A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 10


Docno: ADMS-04-10-02-0008

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1794-01-06

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

The Door Keeper has just brought me your kind Letter of Decr 28.1
Freneau’s Paper is discontinued and Fenno’s is become a daily advertising Paper and has not yet been worth Sending you.2 The State Papers will be reprinted in Russells Paper which you have and there has been nothing else worth Reading. I Send you the Negotiations with Genet, inclosed.3
The Algerines will cost this Country very dear. We may curse them, as much as We please and fight them as long as We will, and after all We must advance them the Cash. This has been long my Opinion but I could not be believed. We may rave against the English and Spaniards: but We had better learn better manners than wantonly to insult and provoke Nations who have Power to hurt Us.
Genet has not appeared at the Levee: but he made me a Visit in Ceremony, soon after he came to Town, which I returned the second day afterwards.
Jefferson went off Yesterday, and a good riddance of bad ware. I { 30 } hope his Temper will be more cool and his Principles more reasonable in Retirement than they have been in office. I am almost tempted to wish he may be chosen Vice President at the next Election for there if he could do no good, he could do no harm. He has Talents I know, and Integrity I believe: but his mind is now poisond with Passion Prejudice and Faction.
You have drawn an affecting Picture of Distress in the Family of Dr Rhoads. How it is possible for People to marry and proceed to getting a Brood of Children without any means of support, I know not. A more imprudent Enterprise never was undertaken than the Removal of that Family to Braintree, and after they came there, they never took one Step, which common Sense would have dictated to get into Business. I hope however you will contribute as much as you can to alleviate her Distress.4 My Imagination has often painted to me exactly Such a Picture in a Case of our Silly Charles, who was once in a fair Way to have raised as happy a family but who I hope is grown wiser. You ought to have written the history of Mrs Rhoads and her Children to him.
We have had a cold day or two: but the Weather is now as beautiful as it was last Winter. I think it is not quite so warm and therefore I hope will not lay a foundation for another Summer like the last.— We have no News of Cheesman. Brisler wants his Cloaths more than I do, mine.
Columbus has been reprinted in Several Papers in New York but not yet in this City. Parties run high in South Carolina. A Mr S. Drayton has published a curious Narration of his own Sufferings but has not even denied the Fact of which he was charged.5 My News Mans Address has it

At home dissentions Seem to rend

Or threat, our Infant State

’Bout Treaties made; yet unexplain’d

With Citizen Genet.

The People in general are wise, upright, firm and Steady: But There are little groups of Wrong heads in every principal Town.
I am with ardent Wishes and fervent / Prayers for your health yours
[signed] J A
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Jan’ry 6 1794.”
1. Vol. 9:486–487.
2. Philip Freneau’s Philadelphia National Gazette had been founded with the assistance of James Madison and Thomas { 31 } Jefferson and became a strong proponent of Democratic-Republican political figures. It faltered, however, when the news became public that Freneau was simultaneously receiving a government salary as a translator with the State Department. Already losing money on the venture, Freneau suspended the paper during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic and never resumed publication (Jeffrey L. Pasley, “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic, Charlottesville, Va., 2001, p. 63, 65, 67, 74–77).
3. The pamphlet has not been found but was probably The Correspondence between Citizen Genet, Minister of the French Republic to the United States of North America, and the Officers of the Federal Government, Phila., 1794, Evans, No. 47056.
4. Dr. Joseph Rhodes of Braintree died in Dec. 1793 leaving a large family of young children without financial provisions (vol. 9:486, 487).
5. Stephen Drayton (1736–1810), the secretary to the governor of South Carolina and president of Charleston’s Republican Society of South Carolina, was arrested on 7 Dec. 1793 on charges of high treason for accepting a commission from Edmond Genet to raise an army of American men to assist the French war effort. On 10 Dec., Drayton published a statement complaining of the treatment he received during the investigation, which he believed constituted an unlawful search and seizure, and challenging the very notion of the charge against him. Drayton argued that George Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation did not have the force of law, being only a presidential proclamation, and that there was no legal prohibition against his joining or aiding a foreign army. At no point in his statement, however, did Drayton discuss whether or not he had in fact recruited soldiers (Rachel N. Klein, Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class in the South Carolina Backcountry, 1760–1808, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1990, p. 208; Philadelphia Federal Gazette, 23 Dec.; Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 7 Jan. 1794).

