Diary of John Adams, volume 3


Though this is the first mention of C. W. F. Dumas in the text of the Diary, he has several times appeared in editorial notes above, because this remarkable man contributed in countless ways, large and small, to the success of JA's Dutch mission. A polyglot man of letters, born in Germany of French parents, Dumas lived for some years in Switzerland but settled at The Hague in 1756 and made a small living by his pen. Long before the Revolution broke out he had become a fervent admirer of America; in the 1760's he had considered emigrating to New England or Virginia and consulted Franklin in London to this end. On 19 Dec. 1775 Franklin addressed Dumas a letter on behalf of Congress' secret committee of correspondence, asking his 10 advice and aid in promoting the Colonies' interests in Europe (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:64–67). This step opened up what eventually became a flood, for Dumas, as one student of his career has well said, was “anime de la manie epistolaire” (F. P. Renaut, Les Provinces-Unies et la guerre d'Amerique [1775–1784], Paris, 1924–1925, 5:37). After Franklin arrived in Paris Dumas was engaged on a small salary to serve as agent and correspondent at The Hague, and he worked hard and effectively in this capacity for years, though for reasons still not clear he never obtained a regular diplomatic appointment. Praised by JA as “indefatigable,” “a walking Library,” and “a Master of Languages ancient and modern,” he made himself indispensable as adviser, gatherer of intelligence, translator, amanuensis, go-between with Dutch politicians, officials, and journalists, and general errand boy. JA liked and trusted Dumas so well that he invited him and his family to move into the Hôtel des Etats-Unis at The Hague (for which Dumas arranged the purchase) when JA moved there himself, and Madame Dumas served as a capable housekeeper in that establishment. Dumas remained American charge d'affaires, in effect but not in title, for many years, dying in 1796 without fulfilling his ardent hope of visiting the United States. His papers are chiefly preserved in the Dumas Collection in the Rijksarchief at The Hague (the extensive American portions being available on microfilm in DLC: Dutch Reproductions), and in PCC, No. 93 (4 vols., 1776–1796). The best biographical sketch is one which precedes the printed inventory of his papers issued by the Algemeen Rijksarchief in its Verslag, or Revort, for 1918, p. 379–401, which is also available in separate form. The fifth volume of Renaut's incomplete monograph, Les Provinces-Unies et la guerre d'Amerique, subtitled La propagande insurgente: C. W. F. Dumas (1775–1780), Paris, 1925, describes Dumas' labors for the American cause up to the point of JA's arrival in the Netherlands. JA's voluminous correspondence with Dumas, disregarding that which passed between Dumas and the joint commissioners in 1778–1779, extends from early 1780 to the end of 1795.