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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0220

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1796-12-04

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

After Spending a Day and a Night at East Chester with our Children there and another at Newyork with our Children there I came to this City on Fryday night after a cold ride of 80 miles from Elizabeth Town. There are great Complaints of Want of Water for grinding, for Cattle and for Families through the whole Country.
Yesterday I dined with the President in Company with John Watts the King of the Cherokees with a large Number of his Chiefs and their Wives—among the rest the Widow and Children of Hanging Maw a famous Friend of ours who was basely murdered by Some White People. The President dined four Setts of Indians on four several Days the last Week.1
The French Manoeuvres have gained the Votes of Pensilvania and how many others is unknown. The Election will be a meagre one and I shall not envy it.
I shewed the Letters of Mr J. Q. A. to the President who told me that Things appeared to him exactly as they did to his Minister. To Day he has Sent me a Letter to him from Mr T. Paine dated at Paris 20 of September 1795 which he Said was the most insulting Letter he ever recd.
Paine accuses the President of Connivance at his Imprisonment in France thinks he ought to have interposed in his behalf and reclaim’d him.
“I ought not to have Suspected you of Treachery, but I must continue to think you treacherous, till you give me cause to think otherwise. I am Sure you would have found yourself more at your Ease, { 431 } if you had acted by me as you ought, for whether your Desertion of me was intended to gratify the English Government, or to let me fall into Destruction in France, that you might exclaim the louder against the French Revolution, or whether you hoped by my Extinction to meet with less opposition in mounting up the American Government, either of these will involve you in Reproach you will not easily shake off.” These are his Words.2
I am told that Mr Pride of Virginia who had the Duel with Mr Carpenter in England went over to France and has return’d to America and brought Packetts and Letters for Mr Jefferson Mr Madison, Mr Giles & Mr Bache, as well as for the Sec. of State.3
Mr Paines long threatned Pamphlet against the President it is Supposed is Arrived and Mr Bache is to publish it, in the form of a Letter to George Washington. It is even Said that a Patent is to be obtained for the exclusive Priviledge of publishing it.4
Whether the French Directory have only been drawn in, to favour the Election of a Favourite, or whether in their Trances and Deliriums of Victory they think to terrify America, or whether in their Sallies they may not venture on Hostilities time will discover. Americans must, be cool and Steady if they can. Some of our People may be cured or their extravagant Love, and shaken in their unlimited Confidence. The French Character whether under Monarchical or Republican Government is not the most equitable, nor the least assuring of all Nations. The Fire, Impetuosity, and Vehemence of their Temperament is apt to be violent, immoderate and extravagant. The Passions are always outragious. A Frenchman in Love, must shoot himself or succeed— A Frenchman in Anger must shed the Blood of his Object, and so of the rest.
I hope We shall make two Houses tomorrow.5
My Duty to my Mother and Love to all
[signed] J. A
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “December 4th / 1796.”
1. John Watts (1752?–1802) and Hanging Maw (d. 1796) were both war leaders of the Cherokees, though Watts represented the Lower Cherokees, who took a more militant stance against the U.S. government, while Hanging Maw served the Upper Cherokees and favored negotiation with the United States. Watts came to Philadelphia in December in an attempt to get the government to enforce boundaries established by the 1785 Treaty of Hopewell.
Hanging Maw was not killed in an attack but had died, apparently peacefully, in April 1796. His wife, however, had been injured by white settlers in an earlier attack on their home in which several other “well disposed Indians” were killed. Hanging Maw’s widow petitioned Congress on 17 Jan. 1797 for compensation for this and other attacks. The committee that reviewed the petition determined that although it supported “small pecuniary interpositions” for Native Americans as a means of keeping the peace on the frontier, it was the responsibility of the executive { 432 } branch to handle the matter (ANB;Stewart Kentucky Herald, 11 Oct. 1796; Robert J. Conley, The Cherokee Nation: A History, Albuquerque, N.M., 2005, p. 73, 78–79; Amer. State Papers, 4:406, 621).
2. George Washington’s cover letter to JA, enclosing the letter from Thomas Paine to Washington of 20 Sept. 1795, has not been found. Paine’s letter was among those published in his Letter to George Washington, President of the United States of America, on Affairs Public and Private, Phila., 1796, p. 29–31, Evans, No. 30951. JA accurately summarizes the contents and quotes from the final paragraph of the letter.
3. John Pride and William Fountleroy Carpenter, both young men from Virginia, fought a duel in London’s Hyde Park on 21 Aug. 1796 after arguing about the character of William Branch Giles and the merits of the Jay Treaty. Carpenter died from his wounds on 22 Aug. (Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 12 Oct.; Gentleman’s Magazine, 66:709 [Aug. 1796]).
4. Benjamin Franklin Bache secured a copyright to publish Paine’s Letter to George Washington, a collection of letters accusing Washington of being “treacherous in private friendship” and “a hypocrite in public life” but also condemning JA as one of the “disguised traitors that call themselves federalists” (p. 11–12, 63; Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 12 Dec.).
5. The 2d session of the 4th Congress was held from 5 Dec. 1796 to 3 March 1797. The House achieved quorum on 5 Dec. 1796 while the Senate did so the following day (Biog. Dir. Cong.; Annals of Congress, 4th Cong., 2d sess., p. 1518, 1590).

Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0221

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1796-12-05

John Adams to John Quincy Adams

[salute] My dear Son

As I came through New York, where I found your Sister and your Brother and their families in good health I recd your Letter No. 24. and upon my arrival here, presented it to The President together with the preceeding Numbers to 19 inclusively.1 I dined with him on Saturday when he returned me the Letters, with an Eulogium. He Said that “Things appeared to him exactly as they do to your son”
Your Intelligence is good, and your Prophesies ominous if not infallible. The Plott has opened here with a Note of a Volume from Mr Adet. I Shall make few Observations upon this. But I believe my Countrymen will assert and maintain their Independence. We are not generally intimidated, although it is said that a considerable Body of Quakers were Panick Struck at the Election and abandoned their Colours. The Laurells acquired by this System of Terror, are a Majority of from 20 to 100 Votes in favr of a certain Ticket, made up of the lowest dreggs of the Mob of Philadelphia and the Inhabitants of the Insurgent Western Counties of Pensilvania, against the almost unanimous suffrages of the great farming Counties of York & Lancaster.2 The Day after tomorrow is the great Election. I look upon the Event as the throw of a Die, a mere Chance, a miserable meagre Tryumph to either Party.
If Mr Jefferson is chosen he cannot depart from the system of Washington which is the system of all that is respectable in this { 433 } Country. I hope the Directory of France will not in a fit of Exultation & Temerity push matters to extremes. if they do they will excite Feelings in this People, which they suspect not. Mr Adets Note has proved an Antidote to the violence of their Passion to many of the most ardent Lovers of France. It will cool Us. it is a febrifuge. an AntiSeptick. it will arrest the rapid progress to Corruption in many.
It is our Sincere and universal desire to live on Terms of Harmony and Friendship with The French. If We do not it will not be our fault. But We are not afraid of France. All the Ships she can command or hire, cannot send an Army here that would not Soon decay. I dont love to think a moment of such a Case— But if they force Us to think of it, our Imaginations must range. Do you my son, reflect on the Consequences of a War forced upon Us by France. as it respects Spain, Portugal Holland Italy Germany All Europe, England her Commerce Navy &c. One Consequence I will mention— There will be Tories to fly to France, as there were Tories to fly to England— she will Scarcely compensate them at the Expence of Millions. French Tories will not be venerated in the World much more than the English Tories have been.
I shall answer my dear Thomas’s Letter as soon as I can.3
I am &c with great Esteem as well as / a tender Affection
[signed] John Adams4
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “J. Q. A.”; endorsed by TBA: “The Vice President JQA / 5 Decr: 1796 / 27 Jany Recd: 1797 / 3 Feby Answd:.” Tr (Adams Papers).
1. This is the RC of JQA to JA, 13 Aug., for which see TBA to JA, 6 Aug., and note 7, above. For AA’s receipt of the FC-Pr, see her letter to JA of 27 Nov., and note 2, above. JQA’s letters Nos. 19–23 to JA were dated 4, 14 April, 6, 24 June, 21 July (all Adams Papers).
2. JA won York and Lancaster counties, Penn., by some 4,500 votes but lost decisively to Thomas Jefferson by over 6,000 combined votes in Philadelphia and the rural western counties that had been at the center of the Whiskey Rebellion two years earlier (Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser, 12 Nov.).
3. Probably TBA to JA, 6 Aug., above.
4. JQA wrote to JA on 17, 24, and 30 Dec. reporting the European news, especially regarding the activities of the French government and French Army. On 17 Dec. JQA commented on the progress of negotiations between Britain and France and noted particularly the concern in Europe over the American presidential election: “There are many People here anxious to know the Event of the Presidential elections, in America, and who either feel or affect an alarm least under a change of administration the United States will become involved in a War with G. Britain. They tremble for the price of their American Stocks.” But JQA sought to assure Europeans “that however the elections may turn, there is not the least danger that the United States will deviate from their neutral system of policy, or engage in War with any European Power whatever.” His next letter, of 24 Dec., again emphasized the concerns over the presidential elections as well as the growing tensions between the United States and France in the wake of the Jay Treaty and Pierre Auguste Adet’s resignation. JQA’s 30 Dec. letter continued the theme, noting that an unofficial newspaper of the French { 434 } Directory was attempting “to influence the choice of President in the United States, and if it cannot turn the election to embarass the new Administration, and rally all its opponents under the standard of France. … The violation of the British Treaty, and a War with Britain therefore is what the French Government wish to provoke.— The house of Representatives, is the instrument which they intend to use, and … the fear of their displeasure the motive which they purpose to inspire.— We shall see how they will succeed” (all Adams Papers).
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.