Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

Thomas Boylston Adams to Abigail Adams, 12 July 1795 Adams, Thomas Boylston Adams, Abigail
Thomas Boylston Adams to Abigail Adams
My dear Mother. The Hague July 12th: 1795.

The four Letters which your last favor of April 23. mentions to have been written to me, have been received in their regular order, though some of them were nearly five months old when they came 6 to hand.1 Accept my best acknowledgements for your kindness in writing so often; to solicit a continuance of it from you, is useless, because I know you will omit no occasion of affording to your sons, what is their chief source of consolation in their absence, the satisfaction of reading your letters.

I have not always written when my brother did, because he has frequently sent Letters by the way of England; but I have omitted no direct opportunity from this Country, which, considering the little comparative importance of my communications, may perhaps be often enough.

The intelligence you give of the gradual increase of national sentiments throughout our Country, which have discovered themselves from the Pulpit with such decision, is particularly pleasing, as it may be considered an happy presage, that the true interests of the American people, will no longer be the sport of demagogues & hypocrites. The Clergy of our Country have always been distinguished for patriotism; they have inculcated political order & obedience as the assistant & supporting handmaids of religious freedom, and when it is considered that their sentiments are the voluntary & gratuitous tribute of conviction, their value is appreciated far above the hireling offerings, of a dependent hierarchy.

Nothing can afford more real satisfaction than the certainty that our Country is prosperous, florishing & happy; progressing rapidly in improvements of an useful nature, & increasing in wealth, quite as fast perhaps as may be beneficial to us. There is doubtless much wisdom in the cautionary injunction, “make not haste to be rich,” when applied to a nation, as well as an individual, for “much wealth is corpulence” (says Young) “if not disease”.2 Projects of agrandizement often result from a sudden superfluity, and the success of them is usually proportioned to the rashness which begets them.

The pleasing picture which America exhibits at this moment, is as you observe contrasted by the terrifying & melancholy prospect of European affairs. The different powers are at this time, or probably will soon be, alltogether by the ears. Instead of any rational ground for the expectation of permanent peace, there are many circumstances, which indicate a greater extension of the war. France is still menaced, though her victories & triumphs have already cooled the courage of some who were the first to begin the contest with her; but if they have diminished the fury of these, they have also provoked & aggravated the resentment of others. Russia has already 7 joined the coalition with England & the Emperor, and this event has not only terrified the King of Prussia into a treaty with France in expectation of a more terrible enemy in the rear, but even Denmark & Sweden are more than apprehensive of too intimate regards from the same quarter. They are almost as much alarmed at the prospect of female dominion as the Poles are impatient, though impotent under it.3

The British Ministry instead of sending an Ambassador to treat with the french Republic are said to have dispatched a Minister to reside near the person of Monsieur, now, according to their calculation, as well as actual coronation Louis 18th:. The Emigrant chair under the Prince de Condé & Count d’Artois are to be paid by the British Court; The war of the Vendée is to be kept alive still, which added to the assistance that is to be afforded from without, seems to be the solution of the scheme in part, which is to restore the Ancient Monarchy in France. The British Ministry are literally the Bankers to their Coadjutors in the trade of human buchery, and they do not hesitate also to supply the necessities of their enemies in this particular, though in the latter instance their presents will not pass muster at the Office of verification. 4

What aid, support or assistance these projects may receive from the exertions of french Royalists within the territory of the Republic, I know not. Of one thing I am certain, that attachment or even good will to Great Britain, will not be the stimulating motive of them. In one thing frenchmen are united; it is a love for their Country, and a pride of character, which is superior to all their partialities, and even their resentments; and though they may be the worst enemies of each other & of themselves, they are almost universally frenchmen & lovers of France.

At Sea the french are still inferior— within little more than a twelve month they have lost 19 Ships of the Line, either by the accidents & disasters of the Ocean, or taken by the British.5 “The prayers of the unrighteous shall not avail,”6 it is said, & though the prophet Samuel devoutly bent his reverend knees “aboard the Gallic Ship, that France alone might rule the Seas,” the fixed decree, seems not to have relented of its rigor, when assailed by all the fervor of the Patriarchal devotee.

I thank you for the news-boys address; you perceive that I have turned it to account. 7 Your domestic anecdotes are always acceptable, though they are sometimes painful. You enjoin upon me 8 insensibility to female charms. Five and twenty years ago, you would perhaps have spared a young man so impracticable, not to say unfeeling, a task. Ask of my Creator to remould my nature, & perhaps I shall yield obedience to it.

Pardon my dear Mother this rhapsody; I am not often so civil to the ladies. Above all believe that filial respect & affection still reign supreme in the heart of / Your Son

Thomas B Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs: A Adams.”; endorsed: “T B Adams july / 12 1795.”


