Adams Papers

From John Adams to Edmé Jacques Genet, 12 July 1778

To Edmé Jacques Genet

July 12. 1778


There are Reasons to believe, that the Story of Commissioners appointed by Congress to meet the British Commissioners, is a Forgery.1

1. <Thomas> Phillip Ludwell Lee,2 is mentioned as one of them, whereas there never was a Person of that Name in the Congress. There was once a Person of that Name it is true, in Virginia, a Brother of Richard Henry Lee and of Francis Light- foot Lee, two Members of Congress, and of Arthur Lee Minister Plenipotentiary from Congress to the Court of France but this <Thomas> Phillip Ludwell Lee has been dead, some Time.3

A blank is left for the Christian Name of Mr. xxx Adams a Member from the Massachusetts, which shews that the Writer was ignorant of it: [because?] if this Account had been taken from any American Paper, it is [improb?]able that this Christian Name would have been omitted because [it is so well?] known in America, that there is at present [. . .].4

[. . .]5 intelligence is derived, which renders [it?][. . .] it would have been eager enough to have informed the [World of their?] Vouchers, if they had any good ones.

There are others Reasons to suspect this to be a Fiction, which it is not worth while to enumerate.

I would not be understood however, to Say absolutely that the Congress will not send a Committee to meet the English Commissioners, to enquire of them what Powers they have, and to know whether they have Powers to make a Peace with America, as a Sovereign Republique, and consistent with their Treaty with France? The Answer must be <know> No. and it is equally certain the Reply will be “Go home then and get such Powers.”

As to a Publication of the Treaty, sir my Colleagues, are of opinion with me that it should be printed as soon as the King shall think proper. But it would perhaps be not sufficiently respectful for Us to publish it, without his Majesty’s Knowledge.

John Adams

4.6 I have Seen in an English Newspaper, another Account that only three were of the Committee R. H. Lee, Mr. Carroll and Mr. Adams. This Variation in the English Accounts, Strengthens the suspicion of Fraud.

It is really a melancholly Consideration to an ingenuous Mind, to see a great Nation abandoning all Reverence for Truth, and perpetually imposing upon the World Such palpable Lyes. It is the Duty, it is the Interest of every human Being that the keenest sense of Detesta[tion]and Contempt, should be cultivated in every human Mind: But the English are doing all they can to confound the Distinctions between Truth and Falshood, and to make a Lye to be respected as much as the Truth.

J. Adams

RC (PWacD: Feinstone Coll., on deposit PPAmP). This MS was severely damaged by fire with the resulting loss of a significant number of words.

1This letter resulted from comments Genet attached to the end of his letter to Benjamin Franklin of 10 July (PU: Franklin Papers). The body and postscript of this letter are almost identical to his letter to JA of the 10th (above), but the additional comments called for a reply to or clarification of a report on the appointment of five commissioners by the congress that Genet had seen in the Courier de l’Europe of 3 July, and which he thought was very likely a “Lye.” Franklin apparently showed Genet’s letter to JA, who docketed it “Mr Genet.”

The report on the appointment by congress of commissioners, which was indeed false, also appeared in the London Chronicle of 2–4 July and was purportedly taken from a letter written at Nantes to a London merchant. It stated that five commissioners—Charles Carter of Caritowman, Philip Ludwell Lee, Charles Carroll, Matthew Tilghman, and —— Adams—— had been appointed to “treat with our Commissioners, if the latter will declare them independent; if not, the rebel Commissioners have instructions to return to Congress.” Neither Carter nor Lee had served in the Continental Congress.

2Philip Ludwell Lee died in 1775, and Thomas Ludwell Lee, his brother, whom JA at first mistook for Philip, died in 1778 (Cazenove Gardner Lee Jr., Lee Chronicle, N.Y., 1957, p. 348–349).

3Extracts from this paragraph and those below beginning with “I would not be understood” and “4” were translated into French and formed the body of “Réponse au banquier de Londres par son correspondent américain” in Affaires de l’Angleterre et de l’Amérique, “Lettres,” vol. 11, cahier 48, p. xix–xi.

4It is likely that this paragraph, from which over one line of text is missing, was originally designated “2,” the number being obliterated by the fire damage.

5An entire line is missing at this point, probably the first line of a paragraph designated as “3.”

6In the margin, opposite the “4,” is an “X,” apparently intended to indicate that it was to be inserted after “3.” The corresponding “X” at the intended point of insertion was probably obliterated by fire damage.

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