Front Page Titles (by Subject) 14 Jan. 1784: ELBRIDGE GERRY TO JOHN ADAMS. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 9 (Letters and State Papers 1799-1811)
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14 Jan. 1784: ELBRIDGE GERRY TO JOHN ADAMS. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 9 (Letters and State Papers 1799-1811) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 9.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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ELBRIDGE GERRY TO JOHN ADAMS.
Annapolis, 14 January, 1784.
The definitive treaty is this day ratified by Congress, and I have but a few moments, by Colonel Harmar, who is charged with the delivery thereof, to inform you that Mr. Dana is arrived and requested to attend Congress. I have suggested to some of my friends the good policy of appointing him to a seat in Congress, and to him the advantages to be at this time expected from the measure; and I flatter myself it will be adopted.
The despatches by Mr. Thaxter have been committed, and a report is made for authorizing yourself, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Jay to negotiate treaties with every power mentioned in your letter. The general principles of the treaties are stated in the report, conformable to which you are to be authorized to enter into them, without first reporting to Congress, as was proposed by the resolution of October last, passed at Princeton. Those proceedings appeared to me calculated to defeat every treaty, and confine our commerce to France and Holland; for after you had formed the projects, as they are called, and sent them to America, projects of another nature would have been contrived here to have made alterations, which would have in effect rendered null your proceedings. I hope the report will pass as it now stands, and that you will be expeditious in the business.
I observe by your letters that, according to your orders, you have reported your conferences to the secretary of foreign affairs. Your information is useful, exceedingly so; but as the other commissioners have not adopted the same mode, I suspect they have not received similar instructions, and that the original plan on this side was to discover to the other your communications, to prevent or destroy the confidence you have there established, and to make this appear as an unfortunate accident, which nevertheless ought to be attended with your recall. Be this as it may, I think the interest of yourself and Mr. Jay is, at this time, well supported in Congress. I have not time to revise, much less to correct, and therefore must bid you adieu, after requesting my best respects to Mr. Jay, his lady, and Mr. Carmichael, if in Paris. Your family was in health by the last letters from home; but Dr. Cooper was given over by his physicians. Be assured, my dear Sir, I am on every occasion yours sincerely,
I shall propose to Congress a resolution for approving, in proper and honorable terms, the negotiations of their plenipoes who negotiated the peace, but cannot say whether the measure will be successful.
TO A. M. CERISIER.
The Hague, 22 February, 1784.
I thank you for your favor of the 21st, and for the communication of the letter from my friend the Abbé de Mably.1 I am very sensible of his partiality for a man who, he thinks, has contributed, from virtuous principles, to a great event. His approbation is the more precious to me, as I know his principles to be pure, and his spirit independent. You may be sure my advice to you will be, to write your preface, because I love to read your compositions always, for the same reason. But take care to caution your reader against an implicit adoption of the sentiments of any writer, how great soever his name may be, or how justly soever his writings in general may be esteemed. It is with great pleasure that I see the pens of a De Mably, a Raynal, a Cerisier, a Price, turned to the subject of government. I wish the thoughts of all academies in Europe engaged on the same theme, because I really think that the science of society is much behind other arts and sciences, trades and manufactures,—that the noblest of all knowledge is the least general, and that a general spirit of inquiry would produce ameliorations in the administrations of every government in every form. I have read with pleasure the dissertation of the Baron de Hertzberg in the academy of Berlin on the 29th of last month, not because I am of his opinion, but because the example of a minister of State and an academician will probably be followed.
Mr. Van den Corput’s observation upon the plan of a loan seems to merit attention; but I must leave it to the three houses, in whose experience and judgment I confide.
I return you your friend’s letter, and hope soon to see his book.
TO CHARLES SPENER.
The Hague, 24 March, 1784.
I have received the almanac you were pleased to send me, and I beg of you to accept of my thanks for it. I beg your acceptance also of a couple of medals which the Baron de Thulemeier has been so good as to convey for me to you. These medals were not struck by any public authority. They are the invention and execution of the medallist Holtzhey, of Amsterdam, solely. Another has been struck by the society, Liberty and Zeal, in Friesland, but I have it not.
You ask my opinion of some things you have in contemplation for next year, and you shall have it with candor and sincerity. General Washington never was, and unless my countrymen run generally mad, never will be summoned by Congress to become the legislator of America. The legislation of America has been long since complete, but if it were not, she has hundreds of citizens better qualified than any officer of her army to be her legislators.