AA had written to TBA on 30 Nov. 1794, 10 Jan., 11 Feb., and 23 April 1795 (vol. 10:279–281, 345–346, 376–379, 418–419).


Edward Young, The Complaint; or, Night Thoughts, Night VI, line 507.


For the Franco-Prussian treaty and the partition of Poland, see vol. 10:408, 422.

Russia had concluded an agreement with Britain in May to support British efforts against France. In exchange for recognition of the partition of Poland and £500,000, Russia would supply 55,000 troops to assist the British in reclaiming the Rhine or attacking the French coast (Jennifer Mori, William Pitt and the French Revolution 1785–1795, Edinburgh, 1997, p. 216–217).

Denmark and Sweden had both strived for neutrality in the European war. They signed an Armed Neutrality Convention in March 1794 and successfully defended their shipping in the North Sea against incursions by the British. Denmark, however, retained its neutrality in 1795, while Sweden concluded negotiations with France for a defensive alliance that provided French subsidies to further protect Sweden’s neutral shipping rights (H. Arnold Barton, Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era, 1760–1815, Minneapolis, 1986, p. 226–227).


The British government dispatched George Macartney, Earl Macartney, on 10 July to go to Verona to meet with Louis XVIII in exile. Macartney’s mission was to persuade Louis to moderate his demands for full royalist restoration and to remain out of the conflict in exchange for British financial support. Louis accepted the money but refused further cooperation, and Macartney left Verona by Feb. 1796. Around the same time Louis Joseph de Bourbon, 8th Prince de Condé (1736–1818), was commanding a counterrevolutionary army in the Rhineland, while Charles Philippe, Comte d’Artois (later Charles X), had been forced to flee to Bremen following the defeat of the British Army in the Netherlands in the spring of 1795. There the British encouraged his involvement in the Quiberon Bay expedition, for which see TBA to JA, 13 July, and note 3, below. Artois refused but later that summer gratefully accepted exile in Britain, where he sought with some success to raise money and munitions for counterrevolutionaries in La Vendée ( DNB ; Philip Mansel, Louis XVIII, London, 1981, p. 78; Bosher, French Rev., p. xxxi; Vincent W. Beach, Charles X of France: His Life and Times, Boulder, Colo., 1971, p. 76–87).


The French Navy, which had been considerably strengthened in the late 1780s, lost ground during the Revolution. Noble-born officers refused to serve under the Revolutionary government, and sailors, influenced by republican principles, believed they no longer should be obliged to obey their superiors. France lacked the resources to maintain its ships, and government decisions further undermined the navy’s ability to successfully prosecute a war with Britain. Between 1793 and 1795 the French Navy lost or repurposed 40 of its 87 ships of the line. By the end of 1795 it had only 30 ships of the line it could call into service. In contrast, at that point, the British Navy had 105 ships of the line ( Cambridge Modern Hist., 8:447–451; Jonathan R. Dull, The Age of the Ship of the Line: The British & French Navies, 1650–1815, Lincoln, Nebr., 2009, p. 128, 134, 139, 141–142).


Possibly a reference to Proverbs, 15:29: “The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.”


TBA quotes in the paragraph immediately above from the Hartford news carrier’s address that AA enclosed in her letter of 23 April; see vol. 10:419, note 5. The poet mocks Samuel Adams for his support of the French: 9 “And now, O Muse! throw Candour’s veil, / O’er aged Sam, in dotage frail; / And let past services atone, / For recent deeds of folly done; / When late aboard the Gallic ship, / Well fraught with democratic flip, / He praying fell on servile knees, / That France alone might rule the seas; / While Sense and Reason took a nap, / And snor’d in Jacobinic cap” (Connecticut Courant, 5 Jan.).

Thomas Boylston Adams to John Adams, 13 July 1795 Adams, Thomas Boylston Adams, John
Thomas Boylston Adams to John Adams
My dear Sir. The Hague July 13th: 1795.

The flattering reception which my Letters have met with from you, and the expressions of commendation you have been pleased to use respecting them, would excite sensations of vanity, if I could consider them in any other light, than as the effusions of parental partiality, & paternal indulgence. As a tribute of affectionate approbation, I shall cherish it with fondness, & rember it with gratitude.

Your kind favors of April 21st: & 26. have been some time in my possession.1 They present to my mind many objects of deep & interesting reflection, and are replete with that useful instruction, which your communications never fail to afford.

If to you the state of Europe is enigmatical & incomprehensible, it is no less so I believe to the mind of every reflecting man. Its Wars its Revolutions, and its Convulsions, must have their course, but what will follow in their train, or where they will terminate is beyond the reach of calculation, if not above the flight of imagination to ascertain. If a second Iron age does not speedily commence its dominion, nay, if it does not actually exist, it will not be because mankind in the old world are not richly deserving of it, as their follies & their crimes seem calculated to hasten its progress. The powers of Europe, one & all, seem to have lost every thing but their pretensions to former greatness, and these appear to increase in proportion as their actual conditions become desperate. Diminished Empire begets an expansion of pride, and recollected splendor is taken as the standard of aspiring claims.— Between such dispositions, who shall undertake to mediate? It would be to assume the task of reconciling mortified though not humiliated vanity, with the extravagance of new fledged success, & the arrogance of systematic agrandizement.

