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Diplomatic Assignments – Paris 1779 and Netherlands 1780

Diplomatic Assignment – Paris 1779

By November 1779 John Adams was packing again to cross the Atlantic and this time accompanied by John Quincy, twelve, and Charles, ten years old.  Congress voted unanimously to nominate him as minister plenipotentiary to negotiate the end to the war with Britain. Adams was aware that his mission had little chance to succeed immediately. The peace agreement as stipulated by congress was to have Britain relinquish to the United States all territory westward to the Mississippi River and southward to the thirty-first parallel as well as southern Canada, they must also have access to the Newfoundland fisheries. Also, JA was to negotiate a commerce agreement with Britain. However before seeking a peace treaty he had to negotiate with France as the Treaty of Alliance with France stipulated that the war would continue until the allies agreed jointly to end the war.

In July 1780 Adams wrote a letter to French Foreign Minister Vergennes asking him consent to inform the British ministry of his powers to engage in peace negotiations. Vergennes was troubled by the prospect that the American colonies and London might reach reconciliation before France had achieved its objective in this war. The French minister severed communication with John Adams while Franklin supported Vergennes.

Adams kept busy writing an average of five reports a week with information and intelligence gathered from his contacts in Paris and from the British newspapers. With the approval of the French government he wrote essays for the Paris newspaper, Mercure de France, mostly propaganda pieces about the Franco-American Alliance. He also wrote essays for British newspapers, without the authorization of French authority, to refute the essays by Joseph Galloway, a loyalist former colleague in Congress who sought refuge in London. Adams counter reply to Galloway was that an independent America can coexist with Great Britain and prosper from flourishing trade.

John thought that America was in an unequal partnership with France, that Paris did not want to make peace with Britain until their interests would be served and viewed Franklin as fearful and too servile toward the French. Vergennes and Adams distrusted one another; Vergennes sent letters to Congress stating that Adams was unsuitable for such a crucial diplomatic assignment.


Diplomatic Assignment – Netherlands 1780

At the end of July 1780 John Adams was named commissioner to the Netherlands and together with John Quincy and Charles moved to Amsterdam. He sought to cultivate the Dutch as merchants were willing to open trade with the United States and to negotiate a loan that would allow the country to be more independent of France. The Dutch were hesitant as they did not want to get drawn into losing side of the war just as the Americans were defeated in Charleston, South Carolina. But Adams’ tireless efforts and the news of the American victory at Yorktown, Virginia suddenly changed the Dutch position and Adams secured a two million dollar loan.