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John Quincy Adams to Charles Adams, 4 November 1795

John Quincy Adams to Charles Adams

Helvoetsluys Novr: 4. 1795.

My dear Brother.

I received at this place by your letter of September 3d: the pleasing intelligence of your marriage, and offer you my warmest congratulations, upon an event so important to your happiness, and thereby to that of your brother.1

In requesting you to make the assurance of my fraternal affection acceptable to my new Sister, I depend upon your intercession for her permission to add that sentiment to those of respect & esteem, which I have long entertained for her. It is a sentiment the more precious to my heart, because it has hitherto been confined to one Sister, deserving of its utmost tenderness, & because it will henceforth, be shared with the second, without being impaired towards the first.

I have been detained in this little seaport, nearly a fortnight, by adverse winds & boisterous weather, being in expectation of passing some time in London. You will oblige me by taking every convenient opportunity, to write me at that place, and if I shall have returned from thence, before you letters can arrive, as is most likely, they can always in the course of a few days be forwarded to me, at the Hague.

It is not in my power to give you the most recent news, for I am here almost as remote from current intelligence, as I could be in a prison, so that for the last fortnight I have been altogether uninformed, you will however doubtless receive regularly the Gazettes from the Hague, but the situation of this Country is such, that no information can generally be sent from hence to arrive in America, until it has got to be an old story from else where.

The new Constitution of France, the decrees for reelecting two thirds of the Convention as members of the Legislature, the animosity of which that measure was the occasion or the pretext, between the Convention & the City of Paris; The bloody issue of that struggle, and the measures of the Assembly subsequent to their victory, will meet your attention as interesting objects of speculation. These dissentions are afflicting to humanity, but they will continue to be renewed, because the prevalent opinions in that Country, are yet such as naturally tend to produce them. It is often true in the affairs of individuals, but almost universally in those of Nations, that their misfortunes are attributable only to their errors.

The passage of the Rhine by the french armies of Sambre & Meuse and of Rhine & Moselle, followed by their rapid march into the heart of Germany, was known before my departure from the Hague. An obscure rumour has reached this place, that they have been defeated, and obliged at least to repass the Rhine, but the details of the story are wholly unknown to me.2

The state of this Country is in general tolerably quiet & peaceable, excepting every now & then, a little irregular usurpation of Sovereignty by Clubs & popular assemblages; hitherto they have not been followed by any tragical event. The dissolution of the Confederation, and the consolidation of all the provinces into a single Republic, by the Convocation of a National Assembly, has been for many months an object of great solicitude, more especially because a difference of opinion has arisen in the different provinces, upon the propriety of the proposed alteration. The Province of Holland almost unanimously, and the popular Societies and Clubs in all the others, have pursued very tenaciously the point upon which they think the permanency of their Revolution will turn; but the majority of the people in most of the smaller Provinces, are strenuously averse to the change, and adhere tenaciously to their federal System. The parties have at length proceeded so far, that the provincial assembly of Holland, has taken a formal resolution, that in case the other Provinces do not unanimously agree, to call the National Assembly by the 25th: of this month, this Province will take the step alone, or together with those that will agree to join it, without waiting any longer for the assent of the remaining members.3

I have been amused, but not surprized, to observe with what zeal the most ardent patriots here, connect in argument, provincial sovereignty & aristocracy, after having seen so many patriots no less ardent in America, labouring with the same industry, to make the essence of Republicanism consist in State Sovereignty. I knew before this that the arguments of a party, are generally urged more for their operation than for their weight.

There has been a report here of a French squadron, having captured a considerable part of the English mediterranean fleet, together with three or four ships of war, that were convoying them. This circumstance if true, will be an encouragement to the French, who have hitherto been uniformly unfortunate at Sea during the present war, and the check may possibly abate a little of the English pretensions, which are very extravagant.4

Farewell! And accept once more the renewal of my fervent good wishes for your personal & domestic happiness & prosperity.

PS. Thomas sent you some time since from Amsterdam a couple of Shanslopers. You will do me the kindness to accept them from me.5

LbC in TBA’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Charles Adams Esqr:”; APM Reel 128.

1Not found.

2Beginning in September Gen. Jean Baptiste Jourdan led the French Sambre-Meuse Army across the Rhine, successfully capturing Düsseldorf, while Gen. Charles Pichegru and the Rhine-Moselle Army captured Mannheim. The Austrians counterattacked against Pichegru’s forces, which failed to support Jourdan’s troops. Jourdan and his army were forced to retreat across the Rhine by mid-October, and Pichegru’s forces subsequently surrendered Mannheim on 21 Nov. and retreated further west. An armistice to end the fighting for the winter was agreed to on 15 Dec. and left the Austrians comfortably in control of much of the Rhineland (Ross, Quest for Victory, description begins Steven T. Ross, Quest for Victory: French Military Strategy 1792–1799, New York, 1973. description ends p. 91–93).

3In the wake of the Batavian Revolution, the Dutch debated plans for their new government and especially the relative authority of individual provinces versus a popularly elected national legislative body. A number of proposals had been put forth giving varying amounts of power to a new National Assembly and either reducing the authority of or abandoning entirely the States General. A plan suggested on 14 Oct. called for the abolition of the States General upon the formation of a National Assembly, but it limited the new Assembly to legislative—not executive—authority. Executive powers would continue to reside with provincial assemblies. The provinces were given until 25 Nov. to decide to support the proposal, although Holland declared that any provinces failing to act by the deadline would simply be excluded from the new “Republic of the Netherlands.” Three provinces—Friesland, Groningen, and Zeeland—refused to capitulate to Holland’s pressure but were eventually persuaded to join in the new Assembly, which opened on 1 March 1796 (Schama, Patriots and Liberators, description begins Simon Schama, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780–1813, New York, 1977. description ends p. 237–240, 243, 245).

4The French Navy had only a limited impact on the British, but a squadron coming out of Toulon did manage to capture some British ships in the Mediterranean in the fall of 1795 (Jonathan R. Dull, The Age of the Ship of the Line: The British & French Navies, 1650–1815, Lincoln, Nebr., 2009, p. 143).

5A schansloper is a type of heavy coat. TBA noted in his Diary purchasing two for CA on 2 Oct. (M/TBA/2, APM Reel 282).

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