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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11


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Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0102

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-02-18

From Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

I sit down to acknowledge the Receipt of your Excellencys two Letters; one by the Post this day and the other by the preceding Mail.1 The New periodical Work, which I received this day is exceedingly well written and will I doubt not by your Excellencys Assistance and direction be soon turned to the Essential Service of our Country. L'Avocat Calkoens Defence of the Magistrates of Amsterdam is unanswerable, and in particular that part of it, that regards the Conduct of that City at the Time of the Revolution, ought to put to Silence and to Shame the Family, who had otherways remaind Simple Electors of Hanover. Is it not, Sir surprizing that He who calls Himself the Guarrantee of the belgic Constitution is so shamefully ignorant of it, and that He should have the Assurance to propose that the Body at large should leave any part to feel the Effects of his Malice and Fury?2
But there is one part of L'Avocat Calkoens Performance, which fixt my attention, and I must confess gave me some Uneasiness, as I am assured it will some time or other give your Excellency no small Trouble.
The Impression, which the Extent, Activity and force of America has given to the Europeans seems to inspire them with a kind of { 151 } dread or at least Jealousy of what it may one day become, and how much Europe in general may be effected by its increasing power and Grandeur. I have had this frequently objected to me by shallow Politicians, who have endeavoured to shew their Wit by a pretended foresight into things. I have told them in general that whatever greatness America may arrive at in the Course of Time, there is no present Cause of Fear. That so long as she Continues divided into so many Governments under Republican Constitutions, She cannot have the Spirit of Conquest, and so long as he has Vacant Lands, She will not feel the Use or Necessity of it. That Her Commerce however extensive it may be will tend to the Advantage and by no means be detrimental to these States, who have Wisdom to serve themselves and make a right use of it.
That the Politician disquieteth Himself in Vain to resist the Course of Nature. That if America has the inherent Means of Greatness, no power on Earth can prevent their operations and that their attempt like that of England will rather promote than retard it.
That it is Impossible to say what America may be, but that it is certain that Her force and resources under the direction of such an Ambitious People as the English, is the only Matter now to be dreaded by the Princes of the Continent, and that by Consequence, their only object in View ought to be the Seperation of America from Her, and rendered totally independant of all, that She may be servicable to all. And that she may hurt none in future Her Republican Systems should be maintained in the purest Manner.
I know not, Sir whether my Ideas are Conformable to your Excellency's. I have therefore put them down shortly on Paper for Correction. I have desired my Friend here to consider this Subject and if I shall be honored with your Excellencys Sense of it, I will impart it to Him. I wish the dread of America may not have Mischievous Consequences. It operates on Spain to a great degree and may have its effect on other powers. It is this which has I am affraid prevented the proper Exertions to bring about a general Acknowledgement of our Independancy. I know not the State of Affairs, but I think Spain might and ought to be made Easy—but I go beyond my Tether.
The Author of the Lettrés Hollandoises3 is desirous of begining his Seventh Volume with some short account of the present Situation of America. Can your Excellency give me hints that may serve for that purpose?
I suppose the Russian Courier has been long detained at Ostend by violent and contrary Winds as has Sir J York. The Winds blew for { 152 } three days most Violently at the S West Point, which tumbles a heavy Sea into Plimouth Sound, where there has been seven Ships laying to Join Darbys Fleet. The Anchorage is bad there, and we may have news from that Quarter. The Courier del Europe gives an account of the supposed revolt in America.4 I think it is meant to cover some unfavorable News to the English in Carolina.

[salute] I am with the greatest Respect, Sir your Excellencys most faithful & obedient Humb St.

[signed] Edm: Jenings
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “ansd 27 Feb. 1781.”
1. Of 9 and 11 Feb., both above.
2. George III.
3. Dérival de Gomicourt. See Jenings' letter of 18 Jan., and note 3, above.
4. The report on the revolt of the Pennsylvania Line was in the Courier de l'Europe of 9 February.

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0103

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Bicker, Hendrik
Date: 1781-02-19

To Hendrik Bicker

[salute] Sir

Your Questions to me, today, have induced me to communicate to you, in Confidence a Copy of my Commission.2
You See, that I have not the Title of Ambassador, nor of Minister Plenipotentiary, by Virtue of this Commission, nor have I in express Words, Power to make a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, much less a Treaty of Alliance offensive and defensive.
My Power is to negotiate a Loan: but it may be negotiated with any Person or Persons, Bodies Politick and Corporate, and the Congress promisses in good Faith to ratify and confirm, whatever shall be done by me in the Premisses, or relating thereto.
Dr. Franklin, Mr. Deane and Mr. Lee, who made a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, and another Treaty of Alliance offensive and defensive, with the King of France, had not by their Commission the Title of Ambassadors, nor of Ministers Plenipotentiary.3
Now if it is necessary to make a Treaty in order to obtain a Loan I Suppose I have Power to do it, and accordingly, I would readily enter into Conferences upon the Subject, and if We could agree upon the Terms, one Article of which should be a Loan, I would not hesitate to execute a Treaty, and I should have no doubt of the Ratification of Congress.
You have however, a Copy of my Commission and you may judge for yourself, how extensive the Powers are which it contains. I have no objection to your shewing it, to such Person or Persons as you think proper, in Confidence. I have the Honour to be, with great Respect, Sir, your humble servant
{ 153 }
1. This date derives from similarities between this letter and JA 's draft letter of 19 Feb. to the Duc de La Vauguyon, below, and JA 's statement, following this letter as printed in the Boston Patriot, that “At this time I gave up my lodgings at Amsterdam, and removed to Leyden” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot , p. 390). JA received Bicker's reply of 21 Feb., below, at Leyden and since Bicker consulted with at least one person about JA 's letter before making his reply it seems likely that he received it on 19 or 20 Feb., making the 19th the most likely date for the letter.
2. JA 's commission to negotiate a loan, 20 June 1780 (vol. 9:452–453).
3. For the text of the commission, see JA 's of 27 Nov. 1777, naming him one of three U.S. Commissioners in place of Silas Deane (vol. 5:333–334). It was identical, except for the date and names of the commissioners, to that issued to Benjamin Franklin in 1776 (Franklin, Papers , 22:634–635).