Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 2 November 1795

John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams

Helvoet November 2. 1795.

My Dear Brother.

The letter from Charles enclosed in yours of yesterday, accompanies as he says the bills, which may therefore be expected immediately for acceptance.1 As they are at thirty days sight, it will perhaps be necessary to pay the money before the close of the year.

The sum of f. 7,500. will just about absorb that for which I have a right to draw upon the bankers at Amsterdam, untill the last of December: I must therefore request you to economize with what money you have, so as not to draw for any more, on my account, untill the commencement of the new year.

A few days before Charles’s bills shall be payable, let the bankers know, that you shall have occasion for ƒ7,500 on my account, and request them, if they think that sum will exceed what they are authorized to pay me, by the orders of the Secretary of State, to inform you how much of it they will pay. Then for the amount of the difference between that, and the sum necessary to discharge the bills, sell one or more of my Dutch Obligations, as there may be occasion.

I would not call for a stuiver beyond my rigorous demand, because an accident may terminate my claim upon the United States for my salary, expences &c. and because the possibility of such an accident, deserves additional consideration, at a moment when I am in expectation of crossing the water.

I might indeed consider the last ƒ. 1000 I received, as a charge upon my present expedition, as most of it will really be, and that would entirely save the necessity of selling any of the Obligations; but in cases where public money is concerned, I hold it better, to stop certainly a mile short of the mark, than incur the chance of stepping an inch beyond it.

If you can however arrange the business so as that Charles’s bills shall be punctually paid without overdrawing on the bankers, and without selling any Obligations, it will best accomodate me.

Should an answer from the State Department to my letter of July 3d. be received and allow the charge which I therein requested permission to make, my right to draw on the bankers would in that case exceed considerably the ƒ. 7,500.— As it is, the deficiency will be so small, that I think it cannot necessitate the sale of more than one bond.2

Your transactions respecting Cowing’s affair are approved.3 You will find in my letter to your father sent you yesterday, my opinion that approbation is the highest reward due, or at least to be expressed, for the proper conduct of a young public servant, like you and me. My father’s last eulogium was really oppressive; and the more so because in him, I know it was sincere.4 Of his judgment, I have the highest reverence, insomuch that when it regards myself I am afraid of forgetting that it is the judgment of a Parent.

I sent you a small packet from hence on the 28th: ulto: and another on the 29th: As the last contained Captain Barney’s letter and my advice upon Cowing’s business, your letter of yesterday implies the receipt of it. The former you do not mention.—5 Nor have you said any thing on the subject of enquiries whether I could obtain a flag to go from Scheveling, as Count Löwenhielm did some time since, to send.6 As I likewise wrote you yesterday, I hope to hear from you again to-morrow. I am not certain that I shall want the flag, but the difficulties to go from hence rather multiply than diminish. I am nearly determined not to go with Graham, but hope to have one other chance, before I decide upon returning to the Hague.7 At any rate, I wish you to answer this Letter. The Post-Master here will doubtless at my request send back to you, any Letter for me which may arrive subsequent to my departure.

You will find your personal convenience in my getting away; for I shall then not trouble you with so many Letters to copy into the books.— Here are now two more. That for my joint friends you will forward or deliver as you may have an opportunity.8

Ay! Charles has got the start of me, to be sure. I was not so restive under correction, and submitted to sacrifice my chance. God bless him, his wife, and all their posterity to come! If you should follow his example, and get into a snug corner of matrimonial enjoyment, while I continue to be buffeted about the world in solitary celibacy, you may be assured of having the same cordial good wishes of your / affectionate brother

John Q. Adams.

Novr: 3. 10. A.M.

Wind as fair as it can blow; but no prospect of sailing this day.9

RC (private owner, 1957); internal address: “T. B. Adams Esqr”; endorsed: “J Q Adams Esqr: / 2–3 Novr: 1795. / 4 Recd: / Do answd.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 128.

1Neither letter has been found, but see JQA’s two letters to CA of 4 Nov. [(1), (2)], below, for JQA’s response.

2JQA wrote to Edmund Randolph on 3 July to submit his accounts to the government. He particularly highlighted a credit owed him of over $1,300 due to an expense he had covered on behalf of the United States, for which see JA to AA, 31 Jan. 1796, and note 5, below (LbC, APM Reel 127).

