Adams Papers

From John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 9 July 1799

9. July 1799.

To your long letter of March 4–12. I ought to say something more than is merely contained in mine of the 1st: instt: in answer, without waiting for your letter by the way of England, written in the beginning of May, which I have not yet received.

Yesterday a couple of small packets of news-papers and cuttings dated February and March, came to hand, which I suppose you sent with your letter from Quincy.

I am glad to see at last, what I had before heard of; Porcupine’s abuse upon the appointment of a new Commission to negotiate with France; he seems to have taken it very much in dudgeon, and seriously threatens the Government, and especially the President, to withdraw from them, his powerful patronage and not very gracious protection—He has a good hand at ribaldry, and having in general supported honest and honourable principles has been useful in lashing with his coarse scourge men who would have been insensible to more delicate punishment.—Poor Webster owns and complains that Peter’s Gazette is the most popular newspaper in the Union, and it is not difficult to perceive the reason why.—Let the other papers assume as much vivacity, as much wit, and as much decision, and they will soon get into greater vogue themselves.

Peter is certainly wrong when he complains that the liberty of the press is not enjoyed in America, in so high a degree as in England—If an American should go to London, and set up a daily newspaper, and fill it from one week’s end to another with abuse however ingenious and witty upon the English King, Parliament, Judges, and People, upon their friends and allies, upon every man and every measure which should cross his own ideas of right, or his national partialities as an American, Lord Kenyon would very shortly send him to muse upon the liberty of the press in the king’s bench prison, or a cockney mob, would spare the courts of Justice all trouble about him, by breaking his head, and pulling down his printing shop about his ears.

The impression which the new commission first made upon many of our federalists at home, I cannot very easily account for.—At the last session of Congress amidst all the indignities heaped upon the former negotiators and all the injuries practised in their utmost extremes upon our commerce, Congress did not chuse to go to War; and yet when negotiation was sollicited on the part of France, was it to be rejected? As to those who talk of making France pay for all her plunder and ask pardon upon her knees for her robberies, they should at least shew how we could have effected such a purpose by War—What the result of this mission will be I know not; but it will certainly be better than we could have hoped from the most favourable issue of a War, that could have happened.—The only harm that the negotiation could produce, would be a relaxation of our preparations for War; which would indeed be the most extreme bad policy—for it would be the most infallible means of defeating the success of the commission—All negotiation with France, that is not supported by a real and visible force, must be mockery.—The more of her frigates we take, the more likely our Ministers will be to succeed in their mission.

Before the two Gentlemen who are to come from America shall arrive, a complete change of men, may perhaps have taken place in the french Government. Four of the five Directors have already been displaced within these two months. They are now universally called at Paris the tyrants of France—The operation of their removal is called a cisalpinade—It was done by the legislative councils, who thus give a counterpart to the 18th: fructidor. According to all appearances the time is not far distant when the rubber game between these two powers will be decided—The general charge upon the ex-directors is for dilapidations; and the virtuous Barras, is the only one of them left in his place. Rewbell went out by lot at the time of the annual electionµHe carried off from the Luxembourg 12000 livres worth of furniture belonging to the public which he has since been obliged to restore, and his sons appropriated to themselves the horses of the nation. The new Directors, besides Sieyes, are three Jacobins as virtuous as Barras—Two of the Ministers, (of the police, and interior) have likewise been changed; but the virtuous Talleyrand remains, and the report that he is to come as Minister to this court, is not yet confirmed.

