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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0005-0001-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1786-03-29

Wednesday [29 March.]

Dined at Mr. Blakes.1 Mr. Middleton and Wife, Mr. Alexander and Mrs. Williams, Mr. Jefferson.2 Coll. Smith3 and my Family.
1. William Blake (1739–1803), a wealthy and well-connected South Carolina planter, lived much of his life in England but contrived to save most of his property in America; his wife was the former Anne Izard (S.C. Hist. and Geneal. Mag., 2:231–232 [July 1901]; 9:81–82 [April 1908]; 34:199 [Oct.1933]).
2. The joint commission to negotiate commercial treaties held by JA and Jefferson (Franklin having returned to Philadelphia) was due to expire on 12 May of this year. Much of the Commissioners' correspondence between London and Paris during the past ten months had dealt with arrangements for the complicated negotiations with Morocco and Algiers which they were authorized to depute to Thomas Barclay and John Lamb respectively, who were exasperatingly deliberate in their movements. See the documents prepared for these agents by JA and Jefferson in Sept.–Oct. 1785, which are printed in Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 8:610–624. The advent of an envoy from Tripoli in London, one Abdrahaman, gave JA an opportunity to discover whether that piratical power would offer terms that the United States would or could accept; and on 17 Feb. 1786 he sent Jefferson a famous and inimitable account of his first discussion with “the Tripoline Ambassador,” during which JA smoked a pipe which reached to the floor and exchanged “in aweful pomp ... Wiff for Wiff” with his host (LbC, Adams Papers; same, 9:285–288). A further interview prompted JA to urge his colleague to come at once to London, not only in order to try to conclude a treaty with Tripoli but to finish { 183 } a negotiation begun in November with the Chevalier de Pinto, the minister from Portugal in London (to Jefferson, 21 Feb., LbC, Adams Papers; same, p. 295). They were also to make one last effort to interest the British government in a commercial treaty with the United States. On 13 March JA announced in a note to Carmarthen the arrival of Jefferson and requested an interview on behalf of both Commissioners (LbC, Adams Papers; same, p. 327). This first and sole visit of Jefferson to London lasted until 26 April. In respect to treaty-making it accomplished nothing. See the Commissioners' reports to Jay of 28 March and 25 April and the documents (mainly from the Adams Papers) relative to the commercial treaty with Portugal, which was signed by the American ministers on 25 April but which the Portuguese government allowed to lapse unratified (same, p. 357–359, 406–409, 410–433); also Jefferson's account of his English sojourn in his Autobiography (Jefferson, Writings, ed. Ford, 1:88–90).
3. William Stephens Smith (1755–1816), JA's secretary of legation and soon to be his son-in-law; he is designated in the present work as WSS. He was the son of John Smith, a merchant in New York City, was graduated from Princeton in 1774, studied law briefly, and served as an officer in the Continental Army, beginning in Aug. 1776, throughout the war, under the command or on the staff, successively, of Sullivan, Lee, Lafayette, and Washington. The best summary and appraisal of his service to June 1782 is in a certificate from Washington himself, stating that WSS in all his “several Military Stations” had “behaved with great fidelity, bravery, and good conduct” (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 24:377). His last assignment was overseeing the British evacuation of New York City, and he left the army in Dec. 1783 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Appointed by Congress secretary to the legation in London, he arrived just ahead of the Adamses and quickly overcame their doubts about him on the score of his being “a Knight of Cincinnatus” (JA to Gerry, 28 April 1785, and to Lafayette, 3 June 1785, letterbook copies, Adams Papers). Before long he also made a deep impression on AA2, and on 11 June 1786 they were married; see note on entry of 1 July, below. WSS's dispatches as secretary of legation, 1785–1787, are in PCC, No. 92; they have more autobiographical than historical value. In 1788 the Smiths returned to America and settled in New York City. WSS held a succession of civil and military appointments but in 1806 virtually wrecked his career by complicity in the scheme of his old friend Francisco de Miranda to liberate Venezuela from Spanish rule. (He furnished a vessel for the expedition, and his son William Steuben Smith, to the infinite distress of JA, who profoundly disapproved of the whole enterprise, was captured by the Spanish authorities.) Having won an acquittal in a federal court on charges of violating the neutrality of the United States, but having also lost his post as surveyor of the Port of New York, WSS retired to “Smith's Valley,” Lebanon, Hamilton co., N.Y., emerging only to serve a term in Congress 1813–1815, before his death. According to JQA, he left his worldly affairs “in inextricable confusion” (JQA, Diary, 4 May 1819). A memoir of WSS was prepared by his daughter Caroline Amelia (Smith) de Windt and published, together with some of his correspondence, in AA2's Jour. and Corr., 1841–1842; the memoir, which is highly filial, is at 1:99–117. Katharine Metcalf Roof's Colonel William Smith and Lady, published in 1929, is based on both printed and MS sources (including some family papers which cannot currently be traced), but is excessively romantic and chatty in tone and is not documented. An earlier and briefer account is still useful, especially respecting WSS's family: Marcius D. Raymond, “Colonel William Stephens Smith,” N.Y. Geneal. and Biog. Record, 25:153–161 (Oct. 1894). In 1795 WSS purchased an estate on the East River, built an elegant seat there which he called Mount Vernon, and planned a great stone stable which still survives at 421 East 61st Street, almost under the Queensboro Bridge in New York City. The history of the estate and the buildings on it has been related and illustrated by Joseph Warren Greene in “Mount Vernon on the East River and Colonel William Stephens { 184 } Smith,” NYHS Quart., 10:115–130 (Jan. 1927). Because he had greatly overreached himself financially, WSS was obliged to sell this property in 1796, and in 1826 the mansion was destroyed by fire. But the stone stable, after many vicissitudes, was acquired in 1924 by the Colonial Dames of America, which uses it as a national headquarters under the name of the Abigail Adams Smith House; see a pamphlet by Katharine Metcalf Roof, The Story of the Abigail Adams Smith Mansion and the Mount Vernon Estate, issued by the Colonial Dames of America in 1949.

