Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Thomas Boylston Adams to Joseph Pitcairn

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 21 January 1796 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
my Dearest Friend Quincy Jan’ry 21 [1796]

a Memorable Day in the Annals of France; God forgive them, I would say. yet upon recuring to My Heart, I had a Doubt whether the petition was sincere the Scripture tells us that we must pray for our Enemies, but it does not say that we must pray, that they may not be punished according to their Deserts.1

The post of this Day brought Me the Letters of two posts viz Yours of Jan’ry 2d 5th 7th 8th & 12th The transcript from our Sons Letter, as well as his Letter gave me Sincere pleasure2 I hope you communicated it to the President. if he needed any further proof to convince him of the corrupt System, & of the agents employd to abuse and calumniate him, this Letter is a key to him. every thing there predicted has taken place exactly as foretold.

Some communications in your Letters are a source of much anxiety to me. My Ambition leads me not to be first in Rome, and the Event You request me to contemplate is of so serious a Nature that it requires much reflection & deliberation to determine upon it. there is not a beam of Light, nor a shadow of comfort or pleasure in the contemplation of the object. if personal considerations alone were to weigh, I should immediatly say retire with the Principle. I can only say that circumstances must Govern You. in a matter of such Momentous concern, I dare not influence You. I must Pray 143 that you may have Superiour Direction. as to holding the office of V P, there I will give my opinion. Resign retire. I would be Second under no Man but Washington.

At Length you have the speach of a poor weak old Man, Superanuated indeed and fearing a shadow. the Virgina resolutions had been sent him, and it seems he was in favour of them as far as he dared to avow them, and declares in his speach, [“]that the Treaty is pregnant with evil that it controuls some of the powers specially vested in congress for the Security of the people, and he fears that it may restore to great Britain such an influence over the Government and people of this Country, as may not be consistant with the general Welfare.”3

How came the President of the united states and the 20 Senators not to make this discovery? Surely they would no more have ratified such a Treaty, than mr Jay have made it, if they had viewd it in this light.

I think he had better have left it, unnoticed than have come out in this manner, but it shews fully that the powers of his mind are unequal to enlarged views, and that he is under the influence of the Clubs— the Senate would not commit the Virginia Resolutions, and in the House 56 to 24 were against commiting them. I am told the house will be Fœderel.4

I hope you will write to our sons by every opportunity, and send them all the intelligence You can

we have had a fine fall of snow which will enable our people to compleat getting home wood if it last. I have not read peter yet, because I sit down to write you immediatly.5 My finger is recovering, and My Health as usual. I hope we shall Soon get more Letters from abroad. I have my Eye upon Sieyes. I believe I construed his refusal to be one of the five, right. when we See the intrigues the Ambition the Envy the Malice and ingratitude of the World, who would not rather, retire and live unnoticed in a country Village, than stand the Broad Mark for all those arrows to be shot at placed upon a pinicle

but I have Done. upon My pillow I shall reflect fear and tremble, and pray that the President of the united states may long long continue to hold the Reigns of Government, and that his Valuable Life may be prolongd for that purpose. I am most affectionatly / Your

A Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. Jan 21. ansd / Feb. 2. 1796.”

144 1.

The anniversary of the execution of Louis XVI; see vol. 9:xvi–xvii, 391.


JA’s letter of 8 Jan. to AA extracts a letter from JQA to Timothy Pickering dated 15 Oct. 1795 detailing JQA’s plans to go to London to complete the exchange of ratifications of the Jay Treaty. JA’s 12 Jan. 1796 letter largely repeats news JA had already sent to AA but also enclosed JQA’s letter of 31 Aug. 1795, for which see JA to JQA, 25 Aug., note 5, above (both Adams Papers).


Samuel Adams’ speech to the Mass. General Court on 19 Jan. 1796 included the usual thanks to Providence for prosperity and comment on agriculture and commerce. But Adams also questioned the mechanism the U.S. Constitution created for approving treaties. Before commenting directly on the treaty, in the quotation AA reproduces here, he opined, “I am far from being desirous that unnecessary alterations of our Constitution, should be proposed: But it is of great consequence to the liberties of a nation, to review its civil Constitution and compare the practice of its Administrators, with the essential principles upon which it is founded.” Both houses of the General Court responded by acknowledging positively most of the speech but reaffirming, “The business of making Treaties being expressly delegated to the federal Government, by the Constitution of the United States, we consider a respectful submission on the part of the People to the legal decisions of the constituted authorities, to be the surest means of enjoying and perpetuating the invaluable blessings of our free & representative Government” (Boston Columbian Centinel, 20 Jan.; Mass., Acts and Laws, 1794–1795, p. 513–516). The speech first appeared in the Philadelphia newspapers in the Philadelphia Gazette, 29 January.


The Boston Federal Orrery, 21 Jan., reported the same information about the Mass. General Court’s vote on the Virginia resolutions recommending constitutional amendments but gave the vote in the house of representatives as 24 in favor and 59 opposed.


That is, Peter Porcupine; see JA to AA, 7 Jan., and note 1, above.