“My Feet Had Well Nigh Stumbled on the Dark Mountains.” 22
John Adams returned to Amsterdam from Paris in early August 1781 and soon thereafter was struck down by “a nervous Fever, of a very malignant kind” (to the president of Congress, 15 Oct., 1st letter
, below). During the six weeks between 25 August and 4 October, Adams did no business and wrote no letters. The seriousness of the illness and the fears that both Adams and those around him had for his life are perhaps best expressed in this passage from Adams’ note to C. W. F. Dumas, 18 October
, below, as he slowly recovered his strength. For an account of the illness, and possible diagnoses, see Adams to Benjamin Franklin, 25 August, note 1
Robert R. Livingston, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1782 41
Robert R. Livingston (1746–1813), a member of the numerous and influential Livingston family of New York, served in the Continental Congress for the periods 1775–1776, 1779–1781, and 1784–1785. In 1776 he was a member, with Adams, of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence, but in the debates over its adoption he counseled delay and neither voted for nor signed the Declaration. During his second period of service in Congress Livingston’s influence grew until, on 10 August 1781, he was elected secretary for foreign affairs with the approval, if not the active support, of the French minister, the Chevalier de La Luzerne (
As secretary, Livingston was active in formulating foreign policy and supervising U.S. diplomats in Europe. Beginning with his first letter to Adams (23 Oct. 1781
, below), Livingston routinely acknowledged Adams’ letters, which reassured the latter that he did not work in a vacuum. But, because Adams’ letters did not always reach Philadelphia in a timely fashion, Livingston reprimanded Adams for the scarcity of letters he sent to Congress. Livingston and Adams did not share a common view of proper diplomacy, and the secretary also sharply rebuked Adams for his activities in the Netherlands. Adams responded with a spirited defense of his efforts, particularly his memorial to the States General of 19 April 1781
(vol. 11:272–282), and countered that Livingston was ill informed about the political situation in Europe and the unique challenges he faced in the Netherlands (to Livingston, 14
and 19 Feb
, both below).
Courtesy of Independence National Historical Park.
Guillaume Thomas François, Abbé Raynal 200
The Abbé Raynal (1713–1796), historian and philosophe, is best known as the author of Histoire philosophique et politique des établissemens et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes
, first published anonymously in 4 vols., Amsterdam, 1770. This work, to which Denis Diderot and other philosophes contributed, was revised and expanded several times and went through numerous editions. Its attacks on religion and the legitimacy of European governments led to its prohibition in France in 1779. Identified in 1780 as the Histoire
author, Raynal avoided arrest and went into exile. In January 1782, when he briefly corresponded with John Adams, Raynal was in Brussels (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale
Adams deeply appreciated Raynal’s support for the American cause, but he was disturbed by erroneous and misleading statements about the origins and progress of the American Revolution that appeared in a new section on the Revolution included in a revised edition of the Histoire
(5 vols., Geneva, 1780). He was all the more concerned because Raynal’s commentary on the Revolution was widely republished, appearing as a pamphlet in England, the Netherlands, and even the United States. To correct Raynal’s errors and, perhaps, to counter his influence among Europeans, Adams drafted four letters for publication in Le politique hollandais
, a Dutch paper edited by his friend Antoine Marie Cerisier. For the planned rebuttal of Raynal, which Adams reconsidered and then abandoned, see On the Abbé Raynal’s Révolution de l’Amérique
, 22 January 1782
The engraved portrait reproduced here is the frontispiece to volume 1 of Raynal’s Histoire, 10 vols., Geneva, 1781.
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Edmund Jenings, by an Unknown Artist 202
John Adams and Edmund Jenings (1731–1819) probably met in Paris in early March 1779. During the next five years the two men exchanged over 200 letters, showing Jenings to be Adams’ friend and confidant. Adams shared with Jenings his views on American diplomacy, his efforts in the Netherlands, the prospects for Anglo-American peace negotiations, and information on Adams’ relations with colleagues and others. Indeed, Adams was so candid in some of his letters that, after due consideration, he chose not to send them. In turn, Jenings supplied Adams with intelligence from London and elsewhere, sympathized with Adams’ difficulties, and facilitated the publication of propaganda from Adams’ hand.
