Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 18 Mar. 1797

The Hague March 18. 1797.

My Dear Sir.

We have not yet any authentic account concerning the issue of the American Elections. That which is current and which I gather from the public newspapers states the choice of President as being ascertained, and that Mr: Jefferson is Vice-President. A report prevails that he will serve in that office, which I cordially hope to be true.—Because I still confidently trust that the purposes which may exist in such a case to divide and set in opposition against each other the two first officers of the Union, will be disappointed. The welfare the dearest interests of a common Country are at a stake.—I am sure that their benefit and security will be your only object; I firmly hope and believe they will also be that of your old friend and fellow patriot.—This harmony, and that of the American People in general, is becoming as necessary as it was at the period of our Revolution.—The french Government at present evidently design to go to War with the United States, unless the Americans will submit to sacrifice their interest their honour and their Independence.—To effect this design their great expectation is founded upon the hope of our internal disunion, an hope which is very much encouraged by the Americans who are conversant with the ruling Men in France.

The determination for the present is to take, and perhaps to condemn all American vessels and Merchandize bound to or from any Ports under the dominion of Great-Britian. This system has long been discoverable but is now openly avowed. Upon this principle they have already taken and condemned several vessels going from England. The privateers which took them have generally been fitted out by Americans, and it is from such specimens that the Directory judge of the dispositions and character of the American People.

One of the objects to which this system is destined is plunder. They consider the American commerce as a beneficial prey, and they are desirous for a pretext to refuse the payment of about forty millions of livres which as I understand they owe to Citizens of the United States.—That they are seeking pretexts for a quarrel is plain from every circumstance that has happened since the Notes of Mr: Adet in October of the last year.—But they gradually proceed from one step to another, because the Directory have not by the Constitution the right of declaring War, and they do not think the Nation or the Legislative Assembly yet sufficiently exasperated against us to make a proposal to declare War, for the present, pass.—In order to produce such an animosity, they are daily using every means of misrepresentation and falsehood against the American Government: at the same time they are offering every provocation of insult indignity and injury in their power, depending either that no power exists on our part to resent them, or if they are resented that our measures will furnish them pretexts for further violence and perhaps for proposing to the Legislature a declaration of War.

Every thing at the present moment promises them a successful termination to their Wars upon the European Continent. The Pope has made his Peace with them by such sacrifices as they required. The Emperor still holds out, but their forces are now indisputably superior to his, and are managed with much more ability. If he should be able to carry through another campaign, according to every present appearance it will be as disastrous to him as all the former, and its only final result will be to encrease the magnitude of the sacrifices which he will find necessary to obtain a Peace.—If the supplies of money from Great Britain should by any means be stopped he must immediately cease the contest.—The accounts from England will shew you what has happened in consequence of a run upon the Bank.—In this, it is probable there was the agency of french emissaries. The Event hitherto has not been exactly what they expected. The british Paper will undoubtedly turn to rags at last, but the Government will stand greater shocks than this.

The Directory have sent twelve or fourteen hundred galley slaves, landed them in England, and left them to be taken immediately. The object of this expedition was to make their Enemies feed such a number of their People. It was contrary to their Constitution no less than to the Laws of Nations. An enquiry has been moved in the Counsel of five hundred upon the subject, but without effect

A violent naval action has been fought, off Cadiz, between a British fleet under Sir John Jervis and a Spanish one of more than double the force. It appears that the Spaniards had four of their ships taken, and the rest excessively damaged. There is a fleet of twelve ships of the line now in the Texel. They will perhaps remain there through the Season as they did through the last. The far greater part of the sailors are devoted to the Orange party. It is much to be questioned whether they would even fight as well as the Spaniards.

The debates upon the Constitution are nearly brought to a close.—The parties are somewhat warm upon a religious article. By the separation of the Church from the State a preparatory measure was sometime since taken. The french and revolutionizing party are desirous under that principle to have it decreed, that the State will provide no support for the Ministers.—The ultimate mark of this attack is the Christian Religion; The philosophical fanaticism against which is as ardent and implacable as ever.—The friends of religion are the most numerous, but the weakest party; [...]they have neither the profound designs nor energy of execution possessed by their antagonists; they will of course be finally defeated.

There is here what they call, a Committee of administration for the french troops in the Service of this Republic. Their duties are to supply and maintain those troops. They have since their appointment received about twenty millions of florins; of which they have embezzled about six. The thing has become so public, that an enquiry after much opposition has been instituted concerning it in the National Assembly. The members of the Committee are under arrest.

I expect to receive in the course of a few days an official paper from the Committee of foreign affairs. It will be formed altogether upon a french model, and consequently cannot be satisfactory to the American Government. I have already intimated to you what would be the inclination and what is the necessity of the governing party here.—In private conversation with me they freely confess that they are obliged to follow the pleasure of France, though fully sensible of its being highly detrimental to their own interests.

The temper of the times may be judged of from the treatment experienced by your old friend at Leyden. His principles being those of genuine Liberty, tempered with the love of order of religion and morality without which it cannot exist, and his Spirit possessing that Independence which they cannot subdue they have not only neglected to employ his talents which they would have found so useful, but they have harassed him with every sort of persecution in their power.—Dismissed him from his professorship, and endeavoured to suppress the freedom of his Paper. They are still watching every opportunity for a pretext to silence it entirely. The public opinion which they use every possible exertion to pervert, but which strengthens against them in proportion to their efforts to subdue it, is at present his only protection.—The press here is in fact under a rigorous Inquisition.—In France it is much more free; but the Directory are indefatigable in their endeavours to obtain a Law which shall surrender it to their discretion. Hitherto they have not succeeded.

I am with constant sentiments of affection and duty, your Son

John Q. Adams

P.S. Madam Dumas survived her husband only six months and died almost as suddenly, about a month ago.

RC (MHi: Adams Papers).

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