Papers of John Adams, volume 11

To Francis Dana

To James Searle

To C. W. F. Dumas, 8 February 1781 JA Dumas, Charles William Frederic To C. W. F. Dumas, 8 February 1781 Adams, John Dumas, Charles William Frederic
To C. W. F. Dumas
Dear Sir Amsterdam, 8 February 1781 1

Thus you See that I began the Mischief, and I assure you I am ready to finish it, if properly invited, and a very little Invitation will do. I am extreamly pleased with the Modesty of the Resolutions of Congress upon the subject, and not less so with the sublime Language in which a young poetical Genius, first expressed his Feelings in his Motion. This Motion and the Resolution set off, one another.2

Pray sir, give me your Opinion whether it is adviseable for me to take any steps in the Business at present. I think it will be proper to publish it, and if you are of the same opinion you will oblige me, by having the whole Extract printed as it is,3 because I am very ambitious of the Honour of haveing occasioned such fine Compliments to the Empress, and the Display of so much honest4 Wisdom in Congress.5

We have an Abundance of News from America, all which you will see in the Papers, as soon as you will receive this. All's well still in America.

With great Respect, your humble sert.

John Adams

RC and enclosure (DLC: Dumas Papers); endorsed: “Amst. 8e. fevr. 1781 Mr. J. Adams.” LbC (Adams Papers).


This date is taken from the Letterbook copy.


JA refers to the enclosure entitled “Extracts from the printed Journal of Congress.” The five extracts, dated 1, 2, and 26 Sept., and 4 and 5 Oct. 1780, traced the deliberations of Congress from the arrival of JA's letter of 10 April (vol. 9:121–126), containing the text of Catherine II's declaration of armed neutrality, to the adoption of resolutions permitting the United States to accede to the armed neutrality ( JCC , 17:798, 802; 18:864–866, 899, 905–906). The “young poetical Genius” referred to at the end of the paragraph was probably Robert R. Livingston. His motion on 26 Sept. declared that “the acts of a sovereign who promotes the happiness of her subjects and extends her views to the welfare of nations, who forms laws for a vast empire and corrects the great code of the world, claim the earliest 128attention of a rising republick.” Livingston's motion led directly to the resolution of 5 Oct., instructing the Board of Admiralty to formulate instructions for armed vessels “conformable to the principles contained in the said declaration.” On 27 Nov. 1780, Congress approved regulations that committed the U.S. to observe the principle that free ships make free goods with regard to neutral nations with whom it had no treaty as opposed to its previous practice, sanctioned by the law of nations, of seizing enemy property wherever found.


The remainder of this sentence is interlined.


The Letterbook reads “Simple.”


JA took the extracts that he sent Dumas directly from the printed journals of Congress that Francis Dana had sent with his letter of 1 Feb., above. A French translation of the relevant passages from the journals appeared in the Gazette de Leyde of 13 February. For Dumas' actions on this matter and information concerning an earlier Dutch publication of the resolution of Congress, see his reply of 9 Feb., below.