Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 29 January 1796

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia January 29. 1796

My Dearest Friend

Yesterday which was Post Day from the Eastward I was disappointed again of a Letter and went pesting all the day long against the Post office. But this morning has produced me yours of the 15th which informs me that you meet with similar Dissappointments. There has not one Post parted from Philadelphia for Boston Since I have been here without a Letter from me to You. Wednesdays and Saturdays are the only ones when the Mail is made up for Boston & Quincy and I make a Point of never Suffering one of them to pass without a Letter. Your Letters are the greatest Pleasure of my Life here—but in your last not one Word about the Farm.

Mr Langworthy and Dr Bollman have called upon me this Week and are both intelligent Men1

I have read this Week Dr styles’s History of Whalley Goffe, Dixwell and Whale2 and Governor Adams’s Spech to the General Court and I find them both melancholly Examples of superannuation. In the Speech I see the fruit of old Spite against Washington Jay and Old England as well as weak Affectation of Popularity. Personal Malice against Men or Countries, has either no Existence in my heart, or they are suppressed & overawed by a decisive sentiment of their Antichristian and Antiphilosophical and Antimoral Turpitude & Deformity. Yet I cannot answer for myself that my shaking hands and trembling Lips may not expose to the World Weakness, folly and Wickedness as gross as this, if I should live to advanced Age. Reflections like these determine me at all Events to retire from the public stage in good Season.

Pray are our Plymouth Friends become Frenchified as well as Antifederal. If they Avow such Opinions as you hear, although I shall never disturb their Repose, I shall never have any Confidence in them. But Doatage appears to me from every quarter among my Old Friends.—

Our Grand Children are all well thro the small Meazles as Col smith writes me and I hear from Travellers who have lately been entertained at that Hospitable House—3 May the Means as well as Disposition be long continued—

You have lost prescious Letters from the Hague and London I doubt not in the late shipwrecks—I have none since that of the 30 of septr which I inclosed to you.4

We shall have a flood of News at once, by and by from France Holland England and &c

I hope our Mass. House & senate will correct the old Doatard—if they dont they deserve the Confusion & every evil Work to which his impudent Speech directly tends—Yours affectionately as ever

J. A

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “Jan’ry 29th / 1796.”

1William Langworthy (d. 1798), an Englishman, was the author of An Attempt to Promote the Commercial Interests of Great Britain, Bath, 1793. WSS described him to JA as “a Gent. of Science and abilities, who has been invited to this Country, as a proper theatre for the exercise of his talents” (21 Jan., Adams Papers). A copy of Langworthy’s book, apparently presented by the author and extensively annotated by JA, is at MH-H.

Justus Erich Bollman (or Bollmann, 1769–1821), a German physician from Hanover, was best known at the time for his participation in an attempt to liberate the Marquis de Lafayette from the Austrian fortress of Olmütz, where he had been imprisoned since May 1794. On 8 Nov. 1795, with the help of Bollman and Francis Kinloch Huger of South Carolina, Lafayette escaped but was injured in the effort and quickly recaptured. Bollman and Huger were also captured and served several months in prison for their actions. Bollman was released on condition he leave Austria, and in early 1796 he came to the United States, where he pursued various business ventures (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 ; Bayard Tuckerman, Life of General Lafayette, 2 vols., N.Y., 1889, 2:95, 98, 99–103).

2Ezra Stiles, A History of Three of the Judges of King Charles I, Hartford, Conn., 1794, 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. 27743. Stiles’ work is a history of Edward Whalley (d. 1675?), William Goffe (1605?–1679?), and John Dixwell (d. 1689), the judges who ordered the execution of King Charles I. They were forced to flee to America after the Restoration and lived out their lives in New England. The book also contains the story of Theophilius Whale (ca. 1616 – ca. 1719), “of Narragansett, supposed to have been one of the judges.”

3WSS wrote to JA on 21 Jan. primarily to introduce William Langworthy but also mentioning the good health of AA2 and their children. JA also wrote to AA2 on this date, forwarding a letter from AA, not found, and commenting on Samuel Adams’ recent speech to the Mass. General Court. The speech prompted JA to consider his own old age: “It is an awful reflection that every weakness, every folly, every resentful, vindictive, malignant passion of the heart, which, in the vigour of understanding, may be corrected or suppressed, must break out and show itself to the world and posterity, from the trembling lips and shaking hands of seventy or eighty years. May my farm and family only be witnesses of my dotages when they must arrive; may they forgive and veil them from public view” (Adams Papers; AA2, Jour. and Corr., description begins Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, Daughter of John Adams, … Edited by Her Daughter [Caroline Amelia (Smith) de Windt], New York and London, 1841–[1849]; 3 vols. description ends 2:144–145).

4Not found.

Index Entries