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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0282

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Charles
Date: 1793-12-23

John Adams to Charles Adams

[salute] Dear Charles

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 { 483 } Europe 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
[signed] J. A.
RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); endorsed: “Decr 23 1793.”
1. 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.”

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0283

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1793-12-26

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

I have enough to do to write Apologies in Answer to Invitations to dinner and to Tea Parties: but I have long Since taken the Resolution that I will not again loose myself and all my time in a wild vagary of Dissipation. As it is not in my Power to live on equal terms with the Families and Personages who exhibit so much real Hospitality in this City, I would not lay myself under Obligations to them which I could not repay. But besides this I have other Motives. I have Occasion for some time to write Letters to my friends, and for more, that I may read something, and not be wholly ignorant of what is passing in the litterary World. There is more pleasure and Advantage to me, in this than is to be found in Parties at dinner or at Tea.
Columbus is republishing in New York, in a public Paper, of whose Title I am ignorant, whose Editor is Mr Noah Webster who is lately removed from Hartford to that City, and is Said to conduct his Gazette with Judgment and Spirit upon good Principles.1 He has given a conspicuous Place and a large handsome Type, as I am told to the Speculations of the Bostonian. Here they are unknown, except to two or three, but I have heard they are to appear a Printer having heard Mr Ames Say they were a very compleat Thing and that there was but one Man in Boston that he knew of who could write them
our Friend Mr Cabot has bought a Farm in Brokelyne, adjoining to that of my Grandfathers, where he is to build an House next Summer. He delights in nothing more than in talking of it. The Searchers of Secret motives in the heart have their Conjectures that this Country Seat in the Vicinity of Boston was purchased with the Same Views which some Ascribed to Mr Gerry in purchasing his Pallace at Cambridge and to Gen. Warren in his allighting on Milton Hill.2 Whether these Shrewd Conjectures are right or not, I own I wish the State may never have worse Governors, than Gerry or Cabot, and I once thought the Same of the other.
I am told Mr Jefferson is to resign tomorrow. I have so long been in an habit of thinking well of his Abilities and general good dispositions, that I cannot but feel some regret at this Event: but his Want of Candour, his obstinate Prejudices both of Aversion and { 485 } Attachment: his real Partiality in Spite of all his Pretensions and his low notions about many Things have so nearly reconciled me to it, that I will not weep. Whether he will be chosen Governor of Virginia, or whether he is to go to France, in Place of Mr Morris I know not. But this I know that if he is neglected at Montecello he will soon see a Spectre like the disgraced Statesman in Gill Blass, and not long afterwards will die, for instead of being the ardent pursuer of science that some think him, I know he is indolent, and his soul is poisoned with Ambition.3 Perhaps the Plan is to retire, till his Reputation magnifies enough to force him into the Chair in Case. So be it, if it is thus ordained. I like the Precedent very well because I expect I shall have occasion to follow it.— I have been thirty years planning and preparing an Assylum for my self and a most admirable one it is, for it is so entirely out of order, that I might busy myself, to the End of my Life, in making Improvements. So that God willing I hope to conquer the fowl Fiend whenever I shall be obliged or inclined to retire. But of this prattle, (entre nous) enough.
Yours as ever
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Decbr 26 1793.”
1. Noah Webster's recently established New York newspaper, American Minerva, reprinted the second and third Columbus essays on 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24 December.
2. George Cabot (1752–1823), Harvard 1770, had been a Beverly, Mass., sea captain and merchant. He served as one of Massachusetts’ senators from 1791 to 1796. In 1793, he purchased a large farm and house in Brookline, Mass. If he had political designs on the Mass. governorship they never materialized though he was considered for a diplomatic mission to France (Sibley's Harvard Graduates 17:344–367). JA's grandfather Peter Boylston had been a Brookline shopkeeper.
3. In Alain René Le Sage's The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane transl. Tobias Smollet Book XII, ch. xi, the Count d’Olivares upon losing his public position, retires to his garden where he is haunted by a ghost: “I am the prey of a morbid melancholy,” he reports to Gil Blas, “which eats inwardly into my vitals: a spectre haunts me every moment, arrayed in the most terrific form of preternatural horror. In vain have I argued with myself that it is a vision of the brain, an unreal mockery: its continual presentments blast my sight, and unseat my reason. Though my understanding teaches me, that in looking on this spectre I stare at vacancy, my spirits are too weak to derive comfort from the conviction.” He dies shortly thereafter. Gaspar de Guzmán, Count d’Olivares (1587–1645), served as minister under King Philip IV of Spain from Philip's ascension to the throne until 1643 when he was forced to retire (Cambridge Modern Hist., 4:635–637 654).
Thomas Jefferson formally retired on 31 Dec. 1793. He would spend the next three years primarily at Monticello, where he improved his farms, built a grist mill and nail factory, and generally focused on agricultural and building concerns. He remained out of public office until his election to the vice presidency in 1796 (DAB).

