Papers of John Adams, volume 16

C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams, 21 October 1784 Dumas, C. W. F. Adams, John
From C. W. F. Dumas
Monsieur Lahaie 21e. Oct. 1784

Mardi 19 au soir Leurs H. P. dépecherent un Exprès à Paris, avec l’acceptation unanime de la part des 7 provinces des points réservés en blanc dans le Traité défensif adopté de part & d’autre; & pouvoir à leurs plénipo: de signer ce Traité &c.1

J’attends l’adresse demandée à Londres, non seulement pour les Lettres que je pourrai écrire à V. E. par cette route, com̃e la plus 345 sure dorénavant pour parler Sans gêne; mais aussi pour avoir dans la suite cette occasion de plus pour acheminer mes paquets, surtout en hiver.

Je me rappelle, Monsieur, que vous m’avez dit que cette Rep. a besoin d’une guerre pour se relever entierement. Je m’aperçois que vous aviez raison. Celle dont elle est menacée a déjà produit plusieurs bons effets: par exemple de connoître toutes ses ressources; & elle en a beaucoup; & je ne serois pas surpris de voir son armée en peu de mois doublée: d’engager les Partis à se réunir tout de bon pour la défense com̃une; & je les vois s’acheminer à grands pas vers cette réunion.

La Com̃ission des 6 provinces, pour aller ajuster le Différent au sujet des votes entre les Villes & la Noblesse de la province enrouée d’Overyssel, est complete. J’ignore les dispositions de celui de la Gueldre, frere de Mr. Linde de Hem̃e. Les 5 autres sont bons patriotes.2

Mr. L’Envoyé de Linde, ayant pris congé de L. H. P., est parti pour la Zélande, d’où il ira dans la huitaine se rendre par Calais à Londres.3

Mr. Brush, est revenu fort content de son voyage à Berlin. Il présente ses respects à V. E. Le Roi lui a fait un très bon accueil, & a témoigné recevoir avec plaisir les lumieres que Mr. Brush, selon le desir du Roi, a données à ses ministres sur les avantages d’un Com̃erce direct entre les Etats-Unis & ceux du roi.4

Le Baron de Groothous est grandement dans la faveur du Roi, à qui il a Si bien ouvert les yeux sur les tracasseries internes de ce pays, que le roi a déclaré qu’il ne s’en mêleroit & d’un autre côté ce Monarque a parlé avec estime de la conduite des Pays-bas unis dans ces derniers temps.5

Je suis avec grand respect, / De Votre Excellence / Le très-humble & très / obéissant serviteur

C.w.f. Dumas

Je dois supprimer dans cette Lettre diverses choses concernant cette rep., à cause du danger de la route.

Mes respects à Made. Adams, & à Mess. vos Collegues.

Sir The Hague, 21 October 1784

On the evening of Tuesday the 19th, Their High Mightinesses dispatched an express to Paris with the unanimous acceptance by the seven 346 provinces of the points kept blank in the defense treaty adopted by either side and power granted to their plenipotentiaries to sign the treaty, etc.1

I await the requested address in London not only for the letters that I will be able to write to your excellency by that route, as the most secure for speaking without constraint, but also for the packets that I will be able to send on, especially in winter.

I remember, sir, that you said to me that this republic needs a war in order to rise up completely. I realize that you are right. The one with which it is threatened has already had several good effects, for example, to know all its resources, and it has a lot, and I would not be surprised to see its army double in only a few months; and to engage the parties to join together in earnest for their common defense, and I see them making great strides toward this union.

The commission of the six provinces to adjust the dispute over the vote between the cities and the nobility of Overijssel, which has rendered the province voiceless, is complete. I do not know the mindset of the commissioner from Gelderland, brother of Mr. Lynden van Hemmen. The five others are good Patriots.2

The envoy, Mr. Lynden van Blitterswyck, having taken leave of Their High Mightinesses, departed for Zeeland, from where he will go in the course of the week by way of Calais to London.3

Mr. Brush returned from his trip to Berlin very pleased. He sends his respects to your excellency. The king gave him a very warm reception and claimed to receive with pleasure the insights that Mr. Brush gave to his ministers, at the king’s request, into the benefits of direct commerce between the United States and his dominions.4

The Baron von Grothaus is greatly in the favor of the king, whose eyes he so opened to the internal bickerings of this country that he declared that he will not interfere in it. On the other hand the king has spoken with esteem of the conduct of the United Netherlands of late.5

I am with great respect your excellency’s very humble and very obedient servant

C.w.f. Dumas

I have to suppress in this letter several things concerning this republic because of the danger of this route.

My respects to Mrs. Adams and to your esteemed colleagues.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “A. S. E. Mr. Adams”; endorsed: “Mr Dumas / 12. Oct. 1784.”


The Gazette d’Amsterdam of 26 Oct. reported that the States General had received dispatches from Paris a week earlier and had responded with alacrity. The newspaper did not know the contents of the dispatches, but its sources assured that they were of the utmost importance. France and the Netherlands did not sign a treaty of alliance until 10 Nov. 1785, two days after Austria and the Netherlands signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau. For both treaties see JA’s second 13 May 1784 letter to the president of Congress, and note 1, above.


