Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 15 September 1795 Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy
Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams
My Dear Son Quincy Sep’br 15 1795—

I am ashamed to say how long it is Since I last wrote to You. I have received Your Letters to No 6.1 I believe only one, viz that from England has been lost. So valuable are Your Letters that I regreet the loss of a Line.

Freeman as you fear, will not be heard of again, untill the Sea gives up its Dead. to his Parents he is a loss that never can be made up. they are disconsolate and almost refuse to be comforted. to his Friends and acquaintance he had greatly endeard himself, by his amiable manners and his engageing Deportment. The House of vance & Freeman have been peculiarly unfortunate. since his absence, a valuable vessel & cargo have been captured, belonging to them, and it is Said here that mr Freemans affairs were much embarrassd2

I have felt a reluctance at taking my pen to write you ever since the meeting of the Senate in June, to relate the dishonour and the disgrace of any portion of our Countrymen is a painfull task. no event Since the commencment of the Government, has excited so much undue heat, so much bitter Acrimony, so much base invective, as has been pourd forth against mr. Jay and the Treaty. one of the most mortifying circumstances, is to see Some worthy and respectable Characters Drawn in to the vortex and made the Dupes of 23 Jacobine leaders & F——h Emisaries Your Letter to your Father No 9 is a clue to the whole buisness. it Devolops the dark and secreet designs of those agents of mischief. the contents of that Letter were so important at the period, when it arrived that your Father immediatly inclosed it to the President, who returnd it with the following Passage,

“Mr J Q Adams Your Son must not think of retireing from the walk he is now in. his prospects if he continues in it are fair and I shall be much mistaken if in as short a period as can be expected, he is not found at the head of the Diplomatique Corps—let the Government be administerd by whom so ever the people may chuse his Letter No 9 discloses much important information and political foresight for this proof of your kindness & confidence I pray You to accept my most cordial thanks”3

Many have been the voilent publications against the Treaty. the Train was so concerted that a multilated part of the Treaty, said to be taken from memory, appeard in the Boston papers.4 this was sufficient to exasperate candid & good men. no sooner was this accomplishd, than Benny was Sent on to Boston with Masons coppy, so that the first remonstrance was drawn up in Boston, and as Peter Porcupine observes, in Such haste were the Citizens of that Town, to get the start of other places that the first copy of the Treaty had not been arrived in Town 24 hours—before a Town meeting was convened to condemn it. at this meeting a motion was made to read the Treaty, at least before they remonstrated against it, but this motion was not even Seconded. Jarvis was the Demagogue, and orator. they had an unanimous vote. few persons of Character chusing to remain at a meeting where hissing and Noise and clamour excluded reason and argument.5 N York was not much behind Boston in point of Time, and in other respects far outstriped them, as Stones and Brick Bats were Substituded in the room of Hisses— Smith was their Chairman. a proposition was made for adjourning to a more convenient place for a fair and full discussion, but this was opposed with much clamour.6 there were a great majority of the Merchants Traders and people of property both in Boston & N York in favour of the Treaty, as soon as time was given them to examine & judge for themselves. this will appear by the Names of the Protestors, but the Flame was lighted up, and it spread from capital to capital, Damning cursing the Treaty, mr Jay Senators & even President. the President by a wise and cool and judicious reply to the Boston committe, appeard to allay the Ferment for a Time. several Learned 24 and able pens have been engaged to vindicate the Treaty & enlighten the people. Camillus said to be col H n Curtius said to be mr K g in N York have satisfied every reasonable Man, and a writer in Boston under the Signature of a Feaderilist has written very Sensibly & cooley. Some pamphlets have appeard one written in carolina by mr smith, but none which I have read pleases me more than Peter Porcupine, written by the Author of a Bone for the Democrats.7 These pamphlets as well as news papers I will collect and forward to you by the first direct conveyance to England, for there do I expect to hear of you soon it is of importance that you should receive all the intelligence possible upon the subject. my Letter must swell to a volm to contain all that has been written for & against the Treaty. I should however observe to you that no commotion or meeting has taken place in any of our Country Towns in N England, Dracut the famous Dracut excepted,8 & that the state of Connecticut has been as usual, wise steady and discreat. their Wits have however been active and the Echo will repeat to you many Solid truths—9

