Adams Family Correspondence, volume 9

Descriptive List of Illustrations [Note: for permissions reasons, not all illustrations from the letterpress volumes are available in this digital edition.]
Descriptive List of Illustrations
1, 2. George Washington and Martha Washington, by Edward Savage, 1790 56 [page] [image] 57 [page] [image]
On 6 April 1790, George Washington “Sat for Mr. Savage, at the request of the Vice-President, to have my Portrait drawn for him.” The artist, Edward Savage (1761–1817), executed a companion portrait of Martha Washington around the same time. He depicted the president in a navy and buff military uniform with gold epaulets and ruffled jabot, and the first lady in an elaborate fluted hat and intricately laced shawl.
Although the circumstances of Savage's formal training are unknown, the technical detail of his compositions reflects the influence of John Singleton Copley. A similar portrait of George Washington painted by Savage and donated to Harvard University in 1790 is considered one of the best likenesses of the president. Savage later combined the portrait sketches for his well-received painting and engraving “The Washington Family.”
Eleven days after the president sat for Savage, both images were completed and delivered to the Adamses. A receipt signed by Savage and endorsed by Abigail records the date: “Received New York the 17th of April 1790 of the Vice President of the U.S. forty six Dollars and 2/3ds for a portrait of the President of the U.S. & His Lady— Signed Edward Savage.” On display in the Adams family home in Quincy ever since, the paintings hang in the dining room of the Old House as part of the Adams National Historical Park's collection (Washington, Diaries , 6:57; Edmund Quincy, Life of Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts, Boston, 1867, p. 51; vol. 8:xvi–xvii, 381; Washington, Papers, Presidential Series , 4:286–289; Grove Dicy. of Art ; Wilhelmina S. Harris, Furnishings Report of the Old House, The Adams National Historic Site, Quincy, Massachusetts, 10 vols., Quincy, 1966–1974, 2:242–244).
Courtesy of the Adams National Historical Park.
3. “View of Con—ss on the Road to Philadelphia,” 1790 79[unavailable]
Writing to John Quincy Adams on 11 July 1790 (below), Abigail noted, “you will see by the publick papers that we are destined to Philadelphia, a Grievious affair to me I assure you, but so it is ordained—” The Residence Act, which established the permanent seat of government on the Potomac with a temporary residence in Philadelphia for ten years, was signed by George Washington five days later. After a seven-year debate, two lingering problems of the Revolution—the location of the capital and the financing of the war debt—were resolved.
xiiDisagreement on these issues, which fell largely along sectional lines, reached a peak in the spring of 1790. Northerners and southerners alike wanted the permanent capital located close to home. In Congress, representatives and senators lobbied on behalf of their own cities and districts, many acting with blatant economic self-interest. With respect to the war debt, most northerners supported Alexander Hamilton's long-term funding plan—in particular, federal assumption of state obligations—as a means not only to strengthen the federal union but also to free their own states from crushing financial burdens. Southerners, however, widely feared assumption as an unconstitutional violation of states’ rights. Leaders in Congress and the Washington administration worked out a compromise whereby northerners gave sufficient support to pass the Residence Act on 16 July, and southerners did the same for the Funding Act, which the president signed into law on 9 August.
Not surprisingly, the New York press criticized the decision to move the capital. The stinging “View of Con—ss on the Road to Philadelphia” was one of many opposition political cartoons sold on the streets of New York in early July. Captioned “What think ye of Con—ss now,” the print, by an anonymous engraver, shows Robert Morris leading Congress by the nose to the temporary seat in Philadelphia. Morris, who had extensive property interests on the Delaware River, had attempted to steer the permanent seat to Philadelphia but settled for a temporary placement there—no doubt assuming that, once situated, Congress would be difficult to move. As George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and others sought a compromise on the location of the capital, the temporary move to Philadelphia successfully secured the votes of Morris and his supporters (Kenneth R. Bowling, Creating the Federal City, 1774–1800: Potomac Fever, Washington, D.C., 1988, p. 61–78; Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan, A History of the National Capital, 2 vols., N.Y., 1914–1916, 1:30–31, 34–35, 42–43; Elizabeth M. Nuxoll, “The Financier as Senator: Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, 1789–1795,” in Kenneth R. Bowling and Donald R. Kennon, eds., Neither Separate nor Equal: Congress in the 1790s, Athens, Ohio, 2000, p. 104–108; First Fed. Cong. , 5:713–937, 6:1767–1791).
Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
4. “Bush Hill. the Seat of WM. Hamilton Esqr. Near Philadelphia,” by James Peller Malcom, 1787 111 [page] [image]
Arriving at the property of William Hamilton in November 1790, Abigail found that “Bush Hill is a very beautiful place. But the grand and sublime I left at Richmond Hill” (to AA2, 21 Nov., below). Located two miles outside of Philadelphia, the mansion was constructed about 1740 by William's grandfather Andrew Hamilton, a lawyer and architect. The house, which had stood unoccupied for many years, was still undergoing repairs and renovations when the family leased it. Abigail wrote later to her sister, “When I got to this place, I found this house just calculated to make the whole family sick; cold, damp, and wet with new paint.” Despite its xiiiinconveniences, Abigail came to appreciate the home and reflected fondly on it as the family prepared to depart in the spring of 1791: “I shall have some regrets at leaving this place, just as the season begins to open all its beauties upon me” (to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 20 March 1791, below; vol. 8:xv–xvi, 352).
Bush Hill remained empty until the 1793 yellow fever outbreak when it was turned into a hospital. The once noble mansion became known as “a great human slaughter house, where numerous victims were immolated at the altar of riot and intemperance.” In an effort to improve the situation, citizens formed a committee to oversee the facility and the care of the infirm. In subsequent years, the Hamilton family converted the building to a tavern and resort. The mansion was demolished in 1875 to make way for new residences (J. H. Powell, Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793, Phila., 1949, p. 61, 143–144, 275; JA, D&A , 3:184; Thompson Westcott, The Historic Mansions and Buildings of Philadelphia, Phila., 1877, p. 417, 421–423; Mathew Carey, A Short Account of the Malignant Fever Lately Prevalent in Philadelphia, 4th rev. edn., Phila., 1794, p. 32, Evans, No. 35586).
James Peller Malcom (1767–1815) produced this illustration for the December 1787 issue of the London Universal Magazine. Born in Philadelphia, Malcom (or Malcolm) trained at the Royal Academy in London and worked in England as a writer and engraver of noted technical skill (Universal Magazine, 81:361 [Dec. 1787]; DAB ).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
5. Cotton Tufts to Abigail Adams, Receipt of Appleton's Loan Certificate, 21 August 1792 197 [page] [image]
On 17 January 1790, Abigail Adams wrote to her uncle Cotton Tufts: “The little matter you have belonging to me I wish you to dispose of as you would of your own property to the best advantage by changing or selling according to your judgment” (below). The “little matter” was government bonds, in which Abigail had quietly invested since 1777. That year, she purchased her first federal bond, which paid her a 24 percent annual return for almost five years. Over the next fifteen years, Abigail continued to invest small portions of the family savings in the risky but profitable bond market. Abigail was keenly aware of the legal limits on female property ownership and enlisted her uncle and sons to complete transactions. In an effort to keep her activities private, she repeatedly requested that Cotton Tufts invest “in your own Name, giving me some memorandum that you hold in your Hands such an interest belonging to me” (2 Aug. 1790, below).
Abigail and John, while complementary in many respects, were sharply divided over how to invest their modest income. John, who disdained “stock-jobbing” and speculation, preferred land. Abigail, who rarely criticized her husband to others, lamented to her sister Mary Cranch that she “never desired so much Land unless we could have lived upon it. the Money paid for useless land I would xivhave purchased publick Securities . . . but in these Ideas I have always been so unfortunate as to differ from my partner who thinks he never saved any thing but what he vested in Land” (10 Oct. 1790, below). After more than a decade of managing the farm and accounts on her own while John was in Philadelphia and Europe, Abigail was extremely reluctant to forfeit her control, particularly since she found greater success in the market than in managing tenants and their meager crops.
On 4 August 1790, Congress passed the Funding Act providing for the assumption of state debt by the federal government. Under this legislation, the government converted 90 percent of each Massachusetts bond holder's securities into federal bonds, with the balance covered by the state. By the time Abigail converted her Massachusetts bonds into federal securities on 21 August 1792, their market value had appreciated considerably. Cotton Tufts signed the receipt as “Trustee to Mrs. Abigl. Adams” (Woody Holton, “Abigail Adams, Bond Speculator,” WMQ , 3d series, 64:821–838 [Oct. 2007]).
Courtesy of the Adams Papers.
6. “Tom Paine's Nightly Pest,” by James Gillray, 1792 285[unavailable]
Thomas Paine responded to criticism of his Rights of Man with a second volume in 1792. Using the American government as a model, Rights of Man, Part II, employed economic reasoning to argue for the financial efficacy of a democratic republic over a monarchy. Experiencing the reaction in England firsthand, Abigail Adams Smith wrote to her father that Part II “has been stiled in the House of Commons an Infamous Libell upon the Constitution” (7 May 1792, below). Paine was indeed charged with sedition and answered a court summons on 8 June 1792, but his trial was postponed to 18 December.
