Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 19 September 1795 Adams, John Adams, John Quincy
John Adams to John Quincy Adams
My Dear son Quincy Septr. 19. 1795

I, Yesterday recd your favour of June 27. No. 10.1 It is in common with all the Numbers which preceded it, full of accurate Information, profound Sagacity and nice discernment. I sent four of your preceeding Numbers to the President, who wrote me on the 20th of August that “they contain a great deal of Interesting matter and No. 9 discloses much important Information and political foresight. Mr J. Adams your son must not think of retiring from the Walk he is in— his Prospects if he continues in it are fair: and I shall be much mistaken, if, in as short a Period as can well be expected, he is not found at the head of the Diplomatic Corps let the Government be administered by whomsoever the People may chuse.” I hope however that they will let you come home in two or three Years to look you up a Wife. Charles in this respect has got a head of you.

Your Maxim of Neutrality between Factions is exactly just and the more indispensible as your Country is neutral— if U. S. were a Party to the War her friends must be your friends and her Ennemies your Ennemies. But at present We are friends to all Nations and all Parties in Europe.

Syeyes I find is not so much esteemed as Boissy D’Anglas; But I can Say nothing of any of those Gentlemen—they are all Strangers to me. There is not a Man left in the Government of France whose Name I ever heard when I was in that Country.

I thank you for that exquisite Piece of political Clock Work, the Dutch Plan of a Convention.— If those Patriots can keep the People with them, they will do something memorable: but it must ever be remembered that the Mob is a Part of the People, and I begin to 32 fear the most influential Part. The Mob has established every Monarchy upon Earth— The Mob has ultimately over thrown every free Republick. The Doctrine of universal suffrage is so manifest a Courtship to the Mob as to need no Comment.—2 But it never can Succeed, for any length of time.— These good Creatures never look forward for two days. The Mob must ever be in the Power of Government—Government never in the Power of the Mob.— Property is universally & eternally irreconcileable with Universal Suffrage. It is one of the Sweetest Consolations of my Life that I had the Constancy to resist this Doctrine through every stage of our Revolution. A Letter of mine has been printed written in 1776—and printed within two or three years past in Youngs Magazine at Philadelphia. This Letter I prize above a statue or a Monument—merely as Evidence of my opinion at that time and of my Courage to avow it, when many of my Co Patriots and more of the Courters of Popularity were very much inclined to admit all Nature to an equal Vote. If all are admitted to a Vote, the Question instantly arises between Men of Property and Men of No Property and as the latter are always the most numerous, three to one at least, the Vote is always carried by them against the others. A Man of Property is instantly in the Case of the Lamb in the Custody of the Wolf.—3

It is humanity to those People themselves to exclude them from a Vote, for they never have it and Use it but to their own Disgrace, Remorse and Destruction.

The Politicks of this Country I shall leave. The last hope of a Party seems now in a desperate Attack upon the President. But a successful Attack upon that Man would be a Demonstration that Elective Executives are impracticable.

If I have heard a true Whisper, you have a Part to Act concerning the Treaty.4 Be of good Courage and of good Cheer— It will not hurt you finally, though it may raise a present Clamour. Publicola knows what a popular Clamour is.

I am my dear son, with best Wishes and / constant Prayers for your Wisdom Virtue / and Prosperity, your affectionate Father

John Adams5

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “J. Q. Adams / American Minister at the / Hague”; endorsed: “My Father / 19. Septr: 1795. / December—recd: London. / 29. do: Ansd:.” Tr (Adams Papers).


For a summary of JQA’s letter to JA of 27 June (Adams Papers), see vol. 10:453–454.


In the English translation of the Dutch plan that JQA provided to JA, for which see TBA to JA, 13 July, and note 8, above, it states, “The Voters are, all citizens that have 33 attained the age of twenty years, and during the year preceding the time of voting have had their permanent residence in this Republic” (M/JQA/46.15, APM Reel 241).


