A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0054

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-01-24

From Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

I have had the Honour of receiving your Excellencys Letter of the 20th. Instant, I receivd it with the greatest pleasure for I think it marks, that your Excellency is in Spirits, may You ever continue so, it will be a good Sign to me, that our Country is well.
I this day receivd a Letter from Madrid dated the 8th.1 There are complaints in it of not hearing from Holland or France; the Abbé Hussey2 was expected that night or the next morning with fresh Propositions and Intelligence, for He is a double Spy. His and his Coadjutors Motions will be Watchd.
There is Money enough to pay the Bills already drawn by Congress or at least accepted—the Blockade of Gibraltar continues with tolerable Success—the fleet at Cadiz gains weekly an Accession of Strength—the Court appeard Satisfied with the News of the Dutch War.
The Mail that sailed from England the 16th. is taken, so that we have no News.
A Remonstrance has been made from Hence against the detaining the Goods of Emperors Subjects taken in dutch bottoms, and the Court of London has orderd them to be restored. It is reported, that Sr. J. Y[orke]. was last week at Ostend on his way to England. I will inquire about it. I fancy He will be made a Lord and sent to Compliment the Emperor. It is understood at Madrid, that his Ministers favor England, and that there is some Negotiation going on between Vienna and London.
I am told that the Duke of Brunswic Wolfenbuttle is at his Command at Lille.3 To be sure He ought to be there, for it is a very important Post.
There is a Report, that a Portuguesse Indiaman is arrivd at Lisbon, which says the french have taken 10 or 12 English Indiamen and carried them to the Isle of Bourbon. We have reports to the English have taken four dutch ones.
Your Excellency has twice put to me a very important Question i.e. how shall we induce the Powers of Europe to acknowledge our Independency? I Know not the political Means, but the rational ones are obvious to me. That it is the only way to prevent England from domineering over the rest of Europe. That No Engagement, she may now make not to insult the World <depends on> will be Kept, if ever { 80 } She recovers Again the force of America; she will then plead the Law of Necessity which forced Her to make them as not binding; and the Laws of Convenience and Power to break them. Politically speaking She will be right and the Powers of Europe will have no pretence to complain if they are now such Idiots, as not to See the Consequences of her Success against America. What does She enter into this War for? Why has She almost exhausted herself? Why Has She plunged Herself into War with the House of Bourbon, to whom She is now ready to make any Sacrifices? Why has she irritated the Powers of the North? Why has She Attacked Holland? But that she Knows, what ever is sacrificed to these powers for Peace, will be easily regained, if She can again direct the force of powerful America. There is no Security therefore for the World, but that America should be Independant of England. All Europe is astonished at Her Boldness and is apt to judge from it That She has the means of extricating herself from the Difficulties, which She daily plunges herself in. They are amused and terrified by it but One ought to Know that the whole proceeds from her desperate Conditions and that it is Neck or Nothing with her, and whilst One sees, the Game she plays, One ought to meet her in his way. One ought to play the same dice with Her, and same bold Game, and she will be frightnd at the sum she stakes. The Powers ought to think or be taught to Know, that England <is> will be omnipotent with America and Nothing without it, and therefore that it is There Interest to Acknowledge its Independance, and that they ought to do it with one Concurrent Voice. The Day they do it, finishes the War. It gains what the several Powers want and secures them in the Possession of it for Ever, without that being done All is ineffectual. France Knows this and France can Bring it about; but she has perhaps some paltry Game to play; if she had not she would have done it before with these powers, or have done it herself by giving Effectual Assistance to America.
The Author of the Letters &c is named Rivalis.4 I will speak to him of this Subject.

[salute] I am with the greatest Sir Your Excellencys Most devoted & Obedient Humble Sert.

[signed] Edm. Jenings
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Jennings ansd 31. Jan 1781.”
1. This letter has not been found. It was likely from William Carmichael, with whom Jenings previously corresponded (vol. 10:182–183). Carmichael's letter of 4 Jan. to the Committee for Foreign Affairs touched on many of the same points Jenings referred to here (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:227– 228).
{ 81 }
2. For Thomas Hussey and his role, with Richard Cumberland, in negotiations between Britain and Spain, see vol. 9:361–362.
3. For William V's chief advisor and commander in chief of the Dutch army, Louis Ernst, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, see vols. 6:99; 9:96.
4. Dérival de Gomicourt.