Jenings’ access to the British press was probably his most valuable asset to Adams. Soon after he arrived at Paris in 1780, Adams sent Jenings an announcement of his arrival in Europe to negotiate an Anglo-American peace (vol. 9:104–105
). Jenings obtained its publication in the London newspapers and did the same for other pieces, all part of Adams’ effort to convince the British government and people that the nation’s economic and political interests demanded an immediate peace. Adams’ “Letters from a Distinguished
American” (vol. 9:531–588
) was the most provocative of these items. Curiously, in view of Jenings’ usual ability to obtain prompt publication, the “Letters” did not appear until the fall of 1782, just as peace negotiations were about to begin. Jenings also played a significant role in the publication of JA’s Translation of the Memorial to the Sovereigns of Europe . . . into Common Sense and Intelligible English
, London, 1781 (vol. 9:157–221
, title page reproduced on p. 341
Little is actually known about Jenings’ life. Born in Annapolis, Maryland, and related to the Lees of Virginia, Jenings went to England at an early age for his education and never returned to America. Still, Jenings wrote several pro-American pamphlets and moved to Brussels for the duration of the war, determined to be seen as a loyal American. This sentiment is reflected in his correspondence. Some have speculated that this stance was merely a ruse to ingratiate himself with Adams and that Jenings, in fact, was a British agent. His friendship with questionable figures such as the British spy Edward Bancroft lends support to such a conclusion, as too do the instances in which he seemed bent on sowing dissension between Americans in Europe, the most notorious being the 1782 anonymous letters controversy that led to a pamphlet war between Jenings and Henry Laurens. John Adams, however, never doubted Jenings’ loyalty, nominating him to settle Maryland claims in England and to serve as secretary of the peace commission. He also rejected Henry Laurens’ charge that Jenings was the author of the anonymous letters.
Despite the speculation, there is no hard evidence that Edmund Jenings was anything but what he claimed to be: a loyal American. Certainly he was something of a busybody who traded in gossip and innuendo, a minor historical figure who wanted to be a major figure in the events of his day. He was likely motivated partly to safeguard his finances, which depended on Maryland and Virginia lands, but also because he believed in the Revolution. For additional information about Jenings and his relationship with Adams, see vol. 8:10
; JA, Diary and Autobiography
; James H. Hutson, comp. and ed., Letters from a Distinguished American
, Washington, D.C., 1978, p. ix–xx.
Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.
Resolution by the States of Friesland to Recognize the United States and Admit John Adams as Minister Plenipotentiary, 26 February 1782 276
Friesland was the first of the seven Dutch provinces to resolve that the States General should recognize the United States and admit John Adams as minister plenipotentiary. Adams wrote that Friesland “is said to be a sure Index of the national Sense,” its people “ever famous for the Spirit of Liberty” (to Robert R. Livingston, 11 March 1782
, below). As early as December 1781 the States of Friesland considered a resolution to recognize the United States and conclude a Dutch-American commercial treaty. That proposal was rejected, not because the idea was strongly opposed, but be•
cause at that moment it posed too many difficulties (to the president of Congress, 14 Dec. 1781
, below). Adams was promised early in February that Friesland would act within three weeks (to Livingston, 19 Feb. 1782, below
). Friesland’s resolution of 26 February marked a turning point in John Adams’ efforts to achieve Dutch recognition of the United States. With Friesland’s example before them, the six remaining provinces soon followed suit and less than two months later, on 19 April, the States General resolved to recognize the United States. For English translations of the resolution, see John Adams to Livingston, 11 March
and 19 April
, both below. This is the first of two pages containing the text of the 26 February resolution as extracted from the resolutions of the States of Friesland.
Resolution by the States of Holland and West Friesland to recognize the United States and admit John Adams as minister plenipotentiary, 28 March 1782 356
C. W. F. Dumas wrote to John Adams on 28 March
, below, that “la grande oeuvre est accomplie,” the States of Holland and West Friesland had instructed their representatives in the States General to resolve to recognize the United States and admit Adams as minister plenipotentiary. Two days later Pieter van Bleiswyck
, grand pensionary of Holland and West Friesland, wrote to Adams and enclosed the copy of the resolution reproduced here. The resolution by the States of Holland and West Friesland, the most populous and influential province, insured that Adams’ quest would end in victory. For an English translation of the resolution, see Adams to Robert R. Livingston, 19 April
This is the first of two pages containing the text of the 28 March resolution as extracted from the resolutions of the States of Holland and West Friesland.
