Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 18 November 1795

John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams

London November 18. 1795. Osborne’s Hotel.

My Dear Brother

You were doubtless informed by our friends who favoured me with a visit at Helvoet of my sailing from thence at last. I landed the next day at Margate, and the morning after reached the place from whence I now write you.1

I found nothing to do; or rather all done. But I still find my self detained here to wait for further orders which I expect daily to arrive2

Mr: Pinckney is expected back in the course of this month or the next.3 His arrival will release me, and if my tour here should prove only useless, it will be less unpleasant to myself than I had reason to suppose.

You will not fail however to write me by every opportunity until further notice, enclosing to Mr Johnson, except when you have opportunities of a private hand. You have heard of Mr: Randolph’s resignation. Its occasion did not arise from the affair of the Treaty, nor was it report be true, very honourable to himself. Mr Bradford the late Attorney General died about the same time.

A severe fever has prevailed in New-York, but at the date of the latest Letters (October 11.) had subsided. I have a Letter from Charles of Septr 27.4 The family were then all out of the City, and well. Peggy Smith I am told is married to a french Gentleman by the name of Darville.

Mr: Bayard assures me he has no documents relative to the case of the Ship Penn. If you see Mr: Van Son perhaps he can supply you with some, or at least he can inform you of the facts. The owners employed him as their counsel, in their former application to the States General. As I may probably soon return, I do not think it will be necessary for you to present a memorial as yet.5

You may if you please write me the current news by private opportunities. The public here know nothing of what is going forward in your quarter.

Mrs: Turing’s answer to the note I wrote her, with the letter from Mlle: Lorenzi, is enclosed.6 If I should receive any further information from her, I shall be happy to forward it

The Government here is very busy against Sedition; and Sedition no less busy against the Government. Some prospect of a famine, but none of Peace.7

I miss your company as much at least as I expected, and that is saying a great deal. Those of our friends whom I have seen all enquire kindly after you.

Remember me respectfully at ——— I dare not write the word, so grating to tender ears, that Genet you know made its use an heinous crime in one of our former diplomatic characters. My best regards to all friends, and tell the Baron that I find nothing to compensate for the loss of our academic walks.8

Your affectionate brother

John Q. Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “T. B. Adams Esqr”; endorsed: “J, Q Adams Esqr: / 18 November 1795 / 4 Decr Recd: / 12 Answd:.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 130.

1On 8 Nov. Nathan Frazier Jr., John Gardner, and James White visited JQA at Hellevoetsluis. The next day, he finally sailed for England, arriving on the 10th and reaching London on the 11th (D/JQA/24, APM Reel 27).

2JQA was destined to be disappointed in his wait for new orders. On 15 Jan. 1796 Timothy Pickering finally wrote to JQA to explain that the instructions originally drawn up in Aug. 1795, which planned for additional negotiations with Britain, had been made obsolete by the speedy ratification and exchange of the Jay Treaty. Creation of a new set of instructions was hindered by the lack of a permanent secretary of state, though Pickering promised “they will be immediately attended to” (Adams Papers). This letter, received in March 1796, confirmed that JQA’s mission to London had been largely unnecessary.

3The previous spring Thomas Pinckney, U.S. minister to Great Britain, had been named special commissioner and envoy extraordinary to negotiate a treaty with Spain. After successfully completing his mission with the signing of Pinckney’s Treaty on 27 Oct. 1795, he began his return trip to England, arriving in mid-Jan. 1796 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; D/JQA/24, 15 Jan., APM Reel 27).

4CA’s letter has not been found nor the source of JQA’s information, but the London Courier and Evening Gazette, 14 Nov. 1795, reported that “a bilious fever, highly malignant, and very near resembling the yellow fever of the West Indies,” had been prevalent in New York City since July. But there was hope that “a considerable frost will undoubtedly put an end to it.” An item in the London Lloyd’s Evening Post, 18–20 Nov., informed readers, “A vessel arrived yesterday from New-York, by which we learn that the dreadful fever which has prevailed there so long, is very fast abating, and is now principally confined to the lower part of the city, near the docks.”

5TBA had written to JQA on 7 Nov. regarding the case of the capture of the Penn as a French vessel by a Dutch privateer near the Cape of Good Hope. The captain of the vessel in London was protesting its capture, claiming it was an American vessel, and hoped to receive assistance from Samuel Bayard (1767–1840), an agent for the United States in London overseeing claims at British admiralty courts. Van Son was likely one of the partners in the Dutch mercantile firm of Coenraad & Hendrick van Son (Adams Papers; Washington, Papers, Retirement Series, description begins The Papers of George Washington: Retirement Series, ed. W. W. Abbot, Edward G. Lengel, and others, Charlottesville, Va., 1997–1999; 4 vols. description ends 2:33; Joost Jonker and Keetie Sluyterman, At Home on the World Markets: Dutch International Trading Companies from the 16th Century until the Present, The Hague, 2000, p. 394, note 54).

6Not found.

7In early November William Pitt and Lord Grenville introduced into Parliament bills that would become the Treasonable and Seditious Practices Act and the Seditious Meetings Act, both in response to the attack on George III’s coach on 29 Oct., for which see TBA to AA, 1 Dec., and note 3, below, and to mass meetings held to demand political reform in increasingly radical terms. The first act was designed to clarify the definition of treason, adding any direct or indirect attempt to intimidate the king, all of which was punishable by death, and to restrict the right of radicals to petition the government. The second forbade meetings of more than fifty people without a license and gave magistrates broader scope to declare gatherings to be riots (Jennifer Mori, William Pitt and the French Revolution 1785–1795, Edinburgh, 1997, p. 252–256).

8Baron von Bielfeld, the Prussian chargé d’affaires in the Netherlands, was a close friend of JQA and frequent walking companion, most recently on 2, 9, 16 Oct. (M/TBA/2, 16 Feb. 1795, APM Reel 282; D/JQA/24, APM Reel 27).

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