Adams Family Correspondence, volume 10

Thomas Boylston Adams to William Cranch, 4 January 1794 Adams, Thomas Boylston Cranch, William
Thomas Boylston Adams to William Cranch
My dear William Philadelphia 4th: Jany: 1794.

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; hence a question arises; whether when a source from whence power is derived, becomes, & is declared to be corrupt, any authority flowing from thence, be sufficiently valid to justify the person acting under it? I know the general rule of law to be, that, “Any. Act done in pursuance of a power given by law, while that law continues in force, is valid, altho’ the law giving such power should afterwards be repealed, or by its own limitation expire”; but whether this rule is acknowledged in France, & bears analogy to the above question, is at least doubtful.1 We are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.2 If the Convention approve the instructions of their Ex-Council to the Minister; they must necessarily declare war against America, or overlook the opposition that has uniformly been made to the measures of Genet. There is a wide difference between the Construction put upon some Articles of our Treaty by the French, & that which we hold to be just. Both can’t be right; what middle power shall be called in to decide the difference

The usual method in such cases is to confer together where the dispute is of a nature which will admit deliberate discussion, & between powers desirous of keeping up a good understanding; But if neither party will yield the ground there is no other resort than Arms, to settle the difference. It would be a singular revolution in public sentiment if such an event as a Declaration of war on the part of France against America should take place; & I fear it is far from being improbable. In addition to this critical situation of our affairs, the Gothick Swarms of Moor’s Tartars & Algerines are poured forth from their hives to intercept our Navigation. Official Papers have been received from various quarters relative to this business; they have occupied the time of Congress for 10 Days past, but as they are confidential the Galleries are closed & we the People are kept in ignorance of the Mac[hina]tions of our Rulers. A number of our Vessels have been captured and many more will be 6 endangered before any effectual measures will be adopted for relief. The public sentiment is divided, & of course the Legislature, between the elligibility of two expedients, one for building & equipping a sufficient force to protect our Commerce, another for purchasing a Treaty with the Algerines upon terms, resembling those of other powers, who stand upon this footing with them.3

The latter is most like to meet approbation, but both are doubtful. Subjects connected with these above mentioned at present occupy the attention of the People of this place. They are interesting to the Continent, but I know not whether they have excited general enquiry. The sentiment & conversation of the day is all I can afford for your amusement, for I pretend not to Anticipate questions or events that may hereafter arise. If I err not in my surmises however, the present generation have a task upon hand, little inferior in the difficulty of its management to that of their predecessors. God grant, that the genius of American freedom may continue to preside in our Councils; & may she inspire them with wisdom proportioned to the exigences of the times.

A long intermission has taken place in our Correspondence much against my interest & inclination;4 I chose to take it up as if no such chasm had existed, rather than trouble myself in framing fruitless apologies. Trivial causes are not apt to inspire well known friends with jealousy or suspicion; I feel therefore perfectly sure that this letter will meet a welcome reception; and an answer when convenience suits.

I have become again united in the bo[nds] of fraternity with yourself; & have had the satisfaction to ad[dress] a Jury of my Country in my New Capacity. Without those usual advantages of a powerful & numerous retinue of Relatives & connections, which those who are natives of this place enjoy, without any general acquaintance with the middling Class of Citizens, who give the first lift to our Profession; I come forward at the Bar of Philadelphia; but I feel little apprehension that these impediments will be lasting, or ultimately detrimental. My first object must be to make myself known, the next to excite a confidence in the people, that may induce them to entrust their interests to my care. To effect these objects, time will be necessary; & tho’ my rise may be slow, it shall be sure & certain. Pardon the vanity if it be such, but consider also whether it may not be called by the gentler name of Laudable resolution.

Accept the Esteem & Affection / of your Friend & Brother

Thomas B Adams 7 8

PS, Present me affectionately to the Family of our Unckle, and to others whom you visit. We are told here that your Frd: White is to marry Miss Dalton; & neither she nor the family contradict it.5 How is it?—6

RC (OCHP:William Cranch Papers, Mss fC891c RM); addressed: “William Cranch Esquire / Haverhill / near / Boston”; internal address: “William Cranch Esqr:”; endorsed: “T.B. Adams / Jan. 4. 1794. / recd. 15th. Ansd. 18th.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


TBA is quoting from The Acts of Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania, Phila., 1775, appendix, p. 2, Evans, No. 14364.


