Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1 April 1796

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia April 1. 1796

My Dearest Friend

The Newspapers will inform you of our interminable Delays. The House have asked for Papers and the President has refused them, with Reasons and the House are about to record in their Journals their Reasons— meanwhile the Business is in suspence: and I have no clear Prospect when I shall go home.

It is the general opinion of those I converse with that after they have passed the Resolutions which they think will justify them to their Constituents, seven or Eight of the Majority will vote for the appropriations necessary to carry the Treaties into Execution.1

Next Wednesday is assigned for the House to take the P.’s Message into Consideration— two Massachusetts Members Leonard & Freeman are gone home and three are among the most inveterate of the Opposition Dearborne Varnum & Lyman. Our People are almost as inconsistent in returning Such Men as the Pensilvanians are in Returning Adventurers from Geneva, Britain & Ireland2 if the Constitution is to give Way under these contending Parties We shall see it before long. If the House persevere in refusing to vote the appropriations We shall sit here till next March for what I know and wait for the People, to determine the Question for Us. One good Effect of a persevering Opposition in the House would be that We should preserve the President for another four Years: for I presume He will have sufficient Spiriti to hold the Helm till he has steered the ship through this storm, unless the People should remove him which most certainly they will not.

I will Not sit here in summer in all Events— I would sooner resign my Office. I will leave Philadelphia by the Sixth or seventh of June at farthest. Other Gentlemen of the senate and House are frequently asking Leave of Absence: but my Attendance is perpetual and will if continued much longer disorder my Health, which hitherto has been very good. But I want my Horse my farm my long Wallks and more than all the Bosom of my friend—

Poor Lear has lost his second Wife.—3

I want to talk Politicks with my Brother and to know how his Patriotic Pulse beat in these times.

Next Monday is your Election when I suppose there will be a Stir. Many Letters express a clear opinion that there will be a Change. This would be the strongest Proof of Fœderalism which Mass has ever given; because I suppose it will be from fœderal Principles & Motives.4 But I expect no such Thing. I could fill a sheet with my Reasons but they would not be new to you.

The Weather is very pleasant but rather dry— I suppose you have Scarcely got rid of your snow.

I am anxious to hear whether the Throat Distemper has abated in Quincy— I thought the Physicians had become Masters of that Complaint. Duty to my Mother and / Love & Compts where due from your / ever Affectionate

J. A

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “April 1 1796.”

1The political posturing over House appropriations for the Jay Treaty continued through April. With their speeches, Democratic-Republican legislators tried to undermine both the Jay Treaty and Federalist foreign policy and only secondarily used the issue to solidify party support in Congress. Federalists countered by inciting citizens to send petitions to Congress demanding the execution of the treaty. This public pressure helped sway the 30 April decision, at which time the House voted 51 to 48 to fund the treaty (Combs, Jay Treaty, description begins Jerald A. Combs, The Jay Treaty: Political Battleground of the Founding Fathers, Berkeley, Calif., 1970. description ends p. 171–172, 178; 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. 1291).

2Pennsylvania elected two foreign-born members to the 4th Congress: William Findley from Ireland and Albert Gallatin from Geneva, Switzerland. In the 3rd Congress, along with Findley, four other foreign-born members represented the state: Robert Morris from Liverpool, England, and Thomas Fitzsimons, William Irvine, and John Smilie, all from Ireland (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989; rev. edn., description ends ).

3Tobias Lear’s second wife, Frances (Fanny) Bassett Washington Lear (b. 1767), whom he had married on 22 Aug. 1795, died in late March 1796. She was the daughter of Martha Washington’s sister and brother-in-law, Anna Marie Dandridge Bassett and Col. Burwell Bassett of Eltham in New Kent County, Va. Frances was the widow of George Augustine Washington, George Washington’s nephew, whom she had married in 1785 (Washington, Papers, Presidential Series, description begins The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, ed. W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Jack D. Warren, Mark A. Mastromarino, Robert F. Haggard, Christine S. Patrick, John C. Pinheiro, and others, Charlottesville, Va., 1987– . description ends 1:93; ANB description begins John A. Garraty, Mark C. Carnes, and Paul Betz, eds., American National Biography, New York, 1999–2002; 24 vols. plus supplement; rev. edn., description ends ; Washington, Diaries, description begins The Diaries of George Washington, ed. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, Charlottesville, Va., 1976–1979; 6 vols. description ends 6:252).

4The Massachusetts election for governor and state senators was held on 4 April 1796. Although the incumbent governor, Samuel Adams, defeated the Federalist candidate, Increase Sumner, 15,195 votes to 10,184 votes, the Federalists gained seats in the senate. This new Federalist majority was reflected in the legislature’s decision to replace the Democratic-Republican Boston Independent Chronicle with the Federalist Massachusetts Mercury as the new state printer (Anson Ely Morse, The Federalist Party in Massachusetts to the Year 1800, Princeton, N.J., 1909, p. 160–161, 164; Massachusetts Mercury, 5 April, 3 June; Boston Independent Chronicle, 6 June).

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