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From John Adams to Boston Patriot, 19 September 1809

Quincy, September 19, 1809.


1781, January 18—wrote to Mr. Mazzei, at Florence: “Yesterday I received yours, of the 19th of October. Some time since, I received the other, of the 19th of August: both went to Paris, and I being here, Mr. Dana and Mr. Thaxter forwarded their enclosures to America, according to my desire, but I am not able to say in what vessel. In consequence of Mr. Laurens’s calamity, I am ordered to reside in Holland for the present, and should be glad to be informed by you, whether it is probable that any money might be borrowed in Italy for the United States, by the authority of Congress. Your letter for Governor Jefferson, I sent with my dispatches in the time of it, but I am not able to say by what vessel. The English are in a fair way to have enemies enough. They do not love their enemies like good Christians: but they love to have enemies, and I think their passion will be abundantly gratified. The Dutch are already added to the French, Spaniards and Americans; and it is likely that the Russians, Swedes and Danes, will soon increase the list.—Will the English make a great figure in the contest?”

Amsterdam, January 18th, 1781—wrote to Congress. “At length, one act has appeared which looks like war. The following placard was resolved on, the 12th of the month.

The States General of the United Provinces of the low Countries, to all those who shall see, or hear read, these presents, greeting. Know ye, that the King of Great Britain having thought proper, without any lawful cause, to attack in an hostile manner this republic; and as we are obliged to neglect nothing which can serve for our defence, and to use at the same time the right, the example of which, the conduct of the said crown has commenced by setting us, and to act against it in the same manner as they act against us, and consequently to do to the said King, and to his subjects, all the prejudice which shall be in our power: for these causes, and for the protection of the commerce and of the navigation of this country, we have thought fit to establish and to permit to all the subjects of this State, who shall take or destroy, any English vessels of war or privateers, the following rewards.

Article 1. All those who shall fit out a privateer, and shall have obtained of his Highness the Prince of Orange and Nassau, in quality of Admiral General of these countries, suitable commissions, after having given before hand, the requisite securities, shall not be held to furnish the third man of their crew, as it is ordained by the placards of their High Mightinesses, of the 26th of June, 1780; excepting those who will load with merchandizes, and take at the same time the said letters of marque. Those who shall have taken and conducted into one of the ports or roads, within the jurisdiction of one of the colleges of admiralty of this country, a vessel of war or privateer of the King of Great Britain, shall draw moreover a bounty of 150 florins for each man who shall be found at the commencement of the combat, on board of the said vessel of war or privateer; as also a like sum for each pound of ball, which the artillery which shall be found on board the said vessel, at the time aforesaid, can discharge at one time, not including the swivels or the balls of the new artillery, called cannonades, valued only at one quarter of their weight.—In such sort, that if one of our privateers shall make herself master of an English vessel of war or privateer, mounted, for example, with forty pieces of cannon, carrying altogether 350 pounds weight of ball, that is to say, forty cannonades and 1400 balls of eight pounds, and the crew of which shall be 220 men, shall receive for bounty or reward, by calculating each man and each pound of ball, upon the footing of 150 florins, the sum. of 85,800 florins, and thus more or less in proportion to the crew and the calibre of the cannon which shall be found at the time of the combat, upon the English ship, besides the booty and the prize, and all the effects which shall be found on board, without any other deduction to be made from it, than the tenth for the Admiral.

2. The said recompences assigned for prizes, shall also take place in case the English vessel of war or privateer shall be totally destroyed: whether our armed vessel shall have sunk her, or burnt her, or shipwrecked her, or whether the said vessel shall have perished in any other manner, after having been taken. Provided, nevertheless, that this recompence is not to be claimed in the whole, at least, if the crew of the vessel destroyed has not been taken or killed. And if it should happen that they have only driven the enemy’s vessel on shore, so that the vessel has perished, but the crew has saved itself, our letters of marque shall not enjoy, in this case, but one half of the bounty or reward promised; so that in the case last mentioned, they shall receive only 48,900 florins, instead of 85,800.

3. Provided nevertheless, that neither the prize nor the bounty, shall ever be adjudged to any of our letters of marque, until after the affair shall have been carried before one of the colleges of the Admiralty of this country, and the sentence shall have been there pronounced in her favor.

