Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 20 February 1796

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams

London February 20. 1796.

My Dear Mother.

By the present opportunity, I send you a few pamphets which may give you some entertainment in the perusal, and newspapers from which you will collect the current intelligence.1 For my own part I have been here so long in idleness that I have almost entirely doff’d the world aside and bad it pass.—You will observe in the papers a pretended preliminary convention for a pacification between France and the Empire, and a subsequent acknowledgment that the paper was a mere forgery to affect the price of stocks, which purpose it answered very efficaciously.2 In truth all the real appearances at present indicate another campaign, though negotiations are certainly carrying on in secret. There is one symptom of a continuance to the war, which is more powerful than all the rest; it is that neither of the parties is yet totally disabled.

I shall send you some further articles by Scott, that is by some of my friends who are going with him who will furnish me with a safer opportunity for conveyance than the present.3

I have recently made a little excursion to Cambridge, for the purpose of seeing the Colleges, and was much entertained by my tour.4 I found it also useful to my health, which without being positively bad, has not been good for some weeks past.— The first month or six weeks after my arrival here was to me a period of considerable anxiety and occupation. Since then it has been a time of almost total fainéantise: neither of these situations is particularly conducive to health.

Mrs: Hallowell as you are doubtless informed before this time is dead. Her Daughter is yet very amiable, though I have seen her but two or three times since I have been here.5

Mrs: Copley and her pretty daughters are well. Her Son went out to Boston in November: they have yet no account of his arrival, and are very anxious to hear from him.6

Mrs: Church intends to go out to America in the Spring. Her Husband is to follow her the next year, proposing to make their final settlement there. As he has only seven or eight thousand Sterling a year income, he says he cannot afford to live in England7

I hope to write you more largely by the next opportunity. But at present without having any thing to do, I find it extremely difficult to snatch so much as a quarter of an hour to write ever so short a Letter. Perhaps I may tell you the reason of this at a future day; or perhaps you may guess at it without being told.8 In the mean time I remain with unabated affection and duty, your Son.

John Q. Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs: A. Adams. Quincy.”; endorsed: “J Q A Febry 20 1796.” FC-Pr (Adams Papers); APM Reel 131.

1Not found.

2Many London newspapers printed both the false announcement of a proposed convention for a general peace between France and Prussia and subsequent items identifying it as a forgery. The erroneous news was apparently circulated to create an opportunity for stock speculation. See, for instance, Evening Mail, 10–12, 12–15 Feb., which observed, “The persons engaged in this infamous business were perfectly well acquainted with the management of such a concern; the Gazette was sent to most of the Cabinet Ministers at an early hour, and to some of the Morning Papers. … There is no doubt but several of the Jews in the City were connected with this man, who … is known to have lately formed an intimacy with some of these speculating gentry. … One Jew only is known to have sold half a million of Stock on speculation in the course of one hour on Friday morning; and the Jews were in general observed to be in the secret” (12–15 Feb.).

3That is, by Nathan Frazier Jr. and John Gardner, both of whom arrived in Boston in the Minerva, Capt. James Scott, on 20 April (Massachusetts Mercury, 15, 22 April).

4JQA traveled to Cambridge on 3 Feb. with his friends Thomas Crafts and John Gardner. They visited King’s Chapel, the library of Trinity College, and the Senate House, among other buildings, and walked around the town. JQA was particularly impressed by “an Egyptian mummy, in a state of greater perfection than any I had ever seen,” and he found “the rivers are beautiful but small, and in our Country would scarcely rise above the name of brooks.” The men returned to London on the 5th (D/JQA/24, 3–5 Feb., APM Reel 27).

5Mary Boylston Hallowell died on 22 Nov. 1795 in London (Massachusetts Mercury, 15 March 1796).

6John Singleton Copley Jr. (1772–1863), Trinity College, Cambridge 1794, was born in Boston but raised in England. He toured the United States in early 1796 to visit friends and family and to attempt (unsuccessfully) to reclaim lost family land on Beacon Hill (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 ; Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley, 1 vol. in 2, Cambridge, 1966, p. 341).

7For John Barker and Angelica Schuyler Church, see vol. 6:10. The Churches and their children immigrated to New York in May 1797 (New York Daily Advertiser, 22 May).

8This is the earliest reference to JQA’s growing romantic interest in LCA; see JQA to AA, 28 Feb. 1796, and note 3, below.

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