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0284

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1793-12-28

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] my dearest Friend

The weather is so extreemly cold that my Ink almost freezes whilst I write, yet I would not let a week pass without writing to you tho I have few occurrences to entertain you with; I received last saturday your two Letters one of the 12 and one of the 13th december;1 I have not yet had a Philadelphia paper. when the pamphlets are out containing the correspondence between the ministers I hope you will send me one. in Edds paper of the last week appeard a low abusive peice against the British minister for the conduct of his court towards America but it was really too low for notice.2 the Chronical exults, without reason however at Dallas’es Reportt, it has become as much of a party paper as Freaneus.3 there is a great & general Allarm arising from the depredations which it is reported & feard the Algerians have made upon American vessels. All imported articles particuliarly west India produce has risen in concequence of it; congress will indeed have their Hands full of Buisness—and will have no time I hope, and very little disposition to quarrel. I am solisitious to know what Genets conduct will be at Philadelphia. I presume he does not shew his Head at the Levee nor will he venture a visit to you in his publick Character; I think he is much like Cain after he had murderd Abel. Columbus closed last Saturday. I hope you have seen all the Numbers we have had in the course of the last week a very suden Death dr Rhoads was taken sick with a nervious fever and dyed the 3 day leaving a most distrest family 5 children 2 of them quite Babies, and mrs Rhoads hourly expecting to get to Bed, and in want of every necessary of Life. I never was witness to a more distresst Scene. I attended the funeral, and found her in fits, the children and people in the Room all terifye'd not knowing what to do with, or for her. dr Phips had run home for some medicine; and every person seem'd to be thrown into the utmost distress. the dr was a kind Husband and an innofensive man dejected & disspirited tis Said by his prospect, her situation is pityable indeed. she has since got to bed and happily I may say lost her Baby which no doubt sufferd from her distress of Body and mind4
our Friends here are all well. I do not learn that any persons have been endangerd by going into the city of Philadelphia, so that my fears and apprehensions are much quieted. this very cold weather if { 487 } it reaches you will tend to preserve the Health of the inhabitants, but I fear it will pinch you severely. it gives me the Rhumatism
I am with every sentiment of affection and Regard most tenderly your
[signed] A Adams
RC (Adams Papers); addressed by JQA: “The Vice-President of the United States / Philadelphia.” endorsed: “Mrs Adams 28. Decr / 1793 / ansd. 6 Jan. 1794.”
1. JA wrote a brief letter to AA on 13 Dec., acknowledging hers of 28 Nov., above. He mentioned attending church services on the day of thanksgiving and also noted Edmond Genet's arrival in Philadelphia (Adams Papers).
2. The Boston Gazette, 23 Dec., contained a piece signed “A Merchant” attacking George Hammond, “one of the diplomatic Agents of our late detestable Tyrant,” for declaring the British intent to seize U.S. provisions being shipped to France. “The Ignorance of this person becomes as conspicuous as his Impudence is insupportable,” the article continues. “The Principles of the War against the French are well known to be precisely the same with those which instigated the late cruel and unprovoked attack upon the Liberty and Independence of this Country.” The piece also excoriates the British government for its part in the Indian wars and “their late manœuvres in ALGIERS.”
3. Alexander James Dallas published a report in the Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser, 9 Dec., outlining his version of events related to Genet's ongoing battle with John Jay and Rufus King over the French minister's alleged “appeal to the people.” Dallas’ report, while describing Genet as “intemperate” and accusing him of issuing “angry epithets,” nevertheless stated unequivocally that the expression that Genet would “appeal from the President to the People” was in Dallas’ words, not Genet's. The Boston Independent Chronicle, 19 Dec., reprinted Dallas’ statement. In the same issue, the newspaper also published an editorial celebrating Dallas’ “strict probity” and decrying, “it is evident that every unfair measure has been taken to injure Mr. Genet, in the opinion of the people—to destroy his reputation, and to throw him into a ‘dilemma’ in the execution of his office.”
4. Dr. Joseph Wanton Rhodes (or Rhoades) (b. ca. 1752) died on 19 December. He had been married to Catherine Greenleaf (b. 1760) since 1780 (Boston Independent Chronicle, 30 Dec. 1793; Boston, 30th Report, p. 447; Greenleaf, Greenleaf Family, p. 196).

