Papers of John Adams, volume 16

48 Antoine Marie Cerisier to John Adams, 21 February 1784 Cerisier, Antoine Marie Adams, John
From Antoine Marie Cerisier
Monsieur Amsterdam ce 21 fevrier 1784

J’espere que dans peu vous aurez la satisfaction de voir paraître l’ouvrage de Mr de Mably, ouvrage qui honore également l’Ecrivain & le héros.1 Un Régent de cette République a bien voulu se charger de le traduire; il est déjà connu par une traduction de l’Esprit des loix très estimée.2 Cette production est trop intéressante pour tarder à fixer l’attention des Anglais & des Allemands. J’aurais envie d’y mettre un petit bout de préface, en qualité d’Editeur, pour encourager les Hollandais à examiner leurs propres constitutions d’après les principes de l’Abbé Républicain. Que me conseillez-vous?3 J’ai reçu une lettre de Mr de Mably que je dois vous communiquer, mais dans l’espérance que vous voudrez bien me la renvoyer.4

Mr van den Corput Agent de S.A.S. Mgr le prince de Hesse Darmstad, m’ayant communiqué quelques observations Sur le plan du dernier Emprunt de l’Amérique, & paraissant desireux de vous les faire passer, je l’ai beaucoup assuré que cette démarche vous Serait agréable.5 Mr van den Corput est versé profondement dans cette matiere. Il est zélé partisan de l’Amérique; & les diverses connaissances qu’il possède dans une multitude de branches opposées, rendent cet attachement précieux. Quant à moi se serai toujours flatté de pouvoir être utile aux Etats-Unis, sachant qu’il n’est pas de moyen plus sûr de vous prouver avec quelle sincere vénération j’ai l’honneur d’être / De Votre Excellence / Le très Humble & très / obéissant serviteur

A. M. Cerisier
Sir Amsterdam, 21 February 1784

I hope that in a short while you will have the satisfaction of seeing the work of Mr. Mably, a work which does equal honor to the writer and to the heroes.1 A regent of this republic wanted to undertake the translation of it; he is already known for a highly esteemed translation of De l’esprit des lois. 2 This project is too interesting to delay bringing it to the attention of the English and the Germans. I would like to add a short preface to it, in my capacity as editor, to encourage the Dutch to examine their own constitutions according the principles of the republican abbé. What do you advise me to do?3 I received a letter from Mr. Mably that I must send to you, but with the hope that you will be so kind as to return it to me.4

When Mr. Corput, agent of His Most Serene Highness Monsignor the 49 Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, communicated to me several observations on the plan of the latest American loan, seemingly wishing to have them forwarded to you, I repeatedly assured him that such a measure would be agreeable to you.5 Mr. Corput is deeply versed in this matter. He is a zealous partisan of America and the breadth of knowledge that he possesses in a multitude of wide-ranging subjects renders that attachment invaluable. As for me I will always be flattered to be able to be of use to the United States, knowing that there is no more certain means of proving to you with what sincere veneration I have the honor of being your excellency’s very humble and very obedient servant

A. M. Cerisier

RC (Adams Papers).


Using Cerisier as his agent, JA had been seeking publication of Abbé de Mably’s Observations sur le gouvernement et les loix des États-Unis d’Amérique since mid-Oct. 1783. This was owing to his unsuccessful effort to obtain the Observations’ publication in France. JA’s motive for the undertaking was his friendship for Mably and a desire to inform Europeans about American institutions, and possibly also because of vanity since Observations was in the form of four letters to himself (vol. 15:312–314, 367–368). For further progress reports on the publication of Mably’s work, including an English edition, Observations on the Government and Laws of the United States of America, Translated from the French with a Preface by the Translator, see the letters of 3 March 1784 from Cerisier and 21 March from the publisher, J. F. Rosart & Co., both below.


Possibly Dirk Hoola van Nooten, who published a Dutch translation of Montesquieu’s De l’esprit des lois, entitled Geest der wetten, between 1783 and 1787, and earlier had translated works by Condillac and Adam Smith. Van Nooten was a Schoonhoven magistrate (Wyger R. E. Velema, Republicans: Essays on Eighteenth-Century Dutch Political Thought, Leyden, Netherlands, 2007, p. 95). But there is no evidence that he played any role in the publication of the Dutch translation of Mably’s work, Brieven over de regeeringsvorm en wetten der Vereenigde Staaten van Noord-America aan zyne excellentie John Adams, published by Willem Holtrop at Amsterdam in 1785.


