Adams Papers

From John Adams to Hendrik Bicker, 19 February 1781

To Hendrik Bicker

Amsterdam [ca. 19] Feb. 17811


Your Questions to me, today, have induced me to communicate to you, in Confidence a Copy of my Commission.2

You See, that I have not the Title of Ambassador, nor of Minister Plenipotentiary, by Virtue of this Commission, nor have I in express Words, Power to make a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, much less a Treaty of Alliance offensive and defensive.

My Power is to negotiate a Loan: but it may be negotiated with any Person or Persons, Bodies Politick and Corporate, and the Congress promisses in good Faith to ratify and confirm, whatever shall be done by me in the Premisses, or relating thereto.

Dr. Franklin, Mr. Deane and Mr. Lee, who made a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, and another Treaty of Alliance offensive and defensive, with the King of France, had not by their Commission the Title of Ambassadors, nor of Ministers Plenipotentiary.3

Now if it is necessary to make a Treaty in order to obtain a Loan I Suppose I have Power to do it, and accordingly, I would readily enter into Conferences upon the Subject, and if We could agree upon the Terms, one Article of which should be a Loan, I would not hesitate to execute a Treaty, and I should have no doubt of the Ratification of Congress.

You have however, a Copy of my Commission and you may judge for yourself, how extensive the Powers are which it contains. I have no objection to your shewing it, to such Person or Persons as you think proper, in Confidence. I have the Honour to be, with great Respect, Sir, your humble servant

LbC (Adams Papers).

1This date derives from similarities between this letter and JA’s draft letter of 19 Feb. to the Duc de La Vauguyon, below, and JA’s statement, following this letter as printed in the Boston Patriot, that “At this time I gave up my lodgings at Amsterdam, and removed to Leyden” (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot description begins Correspondence of the Late President Adams. Originally Published in the Boston Patriot. In a Series of Letters, Boston, 1809[–1810]; 10 pts. description ends , p. 390). JA received Bicker’s reply of 21 Feb., below, at Leyden and since Bicker consulted with at least one person about JA’s letter before making his reply it seems likely that he received it on 19 or 20 Feb., making the 19th the most likely date for the letter.

2JA’s commission to negotiate a loan, 20 June 1780 (vol. 9:452–453).

3For the text of the commission, see JA’s of 27 Nov. 1777, naming him one of three U.S. Commissioners in place of Silas Deane (vol. 5:333–334). It was identical, except for the date and names of the commissioners, to that issued to Benjamin Franklin in 1776 (Franklin, Papers description begins The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, William B. Willcox (from vol. 15), Claude A. Lopez (vol. 27), Barbara B. Oberg (from vol. 28), Ellen R. Cohn (from vol. 36), and others, New Haven, 1959– . description ends , 22:634–635).

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