Abigail Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams
Quincy Sepbr 17. 1795
my Dear Thomas
This very Day twelve month You lost sight of your native Land. Your Native Land is not I trust the less Dear to you, tho the account I must give you of some of its inhabitants will not tend to heighten your National Pride or vanity. A real American will remain Such under all circumstances, and in all Countries, but an Anglo American or a Frenchified American, is an unnatural Character, and they do our Country incredible Mischief.
The late Treaty between Great Britain and the United states, has excited all the Malovelence and awakened all the animosity of the Democratick Societies throughout the United States. tis Death to their hopes. it blast all their projected schemes of War. the sparks which lay smotherd during the negotiation of the Treaty, now burst forth with renewed vigor. the rekindled Flames are blown by the four winds of Heaven from one capital to an other, from Portsmouth in N hampshire to savannah in Georgia. Falshood and Faction have as usual united their forces, and poor mr Jay has sufferd a smithfield Martrydom, in most of the Capitals.1 Boys and the Rabble are the only Actors in these Scenes, but the fowl Stock from which they originate may be traced beyond the American shore.
The Presidents answer to the Town of Boston, appeard to stop the conflagration & to allay the turbelent passions of the people. Such was the universal confidence in his wisdom and integrity, but foreign influence, and private ambition, reard again their Heads and leveld their shafts at the Head and Heart of the President himself— possessing no political abilities, and despiseing and contemning the Voice of the people, their Aim is to render the President Suspected and to injure his Character and weaken the confidence of the people in him, but in this I trust they are deceived like Mount Atlas.2 the Billows will burst at his feet, Whilst firm unshaken and steady he persues one steady course of impartial Justice and Equity, permitting neither French or British insolence to insult our Country. where the Responsibility lies with him, this will appear by the late revocation of the British consuls Exequator at Rhode Island for transmitting an insolent and threatning Letter from the Captain of a British frigate to the Governour of that State.3
The News papers of from all parts of the states abound with publications upon the Treaty. Some able Writers have appeard in Defence. Camillus takes it up upon the Broadest basis—goes more particularly into its Merrits, and learnedly defends it. his vindication will Swell to a volm. his 13 Number has appeard and he has advanced only to the 4 or 5 article of the Treaty.— col Hamilton is the reputed Author. I will send this with some other pamphlets directly to England, where I prisume you will be when this reaches you—
it will be more agreable to you to pass the winter in England than in Holland I presume. Your Brother is directed there I am inform’d, and tho he must learn how illiberally the Treaty has been handled in America, he will not shrink from the Duty assignd him, tho he shares the abuse in common with the wiseest & best statesmen of our country.
I inclose to you the first part of the Echo. I did not observe a curtius, untill I had cut it off, so I send it, tho mutilated. Mr King is said to be the writer the Second part of the Echo I inclosed in a Letter to your Brother a week ago.4 I do not venture upon whole News papers because I cannot get a direct conveyance. the Eclogue has netled the Parties, and been the occasion of some Riots in Boston, such as breaking the windows where the Editor of the paper lives. Jarvis’s hopefull Heir assaulted Paine on Sunday & beat him. Paine is blamed for not breaking his Bones, but Paine can write better than fight. Honestus […] Austin was obliged to come out in his own Chronical & declare publickly that he was an Enemy to Mobs, as they injured the cause of Liberty, and disturbed the peace of society.5
I ought to enumerate to you, and acknowledge the recept of your several Letters, that of 19 April I received at N York,6 and had the satisfaction of communicating it to several Friends, amongst whom was the late Secretary of the Treasury, who returnd it with many flattering compliments, upon the correct stile and Elegant composition, as well as the Judicious remarks and observations, at the same time plumeing himself upon his own penetration, having as he Said always predicted, that the young Gentleman was possessd of Genius and talents. these observation could not fail to gratify the fond heart of an affectionate Mother, who was conscious, that the letter, and writer meritted all that was bestowed. let it be a stimulous to you my Dear Thomas to improve and cultivate those talents, which will become more and more valuable, matured by Time judgment and experience, and which promise to your country future usefullness.
The next Letter was May 17 and containd your observations upon the fine Arts.7 as you View them oftner, you will find your taste for them increase
I always derive a pleasure at this Distance of Time from the recollection of many of the Paintings which I saw when abroad. Claud Laureigns Sun rising & sitting, allways delighted me, as well as the paintings of snyers fruit and Game.8 I found the wise Mans observations true, that the Eye was not satisfied by Seeing,9 and as shakespear said upon an other occasion
“increase of Appetite grew from what it fed on”10
I have almost come to the End of my paper without, assureing you of the Health of our Friends, and of their desire to be kindly rememberd to you
your affectionate Mother
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs: Adams / 17 September 1795 / 16 December Recd: / 29 June Ansd.”
