John Adams to Abigail Adams
Paris September 7. 1783
My dearest Friend
This Morning for the first Time, was delivered me the Resolution of Congress of the first of May, that a Commission and Instructions Should be made Out, to Me, Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jay to make a Treaty of Commerce with Great Britain.1 If this Intelligence had been Sent Us by Barney, who Sailed from Philadelphia a Month after, the 1st of May, and has now been Sailed from hence on his return home above a Month2 it would have Saved me and others much Anxiety. I am now even at a Loss. It is of great Importance that Such a Treaty Should be well made. The Loan in Holland must be attended to, and when the present one is full, another must be opened, which cannot be done but by me or my Successor. There are other Things too to be done in Europe of great Importance. Mr. Laurens has Leave to go home, and Mr. Dana is gone so that there remain in service only Mr. Franklin Mr. Jay and my self. In these Circumstances I must stay another Winter. I cannot justify going home. But what Shall I do for Want of my Family. By what I hear, I think Congress will give Us all Leave to come home in the Spring. Will you come to me this fall and go home with me in the Spring? If you will, come with my dear Nabby, leaving the two Boys at Mr. Shaws, and the House and Place under the Care of your Father Uncle Quincy or Dr. Tufts, or Mr. Cranch. This Letter may reach you by the <
first of> middle of October,3 and in November you may embark, and a Passage in November, or all December will be a good Season. You may embark for London, Amsterdam, or any Port of France. On your Arrival, you will find Friends enough.4 The Moment I hear of it, I will fly with Post Horses to receive you at least, and if the Ballon, Should be carried to such Perfection in the mean time as to give Mankind the safe navigation of the Air, I will fly in one of them at the Rate of thirty Knots an hour.5 This is my Sincere Wish, although the Expence will be considerable, the Trouble to you great and you will probably have to return with me in the Spring. I am So unhappy without you that I wish you would come at all Events. You must bring with you at least one Maid and one Man servant.
I must however leave it with your Judgment, you know better than I the real Intentions at Philadelphia, and can determine better than I whether it will be more prudent to wait untill the Spring. I am determind to be with you in America or have you with me in Europe, as soon as it can be accomplished consistent with private Prudence and the publick Good. I am told that Congress intend to recall Us all, as soon as a few Affairs are finished. If this should be the Case, all will be well. I shall go home with infinite Pleasure. But it may be longer than you think of, before all their necessary Affairs will be dispatched. The Treaty of Commerce with G. B. must take Time. A Treaty will be wanted with Portugal and Denmark if not with the Emperor and Empress.6 If you come to Europe this Fall, in my Opinion you will be glad to go home in the Spring. If you come in the spring you will wish to return the next fall. I am sure I shall, but Six months of your Company is worth to me, all the Expences and Trouble of the Voyage.
This Resolution of Congress deserves my Gratitude; it is highly honourable to me, and restores me, my Feelings, which a former Proceeding had taken away.7 I am now perfectly content to be recalled whenever they think fit, or to Stay in Europe, untill this Business is finished, provided you will come and live with me. We may Spend our Time together in Paris London or the Hague, for 6 or 12 Months as the Public Business may call me and then return to our Cottage, with contented Minds. It would be more agreable to my Inclinations to get home and endeavour to get my self and Children into a Settled Way, but I think it is more necessary for the Publick that I should stay in Europe, untill this Piece of Business is finished. You dont probably know the Circumstances which attended this Proceeding of Congress. They are so honourable to me, that I cannot in Gratitude or Decency refuse.
I must Submit your Voyage to your Discretion and the Advice of your Friends, my most earnest Wishes are to see you but if the Uncertainties are such as to discourage you, I know it will be upon reasonable Considerations and must submit. But if you postpone the Voyage for this Fall, I shall insist on your coming in the Spring, unless there is a certainty of my going home to you. Congress are at such grievous Expences, that I Shall have no other Secretary than my son. He however is a very good one.8 He writes a good hand very fast, and is very Steady, to his Pen and his Books. Write me by every Ship to Spain France Holland or England, that I may know. You give me more public Intelligence than any body. The only hint in Europe of this Commission was from you to yours forever
RC (Adams Papers).
1. This resolution was Congress’ response to a committee report on JA’s letter of 5 February. In that letter JA subtly protested Congress’ July 1781 revocation of his commission to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain while making the case for America’s need for such a treaty. The new commission for the three diplomats, however, was never issued, the necessary instructions were never drafted, and Congress did not again consider its foreign assignments until October, and did not complete those assignments until May 1784. JA to AA, 29 Jan., note 1, above; JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:142–143, note 2.
2. See John Thaxter to JA, 4 Aug. (Adams Papers).
3. On 20 Nov., AA wrote to JA, below, that she had just received one of JA’s two letters of 10 Sept. (one below; the other Adams Papers), which gave the same information and exhortation as the present letter. In her letter to JQA of 20 Nov., below, she says that she received JA’s “Letters of 10 September.” This letter of the 7th went to America with John Thaxter, who traveled to New York and Philadelphia before reaching Braintee on 14 December (AA to JA, 15 Dec., below).
5. Joseph Michel and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier developed the first hot-air balloons in 1782–1783; the first public launching occurred in June of the latter year. The Montgolfiers’ balloon immediately caught the fancy of the French, and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette witnessed the first attempt to send animals aloft from Versailles. Pilâtre de Rozier made the first free manned flight in November. JQA’s great interest in the Montgolfiers’ balloon in Aug.–Sept. is evident in his Diary entries (Diary description begins Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allen, Robert J. Taylor, and others, Cambridge, 1981-. description ends , 1:187–190,192–194).
6. Joseph II, of Austria; and Catherine II, of Russia.
8. With John Thaxter’s departure for America on 14 Sept., JQA fully assumed the role of JA’s secretary. He had begun making copies for his father, however, from the moment of JA’s arrival at The Hague; over a dozen JA letters are in JQA’s hand from 23 July to 13 Sept., the day before Thaxter’s departure. This was a new role for JQA, although he had made copies of two JA letters in 1778: to AA 18 Dec., vol. 3:138; and to Mercy Warren, 18 Dec., JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint (from vol. 6), and others, Cambridge, 1977-. description ends , 7:281–284. See also JA to Richard Cranch, 10 Sept., descriptive note, below.