Adams Papers

Elkanah Watson Jr. to John Adams, 5 July 1784

From Elkanah Watson Jr.

London. 5th. July 1784

Hon’d Sir

In leaving the Hague, I fully intended returning the same way and acknowledging personally my gratitude for the polite reception I mett at Amsterdam in consequence of your Excellencys letters of introduction.1 I was hurried back from Holland in consequence of my affairs haveing advanc’d to a close more rapidly than I had reason to expect.

I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency that I am now totally, & honourably exonorated from my English debts, and preparing for America, expecting to sail for R. Island the 1st. Augt.— I shall always be happy in every stage of life, to pay the tribute of respect which I owe your Excellency in common with every American; Independant of the personal attention I have in frequent instances experienc’d during my residence in Europe.

Although I have freed myself from every claim in this country by a firm perserverance; yet a load hangs heavily upon my shoulders in France. My partner has Indeed come to a composition with his creditors, and will meet me in N. York, but as, in the progress of accomplishing this composition, I shall probably stand in need of the aid of the french Minister in America, and perhaps shall have occasion to make application to the Gouvenor of New York & Pensilvania; I shall therefore esteem it an additional obligation If your time will allow a letter of recommendation to them, stating my connections in New England—my establishment in France &c.2

Most respectfully wishing Your Excellency may injoy the happiness of soon seeing Mrs. & Miss Adams, and that you may continue to possess an uninterupted health, permit me to subscribe myself Very sincerely Your devoted / & greatly Oblig’d Hl. St.

El. Watson Jr.

Please to direct to me under cover to Messrs. Blanchard & Lewis merchts. London.

Mr. Watson presents his respectfull compliments to Mons. Dumas thanks him cordially for his intoduction to Mons. Luzac and begs to be favour’d with a general sketch of the present system of Gouvernment in Holland for the regulation of his Journal.3

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “À Son Excellence / Monsiuer Adams. / Plinipotentiare des Etats / Unis de l’Amerique / à la / Haye”; internal address: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr: / Hague”; endorsed: “Mr Elk. Watson / 5. July. 1784.”

1In 1779 Watson, originally from Plymouth, Mass., had gone to Europe and established a mercantile firm, Watson & Cossoul, at Nantes. By late 1783 the firm was bankrupt and Watson had been in England in an effort to settle its affairs. In a letter of 25 May 1784, JQA indicated that Watson was about to leave London for a visit to the Netherlands (vol. 9:33–34; 14:255; AFC, description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 5:332–333).

Watson recorded his visit in the journal mentioned in the postscript. He later published his account as A Tour in Holland, in MDCCLXXXIV. By an American, Worcester, 1790, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 23039. Watson reached The Hague on 3 June and on the 4th, at two o’clock in the afternoon, visited JA at “the grand hôtel belonging to the thirteen United States of America, lately purchased by Mr. Adams, for the residence of our future ambassadors. It is decently furnished, has a large library, and an elegant little garden. I was received in the most cordial manner, dined with the ambassador, and in the afternoon we took an airing in his carriage, through the best part of the city.” On the 6th Watson and JA visited Delft, and Watson wrote that “if I had not exerted myself, I should probably have witnessed the unpleasant scene of one of the most brilliant characters of the age (Mr. A—) scrambling in a muddy canal, his wig afloat upon the surface, and all from a laudable zeal to save a child then drowning; the moment he saw the struggling infant bobbing on the top, I thought he would have darted headforemost into the canal, regardless of his personal safety: But I restrained his impetuosity for a moment, as a lusty fellow had that instant soused himself in.”

According to Watson, “in popularity and influence at this court, Mr. A—undoubtedly bears the palm in the diplomatick body. He is universally esteemed, for his profound penetration and extensive political knowledge, the first character our western world has yet produced.

“He talks but little—thinks a great deal— and what he says is always to the purpose; and in point of future events, his words seem to be the words of an oracle. He may indeed be considered as a veteran in politicks, having long acted a conspicuous and important part, and acquired vast experience at several of the courts of Europe, in a very serious crisis.

“Though he does not ape the graces of a Chesterfield, yet we have found in him the more important accomplishments of an ambassador; for his stern republican virtues, have in every instance rose superiour to the duplicity and affected consequence of European courtiers.”

Watson left The Hague with letters of introduction from JA and C. W. F. Dumas for people in Leyden and Amsterdam. Those from JA have not been found, but he likely wrote letters to the members of the loan consortium, for while in Amsterdam Watson dined with one of the Staphorsts (A Tour in Holland, p. 71–72, 82, 83–85, 134). But see also note 3.

2No such letters of introduction by JA have been found.

3On 7 June Watson dined with Jean Luzac at Leyden. Watson wrote that “this gentleman is celebrated throughout Europe for his uncommon talents and extensive knowledge; and more particularly for his patriotism, and being the editor of the Leyden Gazette, which is universally esteemed the best in circulation.” At the end of his account, Watson inserted a section entitled “Origin and Description of the United Provinces,” which included information on the country’s history, geography, climate, economy, and government, and then an appendix on its East India trade (same, p. 104–105, 162–191).

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