Papers of John Adams, volume 12

From Edmund Jenings, 20 October 1781 Jenings, Edmund JA


From Edmund Jenings, 20 October 1781 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Brussels Octr. 20. 1781 Sir

I have the Honor of having received your Excellencys Letter of the 9th Instant, which afforded me the utmost Joy, as it gave me reason to think your Excellencys Health was somewhat reestablished, I wish it may be soon perfectly so, for your Excellencys Sake and that of the Public.

When I wrote to your Excellency last, I apprehended, that a certain Gentleman was the only one added to your Excellencys Commission, this gave me the Utmost Uneasyness, as I imagined, it would have been most Unpleasant to your Excellency, such a Studied and gross affront might have been suggested by a certain Quarter, after what has come from thence, I am glad it is otherwise, and that your Excellency approves of the measure taken by Congress.

I am Sorry your Excellency has not receivd the Books, more have been sent since, which may be lost likewise, I shall write About them. The Coin shall be transmitted in your Excellencys Name and likewise One from me; it is an halfpenny Coind for Virginia during the Reign of G 3d,1 they ought to be Kept together, and then Posterity will see the first Peice of American Money and the last English one for that Country.

The famous Spanish Jesuit, Hussey,2 who has been in Spain, is, after residing a month in this Town, gone to Vienna.

The Mr Allaire of N York, who was put into the Bastile some time 27 Ago, has been in Holland and after staying here sometime is gone to London, He seems to be a Tool [of] Government, but of no Account.3

Another Gentleman of the Name of Martin is now here, He says he is a Virginian by Birth that He left the Country 1773. and that He is married to a Distillers Daughter in London. He passed through this Town about 6 weeks Ago, and then said He was going express to the Hague with Letters. He has been there and at Amsterdam. I believe He proposed to wait on your Excellency, but your Excellencys Illness preventd Him. Added to what He heard of the Sentiments of Americans, whom He met with in Holland, particularly of Mr Grieve,4 who I find expressed them so clearly and so Strongly, that He had little hopes of succeeding in his Commission, which He tells me Came immediately from the Minister, it was to sound your Excellency on certain terms of Accomodation, and that if those, which He had to propose were Acceptible, He said a formale Commission would immediately follow. As far as I can at present understand they were for a seperate Peace and the Independancy neither Acknowledge or denied. I took such pains to Convince Him, that He came on a fruitless Errand, by shewing Him the Treaty with France, which to my Astonishment He seemd to be but little informed of, that He declared He was ashamd of what He had come About. I am in hopes of getting from Him the Terms intended to be proposed and the name of the Minister, from whom, He came. He is particularly Acquainted with Mr Digges, with whom He holds a particular Correspondence, and for whose Honor He is very Anxious. He Expeccts Mr D here daily.5 Your Excellency is, I assure myself, satisfied that I shall talk with this man with Caution.

I Congratulate your Excellency on the Repulse of Hoods Fleet,6 I Hope we shall soon have from Virginia most compleat Success in Consequence thereof.

Your Excellency finds that the brave Johnstone has avoided an Attack on the french Ships of War, and has fallen on the defenceless Merchantmen.7 The british Commanders now Neglect the national Honor and prosperity, and have no Object but that of plunder. How will the Prizes come Home, they must be manned out of Johnstones Squadron, this will weaken it, and may defeat the public purposes.

But what effect has this Event in Holland? Will nothing, Sir, rouse that Country to do itself Justice—I trust this blow will.

Does you Excellency Know, that Govr Pownal has got the famous 28 Abbé Needham to translate and publish in this Country His Memorial &c as it appeared in the second Edition? He complains of a certain publication in Holland, that it makes Him say otherwise that He did, and that it shews Him an Ennemy to his Country.8

I understand that the Count le Markes Regiment consisting of between 3 and 4 thousand Men in the pay of France is going to America. I Know it well, it is a Noble Body of Germans, I have talked with some of the officers, who seem well disposed to Stay in America, they have long wished to be there.

Your Excellency will Oblige me much if you would be so good as to send me the first Volume of the politic Hollandois. I am told there is a Greek Hymn to Ceres, supposed to be Homers lately published in Holland.9 Will Mr Thaxter give me leave to beg Him to make particular Enquiry after it?

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

RC (Adams Papers).


Presumably the copper coins, modeled on those circulating in Ireland, that were proposed by Lord Hillsborough in 1770, approved by Virginia’s Council in 1771, and struck at the Royal Mint in 1773 (H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia, 6 vols., Richmond, 1925–1967, 6:375, 412; Percy Scott Flippin, The Royal Government in Virginia, 1624–1775, N.Y., 1919, p. 270).


For Thomas Hussey, see vol. 9:361.


