Adams Family Correspondence, volume 10


ix Descriptive List of Illustrations
Descriptive List of Illustrations
Writing to William Cranch on 4 January 1794, Thomas Boylston Adams reported on the controversial path and uncertain fate of French minister Edmond Charles “Citizen” Genet in America. “The Minister of the French Republic has litterally pursued the Instructions of his Masters, the Executive Council of France; but the Members of that Council who gave the instructions are at present in disgrace,” he noted (below). Since Genet’s arrival in Charleston, South Carolina, in April 1793, his brazen defense of French privateering and ardent efforts to reclaim portions of Louisiana and Canada for France divided Americans. Public apprehension deepened, however, as Genet persisted with machinations to raise money and troops for the French Republic, a practice that threatened to undermine the official U.S. policy of neutrality. By the summer of 1793, Genet’s interference prompted George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—who was originally a supporter of Genet—to request the French minister’s formal recall.
“We are waiting the answer of the Executive of France to the letter of complaint from the Secretary of State, concerning the conduct of the Citizen Minister,” Thomas Boylston wrote in frustration six months later, as a turbulent power shift in France delayed American attempts to have Genet removed from his position. The new, Jacobin-led government eventually dispatched a four-man commission to arrest him, but Washington, possibly fearing Genet’s execution, rescinded the demand just as the commissioners arrived in late February 1794. Genet surprised his critics by settling in New York, where he “really, and truly” married Governor George Clinton’s daughter Cornelia that fall, a move Abigail Adams reported was purely “for political purposes” as it was “against the Governours consent. he thinks I presume that it would injure his Election” (to Thomas Boylston Adams, 30 Nov. 1794, below).
This profile of Genet, composed by the highly regarded professional team of artist Jean Baptiste Fouquet and engraver Gilles Louis Chretién, was made in 1793 at the height of the controversy and depicts Genet encircled by his official diplomatic title (Jefferson, Papers, 26:686, 692; Meade Minnigerode, Lives and Times: Four Informal American Biographies, N.Y., 1925, p. 195–209; Meade x Minnigerode, Jefferson, Friend of France, 1793: The Career of Edmond Charles Genet, N.Y., 1928, p. 193–194, 197, 201–207, 222–225, 229–231, 233, 281–285; George Gates Raddin Jr., Caritat and the Genet Episode, Dover, N.J., 1953, p. 9–11; Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, London, 2006).
Courtesy of the Albany Institute of History and Art.
“New Theatre opened this Day,” John Quincy Adams recorded in his Diary on 3 February 1794, a matter-of-fact entry that communicates little of the drama that led to the event. The previous year John Quincy had served on a committee to lobby for the overturn of Boston’s 1750 ban on theatrical entertainments, and after a tumultuous debate the effort was successful. A Boston consortium promptly built a new playhouse at the corner of Federal and Franklin streets. On its debut evening the Federal Street Theatre (also known as the Boston Theatre) featured the tragedy Gustavus Vasa by Henry Brooke and the comedic farce Modern Antiques. John Quincy “did not attend, nor fully partake of the common curiosity” of the premier, but he did go to six performances before the month was over. One show left him “pleased beyond expectation,” another was merely an “indifferent play indifferently acted,” and a third was “tolerable; but too licentious” (D/JQA/22, 3, 5, 17, 21, 24, 26, 28 Feb. 1794, APM Reel 25).
Designed by Charles Bulfinch, the American classical revival Federal Street Theatre building was unlike the plain, unadorned playhouses of other eighteenth-century towns. A subscriber described the theater as “one of the most Elegant & beautiful buildings on the Continent” but also expressed concern that at $40,000 the cost was double the original estimate (Henry Jackson to Henry Knox, 26 Jan., 13 April, NHi:Gilder Lehrman Coll., on deposit). The interior decorations were equally stunning, as described by Bulfinch himself: “The back walls are painted of a light blue, and the front of the boxes, the columns, &c. are of straw and lilach colour: the mouldings, balustrades, and fret work are gilded: a crimson silk drapery suspended from the second boxes, and twelve elegant brass chandeliers of five lights each, complete the decoration.”
