Papers of John Adams, volume 13

To John Jay, 13 August 1782 JA Jay, John To John Jay, 13 August 1782 Adams, John Jay, John
To John Jay
The Hague August 13. 1782 Dear Sir

The public Papers announce Fitzherbert's Comission to be, to treat “With the four Powers at War with Great-Britain” But whether they mean Hyder Aly, or the Marattas,1 is uncertain.

I have obtained Intelligence of a Paper addressed lately from the Court of St. James's to the Courts of Vienna and Petersbourg, as well as that of Paris, in which are the following words, vizt.

Sa Majesté Britannique dit, “Qu'Elle ne préjuge, ni ne veut préjuger aucune question quelconque, et qu'Elle ne prétend exclure personne de la Négociation qu'on a en vue, qui pourroit s'y croire intéressé, soit qu'il soit question des Etats-Généraux, soit qu'on y veuille faire entrer les Colonies Américaines”2—You perhaps may have seen the whole. If you have, I beg a Copy.

237 238

For my own part, I am not the Minister of any “fourth State”3 at war with Great-Britain, nor of any “American Colonies.”4 And therefore I should think it out of Character for us to have any thing to say to Fitzherbert, or in the Congress at Vienna, untill more decently and consistently called to it. It is my duty to be explicit with you, and to tell you sincerely my sentiments. I think we ought not to treat at all, untill we see a Minister authorised to treat with “The United States of America” or with their Ministers. Our Country will feel the miserable consequence of a different conduct. If we are betrayed into Negociations, in or out of a Congress, before this Point is settled, if Gold and Diamonds, and every insidious Intrigue and wicked Falshood, can induce any Body to embarrass us, and betray us into Truces and bad Conditions, we may depend upon having them played off against us. We are and can be no Match for them at this Game. We shall have nothing to negociate with but Integrity, Perspicuity and Firmness.

There is but one way to Negotiate with Englishmen. That is clearly and decidedly. Their Fears only govern them. If we entertain an Idea of their Generosity, or Benevolence towards us, we are undone. They hate us, universally from the Throne to the Footstool, and would annihilate us, if in their Power, before they would treat with us in any way. We must let them Know, that we are not to be moved from our Purpose; or all is undone. The Pride and Vanity of that Nation is a Disease; it is a Delirium. It has been flattered and enflamed so long by themselves, and by others, that it perverts every Thing. The moment you depart one Iota from your Character, and the distinct Line of Sovereignty, they interpret it to spring from fear or Love of them, and to a Desire to go back.

Fox saw we were aware of this, and calculated his system accordingly. We must finally come to that Idea; and so must Great-Britain. The latter will soon come to it, if we don't flinch. If we discover the least weakness or Wavering, the Blood and Treasures of our Countrymen will suffer for it in a great Degree.

Firmness, Firmness and Patience for a few Months, will carry us triumphantly to that Point, where it is the Interest of our Allies, of Neutral Nations, nay even of our Enemies, that we should arrive: I mean a Sovereignty, universally acknowledged by all the World. Whereas the least Oscillation will in my opinion leave us to dispute with the world, and with one another, these fifty Years.

With great Respect and Regard I have the Honour to be,5 Sir your most obedient and most humble Servant J. Adams

RC in Charles Storer's hand (Windsor Castle, Royal Archives: Autographs from Correspondence of Chief Justice Jay, 1776–1794); endorsed: “13 augt Recd 18 augt. 1782.”


The Marattas or Mahrattas were a people of central India who were also at war with the British (vol. 11:149).


An indication that JA had received Francis Dana's letter of 22 July, above, in which Dana had included the passage. For the translation, see that letter, note 9.


On 13 Aug. the Gazette d'Amsterdam reported Fitzherbert's arrival at Paris to renew the peace proposals first put forth by Thomas Grenville and stated that he was empowered to treat with “les quatre Puissances Ennemies de L'Angleterre.”


Since his arrival in Europe in Dec. 1779, JA had made clear his view that it was inappropriate to refer to the American colonies as one of the parties at war with Great Britain, but see in particular a memorandum of his 7 July 1781 conversation with Joseph Mathias Gérard de Rayneval and his letter of 19 July 1781 to the Comte de Vergennes (vol. 11:405–406, 425–430).


Remainder of closing and signature in JA's hand.

From Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst, 13 August 1782 Staphorst, Nicolaas & Jacob van (business) JA From Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst, 13 August 1782 Staphorst, Nicolaas & Jacob van (business) Adams, John
From Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst
Amsterdam the 13th. Augt. 1782 Sir

Inclosed we have the honour of sending to your Excellency an Account, which your Bookseller has given us Some days ago, please to tell us if we are to pay the Same.1

We also take the liberty of troubling your Excellency with a more interesting matter, the Rafaction on the Tobaccos, having observed with much pleasure, that your Excellency hinted this point in the Conferences about the Treaty, Since we are fully convinced, that it's absolutely necessary to bring it upon a better and reasonable footing.2

We have the honour to inform your Excellency, that already Some months ago, jointly with Messrs. Crommelin, Mess. De Neufville &ca. we've presented a Petition to our Magistrates for that purpose. But as Some Tobacconists were consulted upon the matter, who being well satisfied with the present Customs opposed against any alterations, this has occasioned; that hitherto no Resolution has been taken.

But being informed now, that the States General will answer your Excellency, that this point being only relatif to the Domestick Institutions of the Different Towns, your Excellency may be pleased to converse about it with the Magistrates; we therefore beg the favour of your Excelly. to apply yourself particularly for that purpose, either to the Pensionary or the Deputates of this Town, who may be now present at the Hague, desiring them to represent to their Principals your Complaints about it, in order they may look out for a proper expedient to give Such Instructions to their officers as may answer 240to the purpose and the general benefit of the Trade, and that they will converse about it with the merchants who are already concerned in the matter; by which joint endeavours we are in hopes of bringing it to a happy Conclusion.

With the utmost Respect we have the honour to be Sir! Your Excellency's most obedt. & humble Servants. Nichs. & Jacob van Staphorst Co.

RC (Adams Papers).


Not found, but see JA's reply of 28 Aug., below.


For JA's attempt to deal with the issue of refraction in Art. 30 of his draft treaty of amity and commerce and the result, see The Negotiation of the Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, 22 Aug. – 8 Oct., Nos. II, III, and VIII, below. JA was responding to complaints by merchants that officials at the weigh house arbitrarily reduced the tare or net weight of an imported commodity. For an explanation of the practice and reasons why it should be prohibited, see Francis Dana's letter of 22 Oct. 1781 (vol. 12:35–38).