Papers of John Adams, volume 12

From William Jackson

From Martha Laurens

From Edmund Jenings, 14 November 1781 Jenings, Edmund JA


From Edmund Jenings, 14 November 1781 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Brussels Novr. 14. 1781 Sir

I trouble your Excellency at this Time to transcribe the following Letter “sent by Person of some Distinction at Paris to a Man not less so in London” the Copy of which I have just now receivd.

“Nous ne donnons pas á Monsieur Ad: une Confiance bien aveuglé; et ce n’est pas sans cause quils ont mis autour de lui des Hommes, qui l’Observent, on le croit honnête; on le scait ardent; inflex-67ible même pour sa Cause; mais il S’abonde trop dans son sens, et ne Scait donner aux convenances. Nous aimons mieux placer Confiance dans Monsr Fra.”1

I Know not from whom this Letter comes or to whom it is addressed. I will endeavour to learn one and the other.

We have reports here of an Attempt on the Emperors Life by Poison. It is said too that France is to cede Corsica to the Grand Duke for 1500,000£.2

The Council and the States of these Countries are debating on the Reception of the Emperors late Edict for tolerating the Protestants. The Churchmen are much dissatisfied therewith.3

I have read the Oaths, which the Emperor took by Proxy to the States of Brabant. It is very long but is not materially different from the former ones, taken by the Antient Dukes.4

I should be glad to Know what your Excellency proposes to do with Mr Charles Adams in his present Situation at Corunna. I am much distress’d about My Nephew.5

I am with the greatest Respect Sir your Excellencys Most Faithful & Obedient Humble Servt Edm: Jenings

RC (Adams Papers).


For the sense of this passage from the unidentified letter and JA’s commentary on the points raised therein, see his letter of 29 Nov. to Jenings, below; for his speculation that the Comte de Vergennes was the source of the comment, see his letter of 21 Feb. 1782 to Robert R. Livingston, note 15, below.


Neither of these reports was true.


On 12 Nov., at Joseph II’s direction, the governors general of the Austrian Netherlands, Joseph’s sister Marie Christine, and her husband Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen, issued a circular letter granting religious toleration to Protestants. This “Edict of Toleration,” which had been promulgated in other parts of the empire a month earlier, immediately aroused opposition from the Catholic authorities. The controversy was relatively brief, however, largely because the edict was of minor importance when compared to Joseph II’s later efforts at religious reform. For Joseph II’s motivation in granting religious freedom to Protestants, which had an economic dimension, and the unrest created by his reforms, see Walter W. Davis, Joseph II: An Imperial Reformer for the Austrian Netherlands, The Hague, 1974, p. 189–219.


The Joyeuse Entrée oath of 1356 established the rights and privileges enjoyed by the people of the Duchy of Brabant. Rulers of the Duchy, part of the Austrian Netherlands, swore to uphold its provisions upon taking office. Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen took the oath for the emperor at Brussels, the capital of Brabant, on 17 July (same, p. 14, 119).


John or Matthias Bordley; see Jenings’ letter of 22 April, and note 2 (vol. 11:285–286).