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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 12

Docno: ADMS-06-12-02-0088

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Hanson, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Date: 1781-12-14

To the President of Congress

[salute] Sir

The first public Body, which has proposed a Connection with the United States, is the quarter of Oostergo, in the Province of Friesland. The Proposition is in these words:
“Every impartial Patriot has a long time percieved, that in the direction of affairs relative to this War with England, there has been manifested an inconcievable Lukewarmness and Sloth: but they discover themselves still more, at this moment, by the little Inclination which in general the Regencies of the Belgic Provinces testify to commence a Treaty of Commerce and Friendship with the new Republick of the thirteen United States of North America; and to contract Engagements, at least during the Continuance of this common War, with the Crowns of France and Spain. Nevertheless, the Necessity of those measures appears clearly, since, according to our Judgments, nothing was more natural, nor more conformable to sound Policy, founded upon the Laws of Nature the most precise, than that this Republick, immediately after the formal declaration of War by the English (not being yet able to do any thing by military Exploits, not being in a state of defence sufficiently respectable to dare, at Sea, to oppose one Fleet or Squadron to our perfidious Enemy) should have commenced by acknowledging by a public Declaration, the Independence of North America. This would have been from that time, the greatest step to the humiliation of England, and our own Re-establishment, and by this measure, the Republick would have proved her firm Resolution to act with Vigor. Every one of our Inhabitants, all Europe who have their Eyes fixed upon Us, the whole World, expected, with just Reason, this Measure from the Republick. It is true that before the formal Declaration of War by England, one might perhaps have alledged some plausible Reasons, to justify in some degree the backwardness in this great and interesting Affair. But, as at present Great Britain is no longer our secret but declared Enemy, which dissolves all the Connections between the two Nations; and as it is the duty not only of all the Regencies, but also of all the Citizens of this Republick, to reduce, by all imaginable Annoyances, this Enemy so unjust to Reason, and to force him, if possible, to conclude an honorable Peace; why should We hesitate any longer to strike, by this Measure so reasonable, the most sensible blow to the common Enemy? Will not this delay occa• { 132 } sion a Suspicion, that We prefer the Interest of our Enemy, to that of our Country? North America, so sensibly offended by the refusal of her offer; France and Spain, in the midst of a War supported with Activity, must they not regard Us as the secret friends and favourers of their and our common Enemy? Have they not Reason to conclude from it, that our Inaction ought to be less attributed to our Weakness, than to our Affection for England? Will not this opinion destroy all Confidence in our Nation heretofor so renowned in this Respect? And our Allies, at this time natural, must they not imagine, that it is better to have in Us declared Enemies, than pretended Friends; and shall We not be involved in a ruinous War, which We might have rendered advantageous, if it had been well directed? While, on the other hand, it is evident, that by a new Connection with the States of North America, by Engagements at least during this War with France and Spain, We shall obtain not only the Confidence of these formidable Powers, instead of their Distrust, but by this means We shall moreover place our Colonies in safety against every Insult: We shall have a well grounded hope of recovering, with the aid of the allied Powers, our lost possessions, if the English should make themselves Masters of them, and our Commerce, at present neglected, and so shamefully pillaged, would reassume a new Vigor; considering that in such Case, as it is manifestly proved by solid Reasons, this Republick would derive from this Commerce the most signal Advantages. But, since our Interest excites Us forcibly to act in concert with the Enemies of our Enemy; since the thirteen United States of North America invite Us to it long ago; since France appears inclined to concert her military Operations with ours, altho’ this Power has infinitely less Interest to ally itself with Us, whose Weakness manifests itself in so palpable a manner, than We are to form an Alliance the most respectable in the Universe: it is indubitably the Duty of every Regency to promote it with all its Forces, and with all the Celerity imaginable. To this effect, We have thought it our Duty to lay it before your Noble Mightinesses, in the firm persuasion, that the Zeal of your Noble Mightinesses will be as earnest as ours, to concur to the accomplishment of this point, which is for Us of the greatest Importance; that consequently your Noble Mightinesses will not delay to co-operate with Us, that upon this important Object there be made to their High Mightinesses a Proposition so vigorous, that it may have the desired success: and that this affair, of an Importance beyond all Expression for our common Country, may be resolved and de• { 133 } cided by unanimous suffrages, and in preference to every particular Interest.”1
Mr. Vander Capellen de Marsh was the first Individual, who ventured to propose in public a Treaty with the United States,2 and the Quarter of Oostergo the first public Body: this indeed is but a part of one branch of the Sovereignty. But these Motions will be honored by Posterity. The whole Republic must follow. It is necessitated to it by a Mechanism, as certain as Clock Work: but its Operations are and will be studiously and zealously slow. It will be a long time before the Measure can be compleated.

