Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11


xi Descriptive List of Illustrations
Descriptive List of Illustrations
1. CHARLES ADAMS, ca. 1795 19[unavailable]
On 16 August 1795 Charles Adams wrote to seek his mother’s permission to marry Sarah (Sally) Smith: “It appears to be the wish of those concerned and a wish that perfectly coincides with mine that the connection between Sally and myself should take place as early in the fall as possible” (below). Known for his good looks and likable personality, Charles had been interested in Sally, the sister of William Stephens Smith, since at least 1792. On 29 August 1795, Sally and Charles, along with Sally’s sister Margaret and her fiancé, Felix Leblond de St. Hilaire, were married at the First Presbyterian Church in New York City.
While the Adamses initially had some reservations about this match, they were relieved to see Charles happily settled. Sister Nabby wrote to John Quincy on 26 October, remarking on Charles’ marriage, “after all the Hair Breadth scrapes and iminent dangers he has run, He is at last Safe Landed—and I beleive is very happy” (below). Charles seemed to have recovered from his worrisome youth at Harvard College and was by the mid-1790s engaged in a promising legal career. Following their marriage, he and Sally would have two daughters, Susanna Boylston (1796–1884) and Abigail Louisa Smith (1798–1836). Unfortunately, Charles’ transformation did not last, and he succumbed to alcoholism, dying at the age of thirty in 1800.
This miniature portrait by an unknown artist is the only known extant likeness of Charles. Possibly an oil on ivory, it is reproduced from an article on the Adams family in the illustrated magazine Wide Awake, November 1888. The present location of the original miniature is unknown (“Records of the First and Second Presbyterian Churches of the City of New York,” NYGBR, 13:87 [April 1882]; vol. 8:xxviii–xxix; Oliver, Portraits of JQA and LCA, p. 33–34).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
On 19 November 1795 John Quincy Adams paid a visit to the home of William Henry Ireland, who had reputedly acquired a massive trove of “lost” Shakespeare documents, including an original xii manuscript of King Lear; a fragment from Hamlet; correspondence, including a letter to Queen Elizabeth I; legal documents; and a wholly unknown play entitled Vortigern, which, according to John Quincy, Ireland claimed “will be ranked among the very best plays of the author.” After seeing some of the items, John Quincy noted in his Diary that “the marks of authenticity born by the manuscripts are very considerable,” but that the findings were likely to create “a literary controversy.” Writing a few days later to his mother, he further observed, “Mr Ireland told us indeed that no single person that had seen the papers entertained the smallest doubt of their being genuine, but this assurance did not entirely remove mine” (D/JQA/24, APM Reel 27; JQA to AA, 24 Nov. 1795, below).
John Quincy was right to be skeptical. Ireland (1777–1835) had forged all of these items as part of a scheme to secure the royalties from Shakespeare’s plays. His forgeries initially fooled numerous experts, but doubters emerged and a public debate ensued regarding the possibility that the papers were fake. After the only performance of Vortigern in April 1796, Ireland published a confession, An Authentic Account of the Shaksperian Manuscripts, London, 1796.
The alleged letter to “Anna hatherrewaye” reproduced here came with a lock of hair about which “Shakespeare” wrote, “I praye you perfume thys mye poore Locke withe thye balmye Kysses forre thenne indeede shalle Kynges themmeselves bowe and paye homage toe itte.” Ireland was apparently determined not only to rewrite Shakespeare’s plays but also to reimagine Shakespeare’s marriage as a true love affair (Jeffrey Kahan, Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal, Bethlehem, Penn., 1998, p. 9–10, 17–20, 41–43, 56, 66–67, 125–126, 166–167, 196; Patricia Pierce, The Great Shakespeare Fraud: The Strange, True Story of William-Henry Ireland, Phoenix Mill, Eng., 2004, p. 77–80).
Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.
3. “TITANIA AND BOTTOM,” BY HENRY FUSELI, ca. 1790 129[unavailable]
John Quincy Adams reported to his mother on 6 Jan. 1796 that he was “very highly gratified” with his viewing of the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery in London (below). Alderman John Boydell and his nephew Josiah Boydell developed the idea in 1786 to create both a gallery and a new edition of Shakespeare’s plays featuring scenes illustrated by the best artists available. Although John Boydell conceded that English historical painting was still “but in its infancy,” he and his nephew strove to “establish an English School of Historical Painting.” They opened the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery on Pall Mall in 1789, eventually showing over 160 paintings by various artists and selling subscriptions for print editions of the images.
Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) made more contributions to the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery than any other artist, and his were arguably the most original. Influenced by the German Sturm und xiii Drang literary movement, he preferred to depict fantastical scenes and moments of high emotion in Shakespeare’s plays. One such piece by Fuseli, “Titania and Bottom,” represents Act IV, scene i, of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In this woodland scene, Titania falls under a spell, and Bottom, his head transformed into that of an ass, becomes the object of her affections. John Quincy was unimpressed, characterizing the piece as a mere visualization of “the nauseous incoherencies of a sick man’s dream” (same).
At about the time of John Quincy’s visit, the gallery’s subscribers were becoming anxious to see the engraved prints. John Boydell requested patience as “works of genius cannot be hurried,” but in 1804 the patience of the funders ran out and the gallery closed its doors. John Boydell died shortly thereafter, and a lottery was held to disperse the gallery’s collection (Oxford Art Online; Katherine Kickel, “Seeing Shakespeare for the First Time All Over Again in the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery,” Journal of the Wooden O Symposium, 5:82–86, 94–95 [2005]; John Boydell, A Catalogue of the Pictures, &c. in the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall-Mall, London, 1796, p. iii, vii–viii).
Courtesy of Digital Image © Tate, London, 2012.
4. “THE CARRIER’S CART,” BY JOHN CRANCH, 1796 161[unavailable]
After visiting with Richard Cranch’s nephew, John Cranch (1751–1821), at Axminster in 1787, Abigail Adams recounted his “delicate complexion” and “small features.” She surmised that although “he had been cramped and cowed in his Youth,” he developed into “a virtuous amiable man.” By the 1790s, John Cranch had left Axminster, where he was an attorney, and moved to London, where he took up painting professionally.
Influenced by seventeenth-century Flemish genre scenes, Cranch’s known body of work asserts the value of painting landscapes and everyday life, discounting bias “against Familiar nature, life and manners.” An example of his artistic philosophy, “The Carrier’s Cart” depicts a rustic wagon carrying merry peasants, a twine-bound parcel, and a small dog in a wicker basket. The people, rural station, and horse-drawn cart are rendered with rusty brown tones that match the earthy foreground.
“Mr. John Cranch is a charming painter,” John Adams reported to Abigail in a letter of 6 February 1796, but he added that the artist is “without much encouragement” (below). Self-taught, Cranch never achieved any substantial success, though he received some recognition from the Society of Artists. The last known exhibition of his work was held at the British Institution in 1808, where he showed seven pieces. Cranch influenced John Constable’s development as an artist with his “Painter’s Reading” (1796), a listing of essential books on art. He continued to write about the arts, publishing the treatise Inducements to Promote the Fine Arts of Great Britain: by Exciting Native Genius to Independent Effort, and Original Designations in 1811 (JA, D&A , 3:206–207; DNB ; John xiv Constable: Further Documents and Correspondence, ed. Leslie Parris and others, London, 1975, p. 196, 199–202; From Gainsborough to Constable: The Emergence of Naturalism in British Landscape Painting 1750–1810, Woodbridge, Eng., 1991, p. 13, 62).
Courtesy of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Exeter.
On 16 April 1796 John Adams wrote to Abigail that “the People of the United States are about to be Stirred up in every quarter of the Union.” John was referring to the debate in the House of Representatives over implementing the necessary appropriations for carrying the Jay Treaty into effect. John noted that the Philadelphia merchants “unanimously voted to Petition that The Faith The Honour and the Interest of the Nation may be preserved. They have appointed Committees to correspond with the Merchants in all the seaports.” Writing from New York on 24 April, Charles Adams informed John Quincy that “petitions are flowing in from all parts of the continent signed by most of the people of property urging them to make the appropriations.” On 1 May Abigail reported to John that many residents of Massachusetts were also frustrated with the delays in implementing the Jay Treaty: “The people have waited During a Months Debate with patience and temper, expecting that in the End, the House would comply, but as they see them grow hardned, and the period nearly at Hand, when Great Britain has stipulated to deliver the posts, a well grounded fear has pervaded throughout New England, which has roused the Merchant the Mechanick, the Farmer” (all below).
