Adams Family Correspondence, volume 10

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 December 1794 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dearest Friend Philadelphia Decr 30. 1794

Your favr of 24th marked by the Post office 22d of Decr. I recd. Yesterday.

Mr Osgoods sermon was plenty here— I recd one from Boston before.— The Clergy I think ought to pray for the national Government.— If our Dissenting Ministers will not at Quincy I will go to Church, where a form is prescribed by Authority which even Mr Cleverly complies with.

Within a Day or two after your last I presume you recd an order for 600, which will enable you to repay what you have borrowed.

Mrs Washington Mrs Cabot & Mr Cabot desire me to send you their Regards &c.

Not one Word about the Farm in this last Letter, a fatal omission— Tell Joy I expect hope to see my Cattle fat, though he works them hard.—

Now come great Things. Knox is to go out tomorrow. He insists 329 on beginning the Year 1795 a freeman. He told me Yesterday, he had been 20 Years (next April) in service. that if he should die, tomorrow his Wife & Children would not have enough to live on two Years— That he had not above ten Years to live— that he had the means at the Eastward of making Something and that it was his Duty to do it.

This Man is capable of flattering himself with hopes that to others appear Chimerical— He is capable of thinking himself popular enough in Massachusetts to be chosen Governor at the first Vacancy— But I suspect he cherishes another hope, that is of being Governor of Maine—1 These however are hints between you and me, & to go no farther.

Another Gentleman Yesterday let me read in his Heart without suspecting it— Mr Cabot told me, he thought he should not come again to senate—2 Mrs Cabot was averse to coming this time. He had Difficulty to persuade her— He thought she would not come again and if she declined he would not come without her. You know my Opinion of the Motive of his removal to Brooklyne. His Resignation will be in pursuance of the Same Views. But I cannot help thinking he will be disappointed. I know of no Man, who would make a better Governor, at least among all those who are likely to obtain the Place— But his services have not been known enough to the People to sink into their hearts. His fortune is not Splendid enough to dazzle: and he is not at the head of any interested Bank or Company whose Exertions can bring him in.— I pitty these ambitious Men! By joining with Gill he might be chosen Lt. Govr for wt I know.

But the Man the most to be pitied is the President. With his Exertions, Anxieties Responsibilities for twenty Years without fee or reward or Children to enjoy his Renown to be the Butt of the Insolence of Genets and Clubbs is a Tryal too great for human Nature to be exposed to— Like The Starling he cant get out of his Cage3 but Knox says and I believe it, he is Sick very sick in it— I could tell you a great deal more but this must be reserved for a Tête a Tête.—

Dont forget the farm next time


RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Decbr 30 1794.”


Henry Knox lived another twelve years though not long enough to see Maine achieve statehood. Upon his initial retirement from national service, Knox and his wife returned to a large estate in Maine with an impressive mansion and considerable land but also substantial debt incurred from land speculation. In time, he made strides toward paying it off but still failed to leave his widow a comfortable settlement upon his 330 death in 1806 (Mark Puls, Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, N.Y., 2008, p. 223–226, 228–229, 239, 243–248).


George Cabot did not resign at this time; he would retire from the Senate two years later in mid-1796 ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ).


A reference to the caged starling in “The Passport. The Hotel at Paris” in Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1 January 1795 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dearest Friend Philadelphia January 1. 1795

I wish you a happy New Year, and a Repetition of happy New Years as long as Time shall endure: not here below, because I shall want you in another Country, better than this.

What do you say? shall I keep a national Thanksgiving with you?1 I hope before that Day We shall have good News from all our Family, tho We cannot be all together.

Compliments of the Season to Louisa & all my good friends. Dont forget my farm next time you write. I hope to find a Letter at the senate Chamber


RC (Adams Papers).


