Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 13 February 1796 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dearest Friend Philadelphia Feb. 13. 1796

I have only time to inform you that Monday and Thursday have passed away without bringing me a Letter from you. It is the first Week that has failed me in the whole, tho sometimes the Letters have not arrived on the proper day.

There is a Dr Somebody here from Connecticutt, who pretends, with an Instrument made of some kind of Metal or Composition of Metals by a sort of Mesmerian, rubbing or Stroking or Conjuration, to cure Rhumatisms Headacks Plurisies And I know not what.1 Elsworth will not say that he believes in it: but he states facts & tells stories— I expects the heads of all the old Women (Males I mean, you know) will be turned. They have got him into the Presidents House among Some of his servants. And Mrs Washington told me a story on Tuesday, before a Number of Gentlemen so ineffably ridiculous that I dare not repeat it in Writing. The venerable Lady laughed as immoderately as all the rest of Us did—

Charles is here in very fine health and very good Spirits. He goes to the supream Court A days and to Ricketts and the Theatre A Nights so that I have not so much of his Company as I could wish2

A Barrier is erected between Europe & America. It Seems as if no Vessell could get thro or over it.

I went with Charles last night to the Drawing Room— as the 175 Evening was fair and mild, there was a great Circle of Ladies and a greater of Gentlemen. General Wayne was there in Glory. This Mans Feelings must be worth a Guinea a Minute. The Pensilvanians claim him as theirs, and show him a marked respect.

We are now near the middle of feb. last Year I left this Place on the 19th. now I must stay thro the long months of March April & May. long! nothing is long! the time will be soon gone & We shall be surprized to know what is become of it— How soon Will my Sands be all run out of the Glass?— after sixty the Days & Hours have additional Wings which they waive & beat with increasing Rapidity.

Dr Priestly is here— I drank Tea with him at the Presidents on Thursday Ev.— He says he always maintained against Dr Price that Old Age was the pleasantest Part of Life and he finds it so—3 I think so too— One knows not what Infirmeties may come on—What Pains, Griefs, or sorrows?

I am determined to make, my small Remainder as easy as I can and enjoy the Hours as they pass: but do a little good as I have Opportunity.

You have not informed me whether you have let the Farms.

Duty & Love As Usual

J. A

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “Febry 13th 1796.”


Dr. Elisha Perkins (1741–1799) of Plainfield, Conn., developed a practice of stroking small metal pieces, which he called “metallic tractors,” against affected areas of the human body to cure illnesses. He received a warm reception during his visit to Philadelphia and used the opportunity to obtain a patent for his invention ( DAB ).


John Bill Ricketts, a Scottish equestrian, operated a popular circus in Philadelphia. He had recently opened a new amphitheater for the purpose at Sixth and Chestnut Streets (J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, History of Philadelphia, 1609–1884, 1 vol. in 3, Phila., 1884, 2:952). For the purpose of CA’s visit to Philadelphia, see AA to JA, 22 Feb., and note 1, below.


Joseph Priestley had immigrated to the United States in June 1794 and settled with his family in Northumberland, Penn., where he spent the rest of his life. He and Richard Price had long been friends, even publishing an exchange of their correspondence in 1778 entitled A Free Discussion of the Doctrines of Materialism and Philosophical Necessity. Price was deeply involved in promoting social insurance for old age, assisting insurance societies in properly calculating annuities to insure full funding, and also advocating poor relief for the elderly ( DNB ).

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 14 February 1796 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
my Dearest Friend Quincy Febry 14 1796

I received by the last mail the Letters of two, so that I fare as you do, and the Stormy Weather last post Day prevented my getting Letters to Boston tho I had one ready. I cannot think the loss very great, for I have very little either interesting, or amuseing to 176 entertain You with. yet you are pleasd to express so much pleasure at receiving them, Such as they are, that I ought not, and do not fail of being regular once, allways, and sometimes twice a week

I have to acknowledge Yours of the following Dates, Janry 23. 26 29 31 & 2d Febry for all of which accept my thanks. Some of them brought to my mind two lines translated from Juvenil I believe