Peter Allaire, a New York merchant of Huguenot descent, was committed to the Bastille on 15 Feb. 1780. He was accused of attempting to poison Benjamin Franklin and of being a British spy. While the first allegation remains unproven, the second is certain. On 24 May 1780, Allaire was released and expelled from France (Claude-Anne Lopez, “The Man Who Frightened Franklin,” PMHB , 106:515–526 [Oct. 1982]).


Probably George Grieve, an English radical from Alnwick, Northumberland, best known for his denunciation and prosecution of Madame Du Barry during the French Revolution ( DNB ). Benjamin Franklin administered an oath of citizenship to Grieve in April and in May wrote letters of recommendation to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington in anticipation of Grieve’s emigration to the United States (Franklin, Papers , 34:581–582; 35:25–26, 28). Jenings met Grieve during his visit to Amsterdam in the summer of 1781 (JQA, Diary , 1:76, 79).


Thomas Digges did not leave London for the Continent until March 1782. See Digges’ letter of 20 March 1782, below.


Capt. Duncan of the frigate Medea reached London on Saturday evening, 13 Oct., with dispatches from Rear Adm. Thomas Graves concerning the Battle of the Chesapeake on 5 September. Graves’ account, the first received in England, appeared in a London Gazette Extraordinary of 15 Oct. and then in other London newspapers, including the London Courant of the 16th and the London Chronicle of 13–16 October.


Como. George Johnstone captured five Dutch East Indiamen on 21 July at Saldanha Bay, on the South African coast north of Cape Town (London Chronicle, 13–16 Oct.; Gazette de Leyde, 23 Oct.).


Thomas Pownall, Mémoire Adressée aux souverains de l’Europe, sur l’etat presént des affaires de l’ancien et du nouveau monde, transl. John Turberville Needham, Brussels, 1781. The Dutch publication criticized by Pownall is Pensées sur la révolution de l’Amérique-Unie, Amsterdam, 1780, a French translation of JA’s response to Pownall’s A Memorial, Most Humbly Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe, London, 1780. For a discussion of Pownall’s Memorial and JA’s re-29visions thereof, see vol. 9:157–164.


Hymnus in Cererem, nunc primum editus a Davide Ruhnkenio, Leyden, 1780. JA’s copy is in his library at MB ( Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 122). It was probably that obtained by John Thaxter at Leyden and sent to JA in late Jan. 1781 ( Adams Family Correspondence , 4:69–70).

From Henry Knox, 21 October 1781 Knox, Henry JA


From Henry Knox, 21 October 1781 Knox, Henry Adams, John
From Henry Knox
Camp before York in Virginia 21 October 1781 My dear Sir

I have had the honor of receiving several Letters from your Excellency, since your departure from america, which I have duly answerd, and hope you have received them. Your ideas of the necessity of some important blow to the british power in the southern states were extremely just.1 The reasons are too obvious to be mentioned. I am happy my dear Sir, in having it in my power to announce to you the joyful event of the reduction of Lord cornwallis and his whole force in Virginia. This important affair has been affected by the most harmonious concurrence of circumstances that could possibly have happened. A fleet and troops from the West Indies, under the orders of one of the best men in the World, an Army of Americans and French troops, marching from the N. River 500 miles, and a fleet of Count De Barras, from Rhode Island, all joining so exactly in point of time as to render What has happened almost certain. I shall not enter into a detail of circumstances previous to the collection of our force at Williamsburg 12 miles distance from this place which was made on the 27th ultimo. On the 28th we marched to this camp and on the 29th and 30th we completed our investiture of York, a body of American militia the Duke Lazuns Legion and some marines from the fleet of Count De Grasse at the same time formed in the vicinity of Glocester so as to prevent any incursions of the Enemy into the Country. From the 1 of October to the 6th was spent in preparing our materials for the seige in bringing forward our Cannon and stores and in reconnoitg the points of attack. On the evening of the 6th we broke ground and began our first parrellel within 600 Yards of the Enemies Works undiscoverd. The first parrallel, some redouts and all our batteries finished by the 9th at 2 oClock PM when we opened our batteries and kept them playing continualy. On the night of the 12 we began our second parrallel at 300 yds distance from the Enemy, and on the night of the 14th We stormed the two redoubts which the Enemy had advanced of their main works. The gallant troops of France under the orders of Baron 30 Verominil and the hardy soldiers of America under the Marquis de la Fayette attacked seperate works and carried them both in an instant. This brilliant stroke was effected without any great loss on our side, The Enemy lost between one and two hundred. This advantage was important and gave us an opportunity of perfecting our 2d parallel into which we took the two redoubts. On the 16th just before day the enemy made a sortie and spiked up some of our Cannon but were soon repulsed and driven back to their works. The Cannon were soon cleard and the same day our batteries in the 2d parrallel began to fire and continued on without intermission untill 9 oClock in the morning of the 17 october, ever memorable on account of the Saratoga affair when the Enemy sent a flage offering to treat of a surrender of the posts of York and Glouster. The firing continued untill two oClock when Commissioners on both sides met to adjust the capitulation which was not finished and signed, untill 12 oClock on the 19th. Our troops took possession of two redouts of the Enemy soon after, and about two oClock the Enemy marched out and surrendered their Army. The whole Garrison are prisoners of War and had the same honors only as were granted to our garrison at Charleston. Their Coulors were cased and they were prohibited playing a french or American tune. The Returns are not, yet collected but including Very sick and well they are more than 7000. exclusive of seamen who are supposd to amount to 1000. There are near forty five of topsail Vesells in the harbour, about one half of which the Enemy sunk upon different occasions. About two hundred peices of Cannon, nearly one half of which are brass, a great number of Arms Drums and Colours are among the trophies of this decisive stroke. The prisoners are to be sent into any part of this state, Maryland or Pennsylvania.

