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As you seem so inquisitive about politics, I will indulge you so far (indulge. I say. Observe that word, indulge ! I suppose you will say, it ought to have been, oblige,) as to send you a little more news from abroad. As foreign affairs are now become more interesting to us than ever, I dare say, your political curiosity has extended itself, ere this, all over Europe. The agent of the King of Prussia has often made proposals of a commercial nature to our agents in France, and expressed a desire that some American would go to Berlin, at the instance of his sovereign, who wishes to have a clear idea of the nature of our commerce. You must know that this prince has been, several years, dreaming of making his port of Embden an Amsterdam. We cannot as yet depend, that the Dutch merchants will venture to load directly to America at their own risk. The States, however, have declared, in answer to a fresh remonstrance of General York, that their ports are open to all nations, and that their trade, to and from their own colonies, shall be unmolested, their subjects complying with the ordinances issued by their high mightinesses. Their prohibition of exporting warlike stores extends to all British subjects. Without a very material and apparent success of the British arms in America, a loan would be very slowly negotiated for England in Amsterdam. Nothing hinders them now from selling out of the English funds, but their not knowing what to do with the money. For that country may be called the treasury of Europe, and its stock of specie is more or less, according to the necessities of the different princes in Europe.
The credit of France has been very low of late. The mismanagement of the finances in the late King's reign, and the character of the late comptroller-general, M. de Clugny, had reduced it so low, that it was impossible to borrow anything considerable on perpetual funds. By life rents, something might be done. Perhaps a financier, in whose probity the world have a confidence, may restore their credit. The French stocks rose on the appointment of M. Taboureau. That it is possible for France to borrow, is certain, for at the time when M. Turgot was removed, he was negotiating a loan, and was likely to succeed, for sixty millions of guilders. The credit of Spain is extremely good. That kingdom may have what money it will, and on the best terms. The Emperor's credit is also good, not as Emperor, but from his hereditary dominions. Sweden and Denmark have good credit, the first the best. They have money at four per cent, and it is not long since the King of Sweden borrowed three millions of guilders at that interest, to pay off old debts at five per cent. His interest is paid punctually. Prussia has no credit, but his treasury is full by squeezing the last farthing from his people, and now and then he draws a little money from Holland, by reviving obsolete claims. The credit of the em press of Russia is very good, for she has punctually paid the interest of twelve millions of guilders, which she borrowed in her war with the Turk, and has lately paid off one million and a half of the principal. These arc the strongest recommendations to a mercantile people. As to America, in the present state of affairs, it is not probable that a loan is practicable, but should it appear evident that we are likely to support our in dependency, or should either France or Spain ac knowledge it, in either of these cases, we might have money, and when it shall be seen that we are punctual in our first payments of the interest, we shall have as much as we please.
- John Adams
- Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife. Edited by His Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume I, 1841