Papers of John Adams, volume 15

To Robert R. Livingston, 2 August 1783 Adams, John Livingston, Robert R.
To Robert R. Livingston
Sir The Hague August 2 1783

Mr: Berenger the Secretary of the French Legation has this Moment left me He came in to inform me of the News. The Empress of Russia has communicated, to the King of Prussia, a Treaty of Alliance between the Emperor of Germany and her, defensive against the Christian Powers and offensive against the Turk. The King of Prussia has answered her “That he is very sensible, upon this Communication as one is upon the Communication of Things of Great 197Importance.” Thus wrapped up in an impenetrable Reserve is this great Warrior and Statesman. We may discern by this Answer, what all the World new without it. viz that his Majesty has no Joy in this new Alliance. Still he expresses no Sorrow: and maintains a perfect Liberty to take which side he will, or neither, at his Pleasure; and the same Reserve he will probably hold to the End of the War. Mr. Berenger says, if Prussia is neutral, France must be so too, for she cannot cope by Land, with the two Empires. That this Republick is desired to declare, but does not choose it. That they are dissatisfied & the Republicans murmur a good deal and are wavering, and that the other Party will do nothing. That England hitherto has favoured an Accommodation between Russia and the Turk, & that the British Ambassador at Constantinople has co-operated with the French, to bring about an Accommodation. That the Turks have offered Russia the free Navigation of the black Sea, and Passage of the Dardanelles; and the Same with the free Navigation of the Danube to the Emperor. But they will not accept it, and are determined to drive the Turks from Europe. That France has determined to put her Army upon a War Footing, because it has been much neglected during the late War. That he believes France and Spain will Shut the Mediterranean against a Turkish Fleet, as Russia, Sweeden and Denmark, excluded Warlike Vessells from the Baltick in the last War. That this State of things gives him Great Pain and must embarass the Comte de Vergennes.— It is a great and difficult Question whether France should take a Side; if she does not, and the Empires should prevail, it will be an immense Aggrandisement of the House of Austria, which with Russia, will become two Great Maritime Powers. That England will act an insidious Part, pretend to favour Peace, secretly foment War, and join in it at the End, if she sees a favourable opportunity to crush France.1

These are Sensible Observations of Mr: Berenger, who added that a new difficulty in the Way of the definitive Treaty had arisen between England and Spain, respecting the Musqueto shore, so that more Couriers must go and return.

I confess myself as much in Pain, at the state of Things as Mr: Berenger, and therefore I wish most ardently, that we may omit no proper Means of settling our Question with every Court in Europe, and especially our Plan of Commerce with Great Britain. if this is too long left in Uncertainty, the Face of Things may soon change, so as to involve us in the complicated, extensive and long War, which seems to be now opening.


My Advices from England are, that Lord Sheffield, with his Friends Deane, Arnold, Skeene and P. Wentworth, are making a Party unfriendly to us. that the Ministry adopt their Sentiments and Measures. That Fox has lost his Popularity and devoted himself to North, who has the Kings Ear, and disposes of Places. That, Burke is Mad with Rage and Passion. That the Honest Men are much disgusted that there is no Parliamentary Reform, the Merchants that Commerce does not revive. The Monied Men at their Wits end, on account of the Conduct of the Bank, and the Army and Navy disbanding in a Spirit of revolt. That it is much to be feared that in a Year there will be a Convulsion in the State and public Credit ruined. That the present Ministry cannot stand, to the Meeting of Parliament, for that nothing has been or can be done by them.2

The Prospect of returning to Paris, and living there without my Family in absolute Idleness at a Time, when so many and so great Things want to be done for our Country elsewhere is very disagreeable; If we must live there, waiting for the moving of many Waters, and treaties are there to be negotiated, with the Powers of Europe, or only with Denmark and Portugal, I pray that we may be all joined in the Business, as we are in the Commission for Peace, that at least we may have the Satisfaction of knowing what is done, and of giving a Hint for the public Good, if any one occurs to us, and that we may not be made the Sport and Ridicule of all Europe, as well as of those who contrive such Humiliations for us. I declare I had rather be Door keeper to Congress, than live at Paris as I have done, for the last Six Months.

With Great Respect I have the honour to be, / Sir, Your most obedient Humble Servant.

John Adams.3

RC in JQA’s hand (NHi:Livingston Papers); internal address: “R. R. Livingstone Esqr / Secretary of foreign Affairs.”; endorsed: “John Adams.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 106.