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0005-0001-0003

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1786-03-30

London Thursday March 30.

Presented Mr. Hamilton to the Queen at the Drawing Room.1 Dined at Mr. Paradices.2 Count Warranzow [Woronzow] and his Gentleman and Chaplain, M. Sodorini the Venetian Minister, Mr. Jefferson, Dr. Bancroft, Coll. Smith and my Family.
Went at Nine O Clock to the French Ambassadors Ball, where were two or three hundred People, chiefly Ladies.3 Here I met the Marquis of Landsdown and the Earl of Harcourt. These two Noblemen ventured to enter into Conversation with me. So did Sir George Young [Yonge]. But there is an Aukward Timidity, in General. This People cannot look me in the Face: there is conscious Guilt and Shame in their Countenances, when they look at me. They feel that they have behaved ill, and that I am sensible of it.
1. William Hamilton (1745–1813), Pennsylvania land magnate and patron of landscape gardening, whose house called Bush Hill on the outskirts of Philadelphia the Adamses were to occupy when the government moved to that city in 1790; his niece Ann Hamilton was a great favorite in the Adams household in Grosvenor Square (Charles P. Keith, The Provincial Councillors of Pennsylvania ..., Phila., 1883, p. 135–136; AA to Charles Storer, 22 May 1786, Adams Papers; AA to Mrs. Cranch, 12 Dec. 1790, MWA, printed in AA, New Letters, p. 65–67).
2. John Paradise (1743–1795), a scholarly and eccentric Englishman of partly Greek descent, who had married the Virginia heiress Lucy Ludwell (1751–1814) in London in 1769; they lived and kept a salon in Charles Street, Cavendish Square. This dinner may have been the occasion on which Jefferson met the Paradises, whose adviser and protector during their endless personal and financial difficulties he became. See Archibald B. Shepperson, John Paradise and Lucy Ludwell of London and Williamsburg, Richmond, 1942.
3. On 2 April AA wrote her nieces Elizabeth and Lucy Cranch a letter apiece on the Comte d'Adhémar's supper and ball, dwelling at length on what the ladies wore (in MHi: Norton Papers, and MWA, respectively; both printed in AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1848, p. 278–286).

