Adams Papers

From John Adams to John Bondfield, 14 May 1780

To John Bondfield

Paris May 14. 1780


Yours of 6 May, from Bourdeaux, I have received. The Negotiations on foot among the maritime neutral powers, are very favourable to America and her Allies, and they ought to convince England, a Posteriori, of which a very simple Proscess of Reasoning a Priori, might have made clear to them, many years ago, on it, that it is the Interest of all the Maritime Powers, to Secure the Independance of America, and to reduce the dangerous Domination of Great Britain upon the seas. But they think all Mankind made for their Use, and that there is no Providence, for any other nation. Quite as selfish and as blind as the Jews, there is no present probability of their opening their Eyes to their true Interest, and safety.

The News however which both they and the french, have received from the West Indies, is very discouraging to them. Piquet, has not suffered Parker and Rowley, to get any Advantage of him. He has run about the seas there as he pleased in Spight of them. Has fought with inferiour force, and got the better, tho wounded. He has protected his Convoys. Guichen is arrived. The English Expedition is disconcerted, and the Utmost terror Spread thro all their Islands,1 and Clinton on 29 March had not Charlstown. The french and Spanish Armament will thicken the Plot, and compleat their confusion. This will give additional Spirits to the maritime Powers, to Ireland, to the Committees and Associations in England, and if not produce Peace, make the War easy to the Ennemies of Britain.

I know how to pity, Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard, because I know by Experience a little of the feelings.2 I underwent a similar operation last year, for a longer time. I bore it with as much Patience and Philosophy as I could. But every body will not always bear.

My wine is not yet come.3 I am, sir, your obliged humble servt.

LbC (Adams Papers).

1Rear Adm. Sir Hyde Parker, with Rear Adm. Sir Joshua Rowley as second in command, commanded the Leeward Islands station between the departure of Vice Adm. John Byron in Aug. 1779 and the arrival of Adm. Sir George Rodney on 27 March 1780. Although Parker’s fleet was much larger than the squadrons of either La Motte-Picquet or Grasse, which had been left behind when Estaing returned to Europe, he was unable to bring either to battle. The arrival of a convoy carrying troops in February led Parker to undertake an expedition against St. Vincent, an effort that he canceled upon learning of the appearance of Guichen’s fleet. That fleet arrived at Martinique on 22 March, thus changing the naval balance, but Rodney’s arrival five days later made it possible for the two fleets to meet on relatively equal terms (W. M. James, British Navy in Adversity, London, 1926, p. 196–197; Mackesy, War for America description begins Piers Mackesy, The War for America, 1775–1783, Cambridge, 1965. description ends , p. 329–330). For the forces available to each side at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April, see JA’s letter to the president of Congress, No. 6, 19 Feb., note 2, and to James Warren, 23 Feb., note 1 (vol. 8:337, 360).

La Motte-Picquet’s squadron was primarily occupied with convoying vessels to and from Martinique. On 20 March, while engaged in that activity, he encountered a force approximately equal to his own under the command of Capt. William Cornwallis. The action lasted into the next day and ended in stalemate, but the French convoy had been protected (Mahan, Navies in the War of Amer. Independence description begins Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence, Boston, 1913. description ends , p. 153–155).

2For JA’s impatience with his own wait for passage to America in 1779, see Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:356–380, and vols. 7 and 8.

3See Bondfield’s letter of 12 April (above).

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