The Comte de Vergennes to the Commissioners: A Translation
Versailles, 15 April 1778
I have the honor to return to you the English document and your friend’s letter which you communicated to me through M. de Sartine.1 Your correspondent is quite right in declaring it undiplomatic toward France and maliciously insidious toward the United States of America. Whichever way one interprets these documents, the intent of alienating your friends from you seems all pervasive. The congress will no doubt know how to avoid a stumbling-block which would make your independence precarious at best.
I am very sorry, sirs, that I was not at home two days ago, when I had the honor of your visit to present Mr. Adams’ letters of credence.2 I have the honor to be with a very perfect consideration, sirs, your very humble and very obedient servant.
RC (MB: Chamberlain Collection); docketed: “On the admission of vessels of war etc.” The docketing may be an inadvertence since it bears little resemblance to the content of the letter. It would seem more applicable to the letter from John Bondfield on 18 April or from Sartine on 26 April (both below).
1. Antoine Raymond Jean Gualbert Gabriel de Sartine, comte d’Alby (1729–1801), French Minister of Marine, 1774–1780 (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins J. C. F. Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends ). The Adams Papers Editorial Files identify 61 letters exchanged between 26 April and 22 Dec. 1778. For a favorable evaluation of Sartine as Minister of Marine, see Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence description begins Jonathan R. Dull, The French Navy and American Independence: a Study of Arms and Diplomacy, 1774–1787, Princeton, 1975. description ends , p. 14–15.
The letter and document mentioned by Vergennes have not been identified.
2. For JA’s account of his visit to Versailles on 13 April and the presentation of his credentials, in the absence of Vergennes, to Joseph Mathias Gérard de Rayneval, Vergennes’ secretary and the brother of Conrad Alexandre Gérard, see Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:300–301; 4:56–57.