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Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 24 May 1797

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch

Philadelphia May 24 1797

my dear sister

I keep up My old Habit of rising at an early hour. if I did not I should have little command of my Time at 5 I rise from that time till 8 I have a few leisure hours. at 8 I breakfast, after which untill Eleven I attend to my Family arrangements. at that hour I dress for the Day. from 12 untill two I receive company, sometimes untill 3. we dine at that hour unless on company days, which are tuesdays & thursdays after dinner I usually ride out untill seven. I begin to feel a little more at Home, and less anxiety about the ceremonious part of my Duty, tho by not having a Drawing Room for the Summer I am obliged every day, to devote two Hours for the purpose of seeing company. tomorrow we are to dine the secretaries of state &c with the whole senate. the Male Domesticks I leave wholy to Brisler to hire and to dismiss; the Female I have none, but those I brought with me, except a Negro woman who is wholy with the Cook in the kitchin, and I am happy in not having any occasion for any others for a very sad set of creatures they are. I believe this city is become as vile and debauched as the city of London—nay more so, for in the lower classes, much more respect is had to Character there Speculation in Property in politicks and in Religion have gone very far in depraving the morals of the higher, classes of the people of our Country.

You will see by the Chronical I presume that the Tone of the Jacobins is turnd, and that the president has committed with them the unpardonable sin “by saying; that he was convinced that the conduct of the Government had been just and impartial to foreign Nations” Bache opend his batterys of abuse and scurility the very next day, and has in every paper continued them, extracts of which I dout not the Faithfull Chronical will detail.1 the answer of the Senate You will find equally firm and decided as the speech. I call it a supporting answer. the House cannot yet get theres through. the Antis, want to qualify. they dare not openly countanance the conduct of France, but they want to court and coax, her.2 with Barra’s insolent speech before their Eyes and Pincknys dispatches, which fully prove the unbecomeing and indignant conduct of France toward the united states, these degraded Beings would still have their Country men “lick the Hand just raisd to shed their Blood”3 amongst that number is Freeman of our state, who yesterday appeard a full blood Jacobin in his speech in the House. Langdon in the senate is more bitter than, even Mason or any Virginian. Mr otis I am told appeard to great advantage; and was much admired in a speech of considerable Length.4

I want to hear from you again You must write to me once a week. how does mr & mrs Porter succeed. I will thank you to get from the table Draw in the parlour some Annetto and give it to mrs Burrel, and tell her to make her cheese a little salter this Year.5 I sent some of her cheese to N York to Mrs smith and to mr Adams which was greatly admired and I design to have her Cheese brought here. when she has used up that other pray dr Tufts to supply her with some more, and I wish mrs French to do the Same to part of her Cheese, as I had Some very good cheese of hers last Year. in my best chamber closset I left a white Bonnet. be so kind as to take it and give it for me to mrs Norten. in a small wooden Box is a new crape cap which I designd to have sent here, but omitted it untill my other things were gone. will you get it & fasten it down to the Box by making a Small hole or two and then putting a thread through the cap & Box. in my Bathing machine you will find a peice of canvass which will cover the Box. You will have it addrest & give it into mr smiths care who will send it to me— I have Bacon in Boston which I should be glad to have sent. mr Belcher knows about it. dr Tufts will pay the expence when requested—

my Respects to Brother Cranch & to Mrs Welch Love to cousin Betsy from your / ever affectionate sister

A Adams

RC (MWA:Abigail Adams Letters); endorsed by Richard Cranch: “Letter from Mrs / A Adams (Pha:) / May 24: 1797.”

