27. June 1798
I have now received your letter of 21. April—not however by the way of Bremen but from Hamburg, though I had just received another packet from the State department of the same date, from the Consul at Bremen. With your last came likewise other letters of a date as recent as 7, May. one of them from you to my brother.—For your pamphlets and newspapers likewise I have to renew my thanks.
I am satisfied from a view of the newspapers and the situation of the public mind, which they represent, that the publication of the dispatches called for by Congress was necessary, though I am still convinced that it was dangerous, and am far from being sure that it will not produce mischievous effects—I have sent you some observations upon the late official though unsigned paper which closes with a declaration that the Directory ardently wish to live at Peace with America—I have there noticed that nothing can be more avowedly hostile to the American Government, than the whole tenor of the very publication which terminates with such pacific promises.
A paragraph in the Moniteur, may serve to explain this apparent inconsistency. It says that the friends of Liberty, in the United States, supported by a great part of the house of Representatives, will probably not wait for the next elections, but in the mean time will destroy the fatal influence of the President and Senate, by a Revolution.—This being the expectation of the french Government, it is easy to perceive that their promises of Peace and friendship are meant only for those friends of liberty who are to effect the Revolution—That they are the pledges of alliance between France and the party opposed to the Government of the United States.
This alliance has long since been well understood to exist—On the part of France it was the result of a system of policy much more antient than their Revolution—The system of connecting the french influence in every free Country with the party in that Country opposed to the existing Government. This system was not always followed from a pure and disinterested love of Liberty; for if it was constantly employed to reduce in Holland the influence and power of the Stadtholder, it was equally energetic in Sweden to enlarge the prerogatives of the king.
This policy was not even peculiar to the french monarchy. It is the policy natural between a great state and a small free one; it is founded deep in the human Character, and all history is full of it in antient as well as in modern times.—This fact ought to be well considered by every genuine and impartial American—In our Country many people disbelieve it, on the present occasion, and others seem to consider it as an extraordinary if not an incredible thing—Many who believe in it imagine that the connection will soon decline and disappear, in which opinion they will certainly find themselves deceived
It is curious to observe the manner in which Mr: Monroe speaks of this combination—“We have heard much of intrigues, between the People of these States and the government of France. But free people seldom intrigue together”—Where Mr: Monroe ever heard much of such intrigues, I know not, and I doubt much whether any one besides himself ever heard of them—Of intrigues between the french Government and certain individuals of these states holding offices of importance, most people have heard, and if they had never been heard of before, Mr: Monroe’s book would have brought them sufficiently to light. And if it be true that a free people has no motive to intrigue, there are motives enough apparent to influence some of their leaders (as Mr. Monroe calls them) to it, and proofs enough to shew them not to be so scrupulous as Mr: Monroe would have us believe, in their choice of a party with whom to intrigue—He tells us that none but monarchs intrigue with the leaders of a free people and appeals to the Grecian History, at a period when the only power that could have any influence over them, and of course with whom the leaders could intrigue was a king—But if Mr: Monroe had chosen another period, when the Greek Republics received a nominal restoration of their liberty by a Roman Consul, or had he chosen to recollect any part of the Roman History, he would have found that the Government of a Republic was as capable of intriguing with the leaders of a free people as neighbouring monarchs
There is one point however in which the practice of the french Government at present is essentially different from that of their former monarchy, or that of the antient Romans—It is in their treatment of their own partizans in foreign Countries, after they have once obtained the object for which they employed them—This is a very serious object of consideration to those leaders of a free people who call in the help of France to effect a Revolution in their Government.
In Holland—France declared War against the Stadtholder only, and her troops entered the Country amidst the most solemn protestations of friendship for the People—The party within the Batavian Republic opposed to the Government, either believed those protestations or preferred to be conquered rather than miss the revolution.—They treated with France, while her troops were advancing; they met with every encouragement from France, and in proportion as the french armies entered every town, that party took the nominal government into its hands—But when 70,000 armed frenchmen were once possessed of the whole Country, then the french Government considered the very people to whom they had been all the while swearing Peace and friendship, as a Conquest.—Then came requisitions, quartering of soldiers, passing of assignats, with innumerable other burthens and vexations, and finally a Treaty of alliance, surrendering up the barrier towns, the only possible defence against future invasion, and stipulating the payment of 100 millions of florins by the People.
