Papers of John Adams, volume 10

Plan for a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, 29 December 1780 Continental Congress Thomson, Charles JA Plan for a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, 29 December 1780 Continental Congress Thomson, Charles Adams, John
Plan for a Treaty of Amity and Commerce
29 December 1780 1

Plan of a treaty of amity and commerce between the United States of America and the United Provinces of the low Countries.

The parties being willing to fix in a permanent and equitable manner the rules to be observed in the commerce they desire to establish between their respective countries have judged that the said end cannot be better obtained than by taking the most perfect equality and reciprocity for the basis of their agreement, by leaving each party at liberty to make such interior regulations respecting commerce and navigation as it shall find most convenient and by founding the advantage of commerce on reciprocal utility and the just rules of free intercourse. On these principles the parties after mature deliberation have agreed to the following articles.

Art. I. There shall be a firm, inviolable and universal peace and sincere friendship between their High Mightinesses the states of the seven United provinces of the low countries and the united states of North America, and the subjects and people of the said parties, and between the countries, islands, cities and towns situated under their respective jurisdictions, and the people and inhabitants thereof, of every degree without exception of persons or places.

Art. II. The subjects of the said states of the low countries shall pay in the ports, havens, roads, countries, islands, cities or towns of the united states of North America or any of them no other or greater duties or imposts of what nature so ever they may be or by what name so ever called, than those which the nations most favoured are or shall be obliged to pay. And they shall enjoy all the rights, liberties, privileges, immunities and exemptions in trade, navigation and commerce whether in passing from one port in the said States to another or in going to and from the same from and to any part of the world, which the said nations do or shall enjoy.

Art. III. The converse of article second.

Art. IV. There shall be a full perfect and entire liberty of Conscience allowed to the subjects of each party and to their families as to matters of religion and a full and entire liberty to worship in their own way without any kind of molestation. Moreover liberty shall be given to the subjects of either party who die in the territories of the other to be interred in convenient and decent places to be appointed 452for that purpose as occasion shall require; neither shall the dead bodies of those who are buried be any wise molested.

Art. V. Their High Mightinesses the states of the seven United provinces of the low countries shall endeavour by all the means in their power to protect and defend all vessels and other effects belonging to the citizens, people or inhabitants of the said united states of America or any of them, being in their ports havens or roads or on the seas near to their countries, islands cities or towns; and to recover and cause to be restored to the right owners, their agents or attornies all such vessels and effects as shall be taken within their jurisdiction: And their ships of war or any convoys sailing under their authority shall upon all occasions take under their protection all vessels belonging to the subjects, people or inhabitants of the said United States of America or any of them, holding the same course or going the same way and shall defend such vessels as long as they hold the same course or go the same way against all attacks, force and violence in the same manner as they ought to protect and defend vessels belonging to the subjects of their said high Mightinesses.

Ar. VI A reciprocal Stipulation.

Art. VI It shall be lawful and free for merchants and others being subjects, either of the said seven united provinces of the low countries or of the said united states of America by will, or any other disposition made either during the time of sickness or at any other time before or at the point of death to devise or give away to such person or persons as to them shall seem good their effects, merchandizes, money, debts or goods moveable or immoveable which they have or ought to have at the time of their death or at any time before within the countries, islands, cities towns or dominions belonging to either of the said contracting parties. Moreover whether they die having made their wills or intestate their lawful heirs executors or administrators residing in the dominions of either of the contracting parties or coming from any other part although they be not naturalised and without having their right contested or impeded under pretext of any rights or prerogatives of provinces, cities or private persons shall freely and quietly receive and take possession of all the said goods and effects whatsoever according to the laws of each country respectively in such manner however that the wills and right of entering upon the inheritances of persons dying intestate must be proved according to the law in those places where each person may happen to die as well by the subjects of one as of the other contract-453ing party, any law statute edict, custom ordinance or right whatsoever notwithstanding.

Art. VII. It shall be lawful and free for the subjects of each party to employ such advocates, attornies, notaries, solicitors or factors as they shall think fit, to which end the said advocates and others above mentioned may be appointed by the ordinary judges if it be needful and the judges be there unto required.