Six respected New Englanders—Jeremy Belknap, Thomas Dawes, Simeon Howard, Jonathan Mason Jr., George R. Minot, and John Warren—prepared a circular letter addressed “To THE FREE AND INDEPENDENT CITIZENS” of the towns of Massachusetts protesting the congressional delay in funding the treaty. This circular letter was published in the Boston Columbian Centinel, 30 April. The authors of the memorial warned that further obstruction would bring about another conflict with Great Britain: “Should the House persist to refuse their concurrence to give operation to that Treaty, PEACE, with her smiling train of attendant blessings, may be expelled from our Country; and WAR! horrid WAR! with all its varied and multiplied desolations be introduced in her stead.” Included with the circular letter was a memorial from the city of Boston, signed by 1,300 citizens, and adopted by the town “at a meeting the most numerous perhaps ever known.”
The authors designed the letter for mass distribution. The copy illustrated here, addressed to the residents of Southborough, includes a handwritten note in the lower left corner, “Is it not expedient to communicate this on Sunday?” While some towns embraced this approach, others used regular town meetings to discuss xv it. On 4 May Abigail wrote to John that at its town meeting “the inhabitants of Quincy yesterday very generally Signd the Memorial” (below). In the end, Massachusetts citizens in “above Forty Towns,” including roughly one hundred subscribers in Quincy, signed memorials such as this urging the treaty’s immediate implementation (MHi:(Circular.) To the Free and Independent Citizens; Evans, No. 31302; Boston Columbian Centinel, 11 May).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
6, 7. JOSHUA JOHNSON AND CATHERINE NUTH JOHNSON, ca. 1792 302[unavailable] , 303[unavailable]
These miniature oil portraits of Joshua (1742–1802) and Catherine Nuth (1757–1811) Johnson were part of a group of nine small oval portraits, each measuring approximately 6 by 4 1/2 inches, that also included the seven Johnson daughters. At the time the paintings were made, Joshua Johnson was a successful Maryland businessman who had been living abroad for over twenty years. Catherine Nuth was an Englishwoman whom Joshua had met after he arrived in London in 1771 to work with the mercantile firm of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. The couple would marry in 1785.
The Johnsons relocated to Nantes, France, during the American Revolution. They returned to London in 1783, residing on Cooper’s Row, Great Tower Hill, until they sailed for the United States in 1797. In 1790 Joshua became the U.S. consul in London, and their home served as the center of Joshua’s consular and commercial business. The Adams and Johnson families had known each other since 1779, when John and John Quincy, while waiting for a ship to take them back to the United States, had spent time with the family in Nantes. John Quincy became reacquainted with the Johnsons in November 1795 during a diplomatic trip to London, and he subsequently began his courtship of Louisa Catherine.
In his miniature portrait, Joshua wears a dark brown jacket with a large notched collar and lapels. Underneath, he wears a buff waistcoat with a high standing collar and a white ruffle attached to his shirtfront. His white hair, quite possibly a wig, is curled up at the ends. In keeping with fashionable women’s attire of the 1790s, Catherine Nuth wears a stylish light blue silk dress with a fitted bodice and sleeves. A sheer fichu or rounded handkerchief overlays a lace inset on the low neckline of her dress. A tall embellished hat in a matching silk fabric sits high on her head with a trailing white scarf. Very likely a professional hairdresser styled the curls that surround her face and the loose waves that fall to her shoulders. The artist is unknown, and the date of the sitting is conjectural but based on the apparent age of the youngest Johnson daughter, Adelaide (Oliver, Portraits of JQA and LCA, p. 22–27; LCA, D&A, 1:x, xxi–xxii, 3, 6, 7, 19, 42, 49, 2:773–774; Andrew Oliver and others, Portraits in the MHS, Boston, 1988, p. 56; Ann Buermann Wass and Michelle Webb Fandrich, Clothing Through American History: The Federal Era Through Antebellum, 1786–1860, Santa Barbara, Calif., 2010, p. 63, 85–86).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
William Cranch moved to Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1794 to work for the land speculation firm of Morris, Nicholson & Greenleaf. Writing to John Quincy Adams two years later, Cranch described the nascent federal city as containing “about 100 hansome brick houses the greatest part of which are yet unfinished & of course uninhabited.” There were also “about 100 decent wooden dwelling houses occupied by tradesmen,” all of which were “scatter’d about over the whole face of the City” so that “there is yet but little appearance of a town” (16 Sept. 1796, below).
Cranch also noted in his letter to John Quincy that the federal city was “an object which undoubtedly attracts the attention of many People in Europe.” One such person was the Englishman George Isham Parkyns (1749–ca. 1820), a watercolorist and engraver who traveled to the United States in the mid-1790s. This image by Parkyns, originally issued in 1795 by New York publisher James Harrison, was supposed to be part of a set of 24 American landscapes—from Washington to Philadelphia to Boston—that would be sold by subscription. The full set was never produced, however, and Parkyns returned to Great Britain around 1800.