Overijssel went unrepresented in the States General during the summer of 1784 because the provincial assembly was paralyzed by a dispute between the nobility and the bourgeoisie over legislative voting requirements. To resolve the conflict, the other six provinces each appointed an individual to 347 a commission charged with mediating a reconciliation (Gazette d’Amsterdam, 3 Aug., 14 Sept., 5 Oct.).


Baron Dirk Wolter Lynden van Blitterswyck, the new Dutch minister to Britain, took leave of the States General on 17 October. He arrived in London on 4 Nov. and presented his credentials to George III on the 10th (Gazette d’Amsterdam, 19 Oct., 16 Nov.; Repertorium , 3:264).


Presumably the New York merchant Eliphalet Brush. Nothing further is known of his visit to Berlin, but he would have been there at approximately the time that the Prussians decided to renew treaty negotiations with the United States. See Brush’s 4 Feb. 1785 letter regarding trade with Tuscany, below.


Friedrich Wilhelm Karl Ludwig von Grothaus was a retired Prussian lieutenant colonel who in the summer of 1784 traveled to the Netherlands, apparently on his own account. While he was there, Engelbert François van Berckel and Cornelis de Gyselaar, pensionaries, respectively, of Amsterdam and Dordrecht, considered asking him to mediate between the Patriot Party and Princess Wilhelmina of Orange, the Prussian-born niece of Frederick II, but decided not to do so. In the meantime, Grothaus came to side with the Patriots (Ulrich Joost, “Der abenteuerliche Grothaus: Eine Schattenbeschwörung,” Lichtenberg-Jahrbuch, p. 105–106, 109–110, 117 [1990]; P. J. Blok, Verslag aangaande een onderzoek in Duitschland naar archivalia belangrijk voor de geschiedenis van Nederland, 2 vols., The Hague, 1886–1889, 2:19, 20).

John Adams to Thomas Cushing, 25 October 1784 Adams, John Cushing, Thomas
To Thomas Cushing
Dear Sir Auteuil near Paris Oct. 25. 1784

Within a few days I have recd your Favour of the 16 of August, with the Resolve of the General Court of the 6 and 7 of July.

The Line between Massachusetts and Nova Scotia gave me much Uneasiness at the Time of the Negotiation of the Provisional Articles, and Still continues to distress me. I knew that the French in former Times, had a Practice of erecting an holy Cross of Wood upon every River they had a Sight of, and that Such Crosses had been found on the Banks of all the Rivers in that Region. and that Several Rivers, for this Reason were equally intituled with any one, to the Appellation of St. Croix. St. Johns River, had a Number of those Crosses and was as probably meant in the Grant to Sir William Alexander1 and in the Charters of Massachusetts as any other. I would accordingly have insisted on st. Johns as the Limit.— But no Map or Document called St. Johns, St. Croix, nor was there one Paper to justify Us in insisting on it.— The Charters, the Grant to Alexander, all the Maps and other Papers agreed in this that St. Croix was the Line between Massachusetts and Nova Scotia. My Colleagues thought they could not be justified in insisting on a Boundary which No Record or Memorial Supported and I confess I thought So too after mature Reflection, especially as the British Ministers insisted long on Kennebeck and to the last Moment on Penobscut and We found their Instructions upon this Point were So rigorous, that they could not have agreed to St Johns without 348 Sending another Courier to England, a Loss of Time which would not only have hazarded but finally lost the whole Peace for that Year, as I fully believe.

We had before Us, through the whole Negotiation, a Variety of Maps, but it was Mitchells Map, upon which was marked out the whole of the Boundary Lines of the United States, and the River st Croix which we fixed on, was upon that Map the nearest River to st. Johns.— so that in all Equity, good Consciance and Honour, the River next to st Johns should be the Boundary.— I am glad the general Court are taking early Measures, and hope they will pursue them Steadily, untill the Point is settled, which it may be now amically. if neglected long it may be more difficult.

It is reported here that the Indians are at War with the English, which is the Excuse given out for the neglect of evacuating the Posts upon our Frontier near the Lakes. Sir John Johnsons Conference may be intended to make Peace in order to the Evacuation, which could not easily be performed, in Sight of hostile Indians.2 I cannot believe that the British Ministry, mean to violate the Treaty in this Point, because it must bring on a War, which none of them would be willing to take upon himself, at present.

I was once upon a Committee with Mr Bowdoin and drew a State of the Claim of the Province, to the Lands now called Vermont, and I learn by a Letter from Mr Dalton that the Report in my Hand Writing has been lately before the General Court.3 it contains all I ever knew upon the subject, and much more than I now remember.

LbC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Lt Governor Cushing.”; APM Reel 107.


This is the poet and statesman Sir William Alexander, later the Earl of Stirling (1567?–1640), to whom James I granted Nova Scotia in 1621 ( DNB ).


Reports of war between Native Americans and the British in the Great Lakes region were false, though fear of retaliatory attacks if the British were to abandon their Indian allies to American overlordship was one variable in the complex calculations that led the British to retain the posts that they had agreed to turn over in the 1783 Anglo-American definitive treaty. JA’s reference to the rumors may be owing to his having seen James Madison’s letter to Thomas Jefferson of 15 Sept. 1784, which Jefferson had received on the previous day. There Madison referred to a reported attack by Native Americans on the British at Fort Michilimackinac and their refusal to negotiate with Sir John Johnson (vol. 15:249; Ritcheson, Aftermath of Revolution , p. 167; Jefferson, Papers , 7:421–422).


See Tristram Dalton’s 6 April letter, above.