Adams Papers

From John Quincy Adams to William Loughton Smith, 1 November 1798

Berlin. 1. November. 1798.

Dear Sir.

I received a few days ago, your favor of 5th: September—The wisdom of the system of policy adopted at length by our Government towards France, has since you wrote been amply confirmed, by the total alteration of her tone relative to the United States—She shows indeed yet an extreme reluctance to the adoption of any measures of substantial Justice towards us, and shrinks with an ill grace from her system of extortion and robbery. It is certain however that the firmness and intrepidity discovered in our councils have arrested the progress of her most violent depredations, and that at the moment when our ill judged patience and long suffering ceased she has manifested the strongest desire for a renewal of negotiation. As yet her conduct only shews a change of meneuvre in the pursuit of the same object—an attempt to cajole those, whom she found she could not intimidate. She now relies, that her amusing and delusive proposals, supported by the exertions of her party in our Country, will disarm our Government of that energy, which it was so unexpectedly found to possess, and restore us anew to that pernicious influence, which so long rendered us the defenceless victims of her injustice—She has got herself into the habit of trying experiments upon our Spirit, and although those she lately carried to such extremes did not succeed, she thinks she can renew them by retreating a little, and taking a different position—She seems disposed to graduate the thermometer of her oppression according to the temperature of our blood, and appears to think she can raise and fall its operations, exactly to the measure of her own good will or interest.

She has been trying similar experiments with the Ottoman Porte, untill she provoked from it a formal declaration of war against her by the invasion of Egypt—She now professes extreme astonishment at the Declaration of War, and in the same Rédacteur, where Buonaparte’s dispatches promise the Directory an Egyptian Harvest that shall indemnify France for all her losses, we find she has sent a new Minister to Constantinople, to convince the Porte, that this expedition was highly advantageous to its interests—This embassy will probably be too late—The Porte has entered into an alliance with Russia and G. Britain in consequence of which, the Russian fleet has passed the Dardanelles, and the Turks will doubtless use all their endeavours to drive Buonaparte and his army away from Egypt, which however from the firm footing they have obtained there, will be extremely difficult, if not utterly impracticable.

The prospects of an immediate renewal of the War, between France and Austria, have lately been very great, but at present there appears a stronger probability that the Peace will be maintained—It seems to be certain that negotiations are still carried on through the medium of Tuscany, and if France will consent to the sacrifice of Mantua, to which the late events afford urgent inducements, Austria will certainly extricate herself from a new contest in which Russia has already declined to participate. This will doubtless enfeeble very much the coalition between Russia, the Porte and England, but it is difficult to say whether for the general salvation of Europe, it will not be more advantageous than a new Continental War, which most probably would consist altogether in a new series of continual victories on the part of France.

What the consequences of this arrangement of things will be with regard to Portugal, seems doubtful—The Minister, who recently went from Madrid to Paris, for the purpose of attempting again to make a Peace, remained there a very short time, and his proposals were at once rejected—They are not people to grant Peace, when it is implored. In their eyes the most inexplicable of all crimes is weakness.

Their repeated and important defeats at Sea, are events highly important to us, as they always contribute to wrest from them the only weapon of open hostility with which they can hurt us, & as the more their power to injure is diminished, the less must the pestilence of their influence prevail.

I am with great respect & regard, Dear Sir, your friend & very hble: Servt.

MHi: Adams Family Papers, Letterbooks.

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