Papers of John Adams, volume 16

From Joseph Reed

To Duncan Ingraham Jr.

John Adams to Antoine Marie Cerisier, 22 February 1784 Adams, John Cerisier, Antoine Marie
To Antoine Marie Cerisier
Sir The Hague Feby: 22. 1784.

I thank you for your Favour, of the 21st: and for the Communication of the Letter from my Friend the Abby de Mably. I am very Sensible of his Partiality for a Man, who he thinks has contributed, from virtuous Principles, to a great Event. his Approbation is the more precious, to me as I know his Principles to be pure, and his Spirit independent. You may be Sure my Advice to you will be, to write your Preface, because I love to read your Compositions always, for the same Reason.1 But take care to caution your Readers against an implicit Adoption of the Sentiments of any Writer, how great so ever his Name may be, or how justly so ever his Writings in general may be esteemed. It is with great Pleasure, that I see the Pens, of a De Mably, a Raynal, a Cerisier, a Price, turned to the Subject of Government. I wish the Thoughts of all Academies in Europe, engaged on the same Theme, because I really think that the Science of Society, is much behind other Arts and Sciences Trades, and Manufactures. The noblest of all Knowledge, is the least general, and that a general Spirit of Inquiry, would produce ameliorations in the Administrations of every Government in every form. I have read with Pleasure, the Dissertation of the Baron de 52 Hertzberg in the Academy of Berlin, on the 29 of last month, not because I am of his Opinion, but because the Example of a Minister of State & an Academician will probably be followed.2

Mr: Van den Corput’s Observation upon the Plan of a Loan seems to merit Attention, but I must leave it to the three Houses, in whose Experience & Judgment I confide3

I return you our Friend’s Letter, and hope soon to see his Book.

With much Esteem &c

LbC in JQA’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr: A. M. Cerisier.”; APM Reel 107.


Despite JA’s approval, Cerisier did not write the preface to the Dutch edition of Mably’s Observations sur le gouvernement et les loix des États-Unis d’Amérique, for which see Cerisier’s letter of 21 Feb., and note 2, above. The Dutch edition attributes the preface to the translator of the 1784 English edition published at Amsterdam, probably the Rev. Benjamin Choyce Sowden, for whom see JA’s 27 July letter to Benjamin Franklin and Franklin’s reply of 6 Aug., both below, and Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 6, above.


JA refers to Ewald Friedrich von Hertzberg’s dissertation Sur la forme des gouvernemens, et quelle en est la meilleure?, [Berlin?], 1784, presented before the Berlin Academy on 29 Jan. in celebration of Frederick II’s birth. Hertzberg was Frederick’s foreign minister. In referring to Hertzberg’s presentation in the Defence of the Const., JA noted that fact and observed that it was to be expected that the Prussian minister would “show the advantages of simple monarchy over all kinds of republican governments, even that best species of them, limited monarchies” and that none of the “academicians” hearing the address was prepared to dispute his conclusion (JA, Defence of the Const. , 1:324).


See JA’s 23 Feb. letter to the consortium, below.