On 23 Aug. 1793 Thomas Jefferson wrote to Gouverneur Morris, U.S. minister in France, to request formally that Morris submit to the French government an earlier letter of 16 Aug. outlining the reasons George Washington and Jefferson had for requesting the recall of Edmond Genet. Washington had become frustrated by Genet’s ongoing attempts to overturn the official U.S. policy of neutrality and his use of the United States as a staging ground for both French privateering and French attempts to reclaim former portions of its empire, including Louisiana and Canada. Morris delivered these messages to the French National Convention, at the time under the control of the Jacobins, on 8 October. Three days later the French Committee of Public Safety agreed to Genet’s recall and dispatched a four-person commission to the United States to arrest him; these commissioners reached America in late Feb. 1794 (Jefferson, Papers, 26:685–692, 697–715, 747–748). See also Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 1, above.


In the fall of 1793, the Barbary States began to target U.S. ships more aggressively, capturing several in November. On 16 Dec., George Washington submitted a message to both houses of Congress outlining “measures which have been taken, on behalf of the United States, for the purpose of obtaining a recognition of our Treaty with Morocco, and for the ransom of our citizens and establishment of peace with Algiers.” The Senate took no further action at that time, but from 24 Dec. to 2 Jan. 1794, after receiving additional information from Washington, the House of Representatives began to discuss the subject as a committee of the whole behind closed doors. Congress finally approved acts in March to establish a navy and to authorize a million dollars to purchase peace with the Barbary States (Frank Lambert, The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World, N.Y., 2005, p. 74–75; Annals of Congress, 3d Cong., 1st sess., p. 143, 148–155, 1422–1423, 1426–1428).


The last extant letter from TBA to Cranch is dated 20 July 1793 (vol. 9:440); no letters from Cranch to TBA have been found.


Mary Dalton of Newbury and Leonard White of Haverhill married on 21 Aug. 1794 (Vital Records of Newburyport Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849, 2 vols., Salem, 1911, 2:125).


The postscript was written vertically in the left-hand margin of the third page of the manuscript.

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 5 January 1794 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
My dearest Friend Quincy Janry 5th 1794

I did not receive your Letter of decbr 15 till I had closed mine of the 30th two of later date came first to Hand.1 the reason as I suppose that Bringhurst did not send in his account before I left Philadelphia, was that he never used to make out his account but once a 9 year. I had pay’d him up to Jan’ry 92; Robert by his drunken frolicks exposed us to double a necessary expence and the Chariot was wholy sacrificed to him, but I know not how Bringhurst does to make up such a Bill, unless he charges for the stand for the Coach & the care of it.2 I had the same thought with you respecting the carriages. the Cochee is in good order, and an admirable made carriage for the purpose it was designd for, as ever went out of a Workmans Hands. the chariot I believe would be considerd of very little value even as a Hack. more carriages than are necessary, are quite a useless expence which I neither wish or desire. in my last Letter to you I inclosed my account, as luck would have it—and as I have often observd upon like occasions, savil brought me his Bill but as sixteen Dollors was really more than I could boast I told him he should be paid in the Month I have to pay one other account which feels to me a debt of honour and amounts to 9 pounds—I mean to Dr Phips. I wrote you my reason for not calling upon Dr Tufts as you told me I might do, before you knew what arrangments he had made. You will write me soon whether it is inconvenient to you to make me a remittance from Philadelphia. I have had two applications from two different Men for the Farms—one by the Name of Hunt belonging to Randolph a Young man who has a wife and no children and whom your Brother speaks well of.3 the other is of one Richards who has a wife & a grown son & daughter. the Man has property of his own, and means to let a son lately married live upon it, if he can go upon an other he has the Character of a sober honest Man.4 I do not think it amiss to hear those who apply and to inquire into their Characters, that we may not be at a loss when the Time comes for placing hands upon the Farms I am told that Dr Tufts knows this Richards, and of him I shall inquire. Thayer is not removed.5 we have not had any snow to lye more than a day, it seems as difficult to snow as it did last summer to Rain. I am very apprehensive that Cheeseman is lost. such a report prevaild yesterday in Town. I did not pay any attention to the Trunk as I supposed the vessel was so nigh sailing when you went away that the Trunk was put on Board by mr Brisler. upon inquiry I believe it was taken from Dr Welchs by some of Cheesemans people & no receit given for it, or Bill of Lading. Yet as Cheeseman was accustomed to carry things for us, and the Trunk was addrest if he arrives there will be no difficulty, but there is reason to fear for him as he has been out so long. our son came up last Evening & brought me yours of the 22 10 & 23 of December.6 You are at the fountain and get so far before us, that we do not keep pace with You. only two Letters have yet been publishd of the important correspondence one of mr Jeffersons to mr Morris & Genetts answer; a fine specimin of his Learning and of his English, of his civility & Breeding.7 a Number of peices have appeard in the Chronical under the Signature of Americanus, as false and Hollow as is the Heart of the writer, but he has an opponent to deal with who throws him upon his Back in every passage, and when he knows not what to say, he whines & cants like the Hypocrite he is calls the performances of columbus purile, & Literary Plagiarism from junius affected wit &c. and that even the high station of his Sire will not Screen him from contempt.8 so true is the words of the Poet, “envy will merrit as its shade persue”9 even those who know the value of the writings are ready to say, “Rather than thus be overstopd