Art. VIII. Merchants, masters of ships, owners mariners men of all kinds ships and vessels and all merchandize and goods in general and effects of one of the confederates or of the subjects thereof shall not be seized or detained in any of the countries lands islands cities towns ports havens shores or dominions whatsoever of the other confederate for public use warlike expeditions or the private use of any one by arrests violence or any colour thereof. Moreover it shall be unlawful for the subjects of either party to take any thing or to extort it by force from the subjects of the other party without the consent of the person to whom it belongs: which however is not to be understood of that seizure and detention which shall be made by the command and authority of justice and by the ordinary methods on account of debt or crimes in respect whereof the proceedings must be by way of law according to the forms of justice.

Art. IX. It is further agreed and concluded that it shall be wholly free for all merchants commanders of ships and other subjects of their High Mightinesses the states of the seven United provinces of the low countries in all places subject to the dominion and jurisdiction of the said United states of America to manage their own business themselves or to employ whomsoever they please to manage it for them nor shall they be obliged to make use of any interpreter or broker nor to pay any salary or fees unless they chuse to make use of them. Moreover masters of ships shall not be obliged in loading or unloading their ships to make use of those workmen that may be appointed by public authority for that purpose, but it shall be entirely free for them to load or unload their ships by themselves or to make use of such persons in loading or unloading the same as they shall think fit without paying any fees or salary to any other whomsoever. Neither shall they be forced to unload any sort of merchandizes either into other ships or to receive them into their own or to wait for their being loaded longer than, they please. And all and every the citizens people and inhabitants of the said United States of America shall reciprocally have and enjoy the same privileges and liberties in all 454places whatsoever subject to the dominion and jurisdiction of their high Mightinesses the states of the seven United provinces of the low countries.

Art. X. The merchant ships of either of the parties which shall be making into a port belonging to the enemy of the other ally and concerning whose voyage and the species of goods on board her there shall be just grounds of suspicion shall be obliged to exhibit as well upon the high seas as in the ports and havens not only her passports but likewise certificates expressly shewing that her goods are not of the number of those which have been prohibited as contraband.

Art. XI. If by exhibiting the above said certificates the other party discover there are any of those sort of goods which are prohibited and declared contraband and consigned for a port under the obedience of his enemy it shall not be lawful to break up the hatches of such ship or to open any chest coffers, packs, casks or any other vessels found therein or to remove the smallest parcel of her goods whether such ship belongs to the subjects of their high Mightinesses the states of the United provinces of the low countries or the citizens or inhabitants of the said United states of America unless the lading be brought on shore in the presence of the officers of the court of admiralty and an inventory thereof made, but there shall be no allowance to sell, exchange or alienate the same in any manner until after that due and lawful process shall have been had against such prohibited goods and the court of admiralty shall by a sentence pronounced have confiscated the same saving always as well the ship itself as any other goods found therein which are to be esteemed free; neither may they be detained on pretence of their being as it were infected by the prohibited goods much less shall they be confiscated as lawful prize: but if not the whole cargo but only part thereof shall consist of prohibited or contraband goods and the commander of the ship shall be ready and willing to deliver them to the captor, who has discovered them, in such case the captor having received those goods shall forth with discharge the ship and not hinder her by any means freely to prosecute the voyage on which she was bound. But in case the contraband merchandizes cannot be all received on board the vessel of the captor, then the captor may notwithstanding the offer of delivering him the contraband goods carry the vessel into the nearest port agreeably to what is above directed.

Art. XII On the contrary it is agreed that whatever shall be found to be laden by the subjects and inhabitants of either party on any ship belonging to the enemies of the other or to their subjects the 455whole although it be not of the sort of prohibited goods may be confiscated in the same manner as if it belonged to the enemy except such goods and merchandizes as were put on board such ship before the declaration of war or even after such declaration if so be it were done without knowledge of such declaration so that the goods of the subjects and people of either party, whether they be of the nature of such as are prohibited or otherwise, which as is aforesaid were put on board any ship belonging to an enemy before the war or after the declaration of the same without the knowledge of it shall no wise be liable to confiscation but shall well and truly be restored without delay to the proprietors demanding the same but so as that if the said merchandizes be contraband it shall not be any ways lawful to carry them afterwards to any ports belonging to the enemy. The two contracting parties agree that the term of two months being passed after the declaration of war their respective subjects from whatever part of the world they come shall not plead the ignorance mentioned in this article.

