A Collection of State-papers, Relative to the First Acknowledgment of the Sovereignty of the United States of America, and the Reception of Their Minister Plenipotentiary, by Their High Mightinesses the States General of the United Netherlands : to Which
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Relative to the First Acknowledgment of the
Sovereignty of the United States of America,
And the Reception of their
Minister Plenipotentiary, by their High Mightinesses the
States General of the United Netherlands.
To which is prefixed, the Political Character of
Ambassador Plenipotentiary from the States of North America,
to their High Mightinesses the States General of the
United Provinces of the Netherlands.
By an American.
An Essay on Canon and Feudal Law,
By JOHN ADAMS, Esq;
Printed for John Fielding, No. 23, Pater-noster-row;
John Debrett, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly; and
John Sewell, No. 32, Cornhill. 1782.
[Entered at Stationers-Hall.]
As the States General of the United Provinces haveacknowledged the independency of the United Statesof North America, and made a treaty of commerce withthem, it may not be improper to prefix a short account ofJohn Adams, Esq; who, pursuing the interests of hiscountry, hath brought about these important events.
Mr. Adams is descended from one of the first familieswhich founded the colony of the Massachusets Bay in 1630.He applied himself early to the study of the laws of hiscountry; and no sooner entered upon the practice thereof,but he drew the attention, admiration, and esteem ofhis countrymen, on account of his eminent abilities andprobity of character. Not satisfied with barely maintainingthe rights of individuals, he soon signalized himselfin the defence of his country, and mankind at large, bywriting his admirable Dissertation on the Canon andFeudal Laws; a work so well worth the attention of everyman who is an enemy to ecclesiastical and civil tyranny,that it is here subjoined. It showed the author at an earlyperiod capable of seconding efficaciously the formation ofrepublics on the principles of justice and virtue. Such aman became most naturally an object of Governor Barnard'sseduction. The perversion of his abilities might be of use ina bad cause; the corruption of his principles might tarnishthe best. But the arts of the Governor, which had succeededwith so many, were ineffectual with Mr. Adams, whoopenly declared he would not accept a favour, however[Pg 2]flatteringly offered, which might in any manner connecthim with the enemy of the rights of his country, or tendto embarrass him, as it had happened with too manyothers, in the discharge of his duty to the public. Seductionthus failing of its ends, calumny, menaces, andthe height of power were made use of against him. Theylost the effect proposed, but had that, which the show ofbaseness and violence ever produce on a mind truly virtuous.They increased his honest firmness, because theymanifested, that the times required more than ordinaryexertions of manliness. In consequence of this conduct,Mr. Adams obtained the highest honours which a virtuousman can receive from the good and the bad. He washonoured with the disapprobation of the Governor, whorefused his admission into the council of the province;and he met with the applause of his countrymen in general,who sent him to assist at the Congress in 1774,in which he was most active, being one of the principalpromoters of the famous resolution of the 4th of July,when the colonies declared themselves free and independentstates.
This step being taken, Mr. Adams saw the inefficacy ofmeeting the English Commissioners, and voted againstthe proposition; Congress, however, having determinedto pursue this measure, sent him, together with Dr.Franklin and Mr. Rutledge, to General Howe's headquarters. These Deputies, leading with them, in a manlyway, the hostages which the general had given for theirsecurity, marched to the place of conference, in the midstof twenty thousand men ranged under arms. Whetherthis military shew was meant to do honour to the Americans,or to give them an high idea of the English force,is not worth enquiry. If its object was to terrify the Deputiesof Congress, it failed; making no more impressionon them, than the sudden discovery of elephants did uponcertain embassadors of old. The utmost politeness havingpassed on both sides, the conference ended, as had beenforeseen, without any effect.
Mr. Adams having been fifteen months one of theCommissioners of the War department, and a principalsuggestor of the terms to be offered to France, for formingtreaties of alliance and commerce, he was sent to the[Pg 3]court of Versailles, as one of the Ministers Plenipotentiaryof the United States. After continuing some timeinvested with this important trust, he returned to America;where he no sooner appeared, than he was calledupon by the State of Massachusets Bay, to assist in forminga system of government, that might establish the rightsof all on clear, just, and permanent grounds. He wasnever employed in a business more agreeable to himself;for, the happiness of his Fellow-Citizens is his great object.He sought not honour in this arduous undertaking,but it fell ultimately upon Him. He has gained it allover Europe. If he endeavoured to obtain by it theesteem and love of his countrymen, he has succeeded;for they know they are chiefly indebted to him for theconstitution of the State of Massachusets Bay, as it standsat this day.
This important business being completed to the satisfactionof all, he came back to Europe, with full powersfrom Congress to assist at any conferences which might beopened for the establishment of peace; and had sent him,soon after, other powers to negociate a loan of moneyfor the use of the United States; and to represent them,as their Minister Plenipotentiary, to their High Mightinessesthe States General of the United Provinces. Suchimportant trusts shew, in what estimation he is held byhis country; and his manner of executing them, that confidenceis well placed.
