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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0241

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-12-18

To the President of Congress, No. 27


[salute] Sir

War is to a Dutchman the greatest of Evils. Sir Joseph Yorke is so { 420 } sensible of this, that he keeps alive a continual Fear of it by Memorials after Memorials, each more affronting to any Sovereignty of delicate Notions of Dignity, than the former. By this means he keeps up the Panick and while this Panick continues, I shall certainly have no Success at all. No Man dares engage for me—very few dare see me.
On Tuesday last, the twelfth of December, the British Ambassador had a Conference with the President of the States General, and upon that Occasion presented to Their High Mightinesses, the following Memorial.1

[salute] High and Mighty Lords.

The uniform Conduct of the King towards the Republick; the Friendship which has so long subsisted between the two Nations; the Right of Sovereigns, and the Faith of Engagements the most solemn, will without doubt determine the Answer of your High Mightinesses to the Memorial, which the Subscriber presented some time ago,2 by the express Order of his Court. It would be to mistake the Wisdom and the Justice of your High Mightinesses to suppose, that You could ballance one Moment to give Satisfaction demanded, by his Majesty. As the Resolutions of your High Mightinesses of the twenty seventh of November3 were the Result of a Deliberation, which regarded only the interiour of your Government, and it was not then in Question to answer the said Memorial, the only Remark which We shall make upon those Resolutions is, that the Principles which dictated them, prove evidently the Justice of the Demand made by the King. In deliberating upon this Memorial, to which the Subscriber hereby requires, in the Name of his Court, an Answer immediate and satisfactory in all Respects, your High Mightinesses will recollect, without doubt, that the Affair is of the last Importance; that the Question is concerning a Complaint made by an offended Sovereign: that the Offense, of which he demands an exemplary Punishment and a compleat Satisfaction, is a Violation of the Batavian Constitution, whereof the King is the Warranty,4 an Infraction of the public Faith, an Outrage against the Dignity of his Crown. The King has never imagined, that your High Mightinesses would have approved of a Treaty with his Rebel Subjects. This would have been on your Part a Commencement of Hostilities and a Declaration of War. But the Offence has been committed by the Magistrates of a City, which makes a considerable Part of the State, and it is the Duty of the Sovereign Power to punish and repair it. His Majesty, by the Com• { 421 } plaints made by his Ambassador, has put the Punishment and the Reparation into the Hands of your High Mightinesses, and it will not be but in the last Extremity, that is to say, in the Case of a Denial of Justice on your Part, or of Silence, which must be interpreted as a Refusal, that the King will take this Charge upon himself.
Done at the Hague, the 12th. December 1780
[signed] Signed Le Chevalier Yorke5
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. 327–328); docketed: “Letter Decr. 18. 1780 John Adams Read 19 Novr 1781.”
1. This is JA's translation from the French, but it does not differ in any significant way from the numerous other versions published at the time. See, for example, the London Chronicle, 16–19 Dec.; London Morning Post, 20 December.
2. On 10 Nov.; see JA's letter of 16 Nov., No. 20, to the president of Congress (above).
3. For this resolution, see JA's letter of 30 Nov., No. 24, to the president of Congress, note 1 (above).
4. This claim had no basis in fact and caused consternation even among those who might otherwise have sympathized with the British position (Schulte Nordholt, Dutch Republic and Amer. Independence, p. 151).
5. In 1809, when he published this letter in the Boston Patriot, JA ended it at this point, but then stated that “If the prince's denunciation excited an alarm, and the first memorial of Sir Joseph Yorke a terror, this second memorial corroborated and augmented it to a great degree. For although the Dutch are as brave a people as any in Europe, and have in every period of their history exhibited a courage as cool, patient, persevering and intrepid, as any nation, ancient or modern; nevertheless, a long course of peace and gain, an habitual study of measures of neutrality for near a century, had so established a timorous policy in their minds, that a near prospect of war astonished and confounded them. Some among them, however, felt the indignity as well as the terror” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot, p. 306). For William V's “denunciation” of Amsterdam and Engelbert van Berckel for their part in negotiating the Lee-Neufville treaty, see JA's letter of 27 Oct., No. 18, to the president of Congress, and note 3 (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0242

Author: McKean, Thomas
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-12-18

