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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0090

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1796-02-15

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My Dearest Friend

This Morning I have your favour of the 3d which raised my Spirits again after the mortification of passing the whole of last Week without one.
{ 178 }
Benjamin has grown very dull—No Abuse—No lies no Terrors no Panicks no Rant—in comparison of what he used to have—
The Subject which you think will excite all their feelings is well known to every body in public Life, but is talked of by nobody: but in Confidence—
I could name you however as good Fœderalists and as good Men as any, who think and say that he will retire and that they would, if they were he. And who would not? I declare upon my honour I would. After 20 Years of such Service, with Such Success, and with no Obligation to any one, I would retire before my Constitution failed, before my Memory failed before my Judgment failed—before I should grow peevish & fretfull—irresolute—improvident— I would no longer put at hazard a Character so dearly earned at present so uncontaminated, but liable by the Weakness of Age to be impaired in a Moment.
He has in the most solemn manner Sworn, before many Witnesses at various times and on several occasions, and it is now by all who are in the Secret considered as irrevocable as the Laws of Meads & Persians.1 Your Comments to Knox were perfectly delicate and perfectly wise. You need not tremble to think of the subject.— In my Opinion there is no more danger in the Change than there would be in changing a Member of the senate and whoever lives to see it will own me to be a Prophet. If Jay or even Jefferson and one or the other it certainly will be, if the Succession should be passed over, should be the Man, the Government will go on as well as ever— Jefferson could not stir a step in any other system than that which is begun. Jay would not wish it. The Votes will run for three Persons—two I have mentioned The third being the Heir apparent will not probably be wholly overlook’d. If Jefferson & Jay are President & Vice President, as is not improbable, the other retires without Noise, or Cries or Tears to his farm— if either of those two are President and the other Vice President, he retires without Murmur or Complaint to his farm, forever.— if this other should be P. and Jefferson or Jay V. President, four Years more if Life lasts, of Residence in Philadelphia will be his and your Portion, after which We shall probably be desirous of imitating the Example of the present Pair: or if by reason of Strength and Fortitude Eight Years should be accomplished, that is the Utmost Limit of time that I will ever continue in public Life at any rate. Be of good Courage therefore and tremble not. I see nothing to appall me and I feel no ill forebodings or faint Misgivings. I have not the Smallest dread of private Life, { 179 } nor of public— if private Life is to be my Portion my farm and my Pen shall employ the rest of my days.
The Money of the Country the Paper Money is the most unpleasant object I see— This must have a Remedy—and I fear it will be reserved for me to stem the Torrent, a worse one than the Western Rebellion or the opposition to the Treaty.
This is all in Confidence and Affection
[signed] J. A2
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A.”; endorsed: “Febry 15 1796.”
1. That is, an unalterable law (Daniel, 6:15).
2. JA again wrote to AA, on 17 Feb., on the subject of George Washington’s retirement, reiterating, “I feel no Allarm however for the Public. I am fully persuaded it will receive no detriment.” JA likewise claimed that he too would be happy to retire if that was the will of the people (Adams Papers).

Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0091

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1796-02-20

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My Dearest Friend

Yours of the 6 8th and 10th came to me by the last Post. I too sometimes get dissapointed but I always lay the Charge to the post where I know it ought to fall, but not usually writing untill after thursday post arrives here. I have not the advantage of the office here unless I wait for the next Week, and a storm will sometimes, as last week, prevent my getting my letters to Town, but my conscience acquits me of Sins of omission. in that respect, I can seldom find more to say than one Letter contains. upon some subjects I think much more than I write. I think what is Duty, to others and what is Duty to ourselves. I contemplate unpleasent concequences to our Country if Your decision should be the same with the P——s for as you observe, whatever may be the views and designs of Party, the chief of the Electors will do their Duty, or I know little of the Country in which I live. Shakspears says, [“]some are born great, some atchive greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” You write me fully assured that the P is unalterably determind to retire. this is an event not yet contemplated by the people at large. We must be attentive to their feelings and to their voice. no Successor, can expect such support as the P. has had. the first Ministers have retired, and a Man without intrigue, without party Spirit, with an honest mind and a judicious Head, with an unspotted Character may be difficult to find as V P. this will still render the first Station more difficult. You know what is before You. the whips and Scorpions, the Thorns without Roses, the Dangers anxieties and weight of Empire.
{ 180 }

And for the Day of trial is at hand

With the whole fortunes of a Mighty land

Are stakd on thee, and all their weal or woe

Must from thy good, or thy misconduct flow;

Have You Familiar with Your Nature grown

And are You Fairly to yourself made known?

and can You acquire influence sufficent as the Poet further describes

[“]To still the voice of Discord in the land

To make weak Faction’s discontented band

Detected, weak and Crumbling to decay

With hunger pinch’d, on their own vitals prey;

Like brethren, in the self same intrests warm’d

Like diff’rent bodies, with one soul informd

To Make a Nation, Nobly raisd above

All meaner thoughts, grow up in common Love;

To give the Laws Due vigour, and to hold

That Sacred balance, temperate, Yet bold

With such an equal hand that those who fear

May yet approve, and own thy Justice clear;

To be a common Father, to Secure

The weak from voilence, from Pride the poor

To make fair plenty through the Land increase

Give Fame in War, and happiness in Peace”1

This is the bright and desireable light of the picture. this tho a hard and arduous Task, would be a flattering and a Glorious Reward, and Such a reward as all good Men will unite in giving to Washington, and such a Reward as I pray his Successor may Merrit and obtain. Should Providence allot the task to my Friend, but think not that I am alone anxious for the part he will be calld to act, tho by far the most important, I am anxious for the proper discharge of that Share which will devolve upon me. Whether I have patience prudence discretion sufficent to fill a station so unexceptionably as the Worthy Lady who now holds it, I fear I have not. as Second I have had the happiness of stearing clear of censure as far as I know. if the contemplation did not make me feel very Serious, I should say that I have been so used to a freedom of sentim[ent] that I know not how to place so many gaurds about me, as will be indispensable, { 181 } to look at every word before I utter it, and to impose a silence upon my self, when I long to talk. here in this retired Village, I live beloved by My Neighbours, and as I assume no state, and practise no pagentry, unenvy’d I sit calm and easy, mixing very little with the World.
You need not be apprehensive least I should shew your Letters or divulge what is committed to me. all rests within my own Breast. not the least lisp has escaped me to any one. for tho I love Sociabity, I never did or will betray a trust.
affectionatly Yours
[signed] A Adams
RC (Adams Papers); addressed by Louisa Catharine Smith: “The Vice President of the / United States / Philadelphia”; endorsed: “Mrs A. Feb. 20. Ansd March 1 / 1796.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.
1. Charles Churchill, “Gotham,” Book III, lines 47–50, 61–62, 67–80, 89–90.
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.