Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 2 March 1796 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
my Dearest Friend Quincy March 2d 1796

Our Little Town of Quincy is become so rich that they can vote a Thousand Dollors to Build a School House, Yet cannot pay a Tax to their Minister which has been Due for more than two years.1 Your proportion of the Tax for the present Year including your part of the 300 for the School house is 187 Dollors 30 cents. the Braintree Tax I have not yet seen. both the collector & the School committe want the Tax. I promised Baxter that he Should have 50 Dollors of it provided he would make an exertion to get the rest for mr Wibird as he said he was determined to do by March meeting. our Neighbour Joseph Baxter is the collector.2 Captain Beals has really made a fine story out to the Town & prevaild upon them to vote & Tax for this Thousand Dollors to Build the School House. I should have supposed 500 might have answerd as well. it is to be Set upon the 199 Green by the meeting house, built 2 Storey high. the School House to be divided, part for Girls & part for Boys, over the whole a large Room for the Town to Do buisness in, or to be let as an Assembly Room. Quincy is to Rival Hingham. we shall have an accademy, and being so much nearer Boston Gentlemen & Ladies will prefer sending their children here. it will bring into Town a Mint of Money, & raise the value of estates in Town Six pr cent, and all this I have Done for the Town. at this very œconomical time of Building I fancy the cash will come harder than the vote. the Timber is cut & Pratt has engaged to Build it.

Mr Wibird has not been out but once this winter, and then was not able to get in or out of the Carriage but with help. How can you says Yorick; captain shandy live comfortless and alone, without a Bosom to lean Your head upon—or trust Your cares to?3 next to that, is being seperated half a Year at a Time. no Man even if he is sixty Years of age ought to live more than three Months at a Time from his Family, and our Country is a very hard hearted tyrannical nigardly Country. it has committed more Robberies upon me, and obliged me to more Sacrifices than any other woman in the Country and this I will mantain, against any one who will venture to come forward and dispute it with me. as there never can be a compensation for me, I must sit down with this consolation that it might have been worse.

we have a Young Gentleman Preaching for us by the Name of Fisk. upon the whole I like him better than any other we have had. in the first place he has an Excellnt countanance, in the 2d he is very social & much of a Gentleman, and in the 3d he is a very good preacher I do not however expect that we shall ever be so fortunate as to get all these qualifications united in a minister for Quincy4

The Season is mild, the Snow is leaving us. I must think of attacking the canker worm—if any such I find. Grain is rising fast. I am thankfull I am so well supplied with flower. I have not been able to purchase Rye under 9 Shillings pr Bushel. corn has got to seven I hear. if our places are out I hope we shall not have occasion to Buy. I must soon have an other hand. mr Bass’s services are not worth much. the old Man has the Jaundice, and is weak and feeble. Copland has been so steady through the winter that I must keep him I presume provided he does not rise too high in his price. he knows so well every part of the Farm & the buisness, But with new hands I should be at a loss in your absence.

we have had for three Days last week a fog as thick as 200 Philadelphia, so it put me in mind of the old story, [Sprawls?] &c I hope to shake it of, for I am better of my cold, and the Bark I have had recourse to.

The last of Your Fathers sisters Dyed a fortnight since. I learnt it only from the Chronical for the Family never sent us any word, not even to your Mother who was here on saturday and desires to be rememberd to you With Parental affection.5 I bought the good Lady a winter Gown when I was in Town, with which she was much pleasd. it did me good to see how much, and I have it in Charge over & over again to thank You for the flower Sent. I think her Health better for the discharge she has had from her Arm—

I am with the Sincerest Regard / ever your

A Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. March 2. Ansd 11 / 1796.”


In April 1793 the recently incorporated town of Quincy voted to build a school. No further action was taken until 1 Oct. 1795 when another vote reaffirmed the plan and selected a committee to design the structure and estimate the costs involved. At the 16 Nov. town meeting a site on the town’s training field, near the current First Church, was approved. A wooden structure with two floors, the grammar school was housed on the bottom story and a winter “ciphering school” for advanced students was on the upper story, which also served as a town hall. It is unclear when classes began, but the town meeting first took place there on 8 Dec. 1796. The structure burned in 1815 (Pattee, Old Braintree, p. 91, 329–330).


Capt. Joseph Baxter (1740–1829) had previously served in a variety of town posts in Quincy (Sprague, Braintree Families ).


Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, vol. 2, ch. 25.


Possibly John Fiske (1770–1855), Dartmouth 1791, the great-grandson of Rev. Moses Fiske who had served as minister of the church from 1672 to 1708. John Fiske was installed as the pastor of the First Church of New Braintree in Aug. 1796 (Albert A. Fiske, The Fiske Family: A History of the Family, Chicago, 1867, p. 189; Frederic A. Whitney, An Historical Sketch of the Old Church, Quincy, Mass., Albany, N.Y., 1864, p. 15, 16).


