Adams Papers

From John Adams to the President of Congress, No. 22, 25 November 1780

To the President of Congress, No. 22

Amsterdam Novr. 25th 17801


It is now certain that the States General, have by a Plurality of five Provinces determined to acceed to the armed Neutrality. Zealand and Guelderland, have agreed to it likewise, but upon Condition of a Warranty of the Possessions of the Republick.2 If the Intention of Sir J. Yorks Memorial, was to intimidate their high mightinesses from this measure, he has missed his aim. Nor will the Conduct of the Burgomasters of Amsterdam be disavowed, nor Mr. Van Berkel nor his accomplices punished. We shall see, how the British Ministry will disentangle themselves from this Perplexity.

All these Things however, so far from aiding our Affairs, in this nation Seem to have put an entire Stop to them for the Present. The Nation is trembling for their Commerce, their Money in the British Funds, their East and W. India Possessions; and no Man dares engage in a Measure that may in some degree, increase the Allarm.

The Bills upon Mr. Laurens, I have accepted, those of them at least, that have arrived, upon an assurance from Dr. Franklin that in case I should not be able to borrow the Money by the Time they become payable, that I may draw upon him for it.3 I think Congress will perceive the danger of drawing any more, untill they shall receive Intelligence from me that the Money is ready.

The Choice of an House is a Point of So much Importance that I could not justify making it, without the most mature Inquiry and Reflection. Not only the success of the Negotiation will depend upon it but the political Consequences of it will be important. I have made every Inquiry, and Several Proposals, but all have been politely declined. There are two Houses which I believe would accept it, but these, altho respectable are so far from the first Rank, that I should be <ashamed> Sorry to fix upon either, if I could <obtain a more> See a Prospect of gaining one of higher Rank. I am told that opening the Loan now would injure Us exceedingly: but I know not what to judge. I have found So many opinions, mistaken, that in this Country I cannot judge which are well founded.

Fear is ever the Second Passion in minds governed by Avarice: as long therefore as the English misrepresentations can make People here believe that there is a Possibility of conquering America or of our returning to the Government of England, so long We shall find little Credit here.

LbC (Adams Papers); notation by John Thaxter: “No. 22.” There is no copy of this letter in the PCC, nor any indication in the JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends that it was ever received, but see note 1.

1Immediately preceding this letter in the Letterbook is the notation by John Thaxter: “Amsterdam 25th Novr. 1780. Delivered Mr. Wilkinson an English Gentleman, Originals of 16th. 17th & 25th Novr. and Duplicates of some of prior date, to go to St. Eustatia, by the Cariolanus Aletta, Captn. Magnus.” Apparently these letters were lost for neither this first letter of 25 Nov., nor those of 16 and 17 Nov. (both above) were received by Congress.

2The resolution, adopted on 20 Nov., had been reported in the Gazette de Leyde of 24 November. The five provinces voting affirmatively were Holland, Utrecht, Friesland, Overijssel, and Groningen; the two remaining provinces, Zeeland and Gelderland, acquiesced in the decision (Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution description begins Friedrich Edler, The Dutch Republic and the American Revolution, Baltimore, 1911. description ends , p. 158). The purport of the resolution was that the Dutch representatives at St. Petersburg could, with minor modifications, accede to the conventions already concluded by Russia with Denmark and Sweden on 9 July and 1 Aug. respectively. The formal accession took place at St. Petersburg on 4 Jan. 1781, a significant date in terms of the operation of the armed neutrality with regard to the Dutch, for Britain declared war against the Netherlands on 20 December. For the Dutch resolution of 20 Nov., the conventions of 9 July and 1 Aug., and the Dutch accession of 4 Jan. 1781, see James Brown Scott, ed., The Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800, N.Y., 1918, p. 325–328, 299–304, 311–316, 346–349; see also JA’s letters to the president of Congress, 25 Dec., No. 29, and note 3; 28 Dec., No. 33, and note 2 (both below).

3See Benjamin Franklin’s letter of 13 Nov. (above).

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