Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, [ca. 28 September 1795]

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

[ca. 28 September 1795]1

My Dear son

Mr J Quincy calld upon me Yesterday to let me know that a vessel of mr Higginsons was going to Amsterdam. I wrote by Way of Hamburgh both to you and your Brother about ten Days since.2 I have not much to say at present, because I dare not say much least some characters which are now criminated might be injured, when we would wish to find them Innocent. Time must Develope. the sudden Resignation of mr Randolph his journey to see Fauchett at Rhoad Island & the stories circulating respecting seecret Service Money are all Subjects of conjecture. I inclose you mr Randolphs Letter to the President3 I can only Say that the clamour respecting the Treaty has greatly subsided since it has been told that F——tt had like Jove descended in many a Golden shower and that to a costly amount.4 mr Pickering former post master is Secretary of State Lee of Virginna Secretary at War & a mr Marshel of Virginia Attorney General. Mr Bradford died greatly lamented by all who knew him.5 Thomas who knew him will regreet his loss— a Fever similar to that which raged in Philadelphia has swept off great Numbers in N york. it still continues very Mortal, and a great proportion of the city have moved out. Your sister & Family have been out of Town all summer they were well last week when I had a Letter from her. Charles I presume has fled from the city with his wife. I have not heard from him since his Marriage. a much more extrodonary Marriage has taken place in the Family Peggy is Married to a Young French man Monsieur St Hillair from one of the Iselands a match Mrs smith writes me of which she had not the least Idea a fort night before it took place.6 Young enough for her son besure and a to property! or any means of getting a living! his relations were all sacrificed as aristricrats O Woman Woman, thy prudence is folly some times.

Dft (Adams Papers); notations by CFA: “1795.” and “Copy. J. Q. Adams.” Filmed at [Sept. 1795].

1The dating of this letter is based on the Boston publication of Edmund Randolph’s letter to George Washington on 28 Sept., for which see note 3, below.

2AA to JQA, 15 Sept., and to TBA, 17 Sept., both above.

3Edmund Randolph was forced to resign in mid-August when a dispatch from Jean Antoine Joseph Fauchet to the French government came to light raising questions about Randolph’s loyalties and possible improprieties. Fauchet’s Dispatch No. 10, dated 31 Oct. 1794, was captured by the British, who eventually turned it over to the U.S. government in July 1795. While obscure in its language, it suggested that, at a minimum, Randolph had been improperly discussing internal U.S. governmental affairs with a representative of the French government. He may also have requested money from the French government, which he apparently planned to use to influence the outcome of the Whiskey Rebellion, though how this would have worked is not clear. When confronted with the letter by Washington on 19 Aug., Randolph asked for time to explain his actions but later that same day resigned his office.

In mid-September Randolph sent a letter to Washington, subsequently widely published in the newspapers at Randolph’s request, indicating he was still working on preparing an explanation of his activities. He claimed to have gone to Newport, R.I., to meet Fauchet to obtain information that would justify or at least clarify Randolph’s behavior. His letter noted that he had time for only a brief interview with Fauchet before the minister sailed for France. But Randolph also wrote, “I am in possession of such materials, not only from Mr. Fauchet, but also from other sources, as will convince every unprejudiced mind that my resignation was dictated by considerations, which ought not to have been resisted for a moment; and that every thing connected with it, stands upon a footing, perfectly honourable to myself.” The first Massachusetts printing of Randolph’s letter appeared in the Boston Gazette, 28 Sept., which was likely AA’s intended enclosure.

Randolph spent several months preparing his defense, which he published in December as A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation, Phila., 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. 29384. This work contains various documents purporting to justify Randolph’s actions, including extracts from other French dispatches and an affidavit from Fauchet. But it fails to explain adequately Randolph’s plans for the French money and ended up embarrassing Randolph and his supporters more than it vindicated him (Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788–1800, N.Y., 1993, p. 425–431).

4See Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book IV, line 609–610.

5The source of AA’s information was the Boston Columbian Centinel, 16 September. The article was, however, only partially correct. Washington named Secretary of War Timothy Pickering to the position of acting secretary of state (eventually making the post permanent) upon Edmund Randolph’s resignation. Gov. Henry Lee of Virginia did not become the next secretary of war; James McHenry was finally appointed to the position in Jan. 1796. To replace Attorney General William Bradford, who died on 23 Aug. 1795, Washington eventually named Charles Lee, after John Marshall declined (ANB; DAB).

6Margaret Smith married Felix Leblond de St. Hilaire, a merchant originally from France, on 29 Aug., at the same time that CA married SSA. St. Hilaire served as French vice consul for the port of Alexandria, Va., in 1779, and in 1797 he spied for Secretary of War James McHenry on the activities of French general Victor Collot, after Collot’s reconnaissance of the Mississippi Valley raised U.S. suspicions about France’s designs on western territory. Between 1797 and 1810, St. Hilaire appears to have used several versions of his name in advertising his services as an art and dance instructor in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York (“Records of the First and Second Presbyterian Churches of the City of New York,” NYGBR, description begins New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. description ends 13:87 [April 1882]; New York Argus, 18 Feb. 1796; JCC, description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford, Gaillard Hunt, John C. Fitzpatrick, Roscoe R. Hill, and others, Washington, D.C., 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends 14:759; Richard H. Kohn, Eagle and Sword: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America, 1783–1802, N.Y., 1975, p. 207, 383; Alexandria [Va.] Times, 9 Oct. 1797; Carlisle [Penn.] Gazette, 27 Jan. 1802; Erasmus Wilson, ed., Standard History of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Chicago, 1898, p. 878; Hudson, N.Y., Bee, 30 Dec. 1806; M. M. Bagg, The Pioneers of Utica, Utica, N.Y., 1877, p. 293). For St. Hilaire’s apparent imprisonment in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1796, see CA to JA, 21 March 1796, below. AA2’s letter to AA has not been found.

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