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From John Quincy Adams to William Loughton Smith, 18 July 1798

Berlin 18 July 1798.

Dear Sir,

I received two days ago your obliging favour of the 21st: ulto. I wish it were in my power to communicate such intelligence from this part of the world as you expected, but the Symptoms of the present moment lead to different conclusions.

Russia has engaged herself to all appearance more seriously than heretofore against the all grasping all-devouring power that threatens Europe and the whole civilized world. She has sent a considerable naval force to the aid of Great Britain two divisions of which have already passed the Sound. She has furthermore sent here a man of very high rank and consequence, Prince Repuin, without any formal diplomatic Commission but with powers very extensive to treat with this Court, with Austria & perhaps with G. B.——with the two first ostensibly, for the purpose of mediating an amicable arrangement relative to the indemnities respectively claimed for the cession of territories beyond the Rhine. In this object the mediation may be successful, but the plan of a combination between Prussia, Austria, and Russia with Great Britain to arrest the progress of political doctrines and stem an overwhelming ambition, has failed.—The failure is imputable to two causes. 1. The mutual jealousy and want of confidence between R. A, & P. founded upon the prevalent influence of certain individual characters at Vienna, Petersburg & Berlin, which has proceeded so far that I believe it has been mutually not disguised. 2. To the adoption by Prussia of neutrality as a system, in defence of which they Say, “we see the danger that threatens us, but we think peace, oeconomy and a wise administration a better defence against it than a coalition war.” The amount of this to be sure is, to look on and see others fight our battles and depend upon their success to decide our fate. On the other hand, France has perhaps made tempting offers to engage the assistance of Prussia on her side. They will probably not be more successful. Sieyes has very recently been received here as Envoy Extraordinary from the french Republic.

The ceremony of taking the homage was performed here about a fortnight ago. The Minister of Justice Reek addressing the deputations from the States of the Provinces told them that the king would never go to war for conquest or for glory, but certainly would if an insolent enemy should attempt to infringe his rights, attack the principles of his throne or fetter the independence of his nation. The same Minister addressing the deputies of the burghers told them to look round and compare their lot with that of others, and then appealed to their own judgment, whether in any Country, was enjoyed more liberty, equality and rights of Man? As the first of these discovers the species of foreign hostility, which is considered as most impending, the second evidently shews what is apprehended as most dangerous to internal tranquility.

Our accounts from America here are to the first of June. You have them doubtless much later before this. The publication of the first dispatches from our late Envoys at Paris has raised a spirit among the people of our Country, worthy of themselves. It has weakened the opposition in Congress though not so much as might have been hoped, but it has forced them to change their grounds. You, my Dear Sir, who were not only a personal witness, but so strenuous an antagonist to arguments for insisting upon all diplomatic dispatches, and their publication, that nothing might be concealed, from the people, you were not surprized. I dare say upon the present occasion, to find such men as Gallatin, Nicholas Livingston and their followers, renewing the same topics, calling for the papers upon the presumption that they would be refused, and the very moment after they were all given and all published to their hearts desire, complaining that if war should ensue, it would be imputable to the publication of these dispatches. You were not surprized, I say; you knew the men too well to expect consistency or shame from them.

I suppose you have seen the attempt at defence made by the Minister Talleyrand; his anxious labours to prove that the corrupt sollicitations were not officially made, and his invectives against the American Commissioners & Government, proving his cause as foul in mouth as it is rotten at heart. You have Seen too, or heard of Bellamy, coming forth as Mr: Y, and undertaking to shew from the dispatches of the Commissioners themselves, that he never said any thing to them about the 1200,000 livres. Such papers as these are tantamount to conviction, without other proof—Such a defence would of itself hang a felon in any wise and honest Court of Justice, where the hanging of felons is yet practised. Talleyrand must think the world convinced, that there is no possible scene of adultery but the nuptial bed, none of prostitution but the public streets. Bellamy goes one step further and believes the public may be imposed upon even without plausible sophistry, and by the mere impudence of denial.

Two of our Commissioners have long since left Paris. The third was still there not many days ago; the decisive measures of defence taken by Congress at the close of May and beginning of June will bring affairs to an issue, which has long since been unavoidable, and which could be only made more distressing to us by being longer postponed. The suspension of all commercial intercourse with the french territories, will if carried into execution, with the same energy that characterized the law, prove that we are not that contemptible stingless reptile, which they have so long affected to consider us.

The capture of Malta by the force under Buonaparte was an unexpected and an important event. This, with the possession of Switzerland & Piedmont will give immense advantages to France in case of a renewal of her war with Austria and the German Empire. The conferences at [Selty] upon which were supposed to depend the negotiations at Rastadt are at an end, but whether terminated, broken off or suspended, does not yet appear.

It has been hinted that the Court of Vienna had consented to write a letter to the Great Directory, apologizing for the insult to Bernadette, and the Directory had engaged not to publish it. This point being settled, it was supposed the others would be made easy, but I know as yet nothing certain as to the result.

I have met here with a Genevan gentleman by the name of Sartoris, who informs me, he was acquainted with you there, and desired me particularly to remember him to you. He was within these few years proscribed amidst the Revolutionary movements of his Country, before it was swallowed up by France. He is now in the family of one of the Princes belonging to this Court.

I am with great respect and regard, dear Sir, very sincerely, / your very hble and obedt. Servant

MHi: Adams Family Papers, Letterbooks.

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