Docno: ADMS-04-10-02-0009

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Smith, Abigail Adams
Date: 1794-01-07

John Adams to Abigail Adams Smith

[salute] My Dear Daughter:

Colonel Smith spent the last evening with me, and presented me with your kind letter of the 29th of December.1 I have seen Mr. G.; he made me a visit which I returned. His conversation was agreeable enough; but he appeared, by all his discourse, to be a young gentleman of much ingenuity, a lively wit and brilliant imagination, enamoured to distraction with republican liberty, but wholly without experience, in any free government, very crude and inaccurate in his ideas of a republic, and as yet totally uninformed of the operations of the human heart and the progress of the passions in all public assemblies, whether of the people at large, or of a representation of them, or of a senate or any other selected few of even the wisest and best men.
You think I can now judge “whether he has a disposition to involve us in a war” or not. What is his disposition, or what have been his intentions, I know not; but I think it certain, that his conduct, if it had not been checked in its career, would infallibly have brought upon us a war with all Europe, except his constituents, and with the house of Bourbon, all the great families of France, and all their { 32 } ecclesiastics and all their adherents, now united, in some degree, with the combined powers.
I think, too, that his forcible resistance to the execution of our laws, his enlistments of men for any military service by land or sea, his endeavours to set our people against their government, are all unjustifiable, and his uniting with a party inexcusable.
This party has misled him, and filled his head with prejudices against the President and his Ministers, and, no doubt, against the Vice-President too, which have done him no good nor them any harm. In all my own negotiations abroad for ten years, in three different nations, I made it a constant rule, never to make myself subservient to the friends of any party, nor not even so far as to get credit and confidence with them. Had Mr. G. relied on his cause and his honour, without seeking aid from party passions, he would have had more friends and fewer enemies.
Your proverb that a tenant of a glass house should never throw stones at the passengers in the street, has great and sound sense. But I am sorry to say, that our people in America have not attended to it. Many have discovered a desire of provoking a war; debtors sometimes find a war convenient to themselves, whatever it may cost their country. The anti-federal party have courted French republicans, in hopes, by their aid in demolishing the Constitution of the United States, and have made a catspaw of the French Minister. But they have all been deceived by their wishes. The body of the people is wise and federal, and wishes to be neutral in foreign wars, and even between the parties in France.
Return to my dear grandson’s their kind compliments of the season. I wish them long life, and prosperous as well as virtuous courses.
I am my dear child, / Very affectionately, / Your father,
[signed] John Adams.
My aged and venerable mother is drawing near the close of a virtuous and industrious life. May her example be ever present with me! May I be enabled to fulfil the duties of life, as well as she has done. I would not exchange her morals, for all the offices, honours, and profits of the world.2
I pray you to present my best thanks to Mrs. Fitch, for her kind present of a turtle;3 if it had come here, I could have only given it to the President or some of his Ministers. I could have had no use for it.
{ 33 }
There is no doubt in my mind, that General Knox will continue in office. The possibility of a war, which the intemperance of our people has rendered now more than possible, though I still hope for peace, will be excuse enough for the Secretary of War to continue where he is, notwithstanding all the resolutions and declarations of retiring. This, at least, is my opinion.4
The cause of liberty, my dear daughter, is sacred. Your father has spent all his life in it, and sacrificed more to it than millions who now inflame the world. But anarchy, chaos, murder, atheism, and blasphemy, are not liberty. The most dreadful tyranny that ever existed upon earth, is called liberty by people who know no more about liberty than the brutes.
I fear the next post will bring me the melancholy news of my mother’s departure to meet my father. May they be happy to all eternity. Two purer spirits never came within the knowledge of / Your affectionate father,
[signed] John Adams.
MS not found. Printed from AA2, Jour. and Corr., 2:127–130; internal address: “To Mrs. Smith.”
1. Not found.
2. Susanna Hall, although sick through much of the spring of 1794, lived until April 1797.
3. Probably Mary Fitch (ca. 1748–1808), the wife of Eliphalet Fitch, a distant cousin of JA’s (vol. 5:173; New York American Citizen, 5 March 1808).
4. Gen. Henry Knox retired on 28 Dec. 1794; see JA to AA, 30 Dec., and note 1, below.
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/