4. The said colleges of the Admiralty may not adjudge these rewards until after the captain, lieutenant and pilot of the privateer, as well as those who shall have freighted her, their book-keepers, and others authorised, shall have declared by a solemn oath, that the vessel of war or privateer of which they have made themselves masters, has been duly taken, without any collusion, directly or indirectly, with the English, or with any other known to them. In case the freighters who claim the adjudication of prizes and bounties, are out of the country, absent, or hindered by some other obstacle, it shall suffice that the bookkeeper, or some other authorised, take the oath but so far as it is of his knowledge for himself and his freighters, conformably to the special procuration which he shall have for this effect. The freighters, nevertheless, shall be obliged to take an oath before hand, before the magistrate of their residence, or before other persons competent, whose testimonies they shall send.

5. And for the better encouragement of the said ships which shall have armed as privateers, we ordain that those who shall have been wounded in a combat with an English, shall be maintained at the expense of the state, without its costing any thing to the proprietors of the privateer, or those who shall be on board. We ordain also, that those who shall be maimed in fighting an English ship, shall be gratified on the part of the state, and without its costing any thing to the freighters, with the moiety of the recompence granted by the republic to those who serve on board vessels of war: they shall not, however, have a right but to those rewards which are given once, and not to those which shall be granted weekly or monthly, or otherwise. As to what respects the maintenance of the wounded, the account of it shall be presented to the competent college of the Admiralty, to be there examined, and duly regulated: so that the maimed, to the end that they may enjoy the moiety of the recompence proposed, may procure themselves an act of the said college of the Admiralty, after having furnished it with the necessary proofs.

6. For the encouragement of the ships of war, as well as the merchant vessels which may be provided with commissions, to make use of in case of need, to cause to the English ships all the prejudice possible, we intend that the English ship, of which they may make themselves masters, of what nature or denomination soever it may be, shall be given them entire, the tenth for the Admiral excepted, without pretending, however, to any other recompence.

7. If it should happen, that our privateers, merchant vessels, or others, armed for a cruise, at the expense of individuals of this country, shall retake any vessels or effects belonging to the subjects of the state, and that such re-capture shall be made in the space of twice twenty-four hours after they shall have been in the hands of the enemy, they shall enjoy in that case one fifth of the just value of the vessels or effects which they shall have delivered; but if the re-capture shall be made in the space of four times twenty four hours after the vessel shall have been in the hands of the English, they shall then have one third of said value; and if the re-capture shall be made after four times twenty-four hours, they shall have the moiety of it, without having any further regard to the greater or lesser time, that the said vessels or effects retaken, shall have been in the hands of the English, after the expiration, of the four times twenty four hours.

8. The adjudication of any one of the said recompences, as well as the acts of the respective colleges of the Admiralty, in favor of the maimed or wounded, being shewn to the receiver general of the duties of entry and clearance, to receive the appointed recompence, the payment of it shall be promptly made by the said receiver general at the Hague, or in the place of the college of Admiralty in which the sentence or the taxation shall have been pronounced, as it shall be most convenient for the said receiver general.

9. Which receiver general shall be provided with sufficient sums of money to satisfy the said payments, and he shall always take care, that after having paid some bounties, he has always wherewith to satisfy, promptly, those which may be demanded of him in the sequel; either by the second moiety of the duties of Last and Veilgeld, or by negociating successively the sums which he shall have occasion for as a supply.

10. In all cases, the privateer who shall have taken or destroyed any English vessel, ought to take care to give, without delay, and as soon as he arrives, notice to the said receiver general of the value of the bounties which he has a right to claim; to the end that the said receiver general may be in a condition to make prompt payment.

11. And in all the respective colleges of Admiralty where the case shall be brought, they shall take care to render prompt sentences; even by postponing to other times, the affairs that may be before them.

