Year
1778
Month Day
February 16

John Adams prepares to sail for France

On February 15, 1778, two future presidents of the United States, John Adams and his son, 10-year-old John Quincy Adams, sit in Marblehead Harbor, off the coast of Massachusetts, on board the frigate, Boston, which is to take them to France, where John Adams will replace Silas Deane in Congress’ commission to negotiate a treaty of alliance.

Silas Deane’s son, Jesse Deane, who was 11 or 12 years old, was also on board and bore a letter from his uncle requesting that Adams take care of the child, whose Youth and Helplessness among such bad company would require “some friendly Montior (sic) to caution, and keep him from associating with the common hands on board.”

Adam’s newfound role as pater familias expanded further with the delivery of a letter from William Vernon, Esquire, a member of the Continental Navy Board in Boston. Vernon’s son, a recent college graduate, was also on board the Boston. His father asked John Adams to find a merchant whom he could trust to educate his son in the business. Although sending him to a Catholic nation, the elder Vernon wished to see his son installed with a Protestant family of extensive Business in hopes that he “would hereafter be usefull (sic) to Society, and in particular to these American States.” He entrusted Adams not only with his son, but also with his money, asking Adams to negotiate a price of approximately £100 sterling for room and board with an eminent merchant to train his son for two to three years.

Once in France, Jesse Deane joined John Quincy Adams and Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, at a pension in Passy, outside Paris; Vernon remained in Bordeaux. Two of the boys in Passy grew to be among the leaders of the next American generation. Benjamin Franklin Bache inherited his grandfather’s skills as a journalist and founded The Aurora, a newspaper in which he attacked first George Washington’s presidency and then John Adams’. Under the notoriously unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, Bache was imprisoned for his opposition to Federalist Party policy. John Quincy Adams followed in his father’s footsteps, serving as a foreign diplomat, Massachusetts state senator and president of the United States. Jesse Deane, like his father, faded into the backdrop of history.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Fidel Castro sworn in as prime minister

On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro is sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after leading a guerrilla campaign that forced right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile. Castro, who became commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces after Batista was ousted on January 1, replaced ...read more

Archaeologist opens tomb of King Tut

On February 16, 1923, in Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen. Because the ancient Egyptians saw their pharaohs as gods, they carefully preserved their bodies after death, burying them ...read more

Tet Offensive results in many new refugees

U.S. officials report that, in addition to the 800,000 people listed as refugees prior to January 30, the fighting during the Tet Offensive has created 350,000 new refugees. The communist attack known as the Tet Offensive had begun at dawn on January 31, the first day of the Tet ...read more

Silver dollars made legal

Strongly supported by western mining interests and farmers, the Bland-Allison Act—which provided for a return to the minting of silver coins—becomes the law of the land. The strife and controversy surrounding the coinage of silver is difficult for most modern Americans to ...read more

Gunslinger John Wesley Hardin is pardoned

Infamous gunslinger John Wesley Hardin is pardoned after spending 15 years in a Texas prison for murder. Hardin, who was reputed to have shot and killed a man just for snoring, was 41 years old at the time of his release. Hardin probably killed in excess of 40 people during a ...read more

Joseph Stalin attacks the United Nations

In a statement focusing on the situation in Korea, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin charges that the United Nations has become “a weapon of aggressive war.” He also suggested that although a world war was not inevitable “at the present time,” “warmongers” in the West might trigger ...read more