[salute] I have the honor 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. 430–433); endorsed: “Letter 14 Decr. 1781 John Adams Read 18 March 1782.” For Congress’ action of 26 March regarding this letter, see JCC, 22:150–151.
1. The provincial states of Friesland was composed of 4 chambers or quarters: Oostergo of 11 districts, Westergo of 9 districts, Sevenwouden of 10 districts, and a fourth chamber composed of the deputies from the province’s 11 cities (to the president of Congress, 24 July, Adams Papers). JA’s source for the English text of Oostergo’s proposal was likely a French translation appearing in a Dutch newspaper. When he printed the proposal in the Gazette de Leyde of 7 Dec., Jean Luzac indicated that Westergo and Sevenwouden thought that the recognition of American independence posed too many difficulties at present, but had approved the remainder of Oostergo’s recommendation. Friesland voted on 26 Feb. 1782 to recognize the United States and thereby became the first province to do so; see JA to Robert R. Livingston, 27 Feb., below. JA included the English text of Oostergo’s proposal given in this letter, virtually without change, in A Collection of State-Papers, 1782, p. 17–20.
2. For an excerpt from Robert Jasper van der Capellen van de Marsch’s address, see JA to the president of Congress, 1 Nov., above.

Docno: ADMS-06-12-02-0089

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Dana, Francis
Date: 1781-12-14

To Francis Dana

[salute] My dear Sir

This day was brought me, your kind favour of August 28th. the first Line I have received from you, Since We parted. A Line from my dear Son, aug. 21. O.S. which I recd 3 days ago, was the first from him.1
The publick News from America, you have before now. It is grand and I congratulate you upon it, with a gratefull Heart. Our allies have this year adopted a System, which you and I have long prayed for, and have cause to be thankfull for its tryumphant Success.
Soon after my Return from Paris, I was Seized with a malignant nervous Fever, which well nigh cost me a Life. The consequences of it are not yet gone off. Still weak and lame, I am however better, but { 134 } almost incapable of that attention to Business which is necessary. Your son Charles2 Sailed with Gillon, put into Corunna, went from thence to Bilbao, by Water, and is about Sailing in the Cicero, with Major Jackson for home. Mr Thaxter has escaped, with a very Slight touch of a fever.3 So much for the Family.
I have lately received from ||Congress||4 a new Commission and Instructions to this Republick, to propose a tripple or quadruple alliance, with the Consent and approbation of ||the French Court||. This measure pleases me extreamly, and nothing could be better timed, but I must beg you to conceal it. I have received a new Commission for Peace in which ||John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, John Jay||, and Mr Jefferson, are the Ministers. I have recd also a Revocation of my Commission to make a Treaty of Commerce with ||Great Britain||. These last novelties, I Suppose, would nettle Some Mens Feelings, but I am glad of them. They have removed the cause of Envy, I had like to have Said but I fear I must retract that, Since ||John Adams|| Stands before ||Benjamin Franklin|| in the Commission. You can easily guess from what quarter this whole System comes. They have been obliged to adopt our Systems of War and Politicks in order to gain Influence enough, by means of them to lessen us. But I will consent upon these Terms to be diminished down to the Size of a Lillipution, or of an Animalcule in Pepper Water. There is no present Prospect of Peace, or Negotiation for it, and I confess I never expect to be called to act in Consequence of any of these Commissions about Peace, and therefore may be the more indifferent. When I was at Paris the articles of the mediating Courts were given me, and my Sentiments desired which I gave in detail, in a Correspondence which ||Congress|| has received from me, in two different Ways, So that they will have no Expectations of a Congress at Vienna unless the late Cornwallization Should excite them anew. In what Light does Nerone Neronior appear, by his last Speech, and by his answers to the addresses of both Houses in consequence of it! Clapping his Hands to his Hounds and Mastiffs, to persevere in worrying the innocent, although he must know they have nothing to hope for but death.5
This Evening was brought me, your dispatches to ||Congress|| of 4/15 of sept. with all the Papers inclosed in very good order.6 I Shall Send them by Dr Dexter by the Way of France, as there is no prospect of a Conveyance from hence Sooner. I am exceedingly pleased with this Correspondence, and hope that you Still harmonize, with your noble Correspondent. I am afraid he is too right in his Conjec• { 135 } tures, but am happy to find that your Sentiments upon the articles, were the Same, which I had expressed in my Letters to the C. de. V. upon the Subject. The articles however are not Sufficiently explicit. You have before now Seen the answers ||France and Spain|| to ||Russia and Austria||. Pray Send me Copies of them, if you can obtain them. I was told the Substance, but have no Copies. I was happy to find ||France, Spain, and America|| So well agreed in Sentiments.
I am very glad to find you can make any use of your Ward. I leave to your Judgment every Thing concerning him. Make him write to me, every Week by the Post.7 I am pleased with his observations in his Travels and with his cautious Prudence in his Letters.
We must have Patience, and must humour our Allies as much as possible consistent with our other Duties. I See no near Prospect of your being recd, any more than myself. But if, without being recd, we can gain and communicate Information We Shall answer a good End. I am at present apparently and I believe really upon good terms with the D. de la V. and the Miffs at Versailles and Passy Seem to be wearing away.
Let me intreat you to write me as often as possible. Our Country by all accounts is in great Spirits, Paper Money wholly stopped, every thing conducted in silver. Trade flourishing, although many Privateers and Merchant Vessells taken. Crops the finest ever known. G. B. has not lost less than 20,000 Men, the last twelve months in America. They will not be able to send 10. but if they could send 20, they would only give opportunities for more Cornwallizations and Burgoinizations.

