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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0197

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-11-20

From Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

Your Excellencys Letter of the 7th Instant came duly to Hand.
The Queries, sent to England, came to me from Madrid; that which regards Instructions to inspire the American Agents with distrust of one Another, has not been explained to me, and therefore I know not { 362 } what Suggestions have been, and were to be used for that purpose, perhaps none were, but only directions given for it, as is Usual in drawing up political Instructions. However I will write to Know what was said and done in pursuance thereof, and Immediately do myself the Honor of Communicating the Answer to your Excellency.
I do not know your Excellencys opinion of the King of Englands Speech, and the proceedings of Parliament thereon, but to me the same leaven of Malice is mixed therein, as in the former Conduct of that King and People, under whom we have suffered so much. However, I think I observe, that they bear with greater Patience the Talk of our Independancy, and when Any One declares, that the Sense of the Nation is Against the American War, it passes without Contradiction. This is little, but it is Something, considering the former Obstinacy and Insolence. It was with pleasure I read that the Absurdity of Pulteneys Opinion, that the war became Just, when the Americans refused to Negociate was Answered in some degree by Mr. Fox.1 A fuller Answer might have been given, such a One, as might have touched the Man himself, but this would have rendered Him, if possible, more perverse and Obstinate, for Fools and Knaves are never convinced by Reason, but are made more foolish and Knavish by Conviction.
I observe that Col. Hartley, Cosin to David, has given Notice of a Motion to address the King to make peace with America upon any Terms.2
My Anxiety is great at this Moment about the Conduct, which the States General may hold in their present Situation. Never surely were a people treated with more Outrage and Insult than the Dutch. The Proceedings of the King of England cannot be Accounted for, but on a Supposition, that He Knows, He has so strong a Party among them, that He shall Oblige the whole to be subservient to his purposes, and that He will by a desperate blow enable himself by the seizure of the Dutch Property in the English Funds, to carry on the War at their Expence. The personal Attack on the Pensioner Van Berkel is, I imagine, a Party business to give Weight to those, who Evidently concur with Sir J York, and to ruin the true friends of the Republic. If Minheer Van Berkel is sacrificed—this will be the Effect, but this cannot be done without debasing at the same Time the Dignity and endangering the Liberty of Holland. All Europe will then see and Act Accordingly, it will see that there is no Insult, or Outrage, which the Dutch will not put up with to save the triffling Comperative Interests of Individuals. I doubt not that the Dutch Money in the English { 363 } Funds is the Object of the English Kings Threats—his Avarice will seize it—but will the Punishment of Monsieur van Berkel answer all the purposes of England? The ruin of the Patriotic Party may be Attained by it, and this is an Object with those in Holland who evidently Act in Concert with the English Minister, to whom I doubt not they have suggested this Malicious Measure, to serve their purposes against the public Freedom, but the whole of the English Kings Designs will not be compleated thereby. I am sure it has been determind some time to seize the Dutch Interest in the Funds with or without reason, and it is with this View, that He has endeavoured by repeated Outrage and Insult to force them to some strong Acts to give a color to his Unwarrantable Policy. The Violation of their Independancy at Home and Abroad and in particular the Affair of St. Martins cannot be accounted for on other Grounds. Whether Obedience is paid to the Order, (for such it appears to all Europe) to punish an Individual will little Signify. Fresh Occasions will be taken and made, until this avaritious Necessity of England is satisfied, and therefore let not the Dutch Think they can ward off the premeditated Blow, let them take those Measures which their true and Solid Interests demand. Let them Act with Vigor or the King of England will govern them in all Cases whatever.