In “Tom Paine's Nightly Pest,” noted satirist James Gillray (1757–1815) alludes to Paine's upcoming trial. Three faceless judges haunt Paine as he sleeps and proclaim the charges against him: “Libels / Scurrilities / Falshoods / Perjuries / Rebellions / Treasons.” The scales of justice hang in the balance. Despite the “Guardian Angels” of Charles James Fox and Joseph Priestley gracing Paine's headboard, the verdict is pronounced that those who “mix in treason” are “sure to die like dogs!” An imp hurriedly escaping out a window draped with fleur-de-lis patterned curtains symbolizes Paine's flight from Britain to France just prior to his trial.
Tried in absentia, Paine was defended by Thomas Erskine, attorney general to the Prince of Wales, who offered a four-hour argument for the freedom of the press. But the prosecution, as John informed Abigail, “was pleased to quote large Passages from Publicola, with Some handsome Compliments: so that Publicola is become a Law Authority” (27 Feb. 1793, below). A reputedly stacked jury promptly ruled in favor of the prosecution, and Paine was ordered to be hanged if captured. He spent the rest of his life in France and the United States (Craig Nelson, Thomas Paine: xvEnlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations, N.Y., 2006, p. 216, 219, 245–246; DNB ; Richard Godfrey, James Gillray: The Art of Caricature, London, 2001, p. 101–102).
Courtesy of the British Museum.
7. “Journée du 10 Aoûst 1792 au Château Des Thuillerie,” by Madame Jourdan, CA. 1792 307[unavailable]
Abigail Adams Smith sailed with her husband and two sons to London in the spring of 1792 and for the next ten months kept the Adams family apprised of the revolution in France. Declaring that “the accounts from Paris are shocking to every humane mind, and too dreadful to relate,” Nabby enclosed newspapers to tell the story and warned her mother not to assume that the English press “exaggerate in their accounts;. . . I fear they do not, for I saw, on Sunday last, a lady who was in Paris on the 10th of August, and she heard and saw scenes as shocking as are related by any of them; they seem to have refined upon the cruelties of the savages” (13 Sept. 1792, below).
After two years of intermittent violence and plodding progress toward building a republic, the revolutionary spirit in France reached a boiling point in the summer of 1792, culminating in the siege of the Tuileries Palace and the launch of the Terror. On 10 August, spurred by leaders from the Jacobin Club, National Guard soldiers, joined by fédérés—armed volunteers from the provinces—and Parisian citizens, marched over the bridges crossing the Seine to attack the palace. Within hours, “the justice of the people displayed itself in all its horror.” Upon the capitulation of the guard, the mob murdered several hundred people, including the palace domestic service and groups of men loyal to the crown. Soldiers attempting to escape were hunted down in the streets of Paris and killed. Following the arrest of the royal family, “the mob in their fury seemed determined to destroy every vestige of Royalty.” Just a week later, a guillotine was set up in front of the palace, foreshadowing the larger massacres to come with the Reign of Terror (Philadelphia National Gazette, 10 Nov.; New York Daily Advertiser, 1 Oct.).
The siege was quickly immortalized in artwork as a symbol of the defeat of the monarchy. Madame Jourdan's engraving, after G. Texier's painting, shows the victorious National Guard executing some Swiss soldiers while driving others to fling themselves from the second-story windows. Commoners carrying pikes, at right, include two women ready for battle.
The Adamses shared their horror at the reports of riots and mob violence. Thomas Boylston lamented to his father that “the dreadful scenes . . . has excited terrors even in the breasts of the warmest enthousiasts for Revolution” (30 Oct. 1792, below). Abigail, who counted friends among some of the early leaders of the Revolution, remarked to John, “when I read citizen President, & citizens Equality, I cannot help feeling a mixture of Pitty and contempt for the Hypocrisy I know they are practising and for the Tyranny they xviare Executing” (2 Jan. 1793, below; Bosher, French Rev. , p. xix, 168–179; Schama, Citizens , p. 611–619).
Courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
8. “High Street, From Ninth Street. Philadelphia,” by William Russell Birch and Thomas Birch, 1799 327[unavailable]
When John Adams returned to Philadelphia by himself in 1792, rather than live in a boardinghouse he decided to stay at the home of Abigail's cousins Samuel Alleyne and Mary Smith Gray Otis. While John was well accommodated at their residence, he missed Abigail and told her that he was “So little pleased with living alone at any Lodgings, that this shall be the last time” (to AA, 7 Dec., below). Nevertheless, he stayed with the Otises again the following winter. Abigail would not join him in Philadelphia until 1797 when they moved into the president's mansion (JA, D&A , 3:229; JA to AA, 1 Dec. 1793, below).
