Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter

Benjamin Waterhouse to John Adams

John Adams to Cotton Tufts, 9 December 1780 JA Tufts, Cotton


John Adams to Cotton Tufts, 9 December 1780 Adams, John Tufts, Cotton
John Adams to Cotton Tufts
Dear Sir Amsterdam Decr. 9. 1780

Your Favour of July 25th was received in Paris in my Absence, and I have never had opportunity, to acknowledge it, till now.

You are now I hope happy, both in the Constitution and Administration of Government. It cannot be long before We shall see the Lists.

I am obliged to you for the Journal of the Weather, but cannot admit your Excuse for not writing me Politicks. Every one says you will have publick Affairs from others. So I get them from none.

The Institution of an Accademy of Arts and Sciences, does you much honour in Europe, and it will after a little Time be incouraged, many Ways. But dont set your Hearts upon Benefactions from abroad. It is a shame that We should beg for Benefactions. There have been but two Hollis's—there will perhaps be no more.1

Indeed America will never derive any good from Europe of any Kind. I wish We were wise enough to depend upon ourselves for every Thing, and upon them for nothing. Ours is the richest and most independent Country under Heaven, and We are continually looking up to Europe for Help! Our Riches and Independance grow annually out of the Ground.

The English are hiring ships here to carry Troops and Provisions to America—they have hired about a Dozen and there are Orders to hire as many as they can.

The Dutch are waiting for the English stocks to fall below Sixty 30and then every body will put their Money into them. These Gudgeons are deceived. The English Emmissaries give out that there will be Peace, and the credulous Dutch believe it, and they think that after a Peace the English stocks will rise, as they did after 1763. So they hope to get 15 or 20 Per Cent clear Profit. But there is not the least Probability of Peace: nor will the English stocks rise after it, when it comes.

The Dutch have acceeded to the neutral Confederation, but this I suspect, will be brutum Fulmen.

I inclose you a Pamphlet or two2 and am, with affectionate Respects to the Family &c.

LbC (Adams Papers). The “Pamphlet or two” enclosed in missing RC have not been found, but one has been identified; see note 2.


Thomas Hollis and his adopted heir, Thomas Brand Hollis, were British “republicans” who had been generous benefactors of Harvard College and other American institutions of learning. See DAB under Thomas Hollis, and references to both men in JA, Diary and Autobiography .


Undoubtedly one of these was a literary effort that had cost JA much time and trouble during the preceding months. Entitled Pensées sur la révolution de l'Amérique-unie, extraites de l'ouvrage anglois, intitulé Mémoire, adressé aux souverains de l'Europe, sur l'état présent des affaires de l'ancien & du nouveau-monde, Amsterdam [&c.], n.d. (Sabin 64829), it had a long and complex history which can be given in only summary form here. It was a translation of what JA called an “Abridgment,” from his own hand, of an influential pamphlet by Thomas Pownall, A Memorial Most Humbly Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe ..., London, 1780 (Sabin 64826). JA had prepared his version of this tract in the spring of 1780 and furnished a copy to Congress in the form of a letter to Pres. Samuel Huntington, 19 April (PCC, No. 84, I; LbC, Adams Papers). What appears to be JA's draft or working copy, a holograph MS in nineteen folio pages much corrected in his own and another hand (probably Edmund Jenings'), is in the Adams Papers under the assigned date of 5 Sept. 1780; it bears the title “A Translation of the 'Memorial to the Sovereigns of Europe,' into common Sense and intelligible English.” This or another English text was made available in June or early July 1780 to a Parisian named Addenet for translation into French. The translation followed JA to Amsterdam and was sent by him on 5 Sept. to the Leyden scholar-journalist Jean Luzac, who wrote a lengthy and valuable preface and caused the whole to be published anonymously under the title Pensées, &c. (as given above in this note). Copies reached JA in mid-November, and he at once began to circulate them diligently. Early in 1781, as a result of efforts by Edmund Jenings, JA's friend in Brussels (on whom see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:355–356 and passim), the London publisher John Stockdale brought out an English edition under the by now sufficiently confusing title A Translation of the Memorial ... into Common Sense and Intelligible English (Sabin 35987). No subsequent edition has ever been issued, since CFA did not include it in JA's Works , and Wharton unaccountably omitted from the Diplomatic Correspondence JA's letter to Huntington of 19 April 1780 embodying JA's revision of Pownall's observations. This is the more regrettable because Pownall, who posited that the Americans had already won their independence, broke new ground in setting forth the future political and commercial relations between the Americas and Europe. JA's redaction is significant both for what it includes and what it omits.


The foregoing summary is based on extensive correspondence during 1780 and early 1781 between JA and Addenet, Jenings, Luzac, and J. D. van der Capellen surviving in the Adams Papers.