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0285

Author: Shaw, Elizabeth Smith
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1793-12-29

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams

[salute] My Dear Sister—

It is a long time since I have written to you, or received a Line from either of my much loved Sisters— I have done like many others, in the more important Concerns of Life, who, though convinced of their Duty, put off the performance of it, to a more convenient Season—not considering, that the present moment, is the only one we may be favoured with—
I know that my Sister looks back upon the last year, & now sees the close of it, with peculiar gratitude—that Heaven has been pleased to preserve the lives of all her Family—& to spare her Son when surrounded on every side, with that most awful pestilential Dissease which has torn so many Mothers from the arms of their clinging Infants, & with a cruel despotic sway, in quick succession { 488 } made, “wild Inroads on a Parents Heart—”1 But he who is the repairer of breaches—who hears the young Ravens when they cry, will not be deaf to the cries of those helpless Infants, but will raise up Friends to those distressed Orphans, who will be the guide of their tender Years—
When the Congress first met, I felt very anxious, & I know your mind must have been much agitated—least the City should not have been properly cleansed—& the air prove prejudicial to your best Friend— I never think of him, but with a petition to heaven, that his most useful Life might be spared, that he might see the blessings of that Government, of which he has been so instrumental,—preserved, inviolate to his Childrens, Children—
A nervous putrid fever has prevaield in the Towns round us, & carried of a number of Persons— Mr Welch, a Class-mate of your Son's, is among the number—

“Lamented Youth! in life's first bloom he fell”2

He was a young minister beloved by every one—happy in the affections of the People of his Charge—Zealous in promoting the intereste of Religion, without too great a degree of Enthusiasm—meek—& serious—with out affectation—cheerful, without Levity—complacent & affable without familiarity gentle in his manners—excellent in his Morals he enforced, & gave a double weight to his Precepts, by the purity of his Life—which was uncommonly useful, improving in knowledge & virtue— What! though short his date—if it has answered Life's great end—it is enough— Scarce one year has elapsed since he was united to an accomplished Lady—in the silken bands of Hymen—whom in the pangs of Death, he pressed to his fond faithful Heart—& beged of her Mother, to again receive, & protect both her, & hers, if heaven should be pleased to bless his widowed, pensive solotary mate, with the tender appellation of Parent—which alas! he must never know—3 It was a Scene almost too tender, for Description— I will say no more than that

“In Sorrow, may I never want a Friend

Nor, when others mourn, a Tear to lend—”4

Mr Cranch went away suddenly, & I had not time to finish this—May it find you in health—& the new born year be replete with Blessings—
I wish you would be so kind as to lend me the Rights of Women—the first opportunity—5 when you write to your Children, please to { 489 } give my Love to them all— / & accept of the unfeigned Love, & Grati- / tude of your affectionate Sister
[signed] E. Shaw—
Please to excuse the writing, as Abby is round all the time chattering like a Mag-pye—
1. Isaac Watts, “To Mitio My Friend,” line 99.
2. Homer The Iliad, Book XVII, line 348.
3. Francis Welch (1766–1793), a classmate of JQA at Harvard, served as the minister at West Amesbury, Mass., until his death on 15 December. He had married Priscilla Adams (1772–1817) in Dec. 1792; their only chil, Priscilla Perkins Welch, was born in Feb. 1794 (William Prescott, “Philip Welch of Ipswich, Ms., and His Descendants,” NEHGR, 23:421 [Oct. 1869]). For JQA's sketch of Welch see Diary, 2:236.
4. Anne Steele, “The Friend,” in Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional, 3 vols., Bristol, Eng., 1780, 1:237–239, lines 41–42.
5. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, London, 1792.