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0005-0002-0001

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1786-04-04 - 1786-04-10

[Notes on a Tour of English Country Seats, &c., with Thomas Jefferson, 4–10? April 1786.]1

Mr. Jefferson and myself, went in a Post Chaise to Woburn Farm,2 Caversham, Wotton, Stowe, Edghill, Stratford upon Avon, Birmingham, the Leasowes, Hagley, Stourbridge, Worcester, Woodstock, Blenheim, Oxford, High Wycomb, and back to Grosvenor Square.
{ 185 }
Edgehill and Worcester were curious and interesting to us, as Scaenes where Freemen had fought for their Rights. The People in the Neighbourhood, appeared so ignorant and careless at Worcester that I was provoked and asked, “And do Englishmen so soon forget the Ground where Liberty was fought for? Tell your Neighbours and your Children that this is holy Ground, much holier than that on which your Churches stand. All England should come in Pilgrimage to this Hill, once a Year.” This animated them, and they seemed much pleased with it. Perhaps their Aukwardness before might arise from their Uncertainty of our Sentiments concerning the Civil Wars.
Stratford upon Avon is interesting as it is the Scaene of the Birth, Death and Sepulture of Shakespear. Three Doors from the Inn, is the House where he was born, as small and mean, as you can conceive. They shew Us an old Wooden Chair in the Chimney Corner, where He sat. We cutt off a Chip according to the Custom. A Mulberry Tree that he planted has been cutt down, and is carefully preserved for Sale. The House where he died has been taken down and the Spot is now only Yard or Garden. The Curse upon him who should remove his Bones, which is written on his Grave Stone, alludes to a Pile of some Thousands of human Bones, which lie exposed in that Church. There is nothing preserved of this great Genius which is worth knowing—nothing which might inform Us what Education, what Company, what Accident turned his Mind to Letters and the Drama. His name is not even on his Grave Stone. An ill sculptured Head is sett up by his Wife, by the Side of his Grave in the Church. But paintings and Sculpture would be thrown away upon his Fame. His Wit, and Fancy, his Taste and Judgment, His Knowledge of Nature, of Life and Character, are immortal.
At Birmingham, We only walked round the Town and viewed a manufactory of Paintings upon Paper.
The Gentlemens Seats were the highest Entertainment, We met with. Stowe, Hagley and Blenheim, are superb. Woburn, Caversham and the Leasowes are beautifull. Wotton is both great and elegant tho neglected. Architecture, Painting, Statuary, Poetry are all employed in the Embellishment of these Residences of Greatness and Luxury. A national Debt of 274 millions sterling accumulated by Jobs, Contracts, Salaries and Pensions in the Course of a Century might easily produce all this Magnificence. The Pillars, Obelisks &c. erected in honour of Kings, Queens and Princesses, might procure the means. The Temples to Bacchus and Venus, are quite unnecessary as Mankind have no need of artificial Incitements, to such Amuze• { 186 } ments.3 The Temples of ancient Virtue, of the British Worthies, of Friendship, of Concord and Victory, are in a higher Taste. I mounted Ld. Cobhams Pillar 120 feet high, with pleasure, as his Lordships Name was familiar to me, from Popes Works.
Ld. Littletons Seat interested me, from a recollection of his Works, as well as the Grandeur and Beauty of the Scaenes. Popes Pavillion and Thompsons [Thomson's] Seat, made the Excursion poetical. Shen-stones Leasowes is the simplest and plainest, but the most rural of all. I saw no Spot so small, that exhibited such a Variety of Beauties.
It will be long, I hope before Ridings, Parks, Pleasure Grounds, Gardens and ornamented Farms grow so much in fashion in America. But Nature has done greater Things and furnished nobler Materials there. The Oceans, Islands, Rivers, Mountains, Valleys are all laid out upon a larger Scale.—If any Man should hereafter arise, to embellish the rugged Grandeur of Pens Hill, he might make some thing to boast of, although there are many Situations capable of better Improvement.
Since my Return4 I have been over Black Fryars Bridge to see Viny's Manufacture of Patent Wheels made of bent Timber.
Viny values himself much upon his mechanical Invention. Is loud in praise of Franklin who first suggested to him the Hint of a bent Wheel. Franklin once told me, he had seen such a Wheel in Holland, before he set Viny to work. Viny says that Franklin said to him, “Mankind are very superficial and very dastardly. They begin upon a Thing but meeting with a difficulty they fly from it, discouraged. But they have Capacities if they would but employ them.” “I,” says Viny, “make it a Rule to do nothing as others do it. My first Question is how do others do this? and when I have found out, I resolve to do it, another Way, and a better Way. I take my Pipe and Smoke like a Lim-burners Kiln, and I find a Pipe is the best Aid to thinking.” This Man has Genius, but has Genius always as much Vanity? It is not always so open. It is really modest and humble sometimes. But in Viny it is very vain. His Inventions for boiling and bending his Timber, and for drilling his Irons, are very ingenious. The force requisite for bending a Stick of Ash into a hoop, suitable for a large Wheel, or a small one, is prodigious.5
