Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 24 July 1784

To John Adams

On board the Ceres off Scilly. July 24. 1784.

Dr. Sir

When I did myself the honor of writing you on the 19th. Ult. it was my expectation that I should take my passage in the French packet which was to sail the 15th. of this month, and of course that I should not be in Paris till the middle or last of August. It had not then been suggested to me, and being no seaman it did not occur to myself, that even from a London-bound vessel I might get ashore off Ushant or elsewhere on the coast of France. On receiving this information I took my passage with Mr. Tracy in this vessel, leaving Boston the 5th. instant and having had a most favourable run am now as you will see above, and on the lookout for a vessel to take me off. My wish is to land at Brest, Morlaix or elsewhere on that part of the coast, in which, if I succeed, I shall go by the way of L’Orient and Nantes to Paris where I shall probably be a fortnight after the date of this letter. Colo. Humphries, Secretary to the legation, having failed getting to Boston in time, I suppose he will pass in the French packet. However our business need not await him as I am possessed of the papers relative to that. In a situation which hardly admits writing at all, and in hopes of seeing you in Paris as soon as your convenience and that of Mrs. Adams will admit, who I hope is now safe with you, I have the honor to be with the most perfect esteem Dr. Sir Your most obedt & most humble servt,

Th: Jefferson

RC (Adams Manuscript Trust, Boston); addressed: “The honble John Adams Minister plenipoty. for the United States now at London or the Hague”; postmarked. Entry in SJL reads: “[July] 24. Ceres. Off Scilly. J. Adams. Account of my voiage. That shall be in Paris a fortnight after this date. Humphries not come but need not wait.” “I am half sorry Mr. Jefferson arrived so soon,” John Adams wrote to C. W. F. Dumas on 25 Aug. 1784, but this was merely a polite expression to indicate how much he regretted being deprived of “a Month’s Residence at the Hague” (MHi: AMT). Actually Adams was greatly pleased at TJ’s appointment and his arrival brought a harmony that had not prevailed theretofore. “I received yours of the 29 of June,” Adams wrote James Warren, “by Mr. Jefferson whose appointment gives me great pleasure. He is an old Friend with whom I have often had occasion to labour at many a knotty Problem, and in whose Abilities and Steadiness I always found great Cause to confide. The appointment of this Gentleman and that of Mr. Jay and Mr. Dana, are excellent Symtoms” (Adams to Warren, 27 Aug. 1784; MHi: AMT; TJ had brought Warren’s letter of 29 June). This feeling grew with closer association with TJ, and within three months Adams could write: “Jefferson is an excellent hand. You could not have sent a better. He appears to me to be infected with no Party Passions or national prejudices, or any Partialities, but for his own Country‥ ‥ Since our Meeting upon our new Commissions, our affairs have gone on with the utmost Harmony and nothing has happened to disturb our Peace. I wish this Calm may continue, and believe it will.” This was in a letter in which Adams had described “extracts of two or three Letters of Dr. Franklin, which relate to me” as being “the most unprovoked, the most cruel, and the most malicious misrepresentations which ever were put upon Paper” (Adams to Gerry, 12 Dec. 1784; same). And again, to William Knox: “You can Scarcely have heard a Character too high of my Friend and Colleague Mr. Jefferson, either in point of Power or Virtues. My Fellow Labourer in Congress, eight or nine years ago, upon many arduous Tryals, particularly in the draught of our Declaration of Independence and in the formation of our Code of Articles of War, and Laws for the Army. I have found him uniformly the same wise and prudent Man and Steady Patriot. I only fear that his unquenchable Thirst for knowledge may injure his Health” (Adams to Knox, 15 Dec. 1784). And again, to Arthur Lee: “My new Partner, is an old Friend and Co-adjutor, whose Character, I studied nine or ten years ago, and which I do not perceive to be altered. The same Industry, Integrity, and Talents remain without diminution. I am very happy in him, but whether we shall be able to accomplish anything here, I know not: anything, I mean, which may make it worth while to keep us together. But if Congress order us to separate there will be the same good Understanding and Correspondence between us. Dr. F. is at present too much an Object of Compassion to be one of Resentment” (Adams to Lee, 31 Jan. 1785; same).

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