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0286

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1793-12-30

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

[salute] my dear

I inclose to you your Brothers Letter I should have Sent for you last saturday but I expected a snow storm. I suppose your Father has written to you. he is vex'd with the Printer for Publishing in three Numbers what ought all to have been in one. he says the writer of Columbus had better publish in a pamphlet by which a printer may get money, and as pamphlets are much in vogue at present. suppose you should hint it to him your Father sends his thanks to the writer, for his masterly defence of the writers upon the Law of Nature and Nations and for laying before the publick such passages as are extreemly to the purpose Genet made him a visit as he did to other Senators who all hastned to return it. he was at home when your Father returnd his. there conversation was confind to inquiries after his mother & sisters, &c and to some discussion about the form of their New constitution. Take Genets Character from one who has long been accustomed “to look quite through the deeds of Men”1 [“]He appears a youth totally destitute of all experience in popular Governments popular assemblies or conventions of any kind: very little accustomed to reflect on his own or his fellow creatures Hearts wholy ignorant of the Law of Nature & Nations, the civil Law and even of the dispatches of Ancient Ambassadors with which his own Nation and Language abounds A declamatory stile a flitting fluttering Imagination an Ardour in his Temper, and a civil deportment are all the accomplishments or qualifications to be found in him for his place” and this Character I would send to the Printer if I { 490 } dared.2 you may if you will venture. it is the most favourable one that is due to him. mr Jefferson treats him I think quite as freely as Columbus Have the Libel which was printed upon the President by Greenleaf & the Resolves which past at the Coffe house in concequence of it, reachd Boston. your Father mentions it in one of his Letters.3 the P—— finds that there is more than one Church left in America. I dont know where he could find ports enough to make them all into Consuls— I own that is a little spightfull, yet I do Revere respect honour and Love the President.—
I shall send next saturday for you. if you have an opportunity to send to Charles the remaining Numbers do. the Tigers paw will delight him. I felt the down of it when I read it.4 I do not mean however to single out this beautifull metaphor as the only object worth consideration I have read all the Numbers with attention and consider them a valuable present to the publick tending, to place in a true and just point of view the conduct of a Man who has disgraced his office, and made himself so obnoxious as scarcly to be entitled to common decency. partizans may Rail, but sound reason will enlighten and prevail. I see a scene opening before me which will call for as great exertions from the rising generation as their Fathers have already pasd through. may all those to whom talants and abilities are entrusted qualify themselves for the Guidence and protection of the common Weal. Parties are arising and forming themselves upon Principals altogether Repugnant to the good order and happiness of society. No fire, says an Author I have lately been reading assails a civil edifice so voilently as the Flame of National Passion, for it consumes the very stones of the Fabrick levels merrit to the Ground and makes reason tremble excites tumults and insults and makes way for the triumphant entry of Ambition those Hearts which ought to be cordially united by the Bonds of Brotherly Love Breathe nothing but vengance & Rancour5
adieu yours affectionatly
[signed] A Adams
1. From Julius Caesar's description of Cassius: “He reads much, / He is a great observer, and he looks / Quite through the deeds of men” (Shakespeare Julius Caesar, Act I, scene ii, lines 202–204).
2. AA is quoting from JA's letter of 20 Dec. above.
3. On 13 Dec., JA wrote to AA, “A great Indignation has been excited at New York by a Libel on the President, which I have not Seen as it is Suppressed at present as much as possible. Greanleaf has published an Apology at least as Sawcy as it is modest” (Adams Papers). See JA to AA2 14 Dec., note 2, above.
4. In the fourth part of the Columbus essays, JQA writes that the French ministers “have not been able to disguise their real contempt for the Americans. They have interspersed numerous menacing insinuations { 491 } amid their warmest pretences of friendship; and the murderous fangs of the tyger, peep through the downy velvet of her paws, at the moment when she fawns the most” (Boston Columbian Centinel, 18 Dec.).
5. AA is quoting from Benito Jerónimo Fiejóo y Montenegro, “On the Love of Our Country, and National Prejudice or Prepossession,” in Essays, or Discourses, Selected from the Works of Feyjoo, transl. John Brett, 4 vols., London, 1780, 2:99–100.

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0287

Author: Adams, Charles
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1793-12-30

