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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0319

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-07-19

From Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

I think your Excellency will not be Surprized to find that I am stil at Amsterdam.1 Mr. Dana is so well Accompanied on his Route, that it was quite Unnecessary any one Else should attend him; and the Difficulties daily arising in the Dispatch of the South Carolina take from me any certainty of leaving this Place yet awhile. Tis true we are told that she will go on such a day and such a day. But Most have hitherto been deceivd so much, that they are sick of talking of it. The Comdor. is now at the Texel to see to the Loading of another Ship taken up by Messrs. De Neufville. This is supposed will be done in four or five days and then—
I am Happy to hear your Excellency is in good Health and Good Spirits at Paris. We have had news here from Lorient, which I suppose your Excellency has heard, Relative to our Affairs in S. Carolina, that rejoices every one.2 We have been in a Bustle for 3 or four Days [On Account?] of the Emperors Visit his Behaviour was as usual Condescending to all, and therefore he has gaind the Admiration of all. It is said He had a long Conversation with Mr. <Randolph> Rendorp who is quite content with what passed between them. His disposition towards England being sounded He said, He could by no means take part with the Ennemies of his Friends—Mr. Le Roy told me yesterday, that He is well assured, that He expressed a Desire to see your Excellency.3 There seems to have been but one Man here who committed a Sottise4 towards Him. It was a Broker, who having an Obligation on that Part of Silesia, that was conquered and is now possessd by the King of Prussia, presented it to Him for payment. He mildly said He must apply to his prussian Majesty. Others report that He told the Man that it required three or four hundred thousand men to recover the sum demanded.
They talk of some resolutions that Frieseland has come to, which are very interesting. Among them are a recomendation of entering into Engagements with France and Acknowledging the Independancy of America.5
{ 431 }
I have receivd a Letter from my Friend at London informing me that He has sent a parcell of Books to Segourney, marked A.A.
I wish your Excellency much Health and a Continuation of Good Spirits whilst at Paris.
I am with the greatest Respects Sir Your Excellencys Most Faithful & Obedient Humble Sert.
[signed] Edm: Jenings
1. Francis Dana had invited Jenings to accompany him to Russia (to Edmund Jenings, 29 April, note 2, above).
2. The news from Lorient has not been identified. However, the Gazette de Leyde of 24 July reported actions by forces under Nathanael Greene, Francis Marion, and others against British detachments in North and South Carolina at Camden, Ninety Six, Hobkirks Hill, and Fort Watson. While these were not all victories, their cumulative effect was to drive the British from the interior of the Carolinas (Middlekauff, Glorious Cause, p. 488–490).
3. Joseph II visited Amsterdam 12–15 July. On the day of his departure he met for a half hour with Joachim Rendorp, burgomaster of Amsterdam at l'Hotel d Ville (Gazette de Leyde, 20 July). For another account of the Emperor's purported desire to see JA, see JA's letter of 3 Aug. to the president of Congress, below.
4. A foolish insult.
5. See JA's letter of 21 July to the president of Congress (calendared below).

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0320

Author: Adams, John
Author: Thaxter, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: McKean, Thomas
Date: 1781-07-21

This is a summary of a document and does not contain a transcription. If it is available elsewhere in this digital edition, a page number link will be provided below in the paragraph beginning "Printed."

To the President of Congress

Amsterdam, 21 July 1781. RC and signature in John Thaxter's hand PCC, No. 84, III, f. 331–332. printed: Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:596–597.
John Thaxter wrote this letter during John Adams' absence at Paris. It contains an English translation of an article appearing in Dutch newspapers, including the Gazette de Leyde of 20 July. The article reported that the quarter of Westergo and a portion of that of Sevenwoude, two of the four chambers forming the States of Friesland, had protested against a plurality in the provincial states in support of the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. In a letter of 24 July (Adams Papers), the last written by Thaxter to Congress before John Adams' return from Paris, he referred again to events in Friesland and explained that the States of Friesland, “which strangers often confound with West Friesland, or North Holland,” was composed of four chambers or quarters: Oostergo of eleven districts; Westergo of 9 districts; Sevenwoude of 10 districts; and a fourth chamber composed of the deputies from the province's eleven cities.
RC and signature in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 331–332). printed: (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:596–597.)