You are call’d upon to take a part in this important Buisness— You have put your hand to the plough, and I know you too well to believe or even wish you to look Back; or shrink from your Duty however Arduous or Dangerous the task assignd you. You will prove Yourself the Genuine Scion of the stock from whence You sprang. “Yet with Milton You may say, you are thrown on perilious Times.[]

My petition to Heaven for you is, that in the Hands of an over Ruling Providence you may be instrumental of much good to your country and that your Life and Health may be preserved a blessing to your Parents and a comfort to their declining Years— this and no other is the ambition of your ever affectionate Mother

A Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “My Mother. / 15. Septr: 1795. / 21. Decr:— recd. London / 6. Jany: 1796. ansd:.”


For JQA’s letters to AA of 25 April and 16 May (nos. 5 and 6), see vol. 10:419–422, 434–438.


Freeman & Vans, the business partnership of Jonathan Freeman Jr. and William Vans, had suffered a number of financial reverses between 1794 and 1795. They lost four ships with substantial cargo to wreck or capture, failed to receive payments due for thousands of dollars worth of goods, and faced substantial debts of their own in Great Britain (William Vans, An Appeal to the Public, by William Vans, Native Citizen of Massachusetts, against the Slanders Circulated by Stephen Codman, Salem, 1827, p. 53, 100–104). See also vol. 10:437–438.


George Washington to JA, 20 Aug. (NHi: Gilder Lehrman Coll., on deposit). See JA to JQA, 25 Aug., and notes 1 and 2, above.


The Boston Independent Chronicle, 6 July, reprinted from the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 29 June, a heavily edited 25 summary version of the treaty “collected from memory after an attentive perusal” by an unnamed “Citizen.” The introduction further notes, “There necessarily must be deficiencies in an account of this kind which depends entirely upon memory, and for the same reason there may be inaccuracies, but I trust the latter are few.”


For Benjamin Franklin Bache’s publication of the treaty, provided to him by Sen. Stevens Thomson Mason, see vol. 10:467; for the first Boston publication in the Columbian Centinel, 8 July, and subsequent town meeting on 10 July, see same, p. 472–473, 474. George Washington responded to the Boston town meeting’s petition in a reply dated 28 July and directed to the selectmen of Boston. In his letter Washington noted, “I have weighed with attention every argument which has at any time been brought into view. But the Constitution is the guide which I never can abandon.—it has assigned to the President the power of making Treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate. It was doubtless supposed that these two branches of government would combine without passion and with the best means of information, those facts and principles upon which the success of our foreign relations will always depend; that they ought not to substitute for their own conviction the opinions of others; or to seek truth through any channel but that of a temperate and well informed investigation.” The letter was printed in the Philadelphia Gazette, 15 Aug., and first appeared in Boston in the Massachusetts Mercury, 18 August.

Mason (1760–1803), a Virginia lawyer, had replaced James Monroe as Virginia’s senator in 1794; he would serve until his death ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ).


For the New York City town meeting on the Jay Treaty, chaired by WSS, see vol. 10:473, 474.


William Loughton Smith published anonymously A Candid Examination of the Objections to the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, between the United States and Great Britain. … By a Citizen of South-Carolina, Charleston, S.C., 1795, Evans, No. 29534. William Cobbett, as Peter Porcupine, wrote A Little Plain English, Addressed to the People of the United States, on the Treaty, Negociated with His Britannic Majesty, and on the Conduct of the President Relative Thereto, Phila., 1795, Evans, No. 28437.


Some 160 inhabitants of Dracut, Mass., met in a town meeting in early Aug. 1795 to debate the Jay Treaty. “After discussion thereon they passed several resolutions expressive of thir disapprobation of it, which were voted to communicated to the President of the United States. A vote also passed, for an address to His Excellency the Governor, requesting him to call the General Court together, to ‘remonstrate against the fatal instrument’” (Massachusetts Mercury, 11 Aug.; Newburyport Impartial Herald, 11 Aug.).


The Echo; or, A Satirical Poem on the Virtuous Ten, and Other Celebrated Characters, Hartford, Conn., 1795, Evans, No. 28855, appeared in the Connecticut Courant, 17, 24 Aug., as “Echo.—No. XVIII” and was first published in the Boston Federal Orrery, 20, 27 August. Later attributed to Lemuel Hopkins, the poem mocks the so-called Virtuous Ten, that is, the ten senators who voted against consenting to the Jay Treaty. In the poem, an opponent of the treaty opines, “I tho’t when Mr. Jay was sent to treat, / That Britain was to lose and we to get; / Instead of which, it seems, that Mr. Jay / Basely agrees to meet them half the way. / How foolish! how ridiculous a plan, / To take an inch, when he might had a span! / He ought at least to have made them promise well, / Even if he knew they never would fulfil. / This is the rule I practise every day, / I often promise, but I seldom pay” (p. 12).

John Quincy Adams to Charles Adams, 15 September 1795 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Charles
John Quincy Adams to Charles Adams
My dear Brother, The Hague 15. Septr: 1795

The most recent intelligence we have from America is contained in your letter of June 30 & July 23. which arrived some days since, and gave me information unpleasant but not unexpected.1 I was convinced from a variety of reasons that all the engines of popular 26 agitation would be played off against the ratification of the treaty signed by Mr Jay, and I knew that some of its contents were such as could not meet the cheerful acquiescence of Americans. The most objectionable stipulation however, that which the Senate has not consented to ratify was not known to me, nor do I think it ought ever to have been submitted to.

You observe that there are many people who wish to raise a jealousy between Mr: Jay and another public character nearly connected with us. It appears to me very probable that such attempts will be made, and I hope with you that they will prove abortive; but if I have one wish in my heart more forcible than any other, it is that the occasion for which you suppose the plan is laid may never happen. Whoever may be the successor of the present first magistrate will hold a situation so uncomfortable and so dangerous, that there is nothing in its possession to make it desirable. I am so far from looking on that place as an object worthy of ambition, that if my unequivocal wishes could decide the point on the supposition of the contingency, which we all deprecate, the election would be declined in the most decisive and explicit manner.

In all ages of the world and in all Countries, instability has been the most essential characteristic of popular opinions, it is so in America and will infalibly become so more and more in proportion as the increase of population shall multiply the quantity of opinions. The Revolutions of popular opinion are to be considered as things of course, though they are misfortunes to the individuals, who are the subjects of them. We are however all much alike in this respect, and the man who has never been at different periods strenuously attached to opposite opinions, would be one of the rarest phenomena in creation.

While you are discussing Treaties in America, they are debating another Constitution in France, and struggling for a National Convention in Holland. The Leyden Gazettes are regularly sent you, and the usual accuracy of their information, makes it unnecessary to write any detail of the News. You will observe that peace is gradually returning to several parts of Europe, but that others are still subject to the ravages of war. I believe that a war scarcely ever takes place between two Nations without some fault on both sides. Both are always severely punished for their fault. This is at least the case in the present war. Every party engaged in it has been brought to the verge of ruin, and not one of them has obtained the object for 27 which it was commenced. The friends of humanity and of justice have only to lament that those who are the causes of the War, are not the sufferers by it.

October 5.

I have seen New York and Baltimore papers through the month of July, and have read the most interesting publications contained in them, as well for as against the Treaty. My opinion remains just what it was before; this I suppose will be the case of most people in America. But the treatment of Mr: Jay is certainly such as does no honour to the American name. It appears to me evident enough, that very little of the outcry of which the Treaty is made the pretence is meant to bear against that instrument. There is a combination of personal envy of the Man, of factious enmity against the Government and of eternal foreign influence operating unseen all assuming the mask of pure and exalted patriotism, to impose upon the people; that the mask should be assumed is neither new nor strange, but that it should still answer its purpose would be surprizing, if any thing could surprize.

It gives me great pleasure to hear that your business is encreasing and your prospects improving. The noviciate of our profession is a severe trial of patience, but has I believe its utility.

I will thank you to send me by a direct opportunity two United States Register’s for the year 1796, I presume they will be published before this letter will reach you.2

I remain your ever affectionate brother.

LbC in TBA’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Charles Adams Esqr:”; APM Reel 128.


Vol. 10:471–474.


Apparently no United States Register for 1796 was ever published. Mathew Carey, who published no new editions after 1795, was still advertising that one for sale in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer as late as 7 Sept. 1796.