Adams Papers

To John Adams from Martha Laurens, 16 January 1782

From Martha Laurens

au Vigan Jany 16. 1781 [1782]


Your very kind and polite Letter, which I received in its proper time, deserved my earliest and most hearty ackowledgements, but the hopes of receiving some Intelligence from London with regard to my dear Papa, worth Communicating, joined to some other Circumstances, have been the means of my delaying a duty, which finds itself most strictly united with my satisfaction, as it is undoubtedly more agreable to me to write to you under the Title of my dr Papa’s friend, than when I addressed you only as an American Minister. My mind is at present in a state directly opposite to what it was when I first had the honor of writing to your Excellency. You will not be surprized at this Sir, when I tell you that I have just learned, by a Gazette indeed, that this worthy and inestimable Parent is at Liberty.1 I sincerely thank you Sir, for all that you have done to serve my dear Father during the time of his Confinement, and shall take a pleasure in informing him of it, as well as of your Civility to his Daughter. I thank you also Sir for your Congratulations on the late great Victory gained in America, and on the part which my dr Brother has had in it. I am happy to hear that he acts in such a Manner as to gain public Approbation, and am persuaded, that he has nothing more at heart, than to be useful to his Country.

I have the honor to be, with sincere good Wishes & great Respect—Your Excellency’s—most obliged humble Servant.

Martha Laurens

RC (Adams Papers).

1On 31 Dec. Henry Laurens was called before Lord Mansfield and admitted to bail. He “was much emaciated, and so heavily afflicted with the gout as to be obliged to make use of crutches” (London Packet, 31 Dec. 1781 and 2 Jan. 1782). According to his own account of the event, Laurens went from the hearing to lodgings in Norfolk St. and on the third day set out for Bath to restore his health (Laurens, Papers description begins The Papers of Henry Laurens, ed. Philip M. Hamer, George C. Rogers Jr., and David R. Chesnutt (from vol. 5), David R. Chesnutt and C. James Taylor (from vol. 11), and others, Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003; 16 vols. description ends , 15:396–398; see also Morris, Peacemakers description begins Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence, New York, 1965. description ends , p. 265). Moses Young, Laurens’ secretary, wrote from Nantes on 19 Jan. to inform JA that he planned to join Laurens at Bath and offered to carry any messages that JA might have for the freed prisoner (Adams Papers).

Laurens’ release on bail was controversial because of questions about the role he could play in peace negotiations. Wishful thinkers in England believed that Laurens, even after Yorktown, might convince the United States to settle the war without receiving full independence. The Morning Chronicle reported that “it is generally believed, that upon Mr. Laurens’s return from Bath, he will be appointed a mediator between Great Britain and Congress; and it is said, the most flattering expectations of a reconciliation between the mother country and her colonies are founded upon this gentleman’s negociation” (1 Jan.). Such reports, together with Laurens’ status as a prisoner free on bail, made it impossible for JA, or any other member of the peace commission, to have official dealings with him regarding an Anglo-American peace (to Benjamin Franklin, 16 April, below). Such limitations did not mean, however, that when Laurens, with Shelburne’s permission, met with JA in April their discussions were not meaningful and accurate. In fact, Laurens served as a conduit to Shelburne for the official negotiating position of the United States as expressed by JA.

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