For JA’s response to Cerisier’s proposal, see his reply of 22 Feb. 1784, below.


Mably’s letter has not been found, presumably because JA returned it, but see JA’s comments on it in his 22 Feb. reply to Cerisier, below.


For the substance of J. Franc van den Corput’s letter of 21 Feb. (Adams Papers), wherein he claimed to be director of a loan for Hesse-Darmstadt and that court’s agent and chargé d’affaires at The Hague, see the extract that JA included in his 23 Feb. letter to the consortium, below. In his reply to Corput of 22 Feb. (LbC, APM Reel 107), JA indicated that he was submitting his proposal to the consortium for its consideration.

Joseph Reed to John Adams, 21 February 1784 Reed, Joseph Adams, John
From Joseph Reed
Dear Sir London Feb. 21st. 1784.

I was duly honoured with your Favour of the 11th. Instt. which I communicated to Dr. Witherspoon who joins me in reciprocating every Mark of your polite & friendly Attention, & in expressing our very cordial Acknowledgments—

The Establishment of our Funds in America tho long delayed & occasionally interrupted will I flatter myself take Place this Winter, at least so far as to establish the Impost by Authority of Congress 50 confirm’d by the States. How far the Revenue will be faithfully collected & the Laws duly executed remains to be seen. Having found so much Difficulty to check the Intercourse with the British during the War, it is to be feared the Spirit of Smuggling too much predominates in America & that a Competition for the Trade between different States may enfeeble the Collection: As a sumptuary Regulation it would now be very beneficial to the Country for I am sorry to say, my dear Sir, the Appetite for European & especially British Manufactures & Imports is much too strong for our weak Digestion. We neither want, nor can we pay for the Quantitis which this Kingdom is pouring forth in the most lavish Profusion. In this View the Suspension of our European Credit may not be so great a Misfortune as may be apprehended.— The Goodwill of G. Brittain seems to be manifested to America in no other Mode than giving her an unlimited Credit from which I fear both Countries will suffer, there it will check Industry & promote Dissipation & end in Loss & Complaint here. The Morality of America & the Education on which it must be founded have not yet gained that Vigour, which we could wish. The best regulated Armies are poor Schools for moral Virtue. Our Officers are scattered over the whole Country & will of course influence its Manners in a considerable Degree. Their Virtues tho great, are of a different Species; it is impossible to say too much of their Perseverance Patience & Bravery. They have created an Order among themselves which has occasioned a Variety of Sentiment we hope in this Instance Virtues & Ribbons may be inseparably blended.—

With Respect to a Commission for negotiating a Treaty of Commerce with this Kingdom Dr. Witherspoon & myself both think it was the general Opinion there, that what has been sent as Instructions, connected with former Powers was sufficient; but as to my own Part it was only a general Idea taken up in Conversation the Subject having never been spoke of authoritativly.—1

The little Observation I have made in this City affords but very faint Hopes of removing any Prejudices against America, if my own Abilities were much more equal to such a Task; they seem to labour under the insuperable Curse of never profiting by Experience in any Thing which respects that Country. There must be a Capacity to receive Information & a Spirit to improve it before they learn their true Interest. I confess I find myself most disappointed & deceived in my Opinion of their conciliating Spirit. There is certainly a very great Fund of Bitterness towards America to be done away, before 51 we can meet with a general Cordiality. Most of the Gentlemen of America are returning thither with these Sentiments & will discourage the Intercourse.— If it is not improper I should be happy to learn what Prospect there is of the Payment of Mr. Morris’s Bills— At least I hope you will excuse my Freedom, when I add that a Motive beyond Curiosity influences me—. By Letters just received from America I find that on the 18th. Decemr. Congress made up 6 States,2 & single Members from others so as to expect a Congress to form immediately If any Thing important should occur I shall have great Pleasure in communicating it & shall be extremely happy to be honoured with your occasional Favours. As I am with very great Respect & equal Esteem Dr. Sir, / Your most Obed. & very Hble Servt.

Jos. Reed

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Reed. Feb. 21. 1784.”


Presumably Congress’ instructions of 29 Oct. 1783 (vol. 15:329, 331–334).


Not until 14 Jan. 1784 did Congress have a quorum of nine members, the number necessary to ratify the Anglo-American definitive peace treaty (vol. 15:455).