John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia July 21. 1777
My best Friend
I have long sought for a compleat History of the Revolution in the low Countries, when the Seven united Provinces seperated from the Kingdom of Spain, but without the Success that I wished, untill a few days ago.
Sir William Temples Account is elegant and entertaining, but very brief and general.1
A few days ago, I heard for the first Time, of an History of the Wars in Flanders, written in Italian by Cardinal Bentivoglio, and translated into English by the Earl of Monmouth. The Cardinal was a Spaniard and a Tory, and his History has about as much Candor towards the Flemish and their Leaders as Clarendon has towards Pym and Hampden, and Cromwell. The Book is in Folio, and is embellished with a Map of the Country and with the Portraits of about Thirty of the Principal Characters.4
Mr. Ingersol, who lent me the Book, told me, that in the Year 1765 or 6, being in England, he was invited together with Dr. Franklin to spend a Week in the Country with a Mr. Steel a Gentleman of Fortune, at present an eloquent Speaker in the Society of Arts, descended from Sir Richard Steel.5 Upon that Visit Mr. Steel told them that the Quarrell which was now begun by the Stamp Act would never be reconciled, but would terminate in a Separation between the two Countries.—Ingersol was surprized at the Praediction and asked why and how?—I cant tell you how says he, but if you want to know why, when you return to London, enquire at the Booksellers for Bentivoglios History of the Wars in Flanders, read it through, and you will be convinced that such Quarrells cannot be made up.
He bought the Book accordingly and has now lent it to me. It is very similar to the American Quarrell in the Rise and Progress, and will be so in the Conclusion.
RC (Adams Papers).
1. Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands, London, 1672, a brief work but long the principal authority for most English readers on the history and government of the Netherlands. It went through numerous editions and was translated into several languages. JA could have read it in the first volume of his own copy of Temple’s Works, 2 vols., London, 1731, which is among his books in the Boston Public Library.
2. The German jurist Pufendorf (1632–1694) wrote An Introduction to the History of the Principal Kingdoms and States of Europe . . ., which is not among the works by that writer listed in the Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends .
3. Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), Annales et historiae de rebus belgicis, Amsterdam, 1657, likewise not entered in the Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends .
4. Guido, Cardinal Bentivoglio’s History of the Warrs in Flanders was first published in English in this translation by the Earl of Monmouth, London, 1654. Despite his enthusiasm for this book, which led him to copy the entire list of 24 portraits into his letter to JQA of 27 July, below, JA does not seem to have acquired a copy of it, though the Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends enters two other works by Bentivoglio.
5. Jared Ingersoll of Connecticut, though a loyalist, was living quietly in Philadelphia at this time; see JA to AA, 16 March, above, and Lawrence H. Gipson, Jared Ingersoll, New Haven and London, 1920, p. 355 ff.Joshua Steele (1700–1791) was an Irishman who lived many years in London, was a friend and correspondent of Franklin, wrote treatises on prosody and music, and spent his last years attempting to ameliorate the condition of the slaves on his estates in Barbados (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1900; 63 vols. plus supplements. description ends ; Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. description begins I. Minis Hays, comp., Calendar of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin in the Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1908; 5 vols. description ends , 2:100; 3:349).