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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0026-0002

Author: Dumas, Charles William Frederic
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-01-12

C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation

[salute] Sir

This is not the expected post, but rather a letter dated the 19th of last December [O.S.] that has arrived from the plenipotentiaries at St. Petersburg, announcing that the Empress was satisfied with the situation; that she has seen the last two British memorials presented by Sir Joseph Yorke to Their High Mightinesses2 and is more indignant than surprised by them; that the convention would be signed on the 23rd [O.S.],3 that is to say four days after the plenipotentiaries assumed the character of ambassadors extraordinary; and that another courier would be sent immediately with the signed convention. I am expecting the courier any moment now; then the manifesto can be published.4 This small delay is nothing but a formality.5 Meantime, it was resolved yesterday to distribute letters of marque to the privateers (and also orders to naval vessels) to seize all that they can from the British. This was done today.6 You can rely on the accuracy and truth of what I have the honor to tell you, as well as on my punctuality in informing you officially of what will follow. In turn I will rely on you to inform Congress that I was the source of the information.
I hope that you made the trip to Amsterdam in perfect health.7 Please accept the regards of my wife and daughter, and the assurances of respect and sincere attachment with which I remain always, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant,
[signed] Dumas
The decision by the court of Holland, concerning the conduct of Amsterdam, will not take place until mid-February; but one knows in advance it will be good.8
Respond, if you please, to tell me if this letter reached you, and if it was in good condition.
RC (Adams Papers); filmed at [1780–1781] (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 353).
1. This date derives from Dumas' Letter-book copy of a letter to Benjamin Franklin of 12 Jan. that was followed by a note: “De meme a Mrs. Adams, Searle, & Carmi[chael].” (Algemeen Rijksarchief, Eerste Afdeling, Dumas Coll., Inventaris 1, f. 394); and Dumas' serial letter to Congress of 19 Dec. 1780 – 23 Jan. 1781 in which the portion dated 12 Jan. contains much the same information as the letter to JA (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:199–201). Moreover, in his letter of 14 Jan. to the president of Congress, below, JA describes Dumas' letter as being of “last Friday,” or 12 Jan., and indicates in his reply to Dumas of 14 Jan., below, that he received it on the 13th.
2. These were Sir Joseph Yorke's memorials to their High Mightinesses of 10 Nov. and 12 Dec. 1780, for which see JA's letters of 16 Nov. and 18 Dec. to the president of Congress (vol. 10:350–353, 419–421).
3. In fact, the acts by which the Netherlands { 44 } acceded to the armed neutrality were signed on 24 Dec. 1780 [4 Jan. 1781 N.S.] (Scott, ed., Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800, p. 346–350).
4. The States General's manifesto responding to Britain's of 20 Dec. 1780 did not appear until 12 March (same, p. 380–390).
5. This sentence was interlined.
6. For two of the placards or edicts issued on 12 Jan., see JA's letter of 18 Jan. to the president of Congress, calendared below; for more information regarding the actions of the States General on 12 Jan., see the first volume of John Almon's Remembrancer for 1781, p. 119–122.
7. Sometime after 5 Jan., the date of the last letter he wrote from Amsterdam, JA set out to visit Rotterdam, The Hague, Leyden, and Haarlem, the leading cities of the province of Holland. In his Diary, JA wrote that on 11 Jan. he traveled from The Hague to Leyden, where he visited JQA, CA, Benjamin Waterhouse, John Thaxter, and others. He returned to Amsterdam, by way of Haarlem, on 13 January. In his letter of 14 Jan. to the president of Congress, below, as well as his Diary entry of the same date, JA described the journey and the conclusions that he derived therefrom (JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:451–455).
8. Dumas refers to the question of the culpability of Amsterdam and its pensionary, Engelbert François van Berckel, in negotiating the Lee-Neufville treaty of 1778, which Britain used as a justification for war with the Netherlands. The States General referred the matter to the provincial court of Holland, which did not rule until March. Amsterdam's conduct then was found to be criminal, while van Berckel was acquitted but stripped of political power (Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution, p. 168; Schulte Nordholt, Dutch Republic and Amer. Independence, p. 157).

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0027

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Date: 1781-01-14

To the President of Congress


[salute] Sir

In an Excursion, which I have lately made through the principal Cities of this Province, Haarlem, Leyden, the Hague and Rotterdam, I have had an Opportunity of percieving that there is a Spirit of Resentment against the English very general among the People. Notwithstanding this, every thing is so artfully retarded—the Manifesto, the Letters of Marque, and above all the decision of the Court of Justice of Holland, is So studiously delayed, while the English are making such vast depredations upon the defenceless Merchant Vessels, that I cannot yet be sure that War is decided. The Councils of the Prince, united with those of the Proprietors of British Funds, and the distresses of Merchants, may yet induce the Republick, against the general Sense of the Nation, to sue for a dishonourable Peace.1
I have recieved a Letter however since my Return, from Mr. Dumas, of last friday, which informs me, that a Letter is recieved from the Plenipotentiaries at Petersbourg, dated the nineteenth of December: announcing that the Empress of Russia was well satisfied with all that had passed: that She had seen the two last Memorials presented by Sir Joseph Yorke to their High Mightinesses, and that { 45 } She had more Indignation than Surprise at the Sight of them. (It may be doubted however, whether this is not a Mistake, as the last Memorial was dated [the] twelfth, and the Letter of the Ministers th[e ninete]enth2): that the Signature was to be on the t[went]y third; after which those Ministers were [to] display the Characters of Ambassadors Extraordinary, and that they would forthwith dispatch another Express with the Convention signed. This Express is now expected every Moment, and as soon as he arrives their High Mightinesses will publish the Manifesto. This little delay is but a pure Formality. In the mean Time, they resolved on the twelfth of this month to distribute Letters of Marque to Privateers, and Orders to the Ships of the State to seize every thing they can belonging to the English.
Notwithstanding this, there are no Privateers ready and I fear there are fewer Ships of War ready than there ought to be. It will be long before the Dutch can do any great things, and they must suffer very severely. Such are the Effects of blind and mistaken Policy.
War is so new and so terrible a thing to this People: they are so divided in Sentiment, their Minds are so agitated with Uncertainty, Irresolution and Apprehension, that there is as yet no Possibility of borrowing any Money. I must therefore repeat the Request, that Congress would not think of drawing for any more money here, until they recieve certain Advices from me that there is some in Hand.

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

[signed] John Adams
RC in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, Misc. Papers, Reel No. 1, f. 216–218;) endorsed: “Letter Jany 14 1781 John Adams Read 19 Novr.” LbC (Adams Papers). Damage to the recipient's copy has resulted in the loss of several words, which have been supplied from the Letterbook copy. MS (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 13–15; endorsed: “Amsterdam Jany. 14. 1781.” The MS was the copy that JA intended Congress to receive first and it contains a passage that Thaxter did not include in the recipient's copy, for which see note 2.
1. For this “Excursion,” see JA's Diary entries for 11–14 Jan. (Diary and Autobiography, 2:451–455). In the entry of 14 Jan., JA laid out many of the concerns about Dutch indecisiveness that this paragraph expresses and attributed the fear that the Netherlands might conclude “a dishonourable Peace” to Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol, who had visited him that day.
2. At this point in the MS, JA continued “which leaves but Seven days for the Memorial to go from the Hague to Petersbourg.” His confusion was owing to the old style dates given for the letter from St. Petersburg and for the signing of the convention. The new style equivalents are 30 Dec. 1780 and 3 Jan. 1781.
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.