Art. XIII And that more effectual care may be taken for the security of the subjects and people of either party that they do not suffer any injury by the men of war or privateers of the other party all the commanders of the ships of war and the armed vessels of the said states of the seven united provinces of the low countries and of the said united states of America and all their subjects and people shall be forbid doing any injury or damage to the other side and if they act to the contrary they shall be punished and shall more over be bound to make satisfaction for all matter of damage and the interest thereof by reparation under the pain and obligation of their persons and goods.

Art. XIV All ships and merchandize of what nature soever which shall be rescued out of the hands of any pirates or robbers on the high seas shall be brought into some port of either state and shall be delivered to the custody of the officers of that port in order to be restored entire to the true proprietor as soon as due and sufficient proof shall be made concerning the property thereof.

Art. XV. If any ships or vessels belonging to either of the parties, their subjects or people shall within the coasts or dominions of the other stick upon the sands or be wrecked or suffer any other damage all friendly assistance and relief shall be given to the persons ship wrecked or such as shall be in danger thereof and letters of safe conduct shall likewise be given to them for their free and quiet passage from thence and the return of every one to his own country.


Art. XVI In case the subjects or people of either party with their shipping whither public and of war or private and of merchants be forced through stress of weather, pursuit of pirates or enemies or any other urgent necessity for seeking of shelter and harbour to retreat and enter into any of the rivers creeks bays havens roads ports or shores belonging to the other party they shall be received and treated with all humanity and kindness and enjoy all friendly protection and help and they shall be permitted to refresh and provide themselves at reasonable rates with victuals and all things needful for the sustenance of their persons or reparation of their ships and they shall no ways be detained or hindered from returning out of the said ports or roads but may remove and depart when and whither they please without any let or hindrance.

Art. XVII. For the better promoting of commerce on both sides it is agreed that if a war should break out between the said two nations six months after the proclamation of war shall be allowed to the merchants in the cities and towns where they live for selling and transporting their goods and merchandizes and if anything be taken from them or any injury be done to them within that term by either party or the people or subjects of either full satisfaction shall be made for the same.

Art. XVIII. No subjects of their high mightinesses the states of the seven United provinces of the low countries shall apply for or take any commission or letter of marque for arming any ship or ships to act as privateers against the said united states of America or any of them or the subjects people or inhabitants of the said united states or any of them or against the property of the inhabitants of any of them from any prince or state with which the said united states of America shall happen to be at war nor shall any citizen subject or inhabitant of the said United states of America or any of them apply for or take any commission or letters of marque for arming any ship or ships to act as privateers against the subjects of their said high mightinesses or any of them or the property of any of them from any prince or state with which the said State shall be at war and if any person of either nation shall take such commission or letters of marque he shall be punished as a pirate.

Art. XIX. The ships of the subjects and inhabitants of either of the parties coming upon any coast belonging to either of the said allies but not willing to enter into port or being entered into port and not willing to unload their cargoes or break bulk they shall be treated 457according to the general rules prescribed or to be prescribed relative to the object in Question.

Art. XX. The two contracting parties grant to each other mutually the liberty of having each in the ports of the other consuls vice consuls agents and commissaries of their own appointing whose functions shall be regulated by particular agreement whenever either party chuses to make such appointment.

Art. XXI. It is agreed between the two contracting parties that no clause article matter or thing herein contained shall be taken or understood either in present or future contrary to the clauses articles covenants and stipulations in a treaty between the said United states of America and the most Christian King executed at Paris on the sixth day of February one thousand seven hundred and seventy eight or any of them but the same shall be taken and understood consistently with and conformably to the said treaty.

Cha Thomson secy.