Shall I not wish his Lawrels cropt”10

But the Time will come when this young Man will be sought for as a Jewel of great price. I say this to you who divested of all connection would acknowledge the talants and abilities of Columbus, tho perhaps neither you or I might feel so sensible a pleasure from the Perusal as I am free to acknowledge is experienced by / Your ever affectionate

A Adams

P S this is my Family pride to call this Son mine look in the Chronical for Barnevelt—11

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. Jan. 5. 1794.”


For JA’s letter to AA of 15 Dec. 1793 and AA’s to JA of 31 (not 30) Dec., see vol. 9:472–473, 494–496. For the two other letters from JA, dated 19 and 20 Dec., see vol. 9:476–477, 479–480.


In his letter to AA of 15 Dec., JA commented on the arrival of a bill from the Germantown, Penn., carriage maker John Bringhurst. The Adamses had purchased a carriage from Bringhurst in fall 1792. They had earlier dismissed their coachman Robert, probably for drunkenness (vol. 9:278, 316, 317, 472).


Possibly Joseph Hunt (1777–1822) and his wife Betsey Sylvester (1777–1844) of Randolph (Sprague, Braintree Families ).


Probably Nathaniel Richards (1740–1822) and his wife, Deborah Blanchard Richards (1739–1823), who, like Cotton Tufts, were longtime residents of Weymouth. The Richardses’ eldest son, Jacob (1761–1844), married Lydia Colson in Weymouth on 26 Nov. 1793. Their only daughter, Deborah (b. 1773), was married to Abraham Shaw of Braintree ( History of Weymouth, 4:593–594).


The Adamses had purchased fifty acres of land with a house and barn on the border between Braintree and Quincy adjoining their existing property from Elkanah and Mary Thayer in November. The purchase also included some salt marsh and woodlands (Adams Papers, Adams Office Manuscripts, Box 2, folder 13). Elkanah Thayer (1747–1829) was originally from Williamsburg, Mass., but had moved to Braintree by 1772, when he married Mary Adams. After 11 selling their land to JA, the Thayers and their children returned to Williamsburg (Sprague, Braintree Families ).


For JA to AA, 22 Dec. 1793, see vol. 9:481–482. His letter of 23 Dec. thanks AA for her continuing care for their farm and notes the importance of George Washington’s popularity in thwarting the Democratic-Republicans’ efforts to bring the United States into the European war on the French side. Finally, JA compliments Columbus, describing the articles as a “masterly Course of Reasoning, in a Strain of Eloquence, which no other Man in this Country that I know of is equal to” (Adams Papers).


Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Gouverneur Morris of 16 Aug. first appeared in Boston in the American Apollo, 27 Dec.; Edmond Genet’s letter to Jefferson of 18 Sept. first appeared in the Massachusetts Mercury, 27 December.


James Sullivan, Massachusetts attorney general, published six articles under the pseudonym Americanus in the Boston Independent Chronicle, 19, 23, 26, 30 Dec., 2, 6 Jan. 1794, in response to Columbus and later Barneveld (for which see note 11, below). Closely parsing the Constitution to reflect on such questions as the nature of executive authority and the role of “the people” in the U.S. government, Americanus argues against the president’s right to dismiss a foreign minister, as in the case of Antoine Charbonnet Duplaine.

AA closely paraphrases here another piece in the Independent Chronicle, 2 Jan., that defended “the manly, rational and deliberate arguments” of Americanus against the “juvenile writer” of Columbus and Barneveld.


Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, Part II, line 266.


Jonathan Swift, “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift,” lines 25–26.


A series of four articles by JQA under the pseudonym Barneveld appeared in the Boston Independent Chronicle, 26 Dec. 1793, 2, 6, 16 Jan. 1794. Barneveld responds explicitly to Americanus, continuing the debate begun with Columbus over the legitimacy of Duplaine’s removal as vice consul and, more broadly, the powers of the president. The pseudonym is presumably a reference to the Dutch statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt.