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To George Washington from John Adams, 10 August 1795

From John Adams

Quincy [Mass.] August 10th 1795

Dear Sir

The inclosed Letters No. 6. 7 8 and 9, especially the last, contain Information of so much Importance that, although they are written in great confidential Freedom from a Son to a Father, I think it my Duty to transmit them to you.1

I beg the favour of having them returned to me at your Leisure by the Post.

The unnatural Effervescence against the Treaty which broke out in Boston has made little progress in the Country and is fast evaporating.2 What Efforts may be made in the Southern States, we are not yet informed. But as The Faith and Honour both of the President and Senate are clearly pledged, what but a total overthrow both of the constitution and Administration can be aimed at, by the opposition I cannot conceive. With great Respect and a Strong attachment I have the Honour to be, Dear sir your Friend and servant

John Adams

ALS, RuSpRNB, International Exchange Section.

1The letters sent by John Quincy Adams, U.S. minister to the Netherlands, to his father contained descriptions of political conditions in Europe, his outlook on how they affected the United States, and his perspective of diplomatic service among the Dutch. In number 6 (12 Feb.), the younger Adams described the political situation in the Netherlands since the capitulation of its government to France in January. Number 7 (1 April) contained additional developments in the Netherlands and highlighted the activities of the “Patriot” party there.

In number 8 (4 May), Adams bemoaned the paucity of letters from the state department. Since 11 Feb., “Only one letter from me had been received by the Secretary of State … I had at that time written nearly thirty; twenty of which might have reasonably been supposed by me to have arrived on the 11th of February.” Conditions in Europe rendered “the transmission of letters extremely precarious. For the last four months almost, we have been secluded from the regular means of communication with all Europe, excepting France, and no dependence to be placed upon the security of that. Nothing can be committed to Post Offices, where the practice of reading the Letters is so openly professed that nobody thinks of sealing a paper sent through that channel. Entrusting dispatches to the care of individuals is but little more safe.”

Adams then contrasted the difference between the response given him in the Netherlands upon his arrival and at the time of his letters. “When I first arrived … my situation was as unpleasant as it was unmeaning.” He experienced a “malevolence” which “appeared in every shape” and demonstrated “by the whole hierarchy of servitude, from the President of the States General to the hairdresser … the only total exception that I can mention, was the Stadholder himself.” Since the arrival of the French army, however, “A friendly disposition, a desire to accommodate, a respect and regard for the United States, really felt and professed with pleasure distinguish the present from the past possessors of power.” But, in Adams’s opinion, “The restoration of the Stadholder sooner or later is inevitable. And with him must come again the subserviency to the mistress of the Sea. In every political point of view this Republic will in future be nothing more than a part of France or of Britain.” Adams informed his father that he expected orders from Secretary of State Edmund Randolph, and asserted that until he received them, “I shall not venture to transact any business whatever.”

In his letter number 9 (22 May), Adams mentioned the signing of a treaty on 8 May between France and the Dutch to acknowledge “the Independence and Sovereignty of a Batavian People without a Stadholder.” Adams expressed the hope “it will be a subject of serious reflection to every American. It shows in the clearest light, at what price the friendship and assistance of France as a Republic is estimated by her own Government.” When war began, the French “declared themselves the enemies of the Stadholder and his Government, but the friends and Allies of the Dutch People.” More recently, “Those friends and Allies, after considering the Territory during four months as a conquest … finally exact as conditions for acknowledging the Liberty Independence of their friends and Allies a very considerable dismemberment of Territory a perpetual pledge of political subserviencey, and hundred millions of florins.”

Adams further wrote: “I have several reasons to suppose that the policy of the french government at present is to make use of the United States, as they are now making use of those Provinces; that is as an Instrument for the benefit of France … against her most formidable enemy.” He referred to the Jay Treaty and cautioned: “long since the arrival of the French Armies in this Country the Representatives with whom I have had occasion to converse have declared themselves to be entirely satisfied with the neutrality of the United States. They do not at present say expressly the contrary, but they observe that it is very extraordinary that the Treaty Signed by Mr Jay last November should yet be kept secret.” Adams believed “It is impossible that they should imagine there is anything in that Treaty, with which France can have any pretence to interfere; it is therefore the Treaty itself which does not suit their views, because they consider it as the means of terminating differences which their own interest leads them to wish may terminate in a rupture.”

He then added, “If those conjectures have as much foundation as I apprehend, the whole french influence in America, will exert itself with more than usual activity to prevent the Ratification of the Treaty, and to produce at all Events a War between the United States and Great Britain: not assuredly from regard to our interest, which they respect as much as they do that of their friends and Allies the Hollanders, but because they are sensible of how much importance our Commerce is to Great Britain, and suppose, that the loss of it would make that Nation outrageous for Peace, and compel the Minister to make it upon the terms they are disposed to dictate” (MHi: Adams Papers).

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