MS (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Plan of a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, between the U.S. and the U.P.” The undated manuscript was assigned the date of 1781–1782 and filmed at that point (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 355). Dft (PCC, No. 25, I, f. 251–262); endorsed: “N. 3. Report of the comee. Appointed to prepare instructions for the Commissioner appointed to negotiate a treaty of Commerce with the United provinces of the low Countries Read Novr. 16. 1779 reported as amended Decr. 6. 1780 Agreed to Decr. 29. 1780.”


For the dispatch of this plan, see JA's instructions of 29 Dec., note 1 (above). This proposed treaty was the work of a committee appointed on 26 Oct. 1779 to prepare a commission and instructions for the as yet unnamed commissioner to the Netherlands. On 1 Nov. 1779 Congress appointed Henry Laurens and approved the committee's draft commission, but resolved to defer any instructions until Laurens reached his post and could advise it on the proper terms for a treaty. It therefore took no action when the committee reported its treaty plan on 16 Nov. 1779. Not until 6 Dec. 1780, as Congress prepared for a new appointment, was the treaty plan revived and then, with only minor changes, approved on 29 Dec. ( JCC , 15:1210–1211, 1232–1236, 1278, note 1; 18:1204–1217).

The treaty plan was derived from the Lee-Neufville treaty of 4 Sept. 1778 (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:789–798; see also vol. 7:5–6), which in turn drew heavily on the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce of 6 Feb. 1778 (Miller, ed., Treaties , 2:3–29). Moreover, many of its articles appear virtually unchanged in the Dutch-American treaty that JA negotiated in 1782 (same, 2:59–88). In contrast to those three documents, however, the plan does not define contraband or, although it is implied in Arts. 16 and 17, explicitly state the principle that free ships make free goods. This is significant because the differing neutral and belligerent views of contraband and of the principle that free ships make free goods lay at the heart of the Anglo-Dutch conflict as it developed in 1780, and were the ostensible reason for Catherine II's Declaration of Armed Neutrality. The editors have not determined Congress' reason for omitting such articles in 1779. Its failure to do so in 1780, however, may reflect JA's instructions of 29 Dec. (above) that require him to follow the lead of the armed neutrality and the provisions of the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce. The omission makes it likely that, rather than using this plan as his sole guide in negotiations with the Dutch, JA supplemented it with either his own copy of 458the Lee-Neufville treaty (MS, Adams Papers) or the numerous printed copies of that treaty put in circulation when the British made public the documents captured with Henry Laurens. See, for example, vol. 1 of John Almon's Remembrancer for 1781 (p. 30–37).

To the President of Congress, No. 34, 30 December 1780 JA President of Congress Huntington, Samuel To the President of Congress, No. 34, 30 December 1780 Adams, John President of Congress Huntington, Samuel
To the President of Congress, No. 34
Duplicate Sir Amsterdam December 30th. 1780

The Province of Zealand having been opposed to the other Provinces in so many Instances and having lately protested against the Resolutions of the States General, which begin to be thought spirited, it may be useful to explain to Congress the Causes which influence that Province to a Conduct, which is generally thought to be opposite to the true Interest of the Republic in general.1

