To the Marquis de Lafayette
Hotel des Etats Unis de L’Amerique, a la Haye May 21. 1782
My dear General
Yours of the Seventh of this month, was yesterday brought me, by Mr Ridley,1 and I thank you for your kind Congratulations, on the Progress of our Cause in the Low Countries. Have a Care, however, how you profess Friendship for me: there may be more danger in it, than you are aware of.
I have the Honour, and the Consolation to be a Republican on Principle. That is to Say, I esteem that Form of Government, the best, of which human Nature is capable. Almost every Thing that is estimable in civil Life, has originated under Such Governments. Two Republican Towns, Athens and Rome, have done more honour to our Species, than all the rest of it. A new Country, can be planted only by Such a Government. America would at this moment have been an howling Wilderness in habited only by Bears and Savages, without Such forms of Government. And it would again become a Wilderness under any other. I am not however an enthusiast, who wishes to overturn Empires and Monarchies, for the Sake of introducing Republican Forms of Government. And therefore I am no King Killer, King Hater or King Despizer. There are Three Monarcks in Europe for whom I have as much Veneration as it is lawfull for one Man to have for another. The King of France, the Emperor of Germany and the King of Prussia, are constant objects of my Admiration, for Reasons of Humanity Wisdom and Beneficence which need not be enlarged on. You may well think then, that the Information you give me, that “the King of France was pleased the other day to Speak to you, of me in terms of the highest Regard,” gave me great Pleasure.
I Shall do all in my Power to obtain here a Loan of Money but with very faint hopes of Success. In Short, there is no Money here but what is already promised to France, Spain, England Russia Sweeden Denmark, the Government here, and what will be fatal to me is the East India Comany have just opened a Loan for Nine Millions of florins under the Warrantee of the States of Holland and with an augmented Interest.
My Hopes of a Speedy Peace, are not Sanguine. I have Suspicions of the Sincerity of Lord Shelburne,2 Dunning and others of his Connections which I wish may prove groundless: but untill they are removed, I shall not expect a Peace. Shelbourne affects to be thought, the Chatham of the Day, without any of his great Qualities. I much fear that all their Maneuvres about Peace will turn out, but Artifices, to raise the stocks. The British Cabinet is so divided, that my Expectations are not very high. Let us be upon our Guard and prepared for a Continuance of the War. The Spaniards will demand Cessions and the Dutch Restitutions, which the English will not yet agree to, if they should get over all the Claims of France and America.
I Should be very happy to have a personal Conversation with you,3 but this will hardly take Place, untill full Powers arrive in Paris from London and I know very well that whether in America or Versailles or Paris, you will be constantly usefull, to America, and Congress will easily approve of your Stay where you are, untill you shall think it more for the publick Good to go elsewhere.
With great Affection and Esteem I have the Honour to be &c
LbC (Adams Papers).
1. Matthew Ridley’s journal (MHi) indicates that he arrived at The Hague on 19 May and visited JA on the 20th to deliver this letter, and probably also Edmund Jenings’ first and second letters of 16 May (above), and those from Benjamin Franklin of 21 April (vol. 12:439–441) and 8 May (above). Although he had not seen Ridley in over three years, JA entered into an extraordinarily candid conversation at their meeting. JA read to Ridley the letter of 7 May from Lafayette (above), the major points of which—regarding French financial assistance and the prospects for peace and another campaign—Ridley duly recorded in his journal on the same day. Then Ridley apparently asked JA about the prospects for peace negotiations, whereupon JA informed him that
“Mr Laurens had been in Holland that he come to know what had Passed between Mr Adams and Mr Ths. Digges who had been here and to be sure how far his and Mr. Adams’ opinion coincided in case of offers of Peace—Their opinions are the same. He staid only a few Hours. The affair of Digges is as follows. He came to Holland—Put up at the Parliament of England and sent to Mr Adams to know when he could Have the honor of waiting on him—Sending him at the same 2 Letters, from Mr Samuel Hartley wherein Mr Hartley said Mr Digges was sent to Holland for the purpose of Interview with Mr Adams and he had Authority to say he was sent by Persons of the first distinction. Mr. Adams retd for answer to D. that he could have no meeting with him unless in the presence of a third Person and even not then unless he was left at Liberty to publish to the world, if he thought necessary what might pass between them and send it to Comte de Vergennes at Versailles for he would have no secrets that the third Person he should propose would be his Secretary Mr Thaxter. If he D. chose to see him on those conditions he might call the next morning. D. accepted them and came. He informed Mr Adams he was sent by Lord North that England was desirous of a Peace but did not know if the same disposition prevailed with the other parties or it would be listened to. Mr. A. told him whenever the English Ministry chose to apply in a proper way they would be attended to but while they continued to do otherways no attention would be paid to what they said. D. said they had understood that Mr. A. was inclined to Peace but Dr. Fr. was against. Mr. A. said it was impossible for any one to know his sentiments for he had never declared them to any one that the making Peace did not depend upon him Congress had named five Persons (one of which Mr Jefferson of Virga. was not yet arrived) the other four Dr. Fr. Mr Jay, Mr Laurens and himself that any offers made for Peace must be made at Paris. D. mentioned the difficulty of collecting such a number together. Mr. A told him that would be no difficulty if England made such propositions as might be listen’d to—if she did not—certainly there would be no meeting and that America would make no Peace but on such terms as would satisfy France as well as America and that it must be made in conjunction with Comte de Vergennes. A Copy of the Commission for making Peace laying at Mr Adams’s hands he told Digges there was a Copy of the Commission and read it to him. D. said he should report what had Pass’d and I think Mr Adams told me talked of writing to Mr. Adams Mr. A told him he might write but he need expect no Answers from him and that he should think himself obliged to communicate to Dr. Franklin and Comte de Vergennes whatever he received. Thus the interview ended. D. returned to England Lord North was then out and he made his report to Ld. Shelburne who had come into Office and it is said added that Mr. A had promised to correspond with him which Mr. A. flatly and roundly denies.
“Spain certainly is security to France for a proportion what money she lets America have.
“Mr Adams is Much discontented with Dr. Fr. who was always agt. Mr. A’s coming here as was Mons. de Vergennes nay when he determined on his Memorial he was even menaced by them. The French Minister at the Hague Duke de Vauguyon was two different days with him to prevent it. In the end Mr. A told him he had heard all the Arguments he had used on the Subject and was still determind to persist even at the risque of his head—he did and has carried his point. Mr. A informed me the people of Holland have at bottom very high notions of Liberty, that they are slow to move but when moved are full of fire—And he is sure he might with the greatest ease in the World have thrown the whole States into commotion so great was their desire for the American Independence and their dislike to the Stateholder and Duke of Brunswick. He had for this Reason since being acknowledged delivered his Credentials rather privately to prevent a tumult and has also declined several public entertainments fearing the consequences that he had since understood the Prince had expressed himself as pleased with his caution in this respect.”
JA’s comments, as related by Ridley, regarding the visits of Thomas Digges in March and Henry Laurens in April, should be compared with those in his letters to Benjamin Franklin of 26 March and 16 April (vol. 12:350–352, 410–413). For remarks regarding French opposition to JA’s 19 April 1781 memorial to the States General and his meetings with the Duc de La Vauguyon about it, see his letters of 17 April 1781 to La Vauguyon, note 1, and 21 Feb. 1782 to Robert R. Livingston (vols. 11:263–265; 12:250–259).
2. The following six words were interlined.
3. The following fourteen words were interlined.