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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 12

Docno: ADMS-06-12-02-0058

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Van der Kemp, François Adriaan
Date: 1781-11-27

To François Adriaan Van der Kemp

[salute] Sir

I am this moment honoured with your Letter of Yesterdays date and I thank you for your kind Congratulations, on the News from America. May Great Britain ever Send to America, while she continues to send any, only such brave, able, active and enterprizing Generals as Cornwallis and Burgoine. Every Such General will consume them an Army of Ten or Fifteen Thousand Men, every Campain, without destroying one half the Number of Americans, which is annually wasted by Camp Distempers, when they lie in idle Quarters, watching the Motions of an Howe, shut up in Boston, New York or Philadelphia. I consider, the late defence of Fort Griswald in New London, by an handfull of Militia, as a more determined Proof of the Spirit of Freemen, than even the Surrender of Burgoine or Cornwallis. It Shews, the Temper of Resistance, which the English have to encounter, among the Inhabitants at large of those Parts of the Continent from whence they have been long Since disgracefully driven.1
I thank you Sir for your kind Prayers for my Health, which is not yet perfectly re-established, but is on the mending hand.
I Should be extreamly Sorry if the Baron Van der Capellen de Marsch Should be exposed to any Inconvenience in consequence of his patriotick Sentiments expressed with so much manly firmness, and perswasive Eloquence. Perhaps his System as well as that of his Relation the Baron Van der Capellen de Poll, may come more into Fashion in the Course of a little time. But it is necessary for Some Individual in critical Seasons, to run great Risques Submit to great Sacrifice[s] and endure Severe Sufferings. National Characters are not formed nor great publick Blessings, especially that greatest of all, Liberty but by the Patience and Steadiness of Individuals. A Man must be possessed of Benevolence to his fellow Men, Stronger than any of his Passions, Stronger than death, before he is qualified to stem the Torrent of Venality, and Servility, which opposes the Introduction of Liberty in Some Countries, and which tends to expell it from others.
I Shall be very happy to see the Publication you propose, as well as the American War lamented.
I Shall be very happy to see you at Amsterdam, and the Sooner the better, that I may have an opportunity, to express in Person the { 92 } high Esteem and Respect for so able and intrepid an Advocate for Liberty, which is entertained, by your most obedient servant
[signed] J. Adams
RC (PHi:John Adams Letters).
1. On 6 Sept. a force of 1,700 men under Gen. Benedict Arnold landed at New London, Conn., with the intention of seizing military supplies and destroying the towns of New London and Groton. The troops formed into three units. The first advanced against Fort Trumbull, the weaker of the two forts guarding the town, and achieved its objective against little resistance. The second, under Arnold, proceeded into New London. The third, commanded by Lt. Col. Eyre, attacked Fort Griswold. The fort’s garrison of 165 state troops and militia fought off two attacks, but, unable to withstand a third, was forced to surrender. The Loyalists and Hessians that made up the assault force then retaliated for their own casualties by killing a significant portion of the surviving garrison (Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, ed. John Richard Alden, 2 vols., N.Y., 1952, 2:626–628). Accounts of the defense of Fort Griswold appeared in the Gazette de Leyde of 16 Nov.; see also Isaac Smith Sr. to JA, 13 Sept. (Adams Family Correspondence, 4:211–212).

Docno: ADMS-06-12-02-0059

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Jay, John
Date: 1781-11-28

To John Jay

[salute] Sir

I had the Honour to write you, on the 26 instant by the Post, a Conveyance which I am determined to try, untill I am certainly informed of its Infidelity, in which Case, I will ask the favour of the French or Spanish Ambassador, to inclose my dispatches.
I received by the last Post, a Duplicate of Dispatches from Congress the originals of which I received Sometime ago. I presume you have recd the Same from Congress, or from Passy, but, if otherwise, I will inclose in a future Letter, a Commission and Instructions, for assisting at the Conferences for Peace, at Vienna or else where, whenever they may take Place.1 In this Commission, Congress have added, Mr Franklin, Mr Laurens, your Excellency and Mr Jefferson, a measure which has taken off, my mind a Load, which if I had ever at anytime expected I should be called to sustain alone, would have been too heavy for my forces.
The Captivity of Cornwallis and his army, is the most masterly Measure, both in the Conception and the Execution of it, which has been taken this War. When France and Spain shall consider, the certain success, which will ever, attend them, while they maintain a naval Superiority in the West Indies and on the Coast of North America, it is to be hoped, they will never depart from that Policy. Many here, are of opinion, that this Event will bring Peace, but I am not of that Mind, although it is very true there are distractions in { 93 } the British Cabinet, a formidable Faction against Ld. G. Germaine and it is said the Bedford Party are determined to move for Peace.
The Rage of the Nation is still too violent. I hope, however, that Minorca and Gibraltar, will not be long after York and Gloucester, in their surrender, and then perhaps, when the English shall see, that all the forces of France and Spain are at Liberty to act against their Possessions in the East and West Indies they may begin to confess they have gone too far. There is great Reason to fear, that their sulky obstinacy, will hold out, untill all their dominions beyond Seas are gone. I know not whether We need regret even such an Event.
It is entertaining to see the Arts with which they amuse the Credulity of the Nation where I am. The Word Peace is the Charm, that dissolves all their Resentment and Resolution, and there is no Tale, too absurd, or too gross to obtain immediate Relief, if it tends to that End. Our late Tryumphs, nevertheless have had an Effect here. I have recd several Visits of Congratulation, in Consequence of them, from Persons of Consequence from whom I did not expect them. But there are invisible Fairies, who disconcert in the Night, all the operations of the Patriot in the Day.
There will probably be a Proposal of a tripple Alliance, between France Holland and America. If Spain would join and make it quadruple it would be so much the better.
General Greens last Action in south Carolina, in Consequence of which that state and Georgia, have both reestablished their Governments, is quite as glorious for the American Arms as the Capture of Cornwallis. The Action was sustained, even by the Militia with a noble Constancy. The Victory was compleat, and the English lost 1200 Men.

[salute] With the great Esteem and Respect, I have the Honour to be, sir your most obedient and humble servant

[signed] J. Adams
RC (NNC:John Jay Papers); endorsed: “John Adams 28 Nov 1781 Rcd 14 Decr 1781 and 15 Do.”
1. These were the joint commissions to accept the Austro-Russian mediation and to negotiate an Anglo-American peace and the instructions for the peace negotiations, all dated 15 June (vol. 11:368–377).
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.