Rational grounds for the expectation of peace are as you observe Sir, not to be seen. Perhaps from necessity something may be expected, but there is surely nothing to be hoped for from amicable or pacific dispositions.

Since the death of the Son of Louis 16th: there seems to have 10 arisen a wonderful activity among the Royalists both external & internal.2 The Hostage is no longer to be endangered by their exertions; and the safety of the royal infant can no longer afford an apology for their indolence. Favored by a squadron of the English Fleet a descent has lately been effected upon the French Coast in the neighborhood of L’Orient; from 10 to 15 thousand Emigants are said to have been landed, and if report be true they have been joined by a formidable number of the inhabitants of that quarter. The Convention have employed the most vigorous means for defeating this enterprize, and have dispatched two of their members, Tallien & Blad, to superintend the operations of the Republican forces.3 Another naval victory has been gained by a division of the British Fleet under Admiral Bridport, in which the Brest squadron lost three Ships of the Line.4

The new plan of Constitution, now under consideration of the National Convention will doubtless cause much speculation in our Country. If I mistake not the temper of the times, it will be cried up by a particular class of our Citizens as a model of perfection, for experience has shewn, that, let the political breeze blow from whatever point of the Compass it may in France, it never fails to produce a coincident variation in the American weather vane. Your Book Sir, has been both consulted and cited upon this occasion, but I believe you would be loth to acknowledge the sketch of a Constitution, as being formed & fashioned after your prescriptions.5

Boissy-d’Anglas, the Organ of the Committee of Eleven, upon the occasion of presenting the Organic Laws to the Convention, pronounced a very Eloquent discourse; he develops the motives which actuated the Commission in their researches, and enters fully into an investigation of the plan. In quoting your work, to prove the necessity of a separation of powers & a division of Legislative functions, he was guilty of a misnomer as to the Author, by giving you the addition of Samuel instead of John. If the reputation of the quoter were not in some measure compromitted in this error, one might suppose that there was as much of intention as of ignorance in it.6

As yet I have seen only an imperfect sketch of the most important outlines of this new project. If it contains less of Nedhamism, Turgotism, or Franklinism, than the former essays, I believe that it also abounds very little with Adamsism. What will be the fate of it, seems yet to be doubtful, but it is said, very little expectation of its practicability is formed of it in France.


The future boundaries of the French territory, were lately proclaimed by Merlin de Thionville to the “Soldiers of Liberty,” upon the occasion of the surrender of the fortress of Luxemburg. “Luxembourg,” says the proclamation, “que l’Univers l’apprenne, est pour toujours lié aux destinées de la Republique Françoise. Mais, que dis-je? Luxembourg! Tous les pays, où votre valeur a porté les drapeaux de la liberté, tous les pays que vous avez arrosés de votre sang, & conquis au prix de vos dangers, partageront les bienfaits de la Revolution, que vous avez défenduë. De l’Océan aux rives du Rhin, des Pyrenées à la Zeelande, il n’-y aura qu’ une Loi, qu’ un peuple, qu’ un territoire.”

The whole proclamation is in the same style, and the reflections which have been made upon it have adduced the maxim, that “the more an Empire extends its limits, the less susceptible is it of a Republican form.”7

My Brother has already enclosed to you the plan for the Convocation of a National Convention in this Country.8 You observe Sir, that your “curiosity is quite awake to see the new Dutch Constitution.” The chance of your being gratified in this particular, very shortly, seems to be small. If one may be permitted to judge from the total silence which reigns here with respect to this object, of the importance which is attached to it by the Community, it might be said that a solicitude to avoid an examination or enquiry concerning it, is all that can be predicated of the public opinion.

As to “intolerance in political discussions” which you hope will not appear, if I mistake not a species of such a spirit already prevails too powerfully; not in actual persecution as yet, but in the well grounded persuasion of a great portion of this community, that public discussion would awaken it.9 It is this apprehension which restrains every species of political investigation in the public prints, & which connected with the want of confidence between individuals, renders society as insipid as it is uninstructive. This Country has no doubt merited in former times a character for learning. But the celebrity which the researches of her Litterati have obtained, cannot save her at the present day from the reproach of a total apparent apathy toward Sientific speculations.

We have anticipated your injunctions concerning the regularity of exercise. We have frapped the “Barrier derriére la maison du Bois,” almost every day. In addition to the pleasantness of the walk, it derives some satisfaction from the reflection, that we every day tread the same path, which you were used to frequent.