1The Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 17 May, printed JA’s 16 May speech to Congress, and the following day attacks on JA’s “war speech” began. The final paragraph of the speech, quoted in part by AA here, was challenged by the Aurora, 19 May: “How can he redress injuries and correct errors when he is ‘convinced’ that none have been ever committed by government. The plain language of this is, I will make a shew of negociation with the French Republic and if they will take for granted all I shall say to them, and subscribe to the justice, impartiality and uprightness of the administration, we will not go to war with them; but if they should dare to have an opinion of their own, and insist that we have injured and decieved them, then I will let loose the dogs of war upon them, and devour them at a snap. Does Mr. Adams suppose that ‘the most enlightened nation upon earth,’ are to be gulled by such bare face artifice? If he can believe this, he must suppose himself the President of a nation of Ourang Outangs instead of men.” For the comments by the Boston Independent Chronicle, see Cranch to AA, 29 May, and note 7, below.

2On 24 May the Senate presented its response to JA’s address, offering its approbation of the “vigilance, firmness, and promptitude” exhibited by JA in convening Congress and, as a possible rebuke to the House of Representatives, noting, “it is an object of primary importance, that each branch of the Government should adopt a language and system of conduct, which shall be cool, just, and dispassionate; but firm, explicit, and decided.” The Senate endorsed JA’s plan to seek a diplomatic resolution with France and pledged to give due consideration to his recommendations for defensive measures, believing that “the present session of Congress will manifest to the world, that, although the United States love peace, they will be independent” (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., 1st sess., p. 12–15).

3The speech given by Paul Barras at the time of James Monroe’s recall, for which see vol. 11:489, and the dispatches from Charles Cotesworth Pinckney regarding his dismissal by the Directory were among the eighteen state papers submitted to Congress at JA’s behest on 19 May documenting French actions. Ordered published by the House, the papers were printed in the regular and a special supplementary edition of the Philadelphia Gazette, 22 May (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., 1st sess., p. 64–67).

AA quoted from an article in the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 29 March, condemning Monroe’s praise of France when presenting his letters of recall. The writer, “No French Patriot,” castigated Monroe’s actions: “Americans who love their country, cannot kneel to those who have robbed them, cannot court a continuance of robberies, and lick the hand just raised to shed their blood. For tho’ you could crouch, and kneel, and lick and fawn on such an occasion, your fellow citizens can feel nothing but contempt, and for the Directory who requires of the United State, an act that would prostrate them in the dust, the utmost indigination.

4The House on 22 May took up consideration of a proposed reply to JA’s 16 May address. Partisan debate, largely concerning the language to be included regarding France, delayed approval of a final version until 2 June. Both Nathaniel Freeman Jr. and Harrison Gray Otis spoke during the debates of 23 May, the former voicing “two principal objections” to the proposed answer’s “unequivocal approbation of all the measures of the Executive respecting our foreign relations” and the “expressions of resentment and indignation towards France.” He argued that the rejection of the U.S. minister by France “was not a breach of the law of nations,” and while he did not “consider the conduct of the French as perfectly justifiable,” he did not believe it warranted “irritating or violent measures” by the United States. Conversely, Otis argued that the House reply “should not be a spiritless expression of civility, but a new edition of the Declaration of Independence.” He did not favor war, but he supported U.S. defensive measures: “Do gentlemen suppose that when negotiation shall have absolutely failed, the French will give us time to equip our vessels, fortify our ports, and burnish our arms, in order to show us fair play? Let gentlemen consider our defenceless situation in such circumstances; let them not pause until it shall be too late” (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., 1st sess., p. 67, 88–93, 103–108, 233–234).

5Mary Dunbar Burrell (b. 1742), originally of Hingham, had married Peter Burrell in Weymouth in 1761. Anatta or anatto is an orange-red plant dye of Central American origin used in cheese making (History of Hingham description begins History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, Hingham, 1893; 3 vols. in 4. description ends , 2:198; Sprague, Braintree Families description begins Waldo Chamberlain Sprague, comp., Genealogies of the Families of Braintree, Mass., 1640–1850, Boston, 1983; repr. CD-ROM, Boston, 2001. description ends ; OED description begins The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d edn., Oxford, 1989; 20 vols.; rev. edn., description ends ).

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