To this End, there is one Thing most Obviously to be done. They ought to draw their Money immediately out of the Funds as silently as possible, and never trust them Again, that they may not in future be led into Temptation to Sacrifice the public Interest to partial and Selfish Views. The States themselves ought to take measures to secure the Virtue of the People by preventing them putting themselves in a Situation, that may induce them to fear more for a private than the general Interest.
The Dutch have done Noble Actions—I wish the Recollection of them would reanimate their Minds. They opposed Lewis the 14th a formidable Power in the Heigth of his Strength and Glory, who attempted to render them subservient to his purposes: they then Acted bravely and Magnanimously in Support of their Independancy. They sacrificed all private Interest and Property, and the very Soil, on which they Stood to defeat their Ennemy. Can they not now bear to Sacrifice the pecuniary Interest of a few Individuals to preserve their public Independancy. They contend for a greater Interest than a specifyed Sum of Money. They contend for a continued encreasing wealth, which flows from extended Commerce and at the same time, for their Honor and Liberty and that too Against a desperate weakned { 364 } and disgraced People, who have ever been their Rivals and are now their avowed Ennemies and insulting Masters.
All Men must see, that England is in such a desperate State, that She will not stick at any thing, that may serve to extricate Herself from her present Danger. She will not and thinks she ought not to Keep any Faith, where the Breach of it may tend to save Her from Ruin. She will Justify herself on this ground to her People, Salus Populi est Suprema Lex,3 and they, blinded by their Avarice and Ambition, will approve of the Doctrine and the Measures taken in Consequence thereof altho they must Eventually be fatal to themselves, for the Seizure of the Dutch Property will destroy all future Credit with Foreigners—it will at the same Time shake it much at Home. Hitherto public Credit has never been violated, when it is violated in any one Instance, under any pretence and for any purpose, it may, and will be violated in others. This must be Obvious to all, it will be felt and acted upon by many and by Consequence the raising the Supplies as Usual will be much embarrassed, if not totally put a stop to by a general Distrust.
I am shocked and grievd beyond Measure at the Defection of Arnold.
I beg your Excellency to Excuse my sending to you for your perusal and conveyance in the Safest Manner two Pacquets from Mr. Amory.4 He seems to be a repentant Sinner and deserving of our forgiveness—if your Excellency thinks so, I am Confident you will render Him a most essential Service in putting his Papers in the Way of being Transmitted to Boston. If your Excellency does, let me beg that you would make a Note by what ships they may go.
I am with the greatest Respect Sir your Excellencys most Faithful & Obedient Humbl Sert.
[signed] Edm: Jenings
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Mr. Jennings 20th. Novr. 1780.”
1. This exchange between William Pulteney and Charles James Fox occurred on 6 Nov. during the debate over an address of thanks to George III for his speech of 1 Nov. opening Parliament. Pulteney declared that he had originally thought the American war unjust, but had changed his mind, for the war was now conducted to aid Britain's many friends in America. Fox considered the war and asked whether Pulteney thought “that the Americans, once driven by our injustice to assert their independency, ought, in justice, to relinquish that independence, and to alter their established government, and rely on our word for the performance of our promises?” (Parliamentary Hist., 21:825, 835).
2. Jenings mistakenly refers to Samuel Hartley, about whom David Hartley had written to JA on 14 Aug. (above). It was David Hartley's half-brother and member from Berkshire, Winchcombe Henry Hartley, who announced his intention to address the King on 13 Nov. (London Courant, 14 Nov.; Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, 2:594).
3. The people's safety is the highest law.
4. John Amory, of the well known Boston mercantile family, went to England in 1774 and was subsequently proscribed as a loyalist. { 365 } By the date of this letter he had apparently moved to Brussels, from which he returned to America at the end of the war and ultimately saw his Massachusetts citizenship restored (Adams Family Correspondence, 4:332–333).

