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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 12

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).

Docno: ADMS-06-12-02-0090

Author: Franklin, Benjamin
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1781-12-14

From Benjamin Franklin

[salute] Sir

I duly received your Excellency’s Favour of the 1st. and 6th Instant.
I wrote to you by Mr Barclay,1 who went from hence some Days since, and I hope is with you by this time, and that he will with your Assistance be able to settle every thing relating to the Goods. I have receiv’d a long Letter from Messrs. Neufville, the Purport of which is, that they are willing for their Parts to deliver the Goods to you but that they cannot controul the other Owners of the Ships, who have a Right by the Laws and Customs of Holland to detain the Goods for the Damage done by Capt. Gillon’s refusing to sign the { 137 } Charterparties, &c and hoping that I will not on Acct of the Conduct of the other Owners, refuse to pay the Bills, especially as such a Refusal would be derogatory to the Honour of the United States &c.2 I may be wrong, but my present Thoughts on the Subject are, that if by the Laws of Holland our Goods may be detained in the Hands of the Ship Owners for the Fault of Mr Gillon, by the same Laws the Property of one of those Owners may be detained in our Hands for the Fault of his Partners: And that it as much concerns the Honour of Holland that our Goods should be delivered to us, as it concerns the Honour of America that we should pay for them when delivered. And I farther think that if a Merchant in Holland happening to have of my Property in his Possession may by the Laws of his Country detain the same till I pay him whatever he shall please to demand as Indemnification for an Injury suppos’d to be done him by some other Person Holland is by no means a safe Country for Americans to trade with, nor a Dutch Merchant a safe Depository for the Property of a Stranger, or to be the Consignee of Merchandise sent into his Country.
You desire a Copy of the Terms on which he offer’d to borrow Money for us. At present I only send you an Extract, of the principal Points, much of the writing being Matter of Form.3 The first Proposition is, “That for the Security of this Loan of Two Million Gilders, Holland Currency, we engaged and hypothequed (his Words) to said Mr John de Neufville and Son of Amsterdam, or their Representatives, as we do engage and hypotheque to them in the Name of the whole Congress of the Thirteen United States of North America, generally all the Lands, Cities, Territories and Possessions of the said Thirteen States, so which they have and possess at present, as which they may have or possess in the future, with all their Income, Revenue and Produce, until the entire Payment of this Loan and the Interests due thereon.”
My Observation upon this was, that it demanded an extravagant Security for a trifling Sum; that it was lending little more than a Gilder on each Inhabitant’s Estate, and that it was absurd to require a Mortgage on my Estate for the Loan of a Gilder. He answer’d that this was usual in all Loans made in Holland to foreign States, and that the Money could not otherwise be obtain’d.
The Second Proposition was (verbatim, as the first) “That out of the Produces again through all those Thirteen States of America shall be send over and shipp’d to Europe, and chiefly or as much as possible to the Port of Amsterdam during the ten Years of this Loan { 138 } the Double of one Tenth Part of this Loan, to the Value of Four hundred Thousand Gilders, which as far as is possible they’l come to Amsterdam, shall be sold there by Mr. John de Neufville and Son, and what goes to other Ports by their Correspondents, and the Money kept at their Disposal for the Use of Congress at least during the first five Years; and during the last five Years of this Loan One half of this Money is to serve to decharge every year one Tenth Part of the Money borrowed, engaging that before the End of the Tenth Year there will be remitted in such a Manner, and left in Hands of said Mr John de Neufville & Son of Amsterdam, a sufficious Sum of Money to decharge this whole Loan with the Interest due thereon.”
