Papers of John Adams, volume 12

To James Searle

From Henry Knox

From Edmund Jenings, 20 October 1781 Jenings, Edmund JA


From Edmund Jenings, 20 October 1781 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Brussels Octr. 20. 1781 Sir

I have the Honor of having received your Excellencys Letter of the 9th Instant, which afforded me the utmost Joy, as it gave me reason to think your Excellencys Health was somewhat reestablished, I wish it may be soon perfectly so, for your Excellencys Sake and that of the Public.

When I wrote to your Excellency last, I apprehended, that a certain Gentleman was the only one added to your Excellencys Commission, this gave me the Utmost Uneasyness, as I imagined, it would have been most Unpleasant to your Excellency, such a Studied and gross affront might have been suggested by a certain Quarter, after what has come from thence, I am glad it is otherwise, and that your Excellency approves of the measure taken by Congress.

I am Sorry your Excellency has not receivd the Books, more have been sent since, which may be lost likewise, I shall write About them. The Coin shall be transmitted in your Excellencys Name and likewise One from me; it is an halfpenny Coind for Virginia during the Reign of G 3d,1 they ought to be Kept together, and then Posterity will see the first Peice of American Money and the last English one for that Country.

The famous Spanish Jesuit, Hussey,2 who has been in Spain, is, after residing a month in this Town, gone to Vienna.

The Mr Allaire of N York, who was put into the Bastile some time 27 Ago, has been in Holland and after staying here sometime is gone to London, He seems to be a Tool [of] Government, but of no Account.3

Another Gentleman of the Name of Martin is now here, He says he is a Virginian by Birth that He left the Country 1773. and that He is married to a Distillers Daughter in London. He passed through this Town about 6 weeks Ago, and then said He was going express to the Hague with Letters. He has been there and at Amsterdam. I believe He proposed to wait on your Excellency, but your Excellencys Illness preventd Him. Added to what He heard of the Sentiments of Americans, whom He met with in Holland, particularly of Mr Grieve,4 who I find expressed them so clearly and so Strongly, that He had little hopes of succeeding in his Commission, which He tells me Came immediately from the Minister, it was to sound your Excellency on certain terms of Accomodation, and that if those, which He had to propose were Acceptible, He said a formale Commission would immediately follow. As far as I can at present understand they were for a seperate Peace and the Independancy neither Acknowledge or denied. I took such pains to Convince Him, that He came on a fruitless Errand, by shewing Him the Treaty with France, which to my Astonishment He seemd to be but little informed of, that He declared He was ashamd of what He had come About. I am in hopes of getting from Him the Terms intended to be proposed and the name of the Minister, from whom, He came. He is particularly Acquainted with Mr Digges, with whom He holds a particular Correspondence, and for whose Honor He is very Anxious. He Expeccts Mr D here daily.5 Your Excellency is, I assure myself, satisfied that I shall talk with this man with Caution.

I Congratulate your Excellency on the Repulse of Hoods Fleet,6 I Hope we shall soon have from Virginia most compleat Success in Consequence thereof.

Your Excellency finds that the brave Johnstone has avoided an Attack on the french Ships of War, and has fallen on the defenceless Merchantmen.7 The british Commanders now Neglect the national Honor and prosperity, and have no Object but that of plunder. How will the Prizes come Home, they must be manned out of Johnstones Squadron, this will weaken it, and may defeat the public purposes.

But what effect has this Event in Holland? Will nothing, Sir, rouse that Country to do itself Justice—I trust this blow will.

Does you Excellency Know, that Govr Pownal has got the famous 28 Abbé Needham to translate and publish in this Country His Memorial &c as it appeared in the second Edition? He complains of a certain publication in Holland, that it makes Him say otherwise that He did, and that it shews Him an Ennemy to his Country.8

I understand that the Count le Markes Regiment consisting of between 3 and 4 thousand Men in the pay of France is going to America. I Know it well, it is a Noble Body of Germans, I have talked with some of the officers, who seem well disposed to Stay in America, they have long wished to be there.

Your Excellency will Oblige me much if you would be so good as to send me the first Volume of the politic Hollandois. I am told there is a Greek Hymn to Ceres, supposed to be Homers lately published in Holland.9 Will Mr Thaxter give me leave to beg Him to make particular Enquiry after it?

I am with the greatest Respect Sir your Excellencys Most Faithful & Obedient Humble Servt Edm: Jenings

RC (Adams Papers).


Presumably the copper coins, modeled on those circulating in Ireland, that were proposed by Lord Hillsborough in 1770, approved by Virginia’s Council in 1771, and struck at the Royal Mint in 1773 (H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia, 6 vols., Richmond, 1925–1967, 6:375, 412; Percy Scott Flippin, The Royal Government in Virginia, 1624–1775, N.Y., 1919, p. 270).


For Thomas Hussey, see vol. 9:361.


Peter Allaire, a New York merchant of Huguenot descent, was committed to the Bastille on 15 Feb. 1780. He was accused of attempting to poison Benjamin Franklin and of being a British spy. While the first allegation remains unproven, the second is certain. On 24 May 1780, Allaire was released and expelled from France (Claude-Anne Lopez, “The Man Who Frightened Franklin,” PMHB , 106:515–526 [Oct. 1982]).


Probably George Grieve, an English radical from Alnwick, Northumberland, best known for his denunciation and prosecution of Madame Du Barry during the French Revolution ( DNB ). Benjamin Franklin administered an oath of citizenship to Grieve in April and in May wrote letters of recommendation to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington in anticipation of Grieve’s emigration to the United States (Franklin, Papers , 34:581–582; 35:25–26, 28). Jenings met Grieve during his visit to Amsterdam in the summer of 1781 (JQA, Diary , 1:76, 79).


Thomas Digges did not leave London for the Continent until March 1782. See Digges’ letter of 20 March 1782, below.


Capt. Duncan of the frigate Medea reached London on Saturday evening, 13 Oct., with dispatches from Rear Adm. Thomas Graves concerning the Battle of the Chesapeake on 5 September. Graves’ account, the first received in England, appeared in a London Gazette Extraordinary of 15 Oct. and then in other London newspapers, including the London Courant of the 16th and the London Chronicle of 13–16 October.


Como. George Johnstone captured five Dutch East Indiamen on 21 July at Saldanha Bay, on the South African coast north of Cape Town (London Chronicle, 13–16 Oct.; Gazette de Leyde, 23 Oct.).


Thomas Pownall, Mémoire Adressée aux souverains de l’Europe, sur l’etat presént des affaires de l’ancien et du nouveau monde, transl. John Turberville Needham, Brussels, 1781. The Dutch publication criticized by Pownall is Pensées sur la révolution de l’Amérique-Unie, Amsterdam, 1780, a French translation of JA’s response to Pownall’s A Memorial, Most Humbly Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe, London, 1780. For a discussion of Pownall’s Memorial and JA’s re-29visions thereof, see vol. 9:157–164.


Hymnus in Cererem, nunc primum editus a Davide Ruhnkenio, Leyden, 1780. JA’s copy is in his library at MB ( Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 122). It was probably that obtained by John Thaxter at Leyden and sent to JA in late Jan. 1781 ( Adams Family Correspondence , 4:69–70).