On his arrival in Holland, nothing could have beenmore unpromising to the happy execution of his mission,than were the affairs of that country. The influenceof the Court of St. James's over a certain set of men,the interest that many had in the funds and commerce ofEngland, and the dread of her power, which generallyprevailed throughout the Provinces, obliged him to actwith the utmost circumspection. Unknown, and at firstunnoticed, (at least but by a few) he had nothing to dobut to examine into the state of things, and characters ofthe leading men. This necessary knowledge was scarcelyacquired, when the conduct of the British Ministry affordedhim an opportunity of shewing himself moreopenly. The contempt, insult and violence, with which[Pg 4]the whole Belgic nation was treated, gave him greatadvantages over the English Embassador at the Hague.He served himself of his rivals rashness and folly withgreat coolness and ability; and, by consequence, becameso particularly obnoxious to the prevailing party, thathe did not dare to go to a village scarcely a day's journeyfrom his residence, but with the utmost secrecy: the fateof Dorislaus was before his eyes. Having been thereforeunder the necessity of making himself a Burgher of Amsterdam,for protection against the malice of the times,he soon gained the good opinion of the Magistrates by hisprudent conduct as a private Citizen. The bad policy ofEngland, enabled him to step forward as a public character.As such he presented to the States General hisfamous Memorial, dated the 19th of April, 1781, whereinthe declaration of the independency of America on the4th of July, 1776, was justified; the unalterable resolutionof the United States to abide thereby asserted; theinterest that all the powers of Europe, and particularlythe States General, have in maintaining it, proved; thepolitical and natural grounds of a commercial connectionbetween the two Republics pointed out; and informationgiven that the Memorialist was invested with full powersfrom Congress to treat with their High Mightinesses forthe good of both countries.
The presenting this Memorial was a delicate step;Mr. Adams was sensible, that he alone was answerablefor its consequences, it being taken not merely from hisown single suggestion, but contrary to the opinion andadvice of some of great weight and authority. However,maturely considering the measure, he saw it in allits lights, and boldly ventured on the undertaking. Thefull and immediate effect of it was not expected at once.The first object was, that the nation should consider thematter thoroughly; it being evident, that the more itwas ruminated on, the more obvious would be the advantagesand necessity of a connection between the twocountries. When, therefore, the Memorial was taken bythe States General ad referendum, the first point was gained;the people thought of, and reasoned on the matter setbefore them; many excellent writings appeared, and they[Pg 5]made the greatest impression; a weekly paper in particular,entitled Le Politique Hollandois, drew the attention ofall, on account of its information, the soundness of itsargument, and its political judgment and patriotism.At length the time came when the work was to be compleated:the generality of the people of Holland, seeing thenecessity of opening a new course to their trade, whichthe violent aggression of England, and the commercialspirit of other nations tended to diminish, demanded animmediate connection with the United States of America,as a means of indemnifying themselves for the loss whicha declared enemy had brought on them, and the rivalshipof neighbouring nations might produce.
Mr. Adams seized the occasion which the public dispositionafforded him, and presented his Ulteriour Addressof the 9th of January, 1782; referring therein to hisMemorial of the 19th of April, 1781, and demanding acategorical answer thereto. The Towns, Cities, Quarters,and States of the several Provinces took the wholematter into immediate deliberation, and instructed theirseveral Deputies, in the States General, to concur in theadmission of Mr. Adams in quality of Minister Plenipotentiaryof the United States of North America. This wasdone by a resolution, passed by their High Mightinessesthe 19th of April, 1782; and on the 22d of the samemonth, Mr. Adams was admitted accordingly, with all theusual ceremonies.
This event seems to have been as great a blow as anythat has been given to the pride and interests of Englandduring the war. It shewed the Dutch were no longerover-awed by the power of their enemy, for they daredto brave him to his teeth. It set an example to othernations, to partake of the commerce of those countries,which England had lost by her inconsiderate conduct. Itconfounded at once the English partisans in Holland, andproved that Sir Joseph Yorke was not the great ministerhe had hitherto been supposed to be. It gave occasion toan ambassador of one of the greatest monarchs of Europeto say to Mr. Adams: Vous avez frappť, Monsieur, le plusgrand coup de tout l' Europe. C'est le plus grand coup, quiŗ etŤ frappť dans le cause Americain. C'est vous qui ŗ effrayť[Pg 6]et terrasse les Anglomannes. C'est vous qui ŗ rempli cettenation d'enthousiasme. And then turning to another gentleman,he said, Ce n'est pas pour faire compliment a MonsieurAdams, que je dis cela: c'est parcequ'en veritť, je croisque c'est sa due.
This diplomatic compliment has been followed by others.I transcribe with pleasure a convivial one contained in thefollowing lines, which an ingenious and patriotic Dutchmanaddressed to his excellency Mr. Adams, on drinkingto him out of a large beautiful glass, which is called abaccale, and had inscribed round its brim, Aurea Libertas:
Vindice te renuit subdere colla jugo.
Hśc tibi legatum quem consors Belga recepit
Pectore sincero pocula plena fero.
Utraque gens nectet, mox suspicienda tyrannis,
Quś libertati vincula sacra precor!
They who have an opportunity of knowing his ExcellencyMr. Adams trace in his features the most unequivocalmarks of probity and candour. He unites to thatgravity, suitable to the character with which he is invested,an affability, which prejudices you in his favour.Although of a silent turn, as William the Prince of Orangewas, and most great men are, who engage in importantaffairs, he has nevertheless a natural eloquence for thediscussion of matters which are the objects of his mission,and for the recommending and enforcing the truths, measures,and systems, which are dictated by sound policy.He has neither the corrupted nor corrupting principlesof Lord Chesterfield, nor the qualities of Sir JosephYorke, but the plain and virtuous demeanor of SirWilliam Temple. Like him too he is simple in negociation,where he finds candour in those who treat withhim. Otherwise he has the severity of a true republican,his high idea of virtue giving him a rigidness, which makesit difficult for him to accommodate himself