Since then France has kept an army of 25000 men constantly in Holland, to be paid by the Batavian People, but always under the supreme controul and direction of the french Government. Under her patronage the Revolutionary party have totally destroyed the antient Constitution of the Country, and introduced another in its stead—But almost every individual of that party has been forcibly expelled from the government, and the most distinguished have all been thrown into Prisons and dungeons, by proceedings under the immediate direction of the french Government. The legislative and Executive authorities have been twice dissolved by military force within the space of six months.—Holland, a Country whose existence is commerce has been three years forced to take part in a War, which has proved almost a total suspension of her trade, and in which she has lost her most valuable colonies, and now remains totally dependent upon France for any hopes of recovering them.
In Italy—France has been no less ardent and zealous in her professions of friendship for the People of its various Nations—There too, in the name of this friendship she has every where conquered. At Venice she destroyed the Government, seized and appropriated all the public property, and then gave up the People—the dear objects of her friendship, to the Emperor—The Cisalpine and Roman Republics could tell a tale no less edifying of french friendship, as well as Genoa and Geneva.
But the most recent and perhaps most instructive example of all is that of Switzerland—You have seen how France began to display her enmity to the Governments, and friendship to the People of that Country, by taking under her special protection certain insurgents against the Government of Berne and declaring that she would hold every individual member of that Government responsible for every act in opposition to those insurgents. From that time you have seen her overthrow every Government of Switzerland and at the point of the bayonet, force down upon the People her friends, a Constitution made for them at Paris, and in which they had not the smallest participation—Thousands of these People have been butchered by her armies, and at length a legislative and Executive power conformable to the prescribed Constitution have been assembled—The only business of these authorities is to complain against the cruel distresses and intolerable oppressions of the People, proceeding from the french Army.—Such contributions have been required of all the families connected with the governments destroyed as utterly to ruin them—But as to them, not a word is to be said—They were oligarchs—Besides this almost all the Cantons possessed public treasures, from which the small expences of their Governments were supported. It was public property and the members of the Government never dreamt that it was theirs—A french Commissary (Rapinat by name) has seized upon these treasures for the benefit of France—The Helvetic Executive and Legislature interposed and claimed the property; even Menguad the french agent supports them; but Rapinat proceeds with numerous tokens of insult and mockery, carries off the treasures, the french Government openly approve and ratify his conduct and immediately recall and dismiss Mengaud, with public reproaches for his pusilannimity.—In their own Country the french have always declared every species of public, as well as much private property, to belong to the Nation. But whenever they go with their arms among their friends of other Countries, they consider all their public property as belonging not to the Nation, but to the Government, and accordingly seize it for themselves, by right of Conquest.—Such has proved uniformly and invariably the friendship of the french Republic for the People, wherever her troops have penetrated— An american therefore may well be alarmed when he finds her declaring Peace and friendship for the Americans, in connection with violent and slanderous invectives against their Government.
Mr. Gerry remains yet at Paris, and the newspapers say he is not going away.—They further announce that the Directory have appointed two new Consuls: one to Wilmington, and the other to New-York.—The latter a Man by the name of Sottin—He was for some months after the last 4th: of September, Minister of Police, and upon resigning that office, was appointed Minister with the Ligurian Republic—The Moniteur says that he was recalled for having invited the Ligurian Government (in writing) to support an insurrection in Piedmont, against the king of Sardinia; & assured them that in so doing they would please the french Directory—It happened however that just at that time the french Directory were declaring to the world, that they were supporting their ally the king of Sardinia, against those very insurgents—They have therefore punished Sottin’s written indiscretion by recalling him, but send him as Consul to New-York, where they think perhaps that he may freely indulge his partiality in favour of insurgents.
I say nothing of the late transactions in the Batavian Republic, and have barely alluded to them above.—Very accurate and interesting details of them will reach the United States from that quarter directly.
Ever faithfully yours’
MHi: Adams Papers.