Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 15 January 1796 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
my Dearest Friend Quincy. Jan’ry 15th 1796

Thursday post did not bring me one Single Letter from you; tis true I had no reason to complain on the Score of inattention, as the week before I had four Letters but I suppose that I had Letters, and that the blundering Blockhead of a post, either left them in Town, or has carried them to Barnestable as he Did once before; We have got a new Post, one of your under bidders, who can not read the direction upon his papers: Such kind of people as want the Reigns of government. I had a Letter last week from Mrs smith informing me that her Children were sick with the Measels I hope to hear soon from her again. tis a very bad disorder—1

so poor Tom Paine is gone to See Whether there is any state besides the present. Heaven be praisd that he is gone there, instead of comeing to America.2

“If plagues and Earthquakes break not heavens design Why then a Paine or Jacobine?”3 138

he was an instrument of much Mischief. the Virginians are a very mad people. they will neither believe in the experience of those States which have been obliged to Change from a single Assembly, to a Balanced goverment, nor in the Host of departed Spirits who cry alloud to them from the Golgotha of their Allies. in every state they will find some as discontented and as Mischievous as themselves. I was told last week, that the reputed Cato of plimouth openly declares his dislike to the constitution, and Wants to have a Single assembly. when such Men as he, Men of experience, Men Who have borne a part in one revolution and Who call themselves Lovers of Liberty, profess pure and disinterested Principles, come forward & hold Such Sentiments what are we to think? can we suppose that they were ever Sincere? or shall we say with the Tenth Muse Guillotina

“These are the Men who fiercely burn Your constitution to overturn To blast the Sages of Your Choice They weild the pen, and Ply the voice”4

The lines which describe the Plimouth Boys will never be forgiven. if their Malice was not impotent, they would raise a Rebellion. I feel both pity and contempt for them.5 as to Jonathan Pindars Dada Vice, I had a hearty laugh at it. The poor wretch, was at a misirable Shift, when he could find nothing to Ridicule but a poor cast Wig, which was a singularity in no other place than the Contracted Span of a few states whose climate is too Hot for the Heads of its inhabitants.6 I pray you would give Judge Cushing a Hint, for in the Minds of some of the Southern Gentry, his Wig will be a greater objection to his perferment, than all the Madness & folly, to say no worse, of a Rutledge7

we have had an other ship Wreck, in the last week. Captain Barns in the ship Industery from London was cast away upon cape Ann & every soul on Board perish’d.8 the captain chest & the Log Book was Wash’d on shore by which the loss was discoverd. the Gale of wind blew only a few hours. we have not had one severe Snow Storm, yet more losses upon our coast than usual. I believe Captains grow more ventersome & dairing. if there were any Letters from our Sons they are all gone. I know not where to write to them. I long to hear of & from them.

139 Saturday 17th

Is the Treaty arrived as report says?9

our Govenour makes his speach on twesday next so that I cannot send by this post.10 I have not got any Letters from you this week. I do not Doubt you have written, but the post office, or post has not Done its Duty. I write once a week, but have so little to entertain you with, that I feel sick of my Letter when I have written it. your Mother was here yesterday and is well for her. she sends her Love to you My Health has been better than the last winter. I Saw Mrs Brisler yesterday She went to Boston. she and Family were well. poor Arnold has been sick of a Plurisy fever & his Life despaired of for near a week. Polly watchd with him last night. he is rather better. We have not had any meeting for two sabbeths. Baxter Who is one of the Comittee says we have no occasion for preaching in the Winter. I hope he Does not imbibe the sentiment from his Minister.11 Remember to all inquiring Friends your affectionate

A Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. Jan. 15. Ansd 29 / 1796.”


Not found.


A report that Thomas Paine had died “at the house of the American minister in Paris, of an abscess in his right side” was widely reprinted in newspapers throughout the United States, including in the Boston Federal Orrery, 11 January. By 4 Feb. the Orrery had retracted the information, noting, “The English account of his death … must therefore be premature.” Paine lived until 1809.


“If plagues or earthquakes break not Heav’n’s design, / Why then a Borgia or a Catiline?” (Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistle I, lines 155–156).


“Guillotina; or, The Annual Song of the Tenth Muse,” Connecticut Courant, 4 Jan. 1796, lines 229–232. The author was likely Lemuel Hopkins.


“At Plymouth too, a string of boys, / About the Treaty made a noise, / Headed by master Henry Warren, / Like crows around some new-found carrion” (“Guillotina,” lines 197–200). For the debate over the Jay Treaty in Plymouth, see AA to JA, 3 Jan., and note 7, above.


