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TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
No. [EDMUND RANDOLPH]
I left London on the twenty-eighth ultimo, and arrived here on the 31st, at night.
In the course of the present week I expect to have my audience of the States. The Stadtholder is at Nimeguen, or with the army.
The outward aspect of this country is not that of a nation invaded by a powerful and victorious army. From Helvoetsluys to this place, a distance of about twenty of our miles, everything wears the appearance of peace and tranquility.
At Amsterdam everything is also quiet. Mr. Van Staphorst and five others of the deputation from the subscribers of the petition against the inundations, etc., have escaped and fled. Mr. Visscher and four or five more are imprisoned on the same account. Three or five thousand troops have been introduced into the city, as a check upon the dispositions of the people, and for the present the government there meets with no resistance or opposition.
But in the meantime the French armies continue to ad vance, and the allied armies to retreat. The Duke of York after his defeat on the 19th [October] abandoned Nimeguen, and retired to Arnheim across the Waal and the Rhine. Since then, however, the French have been repulsed with considerable loss in an attack before Nimeguen. It is confidently asserted that the Duke of Brunswick is immediately expected to take the command of the allied armies and the Duke of York is to serve under him.
As to Maestricht there is a report that it has capitulated, and another that the French have also been defeated there. Venlo has certainly capitulated. The human force which the allies can at this time oppose against the progress of the French troops is not competent to answer the end, but the season is now far advanced, it becomes very rainy and unhealthy, so that possibly the armies of both parties will be obliged to go into winter quarters.
The probability that the French will penetrate to Amster dam this season is, I think, not quite so great as it appeared to be three weeks since. And if there should be a respite of two or three months from the war, the interval will doubtless be very busily employed in negotiation.
Mr. Fagel is gone to London from hence upon a mission, the purpose of which is said to be to demonstrate to the British Ministry the absolute necessity of negotiating a peace, and to give them notice that unless they will join in it, the Hollanders must attempt it separately.
On the other hand Lord Spencer and Mr. Grenville have returned from Vienna, having as is said totally failed in the object of their mission, which was to prevail upon the Emperor to continue the war with vigor for the recovery of his own dominions, and to offer him a subsidy of five millions sterling for the purpose. I suppose all this to be conjectural, for the object of those negotiations in both instances is not public.
What will not admit of any doubt is, that the allies, as is usual among partners that play a losing game, are dissatisfied with one another ; nor is there any present appearance that their armies will cooperate with any sort of cordiality the ensuing season in case the war should continue.
Five of the Provinces here have declared for negotiating a peace separately, the other two no doubt will follow. But what kind of peace can they expect to obtain from France under the present circumstances?
The Patriotic party have no centre of union ; they dare have but little communication together, and I apprehend there is no plan for their operations concerted by any considerable number of them.
From the few observations I have been able to make hitherto I imagine they have no desire of peace at present. Their animosity against the Stadtholder and the Regencies l is so great, that they would rather submit to the French as conquerors, than make peace with them as friends by the means of their present government. The inveteracy of the parties against each other is even greater than I expected, and if a revolution of the ruling power should take place, it is to be feared that humanity will suffer severely under the operation.
The expectation of the Patriots is, that if the French should succeed, their private property will be respected. Many of them suppose no doubt that a discrimination will be made between them and the adverse party, and as France declared war only against the Stadtholder and his adherents, the nation will fraternize with all those who were before that time and have continued to be their implacable enemies.
Private property has, indeed, hitherto been left untouched by the French in the places which they have conquered, and the only complaint of the people who have submitted to them has been the compulsive circulation of assignats in payment for whatever they purchase. Should this system be pursued, and the conquest of this country be completed, a total revolution of the government and even of the Constitution here seems to be inevitable. But whether the Provinces will be annexed to the French Republic or left to form a new government for themselves, to be in alliance with France, no person here appears to have formed an opinion whereupon to found a rational expectation.
As this event might place me in a very embarrassing situation, I am anxiously desirous of receiving eventual instructions to regulate my conduct in either of the cases which have got so far within the limits of probability.
Should this country become a dependence of the French Republic, my mission will of course be terminated by the extinction of the nation itself to which I am sent. Should it continue an independent Republic, but under a different form of government and constitution from that to which I am accredited, my functions authorized by the credentials and instructions which I now bear would, of course, be suspended. It is impossible to anticipate what species of authority may rise, instead of that which has hitherto governed this people. But it will be a great relief to my own mind, and possibly may be of service to the public, if I can be pre pared for either of those events I have mentioned, by know ing whether it is the pleasure of the President, that I should consider them as a termination of my Commission, and implying a permission to me to return home, or that I should remain here and wait for his express orders, subsequent to his knowledge of these occurrences.
I have not yet received an answer from our bankers to the letter which I wrote them from London and am there fore still ignorant of the fate of the loan for 800,000 dollars for which they were commissioned. I shall write them again immediately, and as soon as I have obtained my admission here intend going to Amsterdam myself. In the meantime, I remain etc.
- John Quincy Adams