Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 1 – 8 August 1785 JQA AA2 John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 1 – 8 August 1785 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d
N:5. Monday New York August 1st. 1785

In my last1 I just mentioned having been over upon Long Island, and paid a visit to Mrs. Smith, the Colls.s Mother: she was very polite to me, and appeared to miss her Son, much. All the family are in mourning for the old gentleman who died about 9 months ago. There is one Son here now, and if I mistake not, 6 daughters. Sally strikes most at first sight: she is tall; has a very fine shape, and a vast deal of vivacity in her eyes, which are of a light blue; she has the ease and elegance of a French Lady, without their loquacity. Her conversation I am told is as pleasing as her figure: but of that I only speak, from hearsay.—There is also on this island a celebrated beauty by the name of Miss Ogden: she looks I think, something like Mrs. Bingham: she is not so tall, nor so red, although I believe she has more colour.

243 2d

I have been writing a letter to your Pappa;2 but it is full of politics. I don't know whether he will not think I meddle too much with them: but there are some things he may wish to be inform'd of, and at many places where I go into company I hear nothing else: so that I am obliged bongré, malgré, as the french say, still to dip a little in that subject: but I don't care how soon, I leave it off entirely. Mr. Church goes on Thursday.

I dined to day with Doctor Crosby, who came the other day, as soon as he knew I was in town, to see me. I imagine he thinks me a very cerimonious being: for, the day that he first saw me, he ask'd me to drink tea with him that afternoon. I promised I would: but I happened to dine in a Company where I was kept till it was too late, to wait upon the Doctor. The next day I went to his house to make an apology, but he was not at home: and yesterday I received a card containing a most formal invitation to dine to day. I find it a very nice matter here, to take a just medium between Ceremony and ease. If a person is formal he is laugh'd at, and if otherwise he often offends. It is exactly the fable of the miller and his Son.


I have been spending the evening with Mr. Gerry and Mr. King. Mr. Gerry writes to your Pappa, by Mr. Church who is to sail to morrow morning, and to whom I have given 2 letters for you; and one for your Pappa.3 I have not been able to find time for writing to Mamma. You will present my duty to her, and make an apology for me.

I was shown this evening a poem in manuscript, called a receipt for a wife: it is a catalogue of the celebrated beauties in this town, abusing some, and commending others. I would send you a Copy of it, but it is really such a pitiful performance, that it would not probably furnish you any entertainment. I am told of another piece in the same way; if I find it better I will give you some extracts from it, in case I can get a copy of it.


Mr. Church sail'd in the Packet this morning with my letters: they will show you that I have not been forgetful of my promises. I dined4 with a large Company at Mr. Osgood's. I was introduced this morning to a Miss Riché5 lately arrived from Philadelphia; and was this evening in Company with her at Mr. Sears's. She is a great beauty, but 244if I mistake not has a good deal of Affectation. She sings, plays upon the harpsichord, and writes songs herself: consequently she must be witty; but she is affected.—The Miss Sears's, you know I believe. Polly was married last spring to Mr. Bordieu. Sally, some say, is soon to be married to a Mr. Gamble; but fame has not yet disposed of Becca, the prettiest of them all.

I have got a Copy of the poem I yesterday talk'd of. It speaks of Miss Becca as follows.

If Becca would but learn to walk And not be so afraid to talk With greater lustre she would shine In other eyes as well as mine. Praise her for elegance of form Which would the coldest marble warm Praise her for sprightliness of wit, Her Character you'll justly hit. She's tender, virtuous and mild But walks, as if she was a child.

You know, that part of our agreement is to give each other our opinion upon Characters; but I trust you will allow me to quote from other People, especially, when it is in verse. I am told the author of this piece is partial, in favour of Miss Sears when he says she is witty: as she is not much celebrated as a wit. Of this I cannot decide, for although I have been several times in Company with her, I don't know that four words have ever pass'd between us.


The President6 has a large Company of 20, or 25 persons to dine with him, three times a week: but as he has no Lady himself, he entertains none but gentlemen. Once a week, he has a musical Entertainment, as it is here called, that is, he invites a number of persons among his Company, that sing songs after dinner, and, there was one to day. Among the singers the most curious was Genl. Howe, of whom you have often heard. He is you know not less famous for cracking the bottle, than for singing a song. Being requested to day to sing, he endeavoured once or twice to begin but found something wanting. At last he cried out, “give me that Madeira to revive me, for I have been flattening my voice by drinking Burgundy.” And after drinking his glass he sung, “Once the gods of the greeks,” very well.