From Thomas McKean

[salute] Dear Sir

My letter of November 8th. 1779 by John Lowell Esquire in answer to your favor of the 20th. September preceding, did not, I fear, get to hand previous to your departure from Boston. However I hope you have received it.2
Congress have a few days ago appointed Colo: Palfrey,3 late Paymaster General, to be Consul for the United States in France, with considerable powers over their commercial business, in particular to forward all supplies for the army; which have been hitherto unaccountably delayed and neglected. Young Colo: Laurens4 is also just appointed Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of Versailles, with a view to sollicit a loan of about a million sterling, and additional naval aids, { 422 } from our great and good Ally His Most Christian Majesty. I wish them success, tho' I fear we have not fallen upon the most likely way of obtaining the loan; the appointment of an Envoy on this occasion seems to imply a want of confidence in our Minister's attention, abilities or something else; however I hope it may not be construed in that light, but rather considered as an evidence of our earnestness in the business.
We seem to be carrying on a war of finance; the States are therefore jointly and severally entering into it with great zeal, and I do not fear but we shall get the better of our enemies even in this sort of contest. We have a great plenty of every thing but specie, and military stores—We can readily furnish them with provisions and pay, and are pretty well stored with arms and ammunition; cloathing is our principal want. Our friends abroad must assist us <in the payments of the interest of our national debt, and with the articles wanted.> with some money and clothes.
Since General Gates's disappointment at Camden (owing to the then inexperience of the Militia in that Country) our affairs to the Southward wear a more favorable aspect. The Militia afterwards became ashamed, grew almost desperate, and have beaten the Enemy where ever they met them; with equal numbers they attacked a Body of near 1200 under Colo: Ferguson at Kings-Mountain, killed the Colonel and about 250 more and took all the rest prisoners, except about 15, or 20 at the most; Major Weymiss of the British Horse was wounded and taken prisoner, together with 25 of his cavalry, and a number killed, by a party under Brigadier General Sumpter of the Militia of South Carolina; who have since that, it is just reported and believed, attacked Colo: Tarlton's Legion, mortally wounded the Colonel, killed near 100 and taken 112 prisoners.5 All is quiet in the neighbourhood of New-York. The Enemy seem to bend their whole attention and force to the Southward. They had detached 2000 men to Portsmouth in Virginia under General A. Lesley, with a view of forming a junction with Lord Cornwallis; but being totally deceived in that expectation, after staying in the neighbourhood upwards of three weeks, making a small fortification there, burning some churches and dwelling houses according to their custom, they re-embarked on the 23d. last month; intending it is supposed for Cape-Fear in North Carolina, but we have as yet no certain accounts of their landing. So much for news—You should have more, but the Bearer, Mr. John Benezet, purposing to sail early tomorrow morning prevents it.
{ 423 }
Permit me, Sir, to introduce this Gentleman to your acquaintance. He proposes to reside for some time in France, as a Merchant; he is one of a considerable House here, has been a staunch Whig from the first dawn of the contest, and has always bore the character of a sensible and polite Gentleman.
I am, dear Sir, Your most obedient & very humble servant
Be so good as to present my very respectful compliments to Mr: Dana.
Dft (PHi: McKean Papers); notation: “Copy of a Letter to the Honble: John Adams Esquire &c. Decemr. 18th. 1780 By John Benezet Mercht. in Shelalye No. 22.”
1. This is one of several letters, written at Philadelphia about this time, that JA never received. They were carried by either John Benezet, William Bingham's agent and brother-in-law, or Col. William Palfrey, who, on 20 Dec., sailed on the armed ship Shillala, which was lost at sea (Robert C. Alberts, The Golden Voyage, The Life and Times of William Bingham, 1752–1804, Boston, 1969, p. 101; John G. Palfrey, Life of William Palfrey, in Jared Sparks, ed., Library of American Biography, 2d ser., 15 vols., Boston, 1834–1848, 7:443). Among these letters are those by Samuel Adams of 17 and 20 Dec. and Thomas Burke, delegate from North Carolina, of 20 Dec. (Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates, 16:454–456, 470–472), and possibly that of 9 Dec. from James Lovell (from Lovell, 14 Dec., and note 1, above). The letters from Adams and Burke cover much the same ground as McKean's, particularly with regard to the military situation in the South. Samuel Adams was very adamant about the need for additional French naval support and his letter of the 17th would have been JA's first notice of Francis Dana's appointment as minister to Russia, although the vote actually occurred on the 19th (JCC, 18:1166).
2. For this letter see vol. 8:283–285. There is no evidence that JA received it.
3. William Palfrey had been appointed on 4 Nov. (JCC, 18:1018).
4. Col. John Laurens had been appointed on 11 Dec. (same, 18:1141).
5. For the battles of Camden and King's Mountain, see James Lovell's letter of 7 Sept., and note 2; and Benjamin Rush's letter of 23 Oct., and note 1 (both above). Gen. Thomas Sumter's defeat and capture of Maj. James Wemyss occurred on 9 Nov. at Fishdam Ford, S.C., and McKean's information reflects that in Gen. Horatio Gates' letter of 14 Nov. that Congress received on 4 Dec. and published (PCC, No. 154, II, f. 315–318; Pennsylvania Gazette, 6 Dec.). Sumter fought Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton on 20 Nov. at Blackstock's Plantation, S.C., but Tarleton was not “mortally wounded” (Horatio Gates to the president of Congress, 26 Nov., PCC, No. 154, II, f. 323–326; Howard H. Peckham, Toll of Independence, Chicago, 1974, p. 77).
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.