1. In the MS the present entry has the bare caption “London April,” indicating, as does the substance of the entry itself, that it was written after the tourists had returned from their circuit from London to scenic and historic sites in Surrey, Berks, Bucks, and Warwick, as far as The Leasowes in Shropshire, and back through Worcester and Oxford to London. The dates of the tour have been { 187 } | view well worked out by Julian P. Boyd in his editorial notes on Jefferson's “Memorandums” taken on the tour, the entries in Jefferson's Account Book being especially helpful for that purpose (Jefferson, Papers, 9:374). Readers comparing JA's and Jefferson's records of this pleasure jaunt should take note that the latter began his tour two days earlier (visiting Twickenham, Hampton Court, Woburn Farm, and other nearby points) and returned to London where he was joined by JA on 4 April, and also that Jefferson's notes have an addendum for his separate trip or trips to Moor Park, Enfield Chace, and Kew, which took place after he and JA had finished their tour together. They will further notice that while Jefferson mentions only those sites they visited that are dealt with in Thomas Whately's Observations on Modern Gardening, Illustrated by Descriptions, London, 1770, JA by no means confined himself to famous gardens, though he entered in the margins of his own copy of Whately's book (4th edn., 1777, in MB) every garden he visited with Jefferson.
2. This was a return visit for Jefferson to Woburn Farm, near Weybridge, Surrey; see his Account Book, 1783–1790 (MHi), under both 3 and 4 April 1786.
3. Contrast Jefferson's memorandum at Hagley, Lord Lyttelton's seat near Stourbridge, Worcester:
“From one of these [ponds] there is a fine cascade; but it can only be occasionally, by opening the sluice. This is in a small, dark, deep hollow, with recesses of stone in the banks on every side. In one of these is a Venus pudique, turned half round as if inviting you with her into the recess” (Papers, ed. Boyd, 9:372).
4. The evidence is indeterminate on the exact date of the return to London. When the two friends started they did not know how far they would go. “We have seen Magnificence, Elegance and Taste enough to excite an Inclination to see more,” JA wrote his wife from the village of Buckingham, 5 April (NhD). “We conclude to go to Birmingham, perhaps to the Leasowes, and in that Case shall not have the Pleasure to see you, till Sunday or Monday” (i.e. till the 9th or 10th). From entries in Jefferson's Account Book it is clear that on the 9th they visited Blenheim and Oxford and came on to Tatsworth and High Wycombe (where Jefferson paid for “ent[ertainmen]t” 10s. 10d.), which seems to indicate that they lodged there for the night. But he also recorded paying that day for horses as far as Uxbridge, which is closer to London than High Wycombe. Considering the distance and the stops, it is most likely that the travelers spent the night of the 9th on the road and came on to London next day.
On the 9th Jefferson also recorded in his Account Book: “received of Mr. Adams £9–9 in part towards preceding expences from our leaving London Apr. 4. which are joint.” A later, separate account (DLC: Jefferson Papers, under date of Aug. 1786) is fuller:
Whole expences of our journey   £35–   16–   9    
One half is   17–   18–   4   1/2  
Mr. Adams furnished   9–   9      
  £ 8–   9–   4   1/2  
5. The date of the visit to the works of John Viney, “Timber-bender, Great Surry-Str. Blackfri[ars]” (The Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce, and Manufacture, 3d edn., London, 1797, 1:319), is also indeterminate, but it must have occurred between 10 and 15 April, since the next entry in the Diary bears the latter date. Jefferson was also in the party, and if JA was inclined to belittle Viney's bent-timber wheels because the proprietor admired both himself and Franklin too highly to suit JA's taste, Jefferson was later indignant on patriotic grounds. In a letter to St. John de Crèvecoeur about published claims for Viney's process, Jefferson recalled his visit to Viney's works and pointed out that farmers in New Jersey had long made cartwheels by bending saplings into circles and had probably learned the process from Book IV of the Iliad, “because ours are the only farmers who can read Homer” (15 Jan. 1787; Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 11:43–45).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.