Papers of John Adams, volume 11

To the President of Congress, 22 August 1781 JA President of Congress McKean, Thomas


To the President of Congress, 22 August 1781 Adams, John President of Congress McKean, Thomas
To the President of Congress
Sir Amsterdam August 22d. 1781

The late glorious Victory, obtained by Admiral Zoutman over Admiral Parker, is wholly to be ascribed to the Exertions of Amsterdam.

Pretences and Excuses would have been devised, for avoiding to send out the Fleet, and indeed for avoiding an Action, when at Sea, if it had not been for the Measures which have been taken to arouse the Attention and animate the Zeal of the Nation. The Officers and Men of the Army, and especially of the Navy appear to have been as much affected and influenced by the proceedings of the Regency of Amsterdam, as any other parts of the Community. Notwithstanding the apparent ill success of the Enterprizes of the great City, it is certain that a flame of Patriotism and of Valour has been inkindled by them, which has already produced great effects, and will probably much greater.

It is highly probable however that if the Regency of Amsterdam had taken another Course, they would have succeeded better. If instead of a Complaint of Sloth in the executive department, and a personal Attack upon the Duke, they had taken the Lead in a System of public measures, they would have found more zealous Supporters, fewer powerful Opposers,1 and perhaps would have seen the Ardor of the Nation increase with equal Rapidity. For Example, as the 465 Sovereignty of the United States was a Question legally before them, they might have made a Proposition in the States of Holland to acknowledge it, and make a Treaty with them. This Measure would have met with general Applause among the People throughout the seven Provinces, and their Example would have been followed by the Regencies of other Cities, or they might have proposed in the States to acceed to the Treaty of Alliance between France and America.

However, We ought to presume, that these Gentlemen know their own Countrymen and their true Policy better than Strangers, and it may be their Intention to propose other things in Course.

It is certain that they have animated the Nation to an high degree, so that a seperate Peace, or any mean Concessions to Great Britain cannot now be made. The good Party have the upper hand, and patriotic Councils begin to prevail.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant.

John Adams

RC in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 378–381) endorsed: “Two Letters Aug 12. 1781 John Adams.—Read Nov 12.” LbC (Adams Papers).


In the Letterbook the remainder of this sentence was interlined.

From Edmund Jenings, 22 August 1781 Jenings, Edmund JA


From Edmund Jenings, 22 August 1781 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Sir Brussels Augst. 22d. 1781

I have the Honor of receiving your Excellencys Letter, of the 18th. Instant, This Day.

Indeed, Sir, the Dutch have Acted Nobly. They have astonished their Friends and confounded their Ennemies and have shewn that the contempt, in which they have hitherto been held, did not result from the Body of the people. But whilst this Engagement in the old stile may serve as an Hint to the English ought it not likewise to be a Hint to the French? We should then have Sea Engagements more decisive than they are.

I think one may Easily see that a Congress to be held at Vienna will not be a very expeditious One. The Grand Segnior at Constantinople will finish the Procés des trois Rois as Soon.1

I am Sorry that your Excellency has not yet Receivd the Books. If Mr. Segourney would write to the Merchant at Ostend, to whom they are consigned; it might hasten the dispatch of them.

I received by this days Post the inclosed Letter s which I send to 466your Excellency, for whose perusal they are intended.2 It is not necessary for me to make any Observations on it, but can assure your Excellency, it comes from a well meaning faithful Man.

I find by the Duke de Crillons having passed the Straits of Gibralter, that I was much mistaken in my political Guess.3 But I stil think my Idea was right whatever the Fact may be. Minorca if taken, is no Object in this War, or indeed in any War if Gibraltar falls. This Measure will Keep the Combind fleets Cruising about Cadiz at the Straits Mouth, while it ought to be near the Coasts of Ireland to intercept the Homeward bound Fleets. France must see this, but I suppose she is obliged to Humour Spain.

I am with the greatest Respect Sir your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant

Edm: Jenings

RC and enclosures (Adams Papers). For the enclosures, which were filmed at 17 Aug. (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 355,) see note 2.


A reference to [Ange Goudar], Le procès des trois rois ..., London, 1780, which JA read the previous year (vol. 10:301).


Jenings enclosed a letter he received from Edward Bridgen dated 17 August. Bridgen desired JA to consider his plan to supply Congress with copper to produce coins, an idea he previously discussed in detail with Benjamin Franklin (Franklin, Papers , 30:355–356, 429–431; 31:129–130). Also enclosed was the following note by Bridgen:

“Augt. 17 1781 The terms on which EB proposes to furnish AA.

“He will furnish the following pieces of Copper in any quantity of the best quality; The Sizes as follow—Of the weight and Size of the Tower Virginia half penny. 4 to an Ounce. The weight and size of the English Tower half penny. 3 Peices of double the weight of each as well as peices of half the size of the half pence but for these last there may be some small addition the Ct. weight for extra trouble.

“All the Blanks to be smooth at the Edge with a smooth Surface.

“To be packed and delivered free of all Charges on Board at £ 10s per Ton. And to engage to deliver Sixteen Tons every Ten Weeks. Provided he has liberty to draw for the Amount at 2 Months the Bills of Lading Accompanying the Invoices. Copper may be considerably lower again and expect it will.”

On 24 Oct. JA wrote Jenings that Bridgen's proposal was “wholly out of my department” and that Congress was unlikely to enter into such an agreement with a British subject (Adams Papers).


The Duc de Crillon commanded the combined French and Spanish expedition to Minorca, for which see John Bondfield's letter of 7 Aug., note 2, above. What Jenings' “political Guess” was is unclear, for he had not mentioned Minorca in any previous letter to JA.