Adams Papers

To John Adams from John Quincy Adams, 18 May 1798

No 56

18 May 1798

I received last Evening your favour of 1. March, together with one from my mother of the 7th: of the same month, but no dispatches—I am in hopes however that I shall now soon receive my new credentials, though unless they arrive in the course of a week, I cannot present them untill the kings return from Prussia—He is to leave Berlin on the 25th. and will be gone about 6 weeks. There were no private Letters with my dispatches of 10, and 17. November, for a reason which I presume you have long before this found in my letter of 16. December. Since this late date, I have written many letters of which I hope some at least have reached you.

The manner in which the Commission to Paris terminated will soon be made known to you—I know not what the remaining member has to say in justification of his conduct. If the only statements which I have heard of it are just, it has been dishonourable to himself and disgraceful to his Country—I hope for many reasons, that your never-failing friend will prove himself entitled to that exalted praise and that he may be able to shew that he has not been made either the instrument of foreign perfidy or the dupe of foreign artifice.

I have not given you a regular and detailed account of the progress made by the Congress at Rastadt, but I have summarily told you, what its result would be. It has uniformly discovered one clear and decisive character. On the part of the french plenipotentiaries, the imperious tone of insolent victory, dictating one after the other, its conditions; on that of the Empire the wretched endeavours of impotence to haggle for this or that point, and imploring in vain to be spared this or that sacrifice.—On that of Prussia and Austria, a silent but deep and bitter rivality aiming to supplant each other, in the favour of the french directory and in the patronage of the German Princes

The deputation of the Empire have successively disputed 1st: for the basis, of the Integrity of the Empire 2. the giving up the left Banks of the Rhine 3. The principle of secularisation for indemnity, and they have finally ceded all these points. The french now come forward and demand all the islands of the Rhine, all the fortresses on the left Bank, to defend themselves—The demolition of the fortresses on the right banks to give them free entrance at all times into the heart of Germany. The navigation of the river for both Nations, and for no other without their common consent; and the navigation of other great Rivers in Germany particularly the Danube for the french.—Some of the pretensions in this last note may be advanced, merely for the sake of making a claim of merit in renouncing them.—But whatever they think proper to insist upon, they will have.—The terms of Peace for the Empire were settled at Berlin in 1796, and at Campo Formido in 1797—The only question is, what France will seriously demand.

An event occurred about a month since at Vienna, which at first led to a general expectation that the War, between France and Austria, would be renewed.—The french Ambassador Bernadotte, hung out a three coloured flag from the balcony of his house. The People of Vienna, considering it as an insult, tore it away, burnt it in the streets, burst into the house, destroyed the furniture and carriages of the Ambassador, and but for the interference of the Government, would not even have respected his person. This happened the 13th. of April, and the 15th. Bernadotte quitted Vienna and went to wait for orders at Rastadt. The french Directory however, considering that the Emperor would not prove so feeble and easy a victim as the Pope have declared that they will not renew the War on this account, but impute the whole transaction to the instigations of british and russian emissaries—Since that occurrence The Austrian Minister for foreign affairs, the Baron de Thugut, has resigned his place, and Count Cobenzl who signed the Treaty of Campo-Formido, is said to be appointed in his stead.—This change is supposed to be favourable to the views of France.

There have been rumours recently circulated of an alliance between the Northern Powers and Great Britain, containing a mutual guarantee of their respective present possessions; but they are undoubtedly destitute of foundation. Britain has certainly been negotiating with Austria, Russia, and this Court, endeavouring to draw them together, and prevail upon them to write in a system of common opposition against the dangers of a french democracy.—But she has only partially if at all succeeded.

The Emperor and the king of Prussia, in making separately their Peace with France, had stipulated for indemnities to themselves on account of their sacrifice of territories beyond the Rhine. France allows them to take those indemnities from the body of the German Empire; but upon this point Austria and Prussia were not agreed between themselves. The Emperor of Russia , as Guarantee of the Peace of Teschen offered his mediation, which was accepted by both parties. The negotiation is to be conducted, not at Rastadt, but here at Berlin or Potsdam. The Austrian Minister at this Court, Prince Reuss, received full powers to treat upon this object, and the Russian Emperor sends an Envoy Extraordinary (Prince Repnin) who is expected to arrive this day. There is no doubt but England will meddle as much as possible in this affair, but I do not apprehend she will make much of it.—I have already intimated to you how much weight of consideration Russia has lost in the estimation of the world since the Death of the late Empress—Her son is generally represented as a man without system, govern’d by a spleen, doing and undoing without motive or principle his own measures, and losing himself and his Empire in a flood of petty vexatious details of administration and police.

