Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from John Adams, 19 July 1784

From John Adams

ALS: Library of Congress; copy: Massachusetts Historical Society

The Hague July 19. 1784


I have the Honour of your Letters of the 27 of June and 4. July, and Should advise your Excellency to present the C. de Mercy, a Copy of the Instruction as you propose.

By the Length of Time, We have been left without Information respecting foreign Affairs, and by other Circumstances, there are greater Divisions among our Countrymen, respecting these as well as their Finances, than are Salutary. It is now near two Years that I have led the Life of a Spider after having led that of a Toad under an Harrow for four Years before. But I Swear I will not lead one nor the other much longer.6

I cant recollect that I have had a Letter from Congress, Since the Peace.7

I read Somewhere, when I was young

“Tis Expectation makes the Blessing dear

Heaven were not Heaven, if We knew what it were.”8

But this Expectation must not be disappointed continually.

Mr Hartley will wait too, I apprehend, as long as We, and for my Part I humbly propose that We Should banish all Thoughts of Politicks, and begin a Course of Experiments in Physicks or mechanicks, of telescopical or miscroscopical observations. Bertholon and Spalanzani, and Needham have so entertained me of late, that I think to devote myself to similar Researches.9

With great Respect, I have the Honour to be, sir your Excellencys most obedient humble servant

John Adams

His Excellency Dr Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6On July 3 and 5 JA drafted, but appears not to have sent, two bitter letters to Congress complaining about the lack of instructions and commissions and requesting his recall from the Netherlands: Adams Papers, XVI, 268–9, 270–1.

7JA had long resented that most of Congress’ letters for the commissioners were sent to BF; see XLI, 289n He is here forgetting that Boudinot wrote to him directly on Nov. 1, 1783: Adams Papers, XV, 335–6.

8A loose quotation of a couplet from Sir John Suckling, “Against Fruition.” See The Works of Sir John Suckling: the Non-Dramatic Works, ed. Thomas Clayton (Oxford, 1971), p. 38.

9De l’Electricité des végétaux (Paris, 1783), by the abbé Bertholon (XXV, 668n), examined the impact of electricity on plant development. The works of Lazzaro Spallanzani and John Turberville Needham also dealt with organic growth and reproduction, with the former refuting the latter’s theory of spontaneous generation; see the entries for the three men in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography.

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