Bethiah (or Bethia) Adams Hunt Bicknell Hayward died on 3 Feb. (Sprague, Braintree Families ). The news appeared in the Boston Independent Chronicle, 11 February.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 March 1796 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dearest Friend Phila. March 3. 1796

I recd this morning your favour of Feb. 22.—the more agreable as it was not very confidently expected. I should be glad to see Mr Copley.

Charles brought the Treaty from Col. John Smith who brought it from Lisbon. I hope you will have Letters by the Vessell you mention from Rotterdam.

The Treaties with Spain & Algiers have been unanimously Sanctioned by senate and that with Britain is proclaimed. The House will try to make a little Noise.1


Elsworth was this day nominated Chief Justice—2I see that at Boston & Cambridge &c the Birth Day was celebrated with great Splendor as it was here—3 The old song is verified as I always said it would be “The more he is envied the higher he’l rise.”4 Increase of abuse will produce an increase of Adulation.

What gave great Villiers to th’ Assassins Knife And fix’d disease on Harleys closing Life? What murder’s Wentworth and what exil’d Hyde By Kings protected and to Kings ally’d? What but their Wish indulged in Courts to shine And Power too great to keep or to resign? 5

The Power of the P. may be too great to keep or to resign. If it is, he may meet with the Fate of Harley.6

It is, Somehow, Strangely, the Opinion of many and among those are some of his best Friends that he ought to retire. No one, that I have heard, has presum’d to say he would not if he were in the P.s case.—

He has now settled all Disputes with foreign Nations and may retire with undiminish’d Glory.

I find the V. P. toasted at most of the Feasts and even Brown has announced Mr Adams’s appearance at the Theatre with Pleasure.7 All this is as I, conjecture Electioneering. The other side will probably begin soon. And I shall regard it all with as much Apathy, as is in my nature.— I feel collected and unmoved. The Principle of the Conclave goes a great Way in many Elections. All Parties will frequently concurr in the Choice of the oldest Cardinal, because he cannot hold the Papal Chair long.— I am so old that they all know they can make me miserable enough to be glad to get out of it as soon as Washington if not in half the time.

June is the earliest Month that gives a hope to release me. I Suppose you must buy hay— You have not told me whether I am to expect a Colt. Am glad our Men are frugal of their English Hay.

I am most affectionately and / ardently, notwithstanding I have been / so so long your

J. A

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “March 3. 1796.”


Democratic-Republicans, having failed to block the Jay Treaty in the Senate the previous June, now hoped to prevent its implementation in the House of Representatives. House Republicans pursued two strategies. For the first, a demand that George Washington turn over papers outlining the treaty’s negotiations for review by the House, see JA 202 to AA, 19 March, and note 1, below. The second involved attempting to defeat the resolution for the treaty’s appropriations. This effort generated considerable debate but failed narrowly when the House approved the implementation of the treaty by a vote of 51 to 48 on 30 April (Combs, Jay Treaty, p. 171, 175–176, 186–187).


After William Cushing declined to accept the appointment as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington nominated Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut on 3 March. The next day the Senate approved his nomination by a vote of 21 to 1. Ellsworth resigned as U.S. senator to accept the new post (U.S. Senate, Exec. Jour., 4th Cong., 1st sess., p. 203–204; DAB ).


JA likely heard about the Boston and Cambridge birthday events from an early copy of the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 4 March, which reported on both. At Cambridge, Harvard students illuminated the college in Washington’s honor, then retired early, “saying to each other it would be disgraceful to pretend to honor WASHINGTON with riot and disorder.” In Philadelphia, the occasion was marked by the ringing of bells and firing of cannon. A “splendid ball and supper” took place in the evening, where toasts were given to Washington himself, “United America,” and “the constituted Authorities of our Country” (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 23 Feb.; Philadelphia Gazette, 25 Feb.).


“Then dare to be generous, dauntless, and gay; / Let’s merrily pass life’s remainder away: / Upheld by our friends, we our foes may despise; / For the more we are envied the higher we rise” (“With an Honest Old Friend,” lines 9–12, Calliope; or, The Musical Miscellany, London, 1788, p. 275–276).


Samuel Johnson, “The Vanity of Human Wishes,” lines 129–134.


Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford (1661–1724), had served as Speaker of the Commons and chancellor of the exchequer when he became lord treasurer in 1711; at the time he was the most powerful member of Parliament. Oxford was dismissed on 27 July 1714 by Queen Anne over a political dispute, and in 1715 he was committed to the Tower of London and faced impeachment charges for his role in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht ( DNB ).


Andrew Brown’s Philadelphia Gazette, 1 March 1796, noted in an article on the Philadelphia theater that “The pleasures of the entertainment were heightened by the presence of the beloved WASHINGTON, his Lady, and Mr. Adams, the Vice-President.”