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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

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Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0189

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-11-16

To the President of Congress, No. 20

[salute] Sir

On the 10th of this month, Sir Joseph York, presented to the States General, the following Memorial.1

[salute] High and mighty Lords.

The King, my Master, has discovered, during the whole Course of his Reign, the most Sincere desire, to maintain the Union, which has Subsisted for more than a Century, between his Crown and this Republick. This Union rests, upon the immoveable Basis, of reciprocal Interest, and as it has contributed much to the Prosperity of the two nations, the natural Ennemy of both, employs all the Resources of his Policy to destroy it: For Some Time past this Ennemy, has not laboured but with too much Success, being Supported by a Faction, which Seeks to govern the Republick, and which is always ready to Sacrifice the General Interest, to private Views. The King has Seen with as much Surprize as Regret, the little Effect, which has been produced, by his repeated demands of the Succours Stipulated by the Treaties and the Representations of his Ambassador, concerning the daily Violations of Engagements the most Solemn.
The Moderation of the King has induced him to attribute this Conduct of your High Mightinesses to the Intrigues of an overbearing Cabal, and his Majesty would Still perswade himself, that your Justice and your Intelligence, will determine you to fullfill your Engagements { 351 } towards him, and to prove by all your Proceedings your Resolution to put in Vigour, the System formed by the Wisdom of your Ancestors, and the only one, which can insure the Safety and Glory of the Republick. The Answer of your High mightinesses, to this Declaration, which the subscriber makes by the express order of his Court, will be the Touch Stone of your Sentiments and Intentions towards the King. His Majesty has had, for some Time, Indications, without Number of the dangerous Designs of an unbridled Cabal: But the Papers of Mr. Laurens, who calls himself a President of a pretended Congress, have made a discovery of a Conspiracy, without Example, in the Annals of the Republick. It appears by these Papers, that the Gentlemen of Amsterdam, have commenced a clandestine Correspondance, with the Rebels of America, from the Month of August 1778, and that there were Instructions and full Powers given by them, relative to the Conclusion of an indissoluble Treaty of Amity, with these Rebels, Subjects of a Souverain, to whom the Republick is bound by Engagements the most Strict.2 The Authors of this Conspiracy pretend not to deny it: on the contrary, they avow it, and endeavour in vain to justify it. It is in these Circumstances, that his Majesty, depending on the Equity of your high mightinesses, demands a formal Disavowal of a conduct So irregular, not less contrary to your Engagements the most Sacred, than to the fundamental Laws of the Batavian Constitution. The King demands also a prompt Satisfaction proportioned to the offence, and an exemplary Punishment of the Pensionary Van Berkel, and of his Accomplices, as Disturbers of the Publick Peace, and Violators of the Law of Nations. His Majesty perswades himself, that the Answer of your High Mightinesses, will be prompt and Satisfactory, in all respects: but if the Contrary should happen; if your High Mightinesses, refuse a demand so just, or endeavour to evade it, by Silence, which will be considered as a Refusal, in that Case, the King, will not be able to consider the Republick itself, but as approving of Misdemeanors, which it refuses to disavow, and to punish; and after Such a Conduct, his Majesty will See himself in the Necessity of taking Such Measures as the Maintenance of his Dignity, and the essential Interests of his People, demand. Done at the Hague the 10. November 1780.
[signed] Signed Le Chevalier Yorke.
