Adams Family Correspondence, volume 10

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 16 May 1795 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abigail
John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams
N: 6. Dear Madam. The Hague May 16. 1795.

We seem to be once more restored to some connection with our own Country; for six months after we left it, we might have been almost ignorant of its existence, but for the perpetual admonition of our own Hearts. A few days since I received from Hamburg, your favour of Feby: 10th. The third letter of yours that has reached me, and all within the course of three Weeks. Had you known of the occasion to write by my friend Freeman, I fear very much that your letter would have never reached me. I have heard that the vessel in which he was a passenger foundered on the Coast of France, that the people who took to one of her two boats, were fortunate enough to reach the shore, but that Mr: Freeman was in the other. I have still some hopes that he may have been saved; but my fears of the contrary are greater, and I dread the certainty of having to lament the loss of an amiable & valuable friend.1

I wrote him a letter from London, relative to some papers which he had entrusted to me when I came from America, and which were interesting to him.2 But as I have no acknowledgment from any of my friends in Massachusetts of their having received the letters I wrote them from London, I am apprehensive they must have all miscarried, or at least that Mr: Freeman, had not received that I wrote him, before he sailed himself.

Since I wrote you last (April 25) nothing very material has taken place here. We are very quiet very secure, and in danger of nothing that I know of but hunger. The scarcity of provisions begins to be very alarming here, and it is already severely felt in almost every part of Europe. In some places it amounts to an absolute famine.

Two new members of the french national Convention, and of the Com̃ittee of Public Safety, Rewbell and Syeyes arrived here a few days since and are negotiating with a deputation from the States General. They are both characters of note, but the latter is 435 436 particularly famous. He appears to be between 40 and 50 years of age, middling stature, spare person, pale countenance, strong features, and bald head; dress simple but neat; manners cool, approaching to the asperate. A single interview of a quarter of an hour, would not warrant any more particular characteristic observations.

The object of this mission is supposed to be important, from the choice of the members. Syeyes was President of the National Convention, when he was chosen for this errand, and sat out upon it.

France is far from being entirely tranquil. I have repeatedly given you my ideas relative to the practical moderation to be expected from thence. The last accounts contain details of the execution of Fouquier Tinville, and of fifteen Judges and Jurors of Robespierre’s Revolutionary tribunal, condemned by the Judges and Jurors of a succeeding Revolutionary tribunal, to whom one of the present sufferers upon hearing his sentence, foretold, that their turn also would very speedily come.3

At Lyons on the 4th: of this month the people, forced the prisons, and massacred the persons detained to the number of 60 or 70.4 These severities and cruelties are the reaction of the Revolution, and although afflictive to all sentiments of humanity, seem to lose some of their horrors in the consideration that they are exercised upon the people who were the first examples & instruments of the murders without number with and without legal forms, which proved during so long a time the desolation of France.

On the other hand, fairer prospects rise from the complete pacification of the Vendee, said to be at length effected; from the Prussian Peace, negotiated at Basle, and signed on the part of France, by your old acquaintance Barthelemi,5 and from the increasing probability of a general Peace, or at least with the exception of Great Britain alone.

I have just got letters from my brother Charles of March 10.6 and New York papers from whence it appears that the Treaty signed by Mr: Jay had at length arrived, and that the Senate were to meet in June to determine upon the point of Ratification. I am apprehensive it will occasion a tour to Philadelphia in June, which will not be very pleasant to my father, as it will call him at a busy time from the pleasures of his farm. I rejoyce to hear that the next Senate will be so well composed; a little wisdom, and a little moderation is all we want to secure a continuance of the blessings, of which faction, intrigue, private ambition, and desperate fortunes have concurred in exertions to deprive us. The Government of the United States need 437 not even appeal to the judgment of posterity, whose benedictions will infallibly follow those measures which were the most opposed. The voice of all Europe already pronounces their justification; the nations which have been grappling together with the purpose of mutual destruction, feeble exhausted, and almost starving, detest on all sides the frantic War they have been waging; those that have had the wisdom to maintain a neutrality have reason more than ever to applaud their policy, and some of them may thank the United States for the example, from which it was pursued.

I know not when we shall have an opportunity to send you the articles for which you commissioned us. The situation of this Country has frightened away, almost all our Commerce, and only one opportunity direct to any part of Massachusetts has occurred since we have been in the Country. How long this state of things will continue it is not easy to anticipate; it is not so agreeable as to make us wish very anxiously for its long duration.

Your miniatures are not forgotten. We were so short a Time in England, and our Time there was so busily employed, that we did not find a moment we could spare for the painter.— We have however accidentally met an Englishman here, who is now about the work, and we believe it will be executed to your satisfaction.

