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Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 22 April 1798

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch

22 April Philadelphia 1798

my Dear sister

By the post of yesterday I received yours of April 151 as the post will now go more frequently I hope you will get Letters more regularly It was very unfortunate for Mrs Porter, to have mr sole taken sick the very day after he came, and the more so because she is now encumberd with more buisness. I have written the dr. that I think it would be best to through two Chambers into one and to have access to it from without by stairs, which Chamber may hold all the Books in regular order, and be a pleasent Room for the President to do buisness in, as we are so confind in the House there are in the granery some Book shelves which may be made to answer in addition to those we have, and may be new painted—2 I mean to have the whole executed without Mr Adams knowing any thing of the accommodation untill he sees it and when the building is finishd for the Book Room, I must request Brothers Cranch to see the putting the Books up in order. the Room now used for the Books will serve mrs Porter for a Lodging Room. The Gentlemen say they will let me go home early in June, but it is difficult to keep the good Men together. there are now absent nine Federal senators, from some excuse or other, some for a fortnight, some for three weeks, and some for the remainder of the session.3 I think it difficult to excuse absence at so Critical a period. the Antis, all stick by, tho the senate are strong; yet they appear to be weak from the absence of so many federal men— in the House they are become so strong, as to do Buisness by a considerable Majority. the Jesuit Gallatin is as subtle and as artfull and designing as ever, but meets with a more decided opposition, and the Party, tho many of them as wicked as ever, are much weakened by some whose consciences will not let them go all lengths with them. as the French have boasted of having more influence in the united states, than our own Government, the Men who now espouse their cause against their own Country, and justify their measures, ought to be carefully mark’d, they ought to be brought into open light. Addresses from the Merchants Traders & underwriters have been presented and signd by more than 500 of Men, of the greatest Property here in this city, highly approveing the measures of the Executive. a similar one from the Grand Jurors, one from york Town, and yesterday, one from the Main Aldermen & common counsel of the city a very firm and Manly address. others are comeing from N york from Baltimore, and I presume Boston will be no longer behind than time to consult, upon the measure. they must in this way shew the haughty Tyrennts, that we are not that divided people we have appeard to be; their vile Emissaries make all our trouble, and all our difficulty. a Report is in circulation that Our Envoys left Paris for London on the 16 Feb’ry but nothing has been received from them here later than Jan’ry 8th tho many Rumourd accounts of dispatches, has been circulated4

I would recommend to my countrymen the judicious observations of mr Burk, who says []a Great state is too much envied, too much dreaded, to find safety in humiliation To be Secure, it must be respected, Power and Eminence, and consideration are things not to be begged. they must be commanded and they who suplicate mercy from others, can never hope from justice through themselves. often has a Man lost his all because he would not submit to hazard all in defending it.”5

See the opinion of the French minister at Berlin upon our Naval defence. Mr Adams writes, I have had some conversation with the French Minister here concerning the New law against Neutral navigation which he admitted as contrary to the Law of Nations. But he says it is only a necessary Retaliation against the English, and if the Neutral Nations will suffer the English to all their vessels, the French must do the same I told him without being disposed to justify or apologize for the Predatory practise of England, which I utterly detested, I must say they never had been carried to an extent any thing resembling this regulation— That besides England was now making indemnification for many of the depredations committed under coulour of her Authority, that if the Principle of Retaliation alledged as a warrant for this new measure on the part of France were founded there could never be any such thing as Neutrality in any maritine war, for that it would require every Neutral power to Make War upon the first instance of improper capture of a vessel under her flag.— No said he, that is not necessary, but the Neutral powers should shew a firm countanance, and determined resolution to Mantain its Rights and send all its commerce under convoy.— I askd him what a power was to do that had no ships of war to give as convoys?— He said they must raise sufficient for the purpose—6 this you see is the opinion of even a French Minister, yet no longer ago than fryday. our House of Rep’s sit till near 8’ oclock combatting Gallatins motion, that the President should be restricted from useing the ships built & to be built as convoys in time of Peace, thinking I presume as he could not prevent their being built, he would defeat the use of them at this present time, as France had not declared War, and it was not probable we should, the Federilists cast out the motion by 50 to 34—7

I believe I have wearied you with politicks. I wrote mrs Black last week, and in hopes that she might get the Letter sooner inclosed it to mr smith, who when it arrives may be absent, which I regreet please to tell her that I received her Letter of the 16 yesterday8 that since I took the child from mr Black, he nor his Housekeeper have not been near it, that they retaind all the Cloaths which the child had except what it had on, and those which mrs Black Sent it. I knew it must have more clouts or it could not go the journey. never having had more than 8—I have therefore got some diaper and made 13 for it, a couple of yellow flannel coats & two calico slips, all of which we have made and if mr Black does not think proper to give up the other things, I will see that the Baby shall have every necessary article. I shall be answerable to the Nurse for its Board, but they made the poor thing sick by taking it out in the Evening and giving it Rum, the Nurse says to make it sleep. it was more uneasy and gave her more trouble than when it was sick with the small Pox— I was quite unhappy about it it is better now, and I expect to see it to day. I believe I should have lost it, if they had kept it a week, and gone on in the way they began.— I shall rejoice when I hear it is safe with its Patron and Benefactress— let me know when the Box for cousin Betsy arrives. has mrs Norten been unwell? I hope it is not her old sickness.— my Love to her. when she is Blessd with a daughter I shall think she deserves well of her Country—and need no further aid it with Recruits—