Isaac Collins, by John Brewster Jr. 375
This oil on canvas portrait by the itinerant deaf-mute artist John Brewster Jr. shows Isaac Collins (1756–1834) of Gloucester, Massachusetts, as a substantial merchant captain in the 1790s. As a privateersman during the American Revolution, however, he had the misfortune to be twice captured and imprisoned in England. In June 1781, as a mate on the Massachusetts privateer Ulysses
, Collins was taken and committed to Forton Prison in Portsmouth, England. By August he and four others were in France, having escaped and crossed the English Channel in a small open boat. Assisted by Michel Guillaume St. John de Crèvecoeur, who would soon publish Letters from an American Farmer
, Collins joined his brother Charles on the privateer Black Princess
. His new vessel was soon captured and in October he found himself an inmate of Mill
Prison (William Young, ed., A Dictionary of American Artists, Sculptors, and Engravers
, Cambridge, 1968; Franklin, Papers
, 35:410–411, 415–417; Marion and Jack Kaminkow, Mariners of the American Revolution
, Baltimore, 1967, p. 42, 235). See Collins’ letter to John Adams, written from Mill Prison, March 1782
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Resolution by the States General of the United Provinces of the Low Countries to Recognize the United States and Admit John Adams as Minister Plenipotentiary, 19 April 1782 421
The States General recognized the United States on 19 April 1782, exactly seven years after the Revolutionary War began. At 11 o’clock the next morning John Adams presented his letter of credence as minister plenipotentiary to Willem Boreel, the president of the States General (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev.
, 5:408–410; London Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser
, 29 April). For an English translation of the resolution, see Adams’ letter to Robert R. Livingston, 19 April
Adams believed that Dutch recognition of the United States was his greatest diplomatic achievement. Against all odds he had aroused the Batavian spirit and produced “the most Signal Epocha, in the History of a Century” (to Benjamin Rush, 22 April 1782
, below). It was “a Tryumph” for the new nation “more signal, than it ever obtained before in Europe” (
Adams Family Correspondence
). Adams was soon deeply involved in the negotiation of a Dutch-American commercial treaty and, because recognition finally opened the doors of the Amsterdam financial houses, he was well on his way to obtaining the loan so sorely needed by the United States.
William V and Wilhelmina, the Prince and Princess of Orange, by J. F. A. Tischbein, 1789 442, 444
William V (1748–1806) became the last stadholder of the Dutch Republic in 1751 and assumed the powers of his office in 1766. The following year he married Wilhelmina (1751–1820), princess of Prussia. His personal position and his office were undermined by the increasingly bitter conflict between the Orangist and Patriot parties. The States General’s recognition of the United States on 19 April 1782, an action vehemently opposed by William V, the nephew of George III, was largely the result of that conflict and the rise of the Patriot party.
Because Dutch sovereignty resided in the States General, William V and Wilhelmina had no choice but to accept the decision of Their High Mightinesses. On 22 April John Adams had an audience with William V to present his letter of credence as minister from the United States. According to Adams, the prince received him politely, allowed him to deliver his address in English, and “then
fell into familiar Conversation with me and asked me many Questions about indifferent things, as is the Custom of Princes and Princesses on such Occasions” (to Robert R. Livingston, 22 April
, below). Two days later Adams met with Wilhelmina, who “promised to do what depended upon her to render my Residence at the Hague agreable to me, and then asked me several Questions similar to those of his most Serene Highness” (to Livingston, 24 April
, below). Adams had no illusions as to the court’s attitude toward him. On 4 September, Adams provided the secretary for foreign affairs with a lengthy description of his relations with other members of the diplomatic corps, noting that “the ministers from Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Sardinia, and Liege I see every week at court, where I sup regularly when the others do, though it is very visible that I am not the guest the most favored by the prince” (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev.
Courtesy of the House of Orange-Nassau Historic Collections Trust, The Hague.