Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 13 December 1794

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams

The Hague December 13 1794.

My dear Madam.

I hear of an opportunity from Rotterdam to Boston, but so lately that I have scarce time to write any Letters except my necessary dispatches. General Eustace goes as a passenger in this vessel, and I have given him letters of introduction to you and several other of my friends in Boston.1

Had I known of this vessel earlier I could have taken measures to send your things by her; which for the present must be postponed. I hope however we shall have occasions from Amsterdam.

Of news I can say but little. The detail of war is as insipid in relation as it is inhuman in action. The french armies do not go into winter quarters; three days since they attempted at three several places to cross the Waal, but failed of success. The other army at Mentz last week renewed an assault upon that city five times but were still repulsed, as is pretended with great loss.— All this amounts to nothing upon the great scale. The success of the French is at this time secured almost beyond the malice of Fortune. Another campaign appears however to be inevitable2

We begin to be very anxious to hear from our friends in America; we hope they will not wait to hear of our arrival, before they write to us. It is probable that the present state of affairs in this Country may deter our merchants from sending their vessels to Holland.— You will therefore be so kind as to write by every opportunity to England, enclosing your letters under cover addressed either to Mr: Pinckney or Mr: Johnson.3 I shall easily receive them in either case.

Before this reaches you the Treaty signed by Mr: Jay and Lord Grenville, will no doubt have reached America, and be under the discussion of the Senate.4 The rumour of Mr: Jay’s being further employed in negotiations for Peace is revived, and it has even been publicly said that he is gone to Paris.5 I have however already observed to you that I see no real prospect of Peace whatever

At Paris, the moderate party still maintain their ascendancy and the Jacobins are nearly dissolved to appearance. I retain however the opinion upon this subject, that I expressed in my Letter to you from London.—6 It is the effervescence of boiling water, which only subsides for a moment after overflowing. “Moderation” like all the other principles for these five years in that Country, is the watchword of a Faction, used to oppress another faction whose watchword was “terror.” Which ever of the two prevails will extinguish the other in blood. I should not be surprized to see within six months the Jacobins restored to all the plenitude of their power and glory; though at this time they are becoming from day to day more and more unpopular.

In England the Parliament is prorogued to the 30th: of this month, and will probably be so until the 21st: of the next. The trials for hightreason have all terminated triumphantly for the prisoners. The war becomes burdensome and unpopular; the administration is illsorted and discordant, the people are clamorous for Peace, and the Government decided for War.

In this Country, the States of all the Provinces have recommended Negotiations for peace. The Government party pretend that they are going forward: the patriots think that they are the only persons with whom France will treat, and they most devoutly hope that the first article of the pacification may prescribe the extirpation of the present ruling power.

Though we have no Letters from America, our intelligence is as late as the beginning of November, from thence and we are happy to find it agreeable. Peace, Prosperity, and Happiness, inseparable in their nature; that they may be all enjoyed by our Country is the most fervent wish of, Dear Madam, your affectionate Son.

John Q. Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs: Adams.”; endorsed: “J Q Adams 13. / Decbr 1794.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 126. Tr (Adams Papers).

1JQA wrote several letters of introduction for Gen. John Skey Eustace, who was returning to the United States from France via the Netherlands. JQA provided letters to AA, William Smith, Christopher Gore, and Harrison Gray Otis, all of 11 Dec., and to Samuel Cooper, of 16 Dec., among others (Lb/JQA/2, APM Reel 126). For a full discussion of Eustace’s activities, see TBA’s accounts in his Diary at M/TBA/2, 15, 17, 18 Nov., 11 Dec., APM Reel 282.

2Although the French Army was initially stopped at the Waal River, cold weather in late December allowed the army to cross the frozen river successfully and resume its campaign further into the Netherlands. Meanwhile, the city of Mentz (Mainz), on the Rhine, had already changed hands twice during the French revolutionary wars. The French initially captured it in 1792, but it was recovered by the Prussians in mid-1793. In the fall of 1794, the French armies of the Rhine and Moselle pushed toward the Rhine and began another siege of Mainz in December, which lasted until Oct. 1795 but ultimately failed to recapture the city (Schama, Patriots and Liberators, description begins Simon Schama, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780–1813, New York, 1977. description ends p. 185–186; Tony Jaques, Dictonary of Battles and Sieges: A Guide to 8,500 Battles from Antiquity through the Twenty-first Century, 3 vols., Westport, Conn., 2007; Cambridge Modern Hist., description begins The Cambridge Modern History, Cambridge, Eng., 1902–1911; repr. New York, 1969; 13 vols. description ends 8:437).

3For Joshua Johnson, the U.S. consul in London and later JQA’s father-in-law, see JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:300.

4John Jay arrived in London in June 1794 to attempt to negotiate a treaty between the United States and Britain. He was tasked with preventing a war between the two countries and resolving longstanding disagreements over Britain’s continued presence in forts on American soil, payment to British creditors and American slaveholders, and American shipping neutrality. His goal, ultimately, was to obtain an Anglo-American commercial treaty. Jay began negotiations with William Wyndham, Lord Grenville, the British foreign secretary, almost immediately, and talks went on throughout the summer and fall. They finally reached agreement and signed the treaty on 19 Nov. (Stahr, John Jay, description begins Walter Stahr, John Jay: Founding Father, New York, 2005. description ends p. 313, 317–318, 320, 321–330).

The terms of the treaty included a complete withdrawal of British troops from U.S. territory, a joint survey to resolve various boundary disputes, a commission to determine recompense for both British creditors and Americans who lost property during the war, and a provision allowing for some U.S. trade with the British East and West Indies. For the full text of the Jay Treaty, see Miller, Treaties, description begins Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, ed. Hunter Miller, Washington, D.C., 1931–1948; 8 vols. description ends 2:245–274.

5The London Times, 25 Nov., reported that Jay was “about to set out from this country to Paris, on business of very great importance to this kingdom, and to all Europe.” Jay never went to Paris nor is there any indication he considered making the journey, though he did remain in Britain until spring 1795 in order to avoid a winter Atlantic crossing (Stahr, John Jay, description begins Walter Stahr, John Jay: Founding Father, New York, 2005. description ends p. 333–334).

6See JQA to AA, 25 Oct. 1794, above.

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