Papers of John Adams, volume 14

To Robert R. Livingston, 30 May 1783 Adams, John Livingston, Robert R.
To Robert R. Livingston
Sir Paris May 30. 1783

On the 28th. of this Month I recd the Letter you did me the Honour to write me on the 13. of February, which arrived at the Hague inclosed with the Ratification of the Treaty with their High Mightinesses, which will be exchanged by Mr Dumas, as the Conferences here for the definitive Treaty will not admit of my taking So long a Journey, at this Time.1

This Arrival in Season to exchange the Ratifications before the Departure of Mr Van berckel, which will be in three Weeks, is fortunate. I hope that the first ships from America, will bring my Letter of Recal from that Republick, and another Minister, or a Credence to some one now in Europe, to take my Place.


I am happy to find, that any Letters of mine in September last contained Information that you think of Consequence, although, not having my Letter Book here I am not able to recollect the Subject.2 The final Completion of the Negotiation with Holland, gives me a Pleasure which will not be equalled, but by that of the definitive Treaty of Peace, which languishes at present for Want of decisive Instructions from Mr Hartley, in Such a manner as gives Cause to suspect that the present Ministry are not firm in their Seats.

The Presence of a Minister in Holland would encourage your Loan of Money there, but it would be quickened Still more by your Sending a Minister to London with Power to borrow Money there. Emulation is the best Spring, or call it Rivalry or Jealousy if you will. it will get you Money if you put it in motion.

I have recd two Cyphers from you, Sir.— one beginning with Number one and ending with Number 1011.— The other beginning with Amsterdam and ending with Provinces.3

With very great Respect and Esteem, I have the / Honour to be sir your most obedient and / most humble servant

John Adams.

RC (PCC, No. 84, IV, f. 391–392); internal address: “Secretary Livingstone.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.


See JA's 29 May letter to Dumas, and note 3, above.


Livingston had referred to JA's 6 Sept. 1782 letter, in which he commented in detail on the Franco-American alliance (vol. 13:430–437).


For the nomenclator code that Livingston enclosed with his letter of 30 May 1782, see vol. 13:86–87; Weber, Codes and Ciphers , p. 328–336.

From C. W. F. Dumas, 30 May 1783 Dumas, C. W. F. Adams, John
From C. W. F. Dumas
Monsieur Lahaie 30e. May 1783

Je viens d’avoir un Entretien avec un des premiers personnages de ce pays, dont ce qui suit me paroît de nature à devoir vous être com̃uniqué sur le champ: savoir, 10. que votre Emprunt à Amsterdam, de 5 millions de florins, seroit rempli depuis longtemps, si Mrs. Wm. & Jn. Willink l’avoient eu seuls entre les mains; non que les 2 autres Maisons co-Directrices eussent manqué de bonne volonté, mais parce qu’elles ne pouvoient ni s’y prendre aussi bien, ni disposer avec le même ascendant, concert & succès, des Bourses, tant à Amsterdam que dans les autres villes:— 20. Que si le Congrès, tout en laissant les 3 Maisons continuer à compléter les cinq millions contractés, vouloit ouvrir un nouvel Emprunt de 10 millions de florins au moins, entre les mains seules de Mrs. Wm. & Jn. Willink, on assure positivement, que cet Emprunt seroit rempli 509trèsrapidement, & avant même que celui des 5 millions puisse être complet.— Il faudroit, ajoute-t-on, se presser pour cela, avant que d’autres négotiations, qu’on croit que ce pays va faire pour luimême, rafflent l’argent, tandis qu’il n’y auroit pas pour les prêteurs de choix à faire d’un intérêt plus haut.— On m’a protesté que Mrs. Willink n’ont aucune connoissance que cette ouverture m’ait été faite. Et outre son importance, j’ai encore une raison spéciale pour me presser de vous en faire part, après en avoir demandé la permission; c’est que, dans peu, cette notion ne pourra manquer d’être communiquée, en conversation, à tout Membre du Congrès qui s’informera des moyens & de la méthode de lever de l’argent en Hollande, avec la même promptitude & facilité qu’ont éprouvée depuis si longtemps, entre autres & sur-tout, les Anglois.l