You will observe that this Article is obscurely express’d; I was oblig’d to demand Eclaircissements in Conversation. The Conversation was also difficult to understand; Mr de N’s English not being then of the clearest. But from the whole after much Discourse, I gather’d, that we were to send over every Year for the first Five Years, in Tobacco, Rice, Indigo, Codfish, Oil, &c &c. the Value of 400,000 Gilders, to be sold by Messrs J. de N. & Son, for our Use, on a Commission, of Five per Cent; and that the Money was to remain in their Hands to enable them to pay off in the last 5 Years the Principal of the Loan, tho’ one half of it, was to remain in their Hands till the End of the Term. A subsequent Article (the 6th) also provided that 100,000 Gilders more should be annually sent over in Produce to them, and sold, &c. to discharge the Interest.
My Objections were, That if we were able to purchase Produce, in valu Two Millions of Gilders to lodge in the Hands of Messrs de N. & Son, we might use that Sum in our Affairs at home, and should have no Occasion to borrow it in Holland. That if we were to buy up this Value of Produce with the Money borrowed, and to lodge it in the Hands of Those Gentlemen; it would be borrowing Money to give them the Use of it for a Number of Years without Interest, while we were paying Interest for it ourselves. One would think this Project if it could take, might be sufficiently profitable for these Gentlemen; but in another Paper part French part English, propos’d for me to sign, it was to be stipulated, that after exchanging for the new Promesses all those transacted by Messrs Fizeaux & Grand to the amount of 40 or 50,000 Guilders, which Exchange was to be made without Charge, “pour le Reste de cet Emprunt il leur (Messrs de N. & Fils) sera alloué, outre les Conditions d’Interet, &c. contenus dans les Termes y stipulées, 1 per Ct. d’Interet, savoir { 139 } 10 per Ct une seule fois sur les Sommes qu’ils negocieront; et en outre 2 per Ct. encore y compris toutes les Allouances ordinaires et extraordinaires fraix a faire, et toute Commission, sans qu’ils pourront jamais rien exiger de plus a ce Sujet.”
Very gracious Terms these! by which after Stopping a Tenth Part of the Sum borrowed, they would be content with two per Ct. upon the Rest to defray Charges.
Besides this, I was led to understand, that it would be very agreable to these Gentlemen, if in acknowledgment of their Zeal for our Cause and Great Service in procuring this Loan, they could be made by some Law of Congress the general Consignee of America, to receive and sell upon Commission by themselves and Correspond- ents in the different Ports and Nations, all the Produce of America that should be sent by our Merchants to Europe. On my remarking the Extravagance and Impossibility of this Proposition, it was modestly reduc’d to the following, wherein I am suppos’d to say and sign,
“Je veux bien encore, pour les engager (Messrs de N. & Fils) à suivre avec le même Zêle qu’ils y ont employé jusqu’ici (pour) les Interets de l’Amerique, appayer de mes Recommendations leur Solicitations auprés du Congrés, pour qu’il leur soit accordé pour la Suitte, le Titre de Commissioners for Trade and Navigation, and Treasurers of General Congress, and every private State of the Thirteen United States of North America, through the Seven United Provinces; dont il leur sera alloué les Commissions regulieres et usitées de Commerce, Payement, et Emprunt, tels que d’honnetes negociants pourront les passer, sans en pretendre jamais d’autre Appointement. Donné a Passy le &c.”
By this time I fancy your Excellency is satisfy’d, that I was wrong in supposing J. de Neufville as much a Jew as any in Jerusalem, since Jacob was not content with any per Cents, but took the whole of his Brother Esau’s Birthright; and his Posterity did the same by the Cananites, and cut their Throats into the Bargain, which in my Conscience I do not think Mr. J. de Neufville has the least Inclination to do by us,—while he can get any thing by our being alive.
Dft (PPAmP:Franklin Papers).
1. From Franklin, 6 Dec., above.
2. Franklin is paraphrasing passages from Neufville & Fils’ letter of 7 Dec. (Franklin, Papers, 36:212–216).
3. Compare the terms given here by Franklin with those in the draft loan contract that Jean de Neufville & Fils offered to JA on 22 Jan. (vol. 11:72–75).
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, 2014.