Benjamin Franklin Papers

Queries for John Adams, [before 26 June 1780]

Queries for John Adams9

D: Massachusetts Historical Society,1 National Archives; drafts: Library of Congress, American Philosophical Society

[before June 26, 1780]2

M. Adams, after having perused the inclosed Papers,3 is desired to give his Opinion on the following Questions.

1st. Whether Captain Landais, accused as he is, of Capital Crimes, by his Senior and late Commanding Officer, after having apparently4 relinquished the Command of the Alliance frigate, by with drawing his Effects from the same, after having asked and received money by Order5 of the Minister Plenipotentiary, in order to transport himself to America, and take his Trial there, upon the said Accusation,6 and after having for that Purpose, in writing, requested a passage to be procur’d for him,7 was intituled, at his pleasure, to retake the Command of the Alliance, (contrary to the positive order of the Minister Plenipotentiary, whose orders the said Landais was by the Navy Board instructed to obey), and to dispossess his successor, the oldest naval Officer of the United States, in Europe, who had commanded the said frigate near eight months,8 and brought her to the Port where she now is?

2dly. Whether the Conduct of Captain Landais, at L’Orient in exciting the Officers and Seamen of the Alliance, to deny the Authority of Captain Jones under whose Command they had voluntarily come, and remained there, and encouraging the said Seamen to make unlawful Demands on the Minister Plenipotentiary for the United States, and to enter into a mutinous Combination, not to put to Sea with the Alliance until the said Demands should be complied with, thereby retarding the Departure of the said frigate and of the Public Stores, on board, be not highly Culpable?

3dly. Whether after Captain Landais’s late Conduct and the manner in which he has retaken the Command of the frigate Alliance, it be consistent with good order, Prudence, and the Public Service, to permit him to retain the Direction of her, and of the Public Stores intended to be sent with her, accused as he is of Capital Crimes by his late Commodore, and for which if he arive in America, he must of Course be tried?9

Endorsed: from Dr Franklin. June 1780.

In Franklin’s hand: Queries

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9These queries may have been posed during a conversation among BF, JA, and Dana: Adams Papers, IX, 475n. The document as sent to JA was preceded by two drafts that are still extant. Both are in the hand of Edward Bancroft, who may well have been present at the discussion. What appears to be the first of these drafts (Library of Congress) bears the heading “Questions put Mr. Adams, on the part of Dr. F.” and contains some interlineations and changes in wording made by Bancroft. What would seem to be the second draft (APS) incorporates the changes Bancroft made on his first one and contains additional modifications in phrasing in BF’s hand. The numbering of the three paragraphs and the heading “M. Adams, after having …” are part of this second draft. It bears a notation in BF’s hand, “38./ Queries.—to Mr Adams.” The D at the Mass. Hist. Soc. follows the format and wording of the APS draft, and the one at the National Archives follows the version at the Library of Congress.

1In L’Air de Lamotte’s hand.

2The date of JA’s response, below.

3From JA’s response we know that BF enclosed a bundle of thirty-seven papers; a list of them is given immediately below. The present document is number 38, “Queries on the whole.”

4Preceding word interlined by BF.

5Preceding two words interlined by BF.

6In Bancroft’s first draft the paragraph continues, “and after having applied for a passage in the Private ship Luzerne was intituled, at his pleasure, to retake the Command of the said Frigate contra to the express orders of the Minister Plenip whose orders he had been instructed to obey & to dispossess …”

7Preceding five words interlined by BF.

8The preceding three words substitute for Bancroft’s “during two voyages after Captain Landais’s departure”.

9Bancroft had drafted the paragraph as, “Whether after Captain Landais has by such Conduct Obtained Possession of the Alliance Frigate, it be consistent with Prudence, good order & the public Service, to permit him to retain the Command of her, and of the Public Stores intended to be sent with her, accused as he moreover is of Capital Crimes by his late Commodore, & for which if he arrive in America, he must in Course be tried.”

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