Papers of John Adams, volume 11

C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation, 20 March 1781 Dumas, Charles William Frederic JA C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation, 20 March 1781 Dumas, Charles William Frederic Adams, John
C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation
Sir 20 March 1781 1

I have the honor of your letter of the 17th and respond to it here. According to the Constitution the president has neither the right to suppress papers addressed to Their High Mightinesses nor the right to deliver them to anyone else. But Their High Mightinesses themselves can, if they deem it appropriate, refrain from, or delay responding to such papers. Now you no doubt remember, sir, that I warned you that they might take such a course, especially in this case where England has not yet responded to the Russian overtures. When the ministers admitted here address the president, they supply, as a courtesy, a copy of their memorial to the grand pensionary of Holland. But you know that the latter must still respond to the letter that was written to him by the American plenipotentiary commission at Paris in 1778.2 I could not and cannot advise, nor advise against, following this practice, of which I had no previous knowledge until today because I do not believe that he would respond to the letter that you would have written, nor that you will write again on this subject.

I wrote to Messieurs de Neufville to find out if they have established a correspondent here to dispose of your obligations. I am waiting for their reply to this so that I can communicate it to you. I do know that they have begun arrangements for it, having myself seen a plan in the hands of an agent here.

I feel that the task of signing one's name thousands of times is a thousand times less agreeable than writing a constitution. If it were an occupation that I could share with you, sir, I would have offered my presence in Leyden during the past week, since there is nothing to do here with the States of Holland separated.


I agree with you, that the peace being talked about is nothing but bait to trap dupes. But I cannot say when this illusion will be over. I only wish that this and peace for America depended on me.

Nothing has yet been decided by the Court of Justice of Holland, and I am beginning to doubt if they will ever decide on this affair.

I just received your letter of yesterday. Thank you for this communication which gave me great pleasure. I believe that it would be most prudent to say nothing about this to the Russian envoy until Mr. Dana has received his commission. If any unforeseen reason makes me change my mind, I will tell you. I have the honor to be with great respect, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant

Wednesday 21 March 17813


This letter being written, I was going to the post office yesterday when I was distracted by spreading reports that the English had taken St. Eustatius.4 It was confirmed this morning. It will be necessary to see what effect this will have on the nation in general and especially on Amsterdam.

I have been alerted to another British plan against the republic. I communicated it this morning to someone with close access to the Court. We will see if they are obliged to me and if so, I will tell you about it and also about any impressions I have concerning the St. Eustatius incident.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Son Excellence Monsieur J. Adams Esqr. M. Plenipe. des E.U. au soin de Mr. Thaxter, chez Mr. Wellers au Langebrugh, vis à vis le Manlelhuys Leyde.”; endorsed by John Thaxter: “Mr. Dumas 21st. March 1781.” Part of the endorsement was lost when a portion of the page was cut away.


In Dumas' letterbook this letter and its postscript are dated “20, & 21 Mars” (Algemeen Rijksarchief, Eerste Afdeling, C. W. F. Dumas Coll., Inventaris 1, f. 412).


This is the Commissioners' letter of 28 April 1778 to Pieter van Bleiswyck, Grand Pensionary of Holland. The Commissioners announced the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce and indicated their willingness to conclude a similar agreement with the Netherlands vol. 6:61–62. For Dumas' account of his presentation of that letter on 14 May 1778 and van Bleiswyck's response, see vol. 6:85–99.


Dumas wrote the postscript on a separate, much smaller sheet of paper.


On 3 Feb., a force commanded by Adm. Rodney and Gen. Vaughan seized the Dutch islands of St. Eustatius, St. Martin, and Saba, capturing 150 ships, including several American armed vessels and confiscating merchandise valued at two to three million pounds sterling. It was a disaster for the Netherlands and particularly for the merchants of Amsterdam who were heavily involved in trade with the U.S. through St. Eustatius. But it also resulted in heavy losses for many British merchants who, under the terms of various acts of Parliament, could trade with the Dutch island and were as heavily involved in this commerce as their Dutch counterparts. Rodney, mesmerized by the prospect of so much prize money, remained at St. Eustatius for three months to collect the confiscated goods and dispatch them to England. In the end, however, his capture of the island resulted in his financial ruin, for the British merchants successfully sued for compensation of their losses ( DNB ; Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution , p. 181–189; Mackesy, War for America , p. 416–417). On 13 March reports of Rodney's capture of St. Eustatius appeared in the London Gazette Extraordinary and by the 23d a translation of those accounts appeared in the Gazette de Leyde.