Papers of John Adams, volume 13

To Elbridge Gerry, 2 July 1782 JA Gerry, Elbridge To Elbridge Gerry, 2 July 1782 Adams, John Gerry, Elbridge
To Elbridge Gerry
The Hague 2. July. 1782 Dear sir

Well! how do you find yourself, after a little Repose? Are you married? or making Fortune in Trade? or Still buried in Politicks, and publick Good? I am in a longing Condition for your Letters, because they used to give me, the most comprehensive Ideas of affairs. You ought to remember me, for it was you, who sent me abroad in quest of Adventures,1 which have ruined me de fond en comble2—I am worn out and broken to Pieces—but can still laugh at the Folly, and ill Nature of the World.

I can tell you no News. The Mynheers have received us, with open Arms at last. If They should not do much for Us, they have increased our Reputation, and they have bound themselves to do nothing against Us, which is a great Point gained. The open, publick Manner in which all has been conducted, redounds much to our Honour.

The News, must be divided into that which respects War, and that which respects Peace. The War in Europe is wholly maritime. The combined Fleet Sailed from Cadiz, the 4. June, and has not been heard of Since.3 It is expected in the Channell, to be joined by the Dutch and by other French ships from Brest. But some begin to suspect, that Cordova is gone to Jamaica or New York. If they come to the Channell the English cannot meet them—they must skulk into Torbay &c certain little Intrigues, from certain Individuals in Russia and Denmark, make some suspect that these Powers wish to favour England, but they can do nothing.4 They all agree that the American Question is decided, but say there are so many Pretentions, against England, that she should be favord a little. Ireland has 147carried Points for the present, which will be the foundation of a War between them and England hereafter.

Mr Grenville is at Paris, and after a long time has obtained Powers to treat with all the belligerent Powers, but as the English dont allow Us to be a Power, they mean to chicane, to raise the stocks, to get Money and to lull the sailers in to Tranquility, that they may press them without suspicion. I have no faith in the Success of this Negotiation for Peace, but wish I may be deceived.

What is become of the American Navy? Is it the System to let it die? This is not prescient. How does your Constitution Work and your Governors &c behave? does all play well like a good Instrument of Musick.

I hope you go to Congress again. Jackson and Lowell, I find are going, these are good Hands. But there is a Parsons that I want to go, if You and sullivan, Jackson Lowell, &c go, Mass. will be highly represented.5 We must send our best Men there. That is the great Wheel—The Governor himself, Councellors senators, Judges all ought to consider it, as honourable to go to Congress. We should be very carefull to send no mean Men there. I wish I had the Honour to be there, nevertheless.

I fancy, that in America, the Task will not be difficult—There are three subjects, which ought to be attended to above all Things, Finance, a Navy, and foreign affairs. These subjects are not yet generally well understood, and their immense Importance is not discerned. If We do not maintain an Independence in our foreign Politicks, if We do not avoid Frivolity, Intrigue and Chicane, and rest upon our proper Basis, Reason and Right our Posterity will have reason to regret it for Ages and forever. We shall be made the Sport. We are not and never shall be a Match for them, in Power and Magnificence Intrigues of Pleasure, Bribes and Corruption, and the moment We tolerate this Method in our Ministers, we are hurried down a torrent. Whereas it is the easiest Thing in the World to make ourselves respected, by standing upon national Interests.

In Time We shall have Courage equal to our Strength. It is worth while to go abroad, to see by what Men this World is governed—and by what Women!

Adieu, my dear Friend, remember me

RC (ICN: Herbert R. Strauss Coll.).


Gerry played a major role in obtaining JA's 1779 appointment to negotiate Anglo-American treaties of peace and commerce, but see in particular his 29 Sept. 1779 letter 148informing JA of his selection and the circumstances by which it came about. There he wrote that “I flatter myself that You will not hesitate a Moment, at accepting the highest office of Honor and Trust, under the united States, when elected thereto by the Voice of eleven States” (vol. 8:179–184).


From top to bottom.


The combined fleet commanded by Spanish Admiral Córdoba, with a French contingent led by Guichen, was to be joined by a squadron from Brest under La Motte-Picquet in early July. Its objective was to block the mouth of the English Channel and thereby positioning itself to intercept convoys and hopefully bring the inferior British channel fleet to battle. While the presence of the combined fleet did free the Dutch fleet at Texel for operations in the North Sea, it produced few other tangible results. Early in his voyage, Córdoba captured nineteen vessels of a convoy bound to Newfoundland, but he was unable to intercept a far more valuable Jamaican convoy or force a decisive battle with the channel fleet (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 290–291; Mackesy, War for America , p. 478–479).