In the States of Zealand there are only five Voices, three of which are absolutely in the Discretion of the Prince of Orange, who has one Voice as Stadtholder of the Province, another as Marquiss of Veere, and a third as first Noble. The Stadtholder is therefore absolute in this Province, which accounts at once for its Conduct upon every Occasion. The Friends however of the Prince, of England and of Zealand are not willing that the World should believe, that the Princes Power in this Province and his Attachment to England, are the sole Causes of its Conduct upon every Occasion, and therefore they enlarge upon several Topicks as Apologies and Excuses for a Behaviour, which cannot wholly be justified. The Arguments in Justification or Excuse of Zealand are drawn from four principal Sources. First, the Situation of the Islands which compose the Province: Secondly, the Interest of its particular Commerce: Thirdly, the Weakness of its interiour Forces: Fourthly, the State of its Finances. 1. The Territory of Zealand consists of five or six Islands, two of which are moderately large, and the rest very small. These Islands are formed in the Mouth of the (Escaut) Scheld by the Sea, or by the different Branches of the Scheld itself. In case of a sudden Invasion, these Islands seperated from the Province of Holland, by an Arm of the Sea, are too unconnected to recieve any immediate Assistance. Such an Invasion is so much the more easy for the English, as Zealand is very near them. They may invade this Province even before a Suspicion should be concieved, that the Project had been formed. Who shall oppose their Enterprise? Shall it be the French who are now friendly? Dunkirk it is true is near enough: but what Forces are there at Dunkirk? The only Naval Force there consists of a few 459Privateers, who could neither oppose an Armament escorted by British Men of War, nor venture to transport Troops to oppose it, even supposing the Invasion was not made by Surprise. Shall the Zealanders themselves make a Resistance to the English? But seperated from one another by Waters which would necessarily retard their Junction, the Island of Walcheren, the principal of all, would be in possession of the Enemy, before they could put themselves in a Posture to repel Force by Force. It is moreover not only possible, but easy, to make a Descent upon Zealand by so many Places, that the Zealanders with their own Forces alone could not defend effectually all the Passages. Eight thousand English, or even a smaller Number, would force the Zealanders every where, because there is no where a Fortress capable of holding out twelve Hours. The Ports of Flushing and Veere are the only ones which have any Defence: but they are very far from the State in which they ought to be, to stop an Enemy determined upon Pillage, animated by Revenge, and whom the Pleasure of doing mischief instigates forcibly. It is conceded, that the English descended in Zealand, would be constrained to abandon it very soon: that they might and would be driven from it in a few Days: that the Figure which they would make would be neither glorious nor honourable, and that their Temerity would cost them dear: but the Disorder caused by an Invasion remains after the Expulsion of the Invaders. The People invaded are always the Victims of the Evils which they have suffered, and these Evils, always considerable to the Individuals, are seldom compensated entirely. When an Incendiary has burned my House, whether he is punished or not, my House is consumed and lost to me. The Exactions, the Pillage, and all the Abominations which follow the Coups de Main of an unbridled Soldiery, would be cruelly felt by the unfortunate Zealanders, even after the Perpetrators, should be driven out, or sacrificed to this public Resentment.

In 1761 fifteen thousand English landed in the Neighbourhood of the Village of St. Ka, situated on the Northern Coast of Brittanny: from thence they extended themselves to the Village of Kankale, in the Neighbourhood of the former.2 They pillaged the Houses of the Inhabitants; they broke their Furniture: took away their Provisions and their Cattle: they violated their Wives and Daughters. Six Soldiers ripped open with a Knife a Woman big with Child, and after having satiated one after another their Brutality. In a Word, the English gave a free Course to their Cruelty, and indulged themselves in all Sorts of Excesses, which the Laws of War reprobate as well as 460those of Nature. The Massacre of the pregnant Woman of Brittany may be put in parallel with that of the unfortunate Women, whom the Savages under the Command of General Burgoyne Scalped in America. These Acts of Cruelty prove at least, to what Excesses the Fury of the English Army may proceed. But it is asked, if it can be said, that all the Disorders committed in Brittany were repaired, when the ten thousand French ran to the Assistance of these unfortunate Britons, and had killed, taken and drowned the whole English Army? No: the miserable Inhabitants of St. Ka and of Kankale were not the less ruined: their Wives and Daughters were not the less dishonoured, and in one Word, the English Fury did not remain the less deeply imprinted on this Part of Brittany with Characters of Blood. In Truth, England lost fifteen thousand Men, without deriving the smallest Advantage from her Temerity: but the French employed against the English at St. Ka did nothing but avenge the Honour of their Nation. France, in one Word, only made her Rival feel, how dangerous it is to insult the Firesides of her Subjects. This Lesson may have intimidated the English, but it is not certain that it has corrected them. A Sheep-fold situated upon the Borders of a Forest is always exposed to be ravaged by the Wolves, if the Shepherd cannot watch all the Avenues. If the Wolves enter it, and tear a Part of the Flock, the Shepherd will have lost the Sheep that are devoured, and after having killed some of these carnivorous Animals, the Skin of the Wolf will not indemnify the loss of the Sheep.