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0198

Author: Digges, Thomas
Author: Church, William Singleton
Recipient: Adams, John
Recipient: San, Fernando Raymond
Date: 1780-11-22

From Thomas Digges

[salute] Dear Cozen

I understood from seeing a letter lately from Paris there had appeard at a Dutch Bankers in that City sundry seconds of Bills for acceptance the first of which had been paid by regular indorsements to Vieve Babet and Co., Nantes, which seconds of Bills appeard to have been taken among Mr. L—s papers and forwarded to Paris unindorsd for acceptance. This causd some uneasiness at Paris; the Bills were tracd to a Dutch Bankers who had them in remittance from Messr. Hopes. This transaction appearing rather too mean even for my Countrymen the English, I probd the matter to the bottom, and find it was all done for the best. A particular friend of a person2 who has frequently been the subject of my late letters, got the bills above alluded to, slipt into His hands during a first and watchd interview, and they were that way forwarded to prevent any unfair method being used of obtaining their value in another way. This affair has been cleard up by the friend of Our friend both in Yours and a neighbouring Country.3
No news from abroad save a disagreeable account of the dispersion of the expected Jamaica fleet. I fear I shall be ruind by it for the produce of my valuable Estate in that Island is on its way uninsurd.4
Since the news of Adjut. Genl. Andre's Execution in the Rebel Washingtons Camp nothing has been talkd of here but “making Examples,” acts of retaliation, &ca. &ca. A person of the name of Trumbull was taken up for high Treason on Sunday night and committed Irond to Prison. A search has been made after a Companion of His a Mr. Tyler who I am told got away some days ago. Many people were also carryd before the Magistrate who accidentally calld to visit either of these Gentlemen on Monday. Many names are talkd of in this last list. Mr. De Neufville a Dutch Merchant, Mr. Digs, Mr. Stewart a Limner of Rhode Island, Mr. H. Laurens Jur.,5 and sundry others, but nothing as I can learn was got out of them and it is impossible to say to what lengths they will go against Mr. Trumbull—report says that the affadavits of two Refugee N. England men and his own papers are quite sufficient to hang Him, and hang him they certainly will if they can, for my Countrymen seem to thirst after blood most exceedingly since Andre's execution.6
{ 366 }
Many others Americans are threatend, but as I know none of them having no connexion with that Country I realy forget their names. I can assure you Sir from present conversations and dispositions for revenge which is dayly <expected> expressd, my Country has become exceedingly disagreable to live in, and I heartily wish I could live among people fonder of Philosophy and philanthropy.
Adieu Yrs Affecy &ca.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Myn Heer De Heer Ferdinand Raymond San Ten Huyze De Heer Hendrick Shorn Amsterdam”; endorsed: “W.S.C. Novr 22d 1780.”
1. This letter, as well as those of 8 Nov. [i.e. Dec.], 22 and 26 Dec. (all below), are notable for Digges' attempt to conceal his identity because of his concern over the arrest of John Trumbull for treason (see note 6). He tried to produce a letter that clearly was not by an American, and certainly not by Thomas Digges. Opening his letter with “Dear Cozen,” he refers to the English as “my Countrymen” and England as “my Country,” implies that Trumbull is unknown to him, and even lists “Mr. Digs” among those questioned about Trumbull's activities. Digges had reason to be apprehensive. Newspaper accounts of Trumbull's arrest mentioned Digges as a sympathizer, and possible agent, for the American cause and the person who, under the alias of Mr. Waters, forwarded at least one of the letters seized from Trumbull (London Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 24 Nov. and 1 Dec.; London Chronicle, 21–23 Nov.). Digges' role in this affair is unclear, but he surely had some direct or indirect contact with Trumbull and his three December letters indicate that he probably helped John Steele Tyler escape from England.
2. The “person” was Henry Laurens, and the “friend” was William Manning Sr., who, with Henry Laurens Jr., was allowed to visit Laurens after his commitment to the Tower (from Thomas Digges, 17 Oct., and note 1, above). The letter from Paris was that of 7 Nov. from Benjamin Franklin, for which see Digges' letter to Franklin of 21 Nov., and notes, Digges, Letters, p. 335–337.
3. The Netherlands and France.
4. For the misfortunes that befell the Jamaica fleet, see the London Chronicle of 21–23 November. The reference, however, is apparently another effort by Digges to conceal his identity, since there is no evidence that he owned property on the island.
5. These were Leendert de Neufville, son of Jean de Neufville; Digges, himself; Gilbert Stuart, a member of Benjamin West's household; and Henry Laurens' son.
6. John Trumbull and John Steele Tyler visited JA at Paris in June and then, despite the two men's service in the Continental Army and Trumbull's status as son of the governor of Connecticut, went on to London in July, Trumbull to study painting under Benjamin West. They informed the ministry of their arrival and plans to reside in London, apparently expecting no interference in their affairs, but the Morning Post of 17 Aug. noted their arrival and declared that “if such persons are suffered to be at liberty in England another conflagration may soon happen.” The loyalists did not forget and with the arrival of news of the arrest and execution of Maj. John André as a spy a new opportunity presented itself, for as the Morning Post of 24 Nov. pointed out in its lengthy account of Trumbull's arrest, Trumbull and André had held identical ranks in their respective armies. But the original warrant for high treason was issued for Tyler, although orders were given to secure the person and possessions of Trumbull. Tyler was warned of his impending arrest by Winslow Warren and escaped, leaving John Trumbull to face the charges. Trumbull was arrested early on the morning of 20 Nov., with the first report appearing in the Morning Post of 21 Nov., but see also the issues of 22, 23, and 24 Nov., as well as the London Courant of the 22d. Trumbull remained in custody until June 1781, when he was released on bail and set off for America. For Trumbull's account of his journey to London, imprisonment, and eventual release, see The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull, ed. Theodore Sizer, New Haven, 1953, p. 60–72.
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.