A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0195

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Genet, Edmé Jacques
Date: 1780-05-15

To Edmé Jacques Genet

[salute] [Dear sir]

I have engaged a Person in London1 to s[end] me all the political Pamphlets, as they come out and some necessary Books as I shall order them.2 He has sent me already one Box and one Packet, at least to a Mr. Francis Bowens Merchant in Ostend. I should be once more obliged to You, if You could inform me, in what Way I can soonest get them from thence, and whether there are any Regulations which may obstruct this Communication. I suppose there are Regulations to prevent the Introduction of religious or irreligious Books. But I shall have none sent me, either for or against Religion: My Bundles will be nothing but Politicks, and a few Books that relate to them. If I can get the English Pamphlets in this Way, I may promise to be of some little Use to You, now and then, in your Way. The English have an Advantage of Us, in one point. Their Newspapers propagate every thing favourable to them, all over Europe, immediately, whereas, the Limitations upon the Press, in this Country, prevent Us from much of this Advantage. Their Generals and Admirals calculate their Dispatches, [for the Eye of Europe, for the People, and they adjust them so as to make an Impression upon the Hopes of their frie]nds and the Fears of their Enem[ies, and in this cons]ists full one half of their Power.3
All Governments depend upon the good Will of [the] People. The popular Tide of Joy and Hope and Confidence carries away Armies and Navies to great Exertions4 for officers and Armies and Navies are but People. On the contrary, the Ebb of Sorrow, Grief and Despair damp the Ardour and Activity of Officers and Men, even the Tradesmen and Artificers, Labourers—even the Mortals adjudged to the Gallies, are benumbed by it.
The English excite the Ardour of their People, and of their Fleets and Armies, by Falsehood and Fiction, their Enemies have no Occasion for any thing but the Truth. This would be enough if it were known, but the English find means to hide it, even from their own Eyes.
There is not a more delusive thing in the World, than their last dispatches from New York—fabricated entirely to impose upon the Credulity of Friends and Enemies. I see thousands of these things every day, that might be counteracted. I dont wish You to publish any thing against your Rules, and if ever I propose any thing of that Sort { 315 } it will be from Ignorance or Inattention, and I rely upon your Knowledge and Prudence to check it. But as I am likely to have a [little more Leisure than I have had a long time, if you will give me leave, I will assist you a little in] your Labours for the [public good.]
I forgot, whether the first Audi[ence of] the Chevalier de la Luzerne has been published in Europe.5 I inclose it to You, that You may print it, if You judge proper but whether You do or not, I should be glad you would return it as soon as convenient, because I have no other Copy of the Journal of those days. The publication of such things confirms the Minds of People in their Notions of the Alliance, and gradually reconciles all to it. The People of England even are gradually familiarised to it in this Way, and brought to consider it as unalterable, and a thing to be submitted to.

[salute] My best Compliments to your amiable Family.

[signed] John Adams
RC in John Thaxter's hand (Private owner, 1972). LbC (Adams Papers.) Fire damage to the RC has resulted in the loss of a substantial number of words, which have been supplied from the Letterbook copy.
1. Thomas Digges.
2. See Genet's reply of 17 May (below).
3. In the Letterbook, JA wrote the following two paragraphs between the closing and the signature and marked them for insertion at this point.
4. In the Letterbook, JA interlined the remainder of the sentence.
5. La Luzerne's first meeting with Congress occurred on 17 Nov. 1779 (JCC, 15:1278–1284). It was announced in the Mercure de France, “Journal Politique de Bruxelles,” of 26 Feb. (p. 172–173), but no reference to it has been found in the Gazette de France. See also Genet's reply of 17 May (below).

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0196

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Jay, John
Date: 1780-05-15

To John Jay

[salute] Dear Sir

I shall not always stand upon Ceremonies, nor wait for Answers to Letters, because useful Hints may be given, which would be lost if one were to wait Returns of Posts.1
The British Channel Fleet is reckoned this Year at from thirty to thirty seven Ships of the Line, but it is well known that they depend upon Seamen to be pressed from their first2 West India Fleet, in order to make up this Computation, without which they cannot make thirty. It is therefore of great Importance that this first West India Fleet should be intercepted. It will come Home the latter End of June or Beginning of July, certainly not before the middle of June. A Ship or two of the Line, with a fifty Gun Ship or two with five or six Frigates, would have a great probability of intercepting this fleet. Is there any Service, upon which such a Number of Vessels could be better employed, than in cruising pretty far in the Bay of Biscay, and { 316 } somewhat North [South?] of Cape Clear, with this View? It is really astonishing that France and Spain, should be so inattentive to the English Convoys. The safest, easiest, surest way of reducing the Power and the Spirits of the English, is to intercept their Trade. It is every Year exposed: yet every Year escapes; by which means, they get Spirits to indulge their Passions, money to raise Millions and Men to mann their Ships.
Pray is it not necessary to think a little of Portugal? Should not Spain, France, and America too, use their Influence with Portugal, to shut her ports against the armed Vessels of all Nations at War, or else admit freely the armed Vessels of all? Under her present System of Neutrality as they call it, the Ports of Portugal are as advantageous to England, as any of her own, and more injurious to the Trade of Spain and America, if not of France, while they are of no Use at all to France, Spain, or America. This little Morsel of a State ought not to do so much Mischief so unjustly. If She is Neutral, let her be neutral—not say She is neutral and be otherwise. Would it not be proper for Congress [to discover]3 some Sensibility to the Injuries the United States recieve from these States4 such as Denmark and Portugal? I think they should remonstrate cooly and with Dignity: not go to war, nor be in a Passion about it, but show that they understand their Behaviour. Denmark restored Jones's and Landais Prizes to England without knowing why.5 Why would it not do to remonstrate, then prohibit any productions of Portugal from being consumed in America.
The prospect brightens in the West Indies. De Guichen has arrived. De la Motte Piquet has defended himself very well, secured his Convoys, fought the English even with inferiour Force, and got the better. De Guichen's Appearance dissipated all thoughts of their Expedition, and threw the English Islands into great Consternation. But You will see in the public prints all the News, which the two Courts have recieved, Versailles and London. The Force from Brest which sailed the second and that from Cadiz, which I hope sailed as soon or sooner, will not diminish the Terror and Confusion of the English in America and the Islands.
[signed] J. A.
RC in John Thaxter's hand (NNC: Jay Papers); endorsed: “Mr. J. Adams 15 May 1780.” LbC (Adams Papers.)
1. The following two paragraphs, with some changes in style and emphasis, are taken from William Lee's letter of 10 May (above).
2. In the Letterbook, this word is interlined.
3. These two words are supplied from the Letterbook.
4. The Letterbook reads “these (little) states.”
5. For Denmark's return of these prizes to England, see JA's letter of 15 March to Richard Henry Lee, and note 4 (above).
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.