Papers of John Adams, volume 10

From Edmund Jenings, 1 November 1780 Jenings, Edmund JA From Edmund Jenings, 1 November 1780 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Sir Brussels Novr. 1st. 1780

I have the Honor of receiving your Excellencys Letter of the 23d Ultimo, acknowledging the Receipt of mine of the 19th. I am happy 319to find my Sentiments of things confirmed by your Excellency. What your Excellency has said with respect to the Improbability of Peace, and Treatment of Mr. Lawrens affects me much. I have taken the liberty of writing it to England for the public Perusal and attention.1 The Higher, that inconsiderate People Talk and the more inhumanly, they Act, the more Inflexible ought we to be. They ought to know our Temper, and cease their Insolence and Cruelty, least worse fall on them.

I sent about ten days Ago the following Queries to a Gentleman of some weight and great integrity to be shown by Him to his Friends, that Use might be made thereof in Parliament, and afterwards to be publishd for the Inspiration of the People.

“Was Sir John Dalrymple Commissiond by them, (the Ministers) when on Account of his Ladys Illness, he Embarked for Lisbon and obtaind Permission to go from thence to Madrid, which Permission was procured from the Court under the Pretext of Consulting a celebrated Irish Physiscian in that city? Was He Authorizd to make Overtures for an accomodation, which if published, would be an Anecdote of more Curiosity, than all those, transcribed by the great Hunter of Anecdotes?

Was He instructed by the Ministers to Assure all the Confessors, Chaplains, Priests and Zealots of the Roman Catholic Religion, that his Letters from Ld. Germain or his Friends Messrs. S——2 could introduce Him to, that it was the Intention of our Gracious Sovereign and his Ministers insensibly to place his Catholic on a footing with his Protestant Subjects with respect to Civil and religious Liberty? Did they instruct Him to Endeavour to Tamper with the American Agents at that Court, and to Inspire them with a distrust and Jealousy of the Intention of the Court of Spain and even of one Another at present employed in Europe? Did they, notwithstanding this Gentlemans fruitless Negociation, afterwards send a certain Mr. Cumberland the Secretary, Confident, and Friend of one3 of them, on the same Arrand, under pretext of establishing a Cartel for the Exchange of Prisoners? Did they Authorize this Gentleman to make offers of Ceding Rights and Possessions, acquired in former Wars by the Blood and Treasures of this Nation on Condition, that the Court of Spain should not Support the revolted Colonies, and should Use its Influence with France to relinquish them on certain Terms Advantageous to that Nation and humiliating to England? Did they further Authorize Him by a Secret Article of the proposed Treaty, that the King would place his Catholic Subjects in both Kingdoms on a footing with 320respect to Civil and Religious Rights, as his protestant ones? To give weight to these Representations, did not a certain Personage Closet an Irish Priest4 of that Religion, whose Name this Negociation hath preservd from Oblivion, and solemnly Assure Him of his Intention to protect and employ the Members of a Religion, whom He regarded as His most faithful Subjects? and was not this same Abbé by more solid reasons induced to pave the way by his intrigues with the pious and interested for the admission of Mr. C——d on the pretext before mentiond? Have not the Overtures of these Emissaries been treated as the Visions of Madmen by the wise Councils of his Catholic Majesty? and would not the Persons employed have been long ago directed to continue their Travels, notwithstanding the pious Artifices of Mr. C——ds Coadjutor, and the Beauty and Harmony of his fair Daughters, if this Emissary had not given the Court reason to Expect still more humiliating Concessions and by those Means discovering the Abject Situation of the present Governors of this once florishing Country?”5

I Hope your Excellency will not disapprove of this Step.

I am Happy to hear the Armd Neutrallity is likely to form soon a consistent and regular Plan of Operation. I wish at least that it would try that Measure, which I had the Honor of suggesting to your Excellency.6 I have been seldom bigotted to my Opinions and fancies, but I must Confess I am very much so to this, which Step woud be very much improvd by the Acknowledgement of our Independancy. I am very much pleasd to hear reports of a Treaty between Us and Holland—the Dutch will be certainly satisfied in making Treaties, with whom they can, when England has with so much Insolence and Outrage reduced them to a State of Nature with respect to Her.7

I find by the Morning Post, which your Excellency Knows is a Ministerial Paper the following Paragraph under the Article of N York. Augst. 25th.8

“It is said our Old Acquaintance Mr. Lee? Izard lately returnd to America, has deliverd to the Congress his Sentiments freely on some other Cessions (respecting the American Fisheries), which have been made to his most Catholic Christian Majesty by Doctr. B.F.——Whose Conduct He reprobates as eminently injurious to the Rights and Dignity of the American States.”

I am with greatest Respect Sir your Excellencys most Faithful & Obedient Humble Sert

Edm: Jenings

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Jennings ansd. 7 Novr. 1780.”

321 1.

Neither the excerpt apparently taken by Jenings from JA's letter of 23 Oct. (above), nor its publication in an English newspaper has been identified.


The person or persons mentioned here have not been identified.


Lord George Germain.


Thomas Hussey.


