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Thomas Boylston Adams to John Quincy Adams, 23 December 1795

Thomas Boylston Adams to John Quincy Adams

The Hague 23. December 1795.

My dear Brother

It has been announced in the Dutch Gazettes as an extract from those of London, that you had delivered Credentials to his Majesty as Envoy from the United States.1 The article somewhat terrifies me, from the apprehension, that your visit will be protracted, beyond the term of our first expectations. Mr: Pinckney is probably in England by this time, as he was some weeks since said to be at Paris upon his return. Your next letters will I hope clear up my doubts to satisfaction; that is, announce the probability of your speedy return, which is wished for by many, but by none so earnestly as myself.

I have enquired of Mr: van Son respecting the case of the William Penn, and from what he says, should suppose it desperate. The papers, Cargo, and Captain were entirely French.

The business upon which I wrote you at full by Mr: Calhoun,2 rests in the same state, except that the French Government has refused to grant Mr: Monroe’s demand for an escort to accompany the specie hither; but gave no answer as to the liberty of exportation. I have recommended a resort to the Bill on Hamburg, in case the remittance from Paris cannot be effected. Since then however, Mr: Monroe advises me to draw upon him if possible for the money, & I have consulted the Bankers upon the expediency of such a measure, but have not yet received their answer. Mr Monroe’s letter was in answer to my first, and did not arrive until after my second had gone, I know not therefore what will be the result of the proposal to use the other Bill. Some delay will I fear be inevitable in the payment at Amsterdam.3

The only interesting news in this quarter is relative to the military operations upon the Rhine. The series of illsuccess on the part of the French is yet unbroken, except a momentary advantage gained by the Army of Sambre & Meuse in the affair of Kreutznach.4 Later accounts say that this army has since received a severe shock, but that Pichegru has been successful in his quarter. As yet however there is nothing but rumor. Some general affair has probably taken place, but the French are out of the habit of giving Official details, & the Austrians too, when they are unfavorable to them, so that the only sure indication, on which side the balance of success preponderates, is by the retreat of one or other of the Armies. The surrender of Manheim operated extremely to the disadvantage of the French, as it reduced their numbers when they had most need of them, and gave their enemies greatly the advantage of situation. The reinforcements, that have arrived to the French have not apparently given them the superiority, because the desertions, which had previously taken place were scarcely supplied by the fresh troops. It seems to be the opinion that Dusseldorf cannot be retained, & if that falls, the operations will be entirely transferred to the left side of the River.

As a counterbalance for the defeats on the Rhine, some details have been published of signal victories gained by the Army in Italy over the Austro Sarde’s.5

Every body seem to turn their attention most to England at present. The King’s message to Parliament, which declares a disposition to treat for peace, produced a gleam of hope in many; but the distance between such an event and the commencement of negotiation, is perhaps wider than is generally imagined. It would puzzle me not a little I confess to divine, what those honorable terms will be, that all parties will insist on. Necessity must be the final umpire; no other can ever graduate the scale of pretensions. The age of miracles is passed, but a general peace in Europe very speedily would deserve to be ranked among the wonders of the world. I think with you that a prospect of Famine is much more visible.

You need not be told, that this Country afords little matter for a letter of news. Since the decision of the question for calling a Convention, nothing remarkable has occurred. The three Provinces still hold out in opposition to the measure, it is therefore doubtful whether it will take place so soon as was expected.

The news from Paris of late, has been sufficiently uninteresting. The sudden command given to M Carletti to depart the territory of the Republic without delay has excited some speculation. Conversing with your friend the Baron upon the subject, he observed—“we have probably not had the whole truth of this business. Either M. C——s note was dictated by his superiors, or he must be a man sans tête. The probability is, that this occasion was seized as a pretext, but the real motives must have been founded upon something behind the curtain.”6 The Baron is among those who have expressed regret at the news of your new Commission.

The List mentioned in my last, was accidentally omitted, I forward it now, requesting as before, that it may be sent to its address; the Gentleman for whom the articles are intended, assures me it will not make a large packet, & may easily be conveyed by private hand, without trespassing much upon the corner of a Trunk.7 The Bill, you will be good enough to forward to me, as I hold myself accountable for the amount to you. If you should send them by a vessel, they may be addressed to me, to the care of Mr Beeldemaker or Mr Bourne.

