Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

John Adams to Norton Quincy, 28 August 1782 JA Quincy, Norton John Adams to Norton Quincy, 28 August 1782 Adams, John Quincy, Norton
John Adams to Norton Quincy
My dear Friend The Hague August 28 1782

I Sigh every day, in whatever Scaene I am in for a walk down to your House and a Day by your Fireside.1—I hope the Time will come, but not so soon as I wish.

It would amuze you, as it does me to wander about in scaenes once frequented by the great Princes of Orange, by Brederode, Barnevelt, Grotius, De Witts, Erasmus, Boerhave, Van Trump, De Ruyter and a thousand others, and I can assure you, that I dont think the Nation essentially changed from what it was in those days.—But it is too rich and loves Money too well. If however the present Prince of Orange had the Genius and Enterprise of the 1st or 3d William or of Frederick Henry this Nation would now display as great Virtues and Resources as ever, provided it was directed in the Way the Nation wishes. The nation is discontented with the Management of Affairs, and is struggling to amend it. They will be steady and persevering tho slow.

I will inclose to you a Curiosity—a Pamphlet severely reprobated 368by the Government, but which has made a deep Impression upon the Nation, and certainly contributed a great deal, to accelerate the Acknowledgment of the United States here. It arroused the People and allarmed the Court. When you have read it, lend it to the President of the Senate.2 Dont let it become publick. The Author is not known. In the original Dutch it is said to be a finished Composition.3 There is an astonishing Multitude of such free Writings here.

Surely this is the Court and Country where Liberty and Independence ought to be popular. But Courts change sooner than nations.

Cant you resolve to write to me for once? A Letter from you would do me great good. I want to be again Select Man with you4 and I intend to be, sooner or later.

Mean while Adieu.

RC (Adams Papers). For the enclosure, not found, see note 3.


Norton Quincy, identified above at vol. 1:146, AA's favorite uncle, lived as a recluse on his farm at Mount Wollaston on the shore of what is now called Quincy Bay. JA had embarked for Europe from Norton Quincy's house in Feb. 1778; its location is indicated by the word “Quinzey” on the chart of Boston Harbor in same, following p. 240. See also vol. 2:388–389; numerous references in JA's Diary and Autobiography ; Eliza Susan Quincy's view of Mount Wollaston in Massachusetts Historical Society, A Pride of Quincys, 1969; Adams Genealogy.


Samuel Adams.


The pamphlet may be confidently identified as an English translation of Aan het Volk van Nederland (To the People of the Netherlands), the original Dutch version of which had been anonymously and surreptitiously printed and circulated in Sept. 1781. It was a devastatingly bold and bitter attack on the incompetence, reactionaryism, and proBritish policy of the House of Orange, and contained tributes to the republican character of the Swiss and American federations. High rewards were posted by the government for the apprehension of the author, printers, sellers, and even possessors of Aan het Volk, and copies were publicly burned by the executioner. The severity of these penalties gave the pamphlet such notoriety that it rapidly went through a number of editions and translations, and it became a kind of primer for the Dutch Patriot party. JA reported on the “Fermentation” it had produced by quoting some of the “placards” against it in letters to the President of Congress, 17, 25 Oct. 1781 (PCC, No. 84, III; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 4:782–783, 810–812), in the second of which he discussed in a notable passage the rising liberty of the press and hence of “democratical Principles” in certain parts of Europe, which he attributed directly to the influence of the American Revolution.

The authorship of Aan het Volk remained a secret for a century. Its primary author was an aristocratic quasiphilosophe, Joan Derk, Baron van der Capellen tot den Pol (1741–1784), of Zwolle in Overyssel, long an interested observer of American affairs and a friend and correspondent of JA during the 1780's; see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:455 and references in note there. Capellen had the able and energetic assistance, especially in the difficult problems of printing and circulation, of Francis Adrian Van der Kemp (as his name was Americanized after his exile from the Netherlands), identified above in a note under JA to Richard Cranch, 18 Dec. 1781. Van der Kemp's Autobiography , ed. Helen L. Fairchild, N.Y., 1903, details his own relations with Capellen and with JA, whose close friend 369and lifelong correspondent he became.

