Papers of John Adams, volume 12

From Joshua Johnson

From Benjamin Franklin

To the President of Congress, 1 November 1781 JA McKean, Thomas President of Congress To the President of Congress, 1 November 1781 Adams, John McKean, Thomas President of Congress
To the President of Congress
Duplicate Amsterdam November 1st 17811 Sir

It is still as problematical as ever, what is the political System of this Republick, and indeed whether it has any System at all. They talk much and deliberate long, but execute nothing. By the Violence with which they speak and write of each other, a Stranger would think them ripe for a civil War.

In the Assembly of the States of Guelderland, held to consider of the Requisition of the King of France of a negotiation of five millions of florins, under the warranty of The Republick, the debates were sustained with great warmth. Some were for an Alliance with France. The Baron de Nagel, Senechal of Zutphen, evaded the putting of the question and said among other things “that he had rather acknowledge the Independence of the Americans, than contract an Alliance with France.”

The Baron Vander Capellen de Marsch was for an Alliance with France and America too. He observed, “that nothing being more natural, than to act in concert with the Enemies of our Enemy, it was an Object of serious deliberation, to see if the Interest of the Republick did not require to accept, without further tergiversation, the Invitations and Offers of the Americans: that no Condescension for England could hinder Us at present from uniting ourselves against a common Enemy, with a Nation so brave and so virtuous; a 59Nation, which, after our Example, owes its Liberty to its Valour, and even at this moment is employed in defending itself from the Tyranny of the Enemy of the two Nations: that consequently nothing could restrain Us from acknowledging the Independence of this new Republick: that our Conduct differed very much from that held by our Ancestors, who allied themselves with the Portuguese, as soon as they had shook off the Yoke of the Spaniards: that there was no doubt that the said Alliances with the Enemies of our Enemy would soon restrain his Fury, and operate a general Peace, advantageous for Us.”2

As this is the first opinion given openly, which has been published, in favor of acknowledging American Independence, it deserves to be recorded: but it will be long, very long before the Republick will be unanimously of his Opinion.

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

RC in John Thaxter’s hand (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 414–417); endorsed: “Letter 1 Novr 1781 John Adams Recd April 22. 1782.”


JA’s next letter to Congress is dated 4 Dec., below. In his Letterbook, however, is an unfinished letter dated 2 Nov. that was almost certainly intended for Congress LbC, Adams Papers. It was to consist of an English translation of William V's proposal to the States General on 22 Oct. for the establishment of a corps of marines.


The source of the translation that JA quotes here is unknown. He included the same remarks, almost verbatim, in A Collection of State-Papers, 1782, p. 15–16. For a full translation of van der Capellen’s speech, see The Remembrancer . . . for the Year 1782, part 1, p. 101–104.