John Adams to Charles Adams
Phila. April 24. 1796
I have yours of the 22d.1 Mr Van Persyn I shall be glad to see whenever it Suits his convenience to come to Philadelphia.
I can Say little of favourable Symptoms. The Waggon is fast in the Mire, up to the Axletree and unable to move forwards or backwards. Whether the People will draw us out or not, and Whether We shall advance or retreat I know not. The Passengers are unable to help themselves. The Cattle drawing up Hill are so exactly matched to the Load and those drawing down, that the Wheels stand still.— We are too suddenly and hastily proving what the World will reluctantly be convinced of, that Man kind in their most innocent Character and under the best Circumstances are unqualified to govern themselves.
There is throughout the World a popular Envy a vulgar malignity against all who are Superiour to them in Talents Virtues, Birth, Education, Wealth or any Thing else. To this Class of People
Thirty Twenty Nine Reps. from V. and N. C. nine or ten of whom represent nothing but black Property are addressing themselves.2 They are joined by Renegadoes from Geneva, England, Ireland, by Debtors Antifederalists and French Tools—All together are able to clogg the Wheels of Government. Numbers in N. York as well as Philadelphia & Boston will be against Weight, and Reps will always regard Number more than Weight.
I thank you for your kind Invitation to your house. I shall make your House my Home when I come to N. York, but when that will be I am unable to Say. I fear not before June—and then I shall Stay but a night. My Affairs are Suffering at Quincy so much that I must be with them as soon as possible.
Let me know as soon as you can how your Elections go and whether Mr Burr is chosen into your Senate.3
I am my Dear sir your Affectionate / Father
RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); internal address: “Charles Adams Esqr.”
1. Not found.
2. In early 1796 northern state legislatures and newspapers regularly emphasized the disproportionate voice of the southern states in the House of Representatives due to the three-fifths compromise. On 11 Feb. the Penn. senate responded to Virginia’s proposed constitutional amendments, stating that if there was “a Convention to alter the Constitution of the United States,” one of the amendments proposed should “establish the National Legislature on the true principles of representation, by enabling free men, as well as freeholders to vote; and, by apportioning the Representatives among the several States, according to the number of those free men” (Philadelphia Gazette, 13 Feb.). The Boston Columbian Centinel, 9 March, published its own response to the Virginia resolutions: “The Hint given by the Senate of Pennsylvania, to that of Virginia, on the subject of representation, was pointed and proper. In the southern States five slaves, who cannot vote themselves, are considered equal to three northern freemen!” On 18 April the Philadelphia Gazette reprinted an article from a New York newspaper, stating that a House vote against the Jay Treaty would lead to a division of the union and noting that the southern states were not currently satisfied even with “a fourth more representatives than they are justly entitled to.” According to the article, if the treaty was not executed, “the northern States will rid themselves of a weight that hangs like a millstone about the neck of our prosperity.” On 22 April the Philadelphia Gazette printed a southern response, arguing that New York “has actually in Congress at this very hour a negro representative; for her white population would have entitled her to only nine representatives; whereas, by the addition of 21,324 slaves, she has ten!”
3. The spring 1796 New York state elections brought many Federalists into the state assembly, which in turn elected Gen. Philip Schuyler to the U.S. Senate in place of the Democratic-Republican Aaron Burr. In April 1797 Burr won a seat in the N.Y. assembly, where he served for one term (John S. Jenkins, History of Political Parties in the State of New York, Auburn, N.Y., 1846, p. 58, 61, 63; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989; rev. edn., bioguide.congress.gov. description ends ).
4. On this same date, CA wrote to JA discussing a petition and counter-petition from New York on the Jay Treaty that were presented to the House of Representatives (Adams Papers).