Papers of John Adams, volume 16

To Henry Laurens

From John Cranch

29 John Adams to Joseph Reed, 11 February 1784 Adams, John Reed, Joseph
To Joseph Reed
Dr Sir The Hague Feb. 11. 1784.

Your kind Favour of the 30 Ult. was deliverd to me last night, together with the Packet, which our Friend Mr Gerry committed to your Care.1

You give me great Pleasure, Sir by your assurances that the Removal from Philadelphia2 and the prohibitory Restrictions passed in Great Britain3 have Strengthened the American Union, the Authors of those Restrictions, depended upon our Divisions, and expected to increase them. I thought they would be disappointed. & am very glad to learn they are So.

The Establishment of Funds, for the Payment of our Debts Seems to be the most important and necessary Object of the publick Attention at present.— I am Sorry to inform you that the Want of it has had very unhappy Effects in Europe, and has entirely suspended our public Credit in this Republick, for the present.

General Washingtons Retreat, is the Completion of his Character, which is the greatest our Country ever produced.4 She will never want a greater; a Succession of Such will insure her Felicity, and Prosperity. May he however live, and be again our great Pillar, if We shd have another War. But my Friend, is the next Generation, likely to produce Such Characters? Are those morals and that Education which produced Such Men to be preserved or are they in danger? Are the Eyes of our People to be fixed as they have been upon Virtues, or upon Ribbons?

Let me beg of you sir to present my friendly Regards to Dr Witherspoon to congratulate him upon the delicious opportunity he has of seeing his Friends in Europe in Peace, after the fatigues of a service in which has acted a very great and meritorious Part.— I feel an Affection and Veneration for all Such Men, which will never wear out, if the Dr, or Yourself Should find it consistent with your affairs, to make an Excursion this Way, it would make me very happy to receive you at the Hague.

Congress, in May last resolved to send a Commission to Dr Franklin, Mr Jay and myself, to make a Treaty of Commerce with G. B.— But no such Authority has arrived?— I am much in the dark about their Intentions, in this respect, and some others.5 if Dr Witherspoon or Yourself could inform me, you would oblige me.

Among your Ancient Acquaintances and Correspondents in 30 England you will have an opportunity of undeceiving, many Persons and Some of high Rank.— These, ought to have the Utmost Confidence in your Relations and Judgments, as they have had a long Experience of your being in the right and themselves in the Wrong.— But there seems to be absolutely in every European Understanding, an utter Incapacity of comprehending the Truth respecting America. They go on from Generation to Generation, believing every false and discrediting every true Account. Nothing is necessary, after a thousand Experiences that they have been deceived, but the trouble of forging a new Chimæra to obtain afresh their Confidence.

If you have occasion to write to me, you may address your Letters to me at the Hague, or under Cover to Messrs Wilhem and Jan Willink Merchants at Amsterdam.

With very great Esteem, and Respect I have the Honour / to be, Dear sir,

LbC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Joseph Reed Esq. / at Mr Dennis Deberdts / Broadstreet Buildings.”; APM Reel 107. Tr (2, Adams Papers). The first copy was sent to JQA as an enclosure in a 26 Dec. 1826 letter from Reed’s son, Joseph Reed Jr. (Adams Papers). The second copy was sent to CFA as an enclosure in a 5 Feb. 1842 letter from Reed’s grandson, William Bradford Reed (Adams Papers).


Reed enclosed Elbridge Gerry’s letter of 23 Nov. 1783 with his letter of 30 Jan. 1784 (vol. 15:369–376, 472–473).


For Congress’ decision to leave Philadelphia in mid-1783 to meet at Princeton and Trenton, N.J., and Annapolis, Md., because of the inability or unwillingness of authorities in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia to take action against mutinous elements of the Continental Army, see the index to vol. 15.


These were the British Orders in Council of 14 May, 6 June, and 2 July 1783 that served to regulate or restrict Anglo-American trade in the absence of a commercial treaty, for which see the index to vol. 15.


Reed had referred to George Washington’s resignation as commander in chief, which he laid before Congress, meeting at Annapolis, on 23 Dec. 1783. For Washington’s address and Congress’ response, see JCC , 25:837–839.


On 1 May 1783, Congress resolved to create a joint commission to negotiate an Anglo-American commercial treaty and authorized the preparation of a commission and instructions for that purpose, but it never implemented the resolution ( JCC , 24:320–321). JA and his colleagues, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, learned of Congress’ decision on 7 September. But it was not until 7 May 1784 that Congress finally acted, and then it created a joint commission to negotiate treaties with 23 nations in Europe and North Africa, for which see the 7 May instructions to the commissioners and the joint commission to negotiate an Anglo-American commercial treaty of 12 May, both below.