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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0112

Author: Dana, Francis
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-02-25

From Francis Dana

[salute] Dear Sir

The enclosed letter came to hand the last Evening; I was about breaking it open, agreable to your directions, but observing it marked Cadiz, and supposing it to be a mear private Letter, I desisted.1 If it shou'd contain any news from our Country, I doubt not you will advise me of it by the first opportunity. Mr. Bondfield, who has lately been at Paris, writes me from Bordeaux on the 20th. instant: “By this day's post from Cadiz, we are advised of the sailing of the Spanish Fleet to cruise off Cape St. Vincent, consisting of 30 Sail of the Line”—“Letters from England mention a suspension of the Condemnation of the Dutch Ships,2 and they are full of the Mediatrix's influence;3 notwithstanding these reports, every species of West-India produce are buying up at the most extravagant prices”—“By advices from Amsterdam the Indiana is purchased by the States-General,4 and the other Frigate on the Stocks, of the same Construction, is finishing with all possible diligence.” Thus far He. What real foundation there is for any part of his Intelligence, I know not.
May I venture to congratulate with you, upon the Commencement of a certain business. You are wholly silent on this head, but he, who stands between Knobb||Engelbert François van Berckel|| and V||Arthur Lee||, has mentioned the matter to Funn ||James Searle||, in a letter he received yesterday.5<However it rest with us, for ought we know.>6One, at a time, will do. Applicatio non deest.7 Francisco ||Silas Deane|| is here. The Relation of Missa ||John Jay|| has been for about a month past, in the Sea-Ports.8 Tis said he means not to visit this great City; at which, I much wonder, seeing he has come so far, and means to return back upon the same paces. The particular business I can learn nothing of.9 I hope the workmen have left open a passage for the Alewives, otherwise there is danger of the dam's being broken down by the people there abouts, who make use of them, not only in their families, but they are a great article for Bait: besides, if the superfluous water is not let off, it will, upon the first freshets, form such a head as will bear all down before it. Is it possible this danger can be overlooked by any of the proprietors of the Mill?
D.D.J. ||William Temple Franklin|| called upon me, and enquired with apparent agitation of spirits whether I had heard of the appointment of ——.10 I am afraid that he has been taken, and that the particular { 162 } business with which he was charged may be deranged by that accident. I suppose it was in the line of his profession; and that A.Z. ||Congress|| was at last convinced of the necessity, that, as he was to share at least equally according to the terms of the Copartnership, in the profits and losses, he ought to be consulted about the outfits, and the course of the voyage. The very mischeifs have in fact happened, for want of this measure, which Steady||John Adams|| pointed out to, Angelica ||Comte de Vergennes||, in the time of it; but her ear had been so long accustomed to the fulsome language of Adulation, that plain Truth and sound sense did not fail to disgust her. I believe they have however made an impression upon her mind. The folly of her conduct is plainly perceived by all the Family of Steady ||John Adams||, yet out of regard to the Interests of both Families, they prudently say little about it, and hope she will, upon mature reflexion, lay aside her Coquetry, and pursue her true Interests.
My dear Sir, I have been seriously reflecting upon the general State of our Affairs, and having settled it in my own mind, that it is highly probable I shall remain an idle Man, long enough to allow of a visit to AZ||Congress||, and to converse freely with him upon some things touching the commands he was pleased to honour us with, as also upon some other matters, which perhaps might be productive of some good. This Idea I have communicated to Funn ||James Searle||, who seems highly to approve of it, and has begged me to communicate it to you, without loss of time. I have my doubts upon the expediency of the measure—but if, upon full consideration, you approve of it, I wou'd, notwithstanding I so much abominate remounting Mules, and passing over the frightful precipices, set off on my journey resigned to my Fate. I wou'd perform it as quick as possible, and give in person an account of my transactions to you, on my return. In order to go with expedition, I wou'd apply to De Novo||Marquis de Castries||11 for a birth in one of his light carriages as far as tis possible to travel with them. He has one frequently passing towards the Seat of AZ ||Congress||, and I have no reason to think he wou'd not readily oblige me in this respect. After quitting that I cou'd take a Mule and trip it over the Mountains as before. Having once passed in safety those of Galice I shall not be much concerned about those which lay in my route. I lay this Idea before you with much diffidence and submit it to your friendly and better consideration. You will do me the justice to believe that I have no private views in this matter—my feelings, in the course of it, must undergo a very severe trial; yet I wou'd once more sustain it, if any benefit cou'd be { 163 } obtained by it. My reflections are uncomfortable, when I look over the Map. I am, dear Sir, with much respect and esteem your obliged Friend and obedient hble Servt:
