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From John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 23 July 1800

No 2.

Grünberg. 23. July. 1800.

My dear brother,

As I have stipulated that you shall peruse none of my letters written upon this tour, but with your map in hand, I need not tell you perhaps that this is the first town we have reached after entering upon the borders of Silesia. Its distance from Frankfort is ten German miles—We left that place yesterday at one in the afternoon, & experienced again we had done more than once before how impossible it is to carry into effect the determination of not travelling in the night—We were told at Frankfort, that we could easily go from thence to Crossen, in eight hours; & in four from our departure we had actually come halfway. There remained one stage of three miles to perform, which after waiting as usual more than an hour to change our horses, we were seven hours & a half in travelling, so that we arrived at Crossen, at half past one this morning—We stopped there untill seven, & then came the other four miles. We arrived here this day between twelve & one, at noon—The country through which we passed is an exact counterpart to that between Frankfort & Berlin, or to that between Berlin & Hamburg, only if possible deeper sands, narrower roads, & the more frequent shock of pine tree boughs overhanging the way—It is truly the abomination of desolation—Well might Frederic the second consider the soil of his antient patrimony as an objection to the maxim that God created nothing but what was destined to some purpose.—“Sand”—said the old king to Zimmerman, “I have always been puzzled to know for what purpose God created Sand.”

This town contains about seven thousand inhabitants, who derive their subsistance from two sources; from the manufacturing of broad cloth, & from the cultivation of the vine. The first is carried on, in a manner, which it should seem might serve as an example for our own country; here is no large capitalist at the head of an extensive manufacture, & employing at wages, which will scarcely keep soul & body together, a large number of workmen, whose labours only contribute to accumulate his enormous wealth. But here are between six & seven hundred looms, which furnish a comfortable subsistance to as many families—The Wool is partly raised in the neighbourhood, & partly imported from Poland—There are several fulling mills, which belong to the gild & corporation of the manufacturers, & are used in common by them all; but the spinning, the carding, the dying, the weaving, the drying, the pressing, the napping, in short the whole process from the shearing of the fleece to the sale of the cloth for the taylor, is performed by each separate manufacturer for himself—It is possible, for I cannot dispute the principles of Adam Smith, respecting the division of labor, that by the separation of all these single <articles> operations, the same quantity of industry, might produce a greater quantity of work’d materials, but it is very doubtful whether it would produce a competent subsistence to so many individuals—Where the system of subdividing labor ad infinitum is established, each individual workman is but an infinitessimal fragment of a vast body—One man, ten men, fifty men, combining all their faculties together cannot produce any thing. Unless there is a manafature upon a large scale, there can be none at all—The single workman, is thus placed altogether in the dependance of the great capitalist, & must of course become his drudge. Thus hundreds of laborious men will be compelled to groan & sweat under a weary life, for the sake of adding thousands more to the thousands of one merchant—But where all the operations for the production of a manufactured work can be performed by one man, or by a small number of men, each single workman will be of more consequence in himself; more independent of his employer, & more assured of his subsistence—The profitt of manufacturing will be distributed in smaller portions & to greater numbers—There will be less accumulation, & more circulation of wealth—

The most considerable manufacturer here is a Mr Förster; & he only possesses & uses the machines for spinning & carding the wool, which are employed in the english manufactures, & are well known in America—We went to see these machines worked; & they were shewn us by Mr Förster, not only with great complaisance, but with much apparent pleasure—He was delighted at the sight of a native American; the first, whom he had ever seen; & he expressed himself still more pleased, when upon enquiring whether I was any relation of the President, I told him I was his son—This country in general is seldom visited by strangers, & in such countries strangers are always treated with the most attention & hospitality. I have many years ago had experience of this in Sweden, & the farther we move from Berlin the more we become sensible of it upon this road. They make in this town about 25.000 pieces of broad cloth by the year, of four different qualities—The finest is to all appearance as handsome as the English broad cloth we commonly wear for coats, & is about fifty per cent cheaper—Mr Förster told me it would give him great pleasure to send some of his cloths to America, & I have no doubt but that a merchant, who would speculate upon them, from our country, would find his account very well in it—They now send it to Poland, Russia, Hamburg, & Berlin.

Their wine is a much more precarious source of profit, than their broad cloth. The whole country about the town is clad with vines, & in favorable years they raise wine enough not only for their own consumption, but likewise large quantities for exportation. But Bacchus loves to bask in warmer climates, than these. A hard winter kills the vines, & others must be planted at considerable expence—If they blossom too early, they are nipped by the frost, if too late their liquor turns to vinegar, a cold night late in the spring, or early in the autumn is enough to cut off half their vintage; & upon the labor & expence they bestow upon this fruit is all thrown into a lottery, which has several blanks to a prize—A stranger however cannot be surprized that they should hazard so much upon the grape, when he sees the land upon which it is planted—It is the only way in which Nature can here be forced to yield any thing.