Several letters by JA were printed in the Universal Asylum, and Columbian Magazine, published in Philadelphia by William Young, March—May 1792. The one JA describes here was originally sent to James Sullivan on 26 May 1776 and reprinted in the Universal Asylum, April 1792, p. 219–221, as “Copy of an Original Letter from Mr. John Adams, to a Gentleman in Massachusetts.” In the letter JA argues that expanding suffrage to include men who own no property would lead to a general breakdown in the social fabric: “Depend upon it, sir, it is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation, as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters. There will be no end of it—new claims will arise—women will demand a vote—lads from twelve to twentyone will think their rights not enough attended to,—and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other in all acts of states. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.” For a modern reprinting of the letter, see JA, Papers , 4:208–213.


On 25 Aug. 1795 acting secretary of state Timothy Pickering sent JQA instructions to proceed to London by 20 Oct. to exchange the ratifications of the Jay Treaty because the U.S. minister to Britain, Thomas Pinckney, was in Spain. Pickering further noted that if JQA could not reach England by that time, William Allen Deas, U.S. chargé d’affaires in London, would handle the task. Although JQA did not receive the letter until 19 Oct. he nonetheless proceeded to Britain, presumably on the expectation of participating in further negotiations with the British government. He reached London on 11 Nov. by which time Deas had completed the exchange. Once on the scene, JQA took up the work begun by Deas of negotiating with Lord Grenville over continuing British impressments of American sailors, the immediate evacuation of the western posts, and neutral rights, especially as they related to a possible conflict between British Orders in Council and the newly approved treaty on the subject of contraband, notably foodstuffs shipped to France. JQA failed to win any concessions from the British, and his diplomatic work on this topic was effectively ended by Pinckney’s return to England in mid-Jan. 1796. JQA remained in London, however, sightseeing, visiting friends, sitting for a portrait by John Singleton Copley, and courting LCA, for which see JQA to AA, 28 Feb., and note 3, below. Instructions permitting him to return to the Netherlands finally arrived on 26 April, and he began his trip from London to The Hague on 28 May (Bemis, JQA, 1:68–79; DNB ; D/JQA/24, APM Reel 27).


On this same date JA wrote to TBA, thanking him for his letter of 13 July 1795, above, and offering further comments on the situation in France. JA reiterated the importance of three independent branches for the French government and expressed his hope that his Discourses on Davila might be published as a single volume to complement the Defence of the Const. (Adams Papers).

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams and Mary Smith Cranch, 24 September 1795 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams and Mary Smith Cranch
Haverhill. September 24th 1795

Justice & judgment are the habitation of thy throne, O my God! but thy mercy endureth forever—1

In the depths of Sorrow, I have lifted up mine Eyes, & felt some ray of comfort, when I saw this thy darling Attribute shining with distinguished lustre—“many, very many were the virtues of my Friend”— feign would I hope, they were such as would more than ballance his failings— feign would I hope that when the accusing Spirit flew up to heaven’s high chancery he found not there an high 34 priest who was not touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one who ever liveth—making intercession for his frail creatures—who died—& rose to obtain pardon for a guilty race—that our transgressions might be blotted out forever— Feign would I hope that they might not appear in this world to disgrace a sacred Office—nor as a Stigma to the innocent—nor to condemn at the great day of retribution— God grant that he, who shewed mercy to his fellow creatures, may have found mercy, through the Lamb who was slain, & not a “consuming fire,” for “many, very many were the virtues of my Friend”

How often have I said, that [“]if my head were waters, & my eyes a fountain of Tears, I would weep day & night, if it could but wash out Sin, free him from the worst of slavery & make him stand fast, in that liberty, where with Christ had made us free”2 How often have I said that if I had any hopes of an happy hereafter for my friend, I should infinitely prefer, (dismal as my Situation must be) to see him streched a pale Corpse before me, than to endure the anguish— the torture that I daily experienced—yet “many, very many were the virtues of my Friend—”

