A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0139

Author: Rush, Benjamin
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-04-28

From Benjamin Rush

[salute] My Dear friend

This letter will be handed to you by Dr. John Foulke2 (a Graduate in our University) a young gentleman of a respectable Quaker family who goes to France to finish his Studies in Medicine. He is a youth of a fair character, and promising Abilities, and friendly to the liberties of his country.
It gave me great pleasure to hear of your safe Arrival, and favourable reception in Spain. We long to hear of your entering upon the { 248 } business of your embassy. I almost envy your Children the happiness of calling that man their father who After contributing his Share towards giving liberty and independance, will finally be honoured as the instrument of restoring peace to the united States of America.
Our Affairs wear their usual checkered Aspect. Our Governments are daily acquiring new Strength. Our Army which I saw a few weeks ago at Morristown3 has improved greatly since our former correspondence in discipline, Oeconomy, and healthiness. The number of our Soldiers is small, occasioned not by a decay of the military, or whiggish Spirit among us, but by the want of money to purchase recruits. The new Scheme of Congress for calling in the circulating money at 40 to 1, will I beleive be adopted with some Alterations by the States.4 This will We hope restore to our counsels and arms the vigor of 1775.
The french Alliance is not less dear to the true Whigs than independance itself. The Chevr. de la Luzerne has made even the tories forget in some degree, in his liberality and politeness, the Meschianzas5 of their British friends. Monsr. Gerard is still dear to the faithful citizens of America. We call him the “Republican Minister.”
Charlestown is in Jeopardy, but we beleive all things will work together for good for those who love the good old cause—the cause not to be repented off. Commerce and agriculture flourish in Spite of the power of Britain by land and water, and even Pennsylvania enjoys a temporary Security for property and life under her new Constitution.
Adieu—Compts: to Mr. Dana. Yours—yours—yours
[signed] Benjn: Rush
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “The Honble: John Adams Esqr: (of the United States) now at Paris.” endorsed: “Dr. Rush Ap. 28. ansd. 1 July.” docketed by CFA: “1780.”
1. JA enclosed an extract from this letter, probably the 3d and 4th paragraphs, in his letter of 2 July to Vergennes (below).
2. John Foulke, who remained abroad until at least 1783, was later a prominent teacher and physician in Philadelphia (Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S., 4:98; Benjamin Rush, Letters, 1:252).
3. Rush had been to Washington's headquarters at Morristown in March to testify against William Shippen Jr., Director General of Hospitals for the Continental Army, at his court martial (Benjamin Rush, Letters, 1:247–249).
4. On 18 March Congress adopted a plan that was intended to stem the runaway inflation that was crippling the economy and damaging the war effort. Under the new measure the monthly payments by the states, which had been set at $15,000,000 by a resolution of 7 Oct. 1779, would be redeemed at the rate of forty continental dollars to one Spanish milled dollar (JCC, 16:262–267, 15:1150). This had the immediate effect of revaluing the existing emission from $200,000,000 to $5,000,000, but was to result in a new emission, as the old was redeemed and destroyed over a period of approximately thirteen months, of $10,000,000. So that they would retain their value, the new bills were to be backed by both the states and { 249 } Congress and carry a five percent interest rate. The plan failed because it proved impossible for the states to remit all of the funds due Congress in the form of continental currency, with the result that by June of 1781 only $31,000,000 of the old emission had been retired. At that point the currency was valued at 500 to 1 and for all intents had ceased to exist except as a vehicle for speculation (E. James Ferguson, The Power of the Purse, Chapel Hill, 1961, p. 51–53, 64–66).
For the effect of Congress' action on JA's relations with Vergennes, see The Revaluation Controversy, 16 June –1 July, Editorial Note; Vergennes to JA, 21 June; JA to Vergennes, 22 June (second letter), all below.
5. For a description of the mischianza, the elaborate farewell pageant staged by Sir William Howe's officers upon his departure from Philadelphia in May 1778, see Ira D. Gruber, The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution, N.Y., 1972, p. 298–299.

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0140

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Genet, Edmé Jacques
Date: 1780-04-29

To Edmé Jacques Genet

[salute] Dear Sir

Do you think it worth while to work into your next Article, from London, the following Observation of Lord Bolinbroke?
“The precise Point, at which the Scales of power turn, like that of the Solstice, in either Tropic, is imperceptible to common Observation; and, in one case, as in the other, Some progress must be made, in the new direction, before the change is perceived. They who are in the sinking Scale, for in the political ballance of power, unlike to all others, the Scale that is empty Sinks, and that which is full rises; they who are in the Sinking Scale do not easily come off, from the habitual prejudices of Superiour Wealth, or power, or Skill, or courage, nor from the Confidence, that these Prejudices inspire. They who are in the rising Scale, do not immediately feel their Strength, nor assume that Confidence in it, which successfull Experience gives them afterwards. They who are the most concerned to watch the Variations of this ballance, misjudge often, in the Same manner, and from the Same Prejudices. They continue to dread a Power no longer able to hurt them, or they continue to have no apprehension of a Power, that grows daily more formidable. Spain verified, the first Observation, when proud and poor, and enterprizing and feeble, she Still thought, herself a Match for France, France verified the Second Observation, when the tripple Alliance, Stopped the Progress of her Arms, which Alliances much more considerable, were not able to effect afterwards. The other principal powers of Europe, in their turns, have verified the third Observation in both its parts.”1
Sketch of the History and State of Europe.
These Observations were never more remarkably verified, than in these times. The English proud and porr, and enterprising and feeble, { 250 } Still think themselves a Match for France and Spain, and America2 if not for all the World, but this delirium cannot last long.
France and Spain and Holland continue to dread, a Power no longer able to hurt them, but this will be over as Soon.
England continues to have Small Apprehensions of Powers, that grow daily more formidable but these Apprehensions will increase every day.
Your Correspondant from London or Antwerp, among his Lamentations over the Blindness and Obstinacy, and Madness of the Ministry, may introduce these Observations with Propriety enough.
The Ballance of Power, was never perhaps Shifted, in So remarkable a manner, and in So short a Space of Time. If the Minds of the French and Spaniards had grown in Confidence, in proportion to the Growth of their power; and if the Confidence of the English, had decreased in proportion to the diminution of theirs, it would have been all over, with England, before now.
You know very well, that Lord Bolinbroke was the most eloquent Writer, that England ever produced. His political Writings, particularly, are more admired than any in that Language. His Name and Authority, added to the obvious Truth of these Observations, and their apposite Application to the present times, will make an Impression upon many minds, in all the nations at War. If you think so, and that it will increase the Spirit of our Friends, and diminish the Insolence of our Ennemies, as it ought, you will make Use of it, in your own excellent manner. If not, burn it.
Your Friend
1. This quotation is from letter 7, “A Sketch of the State and History of Europe, from the Pyrenean Treaty in 1659, to the Year 1688,” in Henry St. John, viscount Bolingbroke, Letters on the Study and Use of History, 2 vols., London, 1752, 1:259–261. Genet printed the piece, together with JA's comments on it, in the Mercure de France, “Journal Politique de Bruxelles” (p. 128–129), of 20 May.
2. The preceding two words were interlined.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.