ADAMS, John. Autograph letter signed ("John Adams"), as American minister, to Ellbridge Gerry, Auteuil, 9 September 1784. 4 pages, 4to, slight remnants of mounting along right edge of second pages, OTHERWISE VERY GOOD.
ADAMS CELEBRATES JEFFERSON'S APPOINTMENT, DESCRIBES FRANKLIN'S SCHEMING AND LASHES OUT AT CONGRESS FOR REDUCING HIS EXPENSES
STINGY CONGRESSIONAL SALARIES FORCE HIM TO LIVE "BELOW THE STYLE OF LIVING OF THE COMMON GIRLS OF THE TOWN." A long, rich, and remarkable letter during Adams's tenure as American minister in Europe, and just months before he became ambassador to Britain. He comments on everything from Jefferson's appointment as ambassador to France, Franklin's gall stones, difficulties with England, France, Holland and Spain, and--most vehemently--his outrage at Congress for reducing his living expenses. On Jefferson: "The appointment of Mr. Jefferson is a very happy one. He is as active in Business as he is able, and has nothing so much at Heart as the real service of his Country. I have known him of old. We have acted together formerly upon trying occasions, and have always been Friends. Neither he nor I are altered, and I am under no apprehensions but we shall preserve the Confidence and Friendship of each other."
On Franklin: "Dr. Franklin has the Stone, which confines him to his House and now and then a walk of a mile round it. He never goes to Versailles or Paris, as he cannot ride in a Carriage." Jefferson and Adams have agreed "to meet him always at Passy, and do our business there...I never saw him in such apparent good Humour, and I shall certainly do nothing to disturb it." He offers some cynical comments on Franklin's character when he speculates about how Congress should reward Franklin's outgoing secretary for his extraordinary labors. But he knows "too well the Interiour of Passy...Schemes will be laid to reward the one [Franklin], while the other will modestly and silently retire."
He then gives a brief summary of the diplomatic scene and his ongoing efforts to negotiate commercial treaties: "Spain and England will be difficult. Whether France & Holland & Sweden will agree to the Alterations or any of them I know not. With the Barbary Powers we cannot treat for want of Cash, and until the States shall agree upon a Fund for the Payment of Interest, we shall not be able to obtain it, after we may possibly have it in Holland." Adams sees the renewal of brisk American trade with England complicating his dealings with the British government. "Our Countrymen, by flying to London with all their trade and ships have flattered the vanity of the English so much that we shall have a thousand Prejudices to contend with in treating with them. They think and say that their Trade is so essential to America that let them do what they will and restrict it as they please, the Americans will force their way to their Ports and Markets. Treaty or no Treaty they shall have all our Trade and therefore they had better keep themselves unbound and free. We will do the best we can but your Limitation of two years will soon be out, and not half the work done."
The placid tone of this letter now gives way under Adams's rising fury at Congressional stinginess. His rage is palpable: "There is another Limitation too which will shackle us very much. You have reduced our salaries so low that it is absolutely impossible for us to live in Character, and see the Company which it is your Interest we should see." Adams had to furnish a house and stock a table in Paris just as he had already done during his service in Holland. "Is it your Interest to give your Representatives in Europe an air of Dispicable Meanness, beyond even the Ministers of every petit, two-penny Sovereignty, nay even below common Merchants and ordinary House Keepers. Nay I might add below the style of Living of the Common Girls of the Town, many of whom live in Houses and in Furniture of Twenty thousand Pounds Sterling value and at a rate of Three Thousand Pounds a year. However it is your Character not mine that is at Stake." If Gerry allows Adams just 100 pounds, the Minister promises not to spend "above 99 of it." But he tells Gerry frankly, "When the Cause required it, I starved my Family. Now it does not and you have Fish & Fur & Leather enough to pay. I will not starve them any longer."