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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0082

Author: Digges, Thomas
Author: Church, William Singleton
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-09-15

From Thomas Digges

[salute] Dr. sir

We are all so very busy in Election bustles that hardly anything political is talked of. The Ministry seem to be going on swimingly in getting in Creatures of their own so that their majority in the next will be more decided than in the last Parliament. The Poll has ended { 154 } for the City and the members are Hayley, Kirkman, Bull, and Newnham. The last tho a Torey beat Sawbridge by 79 Votes. Rodney and Fox will get Westminster, and Burke and Cruger will be thrown out by two toreys in Bristol.2 Whispers are going about from the high flighers of the Court Party, that the new Parliament will early go upon accomodation if not declaration of Independence to America, this is either put forth to serve Election purposes, or to help up the Stocks; for I do not think the ministers are yet grown wise enough to adopt such a politic measure. If misfortunes and the appearance of gloomy accounts arriving from all quarters, save that of the East, would be a means of bringing them to their sences, one would think they had enough of these.
The various accounts from Ama. by the Cartel to Bristol which I lately wrote you about,3 and by two or three Vessels lately taken, (part of a fleet of 11 Sail which left Chesapeak bay about the 1st of Augt. bound to Amsterdm.) have alterd the minds of the people wonderfully lately, and they now begin again to think that the affairs of Engd. in America are in a deplorable way. I find there are several passengers in this fleet but luckily none of them in the ships that are taken, so that I have reason to think that by this time some of them have got to Amsterm. The names recited to me are all from Maryland vizt.—Mr. Ridout of Annapolis, Mr. Cheston a Merchant of ditto and a Mr. Dorsey from Elk Ridge. I hope they will be able to give you satisfactory accounts of the State of things in the West.
The Boyne Man of War is arrived in a very shattered Condition at Plymouth, She with the Preston was convoy to the Leeward Island 1st of Augt. Fleet about 80 Sail in all. On the 3d Instant the fleet was dispersd by a violent Storm which lasted 3 days and it is feard many of the ships are lost as none came in with their Convoy or are since arrivd—three of this fleet arrivd some days ago but they lost the Convoy nine days before this storm happend. The West India accounts do not place the situation, supplys and health of Rodneys fleet as in an enviable situation. Altho the late Gazette mentions nothing of ten of his ships being sent down to rienforce the Jamaica Squadron It is lookd upon here that they did go. We have yet no authentic news of Greaves's arrival out or any late accounts from N York—The People here rather laugh at a Seige of N York, and still persist Hallifax or Quebec is the object of the combind force of France and America. If Ternays object is to block up Sandy Hook it is an hundred to one if the Whole N York fleet which saild About 5 weeks ago does not fall into His hands; at any rate that fleet is in much risque and may { 155 } probably produce a third great blow to the underwriters at Loyds—the late losses among these Gentry will effectually prevent their 1781 Subscription of millions to the Minister for carrying on the War.
The Cartel Ship to Bristol is yet detaind for want of getting the necessary protection for men to conduct Her to Bilboa. The Exchange of an equal number of American Prisoners is peremptorily refusd. It is astonishing to her that they know no better in Boston than to expect an Exchange here—Mr. Dunkins and Mr. Mitchells Vessels had both been refusd as Cartels in December last. One of the Ships found its way back to Boston long ago, and Mitchell himself was in Boston four of five days before this Vessel saild the 21st July. The former two Vessels brought 90 Prisoners and this 11 so that upwards of an hundred men are lost to Us, and so will thousands be if the United States allow their prisoners thus to come away. To my great greif the capture of these two American Vessels mentiond before will add near 80 more Prisoners to our list already amounting to 280 or 290. I have made a push to get a part of these sent over gratis in Temples Cartel to France to stand in Account, but it was to no effect; These people seem determin'd to do nothing in good nature or what has a tendency to Conciliation. Their audacity and impudence in publick offices seem to encrease with their impotence.
I am Dr sir Yr Ob sert.
[signed] W.S.C
1. This letter is largely a digest of reports from London newspapers of 15 Sept., and the days immediately preceding. During this period most of the news concerned the general election then in progress.
2. The general election of 1780 resulted from the North ministry's dissolution of Parliament on 1 Sept., and its expectation that popular enthusiasm over Clinton's victory at Charleston and reaction to the Gordon Riots offered an opportunity to increase its parliamentary majority. While this would have little effect on the conduct of the war, since the ministry already enjoyed a substantial majority on that issue, it would prevent a recurrence of the opposition victories in the spring of 1780 in the wake of Edmund Burke's introduction of his economic reform bill. Contrary to the ministry's expectations, however, the election turned out badly and its majority was reduced. This was largely due to poor organization and a failure to appreciate the extent to which economic reform and local issues had taken hold with the electorate.
Digges clearly believed that the ministry was succeeding in its effort to build a more substantial majority. But the election results, which he supplied from newspaper reports, reflect the successes of the opposition rather than the ministry. George Hayley, John Kirkman, Frederick Bull, and Nathaniel Newenham were elected to Parliament from the City of London. But Newenham, if not as radical as John Sawbridge, was opposed to the war and consistently voted against the ministry. Moreover, Sawbridge, although defeated in the general election, was named to replace John Kirkman, who died shortly before the polls closed on 15 Sept., at a by-election in November. Edmund Burke withdrew his name prior to the election in Bristol, but was returned to Parliament in December from Malton, Yorkshire, while Henry Cruger regained his seat in the general election of 1784. The election of Adm. Sir George Rodney and Charles James Fox by substantial margins from Westminster had less to do with any action by the ministry or the opposition than { 156 } to their own popularity with the electorate (Namier and Brooke, House of Commons; London Courant, 15, 16, and 18 September).
3. For the cartel ships from Boston to Bristol, mentioned here and in the third paragraph below, see Digges' letters of 8 June, note 6, and 25 and 29 Aug; and James Warren's letter of 19 July, note 2 (all above).