I beg to be remembered in duty and affection to my grandmother, and to all our friends at Quincy, and Weymouth. We sympathize most cordially with the family of our Uncle Shaw, upon the heavy loss they have sustained so suddenly by his Death. I have requested Dr: Welsh to contribute for me a small portion of assistance towards supporting the expence of William’s education. Should that be otherwise provided for it is my wish that he should however appropriate the same sum to the occasions of my Aunt and the family.7 I am sure it will be impossible to make a better application of the money.

I remain, my Dear Mamma, your affectionate Son

John Q. Adams.8

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs: A. Adams.”; endorsed: “J Q Adams May / 16 1795.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 128. Tr (Adams Papers).


Jonathan Freeman Jr. perished at sea when his vessel, the snow Enterprize, foundered on 20 Feb., just fifteen days out from Boston en route to Hamburg (Frederick Freeman, Freeman Genealogy, Boston, 1875, p. 187; Newburyport Political Gazette, 18 June).


RC not found. In the LbC of his letter to Jonathan Freeman Jr., dated 26 Oct. 1794, JQA informed Freeman that he had been unable to deliver documents to William Vans in London but had instead left the documents with John Jay. Vans, who was Freeman’s business partner, had departed for Paris as the new American consul. The two men had had a vessel seized in the West 438 Indies, and JQA informed Freeman of a recent Order in Council that would allow the firm to appeal the decision in the English courts (Lb/JQA/2, APM Reel 126; William Vans Jr., A Short History of the Life of William Vans, A Native Citizen of Massachusetts, Boston, 1825, p. ii, 8–9).


Antoine Quentin Fouquier Tinville was a public prosecutor on France’s Revolutionary Tribunal with direct power to sentence people to death. He was arrested during the Thermidorian reaction and later guillotined on 7 May 1795 (Bosher, French Rev., p. xxxviii–xxxix).


A mob killed 97 prisoners at Lyons on 4 April. The attack was part of the reactionary violence against imprisoned revolutionaries that spread across southeastern France during May and June and was termed the White Terror ( Cambridge Modern Hist., 8:387; Bosher, French Rev., p. 238).


François Barthélemy, who was the former chargé d’affaires at London and whom the Adamses had known while in London, was appointed the French minister to Switzerland in 1792. He was responsible for negotiating the Treaty of Basel ( Repertorium, 3:137). For the Adamses’ social interactions with Barthélemy in 1785 and 1786, see vol. 6:303, 305, 472; 7:40, 153.


Not found.


In his letter to Thomas Welsh of 26 April, JQA asked that ten dollars be contributed quarterly to William Shaw’s Harvard education (MHi:Adams-Welsh Coll.).


JQA had written to JA on 4 May and reported better treatment from the Dutch since the French occupation. He had also reviewed the situation in Europe, including the general state of affairs in France, especially the scarcity of provisions and the internal organization of its government. In a second letter to JA, dated 22 May, JQA commented at length on the recent shifts in European allegiances and their potential implications for the United States, especially in light of the Jay Treaty (both Adams Papers).

John Quincy Adams to Charles Adams, 17 May 1795 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Charles
John Quincy Adams to Charles Adams
My dear Brother. The Hague May 17. 1795.

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your favours dated Feby 16. which Mr: Wilcox sent me from Hamburg, and of March 10th: which came in a Vessel arrived a day or two since at Amsterdam.1 The newspapers came with them, and proved a great entertainment to us. The Herald is a very excellent paper and I wish you by all means to continue sending it by every opportunity.2 But when you send them by any private conveyance, I will thank you to request the bearers not to forward them in Europe by the posts, the charges of which upon such packets are very heavy.

Our brother has regularly sent you the Leyden Gazette by every opportunity to New York since our arrival, and is much surprized to find that you did not receive any thing from him by the Vessel, which carried my Letters.

The fate of this Country hitherto will be seen by the accounts contained in the newspapers I say hitherto, because with respect to futurity it remains not less uncertain than it has been from the time when I came into it. The french have proclaimed, but they have not acknowledged its Independence, and it is from time alone that we 439 can be informed, whether it is to continue the humble friend of France, or to return to the allegiance of Britain.

My situation has indeed been as you suspected difficult and embarassing; during the first three months it was unpleasant. But I have not been under any necessity from a dictate of duty to quarrel with any one, and though I have had many temptations, I have as yet found no inducement to discover any partiality towards either of the parties. Each of them has been in its turn, not the pilot, but the rudder of the political ship, and the persons with whom I transacted my first business, are all dismissed, expelled or imprisoned. How long it will be before the course of Revolution will again reverse the scene of political exaltation and debasement, I shall not pretend to say, but it may be observed with truth that it depends upon the policy of others, and not in the minutest particle upon any agency of their own.

