Adams Papers
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From John Adams to Edmund Jenings, 7 November 1780

To Edmund Jenings

Amsterdam Novr. 7th 1780


I have recieved yours of the first. Will You be so good as to explain to me, what is meant by “Instructions to endeavour to inspire American Agents at Madrid, with Distrust and Jealousy of one another, at present employed in Europe?”

What the armed Neutrality will come to, I know not.1 I believe it would have been much easier to have negotiated all the Maritime Powers of Europe into an Acknowledgment of American Independence, and even into a War in support of it, than it will be to accomplish the Armed Neutrality. Who the real Author of this Idea was, I know not: but he did the English a favour by it, for all that have agreed to the Armed Neutrality might have been as easily persuaded, to take a decided part against England, and even Holland and Portugal would have joined them in that Measure at least as soon as in this.

At present they have pledged themselves to a Neutrality, so that they cannot decide with Honour. I wish however that Congress had a Minister at Petersbourg, at least to try if any thing could be done or any discoveries made.

The Bruits of a Treaty between the United Provinces and United States, are as true as most of the Bruits.

This Moment your favour of the sixth was delivered me. I am very much obliged to You for the Sight of Mr. Lees Letter. His Arrival in America will have considerable Consequences, and upon the whole will do much good both to himself and his Country. He wanted to see his Countrymen face to face, and make his Observations upon the Spot. I am very glad to find his Reflections so philosophical. I had not learnt before your Letter that General Green had left the Army. Green is my Friend and I am his. I have had a long Correspondence with him, and never one Word or Look unfriendly. Notwithstanding this, the Time has been in Congress, when I would have given my Vote for his Dismission from the Service: and if it is true that he wrote lately a Letter to Congress that I have heard of, I hope Congress have dismissed him.2

There is at times a Turbulence in some of the Officers, that must be suppressed. It does no harm to dismiss them when there is Cause. The Cause and Country are strengthened by it. They go home, converse with their Neighbours, learn better Principles, and get into a better Temper, are obliged to march out with the Militia, and are chosen into Offices at Home &c.

De Guichen returning with 22 Ships!3


John Adams

RC (in John Thaxter’s hand Adams Papers); endorsed: “Hl. J.A. 7 Nov. 1780.”

1Compare JA’s assessment of the League of Armed Neutrality here with that in his letter to Jenings of 15 April (above).

2Jenings’ brief letter of 6 Nov. (Adams Papers) contained an extract from a letter to Jenings from Arthur Lee. Since it contained a reference to Nathanael Greene’s resignation it may have been written at about the same time as Lee’s letter of 10 Sept. to JA, for that letter also mentioned the incident (above).

3Guichen had reached Cádiz on 22 Oct. (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence description begins Jonathan R. Dull, The French Navy and American Independence: A Study of Arms and Diplomacy, 1774–1787, Princeton, 1975. description ends , p. 189); JA probably learned from newspaper reports that he was returning from the West Indies, for the Gazette de Leyde carried a report to that effect on 10 November. JA, of course, would have preferred that Guichen either remain in the West Indies or, reinforced by Ternay’s fleet, mount an expedition against the British forces at New York or Charleston.

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