12. And in case an appeal or revision should be demanded, and by this means the sentences of the said colleges shall be annulled; we have desired, that in this case, the recompences assigned by the sentences of the Admiralty should be delivered to the said privateers; so that the demand of revision may not suspend or hinder the payment; we mean, at the same time, that the sureties which the ships going to cruise ought to furnish, shall be obliged in that case to augment the surety, and to promise a prompt restitution of what shall have been paid to the said privateers, in consequence of sentences of the Admiralty, in case that those sentences shall be reversed, in the revision, and the privateers denied their demand. And to be the more sure that the sums delivered in such cases, be restored, we have declared, and do declare by these presents, that the vessels, and all that belongs to them, with which the prizes shall have been made, shall be held juridically to make restitution of the bounties received; and that the laid juridical obligation shall commence from the day that the said privateers shall have received their commissions, and shall go upon a cruise.

13. And this Placard shall have its effect from the day of this publication, and that nobody may pretend ignorance, we request and demand the Lords, the States, the Stadtholder, the Counsellors, Committees, and the deputies of the States of the respective Provinces of Guilderland, and the earldom of Zutphen, of Holland and West Friesland, of Zealand, of Utrecht, of Friesland, of Overysell, and of Groninghen, and Ommelandes, and all other members and officers of justice, that they announce, publish, and post up this ordinance immediately, in all the places of this country where it is customary to make such annunciations, publications and postings: We charge and enjoin, moreover, the counsellors of the admiralty, the advocates of the treasury, secretaries general of convoys and licences, receivers, masters of convoys, controulers and searches, and at the same time the receiver general of the augmentation of the duty of Last and Veilgeld, and all others to whom it belongs, to govern themselves exactly according to the tenor of these presents.

Their High Hightinesses have also published the following.

The States General of the United Provinces to all those who shall see, or hear read these presents, greeting. We make known, that to the end to encourage the loyal inhabitants of this state, we have thought proper, by the present publication, to notify to all and every one, and to assure them, that all those who employed in the service of the republic, in the war at sea, may be maimed in such a manner as to become incapable of gaining their livelihood by labor, and shall desire to be assisted by a sum of money payable once for all, shall receive in proportion to the importance of their wounds, that which follows:

1. For the loss of two eyes 1500 florins; for the loss of one eye 350 florins. As to other accidents which may happen under the case mentioned, gratifications shall be given according to the good pleasure of the respective colleges of the admiralty.

2. For the loss of two arms 1500 florins; for the loss of the right arm 450 florins; for that of the left arm 350 florins. And for other accidents and wounds in these members, at the discretion of the colleges of the admiralty, upon which each one depends.

3. For the loss of two hands 1200 florins; for the loss of a right hand 350 florins; for that of the left hand 300 florins. As to lesser accidents, valuable at sums less considerable, at the discretion aforementioned.

4. For the loss of two legs 700 florins; for the loss of one leg 350. For accidents less serious, the gratification shall be fixed by the colleges of the admiralty.

5. For the loss of two feet 450 florins; for that of one foot 200 florins, and for smaller wounds at the discretion of the respective colleges.

Moreover, all those who in the service of the republic shall be maimed to such a degree as to be no longer able to gain a living by labour, nor to provide in any manner for their subsistence, shall receive during their lives, one ducat on a week and all other wounds or mutilations less considerable shall be paid in proportion.

Amsterdam, January 21, 1781—wrote to Mr. Luzac.: “I have received your favor of the 19th and am much obliged to you for your frank and candid account of the paragraphs mentioned.

I could not wish to diminish the utmost freedom of speculation, on American affairs, and especially of your observations and reflections which are generally made with a great deal of knowledge of the subject, and upon honest and amiable principles. But in this case I hope your conjectures will prove to be mistaken. Georgia is so connected with South Carolina that it is impossible ever to give it up: and Vermont is so situated that the southern states will with difficulty agree that it should be distinct, on account of the balance of votes. I do not know that it is the secret wish of the New-England states that Vermont should be distinct. I rather think otherwise. Perhaps it would be better both for Vermont and all the states if the inhabitants of it would consent to be divided between New-York, New-Hampshire and Massachusetts, or come altogether under any one of them. How I do not mean to enter into a discussion of the question for which I might perhaps be justly censured. I am glad to find that those ideas were not held up to the public, by any one, who meant to do mischief, or to carry any point.[]

John Adams.

Printed Source--Boston Patriot.

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