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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0262

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Jenings, Edmund
Date: 1780-12-31

To Edmund Jenings

[salute] Dear Sir

I have the Honour of yours of the 28. We have no Letters or Papers from London later than the 19 or 20, which leaves Us in the dark. There has been a Fermentation, here, which indicates War, the Apprehension of which is born by the Dutch at this time with more Firmness than I expected. The Motive of England, is to pick a quarrell upon a Pretext of an offence different from the armed Neutrality. But the Dutch will demand the Rights of that Treaty. The Parties to which cannot be duped by So flimsy and Pretence. In such a Case England may have a War with seven, Eight or Nine Nations at once. This will be glorious indeed! For We all know they must be Conquerors. Omnipotence must be tryumphant.1
I believe they will exert themselves to gain the Emperor, and as far as I know or can see, I dont much care if they succeed. The Emperor will be a costly Ally. They must lend or give him Several Millions of Guineas in a Year. If they raise no more Money than last Year, this subsidy will be a defalcation. We know how much they have been able to do with a Loan of twelve Millions. Let them borrow twenty Millions. This is nothing to England, whose Wealth is infinite.
As to the Policy of England, either she is out in her Politicks, or all the rest of the World are out in theirs. Time must determine. No Body but herself can account for her Conduct.
I have every personal Motive, which can influence the human Heart to wish for Peace. But I can patiently give up my private Wishes for Peace and Interest in it, while War is necessary for the publick Good. I know the Unanimity and Firmness of our Countrymen, So well, that I am under no Apprehensions of Danger or Division from the Continuance of War, whatever may be said or thought by weak or wicked Englishmen or others.
The Dutch have an Understanding peculiar to themselves. They dont think like other Men upon any Thing. If they go to War with England, I doubt whether they will make a Treaty with Us. They must be odd and unaccountable. They will trade with Us, notwithstanding, as ravenously as possible. They think themselves profound Politicians but they are the most short sighted I ever saw. They are not even Sagacious to get Money. It is Patience and Industry alone that acquires it here.
{ 465 }
I dont See why the armed Neutrality and a Dutch War should oblige France to keep more ships in Europe. I should think the contrary, that she might Spare more ships to America and the West Indies, as the Dutch and the Armed Neutrality are not hostile to France.
Let me beg you to give me every Information concerning the Motions of France and the Emperor, towards Each other.
I should also be obliged to you, for as much of the News from England as possible because it will be interrupted often this Way.
Am glad my Friend2 has Spent some time with you. He is a very valuable Character. I shall send you another in a few days.3
The Book I wanted is intituled the Laws of the Admiralty or Admiralty Law—in two Volumes octavo—in the Preface is an History of former Negotiations concerning the Principle Free ships free Goods. The Book you mention is not it.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “His Excelleny J Adams Esqr Decr. 31. 1780.”
1. For a more expansive view of the causes and consequences of an Anglo-Dutch war, see JA's letter of 31 Dec. to the president of Congress, No. 35 (below).
2. Francis Dana.
3. Probably James Searle whom JA indicated, in his letter to Jenings of 3 Jan. 1781 (Adams Papers), would visit Jenings in a few days.

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0263

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-12-31

To the President of Congress, No. 35


[salute] Sir

It will scarcely be believed in Congress, that at a Time when there are the strongest Appearances of War, there has not been a Newspaper nor a Letter recieved in this City from London since the nineteenth or twentieth of the Month.
There are Symptoms of a more general War. If Britain adheres to her Maxims, this Republick will demand the Aid of Russia, Sweeden, Denmark and Prussia, in pursuance of the Treaty of Armed Neutrality. Those Powers will not be duped by the Artifice of the British Court, and adjudge this War not a Casus Foederis, when all the World agrees that the Accession of the Republick to the Armed Neutrality is the real Cause of it, and the Treaty between Mr. Lee and Mr. De Neufville only a false Pretence. If the Armed Neutral Confederacy takes it up, as nobody doubts they will, all these Powers will be soon at War with England, if She does not recede. If the Neutral Powers { 466 } do not take it up, and England proceeds, She will drive this Republick into the Arms of France, Spain and America.1 In this possible Case, a Minister here from Congress would be useful. In Case the Armed Neutrality takes it up, a Minister authorised to represent the United States to all the Neutral Courts might be of use.
The Empress Queen is no more. The Emperor has procured his Brother Maximilian to be declared Co Adjutor of the Bishoprick of Munster and Cologne, which affects Holland and the Low Countries.2 He is supposed to have his Eye on Liege. This may alarm the Dutch, the King of Prussia and France. The War may become general, and the Fear of it may make Peace, that is it might, if the King of England was not the most determined Man in the World. But depressed and distracted and ruined as his Dominions are, he will set all Europe in a Blaze before he will make Peace. His Exertions however against Us3 cannot be very formidable. Patience, Firmness and Perseverance are our only Remedy: these are a sure and an infallible one;4 and with this Observation I beg Leave to take my Leave of Congress for the Year 1780, which has been to me the most anxious5 and mortifying Year of my whole Life. God grant that more Vigour, Wisdom and Decision may govern the Councils, Negotiations and Operations of Mankind in the Year 1781.
I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant
[signed] John Adams
Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 361–363); docketed: “Letter Decr. 31 1780 John Adams Read 19 Novr. 1781.” MS (PHi: Sprague Coll.). LbC (Adams Papers). JA drafted this letter in his Letterbook and it was from the LbC that Thaxter copied the Duplicate. When JA copied out the MS, the intended recipient's copy, from the Letterbook, however, he made two additions to the text that are indicated in notes 3 and 5.
1. See JA's letter of 28 Dec., No. 33, to the president of Congress, note 2 (above).
2. See Edmund Jenings' letter of 28 Dec., note 1 (above).
3. In the MS, JA added “how violent soever his thrusts.”
4. JA originally ended the LbC at this point and then added the remaining text.
5. In the MS, JA added “humiliating” here.
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.