Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 23 January 1796 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dearest Friend Philadelphia January 23. 1796

I have nothing to write you at this moment but Scandal, and that about one of our Connections and Acquaintances, in whose Character and Fortunes Several of our near Relations and kind Friends are deeply interested for which Reason I write in Confidence and pray that Calumny if it is such may not be propagated from me nor in my name.

It is reported here in Company of senators and others of Senatorial Dignity that Mr Greenleaf by Virtue of a Connecticut Divorce in Imitation of Captain Beal is about to marry Nancy Allen.1

It is also reported that Mr Greenleaf has taken Advantage of the Gullability of the Boston Speculators in whose Estimation Dollars seem of no more Value than Cents ought to be to make an enormous hall of fishes to the amount of half a Million of Dollars by a very Artful Sale of shares at a monstrous Price in a purchase he made of Mr Gun of Georgia Lands at a very trifling one.2

The House of Representatives will do no Business with any Spirit before the Treaty arrives. The disaffected are intriguing but accounts from all quarters are very discouraging to them. We have been very unfortunate in the Delays which have Attended the Dispatches of our Ambassadors.— Very Lucky Mr John Quincy Adams, that you are not liable to criticism upon this occasion! this Demurrage would have been charged doubly, both to your Account and that of your Father. It would have been a Scheme! a Trick a design a 149 Contrivance. From hatred to France, Attachment to England, monarchical Maneuvres and Aristocratical Cunning! Oh how eloquent they would have been.

The Southern Gentry are playing at present a very artful Game, which I may devellope to you in Confidence hereafter, under the Seal of Secrecy. Both in Conversation and in Letters they are representing the Vice President as a Man of Moderation. Although rather inclined to limited Monarchy and somewhat Attached to the English, he is much less so that Jay or Hamilton— For their Parts for the sake of Conciliation they should be very Willing he should be continued as Vice President, provided the Northern Gentlemen would consent that Jefferson should be President. I most humbly thank you for your kind Condescension, Messieurs Transcheasapeaks.

Witness my Hand

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A.”; endorsed: “Janry 23 1796.”


James Greenleaf did divorce his first wife, Antonia Cornelia Elbertine Scholten van Aschat, and eventually married Anne (Nancy) Penn Allen but not until April 1800. Capt. Benjamin Beale Sr. (1702–1793) had divorced his second wife, Hannah Baxter, in the 1760s after she allegedly eloped while he was serving in the army (Greenleaf, Greenleaf Family, p. 217; Sprague, Braintree Families ). For more on James Greenleaf, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 10, above.


Greenleaf was heavily involved in Georgia land speculation, reputedly in close ties with Sen. James Gunn of Georgia. Gunn had helped to push a law through the Georgia legislature allowing for the purchase of vast tracts of Georgia lands, known as the Yazoo land grants, by four land companies. Of these land grants, Greenleaf purchased more than 13 million acres in Aug. 1795 and sold them again to Boston and New York speculators. In addition, in Feb. 1796, he sold the entire holdings of the Georgia Mississippi Company, one of the four land grant companies, to another group of northeastern speculators for more than a million dollars. Much of this land never actually existed—its boundaries were based on fraudulent surveys—and shortly after these sales, legal challenges led to the rescinding of the act authorizing the sale (Abernethy, The South in the New Nation, p. 136–152). See also AA to JA, 14 Feb., below.