No town has been, and perhaps none will be, surveyed for the meeting of Congress.1 The portrait of Mr. Hancock has some resemblance in the dress and figure, but none at all in the countenance. I have not Mr. Paine’s portrait. I am sorry you have any marks of an order of Cincinnatus, which is the first step taken to deface the beauty of our temple of liberty.
We have had three grand objects in view, in all our political transactions. 1. Political and civil liberty. 2. Liberty of commerce. 3. Religious liberty. Whatever tends to illustrate these would be proper for your use. These are our real glory. But perhaps it might contribute more to the sale of your almanac to insert some things which arise more from our vanity and folly.
My poor head is scarcely worth preserving even in an almanac; but as you request it, if I can conveniently get it done, you may perhaps have it before the year comes about.
TO JAMES WARREN.
Auteuil, 27 August, 1784.
I received yours of the 29th of June by Mr. Jefferson, whose appointment gives me great pleasure. He is an old friend, with whom I have often had occasion to labor at many a knotty problem, and in whose abilities and steadiness I always found great cause to confide. The appointment of this gentleman, and that of Mr. Jay and Mr. Dana, are excellent symptoms.
I am now settled with my family at a village called Auteuil, which, although as fine a situation as any in the environs of Paris, is famous for nothing but the residence of the French Swan of the Seine, Boileau, whose house and garden are a few steps from mine. The house and garden where I am, are a monument of the youthful folly of a French nobleman, the Comte de Rouault, who built it at a vast expense, but is now very glad to let it to me at a rent sixteen guineas less than I gave last year for very small and inconvenient apartments at the Hôtel du Roi in Paris. In house, gardens, stables, and situation I think myself better off than even Dr. Franklin, although my rent is lower. These hills of Auteuil, Passy, Chaillot, Meudon, Bellevue, St. Cloud, and even Mont Martre and Mont Calvaire, although they command the prospect of Paris and its neighborhood, that is, of every thing that is great, rich and proud, are not in my eyes to be compared to the hills of Penn and Neponset, either in the grandeur or the beauty of the prospects.
Congress have mortified me a little by cutting off one fifth of my salary, at a time when the increase of my family rather required an increase of it. The consequence of it must be that I must entertain less company, whereas the interest of the United States requires that I should entertain more. There is not a man in the world less inclined to pomp or to entertainments than myself, and to me personally it is a relief to be excused from both. But if I know any thing in the world, I know that this measure is not for the public good, nor a measure of economy. If there is any body in America who understands economy better than the Dutch nation, I know nothing of either; and their policy is always, upon occasions of consequence, to appoint ambassadors, and even ambassadors extraordinary, as they did at the late peace, my friend Brantzen, with seventy-five thousand guilders to furnish his house and his table, and seventy-five thousand guilders a year to spend in it. In short, that nation which places its own ambassadors at the tail of the whole creation, cannot itself expect to be soon at the head. If this policy do not expose our country to a million insults, and at last compel her by war and bloodshed to consult better her own honor, I am much mistaken. How are we to do? We are to negotiate with all the ambassadors here, that is, we are to be invited to dine to-morrow at a table with three thousand pounds sterling in plate upon it, and next day we are to return this civility, by inviting the same company to dine with us upon earthen ware! I am well aware of the motives to this conduct, which are virtuous and laudable, but we shall find that we cannot keep up our reputation in Europe by such means, where there is no idea of the motives and principles of it, and where extreme parsimony is not economy. We have never been allowed any thing to furnish our houses or tables, and my double capacities have obliged me to furnish myself, both in Holland and France, which, besides exposing me to be unmercifully robbed and plundered in my absence, has pinched and straitened me confoundedly. However, I am the best man in the world to bear it, and so be it.
My affectionate regards to Mrs. Warren and the family.
TO FRANCIS DANA.
Auteuil, 4 November, 1784.
I presume this will meet you in Congress, where no doubt it is less irksome to serve than heretofore, but not yet so agreeable as it ought to be, and must be made. The States will find themselves obliged to make their delegates more comfortable and more honorable, if they do not see a necessity of giving more power to that Assembly. Many gentlemen in Europe think the powers in the confederation are not adequate. The Abbé de Mably and Dr. Price have taken the pains to publish their advice. They may be right, but I am not yet of their opinion. But most certainly the resolutions of Congress must have weight, and the members should be the best men. While the principal men in every State prefer to be governors, magistrates, &c., at home, which will be the case while they can live with their families in more honor and greater ease, it cannot be expected that the decisions of Congress will have the weight which they had, while those who had the first place in the confidence of the people composed that Assembly. I suppose at present, although some of the first characters are in Congress, the members in general have less influence than many of the magistrates at home.