Presenting my affectionate remembrance to all our friends, through your kindness, I remain with sentiments of respectful attachment, Dear Sir, / your Son

Thomas B Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “The Vice President of the U,S.”; endorsed: “T. B. Adams / Hague July 13. 1795.”


No letter from JA to TBA of 21 April has been found, though JA did write to JQA on that date; see vol. 10:414–415. For JA and AA’s letter to TBA of 26 April, see same, p. 424–426.


Louis the Dauphin died on 10 June after a lengthy illness brought on by neglect during his years of confinement by the French revolutonary government ( Cambridge Modern Hist., 8:389–390).


In mid-June the British funded and equipped an expeditionary force, composed largely of French royalist émigrés and French prisoners of war, to land in Brittany and offer support to the existing counterrevolutionary movement there. The troops successfully landed at Quiberon Bay, where thousands of peasants joined them. But the force failed to move forward and lacked the supplies to feed and house the counterrevolutionaries. Divisions within the command and poor strategy also reduced its effectiveness, along with large-scale defections among the French prisoners of war. The National Convention sent Revolutionary leaders Jean Lambert Tallien (1767–1820) and Claude Antoine Augustin Blad (1764–1802) to spearhead the response. The royalists were completely defeated by republican forces in mid-July, and Tallien and Blad oversaw the subsequent execution of all the émigrés (British Minor Expeditions, 1746 to 1814, London, 1884, p. 20–27; Ch. L. Chassin, Les pacifications de l’Ouest, 1794–1801, 3 vols., Paris, 1896–1899, 1:476–477).


Adm. Alexander Hood, Viscount Bridport (1727–1814), was second in command of the British Channel fleet under Adm. Richard Howe, Earl Howe. He was in command of the fleet in mid-June, overseeing the convoy of troops to Quiberon, when his ships encountered the French fleet. The French retreated but not before the British managed to capture three vessels ( DNB ).


JA’s Defence of the Const. had appeared in a French edition entitled Défense des constitutions américaines; ou, De la nécessité d’une balance dans les pouvoirs d’un gouvernement libre in Paris in 1792, with “notes et observations” by Jacques Vincent Delacroix.


François Antoine, Comte de Boissy d’Anglas (1756–1826), was a lawyer and moderate member of the Estates General and National Convention. Part of the “Commission of Eleven” who drafted the new French constitution, Boissy d’Anglas presented the committee’s work to the Convention on 23 June. In that speech Boissy d’Anglas emphasized the need for mixed government and quoted JA’s Defence of the Const. on the “balance of the three powers.” JA was the only authority Boissy d’Anglas cited in the entire speech, but he misattributed JA’s work to Samuel Adams. A copy of Boissy d’Anglas’ Discours préliminaire au projet de constitution pour la République Française, [Paris?], 1795, is in JA’s library at MB (Bosher, French Rev., p. xxvi–xxvii; Andrew Jainchill, Reimagining Politics after the Terror: The Republican Origins of French Liberalism, Ithaca, N.Y., 2008, p. 29, 32, 35–36; Catalogue of JA’s Library ).


Antoine Christophe Merlin “de Thionville” (1762–1833) served in the French Legislative Assembly, National Convention, and later Council of Five Hundred. He was one of the Convention representatives who entered Luxembourg after its surrender to the French Army, planting a liberty tree to mark the occasion (Gregory Fremont-Barnes, Encyclopedia of the Age of Political Revolutions and New Ideologies, 1760–1815, Westport, Conn., 2007; Arthur Herchen, History of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, 5th edn., transl. A. H. Cooper-Prichard, Luxembourg, 1950, p. 145).

The portion TBA quotes in French reads, “May the universe learn that Luxembourg will always be tied to the fortunes of the French Republic. What say I, Luxembourg! All of the countries to which your valor has brought the banner of liberty, all of the countries you have splashed with your blood and, despite perils, have conquered, will share the advantages of the revolution you upheld. From the ocean to the banks of the Rhine, from the Pyrenees to Zeeland, there shall be but one law, one people, one land.”


JQA enclosed his own translation of the Dutch plan of government to JA on 27 June. He noted, “This plan is considered as a thing 13 of so little consequence, that it has not even been published in any of the french news papers of the Country. I have therefore made a translation of it from the Dutch for the Secretary of State, and send a copy of it also to you, because it is really an object of curiosity, and because, I am glad to have an opportunity of shewing you, that I have not entirely neglected the language” (Adams Papers). The copy JQA made for JA, entitled “Extract from the Register of the Resolutions of the High and Mighty Lords the States General of the United Netherlands” and dated 29 May, is located in M/JQA/46.15, APM Reel 241.


Both JA quotations are from his letter to TBA of 26 April, for which see note 1, above.