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Abigail Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 15 July 1799

Abigail Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams

15 july 1799

dear son Thomas—

I know not how it is, but I always feel more spirits when I take my pen to write to you, than to any one else; I received a friendly Letter from dr Rush.1 the Good Gentleman endeavours to do away all the suspis he so innocently raised, and in doing it, your Father observed that it was ten to one. if he did not go to prateing to the Bishop or his daughters, and excite some Idea that he had been serious. he was not opposed to that or any other repu[tab]le Family, but only anxious that his sons should not [co]nnect themselves untill they could support themselves— [. . .]ow Thomas, as it respects you, I have never myself felt an anxious moment. I am for leaving you to act yourself, well assured that you will weigh the subject maturely, and act judiciously. you are out of your teens, and you know what are the duties incumbent upon you. I am much more anxious for your Health, in that oven; if the fever should prevail, instead of taking up your residence in that bake House at Germantown, I desire you to step on Board a packet at Nyork and come to Quincy. if the fever takes possession of Philadelphia, you will find neither buisness or study so near the contagion; and you can return the same way, without being more expensive than your Board would be— your Father is of the same opinion— I hope to be able to go on this year to Philadelphia, and that early in the season, if the plague does not prevent it. my Health is getting better and fir[me]r I hope. I avoid all large parties. I should have been glad to have heard the oration upon the 4 July, but durst not venture, any more than to commencment. the President has been very good humourd, and gratified the citizens by going to Launching, to Election twice to the 4 July and now to commencment,2 but Boston folks think they can never have enough of a good thing, and as they run mad after their dear allies, they are now running Mad, at getting rid of them, and the Young Men of Boston must needs [to] celebrate the 7 of July, as a Memorable day—a day [. . .] dissolved our connection with France. an oration m[ust] be pronounced—and they must chuse a committe & send them out to request the President of the united states to attend young Men you will readily suppose—and this too at seven oclock of the morning of Commencment day—and these young Men must come up, total strangers, without any Body to introduce them, or make their Names known—and as ill luck would have it, a whole carriage of officers from the constitution must arrive at the same time—as unknown as the Young Men— a very Hot day, the P   just returnd from a Ride—and all this you will say, was not well timed, or conducted— the invitation was improper, the refusal not so well modified as I wish’d, the young men mortified, I felt it. I wanted to have accommodated the negative to their motives, which tho not judicious, were well meant; a sudden institution for celebrating an event, which tho fortunate to our Country, ought not to be sanctiond by the presence of the Head of the Nation, whose every public act, must be scrutinized both at Home, and abroad— young Men for action, old men for Counsel—3

I was much amused with a reply to a Letter of the s——y of W——rs the other day, and I could not refrain sending it you, but you must not whisper it. little Mac, with great importance, as tho he was addressing a young Man just entering upon Life—asserts what is of the most essential importance towards supporting the dignity and independance of the Nation—4

when you want to write me secreets as I know you sometimes doinclose under cover to William— he says he sent you an oration. it is a Handsome thing—5 all the good folks in Quincy send abundance of Love— So does your affectionate / Mother

[A Adams—]

RC (Adams Papers); addressed by William Smith Shaw: “Thomas B Adams Esqr. / Philadelphia”; endorsed: “Mrs: Adams / 15 July 1799 / 20th: Recd / 21st: Ansd.” Some loss of text where the seal and signature were removed.

2The press noted that JA attended Boston Independence Day celebrations, which began with an artillery salute at sunrise. A military escort paraded dignitaries to the Old South Meeting House for prayers and an oration by John Lowell, for which see note 5, below. The procession then continued to the home of Lt. Gov. Moses Gill for a dinner. The Harvard commencement was held on 17 July, a “solemnity” that the Boston Independent Chronicle, 15–18 July, noted “was honored with the presence of the beloved President of the Union” (Massachusetts Mercury, 5 July; Boston Independent Chronicle, 4–8 July; Boston Russell’s Gazette, 8 July). For JA’s attendance at the launch of the frigate Boston and the elections, see AA to TBA, 2 June, and note 7, above.

3A group of young men from Boston met on 10 July to prepare a program to honor the 7 July anniversary of the voiding of the Franco-American treaties. Having chosen 17 July for the celebration, which coincided with the Harvard commencement, the group planned an early morning prayer, the singing of “Adams and Liberty,” and a speech by Boston printer Thomas Paine. They further asked that all men participating in a procession from Faneuil Hall wear the American cockade. On 13 July a committee went to Quincy to request JA’s attendance. JA “politely expressed himself obliged to the gentlemen for the invitation, but that the fatigues he should necessarily undergo, in consequence of his engagements for Commencement, rendered his attendance impossible.” The celebration nevertheless took place and was praised in Boston newspapers (Boston Russell’s Gazette, 11, 22 July; Massachusetts Mercury, 12, 16 July; Boston Independent Chronicle, 15–18 July).

4In a 29 June letter to JA (Adams Papers), James McHenry emphasized that the army was “essential to the maintenance of our proper grade among the powers of the earth.” In his 7 July reply, JA responded, “As It is an excellent Principle for every Man in public Life, to magnify his office and make it honourable I admire the Dexterity with which you dignify yours by representing an Army and means adequate to its Support as the first thing necessary to make the nation respected” (DLC:James McHenry Papers).

5William Smith Shaw had sent TBA John Lowell’s An Oration, Pronounced July 4, 1799, at the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, Boston, 1799, 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.; rev. edn., description ends No. 35747, in which Lowell argued that it was improper to compare the French and American Revolutions. Where the American Revolution “had its origin in the justest principles, in the noblest feelings, in the purest motives,” he argued that the French Revolution had thrown all those principles into confusion, and he called on Americans to confront and repel the French for “then should United America join in one choral gratulation of ’ADAMS, LAW, AND LIBERTY’” (p. 10, 26).

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