A gold medal by Boston engraver Joseph Callender was awarded to Bulfinch “for his unremitted and liberal Attention in the Plan and Execution of That Building” and entitled Bulfinch to “a Seat in the Boston Theatre during Life; Benefit Nights excepted.” The theater building stood for only four years, burning in 1798, to be replaced in the fall of the same year by a plainer structure also designed by Bulfinch (vol. 9:342, 351, 354–355; Thomas Pemberton, “A Topographical and Historical Description of Boston, 1794,” MHS, Colls., 1st ser., 3:255–256 [1794]; Harold Kirker, The Architecture of Charles Bulfinch, Cambridge, 1969, p. 66, 70, 71).
Courtesy of the Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
3. “AMERICAN STAGE WAGGON,” BY ISAAC WELD JR., CA. 1797 181[unavailable]
On 23 March 1794 Thomas Boylston Adams wrote to Abigail Adams from Philadelphia, “I am preparing to make a Journey into the interior part of this State, in a Circuit with my Master Ingersoll, who as Attorney Genl. of the State is required to attend the Supreme Court.” Between 28 April and 1 June, Thomas Boylston’s travels between the district courts in West Chester, York, Lancaster, Carlisle, and Reading made him an eyewitness to the development of Pennsylvania’s inland counties. In a series of letters to John Adams, he repeatedly praised the region: from York on 5 May he wrote, “on every side the fields of grain met our eyes, and the extent of the Cultivation from the Road was a good indication of the richness of the soil”; on 20 May he described Lancaster as “the largest inland town in America,” populated by “industrious” people who fully harnessed “the richness of the land” (all below).
Such industry, however, required an outlet. In 1792 the Pennsylvania legislature authorized the construction of a private toll road to address “the great quantity of heavy articles, of the growth and produce of the country, and of foreign goods, which are daily transported between the city of Philadelphia and the western counties of the state.” The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, financed by public subscription and completed in 1794, was the country’s first long-distance road with a stone and gravel surface. John Adams described it as a “great Improvement” (to Abigail Adams, 23 June 1795, below).
“American Stage Waggon,” by the Irish topographical writer Isaac Weld Jr. (1774–1856) and engraved by James Sargant Storer (1771–1853) of London, captures both the commercial activity of the turnpike and the beauty and productivity of the surrounding landscape. This illustration was reproduced in the third edition of Weld’s Travels through the States of North America, and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, during the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797, 2 vols., London, 1800, facing 1:27. Weld’s accompanying narrative echoes the descriptions of the region voiced by Thomas Boylston Adams in 1794: “The country on each side of the road is pleasingly diversified with hill and dale. Cultivation is chiefly confined to the low lands, which are the richest; the hills are all left covered with wood, and afford a pleasing variety to the eye. The further you go from Philadelphia the more fertile is the country, and the more picturesque at the same time. … It is scarcely possible to go one mile on this road without meeting numbers of waggons passing and repassing between the back parts of the state and Philadelphia” (Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, from the Fourteenth Day of October, One Thousand Seven Hundred, to the Sixth Day of April, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Two, 6 vols., Phila., 1803, 4:165; Charles I. Landis, “History of the Philadelphia and xii Lancaster Turnpike,” PMHB, 42:131, 235, 242 [April, Oct. 1918]; DNB ; Weld, Travels through the States of North America, 1:111, 115).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
4, 5. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS AND THOMAS BOYLSTON ADAMS, BY MR. PARKER, 1795 216[unavailable] , 217[unavailable]
“Last Evening I received the Miniatures, and they were next to personally Seeing you,” Abigail Adams wrote to John Quincy Adams on 5 December 1795, “for the likenesses are very good, the painter however, it is Said has given a more flattering Likeness of you than of Thomas” (Adams Papers). Thomas Boylston Adams agreed that his portrait was not perfect, calling it a “tolerable likeness, though there is something about the mouth, that strikes me as wanting exactitude” (M/TBA/2, 11 April, APM Reel 282).
The watercolor-on-ivory portraits had been sent from The Hague by John Quincy in July in fulfillment of Abigail’s earlier request that he and his brother commission them, first in Philadelphia, then when that proved impossible, during their stay in Europe. The artist was an expatriate Englishman named Parker whom Thomas Boylston met while ice-skating on a Hague canal in February. The pair became good friends and spent many days and evenings together during the ensuing year. Although neither John Quincy nor Thomas Boylston recorded Parker’s first name, he may have been John Parker (b. 1745), who studied in Rome in 1768, exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in the 1770s, and is thought to have worked as a portraitist in the Netherlands from 1793 to 1799.