The interest and reputation of our Country assuredly has not been advanced by Whiskey rebellions, and Club Resolves, as you express it. But the injury they have caused has been more than counterbalanced by the wise policy, which has hitherto been pursued by the Government. Faction at home may bawl, disappointment may invenom, external influence may cabal and pay, and ambition may declaim, the whole to no purpose, while the administration pursue with firmness the path of neutrality, which they were the first to take, and for the example of which the only Nations of Europe, which have escaped from the general desolation are indebted to them. The consideration and respect in which the American Government is held has been equally strengthened by the manner in which they have conducted their affairs abroad, and pacified their most troublesome dissensions at home.

Those who think or pretend to think that the language or the conduct of a bully is the property style for a public Minister to obtain redress of injuries or to settle differences, may be very proper persons to Command a Regiment or a man of war, but they must be very disingenuous or very ignorant of the most universal propensities of the human heart, as well as of the fundamental principles upon which all pacific negotiations are conducted. They must be therefore characters very improper to manage any negotiation whatever, and incompetent judges of one so complicated and delicate as that with which Mr Jay was Commissioned.

Insolence has within these few years been exhibited more than 440 once by public Ministers, but it would be difficult to name an instance in which it has been useful or successful. From the Minister of a powerful natioin it provokes irritation and excites hatred, when it is not backed by formidable power, it can meet nothing but derision.

Your bill for one thousand dollars in favour of William Rogers has not yet been presented to me, but will meet with all due honour when it comes.3 If you can employ the money upon safe security to so much advantage in America, I think with you that it will not be worth your while to keep any of your property here at an interest of five per cent. Unfortunately, owing to various circumstances, but particularly to the interruption of external communication, and the total stagnation of all Commerce, the obligations, which are to supply the fund for the payment of your Bill are at this time uncommonly low in price, and would sell at a loss of eight or ten per cent; when the interest shall be off, which will be on the first of next month, they will no doubt be yet lower, I shall keep your’s however until the time of payment for your Bill shall come, and shall endeavour that the loss upon their disposition may be as little for you as possible. If you conclude to draw the remainder of your property here to America, you can draw on me another Bill for one thousand Dollars. If from the price of the obligations at the time when the respective bills shall become payable the two draughts should excede the value in my hands belonging to you, I shall request you to pay the difference to some body in America; if on the other hand there should be a balance yet remaining in my hands, beyond the two thousand Dollars, (which would be the case, if the obligations should rise to par, but which is not at all probable) I will still keep it, remaining accountable to you for it.

At present the men of property are discouraged from every species of speculation; many of them actually suffer for want of current cash, and have not the means of sporting with superfluous wealth. It is to be observed that the usual payments from great Britain, from the Emperor, from Russia, from the Dutch East India Company, from France from Poland and from the Province of Holland, upon public Loans are all suspended; Commerce is at a stand and numbers of rich individuals are obliged to sell their securities to provide even for their daily expences.

As you say that money may be disposed of to so great advantage in New York, I submit the following proposal to your consideration; if you think proper to accept it, on my part it shall be fulfilled.


Draw Bills on me to the amount of two thousand dollars, place the money upon safe security to the best advantage you can; you will receive the interest that will accrue from it, and which must be punctually, and at least annually paid, and remit it from me to Dr Welsh at Boston. I leave the employment to your own discretion, requring only that the security shall be unexceptionable, and that the interest shall neat me not less than six per cent on the whole sum, for the management of the business you shall take five per cent upon the Capital, and five percent upon the annual payment of the interest by you to Dr. Welsh. You will keep the securities upon which the principal will rest, subject to my order and disposal, and I should prefer, other things being equal, that it be so placed as to be able at any time to realize the property in specie, in case I should have occasion for it. If you think it worth your while to take this matter in your hands, and your arrangements prove satisfactory, I may perhaps charge you with a further Commission of the same kind. You may draw for the sum as soon as you please after the receipt of this letter. As I place an entire confidence in your integrity and prudence, as well as in your fraternal affection, I presume you will have no occasion to make use of my name in the employment of the money. That however shall be as you think proper.

In the beginning of this letter I told you that France had proclaimed but not acknowledged the future Independence of this Country. I can now inform you that a treaty for this last purpose was signed this morning, and will probably very soon be published. It contracts an Alliance between the two Republic’s, defensive during the remainder of the present war; offensive and defensive from the period of its termination. This event is of the highest importance to the interests of this Country, and of no inconsiderable consequence to the rest of Europe. It is perhaps connected with a more extensive system, which will unfold itself in the course of the present Season.

I am your affectionate Brother.

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


Letters not found.


The New York Herald was a semiweekly newspaper begun by Noah Webster in June 1794 ( DAB ).


For the investment shares JA gifted to each of his sons, see JQA to CA, 20 Nov., above. With his shares entrusted to JQA, CA had to request disbursement from his brother. JQA received the bill from William Rogers, perhaps a London merchant, prior to 7 June 1795 but was unable to remit payment until 26 June (JQA to William Rogers, 7, 26 June, Lb/JQA/4, APM Reel 128; W. Lowndes, A London Directory, London, 1796).