Adams Papers

C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation, 1 November 1780

C. W. F. Dumas to John Adams: A Translation

Although I have had the honor to write to you since the favor of your letter of the 4th, I now realize that I did not adequately answer it. I have been unable to procure a copy of the dispatch from St. Petersburg because the plenipotentiaries insisted that it not be distributed.1 But, in substance, it contains

1. A convention proposed by the Empress of Russia whereby, with the five known articles between the Northern Courts, this princess in two or three additional articles, without formally guaranteeing anything to this Republic, nevertheless assures it assistance in case it is attacked as a consequence of the said convention.

2. The British envoy to St. Petersburg has declared to the Empress that Great Britain will respect the navigation of the armed neutrality as long as this Republic is excluded.

3. The Prussian envoy has assured them that his Master, the King, will accede to the armed neutrality.

4. An article, separate from the convention, states that once the armed neutrality is in full operation, it will be able to pursue peace by offering to mediate between the belligerent powers.

Nevertheless, a congress has not yet been formed at St. Petersburg, but it is possible that one will be established once things have settled down; and in that case it will certainly be necessary that there be, as you stated, an American minister present during deliberations for a general peace, that is to say, between the old and the new world. But I repeat, there still is no congress in Petersburg and so far the possibility has not even been men­tioned. I had only suggested, in the letter to which you replied, that there exists a definite consensus (or an understanding) between the foreign ministers (except that of England) and the cabinet at St. Petersburg, to achieve the Empress’s great objective, which is to free all the seas from the pretensions of any power that would unilaterally dominate them and thereby disrupt the navigation of neutral nations in time of war.

I will learn with great pleasure, sir, that you enjoy perfect health, and hope to see it myself when the Assembly of Holland adjourns, which it is likely to do in a few days.

Besides, you will have already heard of the resolution taken by the Province of Holland to accede to this neutrality. The problem now is to have the other six adopt the same resolution. Two or three have already done so. But it is necessary that the others also agree, otherwise, nothing can be done.2

I am, sir, with great respect, your very humble and very obedient servant,


If you have any information concerning the state of Mr. Laurens since his imprisonment in the Tower, please let me know. Americanus sum, nec quidquam Americani a me alienum puto. Patior cum illis ita ut olim gavisurus cum iisdem.3

RC (Adams Papers).

1This letter concerns the dispatch that the States General had received on 2 Oct. from the Dutch plenipotentiaries at St. Petersburg, and to which Dumas had referred in some detail in a letter to JA of 3 October. That letter has not been found, but for it, and the issues that Dumas seeks to clarify in this letter, see JA’s letter of 4 Oct., and note 1 (above). In his letter to JA of 8 Oct. (Adams Papers), Dumas apologized for not yet replying to JA’s letter of the 4th and then asked JA for the name of a trustworthy person in London to whom he could write for information. In his reply of the 9th (Adams Papers), JA advised Dumas to send his request through Jean de Neufville, who would forward it to his son who was then in London.

2The process by which the States General approved the Netherlands’ accession to the armed neutrality was lengthy and complex because all seven provinces had to act unanimously. The Assembly of Holland approved the accession on 19 Oct., but it was only on 20 Nov. that the full States General resolved to permit its representatives to conclude the necessary agreements, which were finally signed on 4 Jan. 1781, at St. Petersburg (Dumas to Jean de Neufville, 20 Oct., PCC, Misc. Papers, Reel 4, f. 318; James Brown Scott, ed., The Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800, N.Y., 1918, p. 325–328, 346–349).

3That is, I am an American and I consider nothing American foreign to me. I suffer with him so that at another time I may rejoice with him. The first sentence is Dumas’ paraphrase of a passage from Terence’s play, Heautontimorumenos, Act I, scene i, line 25. There it reads “Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto” or I am a man, and I consider nothing human foreign to me.

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