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TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
No. 44. [EDMUND RANDOLPH]
DEAR SIR :
... I have now the honor of inclosing the translation of the plan for the convocation of a National Convention, which has been sent by the States General to the several Provincial Assemblies for their consideration. The probability seems to be that it will eventually be adopted, but the deliberations will be more or less deferred in the different provinces, and a considerable time will elapse before it will be put in execution.
The principal objection that I have heard against it is, that it interposes another provisional government between the present and that of a regular constitution, that it multiplies revolutions beyond the line of necessity, and seems to prescribe changes merely for the sake of changing.
This is not however generally considered an objection of much weight, nor is the plan itself a subject of much discussion. It is indeed impossible to conceive a people more indifferent to everything relating to theories of government than the Batavians. I should hazard nothing in saying that the law calling for the gold and silver of the citizens has been the subject of more animadversions in every town of the Republic, than the plan herewith inclosed has been, or ever will be, throughout the whole territory. The plan itself may perhaps give an adequate idea of the people for whom it is formed. It is the result of three months labor and intelligence of a committee appointed for the purpose, and it is distinguishable less perhaps for any luminous principles than for a minuteness of detail, which does not disdain even the building of benches for the voters in the primary assemblies. . . .
June 26. The affair of the municipality of Rotterdam has not hitherto had consequences so unpleasant as was apprehended, the demonstration of mutual opposition has, indeed, more than once assumed an alarming appearance, but hitherto has produced no distressing events. The Provincial assembly annulled the order that had been extorted from the municipality, and discharged from their arrest the magistrates of the former Regency, excepting only the high officer Van Staveren, whose arrest is continued, and the irritation of the people of Rotterdam against him is given as the reason for the measure. They made at the same time a calm, rational and judicious address to the people who had made the irregular demands, recommending temper and moderation to them, and conjuring them not to disgrace the fair and unblemished character of the revolution by acts of violence, even against the most obnoxious characters. They proposed, however, to appoint a Committee to examine into the conduct as well relative to concerns of politics as of finance of all the former regents, in order that those who had been the oppressors of the people should be compelled to make indemnity from their private fortunes. These measures, however, were far from being satisfactory to the popular society at Rotterdam. The secretary of the irregular assembly formally protested against the decree of the Provincial Assembly, and published his protest in the newspaper. On the 22d instant the people assembled again in considerable numbers. But the French commandant of the place, in concert with the municipality, having publicly declared that he should use all the force under his command against any attempt whatever to disturb the peace, and every demonstration of a determination to defend the municipality at all hazards against any further indignity being made, they finally dispersed without attempting any violence.
June 30. I have this day received from the Greffier of the States General a card which mentions that the secretary of the Ambassador Extraordinary from the Republic at Paris has just arrived, with the ratification by the National Convention of the treaty of friendship and alliance, signed at the Hague on the 15 of May last, and inclosing two copies of the treaty. I send one of them herewith.
On the twenty-third of this month the commission of eleven appointed by the Convention to prepare and present for discussion the organic laws of the proposed French constitution, made their report to the assembly. They have abandoned without ceremony the constitution of 1793, and substituted in its stead much more similar to those forms of government which are familiar to Americans. The assembly are to open the discussion of the plan on the 4th of July.
The legislative body is proposed to consist of two parts, a council of 500 and a council of Elders to the number of 250, to be renewed by halves every two years. A landed property of some kind is made a qualification of eligibility. The Council of 250 has only a negative upon the laws proposed by the more numerous body.
The executive power is to consist of a directory of five members, one of whom is to be renewed annually, and which is to be presided by the members alternately each for three months at a time. The legislative and executive powers are both to be surrounded with forms of solemnity, and to be guarded by an armed force. These are the principal circum stances which discover the prevalence of theoretic opinions which have been unfavorably reviewed at certain periods of the Revolution. The report was made by Boissy d Anglas, a member who has been very much distinguished of late, and whose intrepidity on a recent critical occasion has given him an extraordinary degree of popularity. It was received with great applause by the audience in the galleries, and appears to be equally satisfactory to the public in Paris. I have the honor to be, &c.
- John Quincy Adams