Adams Papers

To John Adams from Thomas Digges, 26 March 1782

From Thomas Digges

[Ostend, 26 March 1782] 1

Dear Sir

I got here this day and am nearly about the hour to Embark. I find I passd Mr Laurens Jnr at Rotterdam, as some questions were askd in the Hotel Where I put up for a person answering my description, from one who was at another Hotel who did not leave His name, but answered the description of Mr Laurens.

I stopt at the Hotel Angleterre at the Hague and found that P. Wentworth had gone from thence for England rather suddenly the day before; He went from Antwerp for Brussells, and by the time Genl Faucit2 went from hence, for Brussels also, I do suppose these Heroes in different line of action and for as little purpose (I hope) met at Brussels: Faucit is going to Hannover (as was said here) and P. W embarkd in a purposely hird boat about 2 hours ago for England.

In the matter I lately visited You upon I have informd You of every step taken as well as my motives for acting, and shall keep nothing from You relative thereto.

Since our last conversation3 I have thought much on the subject of witholding from Dr. F a letter I bore to Him from M Hartley (wch I know is partly on a publick matter in agitation between them) as well as informing the Doctr that I had been in Holland;4 and upon much consideration I think I cannot acting fairly to Dr. F either carry back Mr Hartleys letter, or explain to Him my motives for being silent when I had got so much nearer Him and had matter of much private consequence to myself to explain and clear up, either by letter or personal appearance.5 Besides others, I have two motives for writing; the first is that of forwarding a letter wch I know contains matters of business between Dr F and David Hartley and wch would be rather unjustifiable in me to carry back to England, and the other is an explanation why I donot repair to Him while now abroad on the matter relative to myself. I cannot see another road for doing either without intimating to Him the Business I went on to You: I have mentiond my first intention to visit and explain it to You and the motives I had for altering that intention and going back as quick as possible to Engld and then Set out for Paris. That You did not think the matter in the stage it then was of so much moment as to think it necessary to make it known to your Colleagues;6 that my doing it soon and in person to Dr. F would be the best mode; That all future movements must be made known to Dr. F and Mr Vergennes, and that You urgd strongly to have any future movements in the business made directly to Dr. F whose residence made it more convenient to give the Communications to the French Minister. I am sorry in doing this that I have deviated from a purpose wch I had rather fixd with You; but on much thinking I really think I have done the best; for Dr. F would certainly here I was at Amsterdam and think rather odly of me that I had turnd my back upon Him and seemingly gone from a purpose of explaining a matter to Him which my reputation is at stake for.

I beg a thousd pardons for writing thus hastily and Desultorily to You. The Packet Boat is so near sailing I have not time to read over the letter and I am rather in the midst of hurry and noise. I will write You immediately on my arrival7 and if any thing occurs wch You want done or to say to me a line under cover to Mr Stockdale Bookseller Piccadilly London will get safe to Sir your very Obedient Hum Servant

T Digges

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Diggs. from Helvoet as I Suppose.”

1The location and date are derived from Digges’ second letter of this date written from Ostend (Adams Papers), in which he refers to his earlier letter to JA and introduces Jacob Sarley of New York, a partner in a mercantile house in Leeds.

2In 1782 Maj. Gen. Sir William Fawcett was the most influential officer in the British army, but for the war in America his chief importance was as the principal British negotiator of agreements with the various German states to supply troops (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1900; 63 vols. plus supplements. description ends ; see also vol. 9:64).

3According to Digges he met with JA on 21 and 22 March. See Digges to Benjamin Franklin, 22 March (Digges, Letters description begins Letters of Thomas Attwood Digges, ed. Robert H. Elias and Eugene D. Finch, Columbia, S.C., 1982. description ends , p. 357–362).

4Hartley sent two letters to Franklin, dated 11 and 12 March respectively, under the care of Digges (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 , 5:290). Both touched directly on the possibility of opening Anglo-American peace negotiations. The first announced Digges’ mission. The second letter centered on the questions of how, when, and with whom negotiations would be undertaken. Hartley indicated that he discussed the matter with Henry Laurens, but that Laurens was wholly ignorant of his appointment to the peace commission. Hartley also wrote that he had “been informed that some gentlemen in this country (not in administration) have lately entered into a correspondence with Mr. Adams, relating to his commission of treating for peace” (same description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 5:237). There are no extant letters between JA and anyone in England on the subject of peace negotiations, nor is there any mention of such correspondence in JA’s papers.

5Digges’ apprehension about visiting Benjamin Franklin at Paris was justified. Franklin believed Digges had embezzled funds that he had supplied to assist American prisoners in England (Catherine M. Prelinger, “Benjamin Franklin and the American Prisoners of War in England during the American Revolution,”WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly description ends , 3d ser., 32:261–294 [April 1975]).

6In view of JA’s complete account of his conversation with Digges in his letter of 26 March to Benjamin Franklin, above, Digges’ statement seems strange. But the fact that JA took four days to send his account to Franklin may lend it some credence. If JA initially did not think it necessary to inform Franklin of his discussion with Digges, it may have been because there was nothing new to tell. The matters about which Digges inquired were already more or less part of the public record and nothing that JA said to Digges was at variance with what he had already written to Franklin.

7Of 2 April, below.

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