Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 30 Mar. 1797

The Hague March 30. 1797.

My Dear Sir.

From a Boston Centinel of the 15th:of last month, one of my friends here has collected the information and communicated it to me, that a few days before, the President and Vice-President of the United States for the ensuing four years were proclaimed in form.—I have myself from America neither Letters, nor Papers later than the beginning of December.

I have sent both to (the Secretary of State) and (the Secretary of the Treasury) the Rotterdam Dutch newspaper of the 24th: instt: of which I likewise enclose one with this letter. You may remark that it is a french publication in a Dutch print.—Such a kind of publication is not usual in these Papers.—In this instance it was probably inserted for the purpose of depressing the price of our funds, and raising that of insurance upon our vessels; the last effect it has produced to the amount of more than two per Cent.

But the principal subject of remark is the arreté of the Directory itself.—This contains nothing to surprize us;—nothing but what we have long expected; but it will prove in a clearer light that concert with an American party which has so long been apparent to every one that has had eyes and would see.

The objects of this arrete are perfectly discernible, and indeed it appears to suggest the means of counteracting them by setting forth in the broad light of which it is susceptible, both the pretext and the motive, to the world in general.

The first object, is to plunder the American commerce in general, and to suspend as much as they can that in that particular which we have with Great Britain.—The second is to throw the odium of these depredations upon the American Government, and upon the Treaty between the United States and Britain. This last part of the policy they have certainly learnt from their American auxiliaries; even the first part was also instigated probably by Americans.—There is a man who has been long and steadily busy in fomenting the animosities which would lead to this issue: who has effectually contrived to remove some of the ties [of interest,] which kept the french if not within the bounds of moderation, at least within some bounds; who had the confidential ear, and a sort of magic influence over the mind of our late Minister in France; who has since returned to America, where I have no doubt but he is making himself busy and mischievous as usual, and whose step-son, is now notoriously the nominal owner and fitter out of <the> privateers [from french ports] which are praying upon the American commerce, under french colours, and under this system of the french directory which they at this moment avow to the world.

What measures of defence and protection against the plundering project can be adopted I am very anxious to see.—It is with the deepest concern that I observe such a conspiracy of robbery against our own countrymen, carried on at the instigation of some of our own citizens.—At the same time it appears to me that in the execution of the second object, that of deluding the minds and averting the resentment of the Americans, there is a want of address, of which advantage may be taken, to demonstrate the falsehood of the pretence and the reality of the purpose.

The Directory for instance, quote three Articles of our Treaty with Britain, the 17th: 18th &c 21st: which they say by virtue of the stipulation in the 2d: article in the Treaty of February 1778, have modified this Treaty, and must be understood as established equally between the United States and France.

In the third Articles of the Arreté therefore they say that the 1st: regulation is founded upon the 17th: the 2d: upon the 18th: and the third upon the 21st: of the articles quoted by them.—But upon comparing the regulation with the article upon which it pretends to rest, we find in the first instance the words “ou non suffisamment constatée neutre,” in the second, the words “ou indirectement” and in the third the whole rule, in its generality and in particular the second clause of it, have not the remotest connection with the stipulations upon which they would fain erect their basis.—And proceeding one step further it appears very plain that those very words those very deviations from the articles which they quote, contain the essence of the system upon which they intend to pursue the other object of plunder; so that for all the injurious and obnoxious part of the arreté, they might as well quote the Treaty of Westphalia or of Utrecht, as the Treaty of Novr: [19]. 1794.—This attempt therefore to amalgamate their two distinct purposes is so awkward that I <will> hope it will furnish the most effectual materials for its own defeat. That it will be pointed out and unfolded so indisputably and so simply to the judgment of our Countrymen, as will tend to give that concert and union upon the want of which the present french system altogether is founded.

It is said that Mr: Monroe is upon the point of his departure to return home; and I understand that he has frequent interviews with the french Minister of foreign Affairs. The report adds that he will charge himself with the terms which the Directory think proper to prescribe to the American Government, and that among other proposals will be that of a loan by the United States to pay the debts of France to American citizens.—I saw in a Philadelphia paper sometime ago, a piece of evidently gallic composition, and saying that there was nothing but Water and Milk in the veins of Americans!—The Directory seem to entertain the same opinion.

The periodical journal which I send at present for the months of January and February will shew that the conduct of France towards us is understood in Europe, and that it is seen in its true light. The pamphlet of Theremin I send not only as a curiosity but to shew you how infamously they require their hirelings to lye. You see how he speaks of Washington.—This [...] [Theremin] must be always considered as one of their drudges, whom they employ for any of their filthy work; his miserable crudities are more interesting than they may at first sight appear; because they give the earliest indications of many future views of the ruling Men: they take great pains to circulate his pamphlets through Europe, and I have found many of their threads of circulation in quarters where they are but little suspected.

The french Papers will shew you the progress of their own Elections, and the mode of conduct pursued by the Government with regard to them.—The royalist conspiracy as they call it, began the Electioneering campaign.—It is very generally supposed to have been an intrigue managed altogether under the eye of the Directory, or at least of part of them.

Next came a message from the Directory to the Legislative Assemblies soliciting a Law to prescribe an Oath of hatred against royalty and anarchy to be taken by the Electors.—The object of this was to exclude from the Elections a vast number of the People who they knew would not take the Oath. It was to operate as a test.—This they could not carry through the Counsels, but by a sort of composition they prescribed instead of an Oath, a declaration of attachment to the present constitution. Even this will contribute considerably to their purpose and drive numbers away from the Elections.

The Belgic departments are to choose representatives on this occasion, and for the first time; but as the reunion is almost universally detested by the People of that Country, scarcely any body but the french administrators and their creatures attend the primary assemblies.—The Minister of the Police, has sent to these departments a list of names, with the information that the Directory would be glad to have those persons chosen to represent the new departments: the names are not of Brabanters, but of Frenchmen; a selection made from among the members going out at the present time, and by the Constitution not re-eligible.—As the new departments have never been before represented, a choice by them will not be a re-election. Lo! a specimen of Constitutional construction.—Last of all, it has leaked out that the Directory, have appropriated a million of Livres, in secret expences, to preserve the Peace at the Elections.—Notwithstanding all this it is extremely doubtful whether the result of the new choice will be satisfactory to the Directory.—I do not apprehend however that it will produce any essential alteration. Its principal effect will be to supply new sources and give a new direction to innumerable intrigues.

I remain in perfect duty and affection, your Son.

John Q. Adams.

RC (MHi: Adams Papers).

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