Diplomatic Assignment – Paris 1777


The new government started to face up to the diplomatic consequences of the war not until 1776 when Silas Deane was sent to France. Deane’s assignment was to purchase goods with the purpose of bribing Indians to cooperate with Americans and to persuade the French government to supply arms, ammunition and uniforms for the Continental Army.  However, Deane’s actions arouse suspicions of own financial benefit and was recalled by Congress. Congress elected John Adams as replacement.

Accompanied by his oldest son, John Quincy, Adams embarked on a six week crossing of the Atlantic. He was to join American delegates Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee in Paris to negotiate a military pact with France. About a week before Adams left America Franklin had already signed a pact with the French which left Adams questioning about his own usefulness in Paris. He did not want to leave and reported to Congress that financial affairs were in a state of confusion so John set to organize the backlog of paperwork and acted as a bookkeeper for the delegation, activities with which the other men did not want to occupy themselves. Although the primary focus of the delegates was maintaining relations with France, they also dealt with incidents between American merchants and pirates and exchanges of prisoners of war.

From that time on, Adam’s hostility toward Franklin grew. Benjamin Franklin was the best known American in the world, mostly for his scientific work, publishing and his charismatic personality, a favorite among French women. JA felt overshadowed by Franklin, he sensed that the French society and government did not pay much importance to him and the fact that he was often mistaken as his cousin, Samuel Adams, made him feel unappreciated. Historian John Ferling suggests that JA was out of his element, that he did not have the skills to be successful in a highly polished society.

Eighteen months after JA arrived in Paris Congress decided to name Franklin the sole minister to France. John was humiliated and had to return to America. During his stay in America he was elected as part of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention and was put in charge of drafting the state’s first Constitution which became the core of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 and shaped the future American Constitution.


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