The Otises’ home was located at 198 High Street, across the street from the president's house and just a few blocks from Congress. High Street was commonly known as Market Street because of the prevalence of open-air markets, and in this engraving, the cupola of the market shed between Third and Fourth Streets is just visible in the distance. Artist William Russell Birch (1755–1834) captures the Otises’ neighborhood with “the street-scenes all accurate as they now stand,” including a detachment of the First City Troop, a mounted military unit organized to defend the city.
“High Street” is part of a series of 27 views that represent Philadelphia at the turn of the nineteenth century—an ode to urban life and a celebration of city commerce. Already an established miniature artist, William, with his son Thomas (1779–1851), also a painter, arrived in America from England in 1794 and began a series of sketches reflecting “the eminence of an opulent city.” Funded via a subscription campaign, the prints were a substantial investment at $28 for an unbound set and $44.50 for a bound and hand-colored edition ( Philadelphia Directory , 1793, Evans, No. 25585; Agnes Addison Gilchrist, “Market Houses in High Street,” Amer. Philos. Soc., Trans., 43:304, 310 [1953]; DAB ; William R. Birch and Thomas Birch, The City of Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania North America, Phila., 1800, repr. edn., Phila., 1982).
Courtesy of the Print and Picture Collection, The Free Library of Philadelphia.
9, 10. Louis XVI, by Joseph ducreux, 1793, and “La Reine Marie-Antoinette en Habit de Veuve à La Prison de la Conciergerie,” by Alexandre Kucharski, 1793 392[unavailable] 393 [page] [image]
In April 1793, when early reports in the American press indicated that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had been executed, Thomas Boylston Adams wrote to his father, “Since the Execution of the King & Queen nothing can be thought too mad or extravagant for the National Convention to commit, and the conjecture is not xviiunfair that the Royal Family is e're this extinct” (7 April 1793, below). Although the king was dead, it would still be several months until Marie Antoinette's execution. Like many Americans, the Adamses opposed the fate of the French royal family. Charles Adams wrote to John in May that “most Americans are friends to the Revolution of France however they may view with horror the enormities which have been committed” (10 May 1793, below). Abigail's sister Elizabeth Smith Shaw mourned the king in a letter to Mary Smith Cranch: “I am sure you could not read the fate of his unhappy Family without tender regret— It was his misfortune, & seems to be his only crime that he was born, & a King at this particular period of time” (21 April 1793, below).
After their arrest on 10 August 1792, the royal family was removed to the medieval Temple Prison for several months. At first, the family was housed on two floors and allowed a staff of fourteen. The king and queen were provided with books, the children with toys, and they even enjoyed walks in the gardens. But on 3 December, the National Convention brought charges against Louis XVI for “conspiracy against the liberty of the nation.” In mid-January 1793, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. The portraitist Joseph Ducreux (1735–1802) visited the king in prison several days before his execution by guillotine on 21 January. Avoiding the flattering angles and smooth lines favored by court painters, Ducreux captured him in a charcoal drawing as “Citizen Capet,” wearing a simple coat.
Marie Antoinette remained in the Temple until 2 August when she was taken to the notorious Conciergerie. In early summer, the Committee of Public Safety had undergone a turnover in leadership, and the new regime was determined to see the “Widow Capet” to the guillotine. Labelled by her accusers the “scourge and blood sucker of the French,” Marie Antoinette was tried in October in the midst of the Terror. She faced charges ranging from causing a famine in Paris and destroying the “energy” of the constitution to being the “authoress of all those reverses of fortune” of the republic's armies. During this time one of the queen's favorite painters, Alexandre Kucharski (1741–1819), stole into the Conciergerie to visit her. Kucharski later painted her from memory, showing a woman with a sunken face wearing a widow's black headdress. Like the portrait of Louis XVI, this painting captures the stark resignation of its subject as Marie Antoinette awaited her execution on 16 October (Bosher, French Rev. , p. xix–xxi, 168–183; Charles Downer Hazen, Modern European History, N.Y., 1917, p. 122–124; David P. Jordan, The King's Trial: Louis XVI vs. The French Revolution, Berkeley, Calif., 1979, p. 83; Schama, Citizens , p. 653–663, 795–796; The Trial of Louis XVI Late King of France, and Marie Antoinette, His Queen, Lansingburgh, N.Y., 1794, Evans, No. 47100; Caroline Weber, Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, N.Y., 2006, p. 271–272).
Courtesy of Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet, and Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, New York.