I have already observed to you that we perceive a difference in the manners of the people, from those to which we have been accustomed at Berlin—It extends only in a slight degree to the dress of the women, which is remarkable for a sort of fillet, or diadem of black velvet bordered on each side with gauze, or lace, which they wear round the head, & which has a pretty effect—There is likewise a great simplicity in their dress, & the costume of those, who are in circumstances of wealth, & competence differs only from the poorer class; only in the fineness of the cloths they were—Mrs Förster, the wife of the Gentleman I have mentioned to you, was thus dressed in a short jacket & petticoat with a white apron, & handed to us cakes & wine for refreshment, herself, which both she & her husband urged us to take with great kindness & cordiality—He himself appears to be much of a politician, & reads the newspapers constantly—The natural feelings—aversion against Austria, & good will to France were very perceptible in his conversation; & in that of another gentleman, to whom I had brought a letter; but they both spoke with great applause of the Americans for having persevered in supporting their system of neutrality during the war—Nothing was more true, said he (Mr Förster) than the old proverb Friede  und krieg verzehrt (Peace blooms, & war consumes.)—I saw nothing in either of these persons that discovered any tincture of the new philosophy; on the contrary Mr Anders, who is a man of information & letters expressed himself a great admirer of that philosophy, which is easily applied to the purposes of life, & with dislike of that, which is merely speculative, & finds no end in wandering mazes lost—Upon this ground he declared his preference of Garve to Kant, as a philosopher—Garve was a German writer, who died about two years ago at Breslau; he is highly celebrated so far as his language extends, though his fame has not yet been blazoned so widely abroad as that of Kant—His writings are chiefly upon topics of morality, which he has promoted by his own works, & by translations both from the Latin & English—From that most admirable monument of antient genius & wisdom, Cicero’s treatise de officiis, & from the modern but valuable book of Dr Paley—In the manners & conversation of these gentlemen, upon the whole, we found a frankness, a cordiality & good nature, truly republican, or which at least I love to consider as such—They speak with openness & freedom of their own government, which they praise & blame according as they think it deserves—I told you in my last letter, of the symptoms of dissatisfaction, we had seen at Frankfurt—The merchants & traders were discontented at being deprived of the principal profits of their fair; & the nobility at having been subjected to a heavy excise upon small wines & beer, from which they had always been exempted by priviledges, which they say the king at his accession swore to maintain—Here the nobility & the towns are displeased, that the king should have taken the homage of Silesia, by a mere deputation from the States, to Berlin; & think he ought to have taken it solemnly at Breslau, as his father & Frederic the second had done—Some of the towns in particular, claim it as an express privilege, to do homage no where but at Breslau, & the province in general thought itself slighted by the omission of the ceremony.

As we are here not far from the borders of Poland, or what they call now South Prussia, we hear something too of the administration in that country, which is not without censure. Numbers of officers have been placed there who treat the Poles too much as a conquered people, & industriously work to render galling the yoke, which every principle of good policy should rather induce to alleviate.

Freystadt. 24. July.

We came here this morning from Grünburg, striking out of the great road to Breslau, which we shall not visit, at least for the present, & in order to get into the great road to Hirshberg, the mountains; which we had left, at Crossen in order to pass through Grünberg—I had a letter for a Count Kalkreuth, who resides here; whose grounds are said to be laid out with great taste & elegance, in the english manner, & who has a remarkable fine library—But upon enquiring we find the count is absent, & will not return for several days—But this town being out of the ordinary post–road, we could not procure horses to proceed untill to–morrow morning, & must reconcile ourselves to remain here the rest of the day. This circumstance though not the most agreable in itself, has enabled us to make a discovery of our own consequence, which will make you smile, at least; though I hope you will not laugh at our expence out loud—Know then, that a town officer has this afternoon come, formally in the name of the magistrates, & of the whole town, to compliment us upon our arrival here; to offer us all the services in their power, & to express their high satisfaction at possessing within their walls &c &c, for the good Gentleman’s eloquence was so highly rhetorical, that but for the high respect I owe the magistrates of the town, I should have been strongly reminded of the first adventure of Gil Blas, when he set out upon his travels—Yet this comparison would be alike unjust & ungrateful—The compliment in this case was truly sincere; it was not paid to me, but to my name, & when the officer coupled it with that of Washington, to declare that they were names held in high reverence by all Silesia, even a jacobin might have envied the sensations of our Louisa & my own—The worthy officer instead of eating our supper, & then giving us a lesson of modesty, has added to this compliment, the present of a fine basket of fruit—

A circumstance that cannot escape the observation of a Stranger in entering Silesia, from the electorate, is an immediate essential change with respect to the article of provisions at the public houses; they improve in quality, & at the same time are at much lower prices—We find at the inns a printed paper, posted on the door of every apartment, & marking the regular prices for every item of entertainment, which the innkeepers cannot exceed—We had just come from paying a dollar a head, for very bad dinners at Frankfort, & at Grünberg were charged only one third as much for very good ones. The other charges were all in the same proportion—This is worth mentioning, because it leads to prove how well fitted this province is to be a manufacturing country.


MHi: Adams Family Papers, Letterbooks.

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