Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 31 January 1796 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Philadelphia January 31. & last 1796

I have a secret to Communicate to Your Prudence. The Defence by Camillus was written in Concert between Hamilton King and Jay. The Writings on the first ten Articles of the Treaty were written by Hamilton The rest by King, till they came to the question of the Constitutionality of the Treaty, which was discussed by Hamilton— Jay was to have written a concluding Peroration: but being always a little lazy and perhaps concluding upon the whole that it might be most politick to keep his Name out of it, and perhaps finding that the Work was already well done he neglected it. This I have from Kings own mouth.— It is to pass however for Hamiltons. All three consulted together upon most if not all the Pieces.

Another Piece of History of a very different kind. You knew Dr Redman, the Manager of the Assembly. The smiling the genteel the well bred—the Gentleman like—the I dont know what—The Judge of some Court here— He went off this Morning in a stage in disgrace, to the southward— This he choose rather than open his Veins Pro more Roma novum.— Alass poor human nature! He has been slandered, with Imputations of something like what they call in London Ladys Pillage—of a very gross kind however—with so much success, that a voluntary Banishment is considered as a very humane & clement Punishment. I hate such subjects and therefore cannot and would not, if I could give you the details—1

I read forever, and am determined to sacrifice my Eyes like John Milton rather than give up the Amusement without which I should despair2

If I did not with you consider the Universe as all one Family, I would never stay another day here.

I have read four thick Octavo Volumes of Tacitus translated by Murphy,3 One thick Volume of Homers Iliad translated by Cowper, besides a multitude of Pamphlets & Newspapers, since I have been here. I dont write enough. The Habit of Writing should not be lost as I loose it—


Peter Pindar has it right

Search We the Spot which mental power contains? Go where Man gets his living by his Brains.4

If I had got my Living by my Brains for seven Years past I should have had more mental Power.— But Brains have not only been Useless but even hurtful and pernicious in my Course— Mine have been idle a long time—till they are rusty.—

Dr Bollman has given me an Account of his Intrigue to Liberate Fayette: for which I have heard a hint that he expects some office—Entre nous—But he will be disappointed— Fayettes disinterested unpaid services will cost Us very dear— Your son has already advanced to his Wife three hundred Guineas. Which I hope & suppose will be reimbursed to him.5

Mischief always and Villany often lurks under Pretensions and Professions of service without Pay.

With affections which No time nor / Space will abate

J. A

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “Janry 31 1796.”


Joseph Redman, an associate judge of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, was also one of the managers of the City Dancing Assembly. Redman resigned his judgeship for unspecified reasons on 25 January. He may have later resided in Montgomery, Maryland (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 21 Sept. 1795; Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 9 Nov.; Penna. Archives, 9th ser., 2:1062 [1931]; 1800 U.S. Census, Md., Montgomery, District 1, p. 216).


Although John Milton attributed his poor eyesight in part to excessive studying when younger, modern scholars have not settled on a definitive diagnosis. Suggested causes include glaucoma, retinal detachment, or an intracranial tumor. For a summary of these theories, see George B. Bartley, “The Blindness of John Milton,” Documenta Ophthalmologica, 89:22–23, 25–28 (1995).


Tacitus, Works, transl. Arthur Murphy, 4 vols., Dublin, 1794. A copy of the set is in JA’s library at MB ( Catalogue of JA’s Library ).


Peter Pindar, “Hair Powder; A Plaintive Epistle to Mr. Pitt,” lines 185–186.


Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles, Marquise de Lafayette, had requested 300 louis d’or ($1333.20) from JQA in a letter of 17 Jan. 1795. JQA supplied the money, ostensibly on behalf of the U.S. government, and had been trying to obtain reimbursement for it since the previous July. As of Aug. 1796, he was still seeking to recover the money (Adams Papers; JQA to Edmund Randolph, 3 July 1795, LbC, Reel 127; JQA to Thomas Pinkney, 12 Aug. 1796, LbC, APM Reel 129).

John Adams to Charles Adams, 31 January 1796 Adams, John Adams, Charles
John Adams to Charles Adams
Dear son Philadelphia January 31. 1796

A fat Sleekheaded young Gentleman was here last Week or the Week before who told me he knew you, that you were well that you had a good share of Business: that your disposition was so amiable that People were fond of throwing Business into your hands &c— All 156 this was Musick in my Ears— I know not his name but am told he is a Limb of the Law in your City.

According to Peter Pindar Business is the best Life.

The Man to Titles and to Riches born Amid the World of science how forlorn! To Speak, to think, unable, mark his Air! Heavens what an Ideot gape & Ideot stare! Though Lord of millions, gilt with Titles o’er A Statue in a Library!—no more! Search We the Spot which mental Power contains! Go where Man gets his living by his Brains. 1

As you, my son are under the Necessity of getting your Living and the Support of your Family by your Brains, you are in the fairest Way to obtain Mental Power, according to Peter and according to Truth.

Our Country affords a thousand Objects by which Profits and fortunes may be made, by a Mind that is awake and looks about it, by an Industry that is constant and a Prudence that is never off its guard.

I have had innumerable Opportunities in the Course of my Life, which the public Circumstances of the Country and the Delicacy of my Engagements in them have induced me to forego. I am now too old— But there is no Reason that my Children should starve them Selves because I have fasted. I hope, that never departing from Honour Integrity or Humanity they will however attend more to their private Interests than I have done.

I send you a little Volume, for which I was solicited to be a subscriber2 and am with / Love to Mrs Adams / your Affectionate

John Adams

RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); internal address: “Charles Adams Esq.”


Peter Pindar, “Hair Powder; A Plaintive Epistle to Mr. Pitt,” lines 171–176, 185–186.


Possibly Zephaniah Swift’s A System of the Laws of the State of Connecticut, 2 vols., Windham, Conn., 1795–1796, Evans, No. 31260. Another copy is in JA’s library at MB ( Catalogue of JA’s Library ).