Adams Papers

John Adams to Norton Quincy, 28 August 1782

John Adams to Norton Quincy

The Hague August 28 1782

My dear Friend

I Sigh every day, in whatever Scaene I am in for a walk down to your House and a Day by your Fireside.1—I hope the Time will come, but not so soon as I wish.

It would amuze you, as it does me to wander about in scaenes once frequented by the great Princes of Orange, by Brederode, Barnevelt, Grotius, De Witts, Erasmus, Boerhave, Van Trump, De Ruyter and a thousand others, and I can assure you, that I dont think the Nation essentially changed from what it was in those days.—But it is too rich and loves Money too well. If however the present P[rince] of Or[ange] had the Genius and Enterprise of the 1st or 3d William or of Frederick Henry this Nation would now display as great Virtues and Resources as ever, provided it was directed in the Way the Nation wishes. The nation is discontented with the Management of Affairs, and is struggling to amend it. They will be steady and persevering tho slow.

I will inclose to you a Curiosity—a Pamphlet severely reprobated by the Gov[ernmen]t, but which has made a deep Impression upon the Nation, and certainly contributed a great deal, to accelerate the Acknowledgment of the United States here. It arroused the People and allarmed the Court. When you have read it, lend it to the President of the Senate.2 Dont let it become publick. The Author is not known. In the original Dutch it is said to be a finished Composition.3 There is an astonishing Multitude of such free Writings here.

Surely this is the Court and Country where Liberty and Independence ought to be popular. But Courts change sooner than nations.

Cant you resolve to write to me for once? A Letter from you would do me great good. I want to be again Select Man with you4 and I intend to be, sooner or later.

Mean while Adieu.

RC (Adams Papers). For the enclosure, not found, see note 3.

1Norton Quincy, identified above at vol. 1:146, AA’s favorite uncle, lived as a recluse on his farm at Mount Wollaston on the shore of what is now called Quincy Bay. JA had embarked for Europe from Norton Quincy’s house in Feb. 1778; its location is indicated by the word “Quinzey” on the chart of Boston Harbor in same, following p. 240. See also vol. 2:388–389; numerous references in JA’s Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends ; Eliza Susan Quincy’s view of Mount Wollaston in Massachusetts Historical Society, A Pride of Quincys, 1969; Adams Genealogy.

2Samuel Adams.

3The pamphlet may be confidently identified as an English translation of Aan het Volk van Nederland (To the People of the Netherlands), the original Dutch version of which had been anonymously and surreptitiously printed and circulated in Sept. 1781. It was a devastatingly bold and bitter attack on the incompetence, reactionaryism, and proBritish policy of the House of Orange, and contained tributes to the republican character of the Swiss and American federations. High rewards were posted by the government for the apprehension of the author, printers, sellers, and even possessors of Aan het Volk, and copies were publicly burned by the executioner. The severity of these penalties gave the pamphlet such notoriety that it rapidly went through a number of editions and translations, and it became a kind of primer for the Dutch Patriot party. JA reported on the “Fermentation” it had produced by quoting some of the “placards” against it in letters to the President of Congress, 17, 25 Oct. 1781 (PCC, No. 84, III; 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 , 4:782–783, 810–812), in the second of which he discussed in a notable passage the rising liberty of the press and hence of “democratical Principles” in certain parts of Europe, which he attributed directly to the influence of the American Revolution.

The authorship of Aan het Volk remained a secret for a century. Its primary author was an aristocratic quasiphilosophe, Joan Derk, Baron van der Capellen tot den Pol (1741–1784), of Zwolle in Overyssel, long an interested observer of American affairs and a friend and correspondent of JA during the 1780’s; see JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:455 and references in note there. Capellen had the able and energetic assistance, especially in the difficult problems of printing and circulation, of Francis Adrian Van der Kemp (as his name was Americanized after his exile from the Netherlands), identified above in a note under JA to Richard Cranch, 18 Dec. 1781. Van der Kemp’s Autobiography description begins Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 1752–1829: An Autobiography, Together with Extracts from His Correspondence, ed. Helen Lincklaen Fairchild, New York and London, 1903. description ends , ed. Helen L. Fairchild, N.Y., 1903, details his own relations with Capellen and with JA, whose close friend and lifelong correspondent he became.

See also W. P. C. Knuttel, Catalogus van de Pamfletten-Verzameling berustende in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek, vol. 5, 1776–1795, The Hague, 1905, Nos. 19864–19876; Hendrik Willem Van Loon, The fall of the Dutch Republic, new edn., Boston and N.Y., 1924, p. 322–332; Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1:325–331.

4JA and Norton Quincy had been Braintree selectmen together beginning in March 1766; see JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 1:304.

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