The Duc de La Vauguyon to John Adams: A Translation
Versailles 30 December 1781
You have desired, sir, that as soon as I should be arrived at Versailles, I should communicate to the Comte de Vergennes the disposition you have to take a step that has been recommended by several well intentioned members of the States of Holland, and that I should give him to understand at the same time the resolution which you have taken to abstain from it, if he disapproves it. That minister charges me to acquaint you that he perceives no inconvenience in the visit which you propose to make to the president of the Assembly of the States General, to the ministers of the republic, and to the deputies of the principal cities of the province of Holland, provided that, without leaving with one or the other any ministerial writing, you confine yourself to demanding of them, whether the memorial which you presented some months ago, has been an object of the deliberations of their high mightinesses, and what is the answer which you may transmit to the congress of the United States of North America.
I do not yet precisely know, sir, when I shall be able to return to The Hague; but I foresee nothing to prolong my absence beyond the time I at first projected. Receive, sir, fresh assurance of those inviolable sentiments of the most distinguished consideration, with which I have the honor to be your most humble and most obedient servant,
Le Duc De la vauguyon1
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Le Duke de la Vauguyon 30th. Decr. 1781.”
1. JA published this letter in English in the Boston Patriot of 19 Sept. 1810. He introduced it by stating that
“In the latter end of December, 1781, I concluded to present myself a second time to the president of their high mightinesses, for an answer to my former memorial, and drew up a memorial in English and French; but as I had reason to believe the Duke De La Vauguion and the Comte De Vergennes would not now oppose me, but on the contrary would be pleased by being consulted, I communicated my design to the Duke, who encouraged the project, and I believe went to Versailles, chiefly to consult the Comte on the subject. He soon wrote me, according to his promise, a letter, of which the following is a translation.”
Immediately following the letter JA commented on its effect on his subsequent actions.
“When I received this letter, and indeed before the Duke left the Hague, I had prepared my memorial in English and French; but I had no objection to substituting the Comte De Vergennes’s plan, which I thought however rather too tame and timid. I was therefore determined to consult my own privy council of Dutch patriots, who had never deceived me; who had never concealed from me any danger or difficulty, but who had always communicated to me every information, without exaggeration, which could afford me encouragement or hope. These were unanimously in favor of my memorial and against the Comte De Vergennes’s project. I asked them whether I ought not to strike out the epithet ‘categorical.’ Oh! no. By no means; that is the best word in the whole memorial. Our nation likes such hints: They think them manly. That word will excite more attention than all the rest, and you are sure now of the current in your favor. But if it should do no good, it will certainly do you no harm. We think you have hit the taste of our people.—I took this advice and proceeded as is detailed in my next letter to congress.”
For JA’s request for a categorical answer to this memorial of 19 April, see the Address to the President of the States General, , below.