Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From the Board of Treasury

From John Jay

My lord! Leiden, 31 October 1786

The reception, with which you have honored me during your stay in this republic and the tokens of esteem and friendship with which you have deigned to grace me have motivated me to interrupt your important business, and to implore your help on behalf of a friend whom I would hesitate to introduce in the quality of ambassador, being unacquainted with the courting of high-ranking individuals, and never wishing to solicit their favors.

It has been four years that the state of this republic, compared to that of the United States, has caused me to wish to move, and the conviction of being unable to support myself in America without any possessions has impeded its fulfillment, though this impediment would not have delayed my retreat the moment the fatal blow were to have fallen upon liberty, either by the stadholder or by the aristocrats.

My fortune has improved a little now, and with it, the hope that it would suffice in America to nourish a wife and two children and to procure for these last a suitable position. I have tried to procure some information on the manner and means of living, principally in New Hampshire and New York. I would like to live in the countryside, knowing that rural life provides more ease to a greater number than the cities. I am told that the climate “of the two states is more fortunate than here, the temperatures not so low in winter, in the summer more heat, and in any case that the weather is not so variable as in Holland throughout the different seasons—that 600 or 800 florins would suffice to sustain a family in the PLEASANT country parts of New Hampshire or New York state.[”]

Are these reports true, are these lands pleasant and fertile? Could I subsist in comfort (ease, dignity, and in reputation) in New York or New Hampshire, having from 16,000 to 17,000 florins?


With this sum, could I hope to provide a subsistence for my family in an easy manner and leave a heritage to my children with which they might survive?

Have the goodness to clarify my doubts, send me a description, as ample as possible to persuade a respectable spouse to leave our abode in the hopes of living happily in a free country and to better the fortunes of our children, a description of what is necessary to know for us to make up our minds. I will always count it as a blessing, sir! And in that case, I do not hesitate, in leaving for this country, to request your recommendations. Provide me, your ministerial duties permitting, a response; because, having received one according to my desires and having persuaded my wife, I will do everything I can to cast off my property—furniture, library—in part, in order to be able to embark in May or June of 1787. I await. I desire that moment with impatience.1

Things here are not taking a turn for the better, though the blind instruments of the aristocracy and a duped bourgeoisie are crying victory, and certain high-ranking people—known to you—believe the power of the stadholder to be sufficiently beaten to dare to surreptitiously undermine, thus far, the hope of reestablishing a just influence of the people in the government, and they are so blind that they do not see it is they who will be duped. My lord, the stadholder and his party are holding fast, those of Holland are trying to preserve what they have swindled from him, by means of appeasement with the conservation of his influence in the Gelderland and other provinces, and to this end they secretly cajole the two first members of the States of Utrecht, and play tricks from time to time on the cities of Utrecht and Wyck. We have already arranged all of our domestic affairs in those two cities, but what does that serve other than to slumber? Because we remain in the same peril, while provincial griefs have not been redressed and our troops, who night and day force us to lie awake, remain billeted in the lowlands.

I have reasons to fear that two known courts, rather interested in our affairs, have kindly arranged themselves to be, in a little while, the mediators!2 Perhaps a proposition from Amsterdam to appease all of these troubles, and a certain plan of association and mediation will bring about this fatal moment: then the aristocratic power will be established for several years! The stadholder will reign moderately with his slaves, and the friends of the people will perhaps be the victims, if the people are indeed condescended to be taken advantage of, and William V or rather Madame Royal, who always did so well! shall reach in a few more years that summit which William IV, being stadholder of Gelderland, had in his sights, and which he would have reached if he had wished to, or if he had dared.

I would write more if I did not fear abusing your precious time. I would have written in English if I did not have the misfortune of expressing myself still worse, and for that alone I beg your pardon. I refer myself to you, sir, and am with the most profound respect, sir, your most devoted and most obedient servant

Fr Ad[r van de]r Kemp 501

P.S. If I am able to live honestly with a capital of 16,000, then other families will follow my lead—this hope is a means of persuading my dear spouse!