Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 2 Jul. 1797

Maassluys 2 July 1797.

My Dear Sir

I wrote you three or four days ago from Rotterdam, which I left the next day, and am still detained here by contrary winds.—I then mentioned that Pastoret had made a motion in the french Council of five hundred, tending to annul the arretés of the Directory relative to America; particularly that of 12 Ventose, which he truly represented as contrary to the Constitution. It was referred to a Committee of five, to report upon it. You will have a more circumstantial account of the whole matter from another quarter, but there are some observations which will not occur elsewhere, and which may perhaps in some degree contribute to give you a just idea of the state of our affairs in France.

Infinite pains have been taken there to spread universally the idea that there are in America only two parties, the one entirely devoted to France and the other to England.—You have been in the Paris newspapers expressly represented as at the head of the latter, and Mr: Jefferson of the former. The English too have been much disposed to countenance the same idea.—The artifice of the french party in America, to throw the odium of partiality to the English, upon every man, who would not sacrifice his Country to France, has been very industriously pursued, and in a very considerable degree successful.—It is one instance of their denomination-giving system, which Fauchet so much extols.—In France every thing has contributed to give prevalence to this falsehood. Pastoret therefore, himself in making his motion, said that the American Government had indeed given some reason to doubt of the loyalty of its intentions, by their Treaty with Great Britain, but that this was not sufficient for a rupture &c.

This universal dislike of that Treaty, by all the parties in France, while none of them can give one substantial reason for their dislike, is for us its highest panegyric. It shews that it interferes with views which they dare not avow.—The objections that they have ever made against it, are perfectly futile. The arreté of 12 Ventose bears internal evidence, that the reasons assigned are not the real ones.—I drew up at General Pinckney’s request, about two months ago some observations concerning that arrêté.—I particularly dwelt upon the point of the British Treaty and shewed that the Directory by resting the rules of their Arreté upon certain Articles of the Treaty, merely sought a pretext: that it was totally destitute of foundation, since every one of the rules, was not only variant from, but in direct violation of the Article, cited for its justification.—In order to shew this in its clearest and most striking light, I placed in opposite columns, the several rules and articles, so that their incompatibility might appear at a single glance, adding at the close of each some observations of my own.—This paper was seen by Pastoret before he made his motion, and he concurred in the opinion that the arrêté was unconstitutional.—But as to the opposite columns, General Pinckney’s correspondent at Paris, only wrote to him, that in these discussions all long quotations, should be avoided; because they would not read them.—Whether Pastoret read them or not, I shall not say; but what sort of discussion can be carried on with persons who will not read the very state of the question in debate?—Whether that part of my Paper was read, or was offered for reading, or not, Pastoret did, not the less complain of the British Treaty; and complain of it as an act of the American Government, unfriendly to France.

Pastoret is one of the most distinguished members, of the Council of 500. He came in at the first Constitutional election in October 1795. and was not a member of the Convention. He has all along supported with eloquence and firmness the cause of moderation and Justice against the revolutionary violence and wickedness which has so often prevailed even since the establishment of the Constitution.—Dumolard is another member of the same description, and these two are certainly the most conspicuous characters, that have arisen, in that third part of the Legislature.—Barbé-Marbois, our old acquaintance, came in at the same time, and appears to have the same system in the Council of Elders.—This party since the introduction of the new third part, have an unquestionable and strong majority in both Councils: but the old remaining third of the Convention, with their four fifths of the <Convention> Directory, are reviving the Jacobin clubs, preparing for insurrections, and endeavouring to secure the armies on their side.

Since the motion of Pastoret, Dumolard, has brought forward, one of a like nature against the measures conducted or permitted by the Directory in Italy. It occasioned some debate and finally was adjourned untill the report of the Committee upon the motion of Pastoret, should be made. This circumstance deserves notice; for the adjournment was upon an observation of Thibaudeau, “that it was improper, and might be dangerous to investigate these transactions in Italy,” since they might be deeply connected with the negotiations for a general Peace”. So you see, Genua, Venice, and perhaps Switzerland, are to be not only revolutionized, but plundered, dismembered, divided, torn to pieces in every way, to make an arrangement for a General Peace. And as the subject is adjourned until the report upon the differences with America shall be made, it looks very much as if some arrangement relative to [...] us too, was in contemplation, as connected with the negotiations for a general Peace.

There is an observation of Montesquieu, that it is sometimes bad policy, in a small State, to remain neutral in the wars between two great Powers, its neighbours, because neither of them being bound to it by the force of obligation or interest, they may finally settle their difference by sacrificing the small power between them. The truth of this remark is strongly exemplified by the present fate of the Italian Republics, though it is far from being clear that they could have escaped it by taking part in the War. However that may be, it is important for us to take care not to be made ourselves the victims of any such agreement. If France has any such designs, it must be in the plan of severing the United States into two Republics, one of which she would take under her protection and mould to her will, leaving the other to the influence and management of Britain. I am far from being certain that the British Government would be averse to such a division.—I hope they will both be narrowly watched.

The king of Prussia has resumed his diplomatic intercourse with this Republic: they had been suspended ever since the entry of the french, and expulsion of the Stadholder, though the Secretary <had [...]> of Legation had remained constantly at the Hague, without an acknowledged character. He is now regularly authorized to act as Chargé d’affaires. He is a son of the late Baron de Bielfeld author of the Political Institutions, and of some other works of reputation. I have been in habits of great intimacy with him during almost the whole of my residence at the Hague.

The Count de Bernstorff the celebrated Danish Minister is dead. His son who for some months has held the office jointly with the father, will no doubt succeed him in the place, and adhere to his system, but whether with equal wisdom and abilities, I am unable to say.

The health of the king of Prussia is said also to be in a declining and precarious state. His military preparations however are great, as are those of the German Emperor, insomuch that the Peace between him and France, which has never yet been published at full, is by many considered as little more than an armistice. It does not appear probable however that the War between them will be renewed.

The negotiations between France and England are to be held at Lille in Flanders. The English Minister, appointed to attend them is Lord Malmesbury. The french are still making menaces of invasion. Their preparations are said to be going on, at Bayonne, Brest, Rochefort, Dunkirk and the Texel at once. At this last place there are nineteen ships of the line and about a dozen frigates said to be in very good order. They have been for some time past embarking troops on board of them; but the soldiers go with reluctance, and some companies have peremptorily refused.

I am with every sentiment of duty and affection, your Son 

John Q. Adams.

RC (MHi: Adams Papers).

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