Papers of John Adams, volume 10

To the President of Congress, No. 31

From Thomas Digges

To the President of Congress, No. 32, 26 December 1780 JA President of Congress Huntington, Samuel


To the President of Congress, No. 32, 26 December 1780 Adams, John President of Congress Huntington, Samuel
To the President of Congress, No. 32
Duplicate Sir Amsterdam December 26th 1780

The public Papers of this Morning inform Us, that Sir Joseph Yorke left the Hague on the Morning of the twenty fourth, without taking Leave of any body, and bent his Course to London by the Way of Antwerp and Ostend.

Sometime in the Month of April last, a certain British Ambassador, who had an Inclination to take a few of the Pleasures of Paris in his Way to Germany, said in that City, where I recieved the Information 439in the time of it, “To be sure the Americans will carry their Point, and establish their Independence, for there will infallibly be a War between England and Holland before Christmas.”1

If the War is considered to commence from the Departure of the Ambassador, Sir Joseph went off exactly in time to accomplish the Prophecy.

Since the Departure of Sir Joseph has been generally known, the City has been in a Fermentation. The English Ministry are cursed here as heartily as any where in general: Things are said by our Friends to be in a very good Situation: but I never know what to believe. The English are very bold I think—they are very enthusiastical—they are sure of the Assistance of Providence—as sure of Success against all their Enemies, as the old Lady was of Relief from Want, and making her Fortune by drawing a Prize in the Lottery. But have You bought a Ticket, Mamma, said her Daughter? No my Child, said the old Lady, I have no Ticket, but Providence is Almighty, and therefore I am sure of the highest Prize. Ticket or no Ticket.

I have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant.

John Adams

Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 345–347); docketed: “Letter Decr. 26. 1780 John Adams Read 19 Novr 1781.” LbC (Adams Papers).


In the Letterbook this passage reads: “To be Sure the Americans will carry their Point, and establish their Independence; but for (with a Curse, which altho it would Sound with as much Grace from the Mouth of a British Ambassador as from a British Sailor, would not be proper for an American to repeat) why should they wish to rip open our Belly? the Belly of their Mother? I answered that their pious Child would never attempt to hurt the Belly, if the Mother did not attempt to “dash the Brains out. The Same Ambassador Added, there will infallibly be a War between England and Holland before Christmas.”

When JA copied this letter out of his Letterbook in 1809 for publication in the Boston Patriot, he restored, with some changes, the canceled passage and inserted the following observation regarding the British diplomat's comments: “This, however, was but one of a thousand of the bitterest expressions which I have heard from Englishmen, relative to the connection between Holland and America. Nothing ever galled them so much. They could never keep their tempers when they spoke or thought of it, and although they blustered and quarrelled, nothing ever brought them to a serious sense of their situation and danger” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot , p. 314).

The 1780 and the 1809 versions should be compared with the somewhat different version of this anecdote that appeared in JA's letter of 28 March to Edmund Jenings (above).