John Adams to John Quincy Adams
Philadelphia Decr. 5. 1796
My dear Son
As I came through New York, where I found your Sister and your Brother and their families in good health I recd your Letter No. 24. and upon my arrival here, presented it to The President together with the preceeding Numbers to 19 inclusively.1 I dined with him on Saturday when he returned me the Letters, with an Eulogium. He Said that “Things appeared to him exactly as they do to your son”
Your Intelligence is good, and your Prophesies ominous if not infallible. The Plott has opened here with a Note of a Volume from Mr Adet. I Shall make few Observations upon this. But I believe my Countrymen will assert and maintain their Independence. We are not generally intimidated, although it is said that a considerable Body of Quakers were Panick Struck at the Election and abandoned their Colours. The Laurells acquired by this System of Terror, are a Majority of from 20 to 100 Votes in favr of a certain Ticket, made up of the lowest dreggs of the Mob of Philadelphia and the Inhabitants of the Insurgent Western Counties of Pensilvania, against the almost unanimous suffrages of the great farming Counties of York & Lancaster.2 The Day after tomorrow is the great Election. I look upon the Event as the throw of a Die, a mere Chance, a miserable meagre Tryumph to either Party.
If Mr Jefferson is chosen he cannot depart from the system of Washington which is the system of all that is respectable in this Country. I hope the Directory of France will not in a fit of Exultation & Temerity push matters to extremes. if they do they will excite Feelings in this People, which they suspect not. Mr Adets Note has proved an Antidote to the violence of their Passion to many of the most ardent Lovers of France. It will cool Us. it is a febrifuge. an AntiSeptick. it will arrest the rapid progress to Corruption in many.
It is our Sincere and universal desire to live on Terms of Harmony and Friendship with The French. If We do not it will not be our fault. But We are not afraid of France. All the Ships she can command or hire, cannot send an Army here that would not Soon decay. I dont love to think a moment of such a Case— But if they force Us to think of it, our Imaginations must range. Do you my son, reflect on the Consequences of a War forced upon Us by France. as it respects Spain, Portugal Holland Italy Germany All Europe, England her Commerce Navy &c. One Consequence I will mention— There will be Tories to fly to France, as there were Tories to fly to England— she will Scarcely compensate them at the Expence of Millions. French Tories will not be venerated in the World much more than the English Tories have been.
I shall answer my dear Thomas’s Letter as soon as I can.3
I am &c with great Esteem as well as / a tender Affection
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “J. Q. A.”; endorsed by TBA: “The Vice President JQA / 5 Decr: 1796 / 27 Jany Recd: 1797 / 3 Feby Answd:.” Tr (Adams Papers).
1. This is the RC of JQA to JA, 13 Aug., for which see TBA to JA, 6 Aug., and note 7, above. For AA’s receipt of the FC-Pr, see her letter to JA of 27 Nov., and note 2, above. JQA’s letters Nos. 19–23 to JA were dated 4, 14 April, 6, 24 June, 21 July (all Adams Papers).
2. JA won York and Lancaster counties, Penn., by some 4,500 votes but lost decisively to Thomas Jefferson by over 6,000 combined votes in Philadelphia and the rural western counties that had been at the center of the Whiskey Rebellion two years earlier (Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser, 12 Nov.).
4. JQA wrote to JA on 17, 24, and 30 Dec. reporting the European news, especially regarding the activities of the French government and French Army. On 17 Dec. JQA commented on the progress of negotiations between Britain and France and noted particularly the concern in Europe over the American presidential election: “There are many People here anxious to know the Event of the Presidential elections, in America, and who either feel or affect an alarm least under a change of administration the United States will become involved in a War with G. Britain. They tremble for the price of their American Stocks.” But JQA sought to assure Europeans “that however the elections may turn, there is not the least danger that the United States will deviate from their neutral system of policy, or engage in War with any European Power whatever.” His next letter, of 24 Dec., again emphasized the concerns over the presidential elections as well as the growing tensions between the United States and France in the wake of the Jay Treaty and Pierre Auguste Adet’s resignation. JQA’s 30 Dec. letter continued the theme, noting that an unofficial newspaper of the French Directory was attempting “to influence the choice of President in the United States, and if it cannot turn the election to embarass the new Administration, and rally all its opponents under the standard of France. … The violation of the British Treaty, and a War with Britain therefore is what the French Government wish to provoke.— The house of Representatives, is the instrument which they intend to use, and … the fear of their displeasure the motive which they purpose to inspire.— We shall see how they will succeed” (all Adams Papers).