Charles Adams to John Adams

[salute] My Dear Father

The effusions of our Jacobin spirit had been smothered if some evil minded person in Philadelphia had not published an extract of a letter from one of the party relating the circumstances The whole conduct of the feast had been carefully concealed nor was it possible to procure any information respecting it until the extract appeared.1 The partisans of Mr Genet fall off daily. some still remain and it is said that most of them will find their purses somewhat lightened by their connection. As to our other Citizens they are very much troubled least the Gentleman should cover himself with the black mantle. Your last letter I have a desire to give it to one of our Printers, but I would not do it without your consent It abounds with such truths as I think must forcibly strike the public mind which now appears open to conviction. It is not difficult to fix upon the author of the peices signed Columbus. They are very highly esteemed and have been reprinted in all our papers except Greenleaf's in which I should be sorry to see them. He is the veriest imp of sedition that was ever suffered in a City. but he has lately received a lesson which he will not soon forget He published an infamous peice against the President which has cost him dear and excited a general detestation against him. Heavens! what a change! but four year ago and we thought the voice of calumny dared not attack this man. I recollect a conversation I had with you Sir upon this subject before they had commenced their attacks in that quarter. I remember well the apprehension you expressed least they should strike even there. We now see that those apprehensions were not groundless. The consequences are to be feared. How poor a reward for virtuous exertions in the service of our Country.
The high winds for these few days past have prevented the Mails from Philadelphia passing the river. Will it be possible to persuade the State Government to cooperate in the defense of the Country? What alterations are proposed in the Militia law? Fenno does not send me his papers so that I do not obtain regular information from { 492 } the Seat of Government. At This crisis so interesting and important the papers would be peculiarly acceptable.
My Love to my brother I am glad he has began his carreer with so much propriety.
Adieu my dear Sir beleive me your / affectionate son
[signed] Charles Adams
1. See JA to CA, 23 Dec., note 1, above.

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0288

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1793-12-30

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

This morning I received your favour of the 20th. The House I am in was aired and Smoked with Tar & Powder and the Vaults Slaked with Lime &c before I came in.
I hope with you that Congress will not remain here late in the Spring: but the Extent of Business before Us Seems to be immense. Perhaps the less We do the better. Something however must be done.
When Russell Said “there is but one Man capable of Writing Columbus” he Said what I have thought all along.— The Persons I converse with are too wise to give any Opinions or Say any Thing about Such Writings. most are too wise to read them. I wish Columbus may not be inflated with Vanity and too much emboldened. festinelente.1 He will have more Influence in his Closet, than upon the Stage.
I Sympathise with you and Louisa. My own health has been better for my Journey: but I have a great Cold every Year, before I have been a fortnight in the City and you know it lasts Six Weeks. I never find any Benefit from any thing I do for it, so I leave it to take its Course
But as Mr Izard and his Wife say “We are grown too old to live Seperate”— Mr Izard is here keeping Batchelors Hall—she at New York with Mrs Marrigold. It is very hard upon me in my old age to be obliged to live from my Family, after having been a slave for thirty Years— Oh Columbus, Columbus you know not what you are about.—
Mrs Washington is here and never fails to make the kindest Inquries and to send the most cordial Regards.
I this day received a Visit from Mr Joseph Priestley the oldest son { 493 } of Dr Priestley, with a Letter from his Father. The Letter with a Card was left when I was in the Senate: as soon as I came home and found the Letter, I returned the Visit—and found Mr Joseph Priestly with his Wife and his youngest Brother, with another Enlishman whose Name is Colman I believe. I revere the Dr and his sons are likely Men: but they will do no good in America, untill they are undeceived. They are blinded by Ignorance or Error: blinded beyond the most stupid and besotted of our American Jacobins.2 entre nous. They are young however and will be corrected by Experience.
I like the Drs Plan very well— I can send you, what you may want I hope— There cannot be too much Seaweed, provided the Loads are heavy enough. I hope The Bedding of the Animals is changed often.
We have pleasant Weather here.— We hear nothing of Cheesman— Mrs Dalton Mrs Otis hear nothing of their Adventures which were on board Phillips. There has been terrible Gales at sea and many Small Craft lost. I do not yet despair of Cheesman, but We are in Trouble on his account.3
We Shall sooon See The Lt. Governors Speech to the General Court.4 Some curious metaphisical if not Jesuitical Subtilties I warrant you: The Dotage of a Man who was never equal to the Station he now holds may demand some Excuse. But no Man in that Chair will be independent. Independence is not compatible with popular Elections I fear. These are Truths that even, I, am not independent enough to say to every Body. But although The Popular Voice will overawe every Man in some degree, I hope We shall be able to Steer the Vessell clear of the Rocks and Sands. God knows!
[signed] J. A
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Decbr 30 1793.”
1. That is, “Festina lente” (Hasten slowly).
2. Dr. Joseph Priestley's letter of 20 Aug. (Adams Papers) was carried to JA by Priestley's eldest and youngest sons, Joseph (1768–1833) and Henry (d. 1795). Joseph Jr. had married Elizabeth Ryland (d. 1816) in 1792. Both sons had immigrated to the United States in Aug. 1793 with the goal of locating land on which the whole family could settle. Accompanying them was Priestley's friend Dr. Thomas Cooper (1759–1839), a British doctor and lawyer who was also interested in settling in the United States. JA disapproved of the Priestleys’ pro-French stance. Joseph Priestley Sr. had been made a citizen of France in 1792 and elected to the National Convention, though he never sat in that body. The family eventually settled in Northumberland, Penn. (DNB; DAB).
3. On 27 Nov. 1793, the schooner General Heath, Capt. Samuel Chesman, left Boston for Philadelphia carrying a trunk from AA to JA. After a week at sea the vessel encountered a severe gale off the Delaware Capes. Chesman, the first mate and a boy named Joseph Willcut were swept overboard, and although the two men made it back aboard the boy was lost. The damaged vessel arrived { 494 } in Charleston, S.C., on 11 Jan. 1794 and in Philadelphia by 1 April when JA received his trunk (AA to JA, 8 Feb.; JA to AA, 1 April, both Adams Papers; Boston Columbian Centinel, 16 Nov. 1793, 8 Feb. 1794).
4. On 17 Jan., Lt. Gov. Samuel Adams, as acting governor, gave a speech to the Mass. General Court commenting on the nature of the U.S. Constitution and the need for balance between federal and states’ rights, supporting the creation of a similar constitution in France, and advocating education for all young people (Mass., Acts and Laws, 1792–1793 p. 706–711).