1. Various Democratic-Republican societies strongly opposed the Jay Treaty and organized protests against it, including burning copies of the treaty, effigies of John Jay, or both. In Savannah, Ga., effigies of John Jay and Sen. James Gunn were ritually carted through town, hanged, then burned. Another gathering of some 300 residents of Portsmouth, N.H., in September involved a parade and bonfire with the burning of effigies of Jay and the British secretary of state for foreign affairs, William Wyndham Grenville, Baron Grenville. Not all of the societies, however, objected so strongly; those in back-country areas were hopeful the treaty would finally allow for the restoration of western posts and the opening of trade with Canada (Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, N.Y., 2005, p. 67–68; New York Argus, 8 Aug.; Todd Estes, The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, and the Evolution of Early American Political Culture, Amherst, Mass., 2006, p. 76–77).
2. In Greek mythology the Titan Atlas was responsible for holding up the world. Hercules agreed to take on that role if Atlas would help Hercules with one of his labors, and Atlas agreed. But after completing the task, Atlas refused to take back the burden; Hercules then tricked Atlas into doing so (Oxford Classical Dicy. description begins Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, eds., The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3d edn., New York, 1996. description ends ).
3. On 2 Aug. the British vice consul at Rhode Island, Thomas William Moore, forwarded to Gov. Arthur Fenner of Rhode Island a letter to Moore dated 31 July from Capt. Rodham Home, of the British ship Africa. Home demanded the return of all captured British sailors in the United States and that he and his men be permitted to land and restock. He further indicated that if any “officer or people whom I may send upon these just and lawful occasions; receive from any one individual … any affront or insult, I will immediately come in with his Majesty’s ship under my command, and protect my own people.” Fenner took offense at the “indeceny” of Home’s letter, which he considered an “unprovoked and unprecedented insult to the State,” and referred the matter to George Washington. In response, on 5 Sept. Washington revoked Moore’s exequatur (Boston Courier, 22 Aug., 5, 16 Sept.).
4. The enclosure has not been found but was the first and second page of the Boston Federal Orrery, 20 Aug., which contained part 5 of Curtius on the front page and the first half of the Connecticut Wits’ “Echo” No. 18 on the second page, with the first column of Curtius overlapping the first column of the poem. For AA’s earlier comment to JQA on the “Echo,” see her letter of 15 Sept., and note 9, above.
5. Thomas Paine, editor of the Boston Federal Orrery, published on 10 Sept. a piece entitled “The Lyars: A Political Eclogue— Altered to the Meridian of Boston.” The poem purports a meeting between Edmond Genet, Dr. Charles Jarvis, and Benjamin Austin Jr., with each bragging as to who more successfully lies. Jarvis claims, “Loud from my tongue, how eloquently bold; / The bare-fac’d lye in full town-meeting told! / Which, void of meaning, meets no counter force, / And, thrice repeated, is believ’d of course,” while Austin says, “Blest powers of falsehood, at whose shrine I bend, / Still is Honestus your colleague and friend; / A private slanderer still, a public scout, / In power a tyrant, and a rebel out!”
The poem sufficiently offended Samuel Jarvis, brother of Charles, that he physically assaulted Paine (Joseph T. Buckingham, Specimens of Newspaper Literature: With Personal Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Reminiscences, 2 vols., Boston, 1850, 2:238–239). Likewise, Austin responded with an open letter in the Boston Independent Chronicle, 14 Sept., claiming that the article “is so peculiarly abusive, that it demands an explicit reply.” Austin continued, “The scurrility of the whole performance is such, that the author must be considered as the most abandoned wretch in society,” and he demanded that the author identify himself. He also noted, “My political principles are founded on the basis of the Constitution. These I ever mean to support; mobs and riots are detestable, as they injure the cause of liberty, and destroy the personal happiness of the community.”
6. Not found.
7. Not found.
8. Claude Lorrain (1604?–1682) was a French artist best known for his landscape paintings. He particularly favored scenes juxtaposing early morning and early evening. Frans Snyders (1579–1657), a Flemish painter, specialized in still lifes, frequently including fruit and game birds, sometimes contrasted against living animals (Oxford Art Online).
9. Ecclesiastes, 1:8.
10. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, scene ii, lines 144–145.