The aquatint depicts the port of Georgetown, D.C., in the late eighteenth century. Georgetown served as an important terminus on the Potomac River for the shipment of goods from upriver counties and was the uppermost point on the Potomac that could be reached by oceangoing vessels. In the foreground a ship is docked at the wharf while in the background two other vessels are seen in the harbor. The buildings on the waterfront are a mixture of brick and wooden manufacture in various stages of construction. In front of the buildings a rider on horseback converses with a man leading a horse-drawn cart over the dirt road (Oxford Art Online; Eleanor M. McPeck, “George Isham Parkyns: Artist and Landscape Architect, 1749–1820,” The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, 30:175–176, 181 [July 1973]; Proposals for Publishing in Aquatinta, a Series of Views … from the City of Washington on the Patomac, through Baltimore, Philadelphia, &c. &c. to Boston, in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, 1799, Evans, No. 48952; Robert J. Kapsch, The Potomac Canal: George Washington and the Waterway West, Morgantown, W. Va., 2007, p. 14, 20).
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-23666.
On 28 November 1796 Abigail Adams wrote to John Quincy after learning of his betrothal to his “kindred Soul,” Louisa Catherine Johnson. Abigail asked “Louissa to Set for her Miniature.” Abigail requested that the painting be the same size as John Quincy’s 1795 miniature by Mr. Parker, and she specified that a lock of hair be xvii included “upon the reverse” (below). While John Quincy does not appear to have received his mother’s letter, it is probable that this miniature of Louisa was executed ca. 1796 and sent to Abigail.
Composed of oil on ivory, this portrait captures Louisa at about 22 years old, near the time of her marriage to John Quincy. Depicted with a palette of pale and tranquil colors, Louisa wears a white dress with a light pink sash over one shoulder. Her hair is swept back from her face with loose curls and entwined with a sheer scarf and pearls.
The initials “SS,” painted near Louisa’s left shoulder, suggest that the artist is Samuel Shelley (1750–1808). A self-taught artist from London, he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and was a founder of the Society of Painters in Water Colours. At the time of Louisa’s miniature, Shelley’s work was actively sought after and carried fees commensurate with his reputation and experience (vol. 10:xii, 216; Oliver, Portraits of JQA and LCA, p. 31, 33; Oxford Art Online; George C. Williamson, The Miniature Collector: A Guide for the Amateur Collector of Portrait Miniatures, N.Y., 1921, p. 175).
Courtesy of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
10. JAMES GREENLEAF, BY GILBERT STUART, 1795 484[unavailable]
Boston native James Greenleaf (1765–1843) made and later lost his fortune in land speculation schemes in the early republic. As brother-in-law to William Cranch (and occasionally Cranch’s employer), his activities were of particular interest to the Adamses. On 23 January 1796 John Adams informed Abigail that Greenleaf had “taken Advantage of the Gullability of the Boston Speculators” by swindling from them “half a Million of Dollars by a very Artful Sale of shares at a monstrous Price” (below). Greenleaf was selling portions of the Yazoo land grants in Georgia—vast tracts of land with largely fraudulent boundaries. The following year, John again wrote to Abigail about Greenleaf, noting that he had “commenced Suits” against Robert Morris and John Nicholson “for five hundred thousand Dollars. What will be the Fate of all these men I know not nor guess” (5 Jan. [1797 ], below). The suits and countersuits emerged out of Greenleaf’s land speculation in Washington, D.C., and in the North American Land Company. All three men were ultimately imprisoned for debt at the Prune Street prison in Philadelphia. Greenleaf, however, was released in 1798 by utilizing Pennsylvania laws that allowed him to leave prison as an insolvent debtor. He subsequently returned to Washington and resumed his financial activities.
The American painter Gilbert Stuart, after spending more than twenty years in Great Britain, returned to the United States in the spring of 1793 and established himself as a portraitist. James Greenleaf commissioned this painting in 1795 before his financial losses. The oil on canvas shows Greenleaf dressed in a dark suit with a high-standing collar, a dark waistcoat, and a white shirt with a large xviii ruffle. His wavy hair is curled up at the ends, and the tail is tied with a black ribbon at the nape of his neck (vol. 10:156; Greenleaf, Greenleaf Family, p. 101; Abernethy, The South in the New Nation, p. 138–139, 149; Clark, Greenleaf and Law, p. 169, 171, 172; Oxford Art Online).
Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Deposited by J. Rush Ritter on behalf of the Livingston Family.