Adams Papers

The Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners, 30 April 1778

The Foreign Affairs Committee to the Commissioners

No. 6 Copy

York Town Apr. 30. 1778


By the Gazettes which accompany this letter you will see that the Enemy are entering upon a plan which must shortly perplex us much,1 unless we receive dispatches from you to enlighten us as to your Situation and Transactions of which we have had no information since the latter end of May.2 As we have heard of the loss of Capt. Johnston and Capt. Wickes and know that John Folgier was robbed, we cannot charge our present want of letters to negligence in you; but we think you should not rest satisfied without sending triplicates of your dispatches.

The commercial Committee will transmit to you the contract which they have entered into with the agent of the House of Ro—derigue Hortales &Co. The heads of which contract happening to be at hand are inclosed.3

We have read a letter written by a friend (Govr. Johnston) dated House of Commons Feb. 13 th. in which we are told that “you had concluded a Treaty with France and Spain which was on the Water towards us.”4 Imagine how solicitous we are to know the truth of this before we receive any proposals from Britain in consequence of the scheme in Ld. Norths speech and the two Draughts of Bills now sent to you.

The state of our foreign connection is a subject now before Congress; and, dubious as we are about your transactions some resolutions will probably be formed to be transmitted to you by a special conveyance shortly, when a general account of our Affairs will also be sent. We have little uneasiness about the Strengths of our enemy. Our currency must be supported in due credit; after which we may bid defiance to Britain and all her German hirelings. We wish every advice and Assistance from You for the support of such Credit. I am with great Regard Gentlemen your humble Servant

James Lovell

RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); docketed: “Mr Lovel Ap. 30. 1778”; in another hand: “Copy of Apr. 30th to the Commissioners in France.” The word “Copy” is used to indicate that this was one of several copies sent by the Committee for Foreign Affairs to ensure that at least one reached France. The letter is in Lovell’s hand. No enclosures found.

1For this, as well as “Lord North’s speech and the two Draughts of Bills” mentioned later in the letter, see Lovell to JA, 29 April, and note 2 (above).

2That is, May 1777.

3See Commerce Committee to the Commissioners, 16 May (below).

4George Johnstone (1730–1787), a former governor of West Florida, was a member of the opposition in Parliament, thus Lovell’s reference to him as a “friend” Johnstone’s later actions as a member of the Carlisle Commission and support for the Ministry’s policies as a self-styled expert on America, however, greatly diminished his reputation among Americans (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1900; 63 vols. plus supplements. description ends ).

The letter referred to by Lovell has not been found, but Johnstone’s knowledge of the French treaties only a week after they were signed indicates the effectiveness of the British intelligence service. Johnstone probably also knew of Simeon Deane’s abortive mission of early January (Simeon Deane to the Commissioners, 16 April, note 1, above). In a letter of 5 Feb. to Robert Morris, read in the congress on 27 April (PCC, No. 78, XIII), Johnstone reported that the preliminaries of a treaty with France had been sent to America, but warned against doing anything rash in view of an imminent new reconciliation initiative. Presumably he meant that the treaties should not be ratified.

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