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0321

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de
Date: 1781-07-21

To the Comte de Vergennes

Since my Letter of the nineteenth, Sir, another Point has occurred to me, upon which it seems necessary, that I Should Say Something to your Excellency, before my Departure for Holland, which will be on Monday Morning.2
An Idea has, I perceive been suggested, of the several States of { 432 } America, choosing Agents seperately, to attend the Congress, at Vienna, in order to make Peace, with Great Britain, so that there would be thirteen instead of one.3
The Constitution or Confederation of the United States, which has been Solemnly adopted and ratified by each of them Seperately and by all of them jointly has been officially and authentically notified to their Majesties the Kings of France and Spain, and to their High Mightinesses, the States General of the United Provinces of the Low Countries, and communicated to all the other Courts and Nations of the World, as far as the Gazettes of Europe are able to Spread it: So that it is now as well and universally known as any Constitution of Government in Europe.
By this Constitution, all Power and Authority, of negotiating with foreign Powers is expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.4 It would therefore be a publick Disrespect and Contempt offered, to the Constitution of the Nation if any Power Should make any Application, whatever, to the Governors, or Legislatures of the Separate States. In this respect the American Constitution is very different from the Batavian.
If the two Imperial Courts Should address their Articles to the States Seperately No Governor or President of any one of those Commonwealths, could even communicate it to the Legislature. No President of a Senate could lay it, before the Body, over which he presides. No Speaker of an House of Representatives could read it to the House.
It would be an Error, and a Misdemeanour, in any of these officers, to receive and communicate any Such Letter. All that he could do would be, after breaking the Seal and reading it, to Send it back. He could not, even, legally transmit it to Congress. If Such an Application, therefore, Should be made and Sent back, it would consume, much time to no Purpose, and perhaps have other worse Effects.
There is no method for the Courts of Europe, to convey any Thing to the People of America but through the Congress of the United States, nor any Way of negotiating with them, but by means of that Body. I must therefore intreat your Excellency, that the Idea of Summoning Ministers from the thirteen States may not be countenanced at all.
I know very well, that if each State, had in the Confederation, reserved to itself a right of negotiating with foreign Powers, and Such an Application Should have been made to them, Seperately upon this { 433 } occasion, they would all of them Seperately refer it to Congress, because the People universally know, and are well agreed, that all Connections with foreign Countries, must, in their Circumstances, be under one Direction. But all these Things, were very maturely considered in framing the Confederation, by which, the People of each State, have taken away from themselves, even the right of deliberating and debating upon these Affairs, unless they should be referred to them by Congress for their Advice, or unless they should think proper to instruct their Delegates in Congress, of their own Accord.
This matter may not appear to your Excellency, in so important a Light as it does to me: and the Thought of such an Application to the United states may not have been seriously entertained: but, as it has been mentioned, though only in a Way of transient Speculation, I thought I could not excuse myself from Saying Something upon it, because I knew it would be considered in so unfavourable a Light, in America, that I am persuaded Congress would think them selves bound to remonstrate against it, in the most Solemn manner.
I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, sir your most obedient and most humble Servant
[signed] John Adams
RC (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 17:441); endorsed: “M de R.”
1. In 1809, when he published this letter in the Boston Patriot, JA preceded it with the following explanation of his motives for writing his final letter to Vergennes. “I lived in daily and hourly hopes and expectation of an answer to some of my letters and communications, or of an invitation to some personal conference, in which I might be favored with some intimations of his excellency's sentiments of approbation, or disaprobation, or his advice, criticisms or corrections of any thing he might think required any alteration. But nothing appeared. All was total silence and impenetrable mystery. Such a dead reserve, such a fixed determination not to commit himself to any thing; not even to an acknowledgment of the obligations of his own treaty with the United States, appeared to me to be poor encouragement to us, to be over communicative with the French ministry. I waited till the twenty first of the month, when, being very anxious to return to Holland, where I had reason to believe I could negociate for peace with Great Britain, much more rapidly than in France, I wrote the following letter” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot, p. 130).
2. 23 July.
3. It is not known how JA learned of this proposal. He received full confirmation of it several months later via Francis Dana in St. Petersburg. Dana provided copies of letters he had received from the Marquis de Verac dated 2 and 12 Sept. regarding the general peace conference (LbC's in French, Adams Papers; English translations, Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:684–685, 705–707).
Count Panin, Catherine II's chancellor, first posed the idea of inviting American state delegates during preliminary discussions concerning a Russian mediation of the Anglo-French war in 1780. Prince Kaunitz, the Austrian chancellor, raised the plan again in April 1781 in talks with the French ambassador at Vienna concerning the Austro-Russian mediation. Both men believed that Britain was more likely to negotiate with the individual states than with Congress because it would have the opportunity to split the rebellious colonies and retain a portion of its American empire. Moreover, this plan would allow Britain to avoid { 434 } recognizing the U.S. as sovereign and independent.
Vergennes favored the proposal. In a memorandum to Louis XVI of Feb. 1781, the foreign minister reasoned that the only means to end the war might be for the U.S. to accept a long truce based on uti posseditis. France would guarantee American independence during the term of the truce, but if Britain negotiated with the separate states the likely effect would be the partition of the U.S.
Whether due to JA's forthright representations or to the improving military situation in the U.S., Vergennes' reply to the mediators in August rejected their intervention principally because of uncertainty over the status of Congress' negotiator at any peace conference (De Madariaga, Armed Neutrality of 1780, p. 245, 328; Morris, Peacemakers, p. 169–171, 179– 183, 208–210).
In 1809, when he published this letter in the Boston Patriot, JA credited his letters to Vergennes for the defeat of the mediation. There he wrote: “The answer to the articles relative to America, proposed by the two imperial courts, and the letters to the Comte de Vergennes, ... I have the satisfaction to believe, defeated the profound and magnificent project of a Congress at Vienna, for the purpose of chicaning the United States out of their independence.
“It moreover established the principle, that American Ministers Plenipotentiary were not to appear without their public titles and characters, nor to negociate but with their equals after an exchange of full powers” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot, p. 133).
4. See the Articles of Confederation, Art. 6 (JCC, 19:216–217).
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, 2017.