The preparations for the french expedition to England continue, though from the length of time which they have taken and their not yet having formed any junction of forces, an opinion has lately been spreading that it would eventually be abandoned. The recent resignation of the french Minister of marine has been imputed to his having given after a tour to Brest a decided opinion that the measure was alike impracticable and dangerous. Buonaparte however has the supreme command of all the forces both by land and sea destined for the descent, and various rumours have been circulated of his having left Paris, for Brest, for Toulon, or for Rastadt, as if designed to disguise the time of his departure and place of his direction—There has been for many months a large armament preparing along all the coasts of the Mediterranean from Toulon to Civita Vecchia, concerning the destination of which as many reports have been current as relative to the motions of Buonaparte. At one time, they were for an invasion of Sicily and Malta, at another, of the Emperor’s territories in Istria and Dalmatia; at a third to restore the Grecian Republics; at a fourth to go and quell certain rebellious beys of Egypt, in compensation of which part of that Country was to be ceded to France for the purpose of establishing a new Colony there; at a fifth to descend in Egypt, and march over land to attack the british settlements in India, or cut the long projected passage from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, and open a shorter <passage> route to the Indian Ocean, for the republican conquerors; at a sixth to land in Spain, somewhere near the borders of Portugal, so as to shorten the otherwise hungry march to Lisbon; and lastly to make a junction with the Spanish fleet at Cadiz, and raise the blockade of that port; after which both fleets may join with that of Brest, and proceed to the establishment of the English, Irish, and Scots Republics—The last of these conjectures is now the most generally prevalent—There is at the same time strong reason to believe they have a very serious design of settling a Colony in Egypt, for the idea has been largely commented upon and strenuously recommended in both the legislative Council by the respective members Eschasseriaux, and Le Couteuloc.

Switzerland after postponing resistance untill the giant Republic had grasped its throat in her hand, still struggles in the convulsions of death. All the larger Cantons have submitted to the yoke of a Constitution made at Paris, and forced upon their adoption without the permission to alter it in any degree. The smallest democratic Cantons, entrenched behind their rocks and their mountains, were not totally subdued even by the last accounts. The great body of their inhabitants it is said have determined rather to abandon their Country and take refuge, under the imperial government of Tyrole, than undergo the burthen altogether insupportable of french liberty.—The Governments of the large Cantons possessed large treasures, upon which France has seized by right of conquest.—In chusing the new Legislative and Executive Helvetic Assemblies, the people were expressly interdicted by order of the Directory, from electing any member of the former government; and they obeyed.—Yet it so happened that in the choice of the Helvetic Directory, the Citizen Ochs, who negotiated at Paris the new Constitution, was left out, and had but very few votes.—This has apparently given offence to the french Directory, and a Colonel Laharpe, one of the Swiss patriots who has fought to subdue his Country, has written an angry pamphlet about it.—

France has long been coveting the possession of Geneva.—But as these are times of democracy, and the sovereignty of the People, she has been very desirous that the Genevans themselves should request the reunion as a favour. The Genevans, obsequious as they have shewn themselves upon every occasion to follow the example of their mighty neighbour, still adhered to sentiments of Independence. They had during the last year suffered every sort of vexation and embarrassment, without ever being prevailed upon to commit their political suicide. At length, they were given to understand by the french Resident, that they must go through this operation. The sovereign (as the Genevan People then styled themselves) appoint a very numerous Committee, to consider and report upon the affair, and the Committee unanimously agreed to supplicate for the continuance of their Independence. They drew up an address to the french Directory declaring themselves ready to do every thing which they might chuse to prescribe, but imploring their permission, still to remain the Genevan People. This address the french Resident refused to transmit to Paris—To accelerate the vote for reunion he introduced a body of french troops into the City; threatened it with more untill finding all resistance idle, the Genevans submitted; some few of them, though even then with opposition passed the vote, and the french Resident, wrote to the Directory that Geneva was in transports of Joy and happiness.

21. May.—

I have now received dispatches dated 17. March and the packets accompanying them: and immediate attention to them shortens this Letter—I shall certainly act conformably to my Instructions, but will not answer for a Treaty here or elsewhere upon those terms.

The Baron de Thulemeyer often makes obliging enquiries when I hear from you, and has repeatedly desired me to recal him to your remembrance.—He is one of the Ministers of the Judiciary department, or in other words a judge of the supreme judicial tribunal.

MHi: Adams Papers.

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