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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0103

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Bicker, Hendrik
Date: 1781-02-19

To Hendrik Bicker

[salute] Sir

Your Questions to me, today, have induced me to communicate to you, in Confidence a Copy of my Commission.2
You See, that I have not the Title of Ambassador, nor of Minister Plenipotentiary, by Virtue of this Commission, nor have I in express Words, Power to make a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, much less a Treaty of Alliance offensive and defensive.
My Power is to negotiate a Loan: but it may be negotiated with any Person or Persons, Bodies Politick and Corporate, and the Congress promisses in good Faith to ratify and confirm, whatever shall be done by me in the Premisses, or relating thereto.
Dr. Franklin, Mr. Deane and Mr. Lee, who made a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, and another Treaty of Alliance offensive and defensive, with the King of France, had not by their Commission the Title of Ambassadors, nor of Ministers Plenipotentiary.3
Now if it is necessary to make a Treaty in order to obtain a Loan I Suppose I have Power to do it, and accordingly, I would readily enter into Conferences upon the Subject, and if We could agree upon the Terms, one Article of which should be a Loan, I would not hesitate to execute a Treaty, and I should have no doubt of the Ratification of Congress.
You have however, a Copy of my Commission and you may judge for yourself, how extensive the Powers are which it contains. I have no objection to your shewing it, to such Person or Persons as you think proper, in Confidence. I have the Honour to be, with great Respect, Sir, your humble servant
{ 153 }
1. This date derives from similarities between this letter and JA's draft letter of 19 Feb. to the Duc de La Vauguyon, below, and JA's statement, following this letter as printed in the Boston Patriot, that “At this time I gave up my lodgings at Amsterdam, and removed to Leyden” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot, p. 390). JA received Bicker's reply of 21 Feb., below, at Leyden and since Bicker consulted with at least one person about JA's letter before making his reply it seems likely that he received it on 19 or 20 Feb., making the 19th the most likely date for the letter.
2. JA's commission to negotiate a loan, 20 June 1780 (vol. 9:452–453).
3. For the text of the commission, see JA's of 27 Nov. 1777, naming him one of three U.S. Commissioners in place of Silas Deane (vol. 5:333–334). It was identical, except for the date and names of the commissioners, to that issued to Benjamin Franklin in 1776 (Franklin, Papers, 22:634–635).

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0104

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: La Vauguyon, Paul François de Quélen de Stuer de Causade, Duc de
Date: 1781-02-19

To the Duc de La Vauguyon

[salute] Sir

As I have been informed that your Excellency has had occasion, lately to enquire, whether any Person now in the Republick had Authority to treat in Behalf of the United States of America with the States General of the United Provinces, I beg Leave to lay before you, a Copy of a Commission, which I have the Honour to hold from Congress.
Your Excellency will observe that in this Commission, I have not the Title <of Ambassador, Envoy> of Minister Plenipotentiary: but only that of Agent to negotiate a Loan: Nevertheless, the Power is full to do every Thing necessary to effect the Loan; and to this Purpose to treat with any Body Politick, and the Promise of Congress is absolute to ratify in good Faith whatever may be done, in the Premises or relating thereto.
Your Excellency will observe also, that there is no express mention in the Commission of a Treaty of Amity and Commerce nor a Treaty of Alliance offensive and defensive. Yet, if Such a Treaty should be necessary to accomplish a Loan, I suppose the Power is sufficient to negotiate and execute it, and Accordingly I Should not hesitate to enter into Conferences upon the subject, with Persons properly Authorized and even to execute in all the Forms a Treaty, one Article of which should be a Loan to the United States.
A Case, or indeed Several Cases may happen in a short time, in which it would be proper to carry into Execution that Article of the Treaty of Alliance between France and the United States, which Stipulates, that other Powers shall be invited to acceed to that Alliance.1 The Time may Soon arrive in which it would be proper to invite the states General, to such an Accession. I <should not Scruple to { 154 } join> Submit to your Excellencys Consideration whether, the inclosed Commission would not be Authority sufficient for me to undertake to represent the United States for such a Purpose Provided a Loan to the United States were made one Article of the Treaty. If your Excellency should be of this opinion, I shall be ready to act in Concert with you whenever the King shall judge proper to commence the Negotiation.
<Your Excellency will excuse, my not Writing in French, as I am not a Sufficient Master of that Language, to write in it.>
I have the Honour to be, with great Respect, your Excellencys most obedient and most humble servant2
Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Sketch of a Letter. not Sent.”
1. Art. 10 of the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance (Miller, ed., Treaties, 2:39).
2. JA probably did not send this letter immediately because he sought Hendrik Bicker's opinion of his powers before raising the issue with the French ambassador. The arrival of JA's commission as minister to the Netherlands on 25 Feb., however, made the queries in this letter irrelevant (to Hendrik Bicker, 1 March, below).
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.