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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 11


Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0230

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1796-12-18

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

I went Yesterday at 12 O Clock to the Presbyterian Meeting House in Market Street to hear Dr Rush pronounce an elegant and pathetic Elogium on Mr Rittenhouse the late President of the { 447 } Philosophical society. He made him out to be a good Man and a great Astronomer & Philosopher. This I agree and if he had not betrayed Jacobinical Weaknesses I should have liked him very well.1
Dr Euwing is Sick & melancholly. has lost his Wifes fortune by trusting Speculators and has had recourse to imprudent means to raise his Spirits as they Say. He has done preaching for the present at least.2
It is now Said, but I have not made the Calculations, to be made certain that neither Mr Pinckney nor Mr Jefferson can be President: consequently my Troubles are not far off. Strong in the Confidence of my own Honesty, and favoured by the Appearance of tolerable health and the feeling of Some Strength, I perceive no Consternation at the Prospect.
There have not been wanting Insinuations to make me believe that Hamilton and Jay have insidiously intrigued to give Pinckney a Sly slide over my head, and the southern Men Swear, if they had suspected this I should have had all their Votes. I do believe that both of them had rather Pinckney should come in P. than Jefferson be either P. or V. P.— one of them might believe he should have more Influence with Pinckney than with me— Both of them might think, that if I was out of the Way, one or other of them might have a better Chance to come in at next Election into one or the other Office. Both of them may have designs or desires of closer Connections with England than I should approve. But whatever cause for these Surmises may exist, they shall make no Impression on my Friendship for those Characters. I believe their Motives were what they recd for publick Good. Jay at least had probably no active share in the Business. H. certainly had.
But I think it is now evident that the Southern States have had all these Contingencies in Contemplation and that they preferred me, in either office to Pinckney or Burr, and I am more indebted to the southern states for this Election than to Massachusetts, thirteen of whose Votes were determined I presume by Hamiltons Letters to Higginson, if not to Cabot, and who certainly were willing to sacrifice me, rather than that Jefferson should come in V. P.3
The common Saying here is that it is an Interposition of Providence that has saved me, defeated Pinckney, and disappointed the English Party as well as the French. The French however are deceived,—I am more their Friend than they are aware of.—
I am much mistaken if I do not remove many Prejudices both at home & abroad before the fourth of March. There are manly Ways { 448 } of correcting Errors, that all Men dont perceive. These are confidential Communications from your ever affectionate
[signed] J. A
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “December 18 1796.”
1. David Rittenhouse, the noted astronomer and mathematician, had died on 26 June. Benjamin Rush eulogized him on 17 Dec. at the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia at an event attended by George Washington, JA, members of Congress, and foreign dignitaries, among others. Later published as An Eulogium, Intended to Perpetuate the Memory of David Rittenhouse, Rush’s eulogy described Rittenhouse as “the ingenious, the modest, and the wise … the friend of God and man. … His name gave a splendor to the American character, and the friends of humanity in distant parts of the world, unite with us in lamenting our common loss,—for he belonged to the whole human race” (Phila., 1797, p. 4, 5, Evans, No. 31143; ANB).
2. In the summer of 1796 John Ewing suffered from an attack of a “violent disorder” and never fully recovered; although he continued his public duties he could no longer walk without aid. Ewing also experienced financial losses after being swindled by an acquaintance. Hannah Sergeant Ewing (1739–1806), his wife, was the daughter of Jonathan Sergeant of Newark, N.J. (Lucy E. Lee Ewing, Dr. John Ewing and Some of His Noted Connections, Phila., 1924, p. 11, 16, 26).
3. Letters from Alexander Hamilton to Stephen Higginson or George Cabot have not been located, but one to the former was likely dated 28 Nov. and apparently encouraged Higginson to support Thomas Pinckney over JA in the presidential election in order to exclude Thomas Jefferson entirely (Hamilton, Papers, 20:376–377, 414–415, 437–438).

Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0231

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1796-12-19

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

I have this morning yours of the 9th. Am glad you have mine from Stratford: you will receive others in Succession.
I am not much chagrined at the disappointment of ploughing the Hill. The Spring will do. The more Seaweed is procured the better. I need not exhort you to get Wood. I am Glad Mr Bass is provided for. I wish you to expend as little as possible in Labour except for Seaweed and Sledding Stones across the Mill Pond if there should be opportunity, and for a fence against Jona. Bass.1
The general Delusion of Speculation has involved the great Chiefs. McClenichan is in Trouble his son Stewart left nothing2 Mr Morris Mr Nicholson Mr Wilson Mr Greenleaf Mr Barclay & many others are talked of as in Such distress as to Spread a general Consternation among the Merchants.3 I can never enough deplore the Delerium of plunging into Schemes of such vast magnitude and complication, living in Such Pomp and Such Expence upon Property of others—giving Charities, making feasts, Signing Subscriptions, blazing away with Furniture Equipage &c and then discovering that all this is Credit, and that Multitudes of honest People must be involved in distress in Consequence of it. I saw enough at East Chester— But I had long expected it. Where is the moral Principle? { 449 } where is the Modesty? of rolling in Luxury upon the Property of others? I fear that Dishonesty will appear as well as Distress. That large Sums in Trust, will be found misapplied. Trusts violated and prostituted. Give me Poverty give me Death rather than the Sting of remorse for violated Confidence.
The Writers in the Chronicle, take great Pains to impute this Stagnation to the Government—But with great Injustice.— I fear it has arisen from a Defect of the Constitution, in not giving to Congress the exclusive Power of erecting and regulating Banks and limiting even their Power to a moderate sum: But I am cautious and fearful of explaining myself on this Subject.
The Bank of Pensilvania has Spread an Alarm. I hope that all others will take Warning.
I see that Hamilton is the Object of Chronicle wrath. But Hamilton did not establish the state Banks, and they have had their ful share in the Imprudence and the Mischief.
Mr Bloodworth of N. Carolina Said to me this morning he could now congratulate me on the Certainty of my Election as President:4 But I make no Calculations, as far as I see it is still possible that Pinckney may be P.— Jefferson I think cannot. The Vermont votes are Safe enough. They are not liable to the objection apprehended.
The Alarm which was Spread in Philadelphia & Pensilvania by Adets Note has Subsided. You will see that Congress is not intimidated. Though a Party in the H. is still too Strong. It is cruel that Mass. shd. increase this Party. Bill Lyman went all Lengths. Gen. Dearbourne & Coll Varnum Stop’d short.5
Mr A’s Letters are in high Reputation. I heard one of the Cabinet Say that Mr A’s Correspondence was the most Satisfactory of any of the Ministers abroad.— Many have read them and all admire them.
But the Scæne which appears to have been played at the House and in the Suite of a foreign Minister at Paris is a Serious Thing— If our Ambassadors are to harbour the Destroyers of Religion and Government, where are We?
If our Ambassadors abroad will not frown on Abuses of their Employers who will. Examples must and will be made.—
I am, my dearest Friend, your ever affectionate
[signed] J. A.
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “December 19 1796.”
1. Probably Deacon Jonathan Bass (1763–1859), only son of the Adamses’ longtime neighbor Jonathan Bass (1729–1778) (Sprague, Braintree Families; vol. 3:66).
2. That is, Blair McClenachan’s son-in-law, Walter Stewart, who had died in June; see vol. 8:87.
3. December proved a traumatic month for { 450 } land speculators in Philadelphia. According to Benjamin Rush, some 150 businesses failed in six weeks, and 67 people went to jail for debt. John Barclay, then president of the Bank of Pennsylvania, was rumored to have invested money taken from the bank without accounting for it, while the value of Robert Morris and John Nicholson’s business dropped precipitously. In Rush’s words, “great distress pervaded our city from failures. … A spirit of speculation infected all ranks” (Rush, Autobiography, p. 236–237).
4. Timothy Bloodworth (1736–1814) represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress in 1786, served in the House of Representatives between 1790 and 1791, and held a Senate seat from 1795 until 1801 (Biog. Dir. Cong.).
5. Probably a reference to the final vote in the House of Representatives on its reply to George Washington’s annual address. Numerous efforts were made to remove portions of the reply that Democratic-Republicans considered too conciliatory toward and laudatory of Washington’s administration. In the end, on 15 Dec. 1796, a large majority of the House voted in favor of the reply as it was originally drafted, but twelve members, including William Lyman, went on record as opposing it (Annals of Congress, 4th Cong., 2d sess., p. 1667–1668).
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/