To Benjamin Franklin
Nantes Ap. 29. 1779
I had, Yesterday, the Honour of yours of the 24th inclosing a Letter from his Excellency M. de Sartine, expressing his Majestys Desire that the Alliance Should be retained here a little longer.
As my Baggage was on board, and every Appearance promised that We should be under Sail in three or four days for America, in a fine ship and the best Month in the Year, this Intelligence, I confess, is a Disappointment to me. The Alliance has now a very good Crew, and the little Misunderstandings between the officers and their Captain Seem to have Subsided.
The public service, however must not be obstructed for the private Convenience of an Individual, and the Honour of a Passage with the new Ambassador, should be a Compensation to me for the Loss of the prospect of So Speedy a Return home. I cannot but hope, however that the Frigate will go to Some Eastern Port, for I had rather remain here some time longer, or even take my Lott with the Alliance in her Cruise, than go to Chesapeak or even Delaware.
I shall go round to L’orient in the Alliance, and if the Frigate which is to carry the Chevalier de la Luzerne, Sails soon, shall accept with Gratitude to his Majesty, of his obliging offer of a Passage, but I hope that his Excellency, M. De Sartine, will give the necessary orders, for this Purpose to the Frigate, otherwise I may be under an Embarrassment still.
I Sincerely join with you in your Wishes that the Alliance may make Prisoners enough to redeem our brave and honest Countrymen who have So long Suffered in English Prisons, and make Prizes enough to reimburse the Charges of refitting.
I wish M. Dumas’s Information may be well founded, and indeed it Seems to be favoured by a general Expectation from all Quarters.
A Vessell is arrived at Morlait and another at L’orient from Virginia—the latter brings nothing that I can learn, tho some favourable Bruits have been propagated, concerning Affairs in Georgia, as from her. As the former has brought Some Virginia and Philadelphia News-papers, I hope she may have brought, public Dispatches at least some good News. If any of either comes to your Hand proper to be communicated I should be obliged to you, for a share of it.
In a Newspaper of the 1st March, it is said that Mr. Deane has asked Leave of Absence,1 and this is all the material News, that I recollect in it excepting, indeed, G. Maxwells Letter2 giving an Account of the Affair of Elizabeth Town, by which it appears that the English were repulsed, and lost the Cattle and Horses they had taken, and if they had not fled with uncommon Dexterity, they would have been burgoinisès, a technical Term which I hope the Accademie will admit into the Language by lawful Authority.
I have the Honour, to be with great Respect, sir, your most obedient, humble sert
RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); docketed: “Jonh Adams Nantes 29 avril 1779.”
1. JA is referring to information contained in a piece by Thomas Paine signed “Common Sense” that appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet of 2 March. There he wrote that “Mr. Deane now wants to get off the Continent and has applied to Congress for leave of absence,” but Paine questioned whether Deane should be permitted to go in view of his unsettled accounts and the charges made by him. Even before Deane left France he had indicated his intention of returning as early as October or November (Deane to JA, 8 April 1778, vol. 6:10–13). His plans, however, went awry because the congress, in the face of the Deane-Lee controversy, required Deane to appear before it in August and December and refused to make a final determination in the case and thus excuse him from further attendance (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 11:787, 789, 802, 826; 12:1240, 1246, 1247, 1258, 1265). On 11 Sept., Deane, impatient at the delay, began a series of appeals to the president of the congress. The last one previous to Paine’s letter was of 22 Feb., asking that he be informed of the congress’ demands so that he might fulfill them and then return to France (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 2:710; 3:57; see also Deane’s letters of 22 Sept., 12 Oct., 19, 30 Nov., 4 Dec. 1778, and 21 Jan. 1779 in same, 2:736–738, 761–762, 841–842, 845, 847; 3:29). Deane’s pleas for action were to no avail, for not until 6 Aug. 1779 was it resolved that he could “be discharged from any further attendance on Congress” (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 14:930). Deane did not return to France until the summer of 1780, and then as a private citizen. For additional comments on Deane’s rumored return, see Jenings to JA, 15 May, and JA to Jenings, 22 May (both below).
2. Brig. Gen. William Maxwell’s account of his successful action against a British force that had landed near Elizabeth, N.J., on the morning of 25 Feb. was contained in a letter of 25 Feb. to George Washington. That and a covering letter by George Washington were received by the congress on 1 March, and extracts of both appeared in the Philadelphia papers, including the Pennsylvania Gazette of 3 March and the Pennsylvania Packet of 4 March. A letter from Maxwell to Washington of 27 Feb., which was not printed, indicated that the British force had been composed of approximately 1,000 men under the command of Lt. Col. Thomas Sterling, and had as its objective the seizure of Gov. William Livingston at his home near Elizabeth. When it was discovered that Livingston was not there, the British force returned to its boats (PCC, No. 169, V, f. 202–206).