2. The peculiar Commerce of Zealand. This Province has no other than that small Commerce which is known by the name of Coasting Trade. This kind of Trade is considerable in the Provinces of Holland, North Holland and Friesland. The Number of Vessels employed in these three Provinces in this kind of Trade, is inconcievable, and the greatest Part of them is destined for the Service of France. All which France recieves from Foreigners, and all which it furnishes to Foreigners, is carried in these Holland Vessells, and if there was no other than the Freight for the Masters and Owners of these Vessels, this Profit would still be of the greatest Consideration. Thus it is not surprising that the Province has taken such strong Measures in favour of France: its particular Commerce would naturally determine it this Way. On the contrary, Zealand employs the small Number of her Merchant Ships in a Commerce with England, a Commerce so much the more lucrative, as it is almost entirely contraband or smuggled.

The Profits to be made on Brandy, and other spirituous Liquors 461imported clandestinely into England, are very considerable; and it is Zealand that makes these Profits, because they are her Subjects who entertain a continual Correspondence with the English Smugglers. The Proximity of the Coasts of Zealand to those of England renders this Commerce, which is prohibited to English Subjects, sure for the Inhabitants of Zealand. Fishing Barks are Sufficient to carry it on, and these Barks are rarely taken, whether it is that they are difficult to take, or whether there is not much desire to take them. These Barks arrived upon the Coasts of England find others, which come to take what they bring. The Place where this Traffick is held is generally some Creek upon the Coast of England, where the Vessel may be loaded and unloaded in Secrecy. Moreover those, whom the English Ministry appoint to prevent this Commerce at Sea, are those who favour it. We know very well the decided Inclination of the English in general, and above all of their Seamen for strong Liquors. Zealand concurring openly in the Measures, which the Republick is now taking against England, or if You will, against the Powers at War, would draw upon itself particularly the Hatred, Anger and Vengeance of a Nation, without which it is impossible to sustain its Trade; and this Province would by this means deprive a great Number of its Subjects of a Source of Gain, which places them in a Condition to furnish the Imposts which they have to pay. Is it not then the Part of Prudence in the States of Zealand, to avoid with Care every thing, that might embroil them, particularly with England? Is it not also the Wisdom of the States General to have a Regard to the critical Situation of one of the seven Provinces, which compose the Union?

3. The Weakness of her internal Forces. Zealand is open on all Sides to the English. To set them at Defiance, She ought to have in herself Forces capable of intimidating Great Britain. But where are such Forces to be found? In the Garrisons which the Republick maintains there? Two or three Thousand Men dispersed at Flushing, at Veere, and in some other Cities, are but a feeble Defence against a Descent of six or seven thousand English well determined. Will these Troops of the Republick be Supported by armed Citizens? Suppose it—their Defeat will be not less certain. These Citizens, who have never seen a loaded Musket discharged, are more proper to carry an empty Fusee to mount Guard at a State House, which is never to be attacked, than to march to the Defence of a Coast threatened with a Descent, or to present themselves upon the Parapet of a Fort battered with Machines that vomit forth Death. These Citizens, or rather these Soldiers of a Moment, would carry Disorder into the Ranks, and do more 462Injury than Service, by giving Countenance to the Flight of those brave Warriours, who make it a Point of Honour to combat with a stedfast foot. Moreover, who are these Citizens which might be joined to the regular Troops? Are they the principal Inhabitants? those who have the most to lose? those to whom Birth and Education have given Sentiments of Honour and Glory? No—these have, by paying Sums of Money, Exemptions which excuse them from taking Arms, to defend the Country in time of Peace. Is it credible that in the most critical Moment, they will generously renounce these Exemptions? It will be then the Citizens of the second Order, the Artisans, or People who have little or nothing to lose, who will serve for the Reinforcement to the Veterans. Experience demonstrates what Dependence is to be placed at this day, upon such Militia. It would be in vain to oppose to this the Time of the Revolution, those Times of the Heroism of the Ancestors of the Dutch. The Cause is not the same: they attack at this day in a different fashion, and perhaps the Defence too would be made in a very different manner. It might be otherwise, if the Coasts of Zealand were fortified with good Forts, or if the Cities of Flushing and Veere were in a Condition to sustain a Seige of some months, and with their little Garrisons stop the Assailants, until the Arrival of Succours. But one must be very little informed not to know, that the English, although they should be incommoded in their Landing, would nevertheless effect it with little loss.