By all the accounts I read and hear, which merit attention, the people are very happy, and getting fast into flourishing circumstances in their agriculture, commerce, and fisheries. May God prosper them in all! I enjoy at this humble distance their felicity, but I wish they would enable me to do them a little more honor by my manner of living. I consider this, however, as their affair, and do not distress myself much about it. I shall see at the end of the year how much I am in debt, and if I find myself deeper than I expect, I must run away. I cannot well be worse anywhere. You know we must live altogether out of character, and avoid all company, especially all great company, which we ought to be able to see and entertain, in return for the civilities we cannot refuse from them.
You have given me an excellent colleague and a good friend in Mr. Jefferson, and the Doctor is very gracious, never so much so since he was born, at least since I knew him. Nothing, on my part, shall give him cause to be otherwise.
Shall I say a word for Dumas? The good old man will die if you drop him, and he will be useful, I think, if you continue him. If there should be war, his intelligence will be wanted; indeed, there should be a chargé d’affaires there, and he will do as well as any body you could send there, at a moderate expense.
Will you be so good as to write me, and let me know a little of your politics? Cannot you order your minister of foreign affairs to send the journals regularly to each of us? We ought to have them. Mr. Morris’s retreat, I hope, will not interrupt or retard your fiscal arrangements. These are pressing. Doctor Franklin is dunned on all sides, and we must cut and run like Mr. Jay, if you do not provide for us.
I should be obliged to you, if you will write me what I am in debt to you, on account of my son, and draw upon me for it, whatever it is, unless you can persuade Congress to allow it you. They ought to allow you for a clerk, and if they do this, expense may be saved me, and I am very little able or willing to bear it. Yet, if it is not allowed to you, I ought to bear and will bear it, and still be much obliged to you for your kind, parental care of my boy, who loves and reveres you as he ought. He is a noble fellow, and will make a good Greek or Roman, I hope, for he spends his whole time in their company, when he is not writing for me.
I am as happy as a lord with my family, who send abundance of friendship to you and yours.
TO MRS. WARREN.
Auteuil, 13 December, 1784.
Your favor of the 1st of June has not, I fear, been answered. I have indeed been very happy ever since I received it. I live here on a kind of Penn’s Hill. It is a village, remarkable for the residence of D’Aguesseau, Boileau, Molière, and Helvetius, and for nothing else. I choose it merely for my health, as my constitution is not able to sustain the nauseous air of a great city. Amsterdam and Paris have cost me, each of them, a nervous, putrid fever. Two such broad hints, I think, should be sufficient warning to me to live in a purer air, and in a place where I can have more exercise; but I want my rural occupations, like my friend on Neponset Hill. It is said of a court life, that although it does not render a man happy, yet it hinders him from being ever afterwards happy anywhere else. The same observation is made of a Paris life. Indeed, I can easily conceive that the delights of a court, and at Paris, becoming habitual in early life, should be hardly dispensed with in future. But these delights have taken no hold on me, and I feel myself much more disposed to whine, like Cicero or Bolingbroke, over my exile, than to regret the loss of the pleasures of courts or cities. In short, I take as little of either as possible.
It is ten years and more since I devoted myself wholly to the public. How I should feel in private life, I know not; but I believe that the habits of public life have made no deeper impression. Literary pursuits were the object of my youthful desires; but the turn in public affairs disappointed me, and I am now too old and too blind ever to resume them with much ardor or any prospect of success. My little farm is now my only resource, and books for amusement, without much improvement or a possibility of benefiting the world by my studies.
You have seen Mrs. Macaulay. I should certainly have made a visit to that lady, if she had been in London when I was there. Her literary character, and the honor she has done to those political principles which we profess, should secure her a respectful reception in Boston, which I hope she has found. In England, I think she has not been indulged with so much candor as she ought. If her marriage was not discreet, this is not much to the world, who pardon infinitely greater indiscretions in infinitely less meritorious characters. But whoever in Europe is known to have adopted republican principles, must expect to have all the engines of every court and courtier in the world displayed against him. I wish it may be long otherwise in America.
[1 ]The Abbé de Mably had published his Observations upon the Government and Laws of the United States, in the form of letters addressed to Mr. Adams. Of this work a translation in Dutch was about to appear in Holland, with a preface by M. Cerisier.
[1 ]Mr. Spener was a bookseller at Berlin, who had proposed to Mr. Adams the two supposed events alluded to, as the leading designs for his next almanac. 1. General Washington summoned by Congress to be the legislator of America. 2. The foundation, by a survey, of a town for the meeting of Congress.