Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 7 Jun. 1797

Amsterdam 7. June 1797.

My dear Sir.

My brother has returned from [Paris] <the Hague>, and is now at the Hague. I am here making the necessary arrangements for my departure. I propose to go by the way of London, and to take a companion there.—I am now only waiting to see Mr: Murray who has arrived at the Texel, but has not yet come up here.

Our old friend Arnoux was very civil to my brother, and appeared extremely desirous that the difference between the United States and France, should be amicably settled. He introduced him to the Director Carnot, with whom he dined the day before he left Paris. The first thing Carnot said to him was an invective against our Treaty with England. Carnot most probably does not know what it contains.—He has taken his ideas of it from Merlin de Douai and Charles Delacroix; who took their’s from—There is in the whole of this business a mystery of iniquity, which I would hope some future day will unfold.

The character which the Legislative Councils have assumed since the entrance of the new third part, and the choice of Barthelemi as a member of the Directory, fully convince me that much might be done at this time, by way of conciliation.—But it must be done by persons really desirous to produce it. The greatest enemies of America in France, are Americans themselves.—General Pinckney is as active as possible at this distance; whether his directions are observed, I am unable to say. There is incapacity if not worse in the only American official character that has access to the french Government.

The Treaty of Peace between France and the Emperor is not published, but the revolutionary practices are continued in Italy, as was expected. The example of Venice has been followed at Genoa. For the details I can only refer to the public papers. . They are marked with the true revolutionary colours.

The Batavian National Assembly have finished their debates upon the Constitution. It is to be presented to the People in their primary assemblies on the 8th: of August.—On the 1st: of the same month they are to elect another National Assembly, to take the place of that now sitting, from the 1st: of September, untill the Constitution shall be accepted and ready to be put in operation. A new tax or forced loan of 4 or 6 per cent upon all individual property is shortly expected.

You will receive from England the accounts of the mutinous Spirit, which has burst out among the sailors, and some part of the troops. This symptom coming so soon after that of the stoppage at the Bank, leaves no doubt with regard to the depth and malignity of the Distemper. They must pass through a Revolution, and it may happen sooner than we might expect. Indeed men of all sentiments appear agreed in this opinion; but there are in England many persons who believe and more who say that it is doubtful whether the Revolution will be monarchical, and establish absolute power in the present Government, or democratical, and overturn it. I have no such doubt left. The Revolution will be democratical, though it will undoubtedly very soon produce a civil War—The democratical party there as well as throughout the rest of Europe, have on their side, almost all the genius, talents and industry extant. They have in general nothing to lose, and they have no limitation in the use of their means. Their adversaries have the power of property, but that is the prize contended for, and they have all the weakness and imbecility, which the indolence of long established possession, and the enervating indulgences of wealth inspire—

The Hague June 19. 1797.

While I was writing as above Mr: Murray arrived at Amsterdam, and from that day to the present I have been so much engaged that I hope it will serve as an excuse for not having finished this Letter. As I have determined to go by the way of England you will perhaps be the more readily disposed to accept my apology.

Mr: Murray delivered me your kind Letter of 31. March. It gives me great pleasure to have a person for whom I have so great a regard and esteem to succeed me here. He will find the dispositions of the persons in Government, as friendly and well disposed towards America, as they dare to be; and they will continue so as long as they shall not find an absolute necessity to manifest the contrary. This they will never do without extreme reluctance, but the example which they have given with regard to Portugal proves, that what is positively required they cannot refuse.

The approbation with which my mission here has been honoured, very far exceeds not only my deserts, but even my wishes. Sincere and honest good intentions are indeed of themselves so valuable, that I can easily conceive how they have been over-rated upon this occasion.—You require from me as good intelligence from Lisbon as I have given from this place.—I hope not to remit of my Industry, but I have had several important advantages here, which have arisen from accident or good Fortune which I cannot promise myself there.—My chain of correspondence too in Europe must be broken up, and in that remote situation will not easily be repaired. Books, pamphlets, newspapers, reviews, every one of these articles so necessary to form an accurate opinion of current Events, are not so easily accessible there as in this Country; and besides all I would if possible lead you to expect less than I fear you will, because that is more than I fear I shall ever be able to perform.

With regard to my return to America, it is true that I constantly feel such an inclination strongly bearing upon me. “I feel the bond of Nature draw me to my own.” I cherish and encourage this sentiment, because I fear the operation of habit and new acquaintances and connections, to bind me by attachments other than those of my Country.—Yet I shall reconcile myself to continue my residence in Europe as long as circumstances will permit, or as will be in any manner proper; remembering that even were it possible for you to recede from a rigorous principle of exclusion for me (which I never can believe) it is at least my duty never to accept any public office whatever under your nomination.—From that duty I shall not swerve: but I should not have renewed a subject upon which I have heretofore expressed my sentiments, but for an intimation that the late President had expressed a wish that you would not withhold promotion from me if I should deserve it. His approbation and good opinion are indeed more precious to me than any promotion whatever. The distinction by which he thinks my promotion by you reconcileable with his own practice while he held the office, may as it respects any other person be just. I cannot admit it for myself.

To morrow I am to deliver my letters of recall and Mr: Murray, his credentials to the President of the Batavian National Assembly. Of this circumstance I shall give an account to the Secretary of State.

I am with dutiful affection, your Son

John Q. Adams.

RC (MHi: Adams Papers).

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