Abigail Adams to John Adams
Quincy Febry 8 1797
“The Sun is drest in Brighest Beams
To Give thy Honours to the Day”1
And may it prove an auspicious prelude to each ensuing Season. You have this Day to declare Yourself Head of A Nation.2 And now O Lord my God thou hast made thy servant Ruler over the people. give unto him an understanding Heart, that he may know how to go out, and come in before this great people, that he may descern between good and bad, for who is able to judge this, thy so great People?3 were the Words of a Royal Soverign, and not less applicable to him who is invested with the Chief Majestracy of a Nation, tho he wear not a Crown, or the Robes of Royalty.
My Thoughts, and My Meditations are with you, tho personally absent, and My petitions to Heaven are that the things which make for Peace, may not be hiden from your Eyes. My feelings are not those of Pride, or ostentation upon the occasion they are solemnized by a sense of the obligations, the important Trusts and Numerous Duties connected with it. that you may be enabled to Discharge them with Honour to yourself, with justice and impartiality to Your Country, and with satisfaction to this Great People Shall be / The Daily prayer of your
RC (Adams Papers).
1. AA misquotes James Hervey’s “Ode from Casimire,” lines 9–10: “The Sun is dressed in beaming Smiles, / To give thy Beauties to the Day.”
2. On 8 Feb. JA, as president of the Senate, presided over the official reading in Congress of the electoral votes for president and vice president. George Washington joined the members of both houses in the House chamber so that JA could address the entire legislature. The “crowded assemblage” also included several diplomats, many “ladies,” and “the principal inhabitants” of the capital. JA informed the group that he had received packets from each of the sixteen states “containing the certificates of the votes.” He started by opening the packet from Tennessee, noting that “it has been the practice heretofore … to begin with the returns from the State at one end of the United States, and to proceed to the other.” JA then read the certificate, handed it to the clerk of the Senate who read the report out loud, then gave it to the tellers who noted the vote counts. After all the reports had been read and tallied, JA stated the total vote counts for each candidate and the number of votes needed to be elected president. At that point in the proceedings JA sat down for a moment, and then rising again, spoke: “I declare that John Adams is elected President of the United States, for four years, to commence with the fourth day of March next.” JA then made the same pronouncement for Thomas Jefferson as vice president. The orderly scene of the count in Congress was described favorably by the 9 Feb. Philadelphia Gazette: “To see the representatives of a free people, thus assembled, for the purpose of determining the election of two of their first magistrates … afforded a fine contrast to the parade and splendour which attend a change of the first officers” in other countries (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., 2d sess., p. 2095–2098).
3. 1 Kings, 3:7, 9.