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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10


Search for a response to this letter.

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).

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0191

Author: Digges, Thomas
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-11-17

From Thomas Digges

[salute] Dear Sir

I acknowlegd the Receipt of yours the 28th Octo. and 7th Instant in my last letter of the 14th. Since that day no material move with regard to our friend; but I am in consultations now and then to fix upon some mode by a motion in Parliament to have him put on parole or releasd by Bail. By the inclosd letter you will discover as much as I have yet been able to discover of the writer who appears to be Mr. L——s Secretary.1 The other papers alluded to in His letter are no where here abouts yet,2 but I will keep a look out for them knowing some of the names mentiond in the inclosd. As the inclosd has but this moment come to hand and I am rather pinchd for time by this Post, I can not further add.
You will by this time have read and heard as much as I have relative to Arnolds apostacy. Ministry have been in possession of the plan of this plot above a month (ever since Gov. Trions arrival)3 and it has been the cause of their holding out such strong assurances of success from America, and of their confidant elation. They now brag very much of a considerable disunion in W——ns army and that Knox, Skuyler, Howe, and another Genl. have come over to their Interest.4 { 356 } I do not beleive any thing of this. It is meerly held out to cover the disgrace and ruin of their dearly purchasd plots.
It is said Rodney was not to Leave Ama. till the 25th October then to go to His old Station.5 By the packet and other arrivals from N York subsequent to the Gazette accounts it appears the whole British fleet of 24 ships was blocking up Rhode Island, and no accounts whatever, in that or any other quarter, of the French or Spanish fleets. How can you account for them?
The Books lately wrote for are shippd on board the [] Captain for Amsterdam.6 Twelve or fourteen in all. The papers are sent regularly as directed. As I shall be uneasy about this inclosure please to acknowlege the Receipt of it.
The Expedition for Chesapeak is said to be saild from N York. When you get any News from the Southern army or from Virga. give me a line. What think you of the article in the inclosd mentioning the recapture of Gates's Baggage, taking Lord Cornwallis &ca.7
The Writer of the within and the Captn. Peckles will most likely be sent into Prison with their Countrymen at Portsmouth. I do not know how to help them as yet, probably Mr. L——ns friend, Mr. Manning, may be inducd to advance them a little money. Mr. Young is Mr. L——ns Secretary—and the papers said to be left with Mr. Shute were so orderd to be by Mr. L, probably to be forwarded from N foundland to some part of America.
Your Pamphlets and 2 shool books, went yesterday or this morning (13 in all) in a paper parcell directed to Messrs Q D and son. I cannot yet get the Ship or Captns name.
RC with one enclosure, (Adams Papers). For the enclosure, which has not been printed, see note 1.
1. The enclosure was a letter to Henry Laurens from Moses Young, his secretary, dated 14 Nov. on the frigate Vestal off the Isle of Wight. Young indicated that the letter was to be carried by Winslow Warren, a fellow passenger on the Vestal, who planned to go to London with Capt. Berkely, the frigate's commander, immediately upon the vessel's arrival at Spithead, the anchorage off Portsmouth. The letter was largely devoted to an account of the Battle of Camden received from a Capt. Smith, commander of the privateer brigantine Fair American, which had sailed from Ocracoke, N.C., 21 Sept. and was captured by the Vestal on 6 October. Young ended his letter with a plea for funds “to enable me to appear and act as I know Col: Laurens wishes I should.”
2. These were Henry Laurens' letters of 14 Sept. to the Committee for Foreign Affairs and his son, John Laurens. Done on the Vestal, off St. John's, Newfoundland, they reported Laurens' capture. Young indicated that a Mr. Shute had promised to forward them immediately and they ultimately reached America, by way of St. Eustatius, in early 1781 (PCC, No. 89, I, f. 201–202; South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 6:158–160 [Oct. 1905]).
3. Tryon reached London on 14 Oct. (London Chronicle, 12–14 Oct.).
4. The information provided by Digges here and in the following paragraph reflects the accounts appearing in the London newspa• { 357 } pers on or about 16 Nov.; see, for example, the London Chronicle of 14–16 and 16–18 Nov., and the London Courant of 16 November. With respect to the erroneous report of the defection of several American generals, however, the London Chronicle listed them as Gens. Knox, Sullivan, Howe, and Maxwell.
5. For the movements of Adm. Sir George Rodney and the dispatch of the expedition to the Chesapeake, noted in the second paragraph below, see Digges' letter of 14 Nov., note 3 (above).
6. The names of both the vessel and its captain were left blank in the manuscript.
7. In his account of the Battle of Camden and its aftermath, Moses Young indicated that at the end of August, a force under Gen. Richard Caswell had taken “a great Part of the Enemy's Baggage and retook the whole Baggage of Gen. Gates's Army” and that Caswell's troops had captured Cornwallis, who was later rescued. In addition, a large body of reinforcements under Gates' command was reportedly moving rapidly in Cornwallis' direction. These reports, which appeared in the London newspapers, such as the London Courant of 18 Nov., were false.