Thomas Boylston sat for his miniature in several sessions between 31 March and 11 April 1795, and Parker began his likeness of John Quincy soon thereafter. Thomas Boylston paid for both pictures, recording a cost of f 53.6.6 for the second. In later years Abigail wore the miniatures as clasps for bracelets of black velvet ribbon. Despite not being thoroughly pleased with his own likeness, Thomas Boylston noted the artist’s ability to cast his subjects in a good light. “Mr. P—— has the talent of making handsome portraits where the original is not so,” he wrote. “There is justice in the remark, but it is a circumstance which offends no body, & is sure to please the person flattered” (M/TBA/2, 21 Feb., 23, 31 March, 11, 25 April, 12 May, 28 Aug., APM Reel 282; M/TBA/3, 4 Aug., APM Reel 283; Oliver, Portraits of JQA and LCA, p. 28–33; A. C. A. W. Baron van der Feltz, Charles Howard Hodges 1764–1837, Assen, Netherlands, 1982, p. 45–47, 381–382).
Courtesy of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., and the Massachusetts Historical Society.
6. “AN EXCISEMAN,” 1792 225[unavailable]
“A very serious opposition to the collection of the Excise has taken place in one of the western Counties of this State,” John Quincy Adams informed his mother on 29 July 1794, as Pennsylvania frontiersmen violently protested the 1791 tax on distilled spirits by xiii attacking and torching tax collector John Neville’s home. “The Collector’s House has been burnt down, and an action between the insurgents and a company of soldiers terminated in the loss of several lives” (below). Whiskey had become one of the region’s chief products, and the perceived aggression of affluent excisemen out-raged the subsistence-level farmers who distilled and sold it. Throughout the summer and fall of 1794 a series of increasingly vicious clashes, similar to the incident at Neville’s estate, directly challenged the federal government’s power to enforce tax collection.
Crude cartoons in the popular press, like the one shown here, often simplified the political nature of the Whiskey Rebellion and explicitly endorsed mob violence. In this caricature, dated 13 August 1792, both sides replay a familiar and highly sensationalist narrative: The zealous tax collector, making his rounds in league with the devil, is ultimately punished by a cohort of beleaguered citizens. “An Exciseman,” described as a “burdensome Drone,” is pursued by a pair of irate farmers intent on tarring and feathering him. A demon captures the “bum” exciseman mid-flight, “claps an hook in his nose, leads him off to a Gallows, where he is immediately hanged.” The boisterous crowd then “puts a barrel of whiskey under him, sets fire to it, burns and blows him up.” The unknown artist, a self-titled “poet laureate of liquor,” appends a brief, punning “elegy” that begins: “Just where he hung the people meet. / To see him swing was music sweet, / A Barrel of whiskey at his feet. / Without the head.”
George Washington responded to the rebellion by leading an army into western Pennsylvania to suppress the uprising by force. By late November 1794 the insurgency had largely been defeated though unrest and discontent continued, and opposition to excise taxes long remained a potent force on the American frontier (Slaughter, Whiskey Rebellion, p. 67, 73, 218–220, 226).
Courtesy of the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent.
7. MAJ. GEN. ANTHONY WAYNE, BY GEORGE GRAHAM, 1796 233[unavailable]
Perpetual bouts of unrest continued to afflict the Ohio frontier in the early 1790s, and anxious Americans were captivated with the gripping newspaper accounts of Maj. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s actions on 20 August 1794 at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, near present-day Toledo, Ohio. Wayne, a hero of the American Revolution who was renowned both for his brilliant tactics on the battlefield and for his volatile tendencies as a camp disciplinarian, had resumed command in April 1792 to quell an outbreak of violence between settlers and Native Americans in the Northwest Territory. At Fallen Timbers, Wayne’s troops vanquished a force of Native Americans from the Wabash and Maumee rivers region, led primarily by Shawnee chief Blue Jacket.
