Papers of John Adams, volume 10

To the President of Congress, No. 28, 21 December 1780 JA President of Congress Huntington, Samuel To the President of Congress, No. 28, 21 December 1780 Adams, John President of Congress Huntington, Samuel
To the President of Congress, No. 28
Sir Amsterdam Decr. 21. 1780

The Sentiments and Affections of a People, may be learned from many little Circumstances, which few Persons attend to. The Poets and orators, are generally considered as the Surest Repositories of popular Ideas both in ancient and modern nations. The Clergy may be classed among the latter: and it is very certain that most publick Preachers, accommodate both their Sermons and their Prayers, in Some degree to the general Taste of their Hearers, and avoid every Thing, which will unnecessarily give them offense. At Rotterdam, there are Several English Churches. The Presbyterian Church which would be the least likely, one Should think, to be bigotted to England, I attended. The Parson, after petitioning Heaven in his Prayer, for the States of Holland and West Friesland, the States General and Council of State, and for the Prince of Orange their hereditary Statholder and Governor, &c. added a Petition for England, for the King Queen and Royal Family, for their Health, Long Life and Prosperity, and Added, with peculiar Emphasis, that he might tryumph over all his Ennemies, in the four Quarters of the Globe.

At Amsterdam I have attended both the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches and heard Similar Supplications to Heaven, in both.

At Utrecht, I attended the Presbyterian Church and there heard a Prayer for the English, with more fervour Still, and in greater details. The Parson was quite transported with his Zeal, and prayed that the Rebellion which had So long prevailed, might be Suppressed, and hide its Head in Shame.

At Leyden there is another English Church. The Parson I am told is a Tory, but prudently omits Such Kind of Prayers.

This is a Work of Supererogation in these Reverend Zealots, and is therefore a Stronger Proof, that Such Sentiments are popular. The English, who are numerous in all these Cities, are universally in favour of the British Ministry: but there are so many Dutch Families, who understanding the English Language, worship in these 427Churches, that the Clergy would not give them offence, if such Prayers were offensive.

This is the more remarkable, as the Religion of North America, is more like that of this Republick, than like that of England. But Such Prayers recommend the Parsons to the Prince of Orange and the English Party, and no other Party or Person has Influence or Courage enough to take offence at them.

I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant

John Adams

RC (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 329–331); docketed: “Letter Decr. 21 1780 John Adams Read 19 Novr. 1781.”

From Thomas Digges, 22 December 1780 Digges, Thomas Church, William Singleton JA San, Ferdinand Raymond From Thomas Digges, 22 December 1780 Digges, Thomas Church, William Singleton Adams, John San, Ferdinand Raymond
From Thomas Digges
Dear Sir 22d Dr./80

I am thankful for your favor and its inclosure of the 15th Instant.1 I hope my parcells go regularly for I never omit to put them in the common conveyance. Let me know if the present rupture will make any alteration. When you write Mr. W.S.C. you are requested not to direct but only mark the letter thus X on the seal part, and put it under a Cover directed to Mr. Stockdale Bookseller Piccadilly London.

The times are going very bad here and we Englishmen seem to feel we can war with all the world. We laugh at and hold you Dutchmen very Cheap. Orders are out for Reprisals and I dare say e'er this some ships are taken. We talk big about seizing immidiately every Dutch ship in our ports, taking all your East and West India Possessions &c. &c.2

I am winding up matters so as to get into a Country less embroild. You will be timely acquainted with my motions for I intend to take the Tour of the North. I beg my Compliments to my friend Mr. De Neufville and am thankfull for his present of news papers and letter. The times and temper of the People at present are against my getting an Answer from a friend whom I have lately wrote much about to the question you last put.3

We begin to talk here now that Mr. L bore a Commission of Plenipotentiary but this I think can be only known by himself. No news but what you will see in the papers.

I am yours &c. &c.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Monsieur Monsieur Ferdinand Raymond San Chez Monsr Hendrick Schorn Amsterdam”; endorsed: “Church”; docketed by CFA: “22d Decr 1780.”

428 1.

This letter has not been found.


What Digges does not indicate here, but which he presumably knew of by the 22d, is that on 20 Dec. George III had issued a Manifesto that constituted a declaration of war against the Netherlands. After recounting British grievances, particularly the States General's refusal to punish Amsterdam for its part in the Lee-Neufville treaty, the Manifesto announced the withdrawal of the British ambassador and declared that Britain would “immediately pursue such vigorous measures as the occasion fully justifies, and our dignity and the essential interests of our people require” (James Brown Scott, ed., The Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800, N.Y., 1918, p. 330–334). Also on the 20th, an Order in Council authorizing reprisals against Dutch vessels was promulgated and on 21 Dec. instructions for its implementation were issued (same, p. 334–345). The Manifesto and Order in Council appeared in the London Gazette Extraordinary of 21 Dec. and were reprinted in other London papers on the 22d. JA received the news on 1 Jan. 1781 and immediately sent off copies of the Manifesto and the Order to Congress (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , p. 219–222).


In view of the paragraph that immediately follows, Digges apparently refers here to JA's letter of 19 Nov. (above) in which he asked whether Laurens was commissioned as a minister plenipotentiary or only to raise a loan.