Charles Adams to John Adams
New York Augt 25th 1793
My Dear Sir
By Colonel Smith who setts out for Boston tomorrow I have the pleasure of addressing a few lines to you. If you procure the Newspapers from New York you will observe by them that events of some importance have passed lately in this City with an almost incredible rapidity. Though much has been feared, from the turbulence of some and much apprehended from the inactivity of others yet happily for us nothing very serious or alarming has as yet happened. We have had some small riots at Our Coffee house and one or two of the Citizens have received the bastinado but the steady and nervous arm of the law has cooled the tempers of those who were disposed to riot, and at length the respectable inhabitants have come forward to discountenance such unwarrantable proceedings.1 The Great Mr William Livingston has been the ostensible head of a party composed of Drunken Porters idle Carmen and three or four men who though once they had some claim to respectability at the present moment could not fail of approaching nearer the zenith by a turn of the political ball.2 The whole consisting of perhaps three or four hundred people. yet small and despicable as they really were they tyrannized with uncontroled sway and it was sufficient for them to denounce a man for him to meet with the most ignominious treatment. These people Addressed the French Minister. This step called forth the resolutions approving The Presidents proclamation which have awed them into a Deathlike Silence.3 Mr Genet has written to The President requiring that he would exculpate him from the various charges which have been brought against him of want of respect for him and of imprudent conduct &c Mr Jefferson returns for answer That it is not proper for Diplomatic characters to communicate with the President but through his ministers.4 He is continually falling in the estimation of the people. I hope for peace and tranquility. All our friends are well The Baron does not return until the latter end of October I expect he will pass a few days with you before the Session as he tells me I must be ready [to] accompany him.
Adieu my Dear Sir Your dutiful / son
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “The Vice President of the United States / Quincy”; endorsed: “Mr Charles / August 25. 1793.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.
1. On 18 Aug., French and British sailors clashed in the streets of New York. “It is said to have arisen from several insults given by a number of British to some French sailors who were quietly enjoying themselves in this land of freedom,” the New York Journal, 21 Aug., reported. “Not willing to brook the gross treatment of having their cockades trampled under the feet of Britains, struck with axes, tongs, &c. three to one, the Frenchmen collected some of their comrades and pursued their antagonists—but they averted their vengeance by secreting themselves. Some of them, however, in the evening, were imprisoned.”
2. William S. Livingston championed the cause of the New York Society of Cartmen, which was organized in March 1792 to resist the policies of Federalist New York mayor Richard Varick. In a move the Republican opposition characterized as a “Reign of Terror,” Varick denied cartmen freemanship and announced in 1791 that any who did not support the Federalist Party would be denied city licenses (Graham Russell Hodges, Slavery, Freedom & Culture among Early American Workers, Armonk, N.Y., 1998, p. 13–15).
3. Throughout Aug. 1793, various towns, cities, and organizations met to pass resolutions supporting George Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation. The citizens of New York City, on 8 Aug., stated that Washington’s pronouncement was “a wise and well-timed measure of his administration, and merits our warmest approbation.” Likewise, on 6 Aug., the New York Chamber of Commerce resolved, “That the Proclamation of the President of the United States, declaring their neutrality towards the powers at war, was in our opinion a measure wisely calculated to promote the interests and preserve the tranquility of our country; and that we conside[r] the same as a new proof of that watchful regard for the honour and prosperity of the nation, which has uniformly distinguished the administration of our first magistrate” (New York Diary, 8 Aug.; New York Daily Advertiser, 7 Aug.).
4. Edmond Genet’s letter to Washington of 13 Aug. and Thomas Jefferson’s reply of 16 Aug. both appeared in the New York Diary, 21 August. Genet was attempting to defend himself against attacks by Rufus King and John Jay claiming that he planned to circumvent the decisions of the president and “appeal to the people,” a statement he had allegedly made in a conversation with Alexander James Dallas. Genet demanded “an explicit declaration” from Washington that “I have never intimated to you an intention of appealing to the people; that it is not true that a difference in political sentiments has ever betrayed me to forget what was due to your character or to the exalted reputation you had acquired by humbling a tyrant against whom you fought in the cause of liberty.” Washington forwarded the letter to Jefferson, who replied to Genet that “it is not the established course for the diplomatic characters residing here to have any direct correspondence” with the president. Jefferson also noted that Washington “declines interfering in the case” (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, 1950–. description ends , 26:676–678, 684).