Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 3 Apr. 1797

The Hague April 3. 1797.

My Dear Sir.

I send you by this opportunity a recent Work of Mr: Necker upon the french Revolution—It has been some weeks published; but I have not been able until a few days ago, to procure a copy of it here.—I have not yet had the time to read it through, myself.......I know not whether the Government of the United States, has ever thought, an attention to the literary part of European politics, a subject of instructions to their Ministers abroad. There is a certain class of publications which have a direct and important connection with the course of Events, and with the views of Nations, Courts, Parties, Factions and individuals.—This is no secret to you.—In the present situation of our affairs, and with the designs which at least one European power has with regard to the United States, it is necessary to be upon the watch for every <symptom> gleam that may cast a light upon the systems which comprehend us.

My situation is not peculiarly favourable for this particular. I find it difficult to procure the publications which appear in England, and very seldom can receive them until a long interval has intervened. Even those of France do not reach this Country very early; and there are none at all that originate here.—There is not any one more certain and unequivocal mark of the deplorable declension of this Nation in importance than this.—Not one publication of the least note has been produced by the dutch press since I first arrived here; and whenever I get intimation of any new work, I find myself obliged to wait for it, until it can be procured from London, or Paris, from Lusanne or Basle; Hamburg or Berlin.

As it is, I am getting into a way which will perhaps supply me better and more speedily than I have been hitherto, and I shall constantly forward to you such works as may appear to contain any thing interesting to America, with some of the observations which occur to me upon their perusal, though I am sensible that this last will be the most unnecessary part of the plan.

To judge accurately upon this work of Necker it is necessary to remember who and what the author has been, and what he probably, has hoped of becoming again..—I sent you not long since the work of his daughter Madam de Stael, and mentioned one of her objects in writing that book.—She has now returned to Paris.—Let me further observe that it was by her exertions that the decree in favour of M. de Talleyrand, permitting his return, was pass’d.—The same party, procured the same decree in favour of the General Montesquieu.—They are now endeavouring to obtain the liberation of M. de la Fayette.—Lally in London, who belongs likewise to the same party has lately published a book in favour of the emigrants, and in this instance with the same effect which his former efforts have uniformly produced; that of injuring his own cause by his impetuosity. This whole party is detested by the present french Government. Every one of the five Directors hates them, with the inveteracy of neighbourly [hatred], but the force of the opinion publique, to which they are all equally slaves, has made a sort of composition with them absolutely necessary.—They on their part advance as far as they can to meet the system of the day, and thus you can observe in the midst of the most violent oppositions, a disposition to conciliate benevolence, even by courting prejudices, and sacrificing principles, all but those in which the views of the respective individuals are involved. This circumstance accounts for the great difference between the sentiments of Mr: Necker, now published, and those of Madam de Stael in the work which I lately sent you.

She very evidently paid her Court in that to the present Directory.—This work offers no composition to them, but apparently looks forward to a different state of the opinion publique, when the execration against them may be as freely indulged as that against the Jacobins may be at this time.—There are numerous indications in these volumes, that the author has an idea of being again called to act an important political part in France..—I shall not undertake to state<s> all the passages which have led me to this conclusion, nor to discuss what probability there may be that the thing will ever happen.—Considering the work as proving such a wish and hope on his part, it becomes necessary to remark with special attention what he says upon the subject of the United States and the American Republic.—It is the first section of the fourth Volume, which I think very curious in this point of view.—I shall request you to compare it with a fact which I stated to you in my N. 16, written from London.—The conclusion seems inevitable that the plan which I then stated to you as existing is not confined to the present governing power in France.

But there appears to prevail at present a design still more pernicious, as it strikes directly at our national Union. From the present conduct of the Directory, it cannot be questioned but that they are determined upon a War with the Government of the United States. There are also numerous proofs that in the prosecution of this War, they are preparing to derive support from a part of the American People: The policy upon which they proceed appears to be this: that the Atlantic, or at least the Eastern States, cannot be governed by the influence of France, and therefore that a Southern republic must be formed in alliance with France, to serve as a balance against the others.—But in order to form this Republic, France must make War against the present Government of the United States; in the progress of which <they> [She]can send an army to support and assist <her> [her] allies of the New Republic; and hereby they will effect two purposes at once: that of weakening by division a rising Power, which they behold with suspicion and Jealousy; and that of disencumbering themselves from a considerable portion of the army the return of which [into France] they already dread. They wish to form a Republic in America, as they are now forming a Republic in Italy, to provide for the subsistence of their troops, or at least to be themselves rid of them; and thus you will observe that they step towards War with America, regularly as they step towards Peace with the House of Austria. They are constantly in expectation of this Peace, and it will probably be made in the course of this Spring or the following Summer.

In one of my [late] Letters I wrote that they had no idea of sending an army to America, and I formed my opinion from the State of their Marine and the impossibility they are under of restoring it for a long time. But various circumstances now lead me to a different opinion, and with respect to the marine, they are preparing to turn all their exertions towards it, as may be collected clearly from the pamphlet of Theremin which I sent you a few days ago

You will find in the newspapers which I send at this time, that Thomas Paine has left Paris, and is going to America.—Another of the French Papers says that he is going with Mr: Monroe, “to repair the mischief done by the administration of Washington.

The plan of the Western Republic in Alliance with France, to oppose against the rising Republic of the United States, must have been formed as early as the time of Genet’s Instructions. How much earlier it was formed it is perhaps not necessary to conjecture.—That Paine was in the secret originally seems very probable. That he is now going to America to promote the design, I firmly believe.—I see in some late American Papers that he wrote to Bache last Summer, the necessity which the french Government found themselves under to distinguish between the American Government and the People—His pamphlet against the late President, I have not seen but am told that it is another edition of Adet’s appeal to the People.—What his conduct <may> [will] be is easily foreseen..—The french Government calculate that in the War they intend, the Eastern States will side with their Government, but that our Western Country and perhaps the Southern States will side with them.—Paine therefore is going “pour server ces étincelles d’embrâsement,” for which Madame Roland judged him so proper.—Paine indeed is pursuing his vocation.—He has no Country.—No affections that constitute the pillars of patriotism—But going with Mr: Monroe!—where can the imagination stop, in reflecting upon these things.—Can Monroe?—Can?—I have done. I remember the late President’s advice not to admit hastily suspicions against the designs of Citizens in distant parts of the Union; and I will yet hope that a formal purpose to sever the Union into two parts, by the help of a French War against the whole, is at least not extensively intended or known, and that it will never meet with encouragement or support from men, who ought to consider Union as the principle paramount to all others, in the policy of every American.

I am with dutiful affection, your Son

John Q Adams.

RC (MHi: Adams Papers).

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