John Thaxter to John Adams
Paris 17th. Septr. 1780
I was honoured with your favour of the eighth Instant1 on the fifteenth.
So general an Approbation of the Constitution of the Massachusetts is an Event of great Importance to our State, and it’s Acceptance at this juncture affords an unequivocal proof of the Wisdom and Magninimity, Concord and Unanimity of its Inhabitants. I rejoice that I am to live under a Constitution of Government, that has for Object the Liberty and Happiness of the governed, and am penetrated with the liveliest gratitude towards its framers in general, but more particulary towards him, whom I know to have had the most capital share in its formation. With the addition of a wise and equitable Administration of it, no State perhaps can be more happy in this respect.
Mr. Searle brings a very pleasing Account of the Situation of our public Affairs. His History of matters is a compleat fulfillment of your prophecy and rather more, but Mr. Dana by this I presume has given You a minute detail. Mr. Dana’s departure was very sudden indeed. I knew not his Object, and am happy to say that my total Ignorance of it, has put it out of my Power to gratify Speculators, and has saved me an abundance of Evasions, short answers &ca. I am exceedingly glad that I do not know it, and that I have once found Ignorance to be an excellent Species of saving Knowledge.2
I am a lonely solitary Being, even in this Croud of fellow Mortals—it is a situation not the most eligible. To you, Sir, the Reason must be obvious. I shall endeavour to be as prudent and oeconomical as possible, and to take the best care of the things in my charge until your Return, which I sincerely hope is not far distant.
I have written to Mr. Austin, and as I know not his Address, have directed to him at Amsterdam, where I presume he is by this time. I pray You to be kind enough to inform him of it, if he does not get the letter of this day’s date, and another sent a few days agone.3
The English have taken two Russian Vessels, whose Cargoes are not contraband according to the Empress’s declaration, but expressly excepted. Their Cargoes were Hemp and Iron. What Part England will take, whether dismiss or condemn, and what part the Empress will take in Case of Condemnation, are questions of great Speculations. If they are condemned the Confederation it should seem is brought to a Crisis.4 If not, there is a pointed partiality on the part of England towards Russia, and an odious distinction set up between the former and Holland in precisely the same Circumstances. Monsr. Linguet says, “Il me semble que si les ministres anglois sont adroits, ils n’ont qu’un échappatoire pour concilier l’orgueil et l’intérêt national: c’est en laissant passer galamment le pavillion de Catharine, de dire froidement à l’Europe, vous voyez bien que c’est une femme.”5 He calls her not only une femme but une maitresse femme. Linguet’s Wit and British Politicks do not always quadrate, and (tho’ I am no Lover of War) I hope they will not in this instance, as far as they respect the fate of the two captured Vessels of Russia.
Respects to Mr. Dana and love to the Children. I have the honor to be, with the most perfect respect, &c.,
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed on face:“M. Thaxter 17. Septr. 1780.”
1. Not found.
2. The reason for Dana’s sudden departure from Paris was the receipt of the letter brought by James Searle from the Committee of Foreign Affairs, 11 July, empowering JA (or, alternatively, Dana) to act in Henry Laurens’ stead to try to obtain a loan in the Netherlands until Laurens himself arrived there; see Lovell to AA, 14 July, above. Dana reached Amsterdam on the night of the 16th and immediately conferred with JA (Dana to JA, 16 Sept., Adams Papers; JQA, Diary, 17 Sept.; JA to William Churchill Houston, 17 Sept., LbC, Adams Papers, printed in JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot description begins Correspondence of the Late President Adams. Originally Published in the Boston Patriot. In a Series of Letters, Boston, 1809–1810; 10 pts. description ends , p. 168–169). Hence JA’s decision to remain where he was and not to return to Paris. This was conveyed to Congress in an important dispatch of the 19th (printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 4:60–61, from PCC, No. 84, II; and in JA, Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , 7:258–260, from LbC, Adams Papers), and to Thaxter in a letter of the 23d, below, summoning Thaxter to join him in Amsterdam, no doubt because he needed someone to help him take care of the boys.
4. By “the Confederation” Thaxter means the Armed Neutrality of 1780, which the Dutch were on the verge of joining; if they did, however, Great Britain intended to force a rupture with them. See Isabel de Madariaga, Britain, Russia, and the Armed Neutrality of 1780, New Haven, 1962, p. 233 ff.
5. Simon Nicolas Henri Linguet (1736–1794) was an extremely prolific writer on legal and historical subjects (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins J. C. F. Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends ). Among other things, Linguet was the editor of Annales politiques, civiles et littéraires du dix-huitième siècle, which bore a London imprint, 19 vols., 1777–1792, and which Thaxter may well have been reading since in May 1780 JA had bought some of the volumes and perhaps subscribed to future issues (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:439).