[signed] FRA DANA
P.S. Has Mr. Grand advised you of my transfer?12 If so, you will please to cancel the Note.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “25. Feb. Dana ansd 12 Mar.”
1. This was Isaac Smith Sr.'s letter of 18 Dec., which has not been found. See JA's reply to Dana of 12 March, below.
2. Probably a reference to the Order in Council of 16 Feb., which appeared in various London papers on or about 17 Feb. (London Chronicle, 15–17 Feb.). Responding to a reciprocal order by the States General, it permitted Dutch ships found in British ports at the beginning of the war to return home. The only exceptions were those ships carrying contraband.
3. Catherine II in her role as mediator between Britain and its enemies. Her first involvement was with the joint Austro-Russian mediation of the Anglo-French war and her second was as sole mediator of the Anglo-Dutch conflict. The Austro-Russian mediation discussed here was the more important of the two because of its effect on European diplomacy and JA's diplomatic status. For the parallel effort to mediate between Britain and the Netherlands, see Jean de Neufville's letter of 2 March, and note 2, below.
The joint mediation grew out of a meeting on 16 Dec. 1780 between Lord Stormont, the British foreign minister, and I. M. Simolin, the Russian ambassador to Britain. There the Russian diplomat officially informed Stormont of the creation of the armed neutrality and provided him with a verbal explanation of its purpose. He indicated that Catherine II expected the belligerents to abide by its principles and hoped that a mutually acceptable basis would be found to end the Anglo-French war. At no time did Simolin indicate that his statements were to be construed as a proposal to mediate the Anglo-French war.
Simolin's meeting with Stormont came on the eve of Britain's declaration of war against the Netherlands. Since the principal, if unstated, reason for the war was the Dutch accession to the League of Armed Neutrality, Britain's declaration constituted a direct challenge to the armed neutrality and its architect, Catherine II. This meant that Stormont needed to find some means to forestall intervention by Russia and the other members of the neutral confederation on behalf of the Netherlands, avoid alienating Catherine any further, and not further isolate Britain diplomatically and militarily. Stormont's solution was clear from his reply to Simolin on 23 Dec., in which he chose to take the Russian's comments on settling the Anglo-French war as an offer to mediate it. The resulting Austro-Russian mediation came to nothing because Britain demanded that France renounce its treaty with the U.S. as a precondition for negotiations and would not countenance any participation by the U.S. The mediation attempt did, however, create a diversion and lessen the pressure that might otherwise have been brought against Britain to make peace. For a detailed examination of the joint mediation and the motives of those involved, see De Madariaga, Armed Neutrality of 1780, p. 264–288, 313–360.
Although JA never saw the Austro-Russian mediation as a viable option and expected it to fail, it significantly affected his efforts as a diplomat. France used the prospective mediation to convince Congress to replace JA as sole peace negotiator. The resulting five-member commission had instructions that seemed to tie any peace settlement to the dictates of French foreign policy. It also led to JA's journey to Paris in July to discuss with Vergennes the mediation and the role of the U.S. at any peace conference under its auspices. For JA's views on the Austro-Russian mediation as well as their effect on him, see Commissions and Instructions for Mediation and Peace, 15 June, Editorial Note; JA's second letter of 16 May to Congress, note 1 and references there; and his correspondence with the Comte de Vergennes in July, all below.
4. The frigate Indien, purchased by Alexander Gillon and renamed the South Carolina, was then being outfitted for a voyage to America.
5. Dana refers to JA's pending agreement with Jean de Neufville & Fils for raising a loan in the Netherlands. On the list of code names used by Dana, Neufville's name was { 164 } listed between van Berckel and Arthur Lee ([ca. 14 Jan.], above).
6. This passage was interlined and marked for insertion at this point, but then was canceled.
7. The diligence is not lacking.
8. Henry Brockholst Livingston, John Jay's brother-in-law and private secretary, visited Lorient and Nantes (John Jay: Unpublished Papers, 1745–1784, ed. Richard B. Morris, 2 vols., N.Y., 1975, 1980, 2:175–177).
9. The editors have been unable to divine Dana's meaning in the remainder of this paragraph.
10. William Temple Franklin may have been concerned about John Laurens' appointment as special minister to France and the effect that it would have on his position (vol. 10:294).
11. The French naval minister.
12. See Henry Grand's letter of 29 Jan., and note 1, above.