Whether Sir Joseph York, after 20 Years Residence in this Republick is ignorant of its Constitution, or whether knowing it, he treats it, in this manner, on purpose the more, palpably to insult it, I know not.3 { 352 } The Sovereignty resides in the States General. But who are the States General? Not their High Mightinesses, who assemble at the Hague to deliberate. These are only Deputies of the States General. The States General, are the Regencies of the Cities, and the Bodies of Nobles, in the several Provinces. The Burgomasters of Amsterdam, therefore, who are called the Regency are one Integral Branch of the Sovereignty of the seven United Provinces, and the most material Branch of all, because the City of Amsterdam is one quarter of the whole Republick, at least in Taxes.
What would be Said in England, if the Count de Welderon, Ambassader at the Court of London, had presented a Memorial to the King, in which he had charged, any integral Part of their sovereignty, as the whole House of Lords, or the whole House of Commons, with Conspiracies, Factions, Cabals, Sacrificing general Interest to private Views, and demanded examplary Punishment upon them. The Cases are in Nature precisely Parellel, altho there are only three Branches of the Souvereignty in England, and there are a greater Number than three in Holland.
There are Strong Simptoms of Resentment, of this outrageous Memorial in Amsterdam; but whether the whole, will not evaporate <in Smoke> I know not. Many Persons however, are of opinion that a War is inevitable, and Insurance, cannot be had, even to St. Eustatia, Since this memorial was made publick under 20 or 25 Pr. Cent.4
This Memorial is So like the Language of my Lord Hilsborough and Governor Bernard, that I could Scarcly forbear Substituting Boston for Amsterdam, and Otis or Hancock or Adams for Van Berkel as I read it.5 I should not wonder if the next Memorial should charge the Republick with Rebellion and except, two or three from Pardon.6 I have the Honour to be &c.
LbC (Adams Papers); notation by John Thaxter: “No. 20.” There is no copy of this letter in the PCC, nor any indication in the JCC that it was ever received, but see JA 's first letter of 25 Nov. to the president of Congress, note 1 (No. 22, below).
1. This is JA 's translation of the Memorial from the French, but it does not differ in any significant way from the numerous other versions published at the time. See, for example, the London Chronicle, 18–21 Nov.; London Courant, 21 November.
2. For the documents captured with Henry Laurens, in particular the Le-Neufville treaty of 1778, see JA 's letter of 27 Oct. to the president of Congress, No. 18, note 3 and references there (above).
3. Compare JA 's analysis here with Francis Dana's in his letter of 11 Nov. to Jonathan Jackson (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 4:151–153).
4. In 1809, when he published this letter in the Boston Patriot, JA included an additional comment on the impact of Yorke's Memorial on the Netherlands: “If the prince's [William V, Prince of Orange] denunciation had spread a great alarm, the thunder of Sir Joseph York, when it had time to reach the ears of the whole nation, excited shudderings and amazement, like that of Mount Sinai, among the { 353 } camp of the Hebrews. The nation had scarcely known a war for three quarters of a century, and a near prospect of it, though only probable, was very terrible to them all” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot , p. 271–272).
5. JA refers to the opposition by Massachusetts to the Townshend Duties following their adoption in 1767, and specifically to the circular letter proposed by James Otis and Samuel Adams and adopted by the Massachusetts House on 11 Feb. 1768 and to the riots resulting from the customs' seizure of John Hancock's ship Liberty on 10 June 1768. Lord Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies, responded to the circular letter by ordering Gov. Francis Bernard to inform the Massachusetts legislature it must either rescind the letter or be dissolved. When the legislature refused to act in accordance with Bernard's demand, and in direct response to the riots, Hillsborough took the even more provocative step of dispatching troops to Boston (Peter D. G. Thomas, The Townshend Duties Crisis, Oxford, 1987, p. 76–93; see also JA to Thomas Digges, 19 Nov., below).
6. This refers to Gen. Thomas Gage's proclamation of 12 June 1775, which declared martial law and offered pardons to all who would lay down their arms except for John Hancock and Samuel Adams (vol. 3:49).

