Monday, April 09, 2007

April 8, 1778:

John Adams Arrives in Paris

On April 8, 1778, John Adams wrote this in his diary: "Rode through Orleans and arrived in Paris about nine o'clock. For thirty miles from Paris or more the road was paved, and the scenes were extremely beautiful."

Adams had good reason to be relieved at the end of this particular journey, though he wasn't especially looking forward to the task ahead, namely pleading for French assistance in the struggle for independence. The future second president of the unborn United States had just made a dangerous mid-winter crossing of the Atlantic to carry out his diplomatic mission -- and in the company of his young son, J.Q. Adams, the future sixth president.

Dangerous because of the weather, for one thing. David McCullough in John Adams (2001) wrote: "Now he was embarking on a 3,000-mile voyage in the North Atantic in its most treacherous season, the risks far greater than he knew... [including] the chances of being hit by a northeaster and driven onto the shoals of Cape Cod, graveyard of ships [and] the sheer terror of winter storms at sea when freezing spray aloft could turn to ice so heavy as to cause a ship to capsize."

He was also risking capture by a British vessel, and the distinct possibility of being hanged for treason if so. "But with his overriding sense of duty, his need to serve, his ambition, and as a patriot fiercely committed to the fight for independence, he could not have done otherwise [but go]," posits McCullough. But he and his son made it, the first of a number of trips they would make to Europe, including a posting for the elder Adams as the first US ambassador to the Court of St. James's.

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