Front Page Titles (by Subject) BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TO JOHN ADAMS. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 7 (Letters and State Papers 1777-1782)
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BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TO JOHN ADAMS. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 7 (Letters and State Papers 1777-1782) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 7.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TO JOHN ADAMS.
Passy, 7 November, 1781.
I have been honored with the following letters from your Excellency during the last month, namely,—of the 4th, 10th, 18th, 22d, 25th, 26th, and 27th,—which I should have answered sooner, but that I waited for a safe opportunity, having reason to believe that all your letters to me by the post are opened, and apprehending the same of mine to you. I send herewith the covers and seals of those letters, that you may judge whether the impression of your seal is not, as I suppose it to be, a counterfeit. I shall now answer your letters in the order of their dates.
October 4th. I am pleased to find you are of the same opinion with me as to the proper charges in our accounts.
October 10th. I have now received the resolution of congress for exchanging General Burgoyne against Mr. Laurens, and have sent it to England, though without much hopes of success; as I believe the ministers there had rather at present have the General’s absence than his company. They would keep Mr Laurens to hang him at the peace, if the war should end in their favor; and they would have no objection to Americans recalling and hanging Burgoyne.
I wonder at your being so long without hearing from Mr. Dana, and I am afraid some misfortune has happened to him.
I have communicated here your observations relating to masts, and make no doubt you have recommended to congress the taking effectual measures on their part to prevent that mischievous commerce. If the English could be removed from Penobscot, another of their means of supply would be cut off.
I have already acquainted you that I will help you to pay to your acceptances as far as you have sent me an account of them. I have even ordered a considerable remittance into the hands of Fizeaux & Grand, to facilitate those payments. But I must repeat my request to you not to accept any bills with an expectation of my paying them, that are drawn after the end of March last; and I further beg you would accept no more of the old ones drawn on Mr. Laurens, without first acquainting me with the number or value, and knowing from me whether I can provide for the payment. If the loan so long expected from Holland does at length take place, as I am now told it is likely to do, my embarrassment, occasioned by all these demands, will, I hope, be removed by it. If not, I must scuffle and shift as I can. God help us all.
October 18th. I know nothing of Beer but from Mr. Coffyn’s recommendation. I am afraid he is one of those poor, helpless bodies that God throws into the world to try its charity. I had been told that the Dutch had sent to borrow such workmen from France. I recommended it to send the escaped prisoners arriving at Dunkirk rather to Amsterdam than to Paris, because I think there arrive as many American vessels in Holland as in France, wherein they might return home; and there is not one of those prisoners who does not put us to eight or ten louis expense in his land journey, first to Paris and then to the seaports, when he might go to Holland in the track-schuyts for perhaps one or two. I am sensible that you have not, as you say, any public money in your hands, and having accepted bills for more than is in mine, my case in that respect does not differ from yours. These poor, unfortunate men must however be relieved; unnecessary expense in doing it being avoided, we can relieve more of them. We cannot do for them all we wish; we shall do the best we can. I think it quite right you should have money always at command for that purpose, and am of opinion the small sum obtained by the loan at Messrs. de Neufville’s will be very properly applied in assisting the prisoners. I therefore give my advice frankly to use it in that service; and when that is expended you should undoubtedly be supplied with more, and will have the credit you desire at Messrs. Fizeaux & Grand’s as long as we have any.
October 22d. By accepting a mediation, I apprehend no more is meant, than consenting to hear and consider what a common friend may propose towards accommodating a difference. A mediator is not a judge or arbitrator. When arbitrators are chosen, there is commonly an engagement to abide by their determination; but no such engagement is made with respect to a mediator. Mediations are, however, subject to this hazard,—that the mediator, piqued against the party who rejects his advice, joins with the other to compel his acceptance of it. This, perhaps, was a little the case lately in the mediation of Spain between France and England.