JA’s account of his conversation with Laurent Bérenger, secretary to the Duc de La Vauguyon, provides an excellent overview of the diplomatic crisis afflicting Europe in the summer of 1783 over the Eastern Question and the fate of the Ottoman Empire. At its heart was the Austro-Russian alliance of 1781, which served to advance Russia’s efforts to wrest additional territory from the Ottomans and even gain direct access to the Mediterranean, and which ensured Austria compensation for Russia’s territorial gains. Equally important, however, was the fact that it ended Russia’s alliance with Prussia, Austria’s chief rival in central Europe. Frederick the Great had good reason to be chagrined at this turn of events since it left him isolated in Europe with no obvious ally against Austrian aggression. France’s position was equally anomalous because it was allied with Austria but also had traditionally supported the Ottomans against Russian expansion. Bérenger’s assertion that the situation “must embarass the Comte de Vergennes” likely refers to the foreign minister’s service as executor of French policy during 199his tenure as ambassador at Constantinople between 1756 and 1769. Great Britain remained neutral ( Cambridge Modern Hist. , 8:306–314; Murphy, Vergennes , p. 312–320, 333–344; Repertorium , 3:142).


The information provided in this paragraph is taken from Edmund Jenings’ letters of [ca. 8] and 22 July, both above.


In JA’s hand.

From Robert Montgomery, 2 August 1783 Montgomery, Robert Adams, John
From Robert Montgomery
Sir Alicante 2 August 1783

I have the Honour of your Esteemd Letter of the 18 June, and find it out of your Line to Give Introductions in Affairs of Commerce With which I Rest Satisfied, but more So as Not any Business of Consequence can be done with the States from hence, before the Navin: of the Medeterranian becomes Entirely free for thier Flag

I find I have Commited an Error in writing to the Moroccan Minister, as if Orderd directly by Congress to do so, but having instructions from Mr Carmichael to Say what I might think Prudent on the Subject to the Moron: Ambassador when here on his way to Viena and having Shortly after the Good fortune of a friendly Intimacy with Belzasnachi on his Return from An Embassy to Algiers1 he Encouraged Me on Mentioning this Subject to Write to his Court upon it Assureing Me it would be Attended with the Most favourable Consequenses, but that he Could not with Propriety Mention the Affair to the Emperor without Some Such Authority for doing so, in this Situation I had not time to Consult Mr Carmichael as the Ambassador Was to Sail for Tanger the first favourable wind, and thought it Better to hazard the Letter I had Already the Honour of Communicating to your Execy: than Lose So favourable An Opertunity for Obtaining a thing So Greatly useful to the Commerce of Our Contrey, If I have Absolutely done Wrong in it I hope You will Conseder that the best Are Subject to Err in which I have only Acted like any Other Man but from the best Intentions, it would truely Distress me to think it Could be Attended with any disagreeable Consequence (as you Are Pleased to Observe) to the Publick, but As to my Self I fear I Shall never be Honourd by Suffering Materially in thier Cause

As to Presents which is the Custom with the Easteren Nations I was Assured by Belgasnachi that Nothing of that Kind would be Expected from Congress being an Infant State but Just Recovering from a Long And Expensive War as A Proof which please find Inclosed Extract of Another Letter I have Received from the 200Moroccan Minister dated the 6th. ulto Whereby you will find he Shews the Strongest desire of Cultivateing And fomenting the Commerce between that Countrey And the States2 in Order to which the Emperor has Already taken off one third of the Duty formerly Paid on the Mules (of which before the War we Carried Great Quantities to the West-Indias) with A Promise of Shewing Every Civillity And Respect to Any of our Vessels that May Arrive in thier Ports, In Short I beleive You will See Mr. Croco Envoy from the Emperor to their Excs the Plenipotentiaries At Paris,3 When I trust that a thing So Esential to Our Commerce As Good friendship And Harmoney with the Moores will be Seriously thought of. this and Every Other Happiness that Can Possibly Attend Our Contrey And you Sir is the Sincerest Wish of / Sir / Your Excelys: Most obedient / And Very Humble Servt

Robt Montgomery

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “To his Excy. the Honl John Adams Esqr:”; endorsed: “Mr Montgomery, at / Alicante. 2. Aug. 1783.”; notation: “Miscellaneous.”


The Moroccan ambassador on his way to Vienna was Said Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Malik Pasa ( Repertorium , 3:241). The second Moroccan diplomat, Belzasnachi, has not been further identified.


The enclosed extract has not been found, but it was likely from the 6 July letter from Eliaho Leve, secretary to the Moroccan Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdallah, the content of which Montgomery summarizes in this paragraph (PCC, No. 78, XXIV, f. 428–429).


Giacomo Francisco Crocco had written to Benjamin Franklin from Cadiz on 15 July and would again on 25 Nov., proposing to conduct an American representative to Morocco to open negotiations for a Moroccan-American commercial treaty. Franklin responded on 15 Dec., indicating that Montgomery had exceeded his authority in proposing discussions regarding a treaty, but that in any case instructions were required from Congress before negotiations could proceed. By mid-1784, the sultan was exasperated at the delays in reaching an agreement and ordered the seizure of an American vessel. Not until 1786 was a treaty finally negotiated, and then it was by Thomas Barclay at Marrakesh (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:549–550, 734, 738–739; Priscilla H. Roberts and James N. Tull, “Moroccan Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdallah’s Diplomatic Initiatives toward the United States, 1777–1786,” Amer. Philos. Soc., Procs. , 143:246–249 [June 1999]; Miller, Treaties , 2:224–227).