Adams Papers
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To John Adams from Francis Dana, 6 March 1781

From Francis Dana

(No. 12.)

Paris March 6th. 1781

Dear Sir

I desired Mr. Searle when he wrote you a few days since, to present my best regards to you, and to acquaint you that I wou’d write in a few days. I have consulted D.D. Benjamin Franklin upon the resolution of AZCongress, agreable to your desire, and he says, he thinks, it might be adviseable to communicate it to her Minister near you—that there is none now here to whom he cou’d communicate it.1 I went a little beyond my commission, and brought on some conversation touching a certain instruction, with which he was charged, not very distantly related to your’s; I enquired what had been done upon it, and was answered, nothing—that he had communicated it, but as he supposed the matter which it concerned, was at a distance, he had not thought it worth while to press on a determination; and he seemed to think it wou’d be time enough when the period hinted at approached.2 I have obtained a copy of the Cyphers: this I shall not forward by post, as I expect a good private opportunity next week: When they were delivered to me, the Gentleman said, he had never been able to comprehend them. Whether I shall be able to do it, is uncertain. However I will make the attempt. I received the last evening a letter of the 6th. of Jany. a copy of which I will send enclosed. It is impossible to decypher it, because I cannot recollect the person whose family name is alluded to.3 I wish our friend had given a more modern instance for his clue. The list of letters received shall accompany his letter.4 I find an Account of your Loan is published in the Amsterdam Gazette of the 2d. instant:—Is the one Million already subscribed, and how much do you allow the Banker? I have a very special reason for this last part. Some people here, say it can’t succeed. I know well what motives influence their opinions, or rather their declarations. Mr. Searle received your’s of the 27th. of last month, the last evening.5 It is a long while since I have been honoured with one from you. I was in hopes you wou’d have advised me of the Loan, so that I might have sent an account of it from hence to AZCongress. Opportunities now offer more frequently from hence, than from your ports. I wrote you 8 or 10 days since, as I took no copy of that letter I am uncertain about its date.6 Colo. Lawrence’s commission will probably take up about one half of the matter which lies upon my mind, hinted at in my last. I hope to have the satisfaction of seeing him here shortly. It is certainly of the utmost consequence that something shou’d be done. Appearances alone will not answer. Things grow more and more serious, and they must have a suitable attention paid to them. Steady’s John Adams’ Family perceive generally that this has not been done. As I shall write you again next week, I will close this, after begging your acceptance of my most sincere regards.


P.S. Mr. S. will write you soon,7 and now desires his best regards.

RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Mr. Dana. 6th. March 1781.” To the right of the endorsement is a note from the Abbés Chalut and Arnoux: “Le abbés Chalut et Arnoux ont pré M. Dana de leur donnes une loine de se lettre pour faire milles tendres compliments à M. Taxter.” Translation: The Abbés Chalut and Arnoux have requested Mr. Dana to allow them the use of his letter to render a thousand tender compliments to Mr. Thaxter. For the enclosure, see notes 3 and 4.

1Because Russia was represented at Paris only by a chargé d’affaires, Franklin believed it would be better to communicate Congress’ resolution of 5 Oct. 1780 regarding U.S. accession to the armed neutrality to Prince Gallitzin at The Hague (Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder, 3:354; to Francis Dana, 8 Feb., above).

2Probably a reference to Art. 10 of the Franco-American alliance providing for the accession of other nations to the alliance. JA had referred to it in letters to Edmund Jenings, C. W. F. Dumas, James Searle, and the president of Congress of 31 Jan., 2, 4, and 7 Feb., respectively, all above.

3Benjamin Franklin wrote to Dana on 2 March and enclosed a copy of the cipher that James Lovell had sent to him on 24 Feb. 1780. Franklin’s included a passage from Lovell’s letter to him of 4 May 1780, which he had “try’d in vain” to decipher. Dana successfully decrypted Franklin’s letter, but his success did him little good with regard to Lovell’s letter of 6 January. The difficulty, which he indicated in his letter to JA of 16 March, below, that he had overcome, was that each cipher had a different key (Franklin, Papers description begins The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, William B. Willcox (from vol. 15), Claude A. Lopez (vol. 27), Barbara B. Oberg (from vol. 28), Ellen R. Cohn (from vol. 36), and others, New Haven, 1959– . description ends , 34:412; 31:520–522; 32:354–355; JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint, and others, Cambridge, 1977– . description ends , 9:270–273; Weber, Codes and Ciphers description begins Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938, Chicago, 1979. description ends , p. 31–34, 590). The recipient’s copy of Franklin’s letter of 2 March, with its accompanying cipher key, is in the Adams Papers. It was probably among the documents that Dana sent under the care of a Mr. Themmen, presumably the “good private opportunity” mentioned earlier in this letter (from Francis Dana, 16 March, below).

4In the enclosed letter of 6 Jan. to Dana, Lovell acknowledged Congress’ receipt on 20 Nov. 1780 of JA’s letters of 22 and 23 Aug.; on 27 Nov. those of 12 (2), 16, 17 (2) and 29 June, and 24 Sept.; on 30 Nov. that of 26 June; on 4 Dec. those of 24 Aug. and 4 Sept.; on 26 Dec. those of 7, 14, 15 (3), 19 (2), 22 and 23 July, 14 Aug., 16 and 19 Sept., 8 and 11 Oct. 1780. For these letters see vols. 9 and 10.

5Not found.

6From Dana, 25 Feb., above.

7Searle’s next letter was dated 14 March (Adams Papers); see Francis Dana’s letter of that date, note 1, below.

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