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This will be delivered to you by his Excellency, John Adams, whom I earnestly recommend to your best civilities. He has never been in Holland, and your counsels will be of use to him. My best wishes attend you, being ever, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Disputes of Jones and Landais. – French Court displeased with JMr. JAdams's Correspondence.—Armed JYeutrality. Passy, 9 August, 1780. SIR,
With this your Excellency will receive a copy of my last, dated May 31st, the original of which, with copies of preceding letters, went by the Alliance, Captain Landais, who sailed the beginning of last month, and who I wish may arrive safe in America, being apprehensive, that by her long delay in port, from the mutiny of the people, who after she was ready to sail refused to weigh anchor till their wages were paid, she may fall in the way of the English fleet now out; or that her crew, who have ever been infected with disorder and mutiny, may carry her into England. She had, on her first coming out, a conspiracy for that purpose; besides which her officers and captain quarrelled with each other, the captain with Commodore Jones, and there have been so many broils among them, that it was impossible to get the business forward while she stayed, and she is at length gone, without taking the quantity of stores she was capable of taking, and was ordered to take.
I suppose the conduct of that captain will be inquired into by a court-martial. Captain Jones goes home in the Ariel, a ship we have borrowed of government here, and carries one hundred and forty-six chests of arms, and four hundred barrels of powder. To take the rest of the stores, I have been obliged to freight a ship, which, being well armed and well manned, will, I hope, get in safe. The clothes for ten thousand men are, I think, all made up; there are also arms for fifteen thousand, new and good, with two thousand barrels of powder. Besides this, there is a great quantity of cloth I have bought, of which you will have the Invoices sent by Mr. Williams; another large quantity purchased by Mr. Ross; all going in the same ship.” The little authority we have here to govern our armed ships, and the inconvenience of distance from the ports, occasion abundance of irregularities in the conduct of both men and officers. I hope, therefore, that no more of those vessels will be sent hither, till our code of laws is perfected respecting ships abroad, and proper persons appointed to manage such affairs in the seaports. They give me infinite trouble; and, though I endeavour to act for the best, it is without satisfaction to myself, being unacquainted with that kind of business. I have often mentioned the appointment of a consul or consuls. The Congress have, perhaps, not yet had time to consider that matter. Having already sent you, by different conveyances, copies of my proceedings with the court of Denmark, relative to the three prizes delivered up to the English, and requested the instructions of Congress, I hope soon to receive them. I mentioned a letter from the Congress to that court, as what I thought might have a good effect. I have since had more reasons to be of that opinion. The unexpected delay of Mr. Deane's arrival has retarded the settlement of the joint accounts of the Commission, he having had the chief management of the commercial part, and being therefore best able to explain difficulties. I have just now the pleasure to hear that the Fier Rodérique, with the convoy from Virginia, arrived at Bordeaux, all safe except one tobacco ship, that foundered at sea, the men saved; and I have a letter from Mr. Deane that he is at Rochelle, proposes to stop a few days at Nantes, and then proceed to Paris, when I shall endeavour to see that business completed with all possible expedition. Mr. Adams has given offence to the court here, by some sentiments and expressions contained in several of his letters written to the Count de Vergennes. I mention this with reluctance, though perhaps it would have been my duty to acquaint you with such a circumstance, even were it not required of me by the minister himself. He has sent me copies of the correspondence, desiring I would communicate them to Congress; and I send them herewith.” Mr. Adams did not show me his letters before he sent them. I have, in a former letter to Mr. Lovell, mentioned some of the inconveniences, that attend the having more than one minister at the same court; one of which inconveniences is, that they do not always hold the same language, and that the impressions made by one, and intended for the service of his constituents, may be effaced by the discourse of the other. It is true, that Mr. Adams's proper business is elsewhere; but, the time not being come for that business, and having nothing else here wherewith to employ himself, he seems to have endeavoured to supply what he may suppose my negotiations defective in. He thinks, as he tells me himself, that America has been too free in expressions of gratitude to France; for that she is more obliged to us than we to her; and that we should show spirit in our applications. I apprehend, that he mistakes his ground, and that this court is to be treated with decency and delicacy. The King, a young and virtuous prince, has, I am persuaded, a pleasure in reflecting on the generous benevolence of the action in assisting an oppressed people, and proposes it as a part of the glory of his reign. I think it right to increase this pleasure by our thankful acknowledgments, and that such an expression of gratitude is not only our duty, but our interest. A different conduct seems to me what is not only improper and unbecoming, but what may be hurtful to us. Mr. Adams, on the other hand, who, at the same time means our welfare and interest as much as I, or any man, can do, seems to think a little apparent stoutness, and a greater air of independence and boldness in our demands, will procure us more ample assistance. It is for Congress to judge and regulate their affairs accordingly.
* Captain Landais had been censured and deprived of his command, in consequence of his misconduct while on the cruise with Jones at the time of the capture of the Serapis. When Jones was about to depart in the Alliance for America, in June, 1780, Landais went to L'Orient without orders, raised a mutiny among the officers and sailors, in consequence of their not having been paid their prize money, and took command of the ship while Jones was absent. An order was obtained from the French government to arrest Landais, but he sailed before the order arrived. Arthur Lee was a passenger in the Alliance, and advised Landais to resist the authority of Jones, and take command of the vessel. The passengers had reason to regret this rash measure, however, before they reached Boston, to which port they were bound. Landais behaved in so strange a manner, that it was found necessary to deprive him of his command, and to put the vessel under the charge of the first lieutenant. In a letter to Robert Morris, dated at L'Orient, June 27th, Jones speaks of this affair as follows.
“What gives me the greatest pain is, that, after I had obtained from the government, the means of transporting to America, under a good protection, the arms and clothing I had already mentioned, Mr. Lee should have found means to defeat my intentions. I thank God, I am of no party, and have no brothers or relations to serve; but I am convinced, that Mr. Lee has acted in this matter merely because I would not become the enemy of the venerable, the wise, and the good Franklin, whose heart, as well as head, does and will always do honor to human nature. I know the great and good in this kingdom better, perhaps, than any other American, who has appeared in Europe since the treaty of alliance; and, if my testimony could add any thing to Franklin's reputation, I could witness the universal veneration and esteem with which his name inspires all ranks, not only at Versailles, and all over this kingdom, but also in Spain and Holland. And I can add, from the testimony of the first characters of other nations, that with them envy itself is dumb when the name of Franklin is but mentioned.”—See Life of Paul Jones, New York ed., 1833, pp. 261–279.
M. de Vergennes, who appears much offended, told me, yesterday, that he would enter into no further discussions with Mr. Adams, nor answer any more of his letters. He is gone to Holland to try, as he told me, whether something might not be done to render us less dependent on France. He says, the ideas of this court and those of the people in America are so totally different, that it is impossible for any minister to please both. He ought to know America better than I do, having been there lately, and he may choose to do what he thinks will best please the people of America. But, when I consider the expressions of Congress in many of their public' acts, and particularly in their letter to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, of the 24th of May last, I cannot but imagine, that he mistakes the sentiments of a few for a general opinion. It is my intention, while I stay here, to procure what advantages I can for our country, by endeavouring to please this court; and I wish I could prevent any thing being said by any of our countrymen here, that may have a contrary effect, and increase an opinion