Papers of John Adams, volume 12

C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation

From Leendert de Neufville

300 From Edmund Jenings , 7 March 1782 Jenings, Edmund JA From Edmund Jenings , 7 March 1782 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Brussels March 7th. 1782 Sir

I Congratulate your Excellency on the Confusion that the English ministry is in; besides That, I see but very little that our Country has reason to rejoice in from the late Triumph of the minority, which appears to me to have as perverse a disposition as its Enemies, the former majority. I doubt not that your Excellency has seen the Speech which the attorney General made the day preceding his motion to bring in a Bill to empower his master to make a peace or a Truce with the Revolted colonies in America, 1 (it is to be found I believe in the London Chronicle,2 which arrivd by the last post). I Hope this proposed Bill will not prevent the several grand Juries of the Counties addressing the Parliament. I could wish that the general Sense of the Nation was taken at this Time, it could not do us any harm.

I have informed your Excellency that I wrote immediately to London on the Matters I had In Command from your Excellency, to which I receivd yesterday the following Answer.

“Your letter of the 26th Ult. came very opportunely, for I had our worthy Friend come in to dine with me just after, I read to him your Paragraph, to which He answered: that He holds himself not at Liberty either to Correspond, or leave his present Situation, until the Time appointed; and that it is possible, that He may be detained after that Time. Being in the Commission is news to Him. He is doing all the good He can, but walks very circumspectly.” I shall take the Liberty of assuring Him, by the next post, that He is certainly one of the Commissioners for making Peace.3

Give me leave to ask your Excellency, that, if England should think of opening a negociation in Europe, your Excellency would not have a right to demand the Enlargement of Mr L one of your Colleagues? and should you do it, Is it possible that England, meaning Honestly, could refuse complying with your request? Is not this a preliminary indeed a necessary Step? Your Excellency is the best Judge.

When does your Excellency take up your Residence at the Hague, the natural air of that place is certainly better than that of Amsterdam, I Hope the political one will not be worse.

My Friend writes to me that your Excellencys Benevolence shall301 be immediately attended to, and That He will write to me more fully thereon in his next Letter.

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

PS. The Abbe Raynal left this City about ten days ago.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Mr. Jenings March 7th. 1782.”


Jenings refers to the debate in the House of Commons on 27 Feb., the second of the pivotal debates that led to the fall of the North ministry. Having lost by only one vote in the previous debate on 22 Feb., Henry Seymour Conway offered a new motion on the 27th,

“that the farther prosecution of offensive war on the continent of North America, for the purpose of reducing the revolted colonies to obedience by force, will be the means of weakening the efforts of this country against her European enemies; tends, under the present circumstances dangerously to increase the mutual enmity, so fatal to the interests both of Great Britain and America; and, by preventing an happy reconciliation with that country, to frustrate the earnest desire graciously expressed by his Majesty to restore the blessings of public tranquillity.”

Attorney General James Wallace argued that a formal peace settlement was impossible until various acts of Parliament were repealed or modified and proposed to offer a motion whereby a truce would be settled upon with the Americans so as to give Parliament time to act. Therefore, he proposed to adjourn the debate over Conway’s motion for two weeks in anticipation of his own motion for a truce. Since Wallace’s motion to adjourn took precedence over continued debate on Conway’s motion, a vote was taken and Wallace’s motion was defeated 234 to 215. That vote established the sense of the House and resulted in Conway’s motion being adopted without division. Conway thereupon offered a second motion, also approved without division, to send the measure just adopted to the King in the form of an address ( Parliamentary Hist. , 22:1064–1101).

The attorney general’s motion to bring in a bill “to enable his Majesty to make Peace or Truce with America” was taken up on 28 Feb. and then introduced, debated, and adopted without division on 5 March. The opposition posed no strong objections, largely because it thought the bill inconsequential and unnecessary. The real obstacle to a peace or truce was the ministry then in office not the bills previously passed by Parliament that, according to the bill, the King could repeal, annul, or suspend so as to remove any impediments to negotiating a peace or truce. The bill, 22 George III, ch. 46, was passed on 28 May and 18 June by the Houses of Commons and Lords respectively and received the royal assent on 19 June ( Parliamentary Hist. , 22:1101–1109; House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century, ed. Sheila Lambert, 145 vols., Wilmington, Del., 1975, 34:261–264; Journals of the House of Commons, London, 38:862, 872, 1028, 1060, 1064).


Of 26–28 February.


Jenings’ London correspondent was probably Edward Bridgen, a friend and business associate of Henry Laurens. In a similar account the London Public Advertiser of 11 March reported that “Mr. Laurens publickly declared in Company, within these few days, that he had no Authority to treat with this Country; he intimated, however, that he thought Mr. Adams, at the Hague, had such a Power.” Laurens did not receive official notification and a copy of the commission to negotiate a peace until 28 April in a letter from Franklin. The attorney general had released him from bail just two days before (Laurens, Papers , 15:482–483, 494).