Adams Family Correspondence, volume 13

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 9 March 1799 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
my Dearest Friend Quincy March 9th 1799

Such extreem cold Weather I do not recollect to have felt in March, as it has been this week, and it has laid Thomas up with one of his Soar Throats & Rhumatism I hope however tho very threatning, that it will not be lasting; I am so well as to ride out, when the weather will permit, and able to look after my poor Lad, who I regreet has so much of his Mothers constitution & infirmities—

Captain Brooks dyed yesterday of a Lung fever, with which he had been sick about ten days; the loss to his Family will be heavily felt.1

I am anxious to hear from Philadelphia the result of a nomination, which has agitated the public, much more than a declaration 434 of War could have done. the Report of the senates having negatived the Nomination which gave me so much pain & anxiety, was I find, not founded. I presume much of the Clamour has arrisen from the mortification of a certain Gentlemans not being intrusted with the secreet. it was hardly fair, or in Character to write upon the first day of the nomination, to S—— H——n such a Letter as I have heard was written; it may however be misrepresented—but of one thing we are certain, no Man has been so high, and so Clamourous against the measure, as mr Higgisson.2 some persons say he ought to be indited upon the sedition act. he is much blamed for his conduct, I was told, but I do not vouch for the truth, that he went to Ben Russel to get him to insert the peices from Porcupines paper, which has drawn upon Porcupine the Philipic you will see in the same paper— the peices were however rejected with disdain—and not any peice censuring the Measure, has appeard in any Boston paper, but several in justification. you will see one in J Russels under the signature of Consistancy.3 the measure no doubt dissapoints, the views of many persons; nor does [it] in the least flatter my vanity, to have the public Imagine that I am not equally pacific with my Husband, or that the same Reasons and motives, which led him to take upon his own shoulders the weight, of a measure, which he knew must excite a Clamour, would not have equally opperated upon my mind, if I had been admitted a partner in the Counsel. I never pretended to the weight they asscribe to me:

The additional nomination will tend perhaps to give more general satisfaction—

I congratulate you upon the Capture of the Insurgent, and wish all insurgents, might share the same fate.—

I hope to learn when I may expect you home by your next Letter.

I am most affectionatly / your

A Adams—

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “President of the united / states / Philadelphia”; docketed: “AA to IA” and “1799.” Some loss of text due to a torn manuscript.


Thomas Brooks of Medford, Mass., died on 7 March (vol. 5:195; Charles Brooks and James M. Usher, History of the Town of Medford, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, rev. edn., Boston, 1886, p. 528).


AA was probably referring to the same letter that TBA mentioned in his letter to JA on 1 March, and note 4, above. Stephen Higginson adamantly opposed JA’s nomination of William Vans Murray as minister to France, writing to Timothy Pickering on 3 March that Boston Federalists approved the Senate’s opposition to the appointment. Higginson declared, “Never were a people more surprised or grieved than we in this quarter were to hear of that nomination … it must have been an Act of feeling, of passion, and not of judgement.” He also believed the choice would “ruin” JAs “reputation in Europe, and destroy all confidence in him here” (Letters of Stephen Higginson, 1783–1804, Washington, D.C., 1897, p. 819–820).

435 3.

The Boston Russell’s Gazette, 4 March, printed an essay by Consistency defending JA’s nomination of Murray as “the first step towards peace” but recognizing that the nomination was politically divisive, noting that some “were hurt” while others “seized hold of it as if their Messiah had come in the shape of this new Envoy.”

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 11 March 1799 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dearest Friend Phyladelphia March 11. 1799

I cannot Say when I shall be able to sett out. But I shall loose no time here. When the Public Business is in such a state that I can leave it, I shall go, be the Roads as they may.— I expect bad travelling all the Way.

Truxton has indeed taken the Insurgent. But We have a silly Insurgence in Northampton County in this state, which will detain me, I suppose, some days1 This state is not a moral Person, it has not Intelligence enough to make it accountable for its Actions. I have recd Thomas’s Letter, with a very entertaining Account of the Sensation occasioned by what you call the Master Stroke.2 The Effect upon different Parties is described so naturally that it must be true.

My Volunteers will soon compass the Disturbance in Northampton.— The Spirit in the City is very high against them.

I am as ever

J. A

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A.”


In the counties of Bucks, Montgomery, and Northampton, Penn., many German-speaking inhabitants opposed recent federal legislation, including the direct tax, the formation of a provisional army, the Alien and Sedition Acts, and a 1797 tax on stamped paper, for which see vol. 12:420. To articulate their opposition, inhabitants drew up petitions to Congress signed by over 3,000 people, erected liberty poles, declared they would not allow their homes to be assessed, and threatened local tax assessors. By 6 March 1799 twenty resisters of the direct tax in Northampton Co. had been arrested and transported to the Sun Tavern in Bethlehem. The next day, Capt. John Fries of Bucks Co., an auctioneer and veteran of the Revolutionary War and Whiskey Rebellion, led a group of nearly 400 armed men and unarmed resisters to the tavern, where he obtained the prisoners’ release over the objections of the arresting marshal, William Nichols. On 12 March JA issued a proclamation ordering the protesters to disperse under threat of military intervention, and on 21 March James McHenry issued orders to Gen. William MacPherson to mobilize troops to suppress the insurrection.

In all, more than ninety protesters were indicted, including Fries, who was tried, convicted of treason, and sentenced to hang. Fries’ initial conviction was dismissed, for which see TBA to William Smith Shaw, 29 June, and note 6, below, but on 25 April 1800 he was again convicted and sentenced to hang. An additional 32 people were convicted and sentenced to between two months and two years in prison and fined between $40 and $1,000. On 21 May, however, JA pardoned everyone involved, declaring that “the ignorant, misguided, and misinformed in the counties, have returned to a proper sense of their duty” (Paul Douglas Newman, “Fries’s Rebellion and American Political Culture, 1798–1800,” PMHB 119:45, 46, 49–50, 52–58 [April 1995]; Newman, Fries’s Rebellion , p. 138, 166–180, 183–184; Amer. State Papers, Miscellaneous , 1:187–188; JA, Works , 9:178–179).


TBA to JA, 1 March 1799, above.