4. The State of her Finances. Zealand, of all the seven Provinces, is that which costs the most for the Maintenance of her Dykes—more exposed than all the others to be drowned by the Sea—her Coasts require continual Repairs. These Reparations cannot be made but at great Expence. Unprovided with Wood suitable for the Construction of Ramparts, capable of stopping the Waves which beat upon her continually, she is obliged to import from Foreigners these numberless and enormous Timbers, which Art substitutes in place of those Rocks, which Nature has granted to other Countries for holding in the Ocean and restraining its Fury. It is necessary therefore that a great part of the public Revenue of the Province should go to Foreigners. She must moreover, furnish her Quota to the general Treasury of the Republick: from whence it follows, that She cannot expose herself to the indispensable Necessity of increasing her Imposts, to furnish the new Expences which an extraordinary Armament would bring upon all the State. More than once in Time of Peace, the public Coffers of the State have been obliged to furnish to the Province of Zealand the Succours which She could not find at home without 463reducing her Subjects to the most horrible distress. To what Condition then would these Subjects be reduced, if in the progress of the Armed Neutrality; such as is proposed, or in a War with England, they should be Still obliged to pay new Contributions? All the World agrees that Zealand is poor; it must be acknowledged then, that She will be plunged in the lowest Indigence, if the Expences of the Country are augmented, although there are many Individuals in Zealand, who are very rich and grand Capitalists, and Luxury among the great, is carried to an Excess as immoderate as it is in Holland.

Zealand has so long embarrassed the Republic in all their Deliberations concerning the Armed Neutrality, and lately concerning the serious Quarrel that England has commenced against her, that I thought it would at least gratify the Curiosity of Congress, to see the Causes, which have governed, laid open, as I find them explained in Conversation and in public Writings. Zealand's Reasons seem to be now overruled and the Prince's absolute Authority there of little Avail. To all Appearances the English must recede, or contend with a bitter Enemy in this Republick. Old Prejudices seem to wear off, and it is now said publickly that the Friendship between the English and Dutch has been like the brotherly Love between Cain and Abel: yet I can never depend upon any thing here until it is past, I have been so often disappointed in my Expectations.

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, Misc. Papers, Reel No. 1, f. 185–192); endorsed: “Letter Decr. 30 1780 John Adams Read Nov 19. 1781.” The text of the original copy in JA's hand (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 353–358; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 4:214–218) varies very little from that of the duplicate. LbC (Adams Papers).


Zeeland had agreed only conditionally to the Dutch accession to the armed neutrality. See JA's letter of 25 Nov., No. 22, to the president of Congress, and note 2 (above).


St. Cast and Cancale are located, respectively, ten miles west and five miles east of St. Malo on the coast of Brittany. JA's account, however, is a combination of three raids on the French coast in 1758 that were part of Pitt's effort to draw French troops away from Prussian operations in Germany. The first raid against St. Malo began with a landing at Cancale on 2 and 3 June. Although the British burned numerous ships and large amounts of naval stores, they could not take St. Malo and the troops re-embarked on 12 June. On 6 Aug. Britain mounted a second raid against the naval base at Cherbourg on the Normandy coast. While the naval facilities and fortifications were severely damaged the troops had also become drunk and uncontrollable, so that by 16 Aug., when they re-embarked amidst rumors of an impending French attack, they had thoroughly terrorized the populace. The third raid began on 3 Sept. and was again aimed at St. Malo, but again Britain was unable to take it. The expedition ended disastrously on 11 Sept. when, as re-embarkation began at St. Cast, the French attacked and killed or captured approximately 1,000 of the 7,000 troops originally landed (Lawrence Henry Gipson, The British Empire before the 464American Revolution, 15 vols., Caldwell, Idaho, and N.Y., 1936–1970, 7:132–137; see also Stanley Ayling, The Elder Pitt, N.Y., 1976, p. 224–229, 235).