I have two letters from our mother dated september 17. 18. but you have later doubtless, as we have news here, via London as late as the 10. Novr: from the U,S.8 It is bad enough to have been forged where it came from last.

The winter has not yet seriously commenced here; there have been fogs enough, but scarcely any frost.

Remember me to all friends that you may meet, and dont forget to forward me the Newspapers—which are in great demand.

With real affection I am your Brother

Thomas B Adams.9

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “JQ Adams Esqr:”; endorsed: “T. B. Adams. / 23. Decr: 1795. The Hague. / 14. Jany: 1796. Recd: / 25. do: answered.”

1See JQA to TBA, 26 Dec., and note 7, below.

2According to TBA, Calhoun was a “Gentleman from Baltimore” who had left Maryland in August to visit Europe (M/TBA/2, 13 Sept., APM Reel 282).

3TBA’s letter to JQA of 11 Dec. (Adams Papers) contained a summary to date of an ongoing debate in which TBA was engaged with the Dutch bankers Wilhem & Jan Willink, Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst, and Nicolaas Hubbard regarding payments due at Antwerp and at The Hague to cover interest on the Dutch-American loan. Arrangements had previously been made for Charles Jean Michel De Wolfe to cover the Antwerp interest, and James Monroe in Paris had been organizing additional payments of these debts in specie. But Monroe was experiencing difficulties in getting the money to the Netherlands, as the French government had denied him permission to remove silver from France. There was also an ongoing dispute over how much money was properly owed to the bankers by the U.S. government, how overdue certain bills were, and which remittances should legitimately be credited to the American accounts. While the bankers eventually accepted the money from De Wolfe and received the silver from Monroe, disputes over payment of American debts in the Netherlands long continued (TBA to Oliver Wolcott Jr., 6 Jan. 1796, CtHi:Wolcott Papers; Wilhem & Jan Willink, Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst, and Nicolaas Hubbard to TBA, 22 April, Adams Papers).

4The French were unable to hold their advantage at the Battle of Kreuznach, which ultimately proved another victory for the Austrian Army just prior to the winter’s armistice ([Walter Keating Kelly], History of the House of Austria from the Accession of Francis I. to the Revolution of 1848, London, 1905, p. xxi).

5At the beginning of Oct. 1795 the French installed a new commander of the Army of Italy, Barthélemi Schérer. He decided to push forward, and in late November the French Army successfully surprised and overcame the combined Austrian and Sardinian forces at Loano. By the end of the month the French had killed some 7,000 Austrians and taken both Austrian and Sardinian weapons, a fortified camp, and two fortresses. They also successfully opened the road to Piedmont (Cambridge Modern Hist., description begins The Cambridge Modern History, Cambridge, Eng., 1902–1911; repr. New York, 1969; 13 vols. description ends 8:444–445).

6The Tuscan minister plenipotentiary to France, Francesco Carletti, had been involved in attempts to win the release of Princess Marie Thérèse Charlotte, Madame Royale, first from the French government under the National Convention and then again from the Directory. Carletti had also requested permission—in writing—to visit “the illustrious prisoner,” who Carletti believed was soon to be released to the Austrian government. Carletti’s note concluded with phrasing that the French government deemed threatening, and the Directory demanded his expulsion (Biro, German Policy of Revolutionary France, description begins Sydney Seymour Biro, The German Policy of Revolutionary France: A Study in French Diplomacy during the War of the First Coalition 1792–1797, 1 vol. in 2, Cambridge, 1957. description ends 1:450; 2:521–522).

7The list, which was originally intended to be enclosed in TBA’s letter to JQA of 11 Dec., has not been found. In the earlier letter, TBA wrote, “The enclosed list, you will be good enough to let Tilley take to its address, & if you will charge me with the Bill of them, & forward the packet to me when you can, it will confer an obligation upon one of my friends & upon me” (Adams Papers).

8AA’s letter of 17 Sept. is above; that of 18 Sept. has not been found.

9TBA also wrote to JQA on 10 Jan. 1796 reviewing his earlier correspondence to JQA, providing updates on European affairs, and particularly complaining about the lack of ships sailing for the United States and the “damp & dirty” weather (Adams Papers).

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