennes, 13 July, descriptive note, below.

10In the Letterbook the preceding five words were interlined.

11In the Letterbook, the remainder of this sentence originally read: “as to admit me as the Representative of a free and independent Power.”

12In the Letterbook the preceding five words are interlined.

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