Adams Papers

John Adams to Benjamin Franklin, 19 July 1784

To Benjamin Franklin

The Hague July 19. 1784


I have the Honour of your Letters of the 27 of June and 4. July, and Should advise your Excellency to present the C. de Mercy, a Copy of the Instruction as you propose.1

By the Length of Time, We have been left without Information respecting foreign Affairs, and by other Circumstances, there are greater Divisions among our Countrymen, respecting these as well as their Finances, than are Salutary. it is now near two Years that I have led the Life of a Spider after having led that of a Toad under an Harrow for four Years before. But I Swear I will not lead one nor the other much longer.

I cant recollect that I have had a Letter from Congress, Since the Peace.2

I read Somewhere, when I was young

“Tis Expectation makes the Blessing dear

Heaven were not Heaven, if We knew what it were.”3

But this Expectation must not be disappointed continually.

Mr Hartley will wait too, I apprehend, as long as We, and for my Part I humbly propose that We Should banish all Thoughts of Politicks, and begin a Course of Experiments in Physicks or mechanicks, of telescopical or miscroscopical Observations. Bertholon and Spalanzani, and Needham have so entertained me of late, that I think to devote myself to similar Researches.4

With great Respect, I have the Honour / to be, Sir your Excellencys most / obedient humble servant

John Adams

RC (DLC:Franklin Papers); internal address: “His Excellency Dr Franklin.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 107.

1For Franklin’s presentation of the 29 Oct. 1783 instruction to the Austrian ambassador, the Comte Mercy d’Argenteau, see William Temple Franklin’s letter of 1 Aug. 1784, and note 1, below.

2The last letters from the president of Congress to JA as an individual were of 1 Nov. 1783, which enclosed Congress’ instructions of 29 Oct. (vol. 15:329, 331–334, 335–336), and 20 March 1784, which enclosed congressional resolutions of 16 March (Adams Papers), for which see JA’s 15 June letter to Jonathan Jackson, and note 3, above.

3Sir John Suckling, “Against Fruition,” lines 23–24.

4The men mentioned by JA were prolific authors of scientific works, so it is impossible to know to which of their publications he refers. However, the Abbé Pierre Bertholon de Saint Lazare, a French electrical experimenter and friend of Benjamin Franklin, had recently published De l’électricité des végétaux, Paris, 1783. The Abbé Lazzaro Spallanzani, an Italian naturalist and physiologist, published among other works Nouvelles recherches sur les découvertes microscopiques, et la génération des corps organisés, Paris, 1769. Finally, the most famous work of John Turberville Needham, an English priest and naturalist who championed spontaneous generation, was Nouvelles observations microscopiques, avec des découvertes intéressantes sur la composition et la décomposition des corps organisés, Paris, 1750 (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins Jean Chrétien Ferdinand Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends ; DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements. description ends ).

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