La Vauguyon to Vergennes: A Translation
15 May 1778
I1 have received, M. le Comte, the dispatches that you did me the honor to send.
Mr.2 Franklin’s letter arrived3 as I expected, but I convinced the emissary,4 in accordance with my promise to you, to suspend the démarche he had been prescribed without revealing my motive. I indicated to him that it seemed wiser to me to explore deeply again the dispositions of our friend from Amsterdam5 and ask for new advice before undertaking the commission of the Members of Congress. I duly warned him that he should speak only in his own name and refrain from mentioning mine. He followed my advice and found our virtuous Republican steadfastly imbued with the same desire and hope. He had just come to give me an account of his visit with him when your last dispatch arrived. I then told him that since I had received no instructions in regard to his démarche, and since the only information I had about it was through the communication he himself had made, I could neither accelerate, suspend, nor direct it, but that I had reason to believe that the King would see the rapprochement between the United States and the States General with a favorable eye; but that I knew that his main desire was that nothing disturb the peace of the Dutch nation, and, in this regard, his dispositions seemed to me to conform to the true interests of France and of the two republics.
Mr. Franklin’s letter was delivered yesterday morning. The emissary from Congress told me that our friend from Amsterdam had, on this occasion, a very interesting conversation with the Councillor Pensionary, who seemed to be flattered by the trust shown him by the leaders of the United States and as favorably disposed as he could wish for. Mr. de Bleiswyck was in no way embarrassed by the measures he had to take. He understood the necessity of conveying to the members of the Dutch States the testimonial of the amiable dispositions of Congress toward the Republic; but, in order not to give this communication a notoriety harmful to his plans, he thought it better at present not to communicate it to the Assembly itself. Such a démarche would have required a resolution by the States, for the letter would have to be submitted ad referendum and communicated to the different towns and to the Corps of Nobles. In addition, this resolution, although provisional, might have provoked protests by the British Ambassador, and at present it seems wise not to furnish him the opportunity. He therefore decided to distribute copies of the letter secretly to each member. As a result, the different towns will receive the necessary information for their deliberations over this interesting matter; and when the Councillor Pensionary deems it appropriate to make his report to the assembled states, each deputy will be officially informed of the precise wishes of those he represents. Our friend from Amsterdam is delighted with the way things are proceeding and anticipates the greatest success.6
Tr (Algemeen Rijksarchief, The Hague, Fagel Papers, No. 5216). This Tr resulted from the clandestine interception by the Dutch government of letters to and from foreign representatives (except the British) in the Netherlands. In view of the pro-British sympathies of those to whom copies of the intercepted letters were sent, particularly Hendrik Fagel, the griffier or secretary of the States General (see sketch in JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:5), and in accord with past practice, it is likely that the British ambassador, Sir Joseph Yorke, received a copy of this letter (Miller, Sir Joseph Yorke description begins Daniel A. Miller, Sir Joseph Yorke and Anglo-Dutch Relations, 1774–1780, The Hague, 1970. description ends , p. 34). A second Tr is in the Koninklijk Huisarchief, The Hague.
1. Immediately opposite in the left margin is the notation “Von.” Presumably it is an abbreviation for “Vauguyon.”
2. Immediately opposite in the left margin is the notation “En chiffre,” probably an indication that the first paragraph was not enciphered. In the deciphered text there were numerous instances of underlining of both a few words at the beginning of lines and entire passages, but because of its apparent randomness the editors have determined not to include such instances in the text as printed.
3. That is, the letter of 28 April from the Commissioners to Pieter van Bleiswyck, the Grand Pensionary, referred to in the present letter as the “Conseiller Pensionnaire.” A copy of that letter is included with this transcript but is not printed here.
4. That is, C. W. F. Dumas.
5. That is, Englebert van Berckel, also referred to as “notre vertueux Republicain.”
6. Besides confirming the accounts contained in Dumas’ letter of 7 May, wording in this letter also suggests the French desire to deal with but one American commissioner, Benjamin Franklin. Although the letter to van Bleiswyck was also signed by JA and Arthur Lee, it was, for La Vauguyon and probably for Vergennes as well, solely “La Lettre de Mr. Franklin.”
7. Presumably this refers to the formal, stylized closing that the copyist saw no need to transcribe.
8. Immediately opposite in the left margin is the notation “En chiffre.”
9. Immediately opposite in the left margin is the notation “En écrit.”