I went this Evening, with the President to a Mr. Eccles's. Miss 245Eccles, is the most perfect at the harpsichord, of any Lady in the City, or perhaps on the Continent. I must again quote from the same poem, which speaks of this Lady thus.

Miss Eccles now my lay commands, Her mind harmonious as her hands. Six hours in every twenty four For nine revolving years or more (Some rigid moralist may say) Is too much time to spend at play. I own the observation true, But still admire the music too For he that hears her must forget The time she lost in learning it.

I am sure my Sister would never agree to purchase perfection in the art of music upon such conditions, and I should be very sorry if she would.


Young Chaumont, who has been at Philadelphia, almost all the time since he arrived, return'd here a few days since, and is going shortly to Boston. Perhaps we shall go both at the same time. When he first arrived here he presented a memorial to Congress, requesting that, they would order all the paper money, which french merchants had received in the course of the war, or which now lies in their hands, to be paid in hard money, dollar for dollar.7 This will surprise you probably as much as it did every body on this side the water. Yet Chaumont really presented his memorial with hopes of succeeding. Congress have not given any answer, and he begins to think that the plan will not take. He tells me he will show me his memorial, and says, I shall then own that his pretensions, are absolutely just, and equitable.


I attended Church this morning at St. Paul's, for we have a St. Paul's here, as well as you in London, but it is something like Alexander the great, and Alexander the Copper smith.8 This is however the largest and most frequented Church in New York, and is more consistent with the smallness of the City than it would be if it vied in grandeur and magnificence with its namesake in London. After Church I left a card at Miss van Berkel's; she arrived here two 246days ago, from Philadelphia. She had a passage of 13 weeks (in a Dutch vessel) and yet her brother, who had been informed of the time of her sailing, by the arrival of other vessels; told me, that she arrived before he expected her.—I paid a visit too this forenoon to Miss Alsop. Her father is acquainted with our's.9 She is called a Coquet.

Why is not Alsop often told That coquetry is grown quite old? That nothing is more out of date Than affectation, and conceit? The eye half shut, the dimpled cheek And languid look, are arts too weak, To win the heart of any youth, Who loves simplicity and truth.

These lines have not however cured her of her fault: for the 5th. and 6th. are an exact description of her appearance, as it was to day, and I am told she is always so. She is fair, and pretty, but injures her appearance much by those simpering airs.

I was at a party at tea this afternoon, and Miss van Berkel was present. There were only two or three persons in Company that could speak to her, so, I was obliged to converse with her, near two hours together. And here I must tell you, that I believe more and more firmly, that what a certain Friend of mine said of her, is a most infamous falsehood. She behaves as well, as any young lady I know of, and I believe if her brother knew what that coxcomb said of her, he would make him repent it heartily. She complains of not understanding the language, as bitterly, as you did when you first arrived in France. She says she had no idea, how awkward one appears in a large company, where one can neither hear what is said nor speak one's self. You have had sufficient proofs of the truth of this observation: tho' you was not often subjected to the inconvenience.


I went out this morning with some Company to Content, a seat, about 3 miles out of town, where Lady Wheate lives. She is one of the most celebrated belles in the City. As for Sense, her conduct has shewn her not overstock'd with that. About two years ago she married Sir Jacob Wheate, a british officer between 60 and 70 years old; she herself was not 16. Sir Jacob before he had been married a week, went to the West Indies and there died. He left her an handsome 247fortune; and it is said she is now soon to marry a Captain Cochran, son to Lord Dundonald, a scotch Nobleman. The author of the aforesaid Satirical poem appears quite enraged in speaking of her.

If Wheate should live till she be old She will not marry then for gold When Nature took such special care To form her so divinely fair She gave her not those matchless charms To bless a dotard's gouty arms. “A title, and a vast Estate May purchase love, and conquer hate.” The person may be bought I own But barter'd love was never known. The girl that weds for money's sake A titled fool a batter'd rake Deserves as much a bad renown As any woman of the town.

This is carrying the matter too far: though I cant say I admire any person who makes fortune the only object in marriage. Miss S. Smith was with Lady Wheate, and has spent about a week at Content. I am vastly pleased with this Lady. The contrast between her manners and those of Lady Wheate is highly in her favour, and very striking.

I dined to day in Company with Genl. Greene, at the president's. He arrived in town only a few days since, and he will make but a short stay, here. He is going to settle I am told, in Georgia, where he has a very large landed Estate.

My Paper bids me close, but I take my leave of you only till tomorrow. Mean time I am as ever, your's.

