Adams Papers

From John Adams to Robert Morris, 11 July 1783

To Robert Morris

Paris July 11. 1783


In my Letter to you of Yesterday, I hinted in Confidence at an Application to the House of Hope. This is a very delicate Measure. I was induced to think of it merely by a Conversation which Mr Van Berkel who will be Soon with you as he Sailed the 26 June from the Texel, had with Mr Dumas.— it would be better to be Steady to the three houses already employed, if that is possible.1 You will now be able to converse freely with that Minister upon the Subject. I Should not advise you to take any decisive Resolution at Philadelphia but leave it to your Minister to Act as shall appear to him best upon the Spot. The Houses now employed are well esteemed and I hope will do very well. But no House in the Republick has that force in the Reins of that of Hope.

All depends, however, upon the Measures to be taken by Congress and the States for ascertaining their Debts and a regular discharge of the Interest.— The Ability of the People to make such an Establishment cannot be doubted: and the Inclination of no Man who has a proper Sense of publick Honour can be called in Question. The Thirteen States in Relation to the discharge of the Debts of Congress, must consider them Selves as one Body, animated by one Soul.— The Stability of our Confederation at home, our Reputation abroad, our Power of Defence, the Confidence and affection of the People of one state towards those of another all depend upon it. Without a Sacred Regard to publick Justice no Society can Subsist. it is the only Tie which can unite Mens Minds and Hearts in pursuit of the common Interest.2

The Commerce of the World is now open to Us, and our Exports and Imports are of So large amount, and our Connections will be so large and extentensive that the least Stain upon our Character in this respect will loose Us in a very short time Advantages of greater pecuniary Value than all our Debt amounts to.— The Moral Character of our People is of infinitely greater worth than all the sums in question. Every hesitation every Uncertainty about paying or receiving a just Debt, diminishes that Sense of the Moral Obligation of publick Justice which ought to be kept pure and carefully cultivated in every American Mind. Creditors at home and abroad, the Army the Navy, every Man who has a well founded Claim upon the Publick, has an unalienable Right to be Satisfied, and this by the fundamentable Principles of Society. Can there ever be Content and Satisfaction? can there ever be Peace and order? Can there ever be Industry, or Decency without it.? To talk of a Spung3 to wipe out this Debt, or of reducing or diminishing it, below its real Value in a Country so abundantly able to pay the last farthing, would betray a total Ignorance of the first Principles of national Duty and Interest.— Let Us leave these odious Speculations to Countries that can plead a Necessity for them, and where Corruption has arrived at its last Stages. Where Infamy is Scarcely felt, and Wrong may as well assume one Shape as another Since it must prevail in Some.

I have &c

LbC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Hon R. Morris Esq. / Superintendant of Finances.”; notation by John Thaxter: “July 11th. delivered to Capt. / Barney.”; APM Reel 108.

1The proposal that the Willinks alone be entrusted with a new loan was made by Pieter Johan van Berckel in a conversation with C. W. F. Dumas that Dumas related in his 30 May letter to JA (vol. 14:508–512). See also JA’s 5 June reply to Dumas, and note 1, above.

2Morris copied a portion of this letter, comprising this paragraph and the following one, and enclosed it and an extract from JA’s letter of 10 July, above, in his letters to John Hancock of 20 Sept. and Elias Boudinot of 12 Nov. (Morris, Papers description begins The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784, ed. E. James Ferguson, John Catanzariti, Elizabeth M. Nuxoll, Mary A. Gallagher, and others, Pittsburgh, 1973–1999; 9 vols. description ends , 8:275–276, 533–535, 756–757; MHi:Sedgwick Family Papers). For Morris’ purpose in doing so, see his 20 Sept. letter to JA, and note 1, below.

3Or “sponge,” one meaning of which is a method to cancel or wipe out debts without payment (OED description begins The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d edn., Oxford, 1989; 20 vols. description ends ).

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