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0055

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Dumas, Charles William Frederic
Date: 1781-01-25

To C. W. F. Dumas

[salute] Dear Sir

I have to acknowledge the Receipt of your Favours of the 15 and 24. the latter inclosing a Letter to Congress, which I will do myself the Honour to inclose with my first dispatches. This method will be very agreable to me, if you choose to continue it.
There are Bruits here, of a 74 gun ship with Six homeward bound East Indiamen taken from the English by some french Men of War near the Cape of good Hope. The Report comes from Lisbon: but merits confirmation.
I dont See or hear any Thing of the Manifesto yet, nor about another Thing, which gives me more Anxiety than any other, the determination of the Court of Justice of Holland, upon the Conduct of Amsterdam.
I have fixed my Eye upon that Court of Justice, because I think that the full Justification of the Regency of Amsterdam, ought to be inserted in the Manifesto. The British Manifesto cannot be answered without it. The World will never think the Republic in Earnest, untill this is done. Keeping it in Suspence, is considered as a design to keep open a Passage to retreat. It is treating, notre Ami,1 with great Indignity, and in some measure depriving the Publick of his Council and Assistance at a time, when it is most wanted.
It is Suffering the Spirit of the People to subside, and their Passions to cool, a matter of the last Importance, in War. “There is a Tide in the affairs of Men, which taken at the Ebb leads on to Fortune.”2
However, the Maxims of Government here are different, from most other Countries: and the nation itself, and its Rulers, must be the best Judges of its Interest, Duty and Policy.
My Mind has a long Habit, of looking forward and guessing what future Events will be the Consequence of those that are passed, and altho We are very short sighted, yet We can Sometimes reason upon Sure Principles and prophecy, with a good degree of Certainty. Upon this plan then what will be the Conduct of the neutral Union and what that of England? I cannot See but the neutral Confederacy must demand Restitution of all the Dutch Ships upon Pain of War. And { 82 } England must, unless she departs from every maxim that has governed her, not only throughout this Reign, but Several others, before it; unless she departs from the Character of the nation too, as well as the Maxims of the Court, refuse to restore the Dutch Ships. The Consequence will be Russia, Sweeden, Denmark Holland, France, Spain and America, all at War against England at once, a rare and curious Phenomenon to be Sure!
But what will be the Consequence of this? Peace? By no means.
The neutral Union, moving Slowly, and unused to War, at Sea, will depend upon Englands giving up, and will not exert themselves. England, whose Navy, has lived among flying Balls, for Sometime, will be alert and active, and do a great deal of Mischief, before her Ennemies are properly Arroused. I think, in the End, they will be arroused and the Consequence of it, will be, that England, will be ruined, and undergo a terrible Convulsion. Say, are these Reveries, wholly chimerical? You are Sensible that our Country America, has two objects in view, one is a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, at least, with this Republick: the other is a Loan of Money.
You will be so good as to keep these Points always in View, and inform me if you discover, any Disposition towards both or Either, in Persons capable of effecting it, or putting Things in a Train for that Purpose.
The Court is Supposed to be decided against America, but is this certain? It has had an Inclination towards England, but having got over that, why should it be against America? I am perswaded that nothing can be done without the Court.
Do you think it would be prudent in me, to endeavour to get introduced to one or more Persons in Power, the grand Pensionary of Holland, or any Members of the states General, in order to have Some Conversation upon American Affairs? Do you Suppose I should Succeed, if I were to attempt to obtain Such a Conference? If it is the Interest of the two Republicks, to connect themselves together, as you and I believe it to be, it would not be amiss to have these Interests explained mutually, and Objections, if there are any, considered and obviated.

[salute] I am Sir respectfully and affectionately yours.

[signed] John Adams
1. Engelbert François van Berckel, Pensionary of Amsterdam.
2. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, scene iii, lines 218–219. There the second line reads “which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”
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.