On 1 Jan. the president issued a proclamation designating 19 Feb. as a national day of thanksgiving and prayer, in order for Americans to “meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the great Ruler of nations, for the manifold and signal mercies, which distinguish our lot as a nation, particularly, for the possession of constitutions of government, which unite, and, by their union, establish liberty with order; for the preservation of peace, foreign and domestic; for the seasonable control, which has been given to a spirit of disorder, in the suppression of the late insurrection; and, generally, for the prosperous course of our affairs.” Published first in the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 1 Jan., the proclamation appeared in Boston newspapers the following week, beginning with the Federal Orrery, 8 January.

John Adams to Charles Adams, 2 January 1795 Adams, John Adams, Charles
John Adams to Charles Adams
Dear Sir Philadelphia January 2. 1794 [1795]

I have received your Letter of December 30th.— I approve of your caution and applaud your discretion. You ought nevertheless to reconoitre the Country round about you, like a good officer. Between you and me, I believe you to be Surrounded by a gang of sharpers, and I wish you to keep a good look Out, preserve your own honour; keep a clear Conscience and clean hands: but examine every Man and every Thing. You will Soon be respected in this Course, even if you stand alone. Is there any Land Office? Where is it kept? in what House? or other Building? Who are the Land Officers? Who is the 331 Man or who are the Men, who have by Law Authority to sell Lands? What is that Law & when was it made by which those Persons are impowered to sell? Is there any Land Book? that is to say any Volume or Volumes of Records in which grants, Deeds or Conveyances of Land are registered? Is this Office, and are those Books publick? has every Citizen a right to examine those Records? to take Copies, paying for them &c.? There are honest Men about you, no doubt.1

It would be worth your while, to make an Inventory of Clintons Lands. Enquire in what Part of the State he has Lands? When he purchased them? How much he gave for them? of whom he bought them? What Quantity of Acres in a Parcel? improve cultivated or wild?— Information of every kind should be sought with Ardour by a Young Man.2

You need not recurr to the Supposition of foreign Gold to account for the other Mans Wealth. if I am rightly informed, he made an hundred Thousand Pounds, by a purchase and a Sale of Lands. I know not the Mystery.

If Professions of Simplicity & Republicanism and Democracy & sanscullotism & Jacobinism &c are a sure Way of making Plumbs Per soltum, We shall have Professors enough. Look about you charles and be neither sharp nor Dupe

J. A.

RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.).


The New York Land Office Commission was established in 1784 to dispose of bounty lands to Revolutionary War veterans. The commission, which met in New York City, was composed of the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the assembly, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and auditor, and with the exclusion of the governor, three commissioners were required to execute a land grant. In March 1791, after a near halt in land sales, the state legislature expanded the discretionary powers of the commission, which subsequently approved 35 grants, totaling 5.5 million acres and generating just over one million dollars in revenue, all in the span of five months.

This flurry of activity drew the attention of George Clinton’s Federalist opponents, who levied allegations of misconduct and misappropriation toward the governor during the 1792 election. Clinton won reelection and subsequently solicited and published affidavits from several of the grantees, denying his participation or financial benefit. In Nov. 1793, a jury further exonerated Clinton in a libel suit he brought against William Cooper, one of his more vocal detractors. The stigma of misconduct, however, persisted in Federalist circles (John P. Kaminski, George Clinton: Yeoman Politician of the New Republic, Madison, Wis., 1993, p. 195–197; Young, Democratic Republicans, p. 233–234, 237–239).


Clinton was a savvy land speculator who chose productive farm lands or small parcels in locations primed for development. Many of his investments were made in partnership and were managed in such a way that initial outlays were recouped within a few years, while the balances were held as investments. During and after the Revolutionary War Clinton substantially increased his land holdings through speculative purchases of undeveloped land along the frontier. The largest was a multi-partner investment in a 40,000-acre tract in Oneida County; another included a 6,000-acre parcel in the Mohawk River Valley near Utica, for which Clinton partnered with George Washington in 1783. Clinton, largely as a result of his success as a land speculator, left an estate valued at 332 $250,000 (Kaminski, George Clinton, p. 14, 51–52, 249–250; Alan Taylor, William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic, N.Y., 1995, p. 156–157; Young, Democratic Republicans, p. 35–36).