I quite long to see you all. I do hope the buildings will be all finished so that Mrs Porter may be able to remove into them when we come. I should like to have the kitchin floor & stairs painted, and the chamber floor where the Girls used to sleep. I hope particular attention will be paid to the chimny peice in the parlour to get the smoak of that it may dry—

I inclose 5 dollors. will you be so good as to get something of the value of a couple of dollors & present to mrs Porter. perhaps a new Bonnet might be acceptable. I will not confine you to two dollors— please to pay sister smith as she knits & keep her supplied with cotton. I will put ten dollors instead of 5 in, that you may draw upon it for a load of wood to Pheby if she wants or Bread corn—

I sent to get an other of mr Harpers Books to send to the Library, but tho two thousand were Printed they are all gone. a new Edition is comeing out9

I am my dear sister / most affectionatly / your / Sister

A Adams

Mrs otis who with her Family always dine with us on sundays desires to be rememberd to you we live like sisters—

my dear sister the Aniversary of this day awakens all my feelings.10 is poor suky yet living?

The Baby has been to see me to day. it grows very fat since it had the small pox. I dont think it half so pretty since as it was before yesterday the nurse went to mr Blacks and they sent it what things it had. they had got over their anger, but said they would take it away at the end of a fortnight, but I do not believe them—

my pens are very bad but I cannot copy my scrawls—

RC (MWA:Abigail Adams Letters).

1In her letter to AA of 15 April, Cranch mentioned the construction at Peacefield. She also described the reaction to JA’s hesitance to publish the envoys’ dispatches and instructions: “Tis hard, very hard indeed, that the People Should Shew Such a jealousy & want of confidence in the President after Such proofs as he has repeatedly given of his wisdom & faithfulness & his unshaken attatchment to the true interest & Safety of his Country. will people never reason? must they be drub’d into the use of their Senses? what mules they are— Tis in the Power of a few designing artful men to lead them astray at any time” (Adams Papers).

2AA to Cotton Tufts, 16 April, for which see Tufts to AA, 31 March, note 1, above.

3In addition to Joshua Clayton, the Federalist senators who obtained leave between 12 and 18 April were Elijah Paine and Nathaniel Chipman, both of Vermont, and James Lloyd of Maryland. John Sloss Hobart of New York resigned his seat on 16 April, after receiving an appointment to the federal judiciary. James Gunn of Georgia had obtained leave for the remainder of the session on 14 March, and John Rutherford of New Jersey does not appear to have attended the session prior to July. The remaining Federalist senators had all been present as recently as 19 April (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. 455, 471–475, 524).

4AA was possibly referring to the Philadelphia Carey’s United States’ Recorder, 21 April, which reported, “A vessel in a short passage from London, seen going into Baltimore, reported, that the American commissioners had left Paris, and were in London.”

5AA paraphrased two paragraphs from Burke, Letters on a Regicide Peace description begins Edmund Burke, Two Letters Addressed to a Member of the Present Parliament, on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France, Philadelphia, 1797, Evans, No. 31895. description ends , p. 8.

6The conversation AA recounted here derives almost verbatim from JQA’s letter to Timothy Pickering of 30 Jan., in which he commented on the likelihood of a French invasion of England and the fact that it was “embroiling herself by turns with every inferior power which in its ruin may satiate her ever growing avidity.” JQA further reported the arrest of the Portuguese and Roman ministers in France and described French efforts to bring the Swiss cantons to heel (LbC, APM Reel 132).

7A bill authorizing JA to purchase or build additional vessels “for the protection of the trade of the United States” led to a protracted and heated debate in the House of Representatives between 18 and 20 April, during which Albert Gallatin proposed an amendment that the vessels “shall not, in time of peace, be employed as convoys to any foreign port or place.” Gallatin admitted that French depredations and the recent decree against neutral shipping were offensive, but he argued that convoys could not successfully protect maritime trade and could lead to war, thereby harming American commerce more than if French privateering was submitted to for the time being. John Allen, a Federalist from Connecticut, condemned Gallatin’s argument, accusing him of being an agent of French influence in the United States. Gallatin’s motion was defeated 49 to 34, and the bill was enacted on 27 April (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 , 5th Cong., 2d sess., p. 1440, 1466–1521; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, Washington, D.C., 2005; rev. edn., description ends ; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 1789–, Boston and Washington, D.C., 1845–. description ends , 1:552).

8Esther Duncan Black’s letter to AA of 16 April has not been found.

9The third edition of Robert Goodloe Harper’s Observations on the Dispute Between the United States and France was published in Philadelphia in May (Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 33841).

10AA was likely referring to the deaths of Mary Smith and Susannah Boylston Adams Hall, for which see her letter to JA of 23 April 1797, above.

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