Après vous avoir exposé fidelement, & le plus exactement qu’il m’a été possible, ce que dessus, il me reste à vous prier, Monsieur, quelque usage que vous jugiez à propos d’en faire, de vouloir bien éviter que les 2. autres maisons ne m’en puissent vouloir, com̃e si je me prêtois aux vues d’autrui pour les faire exclure, ce dont je n’ai ni la pensée ni le moindre motif. Je veux simplement faire mon devoir, ne vous laisser rien ignorer de ce qui pourroit être utile, &, au cas que vous jugeassiez nécessaire que j’allasse demander à Mrs. W. des Explications, ou le projet d’un plan, soit de votre part, soit de maniere à ne point Vous compromettre, de suivre de mon mieux vos ordres pro bono publico.

Je Suis avec un vrai & grand respect, / De Votre Excellence / Le très-humble & très-obéis- / sant serviteur

C.w.f. Dumas

P.S. La personne en question (que je vous nom̃erai dans une autre Lettre, si vous ne la devinez, par celle ci) m’a assuré sérieusement & positivement, qu’il sera aussi aisé de lever successivement 50 millions, que les 10 millions dont il est question par la présente. Mais cette personne ne sera plus ici pour être consultée quand vous me répondrez, Monsieur; & voilà pourquoi il n’y a plus d’éclaircissemens à avoir là-dessus, qu’en s’adressant directement & secretement à Mrs. W, au cas que vous en desiriez.

2e. P.S. Mr. Texeira un Juif Portugais ici, m’a prié de consulter V. E. Si & com̃ent on pourroit acheter des terres en Sud-Caroline, sans que le Proprietaire fût obligé d’y aller résider lui même autremt. que par Procureur ou Mandataire. Cest leur Synagogue ici qui spécule pour une telle acquisition, afin d’y envoyer & employer utilement une troupe de leurs pauvres dont ils se trouvent 510surcharges. Mr. Texeira m’a dit qu’ils avoient dejà été en Marché pour des terres que Mrs. Salvador de leur religion à Londres possedent en ninty-Six, mais que les possesseurs ne vouloient s’en défaire. Et le Neveu de Mr. Salvador m’a dit que le márché n’avoit pu se conclure, parce qu’on n’avoit offert que [6?]000 £. St. pour des terres qui valoient beaucoup plus. Ceci pourroit être com̃uniqué, avec mes meilleurs respects à S. E. Mr. Laurens[. . .].2

Sir The Hague, 30 May 1783

I have just had a conversation with one of the most important men in the country, and the matters we discussed appear so urgent as to be communicated to you at once. Be informed that, first, your loan from Amsterdam of five million florins would have long since been filled had it been handled by Wilhem & Jan Willink alone, not because the two other participating banks lacked the will, but because, having less standing, they could not command the same influence, cooperation, and success in the exchanges of either Amsterdam or the other cities; and, second, that if Congress, while still allowing the three houses to complete the first contract for five million, wished also to open a new loan for at least ten million florins to be handled solely by Wilhem & Jan Willink, we are assured that this loan would be filled very quickly, even before the one for five million could be completed. I am told that speed is of the essence, before the other transactions, increasingly being made for this country itself, sweep up the money, and before the lenders have the option of raising interest rates. He declared to me that the Willinks have no knowledge that this overture has been made to me. In addition to its importance, I have another special reason for urgently sharing this information with you after receiving permission to do so: it is that in no time this notion is sure to be passed in conversation to any member of Congress seeking to find out how to raise money in Holland with the same ease and speed enjoyed so particularly and for so long by the English.1

Having set forth the above as faithfully and exactly as I could, it remains, sir, for me to ask that, however you may decide to use this information, you will take care to avoid giving the two other houses reason to resent me, as if I had adopted other people's opinions in order to exclude them, when in fact nothing was further from my thoughts. I wish simply to do my duty and to inform you of everything that might prove useful; and, should you deem it necessary for me to ask the Willinks for an explanation or the outline of a plan, either on your behalf or in a manner that does not compromise you, I wish to follow as best I can your orders pro bono publico.

