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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11


Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0232

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1781-05-16

To the President of Congress

[salute] Sir

I have the honor to inclose Copies of the Memorials, which I had the honor to present on the fourth instant to the President of their High Mightinesses, and to the Secretary of his most Serene High• { 317 } ness.1 The former has been published in English, French and Dutch; and has been favourably recieved by the Public: but the public Voice has not that Influence upon Government in any part of Europe, that it has in every part of America, and therefore I cannot expect that any immediate effect will be produced upon the States General. They will probably wait, until they can sound the disposition of the Northern Powers, Russia particularly, and if they should not join in the War, their High Mightinesses will probably be willing to be admitted to accede to the Treaty of Alliance between France and America.
The Dutch Fleet of about ten Sail of Vessels from the Texel and the Maese has sailed. The News from the southern States of America of continual fighting, in which our Countrymen have done themselves great Honour, the Capture of half the Convoy under Hotham by de la Motte Piquet, and the destruction made at Gibralter by the Spaniards, have raised the Spirits of this Nation from that unmanly Gloom and Despondency, into which they were thrown by the Capture of St. Eustatia, Demorara and Essequibe.2 But after all, this Country at present is divided in Sentiments: it is an Alexandrine that like a wounded Snake drags its slow length along.3

[salute] I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant.

[signed] John Adams
RC and enclosures in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 141–142). For the enclosures, see note 1.
1. In the PCC the copies of JA's memorials of 19 April to the States General and William V, both above, likely inclosed with this letter are separated, perhaps because the memorial to the States General is undated. In the PCC this letter accompanies JA's memorials to the States General of 8 March and to William V of 19 April (No. 84, III, f. 97–110, 147–148, 143– 144). JA also sent the Duc de La Vauguyon copies of his memorials under cover of a note dated 14 May (LbC, Adams Papers); the ambassador acknowledged it on the 16th (Adams Papers).
2. The encouraging news reports JA refers to all appeared in the Gazette de Leyde of 15 May. British privateers had taken the Dutch settlements on the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers in Guiana in late Feb. and early March. Reports of their capture appeared in the London Gazette of 23 April and were reprinted in Dutch newspapers, including the Gazette de Leyde of 4 May.
3. Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism,” lines 356–357.

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0233

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1781-05-16

To the President of Congress

[salute] Sir

There has been much said in the public Papers concerning Conferences for Peace, concerning the Mediation of the Emperor of Germany and the Empress of Russia &c. &c. &c.
I have never troubled Congress with these Reports, because I have { 318 } never recieved any official Information or Intimation of any such Negotiation, either from England or France, or any other way. If any such Negotiation has been going on, it has been carefully concealed from me. Perhaps something has been expected from the United States, which was not expected from me.1
For my own part, I know from so long Experience at the first Glance of Reflection, the real designs of the English Government, that it is no Vanity to say they cannot decieve me, if they can, the Cabinets of Europe. I have fully known that all their Pretensions about Peace were insidious, and therefore have paid no other Attention to them than to pity the Nations of Europe, who, having not yet Experience enough of British Manoeuvre, are still imposed on to their own danger, disgrace and damage.
The British Ministry are exhausting all the Resources of their Subtilty, if not of their Treasures, to excite Jealousies and Divisions among the neutral as well as belligerent Powers. The same Arts precisely that they have practised so many Years to subdue, decieve and divide America, they are now exerting among the Powers of Europe: but the Voice of God and Man are too decidedly against them to permit them much Success.
As to a Loan of Money in this Republick, after having tried every expedient and made every proposition, that I could be justified or excused for making, I am in absolute despair of obtaining any, until the States General shall have acknowledged our Independence. The Bills already accepted by me are paying off as they become due, by the Orders of his Excellency Mr. Franklin: but he desires me to represent to Congress the danger and inconvenience of drawing before Congress have information that their Bills can be honoured.2 I must intreat Congress not to draw upon me, until they know I have money. At present I have none, not even for my Subsistance, but what I derive from Paris.
The true Cause of the Obstruction of our Credit here is Fear, which can never be removed but by the States General acknowledging our Independence, which, perhaps in the Course of twelve months they may do, but I don't expect it sooner.
This Country is indeed in a melancholy Situation—sunk in Ease— devoted to the Pursuits of Gain—overshadowed on all sides by more powerful Neighbours—unanimated by a Love of military Glory, or any aspiring Spirit; feeling little Enthusiasm for the Public; terrified at the loss of an old Friend, and equally terrified at the prospect of being obliged to form Connections with a new one: encumbered with a { 319 } complicated and perplexed Constitution, divided among themselves in Interest and Sentiment, they seem afraid of every thing. Success on the Part of France, Spain and especially of America raises their Spirits, and advances the good Cause somewhat: but Reverses seem to sink them much more.
The War has occasioned such a Stagnation of Business, and thrown such Numbers of People out of Employment, that I think it is impossible things should remain long in the present insipid State. One System or another will be pursued: one Party or another will prevail—much will depend on the Events of the War. We have one Security, and I fear but one, and that is the domineering Character of the English, who will make Peace with the Republick upon no other Terms, than her joining them against all their Enemies in the War, and this I think it is impossible She ever should do.

[salute] I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant.

[signed] John Adams
RC in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 137–140); endorsed: “Amsterdam Letter 16 May 1781 J Adams Read Oct 3. —no real Intention in Gr: Br: to negotiate —despair of getting Money till the Dutch Governmt. acknowledges our Indep. —Dutch not animated at present.” LbC (Adams Papers); notation in John Thaxter's hand: “one Copy delivered Capt. Newman and another sent to Mr. Joshua Johnson at Nantes.” For letters JA sent with Capt. Joseph Newman of the Gates, see Adams Family Correspondence, 4:index; for that sent to Joshua Johnson, see JA to Johnson, 24 May, below.
1. For the origins of the proposed Austro-Russian mediation of the Anglo-French war, see Francis Dana's letter of 25 Feb., note 3, above. The French government had been considering the proposal since January and had given its approval, which it conditioned on Congress' consent and American independence being non-negotiable. JA correctly assumed that the Comte de Vergennes did not wish to deal with him, but with Congress. In a letter of 9 March Vergennes ordered the Chevalier de La Luzerne to obtain Congress' approval of the mediation. More importantly, La Luzerne was to convince the Congress that it should circumscribe JA's activities as minister plenipotentiary to negotiate Anglo-American peace and commercial treaties by ordering him, in the execution of his powers, “to receive his directions from the Count de Vergennes” (JCC, 20:562–569). On 28 May, La Luzerne met with a congressional committee. The results of that meeting were Congress' adoption on 15 June of the Joint Commission to Accept the Mediation of Russia and Austria; Joint Commission to Negotiate a Peace Treaty; and Instructions to the Joint Commission to Negotiate a Peace Treaty, all below.
Vergennes' determination to avoid dealing with JA regarding the mediation is evident from his conversation with Benjamin Franklin on 10 March. There he informed Franklin of the mediation and asked him to seek Congress' concurrence. Franklin apparently was surprised by this request, for he told the foreign minister that he supposed that JA “was already furnished with Instructions relating to any Treaty of Peace that might be proposed” (Franklin, Papers, 34:445–446).
Almost three months passed until JA received any communication from the French government regarding the mediation. See Laurent Bérenger's letter of 5 June and JA's correspondence with Vergennes in July, all below.
2. See Benjamin Franklin's letter of 21 April, above.
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, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/