Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Adams, 23 [i.e., 22] June 1780

From John Adams

LS:4 Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères; AL (draft): Massachusetts Historical Society; copies: American Philosophical Society, National Archives; transcript: National Archives

Paris June 23d. [i.e., 22]5 1780


I have this Day the honour of a Letter from his Excellency the Comte De Vergennes, on the subject of the Resolutions of Congress of the Eighteenth of March, concerning the Paper-Bills; in which his Excellency informs me that the Chevalier De La Luzerne has Orders to make the strongest Representations upon the Subject.6

I am not certain whether his Excellency means that such Orders were sent so long ago, as to have reached the hand of the Minister at Congress, or whether they have been lately expedited;7 if the latter I submit it to your Excellency, whether it wou’d not be expedient to request that those Orders may be stopped until proper Representations can be made at Court;8 to the end that if it can be made to appear, as I firmly believe it may, that those Orders were given upon Misinformation, they may be revoked, otherwise sent on.

Your Excellency will excuse this because it appears to me a matter of very great Importance. The Affair of our Paper is sufficiently dangerous and critical and if a Representation from his Majesty shou’d be made, Advantage will not fail to be taken of it, by the Tories, and by interested and disappointed Speculators who may spread an Alarm among many uninformed People so as to Endanger the public Peace— I have the honour to be with much Respect Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servant

John Adams

His Excellency Dr. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4In the hand of Francis Dana.

5On the National Archives copy Dana added a note that the letter was actually written and sent on the 22nd, but misdated the 23rd.

6Adams Papers, IX, 453–9; for background see ibid., 427–33, 449–50. JA’s dispute with Vergennes over the effects of Congress’ 40:1 devaluation of American currency (on March 18, 1780) upon French creditors helped lead to his becoming virtually persona non grata with the French court. JA’s role in the controversy has been subject to different interpretations. Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams … (10 vols., Boston, 1856), I, 314–16, for example, portrays him as an innocent victim of circumstances, while James H. Hutson, John Adams and the Diplomacy of the American Revolution (Lexington, Kentucky, 1980), pp. 61–4, argues that he was imprudent and hence largely responsible for his own troubles.

7Vergennes wrote La Luzerne on June 3, instructing him to lobby Congress for an exemption for Frenchmen from the currency devaluation: Adams Papers, IX, 458–9n; Hutson, John Adams, p. 60.

8JA is implying either that he wants BF to make these representations or that he will need more time to prepare them himself. BF assumed the latter: BF to Vergennes, June 24. That assumption was wrong, as JA on June 22 wrote Vergennes a lengthy memorandum on the subject: Adams Papers, IX, 460–70. Hutson, John Adams, pp. 64–5, accuses JA of deliberately misleading BF (a case which would be stronger if the present letter actually had been written on June 23, as Hutson assumes). JA apparently did send BF a copy of his memorandum with his June 29 letter, below.

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