J. Q. Adams

RC (Adams Papers). The text is written on eight small pages, numbered from “33” to “40”; see the descriptive note to JQA to AA2, 12 May, above.


Of 17 July, above.


Of 3 Aug., below.


Gerry's letter of 3 Aug. is in the Adams Papers. JQA's two letters to AA2 were of 25 May, and 17 July, both above; his letter to JA is identified in note 2.


The word is written over and illegible; JQA wrote “Dined” in his Diary ( Diary , 1:297).


On Miss Riché, and on Miss Eccles (under 5 Aug., below), see same, 1:297–298, 299, 300.


Of Congress, Richard Henry Lee.


On 30 June, Congress appointed a committee to consider “the letter of June 30 from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs on the letter of June 14 from the French chargé Barbé Marbois and a memorial from James Le Ray de Chaumont acting for French creditors” ( JCC , 28:489). This committee was discharged on 7 July, and the matter was referred to the Treasury Board. On 30 July, the Board completed a report on the general issue of financial obligations to French cred-248itors, in response to the memorials of Barbé Marbois. Concerning Chaumont's memorial, the Board simply referred it to Congress' general decision on the issue of obligations. John Jay presented the Board's report to Congress on 2 August; Congress took no action on Chaumont's memorial. JCC , 29:517, 598–606.


St. Paul's Church, on the west side of Broadway between Partition and Vesey streets, a few blocks south of the present City Hall, was built in 1764–1765 (I. N. Phelps Stokes, The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498–1909, 6 vols., N.Y., 1915–1928, repr. 1967, 1:331, 415–416, and plate 54b). Alexander the Coppersmith was an opponent of the Apostle Paul at Ephesis. He is mentioned in only two verses of Scripture, and nowhere else (2 Timothy 4:14–15, although 1 Timothy 1:19–20, and Acts 19:33, may refer to him).


Mary Alsop was the daughter of the N.Y. merchant John Alsop, a member of the First Continental Congress whom JA had met in New York in Aug. 1774. Mary Alsop married Rufus King in 1786. JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:98, 106; JQA, Diary , 1:297, note 2.

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 3 August 1785 JQA JA John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 3 August 1785 Adams, John Quincy Adams, John
John Quincy Adams to John Adams
Dear Sir New York August 3d. 1785

Mr. Church proposes to embark on board the british Packet, which is to sail to-morrow. He has offered to take my Letters, and I suppose, he will be the bearer of dispatches from Congress.—Our Passage, though it was not a stormy one, was very tedious. Of eight weeks, that we were at Sea, we had at least four of such calm weather as not to proceed more than 8 or 10 leagues a day. As we were coming up the River, we met the other Packet, which was sailing for France. I had only time to write a Line, and inform you of my arrival:1 I hope she has by this time performed a large part of her voyage, and that three weeks hence, you will receive my Letter. I shall remain here some days longer than I expected, when I left you; as it was too late when I arrived here, for me to be at Boston before Commencement, I thought there was less necessity of my being in haste to go. The President has been polite to me, even beyond what I could have expected; he has given me an apartment in his House, where I have been these ten days. Mr. Jay was so kind before I came here to make me the same offer.

The Politicians here, wait with great impatience to hear from you. Matters seem to be at a Crisis. The British instead of delivering up the Posts, have lately sent there a reinforcement of troops. I have heard from merchants here, that the fur trade from which we are thus precluded, by an open breach of the Treaty of Peace, is worth annually 50,000 pounds Sterling.2 This may be overrated; but the reluctance the British shew to leave the Posts, is sufficient proof that it is an important object. It is supposed that your next Letters, will give information on the Subject, and let us know what is to be depended upon.


The Duties laid on imported goods, by many of the States, and the prohibition of all English vessels in Massachusetts, are another subject of much Conversation. Merchants, who often adopt the proverb, that Charity begins at home, endeavour to demonstrate that the Country will suffer very much, by these regulations. They say that all foreign nations, will be discouraged from bringing us any goods while, they are encumbered with such heavy imposts; and if we go for them ourselves, they will sell them only for money, which we have not. Many of them are still very much afraid of Great Britain: they dread a war; and in case she be not able to carry one on, they tremble lest she should shut her ports upon us and stop our trade with her West India Islands. They say own that those Islands cannot subsist without us, but they think we could not hold out, if we had no market to carry our productions to, so long as they could without them. You will easily see that this is the reasoning of a merchant who fears present Losses, and does not consider future advantages. Fortunately the Spirit of the People is different, and I doubt not, in Case Great Britain should persist in her present Conduct, sufficient firmness will be shown, on this side the water. The State of Massachusetts have already prohibited all british vessels to come in their Ports. A frigate appeared since the act was pass'd, but was not suffered to enter.3—The States have not yet given to Congress the power of regulating their trade: but it is almost universally considered here, a necessary measure. The President of Congress is however much against it. He has written you by this opportunity, and perhaps he has given you his opinion upon the subject.4

