Jean Luzac to John Adams: A Translation
Leyden 6 September 1781
It was with the greatest satisfaction and gratitude that I received, some time ago from your Excellency, the collection of constitutions and other fundamental acts of the federative Republic formed in the New World.1 I expressed my gratitude for this to Mr. Thaxter, but it is my duty to express my great and sincere thanks to your Excellency. If this collection is by itself a testament worthy of being preserved by every friend of true liberty and happiness for humanity, then the copy that I possess is even more precious because of the one who was so kind as to honor me with it. Indeed, I am infinitely flattered to receive it from one who is distinguished among American legislators and to see the frontispiece adorned with a name that will pass into posterity along with the most memorable revolution that the annals of the world will record for us.
By the value I have attached to this copy, you will see, sir, why I have a request to ask you. I know a man of letters who is currently working on a Dutch translation of all the proceedings that the federal constitution and the state constitutions are based on.2 The collection was already at the press, when he asked me if I had any pieces that would be useful to him. I saw that he followed a French collection, printed in Paris in 1778.3 I warned him that there were many subsequent acts, notably the new act of Union of 1778,4 that were not part of this collection. Finally, I showed him what I had due to your kindness. He regretted the work he had already done and asked me insistently to give him my copy. Before consenting to it, I took it upon myself to write to your Excellency to ask if you could send him a copy, or at least lend him one for a time. It could not be of greater use than to show to our compatriots the excellent principles that are followed in America to ensure political, civil, and religious liberty. There is also work being done here now on another Dutch edition of American works, which, I hope, will please you.
I was extremely distressed to hear that you are not in good health. I hope to hear more agreeable news of this soon. Please accept the assurance of my respectful sentiments, with which I have the honor to be, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant
Best regards to Mr. Thaxter.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr J. Luzac. ansd. 27. Nov. 1781”; by John Thaxter: “John Luzac Esqr. 6th. Septr. 1781.”
1. The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America; the Declaration of Independence; the Articles of Confederation between the said States;..., Phila., 1781. In a letter of 25 Sept. 1780, JA recommended that Congress publish a collection of American constitutions for distribution in Europe, and on 29 Dec. 1780 the Congress resolved to print two hundred copies of such a compilation at its expense (vol. 10:176, 178–179; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774– 1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 18:1217). The resulting publication went through numerous American and British editions (same, 21:1200–1203). Congress presumably sent JA copies for distribution in Europe, but when or how this was accomplished is unknown. Nor is there any indication in the Adams Papers as to when JA gave Luzac a copy.
2. Luzac refers to Herman van Bracht and his Verzameling van de Constitutien der Vereenigde Onafhanglijke Staaten van Amerika, benevens de Acte van Onafhanglijkheid de Artikelen van Confederatie, en de Tractaaten tusschen Zijne Allerchristelijkste Majesteit en de Vereenigde Amerikaansche Staaten, 2 vols., Dordrecht, 1781–1782. The first volume was dedicated to Engelbert François van Berckel and the second to JA. See Luzac’s letter of 10 Dec. (Adams Papers), JA’s reply of the 13th (JA, Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , 7:490–493), and van Bracht’s letters of 26 Jan. and 30 April 1782 (both Adams Papers).
3. [Claude Ambroise Régnier], Recueil des loix constitutives des colonies angloises, confédérées sous la dénomination d’Etats-Unis de l’Amérique-Septentrionale ..., Paris, 1778. Five copies of this work, which was dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, are 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 ).
4. The Articles of Confederation.