Adams Papers

From John Adams to Edmund Jenings, 11 February 1781

To Edmund Jenings

11. Feb. [1781]

Dear Sir

I thank you for the Translation, which came to hand yesterday.1 I do myself the Honour to inclose you, a Pamphlet, translated from the third Edition of the Dutch. It was written by Mr. Calkoen they pronounce it Kalkoon, a Lawyer of the first Character here, with whom I am very well acquainted. The Pamphlet is a consummate Justification of Van Berkel, Tamminck and all the Rest. It is amazing that York should have been thirty Years here, and learnt no more of the Constitution and History.2

What is become of the Remarks upon Galloway?3 That curious one, has now attacked Keppel.4 Strange that such a low, lying fellow should make such a Noise. The Ministry themselves will soon be cheated by that Wretch and abandon him.

RC (Adams Papers).

1This is JA’s A Translation of the Memorial to the Sovereigns of Europe upon the Present State of Affairs Between the Old and New World into Common Sense and Intelligible English, which had just been published in London. In his copy, now in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, JA transcribed a review of the Translation that appeared in the Monthly Review for Feb. 1781 (64:149–150). The reviewer wrote that “some Readers will possibly think, that while it hath gained by elegance of form, it hath rather suffered by abridgement: as the rough diamond is reduced by the polisher. Like the diamond, however, in the Jeweller’s hand, this performance appears to much greater advantage, by having its sentiments new set, by a skilful artist.” For the titlepage of the Translation and the complete review as JA copied it, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 2, above.

2This was Hendrik Calkoen’s anonymous pamphlet Système politique de la régence d’Amsterdam, exposé dans un vrai jour; et sa conduite justifiée avec décence contre l’accusation du chevalier Yorke . . . Traduit du hollandais sur la troisième édition, Amsterdam, 1781. A copy of the first Dutch edition, Het politiek systema van de regeering van Amsterdam, in een waar daglicht voorgesteld, en haar gedrag tegens de beschuldiging van den ridder Yorke . . . (Middelburg, [1780]), is in JA’s library at the Boston Public Library (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 ). The pamphlet was a defense of Amsterdam’s role in the negotiation of the LeeNeufville treaty of 1778, which was one of the principal reasons the British gave for declaring war on the Netherlands. Calkoen noted that Amsterdam had not signed a formal treaty, although it could do so under the terms of the Union of Utrecht of 1579, which established the political foundation for the Dutch Republic. For an analysis of Calkoen’s arguments as part of the ongoing pamphlet war between the patriot and stadholderate parties, see Leeb, Origins of the Batavian Rev. description begins I. Leonard Leeb, The Ideological Origins of the Batavian Revolution: History and Politics in the Dutch Republic, 1747–1800, The Hague, 1973. description ends , p. 150–155; see also Jenings’ letter of 18 Feb. and JA’s reply [27 Feb.], both below. For JA’s previous dealings with Calkoen, see vol. 10:99–117, 196–252.

3This is JA’s first known inquiry about the fate of his reply to Joseph Galloway’s Cool Thoughts (London, 1780 [i.e. 1779]), which he had written the previous summer and sent off to Jenings on 22 July 1780. See “Letters from a Distinguished American,” vol. 9:531–588.

4Between 5 Dec. 1780 and 20 Jan. 1781 Joseph Galloway published seven letters in the London Chronicle entitled “Letters from Cicero to Catiline the Second.” The letters pursued one of Galloway’s favorite themes: Britain’s failure to achieve victory in America because of indecisive and inept leadership, and, most importantly, the treachery of the pro-American faction in England, of which the Howe brothers were leading members. JA refers to the postscript to the seventh letter, which appeared in the London Chronicle of 18–20 January. Galloway attributed Adm. Augustus Keppel’s failure to defeat the French off Ushant on 27 July 1778 to his association with the same subversive faction to which the Howes were allied. JA’s specific reference to Galloway’s attack on Keppel makes it likely that he saw the piece in the London Chronicle. In its issue of 30 Jan. – 1 Feb. the newspaper announced the publication of the collected Letters From Cicero to Catiline the Second, With Corrections and Explanatory Notes (London, 1781), and it is possible that a copy could have reached Amsterdam by 11 February.

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