July 8. I had long since determined to look at France, with a steady Eye and obtain as much Information as I could of her Manners, Institutions and History: but there was another branch of Enquiry in which all America at this time was compleatly uninformed, I mean the Negotiations and Dispatches of Ambassadors. The Powers of Europe in general have kept the Letters and Memorials of their Ambassadors locked up in the Cabinetts of their Courts: very few of them have ever been collected and published. The Policy of France has been different. There are extant more Publications of their negotiations, than of all the rest of Europe.… I purchased D’Avaux, D’Estrades, Dossat, Jeannot,2 Torcy, Noailles, The Diplomatick Dictionary, The Principles of Negotiation of the Abby De Mably, the Public Law of Europe founded on Treaties by the same Author, The Corps Diplomatique, and all other Books I could find relative to the office of an Ambassador as Wickefort &c. Grotius, Puffendorf, Vattell &c. I had read before in America. An Historical Collection of the Acts, Negotiations, Memorials and Treaties from the Peace of Utrecht, to the Year 1742 by Mr. Rousset in Volumes, The History of the Congress and of the Peace of Utrecht as also of that of Rastadt and of Bade in Volumes.
These Writings contain a great deal of the History of France, especially of her foreign Relations, but as I wished to know as much of their internal Concerns as possible I purchased Veilly, Mezerai, De Thou and other Histories of France, and especially all the memoirs I could find of the civil Wars in France, among many others The Memoirs to Serve for the History of Ann of Austria, the Consort of Louis the Thirteenth King of France, by Madam De Motteville one of her Favorites in Volumes, and the Memoirs of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, Daughter of Gaston of Orleans Brother of Louis the thirteenth in Volumes, and all the original Memorials I could find of the Times of the League and the Fronde.3
It will be easily understood, that with my superficial Knowledge of the French Language, and with all the Business on my hands and Amusements that were inevitable, these Writings were not to be read in a short time. I resolved however to read as much of them as I could, and in fact I did read a great deal and endeavoured to get as good a general Idea of their Contents as possible. The Information obtained from these Books and the Observations I there made on the Manners and Character of the French People, together with my general Reading on the Nature and forms of Government, enabled me Eight or ten Years afterwards to form a pretty correct Judgment of the wild Project of demolishing the Monarchy and instituting a Republick, especially a Republic in one Representative Assembly, in France. But more, much more of this hereafter.
1. This entry (for which there is no corresponding entry in the Diary) was omitted by CFA in his text.
2. Doubtless a mistake for Jeannin; see the following note.
3. This listing appears to have been compiled by JA partly by consulting the shelves of his library and partly from memory. Like the books he mentions earlier in his Autobiography (16 April, above) as having been acquired to teach himself French, most of the works he lists here can still be found among his books in the Boston Public Library, together with a great many others on French history and government and on European diplomacy generally. See the following entries in the Catalogue of JA’s Library: description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends Avaux, Négotiations de Monsieur le Comte d’Avaux en Hollande, 2 copies (p. 17); Estrades, Lettres, mémoires et négotiations … en Italie, en Angleterre & en Hollande, 2 copies (p. 86); Arnaud, Cardinal d’Ossat, Letres (p. 186); Jean Baptiste Colbert, Marquis de Torcy, Mémoires (p. 54); Vertot d’Aubeuf, Ambassades de Messieurs de Noailles en Angleterre (p. 255); Mably, Des principes des négotiations and Le droit public de l’Europe, 2 edns. (p. 154); Dumont, comp., Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens (p. 79); Rousset de Missy, Recueil historique d’actes, négotiations, méemoires et traitéz(p. 217); [Freschot,] Histoire du congrés et de la paix d’Utrecht (p. 98); Velly, Histoire de France (p. 254); Mézeray, Abrége chronologique de l’histoire de France, 2 edns. (p. 167); Jacques Auguste de Thou, Histoire universelle, 2 edns. (p. 244); Francoise Bertaut de Motteville, Mémoires (p. 174); Duchesse de Montpensier, Mémoires (p. 172).
Two other works listed here by JA are still in the family library at Quincy (MQA), bearing JQA’s bookplate but quite likely having first belonged to JA. These are Pierre Jeannin, Les négotiations de M. le Président Jeannin, 4 vols.in 2, Amsterdam, 1695 (see JA’s Diary, 16 July 1779 and note 3 there); and Abraham van Wicquefort, L’ambassadeur et ses fonctions, 2 vols., The Hague, 1681 (also another copy, 2 vols., Cologne, 1715).