Adams Papers

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 19 September 1795

John Adams to John Quincy Adams

Quincy Septr. 19. 1795

My Dear son

I, Yesterday recd your favour of June 27. No. 10.1 It is in common with all the Numbers which preceded it, full of accurate Information, profound Sagacity and nice discernment. I sent four of your preceeding Numbers to the President, who wrote me on the 20th of August that “they contain a great deal of Interesting matter and No. 9 discloses much important Information and political foresight. Mr J. Adams your son must not think of retiring from the Walk he is in— his Prospects if he continues in it are fair: and I shall be much mistaken, if, in as short a Period as can well be expected, he is not found at the head of the Diplomatic Corps let the Government be administered by whomsoever the People may chuse.” I hope however that they will let you come home in two or three Years to look you up a Wife. Charles in this respect has got a head of you.

Your Maxim of Neutrality between Factions is exactly just and the more indispensible as your Country is neutral— if U. S. were a Party to the War her friends must be your friends and her Ennemies your Ennemies. But at present We are friends to all Nations and all Parties in Europe.

Syeyes I find is not so much esteemed as Boissy D’Anglas; But I can Say nothing of any of those Gentlemen—they are all Strangers to me. There is not a Man left in the Government of France whose Name I ever heard when I was in that Country.

I thank you for that exquisite Piece of political Clock Work, the Dutch Plan of a Convention.— If those Patriots can keep the People with them, they will do something memorable: but it must ever be remembered that the Mob is a Part of the People, and I begin to fear the most influential Part. The Mob has established every Monarchy upon Earth— The Mob has ultimately over thrown every free Republick. The Doctrine of universal suffrage is so manifest a Courtship to the Mob as to need no Comment.—2 But it never can Succeed, for any length of time.— These good Creatures never look forward for two days. The Mob must ever be in the Power of Government—Government never in the Power of the Mob.— Property is universally & eternally irreconcileable with Universal Suffrage. It is one of the Sweetest Consolations of my Life that I had the Constancy to resist this Doctrine through every stage of our Revolution. A Letter of mine has been printed written in 1776—and printed within two or three years past in Youngs Magazine at Philadelphia. This Letter I prize above a statue or a Monument—merely as Evidence of my opinion at that time and of my Courage to avow it, when many of my Co Patriots and more of the Courters of Popularity were very much inclined to admit all Nature to an equal Vote. If all are admitted to a Vote, the Question instantly arises between Men of Property and Men of No Property and as the latter are always the most numerous, three to one at least, the Vote is always carried by them against the others. A Man of Property is instantly in the Case of the Lamb in the Custody of the Wolf.—3

It is humanity to those People themselves to exclude them from a Vote, for they never have it and Use it but to their own Disgrace, Remorse and Destruction.

The Politicks of this Country I shall leave. The last hope of a Party seems now in a desperate Attack upon the President. But a successful Attack upon that Man would be a Demonstration that Elective Executives are impracticable.

If I have heard a true Whisper, you have a Part to Act concerning the Treaty.4 Be of good Courage and of good Cheer— It will not hurt you finally, though it may raise a present Clamour. Publicola knows what a popular Clamour is.

I am my dear son, with best Wishes and / constant Prayers for your Wisdom Virtue / and Prosperity, your affectionate Father

John Adams5

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “J. Q. Adams / American Minister at the / Hague”; endorsed: “My Father / 19. Septr: 1795. / December—recd: London. / 29. do: Ansd:.” Tr (Adams Papers).

1For a summary of JQA’s letter to JA of 27 June (Adams Papers), see vol. 10:453–454.

2In the English translation of the Dutch plan that JQA provided to JA, for which see TBA to JA, 13 July, and note 8, above, it states, “The Voters are, all citizens that have attained the age of twenty years, and during the year preceding the time of voting have had their permanent residence in this Republic” (M/JQA/46.15, APM Reel 241).

3Several letters by JA were printed in the Universal Asylum, and Columbian Magazine, published in Philadelphia by William Young, March—May 1792. The one JA describes here was originally sent to James Sullivan on 26 May 1776 and reprinted in the Universal Asylum, April 1792, p. 219–221, as “Copy of an Original Letter from Mr. John Adams, to a Gentleman in Massachusetts.” In the letter JA argues that expanding suffrage to include men who own no property would lead to a general breakdown in the social fabric: “Depend upon it, sir, it is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation, as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters. There will be no end of it—new claims will arise—women will demand a vote—lads from twelve to twentyone will think their rights not enough attended to,—and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other in all acts of states. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.” For a modern reprinting of the letter, see JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint, and others, Cambridge, 1977– . description ends , 4:208–213.

4On 25 Aug. 1795 acting secretary of state Timothy Pickering sent JQA instructions to proceed to London by 20 Oct. to exchange the ratifications of the Jay Treaty because the U.S. minister to Britain, Thomas Pinckney, was in Spain. Pickering further noted that if JQA could not reach England by that time, William Allen Deas, U.S. chargé d’affaires in London, would handle the task. Although JQA did not receive the letter until 19 Oct. he nonetheless proceeded to Britain, presumably on the expectation of participating in further negotiations with the British government. He reached London on 11 Nov. by which time Deas had completed the exchange. Once on the scene, JQA took up the work begun by Deas of negotiating with Lord Grenville over continuing British impressments of American sailors, the immediate evacuation of the western posts, and neutral rights, especially as they related to a possible conflict between British Orders in Council and the newly approved treaty on the subject of contraband, notably foodstuffs shipped to France. JQA failed to win any concessions from the British, and his diplomatic work on this topic was effectively ended by Pinckney’s return to England in mid-Jan. 1796. JQA remained in London, however, sightseeing, visiting friends, sitting for a portrait by John Singleton Copley, and courting LCA, for which see JQA to AA, 28 Feb., and note 3, below. Instructions permitting him to return to the Netherlands finally arrived on 26 April, and he began his trip from London to The Hague on 28 May (Bemis, JQA, description begins Samuel Flagg Bemis, John Quincy Adams, New York, 1949–1956; 2 vols. Vol. 1: John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy; Vol. 2: John Quincy Adams and the Union. description ends 1:68–79; DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements; rev. edn., description ends ; D/JQA/24, APM Reel 27).

5On this same date JA wrote to TBA, thanking him for his letter of 13 July 1795, above, and offering further comments on the situation in France. JA reiterated the importance of three independent branches for the French government and expressed his hope that his Discourses on Davila might be published as a single volume to complement the Defence of the Const. (Adams Papers).

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