The Prince was ill advised, when he undertook, what he was not obliged to do, in producing Mr. Laurens's Papers, which he did too in a manner justly offensive to the United States. It was the part of Sir Joseph Yorke, to have produced them, not to the Prince, but to their High Mightinesses. His Serene Highness, therefore, in this Work of Supererogation, gave himself the Air of an Instrument of Sir Joseph, which has not all recommended him to the Dutch Nation.
But Sir Joseph, or his Master, have committed a greater Mistake, in presenting that intemperate Memorial. It is said that he pleads positive Orders, but many believe, that if he had such Orders, he procured them from his Court and that the Memorial was prepared at the Hague, and adjusted to the State of Parties and Politicks in the Republick.
Be this as it may, both the Prince and the Ambassador have missed their Aim and the Publication of Mr. Laurens's Papers, has had a contrary Effect from what they expected and intended.
The Republick however, is in an embarrassed Situation. The Prince has a decided Inclination for England. He has the Command of Armies and Navies, and the Gift of so many Offices, that his Influence is astonishing among the Nobility, and all the higher Families: besides this, the Clergy are very generally devoted to him, and their Influence among the Populace is very great. So that there is great danger, that the Republick will not be able to exert its real Strength, even in Case England should continue their Hostilities—I say continue because it is certain, that by repeated Violations of Territory, as well as by innumerable Captures of innocent Vessels, Hostilities have been long since begun.
It is the Opinion of many here, that without the Discovery of Mr. Laurens's Papers, the Republick would not have acceeded to the Armed Neutrality, as this great Confederation is now determined on. We shall see what will be its Effects. The Empress of Russia is not of a Character to be trifled with: yet I think the English will not respect the new Arrangement. They will violate the Principles of it, at least towards the Dutch, and risque a War with all the Maritime Powers of the World, at once, rather than relinquish America, and agree to the Principle of free Ships, free Goods.374
I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant
I have received yours of the 17. with its Inclosure and that of the 22d.—and thank you for both.
Things are coming to an Extremity, that Philanthropy would wish to avoid: but thus it ever was, in Similar Cases. A free Nation corrupted, becomes
an Hell, a Society of Devils. Angells fallen, retain nothing but immortal Hate. Come out of her, my People! Says a good old Book.1
This Republick has determined to acceed to the armed Neutrality. But most of the Provinces and indeed most of the cities of Holland will disavow the
Treat Negotiation of the Regency of Amsterdam: but they cannot punish Van Berkell and his Acomplices, because they are a Limb of the Sovereignty.
Singleing him out will make him, the most conspicuous and the most respected of the Citizens. But this is the ministerial Method of making great Men. In this Way Wilks, Hancock, and Adams were made famous.2
What will Govt. do about the armed Neutrality? Will they charge Russia, Sweeden, and Denmark with Faction, Sedition, Cabal, and Rebellion? Why dont they Demand that Panin and his Accomplices should be punished?
With this reference to Revelations 18:2–4, JA compares Great Britain to Babylon.
For the persecution of John Wilkes, which made him a hero to JA and other American whigs, see vol. 1:xiii–xiv, 214–216. For John Hancock and Samuel Adams, see JA's letter of 16 Nov. to the president of Congress, No. 20, and note 5 (above).