The catastrophe of the ex-virtuous Directors, was occasioned by their having taken it into their heads that they could swallow up Austria with the same facility as they had devoured Naples and five or six other states in the course of a year. There were numerous circumstances which favoured this notion, and at the commencement of the campaign I was far from being convinced that they had misreckoned. The conduct of the last Austrian campaigns in Italy, and the manner in which Austria had suffered Ehrenbreitstein to fall, and the kings of Naples and Sardinia to be dethroned, led me to think that she would either be forced to yield in every point, or would be the victim of a single campaign.—We were all mistaken.From the time when war was declared untill the date of our latest accounts, victory has scarcely strayed a moment from the Austrian and Russian standards. Jourdan, Bernadotte, Massena, Scherer, Moreau and Macdonald, have all successively been beaten; all reduced to write dispatches announcing how successful they would have been, had things happened otherwise than as they did, and to acknowledge that although victorious, they found it expedient to run away.—In the course of three-months the French armies have been driven back to the Rhine in Germany; have lost the Grison Country from which they had, by commencing the War before declaring it; driven at first the Austrians; a great part of Switzerland; and all Lombardy and Piedmont excepting Mantua, Alexandria, Tortona, and Coni—Scherer who opened the campaign by an attempt to take Verona by surprize on the 26th. of March was repulsed in various attacks which he daily repeated untill the 3d: of April—On the 5th: he was himself attacked by the Austrians and completely beaten insomuch that the French themselves allow he lost 15000 men—He then resigned his command and Moreau was appointed in his stead—On the very day when Moreau received his appointment he was beaten by Suworow at Cassano, and lost nearly ten thousand men more.—From that time he retreated untill he reached the foot of the Alps which separate Piedmont from the County of Nice and there received some reinforcements with which he made his way to Genoa.—In the mean time Macdonald had collected about 30,000 men in the lower part of Italy and marched upwards to form his junction with Moreau; he obtained a flight advantage over the advanced corps of Austrians on the 12th: of last month, and had proceeded as far as Placentia, when he was met by Suworow himself, and after a battle which lasted three days the french were again defeated, with the loss of 8000 prisoners and 3000 left dead on the field. Four days after, the citadel of Turin surrendered.

It appears that a plan had been formed for a junction of the french and spanish fleets, to act in concert in the mediterranean.—The french fleet did in fact sail from Brest, and got as far as Toulon. The Spaniards only made out to get from Cadiz as far as Carthagena. Since then, there have been numerous reports about these fleets, none of which are true.

The situation of Buonaparte and his army in Syria is not fully ascertained—By the Turkish accounts he has been obliged to raise the siege of Acra, and retire to Caffa, where is besieged himself. They say in a battle on the 16th: of May he lost 4000 men, and eight generals whose names are mentioned.—At the same time the french papers announce that he has completed the conquest of Syria, and proceeded as far as Angouri in Anatolia within 80 leagues of Constantinople.

I wrote you last week, that my books and your trunk had sailed from Lisbon for Boston, on the 26th: of April—They went by the Fair american, Captn: Oliver B. Finley; consigned to Mr. Smith. The freight agreed upon, was one hundred dollars.—I hope that before this time they are safely arrived.

I sent you with my letter of May 30th: a Letter, from a Mr. Inberg; with an account against a Mr. Lauffer of Philadelphia. But Mr. Inberg has just now received the remittances, and therefore Mr: Lauffer will shew you that he has made them, so that there will be nothing further to do in this case.—I now send you some papers which may exercise your talents at reading German—One of them is a request to make enquiries at New-York; whether any information can be obtained concerning a man by the name of C. F. Halberstadt.—Though I presume they will be unsuccessful. The others are the papers proving the property in Virginia of the Jew Bluch; who appears really to be entitled to the Lands; though from ignorance how to proceed in order to recover them he has hitherto been kept out of his right—You will find, that he has formerly given a power of attorney to his brothers in Law Bernard and Michael Graetz at Philadelphia, to sell the lands; it will perhaps be best to apply first to them to know what they have done, and induce them if they have sold the land, to make the remittances.

Whitcomb has at last, a few days ago sold your horse, for 15. louis d’or’s or 85 dollars—He once refused 16, in the hopes of getting more, but has never since had an offer of so much as he has now sold him for, untill that which by my advice he accepted. The expence of maintaining the animal since you went away has amounted to between 93 and 94 dollars; so that he has more than sunk his whole value—Whitcomb however adopted at last the expedient of letting him out, to make him pay in part for his own maintenance, and in this way has credited your account with 62 dollars; which together with the proceeds of the sale, leave a balance in your favour of 53 dollars & 8 grosh (Prussian). Even this, is better than I expected. I have no room to bid you farewell.

MHi: Adams Papers.

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