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John Adams

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In 1780 Adams transferred his residence to Amsterdam in order to secure the recognition of independence, and to get loans from Dutch merchants; but he did not meet with much success until the surrender of Lord Cornwallis virtually closed the war. He then returned to Paris, in 1782, to assist Franklin and Jay to arrange the treaty of peace with Great Britain, and the acknowledgment of the independence of the States; and here his steady persistency, united with the clear discernment of Jay, obtained important concessions in reference to the fisheries, the navigation of the Mississippi, and American commerce.

Adams never liked France, as Franklin and Jefferson did. The French seemed to him shallow, insincere, egotistical, and swayed by fanciful theories. Ardent as was his love of liberty, he distrusted the French Revolution, and had no faith in its leaders. Nor was he a zealous republican. He saw more in the English Constitution to admire than Americans generally did; although, while he respected English institutions, he had small liking for Englishmen, as they had for him. In truth, he was a born grumbler, and a censorious critic. He did not like anybody very much, except his wife, and, beyond his domestic circle, saw more faults than virtues in those with whom he was associated. Even with his ardent temperament he had not those warm friendships which marked Franklin and Jefferson.

John Adams found his residence abroad rather irksome and unpleasant, and he longed to return to his happy home. But his services as a diplomatist were needed in England. No more suitable representative of the young republic, it was thought, could be found, in spite of his impatience, restlessness, pugnacity, imprudence, and want of self-control; for he was intelligent, shrewd, high-spirited, and quick-sighted. The diplomatists could not stand before his blunt directness, and he generally carried his point by eloquence and audacity. His presence was commanding, and he impressed everybody by his magnetism and brainpower. So Congress, in 1785, appointed him minister to Great Britain. The King forced himself to receive Adams graciously in his closet, but afterwards he treated him even with rudeness; and of course the social circles of London did the same. The minister soon found his position more uncomfortable even than it had been in Paris. His salary, also, was too small to support his rank like other ambassadors, and he was obliged to economize. He represented a league rather than a nation,--a league too poor and feeble to pay its debts, and he had to endure many insults on that account. Nor could he understand the unfriendly spirit with which he was received. He had hoped that England would have forgotten her humiliation, but discovered his error when he learned that the States were to be indirectly crushed and hampered by commercial restrictions and open violations of the law of nations. England being still in a state of irritation toward her former colonies, he was not treated with becoming courtesy, and of course had no social triumphs such as Franklin had enjoyed at Paris. Finding that he could not accomplish what he had desired and hoped for, he became disgusted, possibly embittered, and sent in his resignation, after a three years' residence in London, and returned home. Altogether, his career as a diplomatist was not a great success; his comparative failure, however, was caused rather by the difficulties he had to surmount than by want of diplomatic skill. If he was not as successful as had been hoped, he returned with unsullied reputation. He had made no great mistakes, and had proved himself honest, incorruptible, laborious, and patriotic. The country appreciated his services, when, under the new Constitution, the consolidated Union chose its rulers, and elevated him to the second office in the republic.