Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 17 February 1794

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia February 17. 1794

My dearest Friend

We have done nothing hitherto, but prevent our Countrymen from plunging blindfold into a War, with they know not whom, and for they know not what. If We continue to sit till June, and do no more nor less We shall do well.

Tomorrow the Senate is to discuss the Election of Mr Gallatin, with their Doors open for the first Time. Whether a Vote will be carried for building a Gallery or for keeping the Doors open upon other Occasions of Legislative and Judiciary Business I know not.1

You gave me, in one of your late Letters, one of your sly Jokes about Family Pride. I answer in the Words of Horace which I desire your son and mine to translate for you and study well for himself.

Longe mea discrepat istis

Et Vox et Ratio, nam Si natura juberet

A certis annis ævum remeare peractum

Atque alios legere ad fustum quosumque parentes

Optarit Sibi quisque: meis contentus, honestos

Fascibus et Sellis nollem mihi Sumere; demens

Judicio Vulgi, Sanus fortasse tuo. Hor. Satyr. 6. line 92. &c2

It is not however the less true, as He says line 33 &c

Sic qui promittit Cives, Urbem Sibi curæ,

Imperium fore, et Italiam, et delubra Deorum;

Quo patre Sit natus, num ignotâ matre in honestus

Omnes mortales curare et quærere cogit.3

nor is it less true as he says in the 19th Line

populus Lævino mallet honorem

Quam Decio mandare novo;4

You may however tell John that he is in more danger of loosing Attention from the fault of Virgil than from Family Pride. He may read it in the 3d Satyr. v. 30.

rideri possit eo quod

Rusticiùs tonso toga defluit, et male laeus

In pede calceus hæret, at est bonus, ut melior Vir

Non alius quisquam; at tibi Amicus: at ingenium ingens

Inculto latet hoc Sub corpore.5

There I have given you Riddes enough to vex you6

I have shipped an hundred Weight of Clover seed and twelve Quarts of Herds Grass, which is to be sown, one half of it at least in the last Years Corn field with the Barley. Brisler has shipped some Rye flour.

It is nearly time for our Tar Brushes to be brandishing round the Appletrees.

John, I hope has an Abundance of Business, which takes up all his Time, for that fact is the only admissable Excuse for his not writing me.

Tell him to remember, that a Writer whose drift is to foment Prejudices, will be more popular than one who Strives to moderate or correct them, though the former should he honestus and the latter Columbus. Let not the Conclusion be, to imitate the inflamers of popular Passions. Tis better to Serve than to please the People: and they in time will be Sensible of it.

The People like a Mistress must not be courted with too much Complaisance— They must be kept at a distance. The Moment either find you are their slave they will tyrannize. The People can do nothing for John at present but Mischief.


J. A

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Febry / 17th / 1794.”

1Albert Gallatin (1761–1849) was born in Geneva but immigrated to the United States in 1780. The state of Pennsylvania elected him to the Senate in 1793, but Federalists challenged his eligibility on the grounds that he had not been a U.S. citizen for nine years as required by the Constitution. On 28 Feb. 1794 he was declared ineligible by a vote of fourteen to twelve. Gallatin would later go on to serve in the House of Representatives, as secretary of the treasury under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and as a negotiator, with JQA, of the Treaty of Ghent (DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ).

Before the Senate began its debate on Gallatin’s eligibility, it considered the propriety of opening its doors to the public. On 20 Feb., by a vote of nineteen to eight, the Senate passed a resolution that “after the end of the present session of Congress, and so soon as suitable galleries shall be permitted to be opened every morning, so long as the Senate shall be engaged in their Legislative capacity” (Annals of Congress, description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, D.C., 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends 3d Cong., 1st sess., p. 46–47).

2Horace, Satire VI, lines 92–98: “Opinions I retain / Quite the reverse: For could past Years again / Return, and might we other Parents chuse, / Contented with my own, I would refuse / Those whom the Consulship and Ivory Seat / Adorn; sure from each vulgar Tongue to meet / Reproach; but not from yours, that I a State / So high decline, unequal to the Weight” (The Works of Horace in English Verse, transl. John Duncombe, 2 vols., London, 1759, Satire VI, lines 111–118).

3Horace, Satire VI, lines 34–37: “So if you swear to guard, with watchful Eye, / The Roman People, City, Italy, / And Temples of the Gods, all seek to know / Your Birth if You to vulgar Parents owe” (same, lines 39–42).

4Horace, Satire VI, lines 19–20: “Yet grant they rather would Lavinus chuse, / And Decius, of ignoble Birth, refuse” (same, lines 20–21).

5Horace, Satire III, lines 30–34: “‘And who but smiles to see that awkward Dress, / ‘his Beard ill shav’d, the Wideness of his Shoe, / ‘Unsuited to his Foot.’ Suppose all this; / The Man is worthy; not a worthier lives; / A Friend to you; and, hid beneath that Case, / Rude as it is, a noble Genius lies” (same, Satire III, lines 37–42).

6Writing vertically in the manuscript along the left-hand margin of the second page, next to the Latin quotations, JQA commented, “In the office at Quincy there is a poetical translation of Horace, by Duncombe in 4. duodecimo volumes. in the 3d: volume the Satires are translated. By referring to that you will find a better version than probably I could give.” See notes 2–5, above.

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