John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia March 25. 1796
My Dearest Friend
on Wednesday I dined with Mr Russell the Friend of Dr Priestley1 and while We were at Table, in came large Packets of Letters and Newspapers from England. The Ladies at Table had Letters from their friends and the Scæne was so lively so much like what I had often felt that it put me into very good humour. The News was what you will see in Fennos Paper.
Yesterday I dined at the Presidents with Ministers of State and their Ladies foreign and Domestic. After dinner the Gentlemen drew off after the Ladies and left me alone with the President in close Conversation. He detained me there till Nine o Clock and was never more frank and open upon Politicks. I find his Opinions and sentiments are more exactly like mine than I ever knew before, respecting England and France and our American Parties. He gave me Intimations enough that his Reign would be very short. He repeated it three times at least, that this and that was of no Consequence to him personally, as he had but a very litle while to Stay in his present situation. This must be a confidential secret. I have hinted it to no one here.
The P. told me he had that day recd three or four Letters from his new Minister in London, one of them as late as 29 of December. Mr Pickering informs me, that Mr Adams modestly declined a Presentation at Court but it was insisted on by Lord Grenville: and accordingly he was presented to the King and I think the Queen and made his Harrangues and recd his answers.2 By the Papers I find that Mr Pinkney appeared at Court on the 28th. of January:3 after which I presume Mr Adams had nothing to do but return to Holland.
The Appearances of Peace are as yet but faint.
The H. of R.s have applied for Papers and the P. has their Request under Consideration. He is not at all pleased with this. a Motion is now before the H. made by Mr Harper that it be resolved that Provision be made to carry into Execution all the Treaties yet published. How long this will be debated I know not.4 There is danger that the Delay on our Part will occasion delays on the Part of Britain. but I hope not. Three of our Reps, Lyman Dearborne and Varnum voted against all New England except one I believe in Vermont.5 The Loss of Mr Ames and Mr Dexter has been much lamented. Varnum and Lyman and Dearborne are as inveterate as Giles, by all that I hear.
I have not yet seen my sons public Letters.
There is such Rancour of Party that the Prospect of a Change in Administration quite cures me of all Desire to have a share in it.— Repose and Poverty I say.— Yet I am not intimidated. Renegadoes and Adventurers from foreign Countries acquire such an influence among the People although there is no Attachment in their Nature to Us or our Country and there is every Reason to suspect the worst Influence over them: and sensible People are so fearful of provoking their Wrath and Impudence by exposing them that it is really disgusting to enter on any public stage. The People are so abused and deceived And there is so little Care or Pains taken to undeceive & disabuse them that the Consequences must be very disagreable.
I am with undiminished Attach / ment your Affectionate
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A.”; endorsed: “March 25th 1796.”
1. William Russell (1740–1818), a British merchant and reformer from Birmingham, became a close friend of Joseph Priestley’s after joining his church in 1780. Russell traveled to the United States in 1795 and remained in the country until 1801 (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., www.oxforddnb.com. description ends ).
2. For JQA’s dispatches from London, including his 15 Dec. 1795 letter to Timothy Pickering describing his 9 Dec. presentation to George III, see JA to AA, 9 April 1796, and note 2, below. JQA recorded a fuller, personal account of the meeting in his Diary: after presenting his credential letter, the king asked JQA “to which of the States I belonged, and on my answering Massachusetts, He turned to Lord Grenville, and said, ‘All the Adams’s belong to Massachusetts? to which Lord Grenville answered, they did. He enquired whether my father was now Governor of Massachusetts? I answered No Sir, he is Vice-President of the United States. Ay said he, and he cannot hold both offices at the same time?’ ‘No Sir.’— He asked where my father is now? At Philadelphia, Sir, I presume, the Congress being now in Session.” JQA also recounted in his Diary his presentation to Queen Charlotte on 17 Dec. 1795, who asked him if he “was any relation to the Mr. Adams that was here some years ago” (D/JQA/24, APM Reel 27).
3. See, for instance, Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 24 March 1796.
4. On 24 March, at the conclusion of the debate over the request for the papers on the Jay Treaty, Robert Goodloe Harper introduced a resolution as JA describes. Before the House took any action on it, however, Harper withdrew the resolution on 8 April in favor of one with somewhat different wording, which was tabled. Instead, on 13 April Theodore Sedgwick offered a similar resolution, which the House debated for two days. The discussion focused primarily on whether it was appropriate to combine consideration of appropriations for all of the treaties into a single debate or whether the treaties ought to be considered separately. On 14 April the House separately passed motions approving appropriations for the treaties with Spain, Algiers, and the Native American nations (Annals of Congress, description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, D.C., 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends 4th Cong., 1st sess., p. 801, 886, 940–969).
5. In addition to the New England representatives named by JA, John S. Sherburne of New Hampshire and Israel Smith of Vermont voted with the House majority to request papers from Washington (U.S. House, Jour., description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1789– . description ends 4th Cong., 1st sess., p. 480–481).