Adams Papers

From William Smith Shaw to Abigail Smith Adams, 2 January 1799

Philadelphia Jan. 2d [17]99 Wednesday Evening

My dear Aunt

I received yours of the 29 Dec. yesterday morning. By the same mail we received the accounts of the defeat of Buonaparte, which made every good man very happy. Peter says in his paper of yesterday, that he “was just thinking! of something to present to the caitiffs of French Faction for a new years gift—something to shake their gall bladders, something to sting their souls, when he heard of the news.”

I sent you yesterday, with the papers, Judge Addisons address to the grand jury on the alien & sedition bills. I think you will be pleased with it. The more I think of these bills, the more I am convinced of their propriety and absolute necessity. Indeed I cannot conceive of a government existing long without laws to prevent the licentiousness of the press. [. . .] The modern philosophers and jacobins know this—they know that the licentiousness of the press unrestrained by the laws, is capable of producing the utmost extremes of violence, confusion and anarchy—they well know that the liberty of the press, as they pretend to understand it, is a powerful engine for the subversion of all government—a mighty lever, sufficient if judiciously applied to overturn the social order of the world. No one can wonder, why men of this character should censure the sedition bill, for by it they are partly frustrated in their nefarious designs;—Besides, as Butler says

“No man e’er felt the hatter draw,

With good opinion of the law.”

I hope by tomorrow’s mail we shall we have letters from you giveing us an account of Cousen Tom’s safe arrival

I am my dear Aunt Your / affectionate nephew

Wm S Shaw

MHi: Adams Papers.

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