Papers of John Adams, volume 11

From Jean Luzac

To Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol

To Edmund Jenings, 20 January 1781 JA Jenings, Edmund To Edmund Jenings, 20 January 1781 Adams, John Jenings, Edmund
To Edmund Jenings
Amsterdam Jan. 20. 1780 i.e. 1781 Dear Sir

I have just received your Favour of the 18th., and thank you for the good News. I dont believe any Thing of the story of the French Fleet and Army, at Carolina, but the Tide is turned and the Torrent will soon flow in the south.

The Actions of Trenton, Bennington and Kings Mountain are enough to shew, the total Impractibility of subduing America or any Part of it. In times of the greatest Pannic and Consternation that it is possible for the English to Spread and in Places where the Inhabitants are fewest, and most Scatterd when the English have had the most brillant successes it has ever been in our Power to assemble Men enough to attack and carry an Advanced Post, or Party, and by this means check their Progress and turn the Current of the Stream.


In a Country of So many Mountains, Rivers and Forests, Three Thousand Men would be enough to ruin forty Thousand Invaders. They have nothing to do but retreat, and watch their opportunity to attack weak and exposed Posts or Partys one after another untill the whole are ruined.

There are certainly Some enlightened and Superiour Spirits in the Cabinet of Petersbourg. It cannot Surely be wholly owing to French Policy. I hear many French Gentlemen Say that Panin is wholly in the Interest of France. But I had rather consider him in the Interests of Wisdom and Humanity in general, disposed and able to Serve his Country, by promoting the Commercial and political Interests of Nations in general, which is the only Idea I have of a Patriot, or a great Politician. I hope the neutral Powers have extended their Ideas as far as America, for that Country is certainly the great Wheel in the political Machine of the World at present. What Measures shall We take to persuade them all that it is their Interest and Duty to acknowledge Us independent?

I have Seen Joly's Letters. He Seems to have Some Ideas, but he must be not only a maker of Memoirs and Projects, but a madman. I think Lord Stormont gave him more than he was worth.1

Pray how came Sir Jos. Y. by the Character of one of the greatest Ministers of the Age? What great Stroke has he Struck in 30 years? What great Thing has he done? He has discovered, of late years that he understood his Court, perfectly well. But does this alone constitute a great Minister? A Man who has been long in a Post acquires a Character by Prescription I think. A Name often and long repeated, becomes great.

Some judge of Authors names, not Works and then Nor praise nor blame the Writings but the Men.2

I wish the Author of Lettres Hollandoises, (what is his Name?)3 success.

As to my publick Character it is well enough known. It is indifferent to me how your Letters are directed so I do but get them.

Not a Word from England, since the Beginning of the Month.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “llency 0. 1781.” The letter has been cut, resulting in the loss of most of the endorsement and possibly of additional text and JA's signature.


This sentence was interlined. JA refers to Joly de Saint Valier, Mémoire du Sieur Joly de St. Valier, lieutenant colonel d'infantrie, ou Exposé de sa conduite avant et depuis qu'il a quitté la France pour venir offrir ses services à sa Majesté le roy d'Angleterre, London, [1780]. Jenings had mentioned the author's work and asked JA's opinion of it in a letter of 30 Nov. 1780 63 (vol. 10:388–389). Joly de Saint Valier, who supplied Sir Joseph Yorke with memoranda analyzing European affairs and suggesting courses of action, traveled to London in 1780 to offer his services directly to Lord Stormont, then secretary for the northern department and responsible for foreign affairs. The Mémoire resulted from Joly de Saint Valier's disappointment at Stormont's refusal to employ him further and the inadequacy of the £250 that he was paid for past services.


Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism, lines 412–413.


Dérival de Gomicourt.