You doubtless know before this, that Mr. Bowdoin, was elected governor of Massachusetts, at the last election, in the place of Mr. Hancock, who was chosen Member of Congress for the next Session. The parties shew some rancour and acrimony at the Time, but since the Election, every thing has subsided, and the present governor is very popular. It is generally supposed here; that Mr. Hancock, will next year be seated in the chair of Congress. I don't know however, whether he has accepted the appointment.5

Mr. Osgood, Mr. Walter Livingston, and Mr. Arthur Lee, are the Commissioners of the Treasury. Mr. Lee was chosen a few days since: and has accepted. The board could not be composed of persons more universally respected.

Mr. de Marbois it is said will in a short time leave America; and Mr. Otto, formerly, a secretary to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, is to succeed him: I believe he will not regret this Country: nor do I think 250he will be much regretted himself. The Chevalier is supposed to be much more friendly to the Country, and is much more respected here. Many persons wonder why a Minister is not sent from the Court of France.6

After reading this Letter, you will perhaps think I had better be at my Studies, and give you an account of their progress, than say so much upon politics. But while I am in this place I hear of nothing but politics. When I get home I shall trouble my head very little about them. I propose leaving this next monday the 8th. instant and shall certainly be in Boston by the 20th.

I am your dutiful Son. J. Q. Adams

P.S. Please to present my duty to my dear Mamma: I will write if I can find time.7

RC (Adams Papers); docketed by AA2: “JQA August 3d 1785.”


JQA to AA, 17 July, above.


The British were obligated to surrender several military posts in the northwest, on and near the Great Lakes, under arts. 2 and 7 of the Definitive Treaty of 3 Sept. 1783, but they continued to occupy them while controversies over the claims of British subjects in American courts (arts. 4 and 5) remained unresolved.


“An Act for the Regulation of Navigation and Commerce,” passed on 23 June, provided that as of 1 Aug., all exportation from Massachusetts in British vessels would be prohibited, and all importation in British vessels would be restricted to three ports—Boston, Falmouth (later Portland, Maine), and Dartmouth (including the port of New Bedford)—where such imports would pay higher duties than those on American ships. The ban on exporting on British ships could be lifted by the governor and council if they learned that the British government had rescinded its recent prohibition of American ships from several ports in the British Empire. Mass., Acts and Laws , 1784–1785, p. 439–443.

JQA may refer to the British frigate Mercury, Capt. Henry Stanhope, which conducted several transport ships from Nova Scotia to Boston to bring live stock back to the large Loyalist refugee populations at Shelburne and Halifax. Both the Mercury and the transports did enter the port of Boston in mid-July, but local newspapers sternly warned their readers to reject the British appeal for cargoes as long as they were to be carried away in British vessels. These warnings apparently prevented the loading of the transports. They may also have contributed to a bitter exchange of letters between Capt. Stanhope and Gov. James Bowdoin between 1 and 4 August. See the Boston Gazette, 11 and 18 July; the Independent Ledger, 11 July; and AA to Thomas Jefferson, 19 Oct., below.


Richard Henry Lee to JA, 1 Aug. (Adams Papers); printed in The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, ed. James Curtis Ballagh, N.Y., 1911, 1914, 2:378–381.


Hancock, elected to Congress in June, did accept his election, and he was chosen president of that body in Nov. 1785, but ill health kept him in Boston. In May 1786 he resigned the presidency and his seat in Congress. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 8:lxxxviii; Biog. Dir. Cong.


JQA had met François Barbé-Marbois, then the official secretary to Chevalier Anne César de La Luzerne; Louis Guillaume Otto, La Luzerne's private secretary; and La Luzerne himself in June 1779, when he and JA accompanied the Frenchmen to America on La Sensible. La Luzerne served as French minister to the United States until 1783, when he returned to France. Barbé-Marbois continued, as charge d'affaires, until 1785, when he was appointed intendant of Saint Domingue. JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:380–400; Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale .


JQA next wrote to AA on 6 Oct., below, wherein he explains his tardiness as a correspondent.