The intrigues emanating from Russia and Denmark stemmed partly from Charles James Fox's proposal for a settlement of the Anglo-Dutch War based on the terms of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1674, which would have placed Britain's maritime policy toward neutrals in accord with the principles of the Armed Neutrality. The proposal, first made in March and renewed in May, had no chance for success because of French opposition and Dutch recognition of the United States, but it encouraged Russia, supported by Denmark, to revive the proposal for an Austro-Russian mediation of the Anglo-French War (vol. 12:389–390). It is not surprising that JA dismissed as pointless an effort to revive the mediation in the summer of 1782 in view of the fact that he had rejected it unequivocally in conversations with Vergennes in July of 1781, for which see vol. 11:index. But Fox's proposal also was part of his effort to create a northern alliance composed of Britain, Russia, Prussia, and possibly Denmark, a diplomatic colossus that would enable Britain to obtain a favorable peace. It failed for a variety of reasons but most importantly because Russia had a secret alliance with Austria and thus could not enter into an alliance with Prussia (Scott, British Foreign Policy , p. 318–319).


Gerry and James Sullivan were elected to Congress in 1782 but neither attended. Jonathan Jackson and John Lowell each served for part of 1782 (Smith, Letters of Delegates , 18:xviii–xix; 19:xx). Parsons is likely Theophilus Parsons, who served with JA in the state constitutional convention of 1780 but never was elected to Congress.

To James Warren, 2 July 1782 JA Warren, James To James Warren, 2 July 1782 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
The Hague 2 July. 1782 Dear Sir

It is a long time Since I had a Line from you, and from Sickness, and various Engagements it is long since I had the Pleasure of Writing to you.1 I Suppose that Milton Hill, furnishes you with Amusement enough, in your beloved science and Practice of Agriculture. I wish I had Fortune enough to purchase me an equal Farm upon Pens Hill, and enter into an Emulation with you, which should make his Hill shine the brightest. I find that the various Combinations of street Dust, Marsh Mud and Horse dung furnish a more delicate Employment, than the foul Regions of machiavillian Politicks. Yet when Honest Wisdom tryumphs over its opposite, as is sometimes the Case, Politicks themselves offerd an Exquisite Entertainment, to a well regulated Mind.

It is a Problem at present whether the English will evacuate 149N. York and Charlestown or not. It is very probable they would if they could, but how to get away. A great Number of Transports must be had—these must be protected by a superiour Fleet. If Pigot, who succeeds Rodney2 should go with the whole Fleet, the French and Spaniards may do Mischief in the West Indies in the meantime.

It is supposed, that Carleton, has orders to make Propositions to Congress but what can they be?3 Reconcialion, Seperate Peace, even upon an express Acknowledgment of our Independence, can never be thought of. We must keep our faith and not violate our Treaties—it is whispered too that the Garrisons of N. York and Charlestown are to be removed to Rhode Island, which is to be fotified as a Place of Arms &c. This Policy is beyond my Comprehension. There is but one sensible system for the English, and it is amazing to me they dont see it, that is evacuate the United States and declare them by an Act of Parliament independent. Then, they might defend themselves better against France and Spain and other European Powers, would wish them success, and aid them by Negotiation to obtain more favourable Terms of Peace. But the present British Ministry have forced themselves into Power, partly by decrying the Capacity and Activity of the old Ministry and partly by Promisses to the King and Nation that they had Address enough to make a seperate Peace with America and Holland. Both these Professions were false—they now appear to be so—and the Ministry know not what to do.

The present Ministry therefore, as I conjecture will languish away the time undecided what to do, untill they become as unpopular as the past, unless the Parliament Should be dissolved, and a new Election should give them a more decided Majority, ready to vote for American Independance—the Principles of the Armed Neutrality; Fisheries to France and spain, Restitutions to Holland, Gibraltar and Minorca to Spain &c. &c &c.

Thus it is that an Empire has, in a Frenzy, committed Suicide upon itself, almost as suddenly, as one of its Individuals could have Swallowed a Pistol Bullet.

They have Succeeded in propagating a general opinion in Europe that Peace will be soon made, and that their Stocks will rise after a Peace which opinions have actually raised them before the Peace, 5 or 6 Per Cent, by foreigners sending over considerable sums to purchase in, if the Conferences for Peace should be broken off, the Stocks will fall again. Both Sides will be loth to break off: but I really dont expect that any Thing will come of them this year.

150 My most profound Respects to your good Lady. Adieu.

RC (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.); endorsed: “Mr J A. Letter July 2. 82.”


James Warren's last letter to JA was of 4 June 1781 (vol. 11:352–353), but JA had written to Warren on 17 June, above.


Admiral Hugh Pigot replaced Sir George Rodney as admiral of the British fleet in the wake of the fall of the North government in March 1782. This proved an embarrassment for the new Rockingham government when news subsequently reached Great Britain of Rodney's victory at the Battle of the Saints. The government tried to undo its decision and recall Pigot, but he had already sailed for the West Indies (Mackesy, War for America , p. 472–473; Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence, Boston, 1913, p. 225).


For the proposals to be made by Sir Guy Carleton, commander of the British forces in America, see vol. 12:414–415; for Congress' reaction, see Robert R. Livingston's letter of 22 May, and note 1, above.