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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 10


Docno: ADMS-04-10-02-0002

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Charles
Date: 1794-01-02

John Adams to Charles Adams

[salute] Dear Charles

This morning I recd your agreable Letter of the 30. Ult.—I wish you would explain to me what you mean, by “most of them finding their Purses lightened by their Connections[”] with (blank). Have they lent him Money?1
The Letter you mention was written in a careless haste intended for no Eye but yours and I fear not fit for any but a partial one— but if you think it will do any good, you may give an Extract, without any name or hint that can turn the Attention to me. if you do, cutt it out of the Paper and inclose it to me, for I have forgotten almost all about it and have no Copy.2 have all the five Numbers of Columbus been printed in the N. York Papers? I have not seen any one.3
I have Seen and detested the Libel on the President and observed the Proceedings in Consequence of it. Between you and me, if Virtues descend not by Inheritance, the Printer in Question is a Proof that an ill temper sometimes does. I am sorry however for I feel a regard for the Race who have good Qualities tho obscured by a little ill Nature. Mr Jefferson resigned his Office at the End of the Year and Yesterday was nominated and this day appointed Mr Randolph in his Stead.4 Mr Jefferson is going to Montecello to Spend his Days in Retirement, in Rural Amusements and Philosophical Meditations— Untill the President dies or resigns, when I suppose he is to be invited from his Conversations with Egeria in the Groves, to take the Reins of the State, and conduct it forty Years in Piety and Peace.5 Amen. He goes out with a blaze of Glory about his head, at least in Southern Eyes for his astonishing Negotiations with Hammond Genet and Viar.6 I cannot Say however that I am pleased with his Resignation. He might have worn off his sharp Points and become a wiser Minister than he has been sometimes. His Abilities are good—his Pen is very good—and for what I know the other Ministers might be the better for being watched by him. They will however be watched by other Centinels in sufficient Numbers. I dont dislike a Precedent of Resignation, for I sometimes feel as if it would one day be my own Case and I should be glad to have an Example to quote.
The Reasonings of Columbus, I am informed have carried Conviction to multitudes whose opinions were very different for Want of { 3 } Information. It is indeed a luminous Production. The Writer had better mind his office, there are quantum meruits there. but none in Politicks, for an independent Man.
My Regards where due.
Fennos Paper is now a daily Advertising Paper, and whether it will be better than others I dont yet see.7 You have all in your N. York Papers that appears here and more. Not one Printer in this City has had the sense, Taste or Spirit to reprint a Line of Columbus; an habetude unpardonable.
You must be very discreet with my Letters— I shall write to you in Confidence Things not fit to be seen by others, as not sufficiently guarded & reserved.
yours as ever
RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); endorsed: “Jany 2 1794.”
1. See vol. 9:491–492. JA refers to Edmond Genet.
2. JA’s letter to CA of 23 Dec. 1793, for which see vol. 9:482–483, was reprinted in full in the New York American Minerva, 8 Jan. 1794.
3. Portions of Columbus appeared in the American Minerva, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24 Dec. 1793, and the New York Daily Advertiser, 17, 28, 30 Dec., 1, 2 Jan. 1794. It was not reprinted in Philadelphia.
4. Edmund Randolph, who had previously served as U.S. attorney general, replaced Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state. Randolph held the position from 2 Jan. 1794 to 19 Aug. 1795 (DAB).
5. Egeria was a Roman water goddess, one of the Camenae associated with the Muses and linked to a grove just outside of Rome. She supposedly instructed Numa Pompilius (r. 715–673 B.C.), the legendary second king of Rome, who reigned for forty years (Oxford Classical Dicy.).
6. José (or Josef) Ignacio de Viar served as Spanish chargé d’affaires in the United States from 1789 to 1796 (Repertorium, 3:445).
7. John Fenno’s Philadelphia Gazette of the United States temporarily ceased publishing during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic but appeared again at the end of 1793 in its new format, an attempt to improve its profitability (Jeffrey L. Pasley, “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic, Charlottesville, Va., 2001, p. 58–59).

Docno: ADMS-04-10-02-0003

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1793-01-03

John Adams to John Quincy Adams

[salute] My dear Son

The Public Papers will inform you that Mr Jefferson has resigned and that Mr Randolph is appointed Secretary of State. The Attorney General is not yet nominated. Mr Lewis Mr Lawrence Mr Benson Mr Gore, Mr Potts &c have been mentioned in Conversation.1
The Motives to Mr Jeffersons Resignation are not assigned, and are left open to the Conjectures of a Speculating World. I also am a Speculator in the Principles and Motives of Mens Actions and may guess as well as others 1. Mr Jefferson has an habit as well as a { 4 } disposition to expensive Living, and as his Salary was not Adequate to his Luxury, he could not Subdue his Pride and Vanity as I have done, and proportion his Style of Life to his Revenue. 2. Mr Jefferson is in debt as I have heard to an amount of Seven thousand Pounds before the War, so that I Suppose he cannot afford to Spend his private income in the Public service. 3. Mr Jefferson has been obliged to lower his Note in Politicks. Pains Principles when adopted by Genet, were not found so convenient for a Secretary of State. 4. He could not rule the Roast in the Ministry. He was often in a Minority. 5. Ambition is the Subtlest Beast of the Intellectual and Moral Field. It is wonderfully adroit in concealing itself from its owner, I had almost said from itself. Jefferson thinks he shall by this step get a Reputation of an humble, modest, meek Man, wholly without ambition or Vanity. He may even have deceived himself into this Belief. But if a Prospect opens, The World will see and he will feel, that he is as ambitious as Oliver Cromwell though no soldier. 6. At other Moments he may meditate the gratification of his Ambition; Numa was called from the Forrests to be King of Rome. And if Jefferson, after the Death or Resignation of the President should be summoned from the familiar Society of Egeria, to govern the Country forty Years in Peace and Piety, So be it. 7. The Tide of popular sentiment in Virginia runs not so rapidly in favour of Jacobinical feelings as it did— though the Party were a Majority and carried every Member at the last Election, there are Symptoms of increasing foederalism in Virginia. a Wise Man like Jefferson foreseeth the Evil and hideth himself—2 But after all I am not very anxious what were his Motives.— Tho his Desertion may be a Loss to Us, of some Talents I am not sorry for it on the whole, because his soul is poisoned with Ambition and his Temper imbittered against the Constitution and Administration as I think.
all this is confidential.
I am, affectionately yours
1. Richard Potts (1753–1808), a lawyer, represented Maryland in the U.S. Senate from 1793 to 1796. He had previously been U.S. attorney for Maryland, 1789–1791, and chief judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court of Maryland, 1791–1793. George Washington ultimately selected William Bradford of Pennsylvania in late January to serve as the new attorney general (Biog. Dir. Cong.; DAB).
2. Proverbs, 27:12: “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on and are punished.”
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.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/