Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams
Newyork Sepbr 9th 1790
my dear son
yesterday mr Howard arrived here and brought me Letters from your Brother Thomas, and one from you to Charles—1 I was rejoiced to find that he was on his way here, as the delay had been the source of a good deal of uneasiness. I am fully of your mind with regard to Thomas, and know that if he studies Law it will be a force to his inclinations. the want of capital I Suppose is one great objection to Merchandise, but I think a young man who is dilligent and attentive to Buisness may make his way very [wel]l in a country like this, or suppose your Father was to send him to Holland & place him with the Willinks.2 I think as far as I can judge, that it would be the best method to promote his interest. you and I know Thomas so well, as to feel satisfied that he would be steady industerous and indefatigable in his persuits, but at the same time you know that advising to a measure against which some objections arise, in case of failure the adviser must bear the blame. I have sometimes found great address necessary to carry a point, and much prudent caution to effect my scheme, yet I am sure your Father would do every thing in his power to promote the interest of his children— that they must labour for themselves is pretty plain, how foolishly so ever the world judge—and one shilling earned by their own industery is worth a pound in the publick Service. it is not grudged you may spend it, or save it without a murmer, but the people who are continually Clamouring may rest satisfied that instead of lower salleries there will be higher, and the further the Southern Gentlemen can get from the North So in proportion will there salleries be increasd, and if they Send an intire New delegation, they will very soon be converted, or what is more likly out voted. at Philadelphia they will have higher Salleries soon, than at N york, and higher still when they go to Potomack I reason from the Nature of things, and from the probable flourishing state of the Country, the burdens of which will be greatly lessned by the funding of the debt, and the measures taken to sink it.3
is Sullivan the inve[nome]d Snake that lifts up his head and bites, then squirms about & sneaks into the Grass? I suppose he wants a sop you must expect to feel your share of envy.
Mr Bourn wrote to your Father in favour of mr Woodard as a proper person to employ to purchase publick securities, if any Agents were employd by the commissioners—but the act does not appear to have been attended to, which says they shall be purchased openly and at the market price. the Loan officers of the several states will do the buisness—4
adieu yours / affectionatly
Thomas is not yet arrived owing I suppose to contrary winds
RC (Adams Papers). Some loss of text where the seal was removed.
1. Probably Rev. Simeon Howard or his elder son, John Clarke Howard. The letters have not been found.
3. When the Salaries—Legislative Act first passed the House on 10 Aug. 1789, establishing generous salaries for members of Congress, all of the representatives from southern states voted for it. By contrast, the Massachusetts and New Hampshire congressmen uniformly voted against the bill, joined by several representatives from New Jersey and New York.
Newspapers throughout the nation, but especially in New England, bitterly denounced the new level of compensation for congressmen as excessive and unnecessary. The subject of federal salaries remained a frequent topic in the opposition press for over a year, and Antifederalist writers particularly emphasized it during the election campaign in the fall of 1790. A highly critical piece by Rusticus in the Boston Independent Chronicle, 2 Sept., recently had argued that “extravagant compensations, will, independent of the waste of money, have a pernicious tendency upon the people. There are very few men, who have an annual income equal to the wages of Congress. And there are not twenty persons, in the three millions, which compose the United States, who have an income equal to the Vice President, and to the Judges. But their stile will be imitated if they spend their salaries, and if they do not, the farmer at the plough, the mechanic in his shop, and the fisherman on the water, will stand still to enquire, why they are toiling to hoard up wealth for the children of these men?” (First Fed. Cong. description begins Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1791, ed. Linda Grant De Pauw, Charlene Bangs Bickford, Helen E. Veit, William C. diGiacomantonio, and Kenneth R. Bowling, Baltimore, 1972–. description ends , 3:141–142; Stewart, Opposition Press description begins Donald H. Stewart, The Opposition Press of the Federalist Period, Albany, 1969. description ends , p. 71–75).
4. “An Act Making Provision for the Reduction of the Public Debt,” also known as the Sinking Fund Act, was signed into law on 12 August. It provided for the appropriation from the nation’s treasury of any surplus earned from duties on imported merchandise, as well as the acquisition of two million dollars in loans, all to be invested in public securities. The president of the Senate was one of five commissioners designated to handle these purchases (First Fed. Cong. description begins Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1791, ed. Linda Grant De Pauw, Charlene Bangs Bickford, Helen E. Veit, William C. diGiacomantonio, and Kenneth R. Bowling, Baltimore, 1972–. description ends , 6:1890–1891). In his letter to JA of 15 Aug., Sylvanus Bourne suggested Joseph Woodward as a possible agent to act on JA’s behalf, noting Woodward’s integrity and “thourough acquaintance in this kind of buisness” (Adams Papers).