[salute] With every Sentiment of affection and Esteam, your obliged Frid & sert

[signed] no matter for the name
P.S. Decr. 15. To day Mr S. arrived with your other Letters.8 I shall take the best care and shall answer you soon. I am still more happy to find you Still patient and in good Spirits. We shall do very well. I think you may expect some good News from me, eer long.
RC (MHi:Dana Family Papers); endorsed: “Mr: Jno: Adams’s Letter Dated Decr: 14th. 1781 Recd. Decr: 30th.—O Stile Answerd Jany: 2/13th. 1782.” and “Answd: Decr: 31./Jany. 11 1781,2.” LbC (Adams Papers).
1. Dana’s letter was of [8 Sept. N.S.] vol. 11:478–482. JQA’s was of [1 Sept. N.S.]. JA replied to that letter on 14 Dec.Adams Family Correspondence, 4:206–207, 263).
2. CA. For Dana’s previous references to CA as “mon fils,” see vol. 10:60, 81, 138; see also his letter of 17 Dec. to JA, below.
3. Thaxter’s good fortune lasted until the end of May 1782 when he became severely ill, probably with malaria (from Nicolaas & { 136 } Jacob van Staphorst, 22 May, Adams Papers; to Benjamin Franklin, 24 May, to Wilhem & Jan Willink, Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst, and De la Lande & Fynje, 24 May, both LbC’s, Adams Papers.
4. This is JA’s first use of the code that Dana likely enclosed with his letter of [8 Sept.] (vol. 11:478–482). Dana began using the code in his letter of 17 Dec., below.
5. That is, George III was more like Nero than Nero himself. In his speech at the opening of the new session of Parliament on 27 Nov., George III lamented that the war continued, “prolonged by that restless ambition which first excited our enemies to commence it.” But, he noted, “no endeavours have been wanting on my part to extinguish that spirit of rebellion which our enemies have found means to foment and maintain in the colonies, . . . but the late misfortune in that quarter calls loudly for your firm concurrence and assistance, to frustrate the designs of our enemies, equally prejudicial to the real interests of America and to those of Great Britain.” The House of Commons, in their reply, remained “fully persuaded, that the principal view of the confederacy of our enemies, was to foment and maintain the rebellion in North America; . . . but your Majesty may rely on our steady assistance to second your Majesty’s endeavours to defeat the dangerous designs of our enemies, equally prejudicial to the real interests of America and to those of Great Britain” (Parliamentary Hist., 22:634–751).
6. With his letter to the president of Congress of 15 Sept. (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:708–714), Dana enclosed copies of his correspondence with the French minister at St. Petersburg, the Marquis de Vérac, notably Vérac’s replies of 2 and 12 Sept. to Dana’s letters of 1 and 4 Sept. (same, 4:684–685, 705–707, 683–684, 695–699). Vérac cautioned Dana against seeking to execute his mission to obtain Russian recognition of the United States because of its certain failure. He also revealed France’s acquiescence in the conditions set by Austria and Russia for U.S. participation in the peace conference under their mediation, namely that the Americans would be present as colonists, negotiating separately for the restoration of peace with Great Britain. Vérac’s letters, copies of which are in the Adams Papers, confirmed JA’s views of French policy and the futility of the Austro-Russian mediation. See also Dana to JA, [8 Sept.]8 Sept. (vol. 11:478–482); and, for JA’s views on American acceptance of the Austro-Russian mediation, see his July 1781 correspondence with Vergennes, also in vol. 11.
7. In the Letterbook is the canceled passage: “if you can employ him in Copying, for you, I am very willing he should have a private Master to teach him any Thing, you think proper never forgetting Latin Greek and Mathematicks.”
8. Stephen Sayre brought Dana’s letter of 22 Oct., above, and duplicates to Congress, but he also carried JQA’s letters to AA and JA of 23 Oct. (Adams Family Correspondence, 4:233–235).
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.