Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Adams, 12[–16] October 1781

To John Adams

LS:3 Massachusetts Historical Society

Passy, Oct. 12.[–16] 1781.


I received the Letter your Excellency did me the honour of writing to me the 4th. Instant.

I have never known a Peace made, even the most advantageous, that was not censured as inadequate, and the Makers condemn’d as injudicious or corrupt. Blessed are the Peacemakers, is I suppose to be understood in the other World: for in this they are more frequently cursed. Being as yet rather too much attached to this World, I had therefore no Ambition to be concerned in fabricating this Peace: and know not how I came to be put into the Commission. I esteem it however an honour to be joined with you in so important a Business; and if the Execution of it shall happen in my Time, which I hardly expect, shall endeavour to assist in discharging the Duty according to the best of my Judgment.

Immediately on receipt of the Commission & Instructions, I communicated them, as directed, to this Court. The Steps that have been taken in the Mediation were verbally communicated to me, but as yet I have had no Copies given me of the Papers. I ask’d if it was not proper to communicate to the Ministers of the Mediating Powers, the Commission of Congress impowering us to accept their Mediation; and was advised to post-pone it a little. I will endeavour on Tuesday next, to obtain you a Copy of the Answer of the British Court which you desire, and will consult on the Propriety of mentioning our Commission in the Publick Papers.

I have heard nothing of Mr Jefferson. I imagine the Story of his being taken Prisoner is not true. From his original Unwillingness to leave America when I was sent hither, I think his Coming doubtful, unless he had been made acquainted with & consented to the Appointment.

I hope your health is fully established. I doubt not but you have the Advice of skilful Physicians, otherwise I should presume to offer mine, which would be, though you find yourself well, to take a few Doses of Bark, by way of fortifying your Constitution, & preventing a Return of your Fever.—4

With the greatest Respect, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency’s, most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

P.S. Oct 16 1781. I have just received the Honour of yours dated the 18th.5 which I will answer per next Post. In the mean time will concert with Mr. Grand some means of Paying the Bills of which you send me a List, and take my chance for the Ability of paying other Demands upon me: in which God help me. Not finding these Bills in any of your preceding Lists made me think I had no previous Advice of them. I inclose a Copy of a Letter from Capt Jackson to me,6 I have a Copy of another from Mr. Searle to Mr. Jay of the same Tenour.7 I shall send it in my next.—

His Exy. J. Adams Esqre.

Endorsed: Dr Franklin Oct. 12. 1781. ansd. 22.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3In WTF’s hand, except for the last six words of the complimentary close, which are in BF’s hand, and the postscript, which is in Mumford’s.

4Cinchona bark (sometimes called Jesuits’ bark or Peruvian bark), which contains quinine; BF used it: XXX, 250, 264, 517, 559.

5A slip of the pen, as BF surely meant to write “10.”

6Above, Sept. 26. A copy in Mumford’s hand is at the Mass. Hist. Soc.

7Searle to Jay, Sept. 26; Jay sent BF a copy on Oct. 3.

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