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0289

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1793-12-31

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] my dearest Friend

Your two kind Letters of the 19 & 20th reachd me on the 28th they are my saturday evenings repast. you know my mind is much occupied with the affairs of our Country. if as a Female I may be calld an Idle I never can be an uninterested Spectator of what is transacting upon the great Theater, when the welfare and happiness of my Children & the rising generation is involved in the present counsels and conduct of the principal Actors who are now exhibiting upon the stage. That the Halcion days of America are past I fully believe, but I cannot agree with you in sentiment respecting the office you hold; altho it is so limited as to prevent your being so actively usefull as you have been accustomed to, yet those former exertions and Services give a weight of Character which like the Heavenly orbs silently diffuse a benign influence. Suppose for Instance as things are often exemplified by their contraries, a Man, in that office, of unbridled Ambition, Subtile intriguing, warpd and biased by interested views, joining at this critical crisis, his secret influence against the Measures of the President, how very soon would this country be involved in all the Horrours of a civil War. I am happy to learn that the only fault in your political Character and one which has always given me uneasiness, is wearing away, I mean a certain irritability which has some times thrown you of your Gaurd and shewn as is reported of Louis 14’th that a Man is not always a Hero— Partizans are so high, respecting English and French politicks, and argue so falsly and Reason so stupidly that one would suppose they could do no injury, but there are so many who read and hear without reflecting and judging for themselves and there is such a propensity in humane Nature to believe the worst especially when their interest is like to be affected, that if we are preserved from the Calamities of War it will be more oweing to the superintending Providence of God than the virtue and wisdom of Man. How we are to avoid it with France supposing Genet should not be recall'd I know not. must we { 495 } Submit to such insults? judging from the manner in which France has carried on the present War, I should not wonder if they feard a Partition of their Kingdom. A Frenchman reminding an English man of the Time when in the Reign of Henry the sixth, the English were almost absolute Masters of France Said sneerlingly to him “When do you think you will again become Lords of our Kingdom?” to which the Englishman replied, [“]When your iniquities shall be greater than ours.”1 how can any Nation expect to prosper who War against Heaven?
By this time you will have seen all the Numbers of Columbus. I should like to know the Presidents opinion of them, as well as some other Gentlemen who are judges. they assuredly are ably written, and do honour both to the Head and Heart of the writer, who deserves well of his fellow citizens for the information he has thrown upon a subject of so much importance at so critical a period—but their is a “barberous Noise of asses Apes and dogs” raisd by it in the Chronical.2 nevertheless sound reason and cool Argument will prevail in the end.
Having spun my thread out with respect to politicks I will think a little of our own private affairs. dr Tufts has paid two hundred pounds and become responsible himself for the remainder. I wrote to you his further intention,3 the 17 of Janry he proposes to discharge two hundreds pounds more. I have closed my account this day I have kept an exact account of my expenditures & payments since you left me, which I inclose to you.4 mr Cary offerd to bring me an other load of Hay at the same price. what he brought is agreed to be of the first quality, and it was all weighd, but I did not feel myself in a capacity to engage it absolutely. we have heitherto had so little snow that Buisness is dull mr Belcher has cleard of all the sea weed untill some high Tide brings more. he is now getting home the pine wood.
our Friends desire to be rememberd to you. mrs Brisler and family are well. you will present me affectionatly to mrs washington who I respect and Love
My Love to Thomas. I hear he is for fighting the Algerines, but I am not sure that would be the best oconomy, tho it might give us a good pretence [for] Building a Navy that we need not be twichd by the Nose by every sausy Jack a Nips— he had better find Law for his countrymen and prevail upon them to take it.
I am as ever most affectionatly / yours
[signed] A Adams
{ 496 }
RC (Adams Papers); addressed by JQA: “The Vice-President of the United States / Philadelphia.” endorsed: “Mrs A. Decr 31. 1793 / ans. Jan. 9. 1794.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.
1. From “A Frenchman” on, AA is quoting from Benito Jerónimo Fiejóo y Montenegro, “The Most Refined Policy” in Essays, or Discourses, Selected from the Works of Feyjoo, transl. John Brett, 4 vols., London, 1780, 1:145.
2. “When straight a barbarous noise environs me / Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes and dogs” (Milton, Sonnet XII, lines 3–4). On 26 Dec., Americanus attacked Columbus’ analysis of the Consular Convention and interpretation of the Constitution in the Boston Independent Chronicle, disputing that Columbus’ arguments were “founded on the law of reason, and on the Constitution.”
3. AA to JA, 20 Dec., above.
4. Not found.


