Papers of John Adams, volume 14

To William Gordon, 15 April 1783 Adams, John Gordon, William
To William Gordon
Dear Sir, Paris. 15th: April. 1783—

Your letter of the 30th. Novemr: came to hand yesterday, & afforded me real pleasure & great Consolation. The Sentiments it contains were precisely such as actuated the American Ministers for Peace, on the same day. It is astonishing that occasion shd. ever have been given to you or them to think in that manner—

A complicated & extensive system of Imposture has been practised, upon America & her Ministers, by one French Minister & one American Minister; and yet to that very French Minister has been given Jurisdiction over us, “in all cases whatsoever.”1 But these words will always produce Resistance & Disobedience—

I lament, with all my soul, the necessity to which we were reduced. It is a deplorable example: it ought never to be drawn into Precedent— I shd. be very glad to see a List of the Yeas & Nays in the vote for that memorable Instruction. You will have heard eno: of it by this time; & you may well imagine we are anxious to know our Fate.—

I confess to you I have been so fatigued, perplexed & distressed with that system of Duplicity & Chicanery, wh: has been practised upon Congress & their Servants in Europe, that I am worn out. My 411Strength & Spirits are exhausted. Mr: Jay & Mr: Dana are not less weary & disgusted; nor wd. Mr: Laurens I believe have been less so, if he had been in the way of knowing as much as we do— Dr: F. is disgusted with nothing but Integrity & cares for nothing but his place; for the preservation of wh: alone, in the negotiations for Peace, he meanly abandoned the System, wh: he had firmly pursued, & joined Mr: Jay and me in that principle, for wh: he had quarelled with me for a course of years & attacked & abused me without mercy—

Mr: Dana's hands have been tied, &, not having been pressed by such urgent necessities, as others have been, he did not venture to break the Cords. At last, howr:, he has communicated his mission to the Ce. d’Osterman the Russian Chancellor & recd: a favorable answer.

It has been industriously propagated, both in Europe & America that the Nations & Courts of Europe were averse to our Independence—the exact reverse of wh: was true. Every nation in Europe, except England, wished well to our Independence, and not one Court was averse to it, altho’ several did not chuse to quarrell with England.

Not one of the Nations of Europe was more industriously represented as averse to our Independence than Holland. I knew better. I took measures to inform myself, wh: I knew to be infallible & ventured on a decisive step: All Europe gaped, as well as America, and the whole diplomatic body of Europe wd. have condemned the measure, altho’ they sd. it was ably done— If it had not succeeded it cod. not possibly have done harm. But it succeeded & triumphed over such deep-laid Contrivances to defeat it, as wd. surprise you to read in detail if they shd. ever be written. The finesse & subtilty of the 2. Ministers aforesaid were exhausted to defeat me, by disgusting & discouraging me, by neglects, slights, Contempts, Attacks & Mænuvres, & every thing but an avowed open opposition, which wd. have ruined their Characters in Europe as well as America— The system of Conduct towards me, the double-faced measures to defeat me in reallity if possible, but to secure to themselves the honor of my Success, if they could not, wd. be one of the most curious Chapters in the Machiavellian Chronicles. In God's name, let us keep our own sincerity & learn to devellope the duplicity of others. It is not Duplicity only, it is Multiplicity & it is variegated thro’ all the Shades of Refinement, one running into another, like the Colors of the Rainbow. My Countrymen used to be apt eno: in develloping British Politics; but they have lately had to do with another sort, too 412refined for their penetration, or for their experience. They will soon learn it, tho’ I hope they will never practise it—

We need not wonder at the simplicity & innocence, the amiable unsuspecting Confidence of our own Countrymen, when we see the old experienced Dutchmen taken in, the history of wh: is very curious. Our Country has cause to be thankfull that her ministers were more jealous, or had better information— Without this, Lousiana & Illinois, as well as the Banks of Newfoundland, would have made more noise in the world than Trinquemale & Negapatnam, or the liberty of Navigation—

Your Countryman was never more mistaken than wn: he spoke slightly of Mr: Jay, wm: I wd. not scruple to pit against the proudest Statesman in Europe. Our Country was never better represented than by him—

We expect Mr: Laurens & Mr: Hartley every day to finish— I don't like the new Coalition; yet we are assured that the intention is sincere to finish liberally—

I have written very freely & rely upon yr: discretion— / I am, Sir, with great respect, / Yrs:

LbC in Charles Storer's hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Dr: Gordon.”; notation by John Thaxter: “Paris 16th. April— Delivered to / Capt. Adam Hoops of Philadelphia—”; APM Reel 108.


