A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 4

This quoted document contained in document ADMS-01-04-02-0001-0107

[To William Heath]

[salute] Sir

I had the Honour of a Letter from you,6 by the French Frigate which { 157 } gave me the more pleasure, as no other Person in the Massachusetts thought proper to take any notice of me, by that Opportunity….I laid your Letter immediately before the People in Power here, and an Extract of it has crep'd into a Publication called Affaires de L'Angleterre et de L'Amerique.7
We received the day before Yesterday, a very handsome Ratification of the Treaty, which is extreamly pleasing to the Ministry, and will give fresh Vigour to their Operations, as Hostilities are already commenced.
Great Britain has before her a very chearing Prospect….Stripped of the best Branch of her Commerce, her Navy is like a girdled Tree. Without Soldiers, without Sailors, without Ships indeed in sufficient numbers and in suitable repair, without commerce, without Revenue, and without Allies, she has the united Forces of France, Spain and America to meet by Land and by Sea. She seems to be chiefly occupied at present with concerting Measures for the defence of the Kingdom, and is agitated with an apparent dread of another Conquest like that of William the Norman. France has an hundred Thousand Men in Normandie, Picardie and Brittany, and a Fleet compleatly ready to go out of Brest, if not already at Sea, greatly superiour to that of Keppell.—I mention Spain among the Ennemies of Britain, because, although she has not as yet made a Treaty with Us, yet I am well assured in my own mind, that she will have neither Inclination nor Ability to preserve a Neutrality, if a War is openly avowed between France and England as it very soon will be.
I am very easy in my own Mind, concerning the British Commissioners, because, after the Resolutions of Congress upon the Conciliatory Bills, which you sent me,8 which are admired and applauded all over Europe, and after an Unanimous Ratification of the Treaty with France, I am sure there can be nothing to fear from a Conference.
Britain has but one wise plan of Policy, which is as obvious, as it is prudent, and that is, instantly to make with America, such a Treaty as France has made. But she will not see it. She is yet too proud and vain, and the Consequences of her blindness must be, that instead of the dominant Power of Europe, which she has been but for a little while, { 158 } she will dwindle down into a Power of the second order: as Spain, which under Charles the fifth was the first Power in Europe, by a similar quarrell with her Provinces, weakened herself to such a degree as to fall down into the middle Class of Powers, and has never yet been able to regain her Ascendancy. This is the established order of Things, when a Nation has grown to such an height of Power as to become dangerous to Mankind, she never fails to loose her Wisdom, her Justice and her Moderation, and with these she never fails to loose her Power; which however returns again, if those Virtues return.
I shall be under great Obligations to you, Sir, if you will continue your favours by every opportunity. Your Newspapers, tho' badly printed, are very valuable here. I am with great respect &c.
[signed] John Adams

[addrLine] Hon. Major General Heath Boston.

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.