Directed to dispel the British military presence from the new nation, Wayne shrewdly used the victory at Fallen Timbers to destroy the feeble network of alliances that British troops had formed with xiv Native Americans. Following the battle, Wayne approached British-held Fort Miami, but instead of attacking it, he burned the crops and leveled the ground around it. In a letter to Abigail Adams on 22 September 1794, Charles Adams relayed the very serious allegations that “Genl Wayne has taken several British subjects in a late engagement with the Indians and hung them upon the trees I do not vouch for the truth of this but the conduct of the officers of the British Government towards this Country bear not a very favorable aspect” (below). The federal government’s efforts to secure the Northwest Territory from foreign interests improved greatly in August 1795 when the ratification of the Jay Treaty finally forced the British to vacate their forts. Wayne used this development as leverage in negotiating the acquisition of a sizable swath of land from the Native American chiefs who could no longer solicit British aid.
Back in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the states, Wayne’s triumph at Fallen Timbers dramatically revitalized his celebrity status. “General Wayne was there in Glory,” John Adams reported to Abigail of Wayne’s much-celebrated return to Philadelphia. “This Mans Feelings must be worth a Guinea a Minute. The Pensulvanians claim him as theirs, and spew him a marked respect” (13 Feb. 1796, Adams Papers). Around the same time, Wayne sat for portrait painter Jean Pierre Henri Elouis; engraver George Graham is thought to have relied on Elouis’ miniature when he composed the mezzotint shown here, which was originally published on 1 June. Wayne died of gout a little more than six months later ( DAB; David Meschutt, “Portraits of Anthony Wayne: Re-Identifications and Re-Attributions,” American Art Journal, 15:33–34, 36 [Spring 1983]; John Hyde Preston, A Gentleman Rebel: The Exploits of Anthony Wayne, N.Y., 1930, p. 310–315; Glenn Tucker, Mad Anthony Wayne and the New Nation, Harrisburg, Penn., 1973, p. 240–243, 248–249, 252).
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
On 11 November 1794 in the first letter he wrote to Abigail Adams from The Hague, John Quincy Adams described the changing events in France: “Since the fall of Robespierre, every day new details of the most inconceivable cruelty, are produced in the national Convention, and every thing is laid to his charge. … The wanton and unnecessary effusion of blood, which so long desolated the french republic, has at length become unfashionable” (below). On 27–28 July 1794 (An. II, 9–10 thermidor) French Jacobin leaders, including Maximilien Robespierre, were overthrown and executed en masse. Always a minority in the National Convention, the Jacobins lost the support of their allies in the Paris Commune when the spiraling violence of the Terror led to attacks on popular leaders of the Commune. The subsequent rise of the Thermidorian regime or reaction marked a more moderate phase of the French Revolution xv during which the new leaders sought a return to the revolutionary ideals that they believed Robespierre had betrayed. This illustration, one of many anti-Terror prints to appear after Thermidor, embodies that shift. In the foreground, Robespierre stomps on the Constitutions of 1791 and 1793 while guillotining the executioner— the last revolutionary figure besides himself. Towering guillotines populate the background and are lettered to represent groups of slain people, among whom are the members of the Revolutionary Tribunal, Jacobins, Girondins, noblemen, priests, women, children, and popular societies. In the middle ground, a monument bears the inscription “Here lies all France” and is topped by an inverted revolutionary cap, impaled and slowly burning. The cartoon, by an unknown artist, speaks to the irony of a revolution that attacked all French citizens, whether ally or foe. But the illustration also embodies the relief of those who escaped Robespierre’s hand (Bosher, French Rev., p. 202–203, 226–232; Schama, Citizens, p. 851; Steven Blakemore, Crisis in Representation: Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, Helen Maria Williams, and the French Revolution, Cranbury, N.J., 1997, p. 13–14).
Courtesy of Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet.