A letter from TBA to the Amsterdam bankers on the subject of the 7,500 florins has not been found, nor has a report from TBA to JQA on the subject, but JQA’s 5 Nov. 1795 letter to TBA indicates that the bankers agreed to pay the amount (LbC, APM Reel 128).

JQA received a salary of $4,500 per year plus $4,500 for his outfit (vol. 10:192). Each year on or around 1 July, JQA submitted his accounts to the U.S. government. Copies of those of 1 July 1795, 1 July 1796, and 1 July 1797 are in the Adams Papers at those dates.

3Joshua Barney (1759–1818), a former U.S. naval officer now working with the French, had first written to JQA on 30 July 1795 regarding the case of Charles Cowing, an American sea captain arrested by the Dutch in Flushing, Zeeland, ostensibly for bringing British spies into the Netherlands. Cowing disputed the charges, and Barney was attempting to gain assistance for the imprisoned captain. JQA initially responded to Barney on 9 Aug. suggesting that the Dutch were justified in making the arrest owing to Cowing’s lack of appropriate papers. But a follow-up letter from Barney on 25 Oct. giving further details—including his assertion that he himself had examined Cowing’s papers and that the whole situation appeared to be an attempt to extort money from Cowing by the mayor of the town—convinced JQA to take action. In his 28 Oct. letter to TBA, he instructed TBA to present the contents of Barney’s letters to the Dutch government. “I have no doubt,” JQA wrote, “but that this will be sufficient to obtain either the liberation of the man, or the regular justice of the Country in his behalf.” Accordingly, TBA wrote to the States General on 2 Nov. informing them that Cowing was an American citizen unjustly detained and requesting that they insure either that Cowing’s case be properly examined or that he be released. TBA’s first request failed to yield results, so he wrote a second time on 6 Feb. 1796 again seeking assistance. On 20 Feb. TBA received word of Cowing’s release (DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; Adams Papers; LbC’s, APM Reels 128, 129; Nationaal Archief, The Hague:Staten General, no. 7131, Part I, p. 62, 63; Part V, p. 462, 463; M/TBA/2, APM Reel 282).

4See JQA to JA, 31 Oct. 1795, and JA to JQA, 25 Aug., both above.

5In his letter to TBA of 28–29 Oct., JQA again complained about the delays he was encountering in crossing the English Channel. He also sent letters to TBA regarding Charles Cowing’s situation, for which see note 3, above, and requested TBA handle various other tasks in JQA’s absence (LbC, APM Reel 128).

6Carl Axel Löwenhielm (1772–1861), the illegitimate son of King Charles XIII, later became a leading Swedish diplomat, serving as Swedish ambassador to St. Petersburg from 1812 to 1819 and as a representative to the Congress of Vienna in 1815 (T. K. Derry, A History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, Minneapolis, 1979, p. 214; Repertorium, description begins Ludwig Bittner and others, eds., Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder seit dem Westfälischen Frieden (1648), Oldenburg, 1936–1965; 3 vols. description ends 3:411, 415).

7JQA had originally planned to sail to England with a Capt. Graham but after numerous delays at Hellevoetsluis, switched his passage to the Aurora, Capt. Benjamin Fernald (D/JQA/24, 21, 27–29 Oct., 2, 9 Nov. 1795, APM Reel 27).

8JQA’s joint letter to Nathan Frazier Jr. and John Gardner of 2 Nov. lamented that JQA had missed seeing his two friends at The Hague and hoped that they would find a way to meet up while all were still in Europe (private owner, 2002; LbC, APM Reel 128). The second letter was presumably JQA’s to TBA, which TBA copied into the Letterbook immediately preceding that to Frazier and Gardner.

9Additionally, JQA wrote to TBA from Hellevoetsluis on 1 and 5 Nov. and two letters on 8 Nov., all while waiting for an opportunity to cross the English Channel. The letters intersperse a mix of business requests with expressions of frustration at the various delays and the lack of news available to him there (MHi:Adams Papers, All Generations; LbC, APM Reel 128; MBBs).

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