Adams Papers
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To John Adams from Edmund Jenings, 19 March 1781

From Edmund Jenings

Brussels March. 19th. 1781


I have recived your Excellencys Letter of the 12th. Instant. It afforded me much Consolation being much depressed at the possible ill turn affairs might have taken if the Empress had in the least Started aside from Her noble System. But I find, she is Steady, and by consequence our Malicious Enemy may be brought to Submit to what is reasonable and Just.

I Hope however, that Holland will not be amused by the Talk of Peace, and relax in her Preparations—Lord North hath already gained something by the report, and will gain more, if the Negociation is spun out to any length. If England attempts to do it, the Con[fe]derated Powers ought to take the Alarm, for it will shew most Evidently the Scheme of the common Ennemy.

When I consider the State of the English Navy, the Temper of Holland and the Northern Powers, and the fleets at Brest and Cadiz, I think it is Impossible that the Grand Squadron as it is called, can leave the coasts of England defenceless, and go to the relief of Gibraltar. If it does go, it must be on the Certainty, that the Northern Alliance mean to do nothing, or it is proposed to grant it the Terms demanded—for what accidents may Happen to the Ships before they can return to the Channel. What might not be done during its Absence! If there was the least Spirit of Enterprise, the Antient Affair at Chatham would be trifling to what might be done.

If your Excellency has an Opportunity of seeing the three last Numbers of the Lettres Hollandoise, your Excellency will see the Proposals published therein and that I have talked to the Author on certain Subjects. I must talk to Him Again thereon.

The Hint which your Excellency gave me of what might Happen affords me the greatest Joy. Immediately on the receipt of your Excellencys Command I put the Thoughts, which Occurred to me, on paper and take the Liberty of inclosing them.1 More may be said thereon and if your Excellency approves of the general Outline I will renew the Subject and get it published Here. The more strokes given, if they are rightly given, will make the Nail go better.

I find the Emperors Minister at Madrid is most intimate with Cumberland. But Cumberland has some fair daughters. I Hope it is they alone, who Attract his Excellency no great Harm will be done.

I am Sir your Excellencys Most Faithful & Obt. Humble Servt.

Edm: Jenings

RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); endorsed, on the final page of the enclosure: “Mr Jennings March 19. ansd. 21. 1781.” JA’s reply was actually dated 22 March, below.

1In the enclosed commentary, Jenings sought to calm Dutch fears about the emergence of an independent United States as a serious economic rival. For the foreseeable future, he argued, the U.S. would be occupied with developing its vast, unsettled territories; it would be an exporter of raw materials and importer of European manufactures. This, together with the Dutch commercial tradition, precluded the U.S. from competing successfully with Dutch merchants for the carrying trade. Indeed, Jenings went so far as to deny any desire on the part of Americans to compete commercially, particularly in the East Indies. If the Netherlands was to take full advantage of the opening of the American market, Jenings continued, its vital interests demanded that it follow France’s lead, recognizing the independence of the U.S. and concluding a commercial treaty with the new nation. Such action would advance the principles of the armed neutrality. It would also diminish the chances for a British victory and the consequences that such an event would have for neutral commerce and access to the American market. Jenings’ arguments should be compared with those Jean Luzac advanced in his preface to JA’s Pensées sur la révolution de l’Amérique-Unie, Amsterdam, 1780 vol. 10:148–152.

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