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0083

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-09-16

To the President of Congress, No. 7


[salute] Sir

I have the Honour to send by this Opportunity, a few Pamphlets and Papers. The Pamphlets relate to Subjects which interest the United States, and therefore ought to be communicated to Congress, for their Consideration.1
The Attention of Mankind is now turned next to the Congress of America upon that at Petersbourg. The last Letters from London say they have Information that one of the first Measures of this Confederation, will be an acknowledgment of American Independence.2Whether this is true or not I am not able to say. The Councils of the Sovereigns of Europe are not easily penetrated but it is our duty to attend to them, and throw into View such Information as may be in our Power, that they may take no Measures inconsistent with their and our Interests for want of light, a misfortune that may easily happen.
In this View, I could wish that the United States had a Minister at each of the Maritime Courts, I mean Holland, Russia, Sweeden and Denmark, and as the Cabinet of Berlin has much Influence in the Politicks of Europe, Prussia.
I say this upon Supposition that Congress can devise Means of defraying the Expence, which to be sure would amount to a large Sum. I have heard that Mr. Searle has arrived at Brest, but am not informed of his Destination, nor whether he has dispatches for me.3I am anxious to learn from Congress, what their Intentions may be respecting me. I have yet recieved no Authority to draw upon any fund whatever for my Subsistence, nor to borrow Money, for that or any other purpose. I see no prospect of my Commission being of any Utility. Although many Persons here think that Peace will be made in the Course of the ensuing Winter or Spring, yet I must confess I am of a different Opinion. The Idea that France will dictate the Conditions of Peace if it is made now, cannot be born by Englishmen as yet, they are not yet sufficiently humbled, although probably every { 157 } year will add some fresh Humiliation to the demands upon their Country.
The English Privateers have taken some Russian Vessels loaded with Hemp and Iron, which must bring the Question to a legal decision. The Admiralty will probably discharge them, and the Ministry will give up the Point of free Ships free Goods, provided the Dutch agree with the Northern Powers, for they will not venture upon a War with all the World at once—besides the military Force, which they could not stand against, they would not be able to obtain any Stores for their Navy.4
But the great Question now is, whether the Dutch will agree? Their Deputies are instructed to insist upon a Warranty of their East and West India Dominions. Whether the Northern Powers will agree to this Condition is a Question. The States General however are sitting, and will wait for dispatches from Petersbourg, and will probably be much governed by Events. What Events have happened in the West Indies and North America, We shall soon learn. Digby is sailed with a part of Gearys late fleet, whether for another Expedition to Gibraltar, or whether for the West Indies or North America is unknown.5 The Success of these Operations will probably influence much the deliberations both at Petersbourg and the Hague. This Time only can discover. It is said however that Mr. Le Texier will be exempted by the States General from the payment of Duties upon his Masts, Hemp, Iron and other Naval Stores that he is sending over Land, to the French Marine.
The Capture of fifty five Ships at once, so much wealth, so many Seamen and Soldiers, and such Quantities of Stores, is a severe Stroke to the English and cannot but have the most excellent Effects for Us both in the West Indies and North America.6 The right Vein is now opened and I hope that the Courts of France and Spain will now be in earnest in convoying their own Commerce and cruising for that of their Enemies. This is a short, easy, and infallible Method of humbling the English, preventing the Effusion of an Ocean of Blood and bringing the War to a Conclusion. In this Policy I hope our Countrymen will join, with the utmost Alacrity. Privateering is as well understood by them as any People whatsoever, and it is by cutting off Supplies, not by Attacks, Seiges or Assaults that I expect Deliverance from our Enemies. And I should be wanting in my Duty, if I did not warn them against any relaxation of their Exertions by Sea or Land, from a fond Expectation of Peace. They will decieve { 158 } themselves if they depend upon it. Never, Never will the English make Peace, while they have an Army in North America.7