The Adams Family, 1790–1793

4 Jan.: The 2d session of the 1st Congress convenes in New York.
2 March: Abigail Adams Shaw, daughter of John and Elizabeth Smith Shaw, is born in Haverhill.
12 March: Richard Cranch Norton, son of Rev. Jacob and Elizabeth Cranch Norton, is born in Weymouth.
17 April: Benjamin Franklin dies in Philadelphia at the age of 84.
28 April 1790 – 27 April 1791: JA's Discourses on Davila, a series of unsigned essays, is published in 32 installments in the New York (later Philadelphia) Gazette of the United States.
29 May: Rhode Island ratifies the Constitution, the last of the original thirteen colonies to do so.
15 July: JQA is admitted to the Massachusetts bar.
16 July: George Washington signs an act to move the temporary seat of government from New York to Philadelphia and establish a permanent seat on the Potomac River in ten years’ time.
21 July: TBA graduates from Harvard; JQA and William Cranch receive their master's degrees.
July: William Cranch is admitted to the Massachusetts bar and opens a law office attached to his father's shop in Braintree.
7 Aug.: AA2 gives birth to her third son, Thomas Hollis Smith, in New York.
9 Aug.: JQA opens a law office at the Adamses’ Court Street property in Boston.
12 Aug.: The 2d session of the 1st Congress adjourns in New York.
10 Sept.: TBA joins the Adamses in New York.
Oct.: TBA leaves New York for Philadelphia to begin a legal apprenticeship in the office of Jared Ingersoll.
12 Nov.: The Adamses take up residence at Bush Hill, an estate outside of Philadelphia, after a five-day journey from New York.
{ 508 }
Nov.–Dec.: TBA suffers an acute rheumatic attack, lying “18 days totally deprived of the use of his Limbs”; he is attended by Dr. Benjamin Rush.
6 Dec.: The 3d session of the 1st Congress convenes in Philadelphia.
Dec.: WSS leaves for England to pursue business opportunities.
20 Jan. – 3 March: JQA visits Philadelphia from Boston.
3 March: The 3d session of the 1st Congress adjourns in Philadelphia.
4 March: Vermont is admitted to the Union.
4 March: While still in Europe, WSS is appointed supervisor of revenue for the district of New York, having served as marshal since 25 Sept. 1789.
21 March – 6 July: George Washington makes a tour of the southern states, visiting Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah; he is greeted with great fanfare.
April: AA2 and her family relocate within New York City, from 13 Nassau Street to Dye (now Dey) Street.
2 May: JA, AA and TBA leave Philadelphia for an extended visit to Braintree, stopping in New York and Fairfield, Conn., due to AA's illness.
May: Thomas Paine's Rights of Man is published in the United States; Thomas Jefferson pens the new introduction, indirectly attacking JA's “political heresies” in Discourses on Davila.
5 June: WSS returns to the United States from England on the British packet.
8 June – 27 July: JQA, under the pseudonym Publicola, publishes eleven letters in response to Paine's Rights of Man in the Boston Columbian Centinel;JA is widely believed to be the author.
20–25 June: Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and their children are stopped at Varennes while attempting to flee the capital and brought back to Paris.
6 July: John Thaxter Jr., AA's cousin and former secretary to JA, dies in Haverhill.
8 July: Thomas Hollis Smith, AA2's third son, dies.
July: William Cranch moves to Haverhill to take up the law practice of John Thaxter Jr.
{ 509 }
Aug.: AA2 and the children, accompanied by WSS's brother and sister, visit JA and AA in Braintree; CA also visits for a time before leaving for New York on 21 August.
24 Oct.: The 1st session of the 2d Congress convenes in Philadelphia.
31 Oct.: Philip Freneau launches the Philadelphia National Gazette to counter John Fenno's Gazette of the United States.
Oct.: AA and JA depart Braintree for Philadelphia, visiting the Smiths in New York on their way.