See also W. P. C. Knuttel, Catalogus van de Pamfletten-Verzameling berustende in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek, vol. 5, 1776–1795, The Hague, 1905, Nos. 19864–19876; Hendrik Willem Van Loon, The fall of the Dutch Republic, new edn., Boston and N.Y., 1924, p. 322–332; Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1:325–331.


JA and Norton Quincy had been Braintree selectmen together beginning in March 1766; see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:304.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 31 August 1782 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 31 August 1782 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Aug. 31. 1782

All well.—You will send these Papers to some Printer when you have done with them.

We have found that the only Way of guarding against Fevers is to ride. We accordingly mount our Horses every day. But the Weather through the whole Spring and most of the Summer has been very dull, damp, cold, very disagreable and dangerous. But shaking on Horseback guards pretty well against it.

I am going to Dinner with a Duke and a Dutchess and a Number of Ambassadors and Senators, in all the Luxury of this luxurious World: but how much more luxurious it would be to me, to dine upon roast Beef with Parson Smith, Dr. Tufts or Norton Quincy—or upon rusticrat Potatoes with Portia—Oh! Oh! hi ho hum!—and her Daughter and sons.

RC (Adams Papers); enclosed “Papers” not found or identified.

John Adams to Cotton Tufts, August 1782 JA Tufts, Cotton John Adams to Cotton Tufts, August 1782 Adams, John Tufts, Cotton
John Adams to Cotton Tufts
My dear Dr. The Hague, August? 1782 1

I have only time to inclose a few Papers and to pray for your Health and Prosperity.

I am much distressed for my Brother Cranch as the last Accounts were allarming. So pleasing a Friendship of near 30 Years standing is a Blessing not to be replaced. I cannot give up the Hopes that I may yet see him in good Health.

My worthy Father Smith must be greatly afflicted at this Sickness. The sorrows however, as well as the Joys of his Age, are either fatal, or soon over.

I long to be with you, even to share in your Afflictions. The Life I lead is not satisfactory to me. Great Feasts and great Company, the Splendeur of Courts and all that is not enough for me. I want my Family, my Friends and my Country. My only Consolation is, that 370I have rendered a most important and essential service to my Country, here, which I verily believe no other Man in the World would have done. I dont mean by this, that I have exerted any Abilities here, or any Actions, that are not very common, but I dont believe that any other Man in the World would have had the Patience and Perseverance, to do and to suffer, what was absolutely necessary.—I will never go through such another Scene. Happily, there will never I believe be again Occasion for any body to suffer so much. The Humiliations, the Mortifications, the Provocations, that I have endured here, are beyond all description; yet the Unravelling of the Plot, and the total Change in all these respects make amends for all.

My Situation is at present as agreable as it ever can be to me, Out of my own Country and Absent from my family.

I cannot flatter you with Prospects of Peace. There are some Essays towards it, but their Success is too uncertain to be depended on. Yet England is too inadequate to her European Ennemies to hurt Us much. The Refugees are turning every stone to provoke fresh Hostilities against America, but I think they will be disappointed.—What a forlorn Situation those Wretches are in!—Yet I am told they modestly hope at least to be invited home, by their Countrymen. I suppose they think that America has not wit enough to govern itself without them.

It is now almost five Years since I left Congress, and what a Series of horrid scaenes have I got through. What storms, what Chases, what Leaks, what Mountains and Valleys, what Fatigues, Dangers, Hair Breadth scapes, what Fevers and Gouts, have I seen and felt!

If after all it should please God to preserve me home, I will leave the Splendid Pursuits of Fame, Fortune and Ambition to those, who have them in View and who may easily obtain them without the Pains, Achs and Dangers that I have run, from other Motives. My little Farm will be as extensive as my Expectations. My poor Boys must work—they have seen a little of their Fathers Pleasures in this Life, and knowing the Object he had in View, they will not reproach him for having neglected their Interests.

RC (PPAmP); endorsed: “Hon. John Adams Letter recd. March 1783.” Enclosed “Papers” not found or identified.


Thus approximately dated from JA's allusion to his “last Accounts” of Richard Cranch's renewed and severe illness. These had been received on 16 and the first and second letters of 17 August (see letters under those dates above), and this circumstance, together with other hints, suggests that the present letter was written at some point during the last two weeks of August 1782. See, further, Tufts to JA, 10 Oct. 1782 (Adams Papers).