Adams Papers

From Francis Dana to Abigail Smith Adams, 22 July 1798

Cambridge July 22d. 1798.


On my return home from the eastern Circuit in the night preceeding Commencement, I found myself honored by your favor of the 5th. inst:, acknowledging the receipt of mine of the 23d. ulto:—I beg you to accept my sincere thanks for your attention to its contents, & for the political information you have been pleased to communicate, more especially for the Confidence manifested towards me, by transmitting the unsigned letter, the hand writing of which, as you observe, is familiar to me.

I so thoroughly concur in sentiment with the Writer, that I had long since concluded he had been furnished with “full powers and proper instructions to concert & conclude upon a general system of maritime Neutrality.”

I know there is a delicacy in the United States presenting themselves to the neutral powers, uninvited, for such a purpose; especially as we cou’d not accompany the proposition with an offer of naval assistance to enforce and maintain the system.

Nevertheless I am exceedingly mistaken if the offer itself, even under such a present inability, wou’d not have been eagerly embraced, as the mean of raising a wall of separation between the United States & France. It wou’d have placed our Country on high & respectable ground, not only with the Powers properly & strictly neutral, but with all others: and have served, at the same time, to infuse energy & courage into their Councils, and probably to bring on a new and formidable co-alition for the restoration of the balance of Power in Europe, which every politician must now see to be indispensable for the safety of all. Such sentiments I am persuaded must meet the concurrence of our Friend, who has been long nobly struggling to bring up our <[. . .]> Country to that position it ought to assume among the powers of the World. Nor have his endeavors been wholly in vain, thõ the effect falls short of his extensive views.

Yes, Madam, I can easily conceive how much the mistake of my quondam Friend, who has become the choice of Talyrand, on grounds not redounding to his honor, embarasses and distresses our Friend.—He most certainly thinks right when “he thinks it wou’d have been otherwise”.—I feel myself much honored by his sentiments on that subject. But perhaps this measure which we now think fatal, may be intended by providence as one for our greater good. For I cannot admit the idea of Corruption of heart, whatever portion of vanity or folly there may be in such conduct. If the Man of their choice, when left to himself, cannot be managed at will (& a more unmanageable one never existed) may they not begin to apprehend themselves deceived in their opinions of the effect of their diplomatic skill in our Country? Indeed the little which Congress has already done, must afford them some ground of doubt, as well as mortification to the firm Federalists—They who judge of the sentiments of the people from the divisions in Congress on great national questions will be exceedingly erroneous in their conclusions. A vast majority in Massachusetts, & indeed through out New England, are as we cou’d wish them to be, determined to vindicate our Country’s Rights at all hazards.

On my return home thõ Portsmouth I first learned the persons whom I had mentioned were removed from Office; and I, had the pleasure to find that measure well received.

Mrs: Dana has enjoyed much better health of late. She thanks you for your kind remembrance of her, & desires me to present you her best regards. We feel much for the trying situation of your best Friend & of yourself. But the end crowns the work. It has been nobly begun. It will never be abandoned.

I am, Madam, with sentiments of respect / your much obliged Friend & humble Servant

F M Dana

P.S. I enclose the letter you sent me.

MHi: Adams Papers.

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