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0113

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-02-27

To Edmund Jenings

[salute] Dear Sir

On my Return from a little Excursion, I received yours of 18.
I dont know whether Calkoens, Pamphlet is unanswerable or not. There are two very sharp Pamphlets written against it, as they say.2 These People dont understand their own Constitution alike.
There is a Part of the Pamphlet, which disgusted me, as well as you. It is a Dutch affectation of Shrewdness. Nothing can be a greater Folly. However—The French Marine have it, to my certain Knowledge as well as Calkoen and the Spanyards. There is in Deed and in Truth an European Jealousy, and Envy of America. Weak wretched Man! Sagacious only to find out and make Causes of thine own Misery.
It has been, these two or three years, a philosophical Speculation as well as a political, to discover the true Cause of this European Suspicion. Is it natural? Men dont usually disquiet themselves about Evils, so distant in Futurity.
Who ever made himself uneasy about a Thing which was to happen 3 hundred years hence? However the Evil here Apprehended, never will nor can happen, unless a Silly Jealousy, should induce the Europeans to take unfriendly Measures, So as to excite ill Will.
I Suspect, that this Jealousy is artificial. That it is artfully managed by the Courts of Europe. These dread the Forms of Government in America. They dread that high Sense and Spirit of Liberty, and those popular Principles, with which America is full. They are afraid of their Spreading in Europe and propagating like a Contagion, So as to produce Revolutions.
But the People of Europe, and the Men of Letters ought for the <Same> opposite Reasons, to cherish America as their only remaining Barrier against Despotism. For if the Spirit of Liberty is Subdued in America there is now an end of it in the World.
{ 165 }
I am weary however of Speculation. I See that our poor Country must bid farewell to all Ideas of Peace. Warlike she must be or not exist. For she will be involved in eternal War, that is plain. Britains and French and Spanyards, and others will keep poor America the constant Sport of their infernal Politicks. Let Us warn our Countrymen therefore to be Soldiers and Seamen, and teach them to love War Since Europe will oblige them to it.
It will depend entirely upon Europe, whether America shall ever hurt it or not. If she treats America with Suspicion and Jealousy, Envy and Malice, she will necessarily, produce the Same Passions in America towards her. And she will bring it, to this question whether America shall be, desolated and totally depopulated, or not? It is easy to see that this is not in the Power of all Europe. European Jealousy however will have one Effect. It will keep America longer United. Without Unkind and ungenerous Treatment from Europe, God knows America will too soon divide and quarell with itself.
But it is not the Part of Policy or Philosophy, to torment itself with Prospects into such distant Futurities, I dont expect that America will turn the Earth into an Heaven or an Hell. This World will continue to be Earth and its Inhabitants Men, and Wars and Follies will abound as much as ever. We have full enough to do with those of the present Age. Dont let Us distress ourselves about those which are to happen a thousand Years hence.
Can you help me to borrow Some Money. This is the best Way to treat America, lend them some Money, which will all come back again, twice over with Interest. In the first Place it will all be Spent here—in the next it must all be paid here again. Will your Friend insert my Plan in his Leaf and give Us some Remarks upon American Credit?3 The Population, Industry, and the Extent and Variety of her Productions and Commerce, are the sources of her Wealth and Ability to pay. And Where there is Ability there is seldom wanting Inclination.
My Plan of a Loan, is a political Machine, which will set many Wheels in Motion. We shall See what Effect it will have. I hope, to see the Speculations of all the Journalists upon it. If it Succeeds it will promote Commerce, Politicks, and War, in our favour. If not it will compell Congress against their Inclination, to tax all Europe by laying Duties on their Exports. We might in this Way oblige Europe to pay the Expences of the War, for our Productions they must and will have at any Rate. If the Loan dont Succeed, America may be { 166 } forced to make an American Act of Navigation. We have it in our Power to manage Europe if she will be ill natured, but I hope she will be wise.
As to the present State of America, her Governments are now compleetly established and have as much Force as any in Europe at least. Her Army, is as numerous as usual, but the Cowardice of the English in keeping hid in New York and skulking about in their ships leaves our Army nothing to do, but grow discontented with an inactive Life, I suppose. The Navy of the Continent, seems neglected but the Privateers fare the better, for that, and make an incredible Number of Prizes. The Paper Money seems to be little talked of, as the silver and gold, Spent there by the English and french, are now circulating in sufficient quantities to serve for a Medium.4
RC (Adams Papers). Filmed at [1780–1781] (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 353).
1. This date derives from JA's endorsement of Jenings' letter of 18 Feb., above, to the effect that he answered it on 27 February. Jenings replied to this letter “without a date” on 5 March, below.
2. Although they are not otherwise identified, these are probably anonymous pamphlets by Elie Luzac and R. M. van Goens entitled, respectively, Het Waare Dag-Licht van Het Politiek Systema der Regeringe van Amsterdam, uit de Vaderlandsche Historien opghelderd, Middelburg, [1781]; and Politik Vertoog over het Waar Sistema van de Stad van Amsterdam, 1781. For an analysis of their arguments in opposition to Calkoen's, see Leeb, Origins of the Batavian Rev., p. 150–154.
3. JA apparently wanted Jenings to persuade Dérival de Gomicourt to include the Plan for the Negotiation of a Dutch Loan, [ca. 24 Feb.], above, in Lettres hollandoises.
4. For earlier comments by JA on the importance of British and French expenditures in America as a source of specie, see his 15th letter to Hendrik Calkoen (vol. 10:238–239).
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.