Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
John Adams and the Diplomacy of the American Revolution

John Adams and the Diplomacy of the American Revolution

Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    John Adams and the Diplomacy of the American Revolution
    Book Description:

    The figure of John Adams looms large in American foreign relations of the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary years. James H. Hutson captures this elusive personality of this remarkable figure, highlighting the triumphs and the despairs that Adams experienced as he sought -- at times, he felt, single-handedly -- to establish the new Republic on a solid footing among the nations of the world. Benjamin Franklin, thirty years Adams's senior and already a world-respected figure, was his personal nemesis, seeming always to dog his steps in his diplomatic missions.

    The diplomacy of the American Revolution as exemplified by John Adams was not radically revolutionary or peculiarly American. Whereas the prevailing progressive interpretation of Revolutionary diplomacy sees it as repudiating the standard European theories and practices, Hutson finds that Adams adhered consistently to a policy that was in fact basically European and conservative. Adams assumed -- as did his contemporaries -- that power was aggressive and that it should be contained in a balance, so his actions while in diplomatic service were generally directed toward this goal. Adams's basic ideas survived his turbulent diplomatic missions with undiminished coherence. For him the value of the protective system of the balance of power -- having been tested in the harsh theater of European diplomacy -- was indisputable and could be applied to domestic political arrangements as well as to international relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6348-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. ii-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-32)

    The foreign policy of the American Revolution was not revolutionary. The ideas shaping it were those that informed European diplomatic thinking throughout the eighteenth century. Colonial Americans adopted those ideas as readily as they did the fashions, the books, and the other appurtenances of European culture that they imported so avidly. John Adams and his fellow statesmen of the Revolution absorbed the ideas as they grew up and, in 1776, applied them to the new American nation’s relations with foreign powers.

    Eighteenth-century European diplomacy, writes Felix Gilbert, was “entirely dominated by the concept of power.” Its key ideas were the...

  5. CHAPTER 2 FRANCE, 1778-1779
    (pp. 33-50)

    Although Adams’s grasp of foreign affairs impressed his friends and political associates and made him a prime candidate, in their eyes, to represent the United States abroad, he did not, in 1776, regard himself as a potential diplomat. His forte, he believed, was domestic polity. “Every Colony,” he wrote William Cushing on June 9, “must be induced to institute a perfect Government. All the Colonies must confederate together, in some Solemn Compact.” Independence must be declared and the treaty plan drafted. “When these Things shall be once well finished, or in a Way of being so, I shall think that...

    (pp. 51-74)

    TheSensiblecrossed the Atlantic without incident and put in at Boston on August 2, 1779. A sea voyage did not improve Adams’s disposition, for a friend who visited him at Braintree shortly after his arrival found him “disgusted” and “mortified” at the termination of his commission, full of “disappointment, chagrin, and vexation.”¹ The people of Braintree temporarily diverted him from his problems by electing him to represent them at a convention, called for Cambridge, September 1, to prepare a constitution for Massachusetts. The convention availed itself of Adams’s talents as a political theorist and made him the draftsman, the...

    (pp. 75-101)

    Adams left Paris on July 27, passed through Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, and The Hague and arrived in Amsterdam on August 10, 1780, where he lived for the next twenty months. The decision to settle in Amsterdam was ill advised. True, as the financial capital of Holland, it was the place to negotiate a loan, which would lessen American dependence on France. But Adams’s objective in the Netherlands extended beyond borrowing money. Always considering his peace commission his primary trust, he wanted to do something in Holland to “accelerate” peace negotiations. Therefore, his objective in the Netherlands was, in its broadest...

    (pp. 102-116)

    In the fall of 1781 changes occurred in Dutch politics. On September 7, 1781, the British cabinet accepted a new Russian offer to mediate the conflict with the Netherlands. Galitzin, the Russian ambassador at The Hague, announced the British decision to the States General on November 9. “A new order of things had developed,” Vauguyon declared, for whether by accident or design the alteration in British policy coincided with a significant realignment of Dutch political forces. From the beginning of Anglo-Dutch hostilities Amsterdam had been the soul of the struggle against Great Britain. But in the fall of 1781 what...

    (pp. 117-141)

    Adams arrived in Paris on October 26, 1782, and prepared for the peace negotiations by outfitting himself, from wig to shoes, in French fashions and by taking a bath in the Seine. The waters cleansed the outer man only, however; they did not wash away Adams’s apprehensions about Franklin and Vergennes.

    The revocation of his commission as sole peace negotiator had, he wrote Dana on December 14, 1781, “removed the cause of envy, I had like to have said, but I fear I must retract since JA still stands before BF in the commission.” Throughout 1782 he was convinced that...

    (pp. 142-156)

    The turbulence of Adams’s diplomatic service raises the question of how his ideas about American foreign policy withstood the periods of stress and turmoil which he experienced abroad. The answer is that his ideas survived his diplomatic missions with undiminished coherence. If anything, his commitment to them was strengthened by his diplomatic experiences, for the conviction which, in Europe, he found so unnerving and imperious, that a dynamic, malign conspiracy of the powerful was directed against him, confirmed the assumption which was central to his thinking and to that of his contemporaries, that power was aggressive and “propulsive”¹ and that...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 157-190)
    (pp. 191-192)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 193-199)