Adams Family Correspondence, volume 10

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 15 June 1795 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abigail
John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dear Madam. The Hague June 15. 1795.

We have very seldom an opportunity of hearing from you; and still more seldom that of writing you by a direct opportunity. An indirect one presents itself, and I cannot let it pass, were it barely for the pleasure of writing you that we are well, and enjoy in profound tranquility the beauties of the Season.

The Peace and Alliance between France and Holland; the violent insurrection against the Convention recently suppressed at Paris; the revolt quelled at Toulon, the war broken out once more in the Vendee, and the surrender of Luxemburg to the french Army, are all, important events that have happened since I wrote you last;1 but this letter will be so long before it can reach you, that it would be idle to dwell upon any article of News.

Not one vessel has sailed for Boston from any port in this 453 Country since we have been in it. Not one has arrived from thence. Once in a while I see the face of an old acquaintance, and have recently seen my friend T. H. Perkins of Boston, and Mr Hichborn; they are now both returned to France.2

My latest letters from any part of America are more than three months old. We have however accounts down to the latter end of April.— Full of new complaints against british depredations and rapine.— The Spirit of Rapine is the character of the Nation; they have commenced again the capture of neutral vessels bound to France with provisions. It is some satisfaction to find the cordiality with which they are detested by every body. I am fully convinced that not a breath of air from any quarter of the Heavens over the whole surface of the Earth is wafted along, but is loaded with some malediction against them. For my own part I have always considered the wish of Caligula, as no less atrocious than it was extravagant.3 But reasoning from analogy, I begin to suppose, that it might be dictated by the purest and most refined sentiment of Justice and humanity.

your affectionate Son

John Q. Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed by TBA: “Mrs: A Adams / Quincy / near / Boston”; internal address: “Mrs: A. Adams.”; endorsed: “J.Q Adams June / 15 1795.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 128.


Since JQA’s letter to AA of 16 May, above, several events had occurred in France and in the war in Europe. On 17 May (An. III, 28 floréal), a Jacobin revolt broke out in Toulon that took two weeks for the revolutionary government to quell. On 20 May (1 prairial), a Parisian mob again stormed the National Convention demanding bread and the reinstitution of the Jacobin Constitution of 1793. Unlike the previous mob of 1 April 1795, for which see TBA to William Cranch, 8 April, and note 2, above, this one became violent, killed one member of the Convention, and paraded his head on a pike. It took three days and the arrival of 20,000 troops in Paris before the mob surrendered.

From La Vendée, rumors emerged that the peace of 15 Feb. between the French government and one of the rebel leaders had been falsely signed by the Vendéens, and the disarmament of the rebels, a condition of the peace treaty, could not be achieved. In fact, terms were reached between the revolutionary government and other Vendéen factions in early May, and the peace, although tenuous, would hold until 1796.

The fortress town of Luxembourg, which had been besieged by the French Army in Nov. 1794, finally surrendered on 7 June 1795 ( Cambridge Modern Hist., 8:381–382, 386–387, 388–389, 391, 442; Edward Cust, Annals of the Wars of the Eighteenth Century, 5 vols., London, 1859, 4:291).

In his long letter to JA of 27 June (Adams Papers), JQA further described these events but also questioned the actions of various foreign governments. France’s ill-conceived winter demonstration of its naval presence in the English Channel had left “the fleet so shattered and disabled, that it has not yet been repaired, and will be able to do nothing this Season.” He found in British military strategy that “the pride, pomp and circumstance of their hostility consist, not in the neighing steed, the shrill trump, the spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife, or the royal banner, but in forgery and famine. Their troops have been the terror of their friends and the derision of their enemies; but their artists are inimitable at counterfeiting an assignat, and their frigates and privateers are invincible against the merchant vessels of neutral Nations.” And about the inchoate Batavian Republic, JQA wrote, “The same 454 languor and imbecility which characterized the former government is equally discovered by the present. No vigour, no exertions, no public spirit, but abundance of common place about liberty, equality and the rights of man; abundance of invective against the house of Orange and its partizans; abundance of patriotic exultation together with frequent ebullitions of rage restrained, and of revenge repressed but ready to burst forth in all its violence … This spirit of turbulence is preserved and stimulated by the popular societies, as numerous and almost as mischievous here as they are elsewhere.”


During an eight-month stay in Europe, the Boston merchant Thomas Handasyd Perkins, for whom see CFA, Diary, 2:151, visited JQA on 31 May and 1 June. Benjamin Hichborn, whom JQA characterized as “more frenchman than ever” after their 12 June visit, was a Boston lawyer and former state representative who had been living in Europe since 1792 ( DAB; D/JQA/24, APM Reel 27; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 17:41–42).


Upon hearing a crowd of spectators applaud a rival competitor, the Roman emperor Caligula reportedly said, “If only the Roman people had a single neck” (Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Lives of the Caesars, transl. Catharine Edwards, Oxford, Eng., 2000, p. 153). Among JQA’s books at MQA is Suetonius, L’histoire de empereurs Romains, Amsterdam, 1699, which he purchased at The Hague on 9 Sept. 1795 (Catalogue of JQA’s Books; D/JQA/24, 9 Sept., APM Reel 27).

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 18 June 1795 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
My Dearest Friend June 18— 1795

I received yours of the 12th. I wish congress may rise by the time you mention. a Gentleman reported here yesterday that he had heard that mr Langdon had said he was determind to oppose the Treaty in every article.1 people are very anxious— the col had letters from Halifax which informs him, that without Libeling the vessel, they proceed to unload her & will not permit the Captain nor a single hand belonging to the vessel to be on Board.2 Mr de Latomb came yesterday to see me, & is to Breakfast here this morning. he looks thin, but I believe considers himself a very fortunate Man to be able to return to America with his Head upon his shoulders— he is very communicative respecting the State of France both when he arrived there, & when he left it Says he has dispatches from our Son to the Secretary of state that he inquired after him of the Commissioners from Holland that they informd him, that the Minister & his Secretary were much respected there—

I was glad to hear that you were well. I hope you will be cautious of the Hot Suns, & the reflection from the houses & that you will get an umbrella— I walkt out yesterday a little way near the middle of the day, and felt such a sensation from the Heat of the Sun as I never before experienced— tho I had an umbrella and the distance was short, I was near fainting. mrs Fitch Sent me home in her carriage. I have had the Head ack ever since. I have often heard of the 455 Brick and stone reflection, but I never felt the force of the Sun in such a manner before—

Mrs Smith & children are well I have not heard again from Quincy

affectionatly Yours

A Adams—

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “The vice President of the united / States / Philadelphia”; endorsed: “Mrs A. June 18. ansd 19 / 1795”; notation: “Hond by monssieurr / de La Tombe.”


Sen. John Langdon remained steadfast in his opposition to the treaty, including the vote for ratification on 24 June ( Annals of Congress, 3d Cong., special sess., p. 861–863).


Between 1793 and 1812, the British Navy annually seized about twelve American vessels suspected of carrying contraband for France. A number of these prizes were brought before the vice-admiralty court in Halifax, which then ruled to either clear or condemn the ship, the cargo, or both. While the details of WSS’s specific involvement remain unclear, reports of seized vessels appeared in New York newspapers in the spring of 1795 (Julian Gwyn, Frigates and Foremasts: The North American Squadron in Nova Scotia Waters, 1745–1815, Vancouver, 2003, p. 115–117; New York Weekly Museum, 9 May; New York Argus, 25 May).