Papers of John Adams, volume 15

467 To Benjamin Franklin, 24 January 1784 Adams, John Franklin, Benjamin
To Benjamin Franklin
Sir The Hague Jan. 24. 1784.

Desirous of doing all in my Power, to Save Mr Morriss Bills, I determined to go to Amsterdam, and accordingly, Sett off, the Beginning of this Month from London, in a Season too rigorous for Pleasure.— At Harwich we were obliged to wait Several Days for fair Weather, which when it arrived brought us little Comfort as it was very cold And the Wind exactly against Us. The Packetts were obliged to put to Sea and I embarked in one of them. We were more than Three Days in advancing Thirty three Leagues with, So unsteady a Course, and Such a tossing Vessell that We could not keep a fire, the Weather very cold and the Passengers all very Seasick. As We could not, on Account of the great Quantities of Ice upon the Coast, reach Helvoet, We were put on Shore on the Island of Goree, where We got a Boors Wagon1 to carry our Baggage and We walked about Six Miles to the Town of Goree. not finding Iceboats here We were obliged to go in open Boors Waggons across the Island to Middle Harness. Here We were detained Several Days in very bad Lodgings unable to find Boats to carry Us over the Arm of the Sea to Helvoet. at Length Iceboats appeared, and We embarked amidst a Waste of Ice which passed in and out evey day with the Tide, and by the Force of Oars, & Boathooks Sometimes rowing, in the Water, and sometimes dragging on the Ice, which would now & then break & let us down, in the Course of the Day We got over, and thought ourselves lucky, as the last Boat which passed got stuck in the Ice and was carried out with the tide and brought in again, So that they were out from 9 in the Morning to one O Clock the next night before they reached the opposite Shore. We could not reach Helvoet, but landed on the Dyke about two Miles from it, and took Boors Waggons again for the Brille, which We reached at Night. Next Morning We took Ice Boats again to cross another Water obstructed with Ice as before, and then a Third the Maese, which We found Sufficiently frozen to walk over on the Ice. another Boors Waggon carried Us to Delft, and from thence a Coach to the Hague. after the Rest of a day or two I went to Amsterdam.2 Our Bankers had applied to the Regency, and I offered to enter into any reasonable Contract, and to pledge the Faith of the United States for the Performance of it. but all in vain, The Gentlemen of the Regency, Seemed very desirous of doing something for Us, if they 468could. But as usual, they are so afraid of making a Precedent, and that other Powers, as much distressed for money as We, would take Advantage and demand the Same favour, that they dare not, and our Bankers were advised to take back their Application, to avoid a certain decision against Us.— Yesterday I returnd to the Hague.

I Should look back with Pleasure, upon the less Chagrin, upon the disagreable Passage from London, if We had Succeeded, in obtaining the Object of it, but I find I am here only to be a Witness that American Credit in this Republick is dead, never to rise again, at least untill the United States Shall all agree upon Some Plan of Revenue, and make it certain that Interest and Principal will be paid. There has Scarcely an Obligation been Sold Since the News of the Mutiny of Soldiers in Philadelphia and the diversity of Sentiments among the States about the Plan of Impost.

I have no Information from Congress or Mr Morris, but am told by our Bankers there are Bills to the Amount of Thirteen hundred Thousand Guilders which must be sent back, a terrible disappointment to great Numbers of People! Some of the Bills become payable, the Beginning of March, and the Rest being much the greatest Part in May.

At Amsterdam I recd the Honour of yours of the 3 of this Month.

LbC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Dr Franklin.”; APM Reel 107.


Farm wagon.


JA left London on 2 Jan., landed on the island of Goeree on the 8th, reached The Hague on the 11th, and went to Amsterdam on the 14th. The account given here should be compared with that JA compiled in 1812 and published in the Boston Patriot, JA, D&A , 3:152–153, and JQA’s contemporary account in his letters to Peter Jay Munro of 13 and 16 Jan. 1784, NNMus. The Gazette d’Amsterdam of 16 Jan. included a report from The Hague dated two days earlier relating that JA had returned from Paris and London and appeared before the States General to announce that he was again in residence at The Hague. Benjamin Franklin likely first learned of JA’s arrival from C. W. F. Dumas’ letter of 15 Jan., which indicated that JA had reached The Hague and gone to Amsterdam (DLC:Franklin Papers).

To Matthew Ridley, 25 January 1784 Adams, John Ridley, Matthew
To Matthew Ridley
Dear Sir The Hague Jan. 25. 1784

I recd, last Week, at Amsterdam, your Favour of Decr. 27. and Sympathize, most Sincerely with you, in your Affliction but I Still hope, Mrs Ridley will recover.

As an Article in our Confederation, Stipulates, that “no State Shall confer any Title of Nobility” and as the Genius of our 469Governments is averse to all Such Distinctions, I am no Friend to the Errand of Major L’Enfant.1 I wonder, what the Roman, in Heaven, thinks, of the Use We are making of his Name and his Plough! I wonder, whence our Officers derived their Authority, to assume Such Honnours, and to institute Such decorations, without Leave of Congress or the States. if Congress had ordered a Medal to be Struck, and presented to every officer, no Objection would have been made: but the present mode, will, I fear give rise to very disagreable Debates and Dissentions. I have been informed that this whole Scheme, was first concerted, in France and transmitted, from thence, by the Marquis? Is this true or not? It is with Congress and the States to determine, whether it Shall be permitted. to me, it Seems an Inroad upon our Liberties. I dare Say the officers do not consider it, in that Light.2

To my mortification I must inform you, that I despair of doing any Thing to prevent the Bills from going back. I have made a painful Journey to Holland, in Packet Boats, Iceboats and Boors Waggons, in a very Severe Season to do all I could, but I find nothing can be done. I made a Journey last Summer in extream Heat, and another this Winter in extream Cold, both to no Purpose. The Heat cost me a Fever, and the Cold has hurt, my Health, but the greatest Chagrin of all is to find that I wear out, the feeble Remains of me, for nothing. I have but one comforable Reflection, which is, that when the States find their Credit compleatly and certainly undone, they will take effectual Measures to recover it, by establishing a Revenue for the Payment of Interest.

Remember me, respectfully and affectionately to Mrs Barclay, Mrs Ridley and the Children.

How is the Drs Complaint of the Stone, Gravel &c

LbC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mathew Ridley Esq.”; APM Reel 107.


The relevant passage in Art. 6, paragraph 1, of the Articles of Confederation reads “nor shall the united states in congress assembled, or any of them, grant any title of nobility.”


This is the only extant letter by JA to anyone at Paris in which he criticizes the Society of the Cincinnati, but he was apparently equally unreserved in expressing his opinion of the society in conversations with acquaintances at Amsterdam. For the result of his comments, see the Marquis de Lafayette’s letter of 8 March in which he defended the society against JA’s criticism, Lafayette, Papers , 5:201–203.