Charles Adams to John Adams
New York Jany 5th 1793
My dear Sir
I yesterday received your affectionate letter of the first instant. In return for your kind wishes, I present my respects, with an ardent hope, that you may yet many years be spared to your children, your friends and your Country; and that each returning season may still, as they ever have, find you happy, in that greatest of blessings to the just, an applauding conscience. Many are the mortifications which the Federal party experience in This State. The tyranny of a majority is exerted without controul. The Constitution of This State provides for the enumeration of the inhabitants but once in seven years: since the last census the Northern and western parts of This State have increased quadruply in numbers so that the representation from Those Counties is very inadequate.1 These Counties are mostly peopled by The New England States and are universally Federal— Mr Clinton it is true appoints his Sattelites to offices among them but they are too discerning to be wheedled from their sentiments If our Electors had been chosen by the people as they ought to have been we should not have laboured under our present disgrace. There are two anecdotes circulating in this City for the truth of which I must rely upon you One is That a certain man in high office in the United States his name I did not hear wrote to Govr Hancock That as the Constitution of the United States was mandatory in that part which directs That The Electors “shall” return their votes sealed to the Seat of Government It was an insult upon the dignity of the People of the particular States who chose the Electors That Govr Hancock caught at this and communicated to The Legislature his ideas upon the Subject That they laughed and ordered the votes to be returned. There is something too ridiculous in this to be beleived.— The other that a committee of the officers of The Massachusetts Line had waited upon you and offered their Suport if you would use your influence in support of their petition That you answered “You had always served your Country, and always would”2 I receive many congratulations upon your reelection The various machinations which have been put in play against you have I think served to rivet the affections of the people more strongly. They begin to perceive that nothing has been spared to injure you. That every species of falshood has been used to alienate their veneration and respect. They see through the deceit, and turn with horror upon your accusers. The success of The French against the combined armies has excited a blind joy in this City. But anything will go down with the cry of liberty Our Tammany Society have given another specimen of their folly and rashness in the toasts which they drank upon the celebration You may have seen the list3 I think the name of Petion too destestable to receive the Euge4 of true Americans. But “They know not what They Do” The Contest of The French is not yet ended with foreign powers, but if it were They have a hydra to contend with at home which will not so easily be subdued. We are much surprised at the idea of reducing the military establishment of the United States at This moment Are we likely to succeed in our treaties with The Indian tribes?5 Or are our militia the only proper troops to contend with them? I cannot beleive it consistent with policy or oeconony. I should be very glad to get Fenno’s paper Our Printers give us but partial accounts of the debates in the house of Representatives If you could send it to me without inconvenience to yourself it would be a feast. I am sorry that I did anything wrong with Seymour Bull has behaved like a villain but it is now useless to complain. If I had had money enough to pay Seymour I should not have sent an order to Philadelphia but by his return I had picked up sufficient to discharge it which I did. Mr Bull must answer to you for his ill conduct. It is very difficult to sell horses at this time I have held them up at a hundred pounds but shall sell them at any rate next week The horses look very ill I beleive their keeper has not only used them but made them eat but little I will do the best I can with them.
In your letters you ask me respecting Mr Wilcox The piece you allude to under his signature was respecting the election of Vice President. He is one of the bar, but has never been celebrated; a modesty and diffidence which at his first appearance as a lawyer, was rendered unsurmountable by being too severely brow beaten, by an Elder brother in the profession. An honest, candid, firm man in his principles and politickes He made his first appearance upon the Contest in our election of Governor. His intentions were good; He meant to speak independently; He would examine principles; He had no partialities, except such as were founded in honesty and honor; He should say nothing he was ashamed to avow; He should asperse no man in the dark; There was no necessity for concealment; He should therefore use no fictitious signature. He has uniformly adhered to his system. He has written more upon that subject than any other writer; and more to the purpose than all put together The sneaking subterfuge of rotation he despised He called the Child by its right name whilst those who had more influence than he had were afraid to call it Federal. He does not write one of the most brilliant styles but he has gained much consideration by his manly and nervous sentiments. Such Sir is the man you have enquired after and such the sentiments he supports and I sincerely hope his writings may raise him from obscurity.6 I made application to Berry and Rogers to make out their account for you They told me they must procure from Mr Dilly the true statement as they had most of the first volumes from them.7 That Mr Berry was going to England by the next packet and would return in the Spring when every thing should be adjusted. I have not seen Menander but have this moment a promise from a gentleman for a constant perusal of The Centinel Please to give my love to my Brother and beleive me your dutiful and affectionate son
RC (Adams Papers).
1. CA exaggerates somewhat but is correct in noting an increase in population in the northern and western portions of the state. Between 1790 and 1795, the population of eligible voters in those counties (usually described as the eastern and western districts) increased from 18,000 to 35,000, while the southern areas (the southern and middle districts) grew only from 20,000 to 29,000 voters (Young, Democratic Republicans description begins Alfred F. Young, The Democratic Republicans of New York: The Origins, 1763–1797, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1967. description ends , p. 585, 588).
2. Since the Revolution Massachusetts officers had petitioned Congress for additional pay for their military service. Most recently, they had appealed for compensation for officers who had sold to speculators depreciated government bonds that Congress had since agreed to honor under the Funding Act. The latest petition was read and tabled by the House on 31 Dec. 1792 and resulted in no additional compensation (Sidney Kaplan, “Pay, Pension, and Power: Economic Grievances of the Massachusetts Officers of the Revolution,” Boston Public Library Quarterly, 3:17, 21 [Jan. 1951]; U.S. House, Jour. description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, 1789–. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., p. 657).
3. Reacting to reports that the French had defeated the Prussian Army, the Tammany Society of New York met on 27 Dec. to celebrate with songs and toasts. Besides drinking to the French Republic and various leaders, including Pétion and Dumouriez, the participants also toasted Thomas Paine, the Marquis de Lafayette, “Destruction to all Kingcraft and to all Priestcraft, the poisons of public happiness,” and “Contention and confusion in the councils of all despots” (New York Daily Advertiser, 29 Dec.).
5. On 20 Dec., John Steele of North Carolina proposed a resolution in the House of Representatives to “reduce the military establishment of the United States” in order to provide better frontier protection and to lower spending. Actual debate on the motion began on 28 Dec. and continued at length until the bill was ultimately defeated on 8 Jan. 1793 (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., p. 750, 762–768, 773–790, 791–802).
6. William Willcocks (1750–1826), Princeton 1769, a New York lawyer and justice of the peace, had staunchly supported John Jay in the 1792 New York gubernatorial election, going so far as to challenge Marinus Willett to a duel over the matter (Colonial Collegians description begins Colonial Collegians: Biographies of Those Who Attended American Colleges before the War of Independence, CD-ROM, ed. Conrad Edick Wright, Robert J. Dunkle, and others, Boston, 2005. description ends ). Willcocks’ article, which appeared in the New York Daily Advertiser, 15 Dec., argued that Clinton’s antifederalism made him ill suited to serve as vice president under the Constitution. Willcocks also defended JA against charges that his writings were an endorsement of the British government: “That part which he took in the political drama with Great Britain, at the earliest hour, and uniformly maintained throughout those times which tried men’s souls, to the present day, is alone sufficient to acquit him of any unfavourable presumption.”
7. For the London bookseller Charles Dilly, see vol. 1:73–74.