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0190

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-11-17

To the President of Congress, No. 21

[salute] Sir

From the Time, of the Arrival of my Commission, I have been constantly employed in forming Acquaintances, making Inquiries and asking Advice; but am Sorry to be obliged to Say that I hitherto See no certain Prospect of borrowing any Money, at all.
For Some Years past, all the Information I could obtain from this Country1 led me to think, that America had many Friends in this Republick, and that a considerable Sum might be borrowed here, provided Application was made to Dutch Houses, of old Families and numerous Connections. And after my Arrival here, I had the opinion of Persons who, I had every Reason to think, knew best, that if proper Powers should arrive from the thirteen united States, Money might be had.
But, now that all agree that full Powers have arrived, I do not find the Same Encouragement. This Nation has been so long in the Habit, of admiring the English and disliking the French: so familiarized to call England the natural Ally and France the natural Ennemy of the Republick, that it must be the Work of Time to eradicate these Prejudices, altho the Circumstances are greatly altered. Add to this the little Decission and Success, which has appeared in the Conduct of the Affairs of America and her Allies, and the Series of Small Successes which the English have had for the last twelve months.—The Suspence and Uncertainty in which Mans Minds have been held respecting the Accession of the Dutch to the armed Neutrality: and at last the Publication of some Papers taken with Mr. Laurens, the Part the Statholder has acted and the angry Memorial of Sir Joseph { 354 } York, concerning them;2 all these Things together have thrown this Nation into a State of Astonishment, Confusion and Uncertainty, to such a degree that No House that I have as yet thought it prudent to apply to, dares to undertake the Trust. The Times are now critical indeed. The Question will be decided in a few Days, whether the Republick shall join the armed Neutrality or not. Four Provinces have voted for it—two others, have voted in such a manner that their Deputies may agree to it; and most Men Say it will be decided by the Plurality.
The King of England demands a Disavowal of the Amsterdam Treaty, and the Punishment of the Regency. They will not be punished nor their Conduct disavowed.
The King of England therefore must take such Measures, as he shall think his Dignity, and the essential Interest of his People require. What these will be Time alone can discover. Many think he will declare War—but more are of a different opinion.
Congress who have been long used to contemplate the Characters and the Policy of this King and his Ministers, will see that they are now pursuing towards this Republick the Same Maxims which have always governed them. Their Measures in America for many Years, were calculated to divide the many from the Few in the Towns of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charlestown—next to divide the Provinces from their Capitals—and then to divide the rest of the Continent from those Provinces, which took the earliest a decided Part.
Their Plan now is to divide, the People of Amsterdam from their Burgomasters, and to Single out Mr. Van Berkel, for the Fate of Barnevelt, Grotius or De Wit.3 To divide the other Cities of Holland from Amsterdam—and the other Provinces of the Republick from Holland. But they will succeed no better in Holland than in America. And their Conduct bids fair to make Mr. Vanberkel, the most respected and esteemed of all the Citizens.
In the present critical state of Things a Commission of a Minister Plenipotentiary, would be usefull here. It would not be acknowledged, perhaps not produced, except in case of War. But if Peace should continue, it would Secure its Possessor the External Respect of all. It would give him a Right to claim and demand the Prerogatives and Priviledges, of a Minister Plenipotentiary, in case any thing should turn up, which might require it: it would make him considered as the Center of American Affairs, and it would assist, if any thing would, a Loan.
{ 355 }
I cannot conclude without observing that I cannot think it would be Safe for Congress to draw for Money here, untill they shall receive certain Information, that their Bills can be honoured. There are Bills arrived, which, if Mr. Franklin cannot answer, must, for what I know be protested. I have the Honour to be
LbC (Adams Papers); notation by John Thaxter: “No. 21.” There is no copy of this letter in the PCC, nor any indication in the JCC that it was ever received, but see JA 's first letter of 25 Nov. to the president of Congress, note 1 (No. 22, below).
1. JA is likely referring to C. W. F. Dumas' many letters to the American Commissioners between April 1778 and Feb. 1779, the period during which JA was a Commissioner. Dumas' letters emphasized the support for the American cause by the members of the “patriot” or anti-stadholder party. See vols. 6 and 7.
2. Of 10 Nov., see JA 's letter of 16 Nov. to the president of Congress (No. 20, above).
3. JA means that Engelbert van Berckel, Grand Pensionary of Amsterdam, was to be sacrificed for opposing William V, the Stadholder, with regard to Great Britain and the American war. In 1619, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, advocate of the States of Holland, had been executed and Huig de Groot [Hugo Grotius], pensionary of Rotterdam, imprisoned for opposing Maurice of Nassau, the Stadholder, and his powers and position in the religious conflict between the strict and more moderate Calvinists, the Gomarists and the Arminians. Johan de Witt, councilor pensionary of the States General, was murdered by a mob in 1672, largely because he opposed restoring William III, and the House of Orange, to the stadholdership (Parker, Dutch Revolt , p. 251–253; Rowen, Princes of Orange , p. 46–51, 112–130).