Papers of John Adams, volume 11

From C. W. F. Dumas

To the President of Congress

C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation, 12 January 1781 Dumas, Charles William Frederic JA


C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation, 12 January 1781 Dumas, Charles William Frederic Adams, John
C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation
Sir 12 January 1781 1

This is not the expected post, but rather a letter dated the 19th of last December O.S. that has arrived from the plenipotentiaries at St. Petersburg, announcing that the Empress was satisfied with the situation; that she has seen the last two British memorials presented by Sir Joseph Yorke to Their High Mightinesses2 and is more indignant than surprised by them; that the convention would be signed on the 23rd O.S.,3 that is to say four days after the plenipotentiaries assumed the character of ambassadors extraordinary; and that another courier would be sent immediately with the signed convention. I am expecting the courier any moment now; then the manifesto can be published.4 This small delay is nothing but a formality.5 Meantime, it was resolved yesterday to distribute letters of marque to the privateers (and also orders to naval vessels) to seize all that they can from the British. This was done today.6 You can rely on the accuracy and truth of what I have the honor to tell you, as well as on my punctuality in informing you officially of what will follow. In turn I will rely on you to inform Congress that I was the source of the information.

I hope that you made the trip to Amsterdam in perfect health.7 Please accept the regards of my wife and daughter, and the assurances of respect and sincere attachment with which I remain always, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant,


The decision by the court of Holland, concerning the conduct of Amsterdam, will not take place until mid-February; but one knows in advance it will be good.8

Respond, if you please, to tell me if this letter reached you, and if it was in good condition.

RC (Adams Papers); filmed at 1780–1781 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 353).


This date derives from Dumas' Letter-book copy of a letter to Benjamin Franklin of 12 Jan. that was followed by a note: “De meme a Mrs. Adams, Searle, & Carmichael.” (Algemeen Rijksarchief, Eerste Afdeling, Dumas Coll., Inventaris 1, f. 394); and Dumas' serial letter to Congress of 19 Dec. 1780 – 23 Jan. 1781 in which the portion dated 12 Jan. contains much the same information as the letter to JA (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 4:199–201). Moreover, in his letter of 14 Jan. to the president of Congress, below, JA describes Dumas' letter as being of “last Friday,” or 12 Jan., and indicates in his reply to Dumas of 14 Jan., below, that he received it on the 13th.


These were Sir Joseph Yorke's memorials to their High Mightinesses of 10 Nov. and 12 Dec. 1780, for which see JA's letters of 16 Nov. and 18 Dec. to the president of Congress (vol. 10:350–353, 419–421).


In fact, the acts by which the Netherlands 44acceded to the armed neutrality were signed on 24 Dec. 1780 4 Jan. 1781 N.S. (Scott, ed., Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800 , p. 346–350).


The States General's manifesto responding to Britain's of 20 Dec. 1780 did not appear until 12 March (same, p. 380–390).


This sentence was interlined.


For two of the placards or edicts issued on 12 Jan., see JA's letter of 18 Jan. to the president of Congress, calendared below; for more information regarding the actions of the States General on 12 Jan., see the first volume of John Almon's Remembrancer for 1781, p. 119–122.


Sometime after 5 Jan., the date of the last letter he wrote from Amsterdam, JA set out to visit Rotterdam, The Hague, Leyden, and Haarlem, the leading cities of the province of Holland. In his Diary, JA wrote that on 11 Jan. he traveled from The Hague to Leyden, where he visited JQA, CA, Benjamin Waterhouse, John Thaxter, and others. He returned to Amsterdam, by way of Haarlem, on 13 January. In his letter of 14 Jan. to the president of Congress, below, as well as his Diary entry of the same date, JA described the journey and the conclusions that he derived therefrom (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:451–455).


Dumas refers to the question of the culpability of Amsterdam and its pensionary, Engelbert François van Berckel, in negotiating the Lee-Neufville treaty of 1778, which Britain used as a justification for war with the Netherlands. The States General referred the matter to the provincial court of Holland, which did not rule until March. Amsterdam's conduct then was found to be criminal, while van Berckel was acquitted but stripped of political power (Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution , p. 168; Schulte Nordholt, Dutch Republic and Amer. Independence , p. 157).