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Abigail Adams to William Smith, 9 June 1798

Abigail Adams to William Smith

Philadelphia June 9th 1798

Dear sir

I inclose you a Bill of Lading of some flower a cask trunk and an Iron dripping pan, which I have lookd for without effect in Boston.1 you will be so good as to receive them for me, & pay the freight, which with other matters you have against me, you will charge and I will pay you in Boston, or send you from hence if you will inclose the account; Heigh ho, When Congress will rise, I can make no calculation. last Evening I conversd with a member of the House, and senate. they neither of them, gave me hope’s untill July, and even then it will depend upon circumstances; The dispatches brought by mr Hopkins & Lee, prove to be only duplicates of those before received, as the secretary of state informd me.2 The Blame of remaining in Paris, will fall upon one Man—I fear, he always had a wrong kink in his head, tho I firmly believe his Heart is Honest. there will arise one good from their having had there conferences with Tallyrand. it removes from every mind the sugestion that X. & Y. were unauthorized Agents. I hope sir Castle William will be fortified by the state or cedeed to the Government,3 that it is necessary to put it in as perfect a State of Defence as possible, must be obvious to every one.

Mr Stodard, tho he at first refused when written to by a Friend, when he found the appointment, made, and considerd the situation of the Country, finally agreed to accept for a short time, at least, and Come & See what he could do. he is expected here to day— I hope he will expidite our Frigates. what a sad story that Nicolson should be considered as unfit, & Mar the publick Buisness. he is as much talkd of here, as with you. yet he cannot be removed without Some more powerfull reasons than have yet offerd.4 these Frigates must be got to sea. they are an immence expence, without any Benifit the Buisness has lag’d along very heavily—5 we shall have large vessels from France upon us—

The Jacobins are plotting to raise the Devil here—and they are very much assisted by a party in ———— there is an endeaveur to raise a number of volunteers call’d Republican Blews, in opposition to Macphersons Blews, to excite a Spirit of hostility against each other. Baches Brother the dr is to be Captain of it.6 the Goveneurs Proclamation to call upon the Militia is a cover and was concerted by Dallis & Bache.7 Gallitin is counsellor nothing terrifies the Antis so much as the Martial Spirit which is rising through the Country, especially the volunteers Young Men— a Gentleman high in office, said the Bill ought not to pass.8 it would excite an enimity in the youth against France, and Republican Governments, which a Centry would not oblitirate. this measure of raising Republican Companies, is designed to defeat the other if possible, and to raise a spirit of hostility in the very Bosom of the city— the Republican blews will be united Irish Men—and foreigners of all descriptions. this system will be persued in unison, where ever they can dessiminate their doctrine, and have a Gov’r to countanance them. Miflin has been Spoken to, and has promised that he would not commission their officers, but he is not believed—

The young Men proceed with spirit here and exercise every morning— in Nengland we are a different kind of people from the Southern— Ned Church has written a pamphlet in Paris abusing the Presidents speech, part verse part prose, the very language & words which are daily retaild in Baches paper. I believe it impossible for honesty and truth, to reside in the Breast of a Jacobin—

Pray remember me affectionatly to mrs Smith


A Adams.

RC (MHi:Smith-Carter Family Papers); docketed: “June 1798—”

1Enclosure not found.

2Samuel M. Hopkins (1772–1837), Yale 1791, originally from Connecticut, practiced law in New York and later represented the state in Congress. In Elbridge Gerry’s opinion, Hopkins was “a man of talents & much attached to the honor & interest of his country.” William Lee (1772–1840) was a merchant from Boston who went on to serve as U.S. consul at Bordeaux and secretary of the legation at Paris. Both Hopkins and Lee had been in Paris as members of a large contingent of American merchants. They arrived in Marblehead, Mass., on 3 June carrying a duplicate of the 9 March dispatch from the commissioners, as well as a number of private letters. The private communications included a letter from Gerry to JA, letters to Thomas Jefferson from Democratic-Republicans in France, and, allegedly, a packet for Benjamin Franklin Bache from Talleyrand’s office, for which see AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 19 June, and note 4, below (Marshall, Papers description begins The Papers of John Marshall, ed. Herbert A. Johnson, Charles F. Hobson, and others, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1974–2006; 12 vols. description ends , 7:319–320; Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 30:186–187, 33:226; Gerry to JA, 17 March, Adams Papers; Stinchcombe, XYZ Affair description begins William C. Stinchcombe, The XYZ Affair, Westport, Conn., 1980. description ends , p. 81, 136; Salem Gazette, 5 June).

