Adams Papers

From Thomas Boylston Adams to William Smith Shaw, 16 June 1799

Philadelphia 16th: June 1799.

My dear William.

I have just now got your letter of the 7th: instt: and been made very happy by its contents:—I am quite ashamed of myself for not being so great a politician as you are, but the fact is I have thought for some time past, that politics is but a remote branch of my trade, and though I am not indifferent on any subject, particularly interesting to the public, I feel some listlessness respecting the generality of political news & unascertained reports. The news from Europe of late has roused me in a degree, because it is of a complection rather different from my expectations—I did think that the french armies would not meet with an effectual check, from the Imperialist troops—I really believed & on strong presumptive grounds, that the Emperor was on the brink of the abyss which has swallowed so many illustrious victims within a few years past, and after Sardinia, Naples, Sicily & Tuscany were gone, without a struggle on his part to save them, my belief was confirmed, that the present campaign would hurl the King of the Romans from his throne with almost as much facility as it had already levelled the state & dignity of his father in law. I rejoice to find the fact otherwise and that the french armies in all quarters have been beaten by skill & bravery. The Directory state the incompleteness of the Conscription levies as the cause of Jourdan’s victory, who by the official account gained the battle of Stockach & then fled with precipitation across the Rhine—The french armies are incomplete; there is the secret—They began the campaign prematurely in hopes of taking the Allies by surprize, and they found, what has never before been the case, that their own numbers were not inexhaustible. It is much to be wished that this reverse of fortune on the french side may be followed up by others of equal magnitude, for my opinion coincides with your’s, that what has already happened will do little towards humbling the great nation, considering that arts & not arms are the chief weapons of the war they wage against the present establishments of the world. We may yet expect to hear of hard fighting, since this gleam of success must inspire fresh courage to the drooping hearts of the fraternized nations and more especially to the Imperialists.

I thank you for the good intelligence respecting our baggage from Lisbon. My brother’s library is a treasure not surpassed in value by any private collection in this Country. It would be desirable to get the boxes up to Quincy & have a few-of them inspected to ascertain their condition, but as there is no preparation for putting them up, it would be best, if no damage has come to them, to let them remain in the boxes, stowed away in some safe place, though not in a garret for fear of fire. I wish the little trunk of my cloaths to be broken open, as I have not the key, and such garments as appear obsolete to be applied to charitable purposes under the direction of my Mother.

I enclose the letter I received from Berlin after my return—I should have done it when I last wrote my Mother, but was restrained by the circumstance of its antient date & the hope that more recent letters had been received at Quincy—You will please return it.

I am not yet fixed in the neighborhood where I wrote you my Office was to be; the lady I board with lives at present in Pine, between 2d: & 3d: Streets, but we hope to move some where in the course of next month. I am not dissatisfied with my present situation, but should like a more central one if Clients were my object immediately.

The weather begins to wax warm and in ten days all my acquaintance will be gone to the Country; this is the most retired season at Philadelphia, and if the heat is not too severe I can pursue my studdies to advantage. I have, on reflection, given up the idea of buying and maintaining a quadruped this Summer, the expence is frightful and would be oppressive to a much heavier purse than mine.—I’d rather buy a few law tools to decorate the (at present) bare walls and empty tables of my Office, and trust to my heels for exercise.

I was out at Judge Peters’s Country Seat on <Thursday> Friday but heard nothing of your letter to Richard—The Judge & Lady were well & desired to be remembered at Quincy.

Poor Massachusetts! What severe losses are heaped & multiplied upon thee, by the great leveller of Science, virtue, talents and worth! The great ornaments of thy family are summoned in rapid succession to the world of spirits, & few of equal accomplishments are left to comfort thy affliction.

I am, with best love to all our friends / Sincerely Your’s

T. B. Adams

P.S. I omitted to remark on the information brought out by Mr: F Williams—The influence of Sièyès at Berlin may be considerable but the king of Prussia independent of that influence would not be induced to attack France anew—He will find it difficult to keep aloof, but the Allies will not push him into the opposite scale, if they have their Senses about them. Count Hangwitz seems to hold his Seat in the kings affections, against very powerful antagonists—He is the foster father of the present system—the Marquis of Luchesini was the reputed author & chief adviser of it. In Secret Memoirs you will find the characters of these two gentlemen.

I shall write to the President in a day or two—meantime present me kindly to him & mother—

MWA: Adams Papers.

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