The editors have been unable to identify the recipient of this piece or to discover whether it was later published. For the unsuccessful Dalrymple and Hussey-Cumberland missions to seek peace with Spain, see John Jay's letter of 26 April, and note 1, and JA's letter to Jenings of 29 May, and note 4 (both above). For Jenings' comments on the Hussey-Cumberland mission and efforts to divide the American diplomats in Spain, see JA's letter of 29 May, and Jenings' of 27 May, 2 June, and 5 June (all above).


Jenings may refer to his letter of 21 July (above) in which he suggested that Russia and the other nations of the armed neutrality move decisively against Britain by acknowledging American independence, stopping Britain's Baltic trade in naval stores, and acting in concert with France, Spain, and Holland. This would seem to be supported by JA's comments in his reply of 7 Nov. (below).


Jenings means that insofar as Britain was concerned, the Order in Council of 17 April, suspending its treaties with the Netherlands, meant that henceforth Anglo-Dutch relations were governed by the strict law of nations; that is, the law of nature applied to nations (from William Lee, 25 April, note 1, above; to the president of Congress, 13 May, No. 66, calendared, above).


Jenings provides an almost verbatim text of this item, which appeared in the Morning Post of 19 October. Immediately preceding it, however, was another report from the same source that makes the reference to “other Cessions” in Jenings' text more significant. According to the newspaper, “It is very positively asserted, that the Continental Congress have ceded, for ever, the port of Rhode Island, with Narraganset and sundry islands depending thereon, to their great and good ally, the King of France.”

From Stephen Sayre, 1 November 1780 Sayre, Stephen JA From Stephen Sayre, 1 November 1780 Sayre, Stephen Adams, John
From Stephen Sayre
Sir St. Petersburg 21 Octr. 1 November 1780

I make no Apology for troubling you with a Letter, because your Excellency must know me by reputation, and because the purport of it is of a public nature.1 As to myself, I trust, you must be persuaded, there is not an American, now in arms, more ardent in our cause—I am sure none can have more reason to detest the British Government. When I left Great Britain, I did it with a full determination of risqing my life in service, either by Sea or land. Unfortunately, those Gentlemen who directed our affairs on the Continent of Europe, could not agree how I should be employ'd—nor did they give me any reason to hope for release, should I have been made prisoner in my way to America. The hayzard at that time was extremely great—and I well knew that if once I fell into the hands of the English, my treatment must have been fatally cruel—the Idea of a languishing and ignominious confinement before I had opportunity of distinguishing myself, was, I own, insupportable. My former conduct, situation and suffering led me to hope that I could render my Country real Services by staying in Europe—In this my wishes have been extremely disappointed; because I have had no public support. My only consolation 322is, that, tho' a private Gentleman, I have render'd our cause somewhat more respectable in many parts of Europe, by Information, as to what we really are; and what our Enemies wish to represent us. In short it requires no great abilities to convince the intelligent of Europe that they are exceedingly interested in our welfare and however I may seem engaged in a private pursuit of commerce, I never lose sight of the public good. On that ground I now give you the following Information—perhaps your powers may admit your improving it to advantage. I am now building four Ships of 900 Tons each—they are after the best English Models: for I have a Russian Carpenter who has work'd five years in Deptford Yard. They are under Russian Noblemen—will have every quality of neutrallity—will be ready to take in goods in June next—perhaps in May. They will probably proceed from hence to France with Hemp &c.—from thence to the French or Dutch Islands &c. &c. Now if you have instructions that may warrant the venture; those Ships, or part of them might be loaded from hence, with such articles as America may demand, directly for St. Eustatia, Curasoa, Martineco, or any other West India Island. The property would be most sacredly cover'd; for the Merchants here who charge the Ship, would never know that it could be for other than Russian Account. A prince Niswisky, and General Borosdin—men of honest fame and of Influence here, are concern'd with me. The General goes in one of the Ships himself. They are promised by the Empress herself, the most decided protection in this trade: and you may suppose I could improve the begining of such a commerce to very good purpose, were I to have the ability to bigin it. Nothing would render her Majesty more pleasure—or make her more our freind.2 Your answer will greatly oblige me, whither any thing is dicided or not. I have been honor'd with the correspondence of Mr. Sam: Adams, before I left England. Shall ever esteem your Excellency's freindship. I am with all due respect your most obt. humb Servt

Stephen Sayre

Messrs. Delalande and Fynie3 are my Correspondents in Amsterdam. They are worthy your freindship.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr &c. &c. &c.”; endorsed: “Mr Sayre. 21. Oct. ansd. 6. Decr. 1780.” The removal of the seal has resulted in the loss of portions of four words.


Stephen Sayre had previously written to JA on 15 June 1778, regarding his treatment by Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee. For a sketch of Sayre's career, which included a term in the Tower of London in 1775, see the note to that letter (vol. 6:209).


Sayre's scheme for establishing a clandestine trade covered by the Russian flag was 323totally illusory. Catherine II actively opposed Sayre's efforts and was unwilling to do anything with regard to America that would compromise her neutrality or further exacerbate her relations with Great Britain (David W. Griffiths, “American Commercial Diplomacy in Russia, 1780 to 1783,” WMQ , 3d ser., 27:384–389 [July 1970]).


The firm of De la Lande & Fynje was one of those that participated in the Dutch loan of 1782 (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:451).