[salute] I have the Honour to be with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant.

Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 257–260); docketed: “107 John Adams Sept 16. 1780 Recd. Jany. 29. vid Decr. 26th. first recd. Arrival of Searle at Brest Capture of Russian vessel by English Advantage of privateering.” The copy received by Congress on 26 Dec. 1779 has not been found (JCC, 18:1194).
1. The pamphlets have not been identified.
2. The letters from London, probably as published in Dutch newspapers, have not been identified, but an item in the London Chronicle of 16–19 Sept., dated 14 Sept. at Amsterdam, reported that “the confederate Powers are on the point of acknowledging the independence of the United States of America.”
3. See Francis Dana's letter of [16 Sept.] (below).
4. Among the Russian vessels seized were the Vryheit (see William Lee's letter of 10 Sept., note 2) and the Alexandre, bound to Bordeaux from St. Petersburg with a cargo of hemp and iron (London Chronicle, 7–9 Sept.). JA's analysis of the probable course of British policy was accurate as executed, but not as enunciated. At no time during the war did Great Britain formally recognize the expansion of neutral rights under the law of nations contemplated by Russia and the other members of the armed neutrality. This was particularly true of the principle that free ships made free goods. In practice, however, the exigencies of the war, a lack of allies, the possible cut off of naval stores, and the threat posed by the combined navies of the League members forced Britain to be ambiguous as to the principles upon which it based its policy and to become increasingly lenient toward neutral ships (De Madariaga, Armed Neutrality of 1780, p. 361–386).
5. Adm. Robert Digby's fleet sailed from Portsmouth on 28 Aug. and consisted of twelve ships of the line and two frigates. According to newspaper reports, it was to protect homeward bound commerce from North America and the West Indies (London Chronicle, 29–31 Aug.; London Courant, 31 Aug.).
6. This was the convoy seized by the combined French and Spanish fleets on 9 Aug., see the letters of 27 Aug. from Francis Dana and William Lee and notes 5 and 1, respectively (both above).
7. This paragraph, presumably taken from the copy of the letter that reached Congress on 26 Dec. (see descriptive note), appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 10 Jan. and the Pennsylvania Journal of 17 Jan. (see JA to Benjamin Rush, 20 Sept., and note 1, below), and in numerous other American newspapers, including the Boston Independent Chronicle of 25 January.
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.