JA's immediate reference is to the Joint Peace Commission's instructions of 15 June 1781, in which the American Commissioners were directed “to make the most candid & confidential communications to the ministers of our generous Ally the King of France to undertake nothing in the Negotiations for Peace or truce without their knowledge & concurrence & ultimately to govern yourselves by their advice & opinion” (vol. 11:376). He also equated the French attitude toward the United States with the British view of the American colonies expressed in the Declaratory Act of 1766, a comparison that would have resonance with Gordon, an historian of the Revolution. In the Declaratory Act, Parliament decreed “that the said colonies and plantations in America have been, are, and of right ought to be, subordinate unto, and dependent upon the imperial crown and Parliament of Great Britain; and that the king's Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”

From C. W. F. Dumas, 15 April 1783 Dumas, C. W. F. Adams, John
From C. W. F. Dumas
Monsieur, Lahaie 15e. Avril 1783

J’ai été fort agréablement affecté de la bonne compagnie que vous m’avez adressée, & des honorées vôtres du 28 & 30e. Mars, qu’ils m’ont remises.1


Nous aurons Soin exactement com̃e vous le desirez, & de la santé & de l’amusement agréable & utile de Mr. Votre fils. Chaque fois qu’on tire la Sonnette de l’hôtel, nous croyons que c’est lui: mais, à notre grand regret, il n’a pas paru encore.

Mr. Van Berckel presse ses préparatifs, pour partir au plus tard vers la mi-Juin. Il sera bien aise de votre compagnie, si les circonstances vous permettent de la lui accorder.— Deux braves Capitaines, Mr. Rymersma de Rotterdam, & Mr. Decker de Gouda qui com̃ande actuellement le beau Vaisseau le Tigre, briguent l’honneur de le transporter, & d’aller échanger avec les Etats-Unis les premiers honneurs du Pavillon de leur Republiqe. 2 Mr. Van Berckel me paroît décidé à aller droit à Philadelphie, à cause de son bagage & de sa suite, qui l’embarrasseroit autrement. Il pense que le meilleur pour lui est de com̃encer par monter sa maison, d’y laisser tout cela en ordre, &, quand les chaleurs seront passées, de faire une excursion par N. York, où il mettra peut-être son fils cadet en apprentissage, jusqu’à Boston.

Celui qui m’a écrit en confidence, est dans la Sphere privée; & je ne lui connois aucune influence dans les affaires publiques ni de l’Améque ni de l’Europe. J’ignore la source où il peut avoir puisé ses anecdotes: mais j’ai tout lieu de penser, qu’elle est analogue avec vos principes, plutôt qu’avec ceux de tout autre qui pourroit en avoir de différents.3 Je persiste dans mon Sentiment, que la Négociation en question, la plus Scabreuse, selon moi, de toutes celles qui restent à faire, ne sauroit être mise entre des mains plus sures & plus heureuses: mais je sens très-bien en même temps, qu’à la même place j’aurois aussi la maladie du pays.

J’ai com̃uniqué à Mr. Holtzhey le paragraphe qui le regarde.

J’ai écrit un Billet aux Com̃is de la Poste, pour leur faire contremander les papiers Anglois, excepté le London Courant; & je leur en écrirai un autre, dès que cette Lettre-ci sera finie; parce qu’ils me paroissent tergiverser, & prétendre que tous ces papiers soient continués jusqu’à l’expiration des 6 mois à la fin de Juin. Je Suis avec grand respect, / De Votre Excellence / le très-humble & très obeissant / Serviteur

Sir The Hague, 15 April 1783

I was most pleasantly diverted by the good companions you sent me and by your honored letters of 28 and 30 March, which they delivered.1

We shall take very good care of your son's health and see that he is agreeably and usefully entertained, just as you wish. Each time someone 414rings the doorbell we think it is he, but to our great regret he has not yet appeared.

Mr. Van Berckel is hurrying his preparations in order to leave in mid-June at the latest. He will be very much at home in your company, if circumstances allow you to travel with him. Two fine captains, Mr. Riemersma of Rotterdam and Mr. Decker of Gouda, the current commander of the splendid ship Tiger, are competing for the honor of conveying him and of exchanging with the United States the first honors for the flag of the republic.2 Mr. Van Berckel appears to me determined to go straight to Philadelphia because of his baggage and retinue, which would otherwise encumber him. He thinks his best plan is to begin by setting up house. He will then leave it all in order, and, when the hot season is over, travel to Boston via New York, where he is thinking of putting his younger son into apprenticeship.

The person who wrote to me in confidence is in the private sector and as far as I know has no influence in public affairs in either America or Europe. I have no knowledge of the source of his anecdotes but have every reason to think it one with principles analogous to your own rather than someone with whom you might differ.3 I still feel that the negotiation in question, in my view the most difficult of all that remain, could not be in more certain or fortunate hands, but I also feel that in your place I too would be homesick.

I sent Mr. Holtzhey the paragraph concerning him.

I wrote a note to the postal clerks telling them to cancel the English papers, except the London Courant, and I shall write them again as soon as I have finished this letter because they seem to be beating about the bush, claiming that these papers have to continue until the full six months expire in late June. I am, with great respect, your excellency's very humble and very obedient servant


RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Paris à Son Excellence Mr. Adams, M. P.”


This letter is largely a response to JA's letter of 28 March, above. The letter of the 30th (PCC, No. 101, f. 357) introduced Jeremiah Allen, who, according to Dumas’ letter of 11 April, above, had been accompanied by Eliphalet Brush.


For Van Berckel's passage to America in Capt. Riemersma's ship the Overijssel, see C. W. F. Dumas’ letter of 23 May, and note 2, below.


For other references to the unknown correspondent, see Dumas’ letter of 18 March and JA's response of the 28th, both above.