I am with true and deep respect your excellency's very humble and very obedient servant

C.w.f. Dumas 511

P.S. The person in question (whom I shall name in another letter, if you do not guess his identity from this) gave me serious, positive assurances that it would be as easy to raise fifty million successively as the ten million mentioned here. But this gentleman will no longer be available for consultation when you reply, sir, and that is why it is only possible to obtain further clarification by writing directly and in secret to the Willinks, if you so desire.

2d. P.S. Mr. Texeira, a Portuguese Jew here, beseeched me to consult your excellency about whether and how one might purchase lands in South Carolina without the owner being obliged to go live there himself otherwise than by a proxy or by an authorized agent. It is their synagogue here that is considering making such a purchase, in order to send and provide useful employment for a troupe of their poor, with whom they are overburdened. Mr. Texeira told me that they were already in the market for lands that the Salvadors, their co-religionists in London, possessed in Ninety-Six, but that the owners did not want to get rid of them. And Mr. Salvador's nephew told me that the sale was not able to be concluded because they only offered [6?]000 £ sterling for lands that were worth much more. This could be communicated, with my respects to his excellency Mr. Laurens[. . .].2

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Paris à S. E. Mr. Adams M. P.”; endorsed: “Mr Dumas / 30 May. Ansd 5 June / 1783.” FC (Nationaal Archief:Dumas Papers, Microfilm, Reel 2, f. 547–548).


The proposal came from Pieter Johan van Berckel, the new Dutch minister to the United States. JA identifies him obliquely in his reply of 5 June (LbC, APM Reel 108) and by name in his 11 July letter to Robert Morris (Morris, Papers , 8:275–276). In Winter, Amer. Finance and Dutch Investment (1:122), Pieter J. van Winter attributes Van Berckel's motives, at least in part, to his dissatisfaction with the Van Staphorsts for failing to sign a petition supporting his brother, Engelbert François van Berckel, during his political troubles. In his 5 June reply, JA indicates his apprehension “that the Gentleman you conversed with concerning the Loan is decieved, as his worthy Brother was on a former occasion, by whose Advice chiefly I was led to open the Loan with those three Houses. He was then of opinion, that even ten Millions might be obtained; whereas the three Houses have not been able to obtain in a year, so much Money as Mr. Hodshon would have obtained in a Month, if not in the first day.” Engelbert had been one of the principal people involved in convincing JA to switch his loan from John Hodshon, considered pro-British, to bankers more closely allied with the antistadholder Patriot Party. It is noteworthy that in his letter of 16 June to Robert R. Livingston as well as in that of 11 July to Morris, JA advocated turning to the house of Hope, also considered pro-British, if a new effort to raise a loan was to be undertaken (vol. 11:53; 12:434–435, 450, 462–463; Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:490).


The second postscript is not with this letter in the Adams Papers and is supplied from Dumas’ file copy. In his reply of 5 June JA reported that he had “waited last Evening on Mr. Laurens with your Postscript, respecting the Purchase of Lands in South Carolina— Mr. Laurens will give me his Sentiments of it” (LbC, APM Reel 108). No response by Laurens, either through JA or directly to Dumas, has been found, and nothing further than is related here is known about the proposal or its outcome. The synagogue presumably was interested in the 100,000 acres on the Saluda River near the Ninety-Six District purchased in 1755 by Joseph Salvador, a London merchant originally from Amsterdam. By 1783, however, business reverses had forced him to sell or otherwise convey nearly all of the acreage, 512most of it in 1775 when Rebecca Mendes Da Costa received 20,000 acres to satisfy a legal judgment and 59,900 acres were sold to a consortium that also included Da Costa. Left only with a heavily mortgaged plantation, Salvador moved to South Carolina in 1784 and died at Charleston in 1786 (Barnett A. Elzas, The Jews of South Carolina, Phila., 1905, p. 109–114; Laurens, Papers , 4:334–335).