9. THE BATAVIAN REPUBLIC, 1798 387[unavailable]
The French invasion of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, which John Quincy Adams satirically described to Abigail Adams on 12 February 1795 as an “arrival” by “friends and allies of the Batavian People,” sparked ongoing rumors and speculation about a formal alliance between the two countries. In his letter to John Adams of 8 May 1795, Thomas Boylston Adams spoke of the long-rumored peace: “The Alliance does not yet appear to have taken place” but “must be purchased at all events, and the dismemberment of a considerable portion of the Dutch territory will be among the sacrifices required on one side and conceded on the other.” Peace between France and the Batavian Republic was formalized by the Treaty of The Hague, signed on 16 May. The following day, John Quincy wrote to his brother Charles, “I can now inform you that a treaty for this last purpose was signed this morning, and will probably very soon be published. It contracts an Alliance between the two Republic’s, defensive during the remainder of the present war; offensive and defensive from the period of its termination. This event is of the highest importance to the interests of this Country, and of no inconsiderable consequence to the rest of Europe. It is perhaps connected with a more extensive system, which will unfold itself in the course of the present Season” (all below). The terms of the treaty stipulated that in return for recognition of the Batavian Republic and a mutual pledge of noninterference in domestic affairs, the Dutch would pay an indemnity of 100 million guilders, provide France with a huge loan at a deeply discounted interest rate, and cede the territories of Maastricht, Venlo, and Dutch Flanders. Additionally, the Dutch would xvi dismantle their forts along these frontiers and share sovereignty of Flushing Harbor. Secretly, the Dutch also agreed to maintain a French Army of 25,000 through the end of the war (Schama, Patriots and Liberators, p. 206–207).
This illustration, a detail from a larger historical map of the Netherlands prepared in the late nineteenth century, delineates the boundaries of the Batavian Republic as they were in 1798. It further outlines the territory along the Maas River and bordering Flushing Harbor that was ceded to France in 1795 under the terms of the treaty (Gustav Droysen and Richard Andree, Professor G. Droysens allgemeiner historischer hand-atlas in sechsundneunzig karten mit erläuterndem text, Bielefeld, Germany, 1886).
Courtesy of
10. “THEATRUM ANATOMICUM,” BY CRISPIJN DE PASSE, CA. 1614 435[unavailable]
On 28 November 1794 Thomas Boylston Adams visited the anatomical theater and museum at Leyden, recording the more unusual displays in his Diary: “In the theatre, is a vast collection of human skeletons, & bones. Unnatural births or monsters—distorted limbs, attitudes & postures; in short it is a collection of the Lusæ Naturæ, which are as curious, as they are humiliating spectacles of human nature, when it becomes the sport & jest of a Creator.” He found the museum’s natural history collection less noteworthy and thought it remarkable only for its size and the “great variety of Christals, and precious stones, together with different kinds of Oar” (M/TBA/2, APM Reel 282).
The anatomical theater at the University of Leyden, established in 1594, served the dual function of classroom and public museum and became an important center for medical education and scientific research during the seventeenth century. By the 1720s its use as a classroom had declined, but it continued to be a tourist attraction until the theater’s demolition in 1821. The collection held human skeletons and those of common animals, but it also included more sensational specimens. An inventory of the theater published in 1701 records among the “cheifest rarities” “Two East Indian Tygers,” “The Sceleton of an Asse upon which Sit’s a Woman that Killed her Daughter,” “The Skin of a Man Tann’d,” and “A Young Elephant’s Head.” In addition to physical specimens, the theater also contained artistic renderings and allegorical art, among which were human skeletons carrying banners with humanistic warnings like Nascentes morimur, “we are born but to die.”
Many of these elements appear in this illustration drawn and engraved by the Zeeland draughtsman Crispijn de Passe (1564–1637) around 1614 but likely modeled after drawings by Jan Cornelisz Woudanus in 1609 and 1610. It was published in Johannes Meursius’ history of the university’s first fifty years, Athenae Batavae. Sive de urbe Leidensi, & Academia, virisque claris, Leiden, 1625, p. 34 (Tim Huisman, The Finger of God: Anatomical Practice in 17th-Century Leiden, University of Leiden, Ph.D. diss., 2008, p. 10–13, xvii 36–39; Gerrard Blancken, A Catalogue of All the Cheifest Rarities in the Publick Theater and Anatomie-Hall, of the University of Leyden, rev. edn., Leyden, 1701, p. 4, 5; Ger Luijten and others, Dawn of the Golden Age: Northern Netherlandish Art, 1580–1620, Amsterdam, 1993).
Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London.