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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 11


Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0142

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Charles
Date: 1796-04-24

John Adams to Charles Adams

[salute] My Son

I have yours of the 22d.1 Mr Van Persyn I shall be glad to see whenever it Suits his convenience to come to Philadelphia.
I can Say little of favourable Symptoms. The Waggon is fast in the Mire, up to the Axletree and unable to move forwards or backwards. Whether the People will draw us out or not, and Whether { 269 } We shall advance or retreat I know not. The Passengers are unable to help themselves. The Cattle drawing up Hill are so exactly matched to the Load and those drawing down, that the Wheels stand still.— We are too suddenly and hastily proving what the World will reluctantly be convinced of, that Man kind in their most innocent Character and under the best Circumstances are unqualified to govern themselves.
There is throughout the World a popular Envy a vulgar malignity against all who are Superiour to them in Talents Virtues, Birth, Education, Wealth or any Thing else. To this Class of People <Thirty> Twenty Nine Reps. from V. and N. C. nine or ten of whom represent nothing but black Property are addressing themselves.2 They are joined by Renegadoes from Geneva, England, Ireland, by Debtors Antifederalists and French Tools—All together are able to clogg the Wheels of Government. Numbers in N. York as well as Philadelphia & Boston will be against Weight, and Reps will always regard Number more than Weight.
I thank you for your kind Invitation to your house. I shall make your House my Home when I come to N. York, but when that will be I am unable to Say. I fear not before June—and then I shall Stay but a night. My Affairs are Suffering at Quincy so much that I must be with them as soon as possible.
Let me know as soon as you can how your Elections go and whether Mr Burr is chosen into your Senate.3
I am my Dear sir your Affectionate / Father
[signed] John Adams4
RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); internal address: “Charles Adams Esqr.”
1. Not found.
2. In early 1796 northern state legislatures and newspapers regularly emphasized the disproportionate voice of the southern states in the House of Representatives due to the three-fifths compromise. On 11 Feb. the Penn. senate responded to Virginia’s proposed constitutional amendments, stating that if there was “a Convention to alter the Constitution of the United States,” one of the amendments proposed should “establish the National Legislature on the true principles of representation, by enabling free men, as well as freeholders to vote; and, by apportioning the Representatives among the several States, according to the number of those free men” (Philadelphia Gazette, 13 Feb.). The Boston Columbian Centinel, 9 March, published its own response to the Virginia resolutions: “The Hint given by the Senate of Pennsylvania, to that of Virginia, on the subject of representation, was pointed and proper. In the southern States five slaves, who cannot vote themselves, are considered equal to three northern freemen!” On 18 April the Philadelphia Gazette reprinted an article from a New York newspaper, stating that a House vote against the Jay Treaty would lead to a division of the union and noting that the southern states were not currently satisfied even with “a fourth more representatives than they are justly entitled to.” According to the article, if the treaty was not executed, “the northern States will rid themselves of a weight that hangs like a millstone about the neck of our prosperity.” On 22 April the Philadelphia Gazette printed a southern response, arguing that New York “has actually in Congress at { 270 } this very hour a negro representative; for her white population would have entitled her to only nine representatives; whereas, by the addition of 21,324 slaves, she has ten!”
3. The spring 1796 New York state elections brought many Federalists into the state assembly, which in turn elected Gen. Philip Schuyler to the U.S. Senate in place of the Democratic-Republican Aaron Burr. In April 1797 Burr won a seat in the N.Y. assembly, where he served for one term (John S. Jenkins, History of Political Parties in the State of New York, Auburn, N.Y., 1846, p. 58, 61, 63; Biog. Dir. Cong.).
4. On this same date, CA wrote to JA discussing a petition and counter-petition from New York on the Jay Treaty that were presented to the House of Representatives (Adams Papers).

Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0143

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1796-04-24

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dear Mother.

You will find by the papers that I send with this letter, what you will perhaps know before the receipt of it; that is that the negotiations for Peace have stumbled at the threshold, and that a trial of one more year of War is to be endured by the contending Nations. The Notes of Mr: Wickham & Mr: Barthelemi are considered as decisive upon this point.—1 The scarcity of provisions has suddenly disappeared both in France and in this Country. Wheat and flour have fallen from excessive to very moderate prices. There are complaints here of a great scarcity of money, but it will find its relief in a new loan for seven millions and an half which is already made.
I send you likewise some late reviews which may give you the literary news, more valuable because more durable than those of a political nature.—2 The famous Shakespeare manuscripts about which I wrote you soon after my arrival here, are now generally considered as mere forgeries. The play of Vortigern was once performed, and fairly laughed off the stage.
I had not an opportunity to judge of it myself as I could not attend on the Evening of its first and only performance, but the opinion of all those who heard it appears to be unanimous, that it is not only an imposture but a very awkward and clumsy one.— Volumes have been written & published on the subject, and men of all sorts take now a pride in girding at the poor proprietor of the manuscripts.
I have no letters from my father dated later than December. None from you later than January, none from any of my friends in America of a more recent date. Still I flatter myself I have not been forgotten. I write so much and so often that I seldom get a correspondent of equal punctuality with myself.— From other Americans however, I collect the information of that Country, as late as the { 271 } beginning of March.3 It looks fair and promising. But our political tides ebb and flow with such rapidity and violence that I place not the most thorough reliance on the permanency of any favourable prospect.
I beg to be remembered affectionately to all friends, and remain your invariably faithful Son
[signed] John Q. Adams.
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs: Adams. Quincy.”; endorsed: “J Q A April 24 1796.” FC-Pr (Adams Papers); APM Reel 131.
1. William Wickham (1761–1840) was a British politician and diplomat. In 1795 he became the British minister plenipotentiary to Switzerland. Wickham wrote to François Barthélemy, the French minister to Switzerland, on 8 March 1796 asking him to respond to three questions concerning the possibility of negotiating a peace with France via a congress or written communications with Wickham or some other means. Barthélemy replied on 26 March that although the Directory desired “a just, honourable, and solid peace,” it did not want to enter into a congress with Britain that would “render all negotiation endless.” A British note of observation, dated 10 April, concluded that at that time “nothing is left for the king but to prosecute a war equally just and necessary” (DNB; Parliamentary Hist., 32:1407–1409).
2. This enclosure has not been found but was possibly from one of the London newspapers that provided reviews of the first and only performance of Vortigern on 2 April at the Drury Lane Theatre; see, for example, London Times, 4 April, or London Lloyd’s Evening Post, 1–4 April.
3. Probably Oliver Wolcott Jr. to JQA, 10, 17, and 27 Feb.; and Timothy Pickering to JQA, 9 March (all Adams Papers). Wolcott’s letters discussed U.S. Treasury remittances being sent to Dutch bankers and his confidence that America would be able to pay all of the interest and installments on its loans through 1 June. Pickering’s 9 March letter expressed regret that the instructions for further negotiations between the British government and the United States did not reach England in time for JQA to participate in the exchange of ratifications for the Jay Treaty.
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/