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Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 26 April 1798

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch

April 26 1798

my dear sister

I inclose to you a National song composed by this same mr Hopkinson. French Tunes have for a long time usurped an uncontrould sway. since the Change in the publick opinion respecting France, the people began to lose the relish for them, and What had been harmony, now becomes discord. accordingly their had been for several Evenings at the Theatre something like disorder, one party crying out for The Presidents march, and yankee Doodle, whilst Ci era, was vociferated from the other it was hisst off repeatedly. the managers were blamed. their excuse was that they had not any words to the Presidents march— Mr Hopkinson accordinly composed these to the tune. Last Eve’ng they were sung for the first time. I had a Great curiosity to see for myself the Effect. I got mr otis to take a Box, and silently went off with mr & mrs otis mr & mrs Breck to the play, where I had only once been this winter. I meant now to be perfectly in cogg, so did not sit in what is calld the Presidents Box— after the Principle Peice was perford, mr Fox came upon the stage to sing the song he was welcomed by applause.1 the House was very full, and at every Choruss the most unbounded applause ensued. in short it was enough to stund one. they had the song repeated— after this Rossina was acted.2 when Fox came upon the state after the curtain dropt, to announce the Peice for fryday, they calld again for the song, and made him repeat it to the fourth time and the last time. the whole Gallery Audience broke forth in the Chorus whist the thunder from their Hands was incessant, and at the close they rose gave 3 Huzzas, that you might have heard a mile— My Head acks in concequence of it. the managers have requested the President to attend the Theater, and twesday next he goes. a number of the inhabitants have made the same request, and now is the proper time to gratify them.3 their have been six differents addresses presented from this city alone; all expressive of the Approbation of the measures of the Executive. yet dairingly do the vile incendaries keep up in Baches paper the most wicked and base, voilent & caluminiating abuse—4 it was formely considerd as leveld against the Government, but now it is contrarry to their declared sentiments daily manifested, so that it insults the Majesty of the sovereign People. but nothing will have an Effect untill congress pass a sedition Bill, which I presume they will do before they rise— not a paper from Bache press issues nor from Adams Chronical, but what might have been prossecuted as libels upon the President and Congress. for a long time they seem as if they were now desperate— the wrath of the public ought to fall upon their devoted Heads5

I shall send a paper or two because your Boston papers cannot take in one half of what these contain. mr otis’s Letter is a very judicious sensible patriotic composition, and does him great honour—

You may rely upon it from me, that not a single line from our Envoys have been received but what has been communicated, and nothing has been received from them Since the last communication.

I received your Letter of the 20 this day. I am very sorry the closet should be omitted because it wanted painting very much and does not easily dry. I wrote to the dr and proposed having the out side of the house new painted, and the Garden fence also which never was more than primed, but I would not put too many Irons at once in the fire

if you have got cousin Betsys Box or she has, as I see the vessel is arrived, you will then find what a Drapery dress is, and the young Lady will teach how it is to be put on. a Cap for You should be made as you usually wear yours, and as I wear mine, of handsome Muslin, with a pleated border or a lace— I wear no other but upon publick Evenings when I wear a Crape dress cap—

I do not wear the drapery dress myself as I consider it too youthfull for me. I have both Sides alike, but they both come forward upon the top & then fall away and are worn with a coat or the Apron lose—

will you desire mr Porter to get some slips of the Quince Tree and sit out in the lower garden

adieu my dear sister. my pen I think is scarcly ever dry. yours in Love affection

Abigail Adams

P S Since writing the above the song is printed. Bache says this morning among other impudence that the excellent Lady of the Excellent President, was present, and shed Tears of sensibility upon the occasion.6 that was a lie, however I should not have been asshamed if it had been so. I laughd at one scene which was playd, be sure untill the tears ran down I believe but the song & the manner in which it is received, is death to their Party. the House was really crouded, and by the most respectable people in the city—

RC (MWA:Abigail Adams Letters); addressed: “Mrs Mary Cranch / Quincy.”

1Gilbert Fox (1776–1807) emigrated from Britain to the United States in 1795. An engraver by training, he became a singer with the New Theatre in Philadelphia in 1798 (Pennsylvania Biographical Dictionary, 3d ed., 2 vols., St. Clair Shores, Mich., 1999).

2Rosina was a comic opera by William Shield and Frances Brooke (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements; rev. edn., description ends ).

3For the song written to the President’s March and AA’s attendance at its initial performance, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 11, above. JA, AA, and several members of the government attended the New Theatre on 1 May. As JA entered his box, “the whole audience rose, and expressed their affection for him in enthusiastic acclamations that did honour to their hearts,” and the new song was “repeatedly sung” (Philadelphia Porcupine’s Gazette, 2 May).

4The Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser printed several articles condemning recent memorials in support of JA. On 17 April one squib warned residents that Federalists were “misrepresenting the contents” of the memorials. On 21 April the newspaper cautioned that “the merchants, traders and underwriters have presented an address to the President, highly commendatory of his war measures” and that “should the voice of these men now be listened to, ruin to the farmer, manufacturer, mechanic and labourer must be the inevitable consequence.” On the 24th the signatories of the grand jury memorial were labeled “the tories of 1798,” and the article noted that “it is the extravagance of folly to attempt to bully freemen into a coincidence of sentiment, particularly by a set of men, whose partiality for Britain is evident in all their words and actions.”

5By late April there was widespread discussion of a bill to punish seditious speech against the federal government. Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison on 26 April: “One of the war-party. in a fit of unguarded passion declared some time ago they would pass a citizen bill, an alien bill, & a sedition bill. … there is now only wanting, to accomplish the whole declaration beforementioned, a sedition bill which we shall certainly soon see proposed. the object of that is the suppression of the whig presses. Bache’s has been particularly named. that paper & also Cary’s totter for want of subscriptions. we should really exert ourselves to procure them, for if these papers fall, republicanism will be entirely brow-beaten.” The Senate introduced a bill to “define and punish the crime of sedition” on 26 June; on 14 July JA signed the bill into law (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 30:299–300; U.S. Senate, Jour. description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1789–. description ends 5th Cong., 2d sess., p. 518; U.S. House, Jour. description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1789–. description ends , 5th Cong., 2d sess., p. 392).

6The Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 27 April, described the debut of “The President’s March”: “The rapture of the moment was as great, as if Louis the 18th had actually been seated on the throne of France, or John Adams had been proclaimed king of America, and the loyalty was so impressive, that even the excellent lady of his excellency (who was present) shed tears of sensibility and delight.”

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