Oct.: Richard Cranch suffers from a severe gangrenous leg injury and is weakened by sickness through the winter.
late Oct.: JA and AA take up residence in a home in Philadelphia at the corner of Fourth and Arch streets.
1 Nov.: WSS is appointed supervisor and inspector of the district of New York.
29 Dec.: William Smith Norton, son of Rev. Jacob and Elizabeth Cranch Norton, is born in Weymouth.
Winter: AA suffers from an “Intermitting” fever, preventing her from attending most social events in Philadelphia.
Jan. – mid-Feb.: AA2, WSS, and William Steuben Smith make an extended visit with the Adamses in Philadelphia; CA also visits for a fortnight.
23 Feb.: Quincy is set off from Braintree and incorporated as a town.
29 March: AA2, WSS, and their two children sail for England aboard the Bristol, arriving in England in early May.
24 April: The Adamses leave Philadelphia for Quincy.
8 May: The 1st session of the 2d Congress adjourns in Philadelphia.
1 June: Kentucky is admitted to the Union.
July: CA is admitted to the New York bar.
10 Aug.: The French Revolution intensifies with the invasion of the Tuileries Palace and the arrest of the royal family. Ten days later the Marquis de Lafayette emigrates from France to Austria.
20 Aug.: CA opens a law office in Hanover Square, just off of Wall Street.
late Oct. – 9 Nov.: WSS visits Paris, where he agrees to act as an agent for the French government in collecting debts owed to France by the United States.
{ 510 }
5 Nov.: The 2d session of the 2d Congress convenes in Philadelphia.
19 Nov.: JA departs for Philadelphia, arriving on 4 Dec., and takes a room with Samuel and Mary Otis; AA remains in Quincy for the winter owing to her ill health.
19–26 Dec.: JQA publishes three letters in the Boston Columbian Centinel under the pseudonym Menander protesting the antitheatrical actions taken by Massachusetts attorney general James Sullivan.
21 Jan.: Louis XVI, having been tried by the National Convention and found guilty of conspiring against the nation, is executed by guillotine in Paris.
9 Feb.: The Smith family returns from England on the Portland packet.
13 Feb.: The Electoral College votes are counted and read by JA in Congress: George Washington is unanimously reelected president and JA wins a plurality for vice president.
2 March: The 2d session of the 2d Congress adjourns in Philadelphia.
4 March: Washington takes the oath of office at a special session of Congress and delivers a brief inaugural address; JA attends along with foreign ministers, representatives, and many spectators.
mid-March: JA departs Philadelphia to join AA in Quincy.
8 April: The French ambassador to the United States, Citizen Edmond Genet, arrives in Charleston, S.C., and makes an overland journey to Philadelphia arriving on 16 May.
July–Aug.: TBA visits the Adamses in Quincy and the Smiths in New York.
July–Nov.: A yellow fever epidemic breaks out in Philadelphia, eventually taking 4,000 lives; thousands, including TBA, flee to the surrounding countryside.
5 Sept.: The Reign of Terror begins in France; over 17,000 executions occur before Robespierre is overthrown and put to death himself the following summer.
16 Oct.: Marie Antoinette is executed by guillotine.
30 Nov.: JA arrives in Philadelphia after a brief stopover in New York; AA again remains in Quincy for the winter.
30 Nov. – 14 Dec.: JQA, under the pseudonym Columbus, publishes three letters in the Boston Columbian Centinel challenging the current fervor for Citizen Genet and the French Revolution.
{ 511 }
2 Dec.: The 1st session of the 3d Congress convenes in Philadelphia.
7 Dec.: TBA is admitted to the Pennsylvania bar.
16 Dec.: Jacob Porter Norton, son of Rev. Jacob and Elizabeth Cranch Norton, is born in Weymouth.
31 Dec.: Thomas Jefferson resigns as secretary of state.
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.