“On Eagles Wings immortal Scandles fly, Whilest Virtuous actions, are but born & Dye”1

Whether mr G. deserves the censure he receives on account of his seperation from his wife I know not. He may plead as Trusty does in fair Rossomond, that, she is ugly, and old, and a Vilainous Scold, but as he took her I presume, for better or worse, in our Country it would not be considerd as a Legal cause of Divorcement, however pleasing a one it might be.2 His Friends here say, that there is a cause, which he will not Divulge, out of respect to her Family, Who are all Friendly to him, and who lay no blame to him on her account. his child is left in the care of a Brother of hers, and as I have learnt the Divorce comes through the Hands of one of her Brothers either as Judge or advocate. I was informd that Judge Daws had received a Letters from a Brother of hers who spoke in terms of affection for Mr G. and who did not blame him for his conduct.3 Mr G. returnd all the property he had with her, and offerd to Make a Settlement upon her, which was refused. as to the Conneticut business, I fancy it has no foundation. must he not be liberated by the Laws of the same Country which bound him?

if he is as innocent as an Angle, he cannot rid himself of the Spot which in this Land will attend the seperation from Dissolution of the Bonds of Matrimony.

I was in Boston near a fortnight and tho I heard a good deal of conversation upon the Sale he had made of Lands, I never heard a Hint that he had taken or attempted to take any improper advantage of any one

I have askd the Question of those who knew, but were no ways connected with him, and I was assured that every thing was conducted openly and fairly by him, that he did not pretend to transfer any tittle but Such as he had received, and that no Deception of any kind was made use of by him. What his Agents might Do I cannot say. they made 50 thousand Dollors a peice out of their sale for G.— as mr Black informs me; Joseph & George Blake & H G Otis were 177 the Agents—4 they sold to mr T Russel Mr Joseph Barrel mr coolidge and other Nabobs,5 all of whom Were old enough to Judge for themselves, but after all these Speculations & rapid fortunes are an injury to the community at large, they create Envy, they Mortify the hard Labourer Who has Spent all his Day drudging on, and acquiring property by pence Shillings and pounds— they introduce Luxery and dissapation, and corrupt the Morals of the possesors, if he had any to corrupt, but as mr Black observed to me, a Man Who has acquired property Slowly, and has something to lose Will not risk, as he will, who has nothing to risk, or lose

The Southern Gentlemen think I believe that the Northern Gentleman are fools, but the Nothern know that they are so, if they can believe that Such bare faced Dupery will succeed, as that which you say is now practiseing Aut Ceasar aut Nullus, is my Motto tho I am not used to quote lattin or spell it.6

I have no desire for the first, whilst he whose Right it is ought to be Sovereign, but if the people are blind, they deserve a Jefferson, or some one not half as deserving. Yet I am sure it will be a most unpleasent Seat, full of Thorns Briars thistles, Murmuring fault finding calumny obliqui discrage for I ought I know & What not. But the Hand of Providence ought to be attended to and what is designd, Cherefully Submitted to. I am firm in the hope & belief that the true & plain path of Duty will not be hidden from us—

Yours affectionatly

A Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A Feb. 14 1796.”


Juvenal, Satires, Satire IX, lines 196–197.


In Joseph Addison’s Rosamond, an Opera, Act I, scene iii, lines 30–31, Sir Trusty says of Grideline, “Thou art ugly and old, / And a villanous Scold.”


The family of Antonia Cornelia Elbertine Scholten van Aschat was prominent in Dutch society; one of her brothers served on the Amsterdam council, another as pensionary at Delft, and a third as councillor of the high court. TBA and JQA socialized with them while in the Netherlands (D/JQA/20, 6 Feb. 1795, APM Reel 23).


Presumably brothers Joseph (1766–1802) and George Blake (1769–1841), for whom see vol. 9:296 and 10:45, respectively.


Joseph Coolidge (1747–1820), a Boston merchant (Genealogy of Some of the Descendants of John Coollidge, Boston, 1903, p. 22).


Either Caesar or nobody.