I think I once told you, my Sisters, there were some subjects that were too tender to write, or converse upon. I now find there are some too painful to think upon—& as words are indequate to my feelings, I leave you my Sisters to Judge what those must be, when (what I should consider under happy circumstances as my greatest affliction,) I must now think the greatest Blessing, that could befall me, or my Children— And if ever I could trace the footsteps of divine love & pity exercised towards me, (since it did not please to grant me the unspeakable joy of being the happy mean of his reformation) I think I can see it in his immediate removal—for alas! our Children were too old not to perceive there was something very wrong, & religion must inevitably have met with a wound.— The eyes of our domestics have been blinded, & their Lips sealed, but it seems as if my gaurdian Angel could not have saved us much longer, as if he must be weary, with warding off the fatal blow— Hush trembling heart, hush—silent as his Grave—tread lightly over the ashes of the dead— That my heart has bled—few know— I hope, & trust they do not— And how you my Sisters could have come by your information, I cannot conceive— The friend to whom I suppose I am under many obligations, has made in times past too frequent visits, not to perceive the tremor of my Nerves, & the anguish of my heart, but 35 has been too generous to claim any merit, & too delicate ever to give the most distant hint of any services rendered me, or mine—

After having so unexpectedly suffered in one tender connection, who can wonder if I feel extremely timid, & reluctant in forming a new. Yet as I never heard anything amiss of the person, & every one here is congratulating me upon my comfortable prospects, I will hope that there are some days of tranquility (at lest) in store for me, & that tears, trouble, & dissapointment will not forever be the ensignia’s which mark my way— You say my Sister that you hope I shall not be obliged to change my State from pecuniary motives, I am sorry to say, I am fully sensible I must change my place of abode, & retire into a room, if I do not go to Atkinson—3 Last year I had many things from the parsonage, but this year I have every thing to purchase, even to a grain of mustard, & you must be sensible how little 40s will do, towards providing a week for a Family, washing, & ironing forever too this hot summer— There is no one in the Town but myself who take borders for a living, & board is no ways equal to the advanced price of articles— wood is from 20s to 24s now, I assure you I feel anxious, for there is no oeconomising with boarders, though mine are very good— I hope no one will think pecuniary motives have more than there proper weight, though they may urge a more speedy removal, than At first I thought of, yet they are the lest, & it would be paying my Friend but an ill compliment, & doing injustice to merit, & persevering regard to suppose it— I cannot but say, I feel anxious upon his account, lest such an addition to his Family, should be more than he has considered of— I suppose Cousin Betsy has told her Sisters, (though she has never said a word to me) that as soon as his own mind was made easy, he took the earliest Opportunity to assure her, that he would have her go with me, & consider his house as her home, just as she did in her uncle Shaws family, for he should consider her in that respect, as my Child— It was a favour I wished but could not ask— If that had not been granted, I should I believe tarried in Haverhill, till spring, & how much longer I know not—for our attachments I find are very strong towards each other— I hope she will be well married, I wish Mr Tucker was in business.4 they were formed for each other— I hope you do not think I have palmed my own daughter upon you. I really want her assistance now, for I never had so little time for myself in my Life, & being sick so much has put my work back— I was saying we had not all been so well for seven years, when in a few 36 minutes after, my dear Abby Adams came from School with the tears in her Eyes, “mamma my head akes, & my throat is very sore,” so uncertain is every thing here— I intended to have written to you by Mrs Black, but her being taken sick, & having a very high fever for several days has prevented my earlier returning my most cordial thanks— What should I do, if I had not such good Sisters!— Such Nephews, & Neices as I am blessed with seldom fall to the Lot of any one— To be esteemed, & loved is & has been the solace of my Life, the soft soother of my woe, the cheif ingredient that has sweetened my Cup of Life— In the mutual interchange of kind Offices, in the exercise of benevolent affections I wish to spend my time here, till I am admitted to purer regions, & then with more extensive views, & enlarged powers, I hope to spend an Eternity with those blessed Spirits, who fly to do the will of their great Original—

RC (Adams Papers).


Psalms, 89:14.


A conflation of Jeremiah, 9:1 (“Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”), and Galatians, 5:1 (“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage”).


Atkinson, N.H., was the home of Rev. Stephen Peabody, to whom Shaw would be married in December. Peabody had served as the minister there since 1772. Together they would run Atkinson Academy, one of the first coeducational preparatory academies in America ( Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 17:210, 214–215).


Ichabod Tucker (1765–1846), Harvard 1791, began practicing law in Haverhill in 1795. He later moved to Salem, where he became clerk of the courts for Essex County. He married Maria Orne in 1798 (D. Hamilton Hurd, comp., History of Essex County, Massachusetts, 2 vols., Phila., 1888, 1:xxix). Elizabeth Smith married James Hiller Foster in 1798.