A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 11

Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0240

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1796-12-30

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

The Prospect that opens upon me presents Troubles enough of every kind.— I have made Some Inquiry concerning Horses and Carriages, and find that a common Chariot of the plainest Sort cannot be had under Twelve hundred Dollars, and if you go to a little more ornament and Elegance you must give fifteen hundred. The President has a Pair of Horses to sell, one 9 the other 10 Years old for which he asks a thousand Dollars. And there is no Probability of procuring a decent Span for less than Six hundred dollars.
House Rent, another indispensable Article will be extravagantly high.— The Plenty of Paper, has unsettled every Thing. Nothing has a Price. Every one asks and every one cheats as much as he can, I think.
I wish I knew what would be asked for a Chariot in Boston.
The President Says he must sell Something to enable him to clear out. When a Man is about retiring from Public Life and sees nothing but a Ploughshare between him and the Grave, he naturally thinks most upon that. When Charles the fifth resigned his Empire and crown, he went to building his Coffin—1 When I contemplated a Retirement I meditated the Purchase of Mrs Veseys Farm and thought of building a Tomb on my own Ground adjoining to the burying Yard.2
The President is now engaged in his Speculations upon a Vault which he intends to build for himself, not to Sleep but to lie down in.3
So you See, my little head is made like two great heads and I have ambitiously placed myself between them.
Mrs Blodget, who I dare say is more desirous that you should be Presidante than that I should be Presidant, Says She is afraid President Washington will not live long. I should be afraid too, if I had not confidence in his Farm and his Horse.
He must be a fool, I think who dies of Chagrin, when he has a fine farm and a Narragansett Mare that Paces, trots and canters. but I dont know but all Men are such fools.
I think a Man had better wear than rust.
The Boyish Language of the Emissaries from Monroes Academy is not confined to Boston Market.— Captn. Barney is holding the Same Cant.4
{ 468 }
John Adams must be an intrepid to encounter the open Assaults of France and the Secret Plotts of England, in concert with all his treacherous Friends and open Enemies in his own Country. Yet I assure you he never felt more Serene in his Life. Yours most tenderly
[signed] J. A.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “December 30 1796.”
1. After Charles V abdicated his throne in 1556, he retired to the monastery of Yuste in Spain. Two years later he reputedly requested that a priest perform—and Charles himself participate in—a funeral mass for himself. Stories circulated, inaccurately, that Charles went so far as to lie in his intended coffin as part of the ritual (William Robertson, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, 3 vols., Phila., 1867, 3:332, 335, 469–472).
2. For JA’s purchase of the Veasey property in Feb. 1788, see vol. 7:144.
3. George Washington took no steps at this time to build a mausoleum. In his July 1799 will, however, Washington instructed his heirs to rebuild the existing family vault at Mount Vernon in a new location on the property. After Washington’s death, discussion arose about reinterring his remains in a crypt in the U.S. Capitol, but that never occurred. It was not until 1831 that the family complied with the terms of the will, reinterring the bodies of Washington, his wife, and various other family members in a new tomb at Mount Vernon (Washington, Papers, Retirement Series, 4:491, 511).
4. On 29 Dec. 1796 the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States reported that Capt. Joshua Barney, who was then in the service of the French Navy, had arrived in Annapolis, Md., and was awaiting the outcome of the presidential election before returning to France. The extract reported, “Barney says, should Adams be elected President, we shall certainly be engaged in a war with France in less than three months:—and he knows not how we could have avoided that misfortune, but by electing Mr. Jefferson our President, who stands much higher with the French nation than any other man in our country” (DAB).

Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0241

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Charles
Date: 1796-12-30

John Adams to Charles Adams

[salute] My Dear Son

I have received with great Pleasure your kind Letter of 28th.
I think Mr Sands’s Plan for the Education of his Nephew is judicious. But I Should not advise him to Send him to Europe, So very early. If he remains in America two or three Years, undergoes his Examination and is admitted to the Bar it will be early enough to go to Europe.
By your Representation Mr Joshua Sands has been your good Friend. I can only Say in the Language of shakespear “Whenever you have made a Friend, upon virtuous Principles grapple him to your Soul with hooks of Steel.”1
If Mr Sands’s Experience should resemble mine he will find his Reward— I never assisted a worthy young Man in his Entrance on the Stage of Life, without reaping an abundant Reward for it in the Contemplation of his Prosperity, and indeed in his Gratitude.
{ 469 }
When Money is too plenty it always appears to be Scarce. Prices rise a little faster than the Money increases.
The Sums due from France will not be paid. They cannot be paid at least for Sometime— There is nothing to pay them with. How our Merchants could trust Such Sums in Such Circumstances I know not. But there has been a mercantile Enthusiasm and a speculating Enthusiasm, inflamed to Madness by a Democratical Enthusiasm. It is to be hoped that a turn of Times and Affairs may cool the heat.
Aurelius and others have convinced me, that I am unknown in my own Country. The Friends of my Youth are all dead. Those of my riper Years are mostly gone, and with them the Memory of my Life and Adventures. Those, who know me know, who love me tell. But I find that Friendships are more brittle Things, than I expected. A McKean, A Rutledge &c &c Show what a Vapour is Friendship and Principle in Some Men, at least when Party Spirit attacks them.
You ask me, Whether there has ever been any Coolness between Hamilton and me. I answer you frankly there has never been any that I know of.— But at the Same time I must tell you there never has been any hotness between Us. Hamilton never had any extraordinary Attachment to me.
I have heard enough to convince me, that Hamilton hated Jefferson So much that he had rather Pinckney Should come in President than that Jefferson should be even Vice President. and this he carried so far as to push for Votes in New England for Pinckney which he knew must bring him in President. I think it probable enough, that he wish’d for Pinckney rather than me to be President. But he must have been a Blockhead to Say this to the Chancellor, Brockhurst & Troop.
If you recollect your Brothers Letter, which you gave me, he explains this Riddle perhaps.2 He tells me, that I may depend upon a Secret and malignant, tho perhaps in the first Instance, an inactive opposition from Great Britain.— If there is an English Party in America, I am not in their Secret nor possessed of their Confidence. There is a Tribe of Characters in America, who pretend to be Friends to me: but have always been very coolly and cautiously Such. They have Views of intimate Connections and Fraternizations with the English, which they have no reason to expect I should willingly promote. Perhaps an Alliance offensive and Defensive. I could name Friends in Boston, as well as N. York who would have not been sorry to have me thrown out of the Way though Pinckney had come in.
{ 470 }
I will Send you the Money to pay for the Herald in a few Days.
I Shall have Occasion for more Correspondence, than ever. I pray you to write me, whatever you may think Useful to me, and keep my Letters to you entirely in Confidence. My Letters must not be quoted by Partymen, to Support any of their Schemes. The whole Nation must be my Family for a time and I must be affectionate and impartial to all. And may God enable me to do my Duty.
It is to me astonishing, that the People of America should have been so Steady in their Esteem of me, considering the Pains that have been taken to belie me, and the Absolute neglect of them that I have observed, and the cold faint and ignorant Essays which Some who call themselves my friends have attempted in my Vindication. I shall conclude as you do with a Wish that my Conduct may be approved by Virtuous Men. Such Approbation I have preferred to Riches and to Fame. With Love to those you love the most, I am your affectionate Father
[signed] John Adams
RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); internal address: “Charles Adams Esq.”
1. “Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, / Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, scene iii, lines 62–63).
2. JQA to JA, 13 Aug., for which see TBA to JA, 6 Aug., and note 7, above.
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.