3For the cession of Castle Island to the federal government, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 2, above.

4Capt. Samuel Nicholson (1743–1811), born in Maryland, served in the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War and in 1794 was nominated by George Washington as captain of the frigate Constitution, then under construction. By late May 1798, Timothy Pickering had received multiple reports on Nicholson’s unpopularity and the difficulty it was posing in manning the frigate. While no specific claims of misconduct were raised, Nicholson was viewed as lacking “prudence, Judgement & reflection.” His two cruises aboard the Constitution were marked by conflict with Benjamin Stoddert, who suggested to JA that Nicholson be tasked with overseeing the construction of new frigates rather than commanding a vessel. JA agreed and Nicholson was removed from the Constitution in the spring of 1799 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty, Mark C. Carnes, and Paul Betz, eds., American National Biography, New York, 1999–2002; 24 vols. plus supplement; rev. edn., description ends ; U.S. Senate, Exec. Jour. description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1789–. description ends , 3d Cong., 1st sess., p. 160–161; Stephen Higginson to Pickering, 23 May, 6 June 1798; Timothy Williams to Pickering, 31 May, all MHi:Pickering Papers; Stoddert to JA, 19 April 1799, Adams Papers; JA to Stoddert, 27 April, LbC, APM Reel 119).

5Delays and cost overruns hampered the construction of the U.S. Navy’s first six frigates. Congress’ original 1794 appropriation of $688,888 was augmented by additional appropriations of $172,000 and $200,000 in 1797 and $115,833 and $600,000 in 1798. The frigates were launched between 10 May 1797 and 10 April 1800 (Marshall Smelser, The Congress Founds the Navy, 1787–1798, Notre Dame, Ind., 1959, p. 79, 92–99, 117–118, 131, 193; Dict. Amer. Fighting Ships description begins U.S. Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Washington, D.C., 1959–1981; 8 vols. description ends ).

6Gen. William MacPherson (1756–1813) commanded a battalion of Philadelphia militia companies during the Whiskey Rebellion. After the details of the XYZ Affair were revealed, these companies, including cavalry, artillery, and grenadiers, and composed mainly of Federalists, were regrouped under his command. In 1799 JA placed MacPherson at the head of the troops sent to quash Fries’ Rebellion. In response to the formation of the companies, Democratic-Republicans formed their own militia units, among which was the “Republican Blues” under the command of Dr. William Bache. Bache (1773–1814) trained as a physician at the University of Pennsylvania and was a founding member of the Philadelphia Chemical Society. Under Jefferson’s appointment, he later established a naval hospital in New Orleans (Gregory B. Keen, “The Descendants of Jöran Kyn, the Founder of Upland,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. description ends , 5:88–89, 91–92 [1881]; Albrecht Koschnik, “Let a Common Interest Bind Us Together”: Associations, Partisanship, and Culture in Philadelphia, 1775–1840, Charlottesville, Va., 2007, p. 121–122; Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 31:189).

7On 2 June 1798 Thomas Mifflin addressed a circular letter to the officers of the Philadelphia militia, advising a number of measures to put the volunteer brigades into a state of readiness to defend the country even as national measures of defense were under consideration. Mifflin noted, “Every enlightened statesman will surely rejoice, when he beholds in THE MILITIA OF THE UNION, a competent bulwark for its defence and safety;— superseding the necessity, and averting the danger of a numerous standing army.” AA seemingly believed that this call to the militia was an attempt to forestall the provisional army, which had been opposed by the Democratic-Republicans as a threat to liberty (Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 7 June; Elkins and McKitrick, Age of Federalism description begins Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism, New York, 1993. description ends , p. 597–598).

8AA was probably referring to a bill supplementing the recently passed authorization of a provisional army by setting forth the president’s power to federalize volunteer brigades. After extensive debate the bill passed the House on 16 June and was approved by Congress on 22 June. The “Gentleman high in office” was probably Jefferson, who opposed the plan (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 , 1:569–570; 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. 1933–1954; Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 30:299–301, 353–354).

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