Adams Family Correspondence, volume 9

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 December 1793 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Philadelphia Decr 22. 1793

I went this morning to Dr Greens and this afternoon to St. Pauls where I heard Dr Magaw: but I am not Sure it is prudent to go to Church or to Meeting for if there is danger and can be infection any where it is as likely to be in these Assembleis as in any Place. All the World however says and believes there is no danger.

Our son Thomas opened at the Bar, on Fryday and acquitted himself to his own Satisfaction at least, and that is a great Point. His Cause was a Prosecution of a disorderly house and consequently his Audience was crouded. Two of your sons are thus engaged in the great Work of Reformation and I wish them success. Mr Ingersol thinks, that as Charles is not necessitated to push into the Country for an immediate subsistance, he had better remain in the City where there is the greatest Quantity and Variety of profitable Business. But advises me to let him ride the Circuits in the Summer, to see the Country and the People as well as practice. This Plan upon the whole I approve, among many others for this decisive one, that he will avoid the danger if there should be any in the Summer Months.

I cannot write you upon public affairs. I should write in Shackles. There will be many weak Propositions no doubt. it is even possible there may be some wicked ones: none I hope Stark mad.

The Antifœderal Party by their ox feasts and their civic feasts, their king killing Toasts, their perpetual Insolence and Billingsgate against all the Nations and Governments of Europe their everlasting brutal Cry of Tyrants, Despots, Combinations against Liberty &c &c &c have probably irritated, offended and provoked all the Crowned Heads of Europe at least: and a little more of this Indelicacy and Indecency may involve Us in a War with all the World. on the other hand It is possible the French Republicans may be angry with Us for preventing their Minister, from involving Us in War & Anarchy. The State is in critical Circumstances, and have been brought into them by the Heat and Impatience of the People. If nothing will bring them to consideration, I fear they will suffer Severely for their Rashness. The Friends of the Government have been as blind as its Ennemies in giving Way to the Torrent. Their great Error was in suffering Publicola to be overborn and Paines Yellow Fever to be 482Spread and propagated and applauded, as if, instead of a Distemper, a putrid, malignant mortal fatal Epidemic, it had been a Salubrious shower of Blessings from on high. It is reported this Luminary is coming to America.1 I had rather, two more Genets should arrive.

Mrs Dalton and too many others to be named, desire their respects to you.

My office renders me so compleatly insignificant that all Parties can afford to treat me with a decent respect, which accordingly they do, as far as I observe or hear or suspect. They all know that I can do them neither much good nor much harm.

My Health has been pretty well, excepting a Cold, which I regularly have upon entering this City two or three Weeks, every Year.

I am afraid We shall have a long session. But I hope We shall rise in April. My Duty to my Mother & Love where due.

yours unceasingly

J. A

RC (Adams Papers) endorsed: “Decbr 22 1793.”


Thomas Paine did not return to America until 1802; in late Dec. 1793, he was imprisoned by the French as a British national after he broke with the increasingly radical National Convention ( DAB ).

John Adams to Charles Adams, 23 December 1793 Adams, John Adams, Charles
John Adams to Charles Adams
Dear Charles Philadelphia Decr 23. 1793

The Papers, furnish Us this Evening with more flowers of Jacobinical Rhetorick from New York. Crushing Monarchy Confusion to Aristocracy and Monarchy: a Brutus to Tyrants &c are Still not only panting in the Bosoms of the Guests at the new Civic Feast, but they must publish their Breathings to the World.1

It is so customary for the Members of the Corps Diplomatick, to make Ex officio representations of Such Ebullitions in Newspapers to the Administration of the Government to which they are Accredited; that it must be acknowledged to be much to the honour of the Gentlemen who are here from Spain Holland and England, that they have not hitherto persecuted the President & secretary of State with Remonstrances against our Newspapers. Their Silence is a Proof of their Moderation, their Patience and their Tenderness for the Freedom of the Press. I Suppose too that they make allowances for our Youth and Inexperience of the World. For Our Ignorance of what in Europe is known and acknowledged to be the Delicacy and Decency, due to all foreign nations and their Governments. We claim a Right, very justly to the form of Government We like best. Every Nation in 483Europe has the Same Right and if they judge Monarchy to be necessary for their Happiness, What Right have We to reproach, much less to insult them? Supposing ourselves to be Judges of what kind of Government is best for them, a Supposition however which We cannot modestly make and which is certainly ill founded, We should have no right to impose upon them our Ideas of Government, any more than our principles of Religion or systems of Faith. There is an Ungenerosity in this disposition So often displayed by so many of our Countrymen, nearly bordering on meanness of Spirit, and an illiberality, Strongly marked with littleness of Soul.

Should a foreign Minister complain to the President against the grossest of these Libels, and demand that the Printers, Writers &c should be punished, what could he answer? He must answer that he would give orders to the Attorney General to prosecute them: should the Attorney General Prosecute and the Grand Jury not find a Bill or the petit Jury not convict what would be the Consequence? Resentment, Vengeance and War as likely as not. At the present Moment the Combination of Powers is so strong, that We may expect they will be irritable in Proportion to their feeling of their own Superiority of Power. And I am really apprehensive that if our People cannot be persuaded to be more decent, they will draw down Calamities upon our Country, that will weaken Us to such a degree that We shall not recover our Prosperity for half a Century.

What assistance can France give Us, or We afford her in the present Posture of affairs? We should only increase each others Miseries, if We were involved in War, with all her Ennemies.

our People Seem to think they could now go to War with England and be at Peace with all the rest of Europe: a delusion so gross that I am amazed it should have deceived the Sagacity of the meanest of our Citizens: so sure as We go to War at present with any one European Power We must go to War with all, excepting Denmark and Sweeden, and the Consequences of such a War have not I fear been maturely weighed by my dear Countrymen. I am my dear Charles your / affectionate Father

J. A.

RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); endorsed: “Decr 23 1793.”


The Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser, 23 Dec., reprinted a letter from New York regarding a farewell dinner for Edmond Genet, which he was ultimately unable to attend. Nonetheless, the guests gathered and made various toasts in support of the French Revolution, including “Success to the French cause—May every Frenchman be a Hercules to crush despotism and monarchy” and “The Rights of Man universally acknowledged.”