The consequences will be extensively beneficial, the Enemy will immediately be confind to Charleston and New York reduced to a defensive War of those two posts, for which they have not more troops in America than to form Island Garrisons.

The exalted talents of General Greene have been amply displayed in North and South Carolina—without an army without means, without any thing he has performed Wonders—he will now be reinforced with a large body of troops which will enable him to push the Enemy to the gates of Charlestown.

This Army is compos’d of French and American troops the former on a proportion of two to one, and Commanded by the good General Rochambeau 3000 of the former came from the West Indies, with 31 the whole Commanded in person by our beloved General Washington2 whose distinguished patriotism and worth rises every day, and demands the rude pen of this of some annimated republican to do him sufficient justice. The Harmony and good understanding between the American and french troops exceed all description—one soul actuates the whole mass, and all are fired with Zeal for the interests of America. The troops which came with Count De Grasse from the West Indies under the orders of Marquis St. Simon will return with him immediately. The Army which came from France under Count Rochambeau will be cantond for the present in this state. The American troops belonging to the states east of Pennsylvania will immediately depart for the north River. Those west from Pennsylvania inclusively will go to the southward. The Enemy have a post at Wilmington in North Carolina of which these troops will dispossess them and then join General Greene.

We have a very respectable and seasoned force on the Hudsons River amply sufficient to Garrison the important posts in the highlands and to form a small covering army.

If I can possibly procure copies of the capitulation and returns of the troops and stores taken I will do myself the honor to enclose them.

The unequivocal testimonies which America has already received of the friendship of France induces us to hope much from the future. If it shall be found possible to have a superior french fleet before New York by the 1st of Next June to stay certainly through the operation, I should not hesitate to pronounce with as much decision as military affairs will admit that in six Weeks we should wrest that important place from the hands of the English.

My Brother will soon go to Europe and will certainly have the honor to wait on you.3 I think it would be unnecessary for me to request the favor of your civilities to him.

I have the honor to be with great esteem and respect Your Excellencys Most obedient Servant H Knox

P.S. Since writing the foregoing his Excellency Gen Washington has informed me that he has enclosed to you authenticated copies of the capitulation and returns as far as can be collected.4

Dft (NHi:Gilder Lehrman Coll., on deposit). JA received the RC on or about 6 Dec. (to C. W. F. Dumas, 6 Dec., below), but it is not in the Adams Papers. On 13 Dec., JA wrote to Jean Luzac, below, and enclosed Knox’s letter for publication in the Gazette de Leyde. Luzac neither published the letter nor returned it to JA.

32 1.

The last letter that JA had received from Henry Knox was dated 10 Oct. 1779, and was a reply to JA’s of 19 Sept. 177 (vol. 8:194–195, 152–153). Since returning to Europe in 1779, JA had written to Knox on 28 Feb. (vol. 8:375) and 18 March 1780 (American Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, 56 [1946]:223; JA, Papers, 9:61–62). No replies by Knox to those letters nor any letter by JA commenting on the need for an “important blow” in the South have been found.


The remainder of this sentence was written in the left margin and marked for insertion at this point.


William Knox had first gone to Europe on business in 1779 and returned to America in 1780. By the date of this letter he presumably had embarked on his second business trip to Europe (Thomas Morgan Griffiths, Major General Henry Knox and the Last Heirs to Montpelier, Monmouth, Maine, 1965, p. 9). On 22 Nov. he wrote from Lorient (Adams Papers) to forward two unidentified letters to JA and congratulate him on the victory at Yorktown; no reply has been found.


See Washington’s letter of 22 Oct., below.