The Comte de Vergennes to John Adams: A Translation
Versailles, 18 July 1781
I have received, sir, the letter which you did me the honor to write to me the 13th of this month. It was owing to the confidence I placed in your judgment and zeal for your country that I entrusted to you the propositions of the two imperial courts and requested that you would make such observations as you might think them susceptible of. Things are not yet sufficiently advanced to admit of communicating them to the mediating courts. As you have seen in the sketch of our answer, there are preliminaries to be adjusted with respect to the United States,1 and until they are, you cannot appear and consequently you cannot transact anything officially with respect to the two mediators. By so doing you would hazard and expose the dignity of the character with which you are invested.
I have the honor to be very perfectly, sir, your most humble and most obedient servant
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “M. Le Cte. De Vergennes. 18 July. 1781. recd at five O Clock afternoon Same day.” LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “This Letter was addressed in these Words A monsieur, Monsieur Adams, Agent des Etats Unis de l’Amérique Septentrionale à l’hotel de valois, rüe de Richelieu a Paris. C. de Vergennes.—all in the Hand Writing of the Clerk who wrote the Letter. The Letter was signed by the Comte, de Vergennes.” In 1809 JA published a translation of this letter in the Boston Patriot. There he copied the notation and continued: “Whether the word ’agent’ was a blunder of the clerk, or the art and design of the Comte, is of no consequence now. He knew I was a minister plenipotentiary, both for peace, and to the states of Holland: but what reason he had for avoiding to acknowledge it, I know not. It excited some reflections and suspicions at the time, because it seemed to be conformable to the views of the mediating courts, which the court of France ought not to have countenanced” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot description begins Correspondence of the Late President Adams. Originally Published in the Boston Patriot. In a Series of Letters, Boston, 1809[–1810]; 10 pts. description ends , p. 122–123).
1. In JA’s translation in the Boston Patriot, the passage from the previous comma was italicized.