Adams Papers

Charles Adams to John Adams, 9 May 1794

Charles Adams to John Adams

New York May 9th 1794

My dear father

Suppose that for a few moments we should indulge in the regions of fancy and imagine a nation about to form into civil society Suppose their fundamental law to be that no member of the community should possess more land than he could actually cultivate Suppose them determined to be an agrest people without commerce without communication with foreigners. Could not thier exist in such a community an equality such as the Democrats of the present day seem to advocate? Does the happiness of mankind increase in proportion to the degree of civilization under which they exist? Is not property further than that which will support life the root of most of the ills we experience? Are not more than three quarters of crimes committed perpetrated with a view to property? If so would it not be politic to remove the great incitement to vice? I have been led into this train of queries by reflecting upon the manners the dispositions upon the Republicanism and upon the State of property especially of Landed property among the people of the New England States. They have but few great Landholders None who are able to command the votes of thousands of their tenants. The farmers have generally the property in the soil they cultivate most of them possess small though perfectly independent estates Hence that noble freedom which does and will characterize them notwithstanding the malicious sneers of Southern demagogues. What would be a more fatal stab to a mans reputation than the mean solicitations for votes at an election? But here where a candidate has not power to command; all the mean chicane, the dirty arts, and infamous wiles are praticed to procure influence. Hence very often men of the most infamous lives and unprincipled characters are chosen to offices, while those who despise the trade are left behind. As there are generally two or more parties chicane is played off against chicane art against art falshood against falshood and property against property. If these evils do not arise from the inequality of property from what causes do they exist?—

My good friend the Baron is gone to his retreat where it is his intention to reside during the remainder of his life. I have removed to No 21 Little Queen Street where I have my office and a small bedroom I board at a Mrs Millars in Maiden Lane where I have my breakfast and dinner for fifty five pounds a year1 I pay fifty more for my rooms I am contented with my situation. I am not astonished at the heat and animosity of parties in Congress but I should think it more becoming if they used fewer personalities Mr Clarke seems to be the bully of the Anti federal party2 When do you propose adjournment? You must be fatigued of so long a session—

Adieu my dear Sir believe me your / affectionate son

Charles Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “The Vice President of the United States / Philadelphia”; endorsed: “C.A. May 9. Ans 11. 1794.”

1Possibly Phebe Miller, a shopkeeper at 23 Maiden Lane (New-York Directory, description begins New-York Directory [title varies], issued annually with varying imprints. description ends 1795, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 28598). Little Queen Street, now Cedar Street, is located just south of Maiden Lane.

2Abraham Clark (1726–1794) of New Jersey had earlier served in the Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He made many brief but pointed comments during congressional debates, showing little patience for speechifying. In response to a speech by Samuel Dexter of Massachusetts, for example, during a debate on public credit on 2 May, Clark commented that Dexter’s “panegyric on the character of his constituents, (the people of Massachusetts,) ascertained that they were undoubtedly the first people, and most enlightened republicans in the Union; and, as they would, no doubt, send the best informed persons among them to Congress, it followed that he [Mr. Dexter] and his colleagues were the most respectable characters in the Committee, and that, therefore, the rest of the Representatives had nothing further to do, but at once give their votes as these gentlemen thought proper” (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989. description ends ; 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. 629).

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