George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to John Adams, 23 March 1796

To John Adams

Wednesday Morning 23d March 1796

Dear Sir,

I thank you for giving me the perusal of the enclosed.1 The details are interesting. The Picture is well drawn; and, it is to be feared, too well founded in facts. With very sincere esteem and regard I am Your Obedt & Affecte

Go: Washington

ALS, NjP: De Coppet Collection.

1GW evidently was returning John Quincy Adams’s letter to John Adams of 17 Nov. 1795. On 25 March, John Adams wrote to his son in part: “I have recd your favour of the 17th of November and communicated it to the P. who expresses his Approbation of it” (MHi: Adams Papers).

In that letter, John Quincy Adams gave his views on “the state of affairs in those parts of Europe the most interesting to our Country.” The new French Directory would “not be remarkable for stability or harmony,” and Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, who had declined serving, was “the main spring of the french external policy.” His “policy as respects the United States, is of a tendency as pernicious … as if it had been invented in the councils of the Prince of Darkness.” With France facing problems such as civil war in Paris, a depreciated currency, enormous expenses, and unexpected military setbacks, the prospects of France and her new ally Holland appeared “gloomy” enough to give “the high church politicians of Europe” hope “that the french revolution will close with as much violence and rapidity as it commenced, and that the visionary vapours of Republicanism will vanish without leaving a particle behind them to obscure the glowing meridian of Royalty.” Great Britain, however, also faced difficulties. “The democratic principles in their wildest extreme, are widely diffused among the people.” A “scarcity of provisions” loomed. In response to popular meetings supporting petitions for peace and to insults to the king, the government had proposed two bills that would “materially … abridge the right of political discussion.” The opposition in Parliament was “extremely feeble,” but “the popular opinion in the capital especially seems strongly decided against the bills.” The Parliamentary opposition had expressed hope that if the laws were to pass, the people would resist. In that “not improbable” event, “an appeal to the military force of the Government will become necessary,” and, it was hinted, “dependence upon the disposition of the troops is precarious.” Adams believed that neither those who expected the imminent defeat of France nor those who expected the “total Revolution of Government” in Great Britain were correct. Peace was unlikely. The leaders of Great Britain were determined to continue the war, and the terms that France was offering were unacceptable to “the dispositions of any party” in Britain. Meanwhile, French military reverses made the Holy Roman Emperor less eager for peace, and there was “not the smallest probability” that he would accept the recent French annexation of the Austrian Netherlands (MHi: Adams Papers; see also the extract in Ford, Writings of John Quincy Adams, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Writings of John Quincy Adams. 7 vols. New York, 1913-17. description ends 1:430–34).

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