Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 18 December 1796

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia Decr 18. 1796

My dearest Friend

I went Yesterday at 12 O Clock to the Presbyterian Meeting House in Market Street to hear Dr Rush pronounce an elegant and pathetic Elogium on Mr Rittenhouse the late President of the Philosophical society. He made him out to be a good Man and a great Astronomer & Philosopher. This I agree and if he had not betrayed Jacobinical Weaknesses I should have liked him very well.1

Dr Euwing is Sick & melancholly. has lost his Wifes fortune by trusting Speculators and has had recourse to imprudent means to raise his Spirits as they Say. He has done preaching for the present at least.2

It is now Said, but I have not made the Calculations, to be made certain that neither Mr Pinckney nor Mr Jefferson can be President: consequently my Troubles are not far off. Strong in the Confidence of my own Honesty, and favoured by the Appearance of tolerable health and the feeling of Some Strength, I perceive no Consternation at the Prospect.

There have not been wanting Insinuations to make me believe that Hamilton and Jay have insidiously intrigued to give Pinckney a Sly slide over my head, and the southern Men Swear, if they had suspected this I should have had all their Votes. I do believe that both of them had rather Pinckney should come in P. than Jefferson be either P. or V. P.— one of them might believe he should have more Influence with Pinckney than with me— Both of them might think, that if I was out of the Way, one or other of them might have a better Chance to come in at next Election into one or the other Office. Both of them may have designs or desires of closer Connections with England than I should approve. But whatever cause for these Surmises may exist, they shall make no Impression on my Friendship for those Characters. I believe their Motives were what they recd for publick Good. Jay at least had probably no active share in the Business. H. certainly had.

But I think it is now evident that the Southern States have had all these Contingencies in Contemplation and that they preferred me, in either office to Pinckney or Burr, and I am more indebted to the southern states for this Election than to Massachusetts, thirteen of whose Votes were determined I presume by Hamiltons Letters to Higginson, if not to Cabot, and who certainly were willing to sacrifice me, rather than that Jefferson should come in V. P.3

The common Saying here is that it is an Interposition of Providence that has saved me, defeated Pinckney, and disappointed the English Party as well as the French. The French however are deceived,—I am more their Friend than they are aware of.—

I am much mistaken if I do not remove many Prejudices both at home & abroad before the fourth of March. There are manly Ways of correcting Errors, that all Men dont perceive. These are confidential Communications from your ever affectionate

J. A

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “December 18 1796.”

1David Rittenhouse, the noted astronomer and mathematician, had died on 26 June. Benjamin Rush eulogized him on 17 Dec. at the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia at an event attended by George Washington, JA, members of Congress, and foreign dignitaries, among others. Later published as An Eulogium, Intended to Perpetuate the Memory of David Rittenhouse, Rush’s eulogy described Rittenhouse as “the ingenious, the modest, and the wise … the friend of God and man. … His name gave a splendor to the American character, and the friends of humanity in distant parts of the world, unite with us in lamenting our common loss,—for he belonged to the whole human race” (Phila., 1797, p. 4, 5, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 31143; 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 ).

2In the summer of 1796 John Ewing suffered from an attack of a “violent disorder” and never fully recovered; although he continued his public duties he could no longer walk without aid. Ewing also experienced financial losses after being swindled by an acquaintance. Hannah Sergeant Ewing (1739–1806), his wife, was the daughter of Jonathan Sergeant of Newark, N.J. (Lucy E. Lee Ewing, Dr. John Ewing and Some of His Noted Connections, Phila., 1924, p. 11, 16, 26).

3Letters from Alexander Hamilton to Stephen Higginson or George Cabot have not been located, but one to the former was likely dated 28 Nov. and apparently encouraged Higginson to support Thomas Pinckney over JA in the presidential election in order to exclude Thomas Jefferson entirely (Hamilton, Papers, description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett, Jacob E. Cooke, and others, New York, 1961–1987; 27 vols. description ends 20:376–377, 414–415, 437–438).

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