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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0056-0002

Author: Dumas, Charles William Frederic
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-01-28

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

[salute] Honoured & dear Sir

I am honored with your letter of the 25th, the content of which gave me much pleasure, not only because you agreed to send my letters on to Congress from time to time, but also because it was filled with agreeable conversation about interesting matters.
We must wait for confirmation about the taking of the British East Indiamen off the Cape of Good Hope by the French squadron, before it can be believed.
It is apparent that the manifesto will not appear here until after St. Petersburg responds to the courier dispatched from here on the 29th of December to inform the Empress about the King of England's manifesto and to request her assistance. While no great evil has occurred because this piece has not yet appeared, neither has much good, and one hopes that things will change for the better.
The decision of the court of Holland cannot take place until around mid-February and no one is troubled by this in the least. Nevertheless, I agree with you that all of these delays are bad and will be regretted.
Your reflections on the conduct of the new allies, on the one side, and of England, on the other, greatly pleased a member of the States General, to whom I gave an extract in French since he cannot understand English.
I will not lose sight for an instant of the two matters you spoke of to me, sir, and may it please God that I may invite you to continue to do so from now on. We must watch the turn of events, first, between this republic and England, and second, between the same and Russia, etc. I believe that you decided on the first of these points, that England will not concede anything regarding the republic. As for the second point, I agree with you that the Empress cannot draw back but instead will openly take the side of the republic, and consequently there will be war between her and England. In this case, and if this war were to erupt, it would be advisable to act closely with the Empress as the head of the alliance to gain recognition for America from all four powers simultaneously. My opinion is that this would not be difficult as far as the Empress is concerned. But since there remains a possibility that matters can be reconciled so that this republic, together with the three northern crowns, remains neutral, such an initiative can not be { 85 } undertaken. Let us wait for the arrival of the next courier from St. Petersburg and, then, according to the turn of events, perhaps I will be able to arrange an interview, in a neutral place, that could advance things further.
The second point depends largely on the first, and the facility to achieve it would be infinitely greater if a treaty of Amity, etc., existed.
I am with the most sincere respect and attachment, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant,
[signed] Dumas

Docno: ADMS-06-11-02-0057

Author: Lee, William
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-01-28

From William Lee

[salute] Dear Sir

I have received your favor of the 20th. instant which disappointed me a good deal, for I had received much pleasure from being told by Mr. Searle that you were fully vested with the same powers that Mr. Laurens had, which occasion'd my writing what I did in my last.1 I must confess that I can't be perfectly easy, however favorable things may appear, while the War continues and the Independence of America is not acknowleged by more than one power in Europe. After open War is raging, I can't see what greater mischeif any of the powers of Europe can apprehend from the resentment of G. Britain.
The general prospect of Affairs in Ama. is favorable, from the last advices, and promise more important intelligence soon; The principal embarrassment of Congress seems to be the want of money, which cou'd be easily supply'd where you are, if there are powers to borrow and they are willing to lend. I send you a Crisis which perhaps you may think worth being translated and published in Holland.2
The Dutch must use more activity than they have hitherto done and depend more on their own strength and exertions, than on that of their neighbors; or they will certainly suffer a great deal; for I conceive, the guarantie of every power in Europe will hardly make them amends for the immense loss their Commerce may sustain, and the plunder &c. of their Asiatic and W. India possessions; all which, they may easily prevent, by a timely and proper exertion of their own strength.
You have no doubt seen the Treaty of the armed neutrality, are the contracting powers bound by it to enter into a War with England in favor of Holland?3
There is no reason that I know of, for apprehending the Emperors interference in favor of England, yet it will be certainly wise and prudent in the Dutch to pay every attention to him and to watch { 86 } narrowly every thing that passes in that quarter, which is the only one that has not, or will not declare openly against G. B.
The winds have for some days been fair and yet we have no English Mail here since that of the 12th.
I have the Honor to be with great Esteem Dr. Sir Your most Obliged &c. Adieu.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Mr. W. Lee 28th. Jany. 1781.”
1. JA's reply of 20 Jan. to Lee's letter of the 17th Jan., above, has not been found. JA's commission as minister to the Netherlands authorizing him to conclude a treaty of amity and commerce did not arrive until mid-March (to the president of Congress, 19 March, below).
2. Probably Thomas Paine's The Crisis Extraordinary, which was published in Philadelphia in Oct. 1780 (Evans, No. 16918). JA sent the copy he received from Lee to John Thaxter who, in a letter of 1 Feb., indicated that he had submitted it to Jean Luzac for publication (Adams Family Correspondence, 4:73); see also Thaxter's letter of 7 Feb., below. No Dutch or French translation published in the Netherlands has been found.
3. That, of course, was the crux of the problem facing the Netherlands. The armed neutrality, to which it formally acceded by virtue of the convention signed at St. Petersburg on 4 Jan., provided for reprisals in the event of belligerent depredations on the commerce of the neutral nations comprising the League of Armed Neutrality. By the date of its accession, however, the Netherlands was no longer a neutral power, but rather a belligerent, and for Russia, Sweden, or Denmark to go to its aid meant war with England, something that none of those powers was willing to risk. For JA's comments on the armed neutrality and the implications of the Dutch accession to it, see his letters of 25 Nov., 25 Dec. and 28 Dec. 1780 to the president of Congress (vol. 10:371–372, 433–435, 442–443).
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.