I have just learnt, by a letter from Commodore Gillon, that Captain Jackson has left his ship and is returning to France. I think with you, that it will be proper he should proceed immediately to Holland to take care of the goods there. But I own I have not so much confidence in his prudent conduct as to wish the business left entirely to his discretion. I still feel the mischief and absurdity of his buying goods under the notion of only filling a vacancy left in a loaded ship, and doing this to such excess as to make two ships more necessary to receive them. I had a reluctance to any concern with Gillon. I was urged into it by Colonel Laurens, on the considerations that the ten thousand pounds sterling’s worth he wanted to dispose of were such as the army needed, were already shipped, and the conveyance likely to be a safe one, &c. I consented to pay for those goods, and for as much more as might be wanted to fill a remaining vacancy in the ship, not exceeding the value of five thousand pounds more. I proposed that these payments should be made on your drafts, that your Excellency might have occasion to inspect the conduct of the business, and be some check upon it. I wish I had empowered you, or requested your care more explicitly. I do not think the least blame lies on you. Captain Jackson, too, might be ignorant of the bulk of the goods till they were assembled; but methinks Messrs. Neufville might have known it, and would have advised against so enormous a purchase, if augmenting the commissions, and the project of freighting their own ships had not blinded their eyes. You will judge that it must be a monstrous surprise to me, to have an account brought against me of fifty thousand instead of five thousand pounds. I agreed, however, to accept the bills on Mr. Jackson’s representation,—that the goods were bought and shipped; that the relanding and returning, or selling them, would make a talk and discredit us; that they were such only as were absolutely necessary, &c.; and I accepted his drafts instead of yours, as he said the ship only waited his return to sail, and the obtaining your signature would occasion a delay of eight or ten days. Thus I was drawn in at the broad end of the horn, and must squeeze out at the narrow end as well as I can. I find myself confoundedly pinched, but I deserve it in some degree for my facility and credulity. At present, I am not sure of money either to buy the ships or pay their freight, as proposed in yours of the 27th, and, therefore, cannot engage to do either. When Captain Jackson shall arrive in Holland, your Excellency will be so good as to advise him, and I hope he will take your advice. I should apprehend it is now too late to go north about; and to send two slow-sailing Dutch ships down the channel, to run the gauntlet through all the frigates and privateers, seems to me nearly the same thing as to consign them directly to some port in England or Jersey. It was not to give you trouble or to avoid it myself, that I referred Messrs. Neufville to you for advice, but really because I thought you understood such business better than myself, were on the spot, and equally concerned for the advantage of our constituents. To me it seemed, that the vessels having contracted to go with their cargoes to America, ought not to have staid behind on pretence of a right to more freight, because the convoying ship had sailed without them. They might have protested, and have gone without convoy. If they had a right to more freight, I suppose they would have recovered it; and if taken, have a claim to some indemnification. I did not understand the compelling a new agreement by stopping our goods. I thought it ungenerous in Messrs. de Neufville as well as unjust. The regularity or irregularity of their proceedings being, at least, as I imagined, points of maritime law or custom, I had that additional reason for deference to your judgment.
22 October. I accepted your draft of the 22d for two thousand crowns, in favor of Fizeaux & Grand, and it will be duly paid.
25th. The letter from Dr. Waterhouse, of which you were so kind as to send me a copy, is coolly and sensibly written, and has an effect in lessening the force of what is written against Gillon by Messrs. Jackson & Searle. On the whole, I hardly know as yet what to think of the matter. If Gillon really produced to Jackson the ten thousand pounds’ worth of goods, why did he keep back from him the bills of exchange that were to pay for them, and with which Gillon might have paid his debts? And if he could not produce them, why did Jackson keep the bills, carry them to sea, and not return them to me? When we see him perhaps he may explain this; at present, I am in the dark. He promised me a fuller letter by the first post; but I have not received it. Commodore Gillon writes me that Jackson & Searle are parted; that the former (with your son and some others of the passengers) is gone to France in an American privateer, and the latter in the Ariel. I hope soon to hear of their safe arrival, particularly on the child’s and your account. Young Cooper is gone to Geneva. Perhaps you may think of sending your son there for the winter, in which case, if I can be of any use to you, command me.
October 26th. The reason of my thinking we could not depend on receiving any more money here, applicable to the support of congress’s ministers, is given in the same letter, of August 6th, to which yours of October 26th is an answer, namely,—“that what aids are hereafter granted, will probably be transmitted by the government directly to America.” Should that be the case, and no money be put into my hands to be at my disposal, what must I do with regard to the salaries of ministers? I cannot go to Versailles with a sneaking petition, requesting money for my subsistence, for the subsistence of Mr. Adams, of Mr. Jay, and of Mr. Dana. I believe none of the gentlemen would like my taking such a step, and I think the congress would be ashamed of it. It was, therefore, I thought it right to give the earliest notice of what I apprehended might happen, that we might all join in representing it to congress, in order to obtain the necessary remittances. You may depend that, as long as I have in my hands disposable money belonging to congress, I shall never refuse to obey their orders in paying your salary; and when I have no such money, I hope you will consider my not paying as the effect of an impossibility, and not as you express it, a refusal. The congress should certainly either supply their foreign ministers, or find such as can and will serve them gratis, or not send any at all. I hope you have written on this subject, and though I do not yet clearly see how our money affairs will wind up, I shall accept your draft for another quarter whenever you please to make it.
October 27th. I daily expect the return of Major Jackson, and think, as I have said above, the season over for sending those goods before winter; therefore, if I understood such affairs, I should defer a little the giving any orders about the ships freighted, or the goods he has put aboard them. I did, as you observe, stop the money Colonel Laurens was sending over in Gillon’s ship, because I saw I should want it to support the credit of congress in paying their bills. I think you might have done the same to pay your acceptances, if I had not engaged for them; and I believe you have an equal right with me to take care of the congress property vested in those goods, as their minister; and being on the spot, can better judge from circumstances of the steps proper to be taken. I therefore request you would, yourself, give such orders as you shall find necessary and think most for the public interest, remembering that I cannot undertake either to buy the ships or pay the freight. Perhaps it may be best to sell the whole, and purchase with the money the same kind of goods in France, which cannot but be more agreeable to government here, and probably they would arrive as soon.
I hope the coming winter will thoroughly establish your health.
With great esteem and respect,