Jonathan Pindar, a pseudonym for St. George Tucker, published a “Salutatory Ode” in the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 30 Dec. 1795, that included a comment on JA’s wig: “Or, cou’d my love so far be turn’d to hate, / As to attack our Daddy-vice, so big, / His brain my shafts could never penetrate, / Lost in the bushy bulwark of his wig.” The piece also noted, “Whether the venerable figure here alluded to is so well convinced of the strength of his pericranium, as to dispense with that bulwark at present; or whether he is at length so far convinced of the absurdity of singularity, as to relinquish that favourite ornament, it is certain he has lately laid aside his wig.” JA sent the piece to AA in his letter of 30 Dec. (Adams Papers).


Southerners might have been expected to object to William Cushing’s nomination to become chief justice of the Supreme Court on account of his staunch Federalist views, but the Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment on 27 Jan. 1796. He declined the position on account of poor health.

Some years before, when first nominated to the Supreme Court, Cushing’s choice of wig apparently caused a stir on the streets of New York City. Cushing arrived wearing the great wig customary to royal judges in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts, which sparked a procession of young boys to follow him, wondering who this great personage might 140 be. It was not until a sailor commented, “My eyes, what a wig!” that Cushing understood the problem. He thereafter wore a smaller peruke, though he insisted on retaining a tricornered hat ( Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 13:33–34, 35–36).


The ship Industry, Capt. Miles Barnes, owned by Thomas Lewis of Boston, wrecked on 11 Jan. off of Cape Ann, having sailed from Portsmouth, England, on 4 Nov. 1795. The eleven crew members, including the captain, were all lost (Massachusetts Mercury, 15 Jan. 1796; Newburyport, Mass., Political Gazette, 19 Jan.).


The Boston Columbian Centinel, 13 Jan., reported that a packet believed to be carrying the ratified Jay Treaty had arrived in New York. In fact, the treaty was carried on the ship General Pinckney, which reached Charleston, S.C., in late January. The formal proclamation of the treaty by George Washington was published on 1 March, the same day the treaty was laid before the House of Representatives (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 17 Feb., 2 March).


See AA to JA, 21 Jan., and note 3, below.


Possibly Thompson Baxter (1779–1837) Capt. Thompson Baxter (1734–1813) , with whom Rev. Anthony Wibird boarded. Wibird remained the minister at the First Church of Quincy until his death in June 1800, but he was unable to preach regularly for several years before that owing to ill health. The committee was likely one formed to seek out a permanent assistant for Wibird. While different men were offered the church, none consented until Rev. Peter Whitney accepted a call in early 1800 (Pattee, Old Braintree, p. 223–224; Sprague, Braintree Families ).

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 15 January 1796 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dearest Friend Philadelphia 15 Jan. 1796

We have floods of rain but no frost nor Snow and very little news. The Democrats continue to pelt as you will See by the inclosed Political Chess.1 We go on as We always have done, for the three first months of the Session, distributing Business into the hands of Committees, meeting and adjourning. The Gallery finds little Entertainment in our Debates. We have Seldom more than 30 or 40 in it sometimes 4 or 5 and sometimes none at all.

The Treaty is again unaccountably delayed— We are not well Served. These disappointments frequently force from me a vain glorious boast in my own breast, which however I never utter but to you “It was not thus in my Day.”—and what is much more dear to my heart—“It is not thus where my Son is”—

The British Government appears to be driven to hard Shifts. They are hazarding a dangerous Bill, to Suppress Clubbs.2 I wish it may not weaken rather than Strengthen their hands. But restless Democracy Struggling for Aristocracy, will destroy itself and introduce Despotism as I fear. an Awful Struggle must however intervene.

RC (Adams Papers).


“Political Chess, A New Song,” appeared in the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 15 Jan., likening George Washington to the king in a chess match, with Alexander Hamilton as his queen, and promising to break their monarchical rule: “Then let us in Chorus undauntedly sing, / With our pawns we will certainly check-mate your king.” The 141 poem also derides JA for his role in the Washington administration and its acceptance of the Jay Treaty, rhyming, “In Pitt and in Adams your castles display, / Tho’ on opposite sides, they both move the same way, / Both advocate pow’r at the people’s expence, / And are both to the King a strong tow’r of defence.”


News had reached Philadelphia of Britain’s debate over the Treasonable and Seditious Practices Act and the Seditious Meetings Act, for which see JQA to TBA, 18 Nov. 1795, and note 7, above. The Philadelphia Gazette, 11 Jan. 1796, for instance, reported on an 11 Nov. 1795 meeting of the Whig Club of England to oppose the two acts, while the Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser, 13 Jan. 1796, reprinted the 10 Nov. 1795 debates in Parliament.