Adams Papers
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William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 28 December 1798

William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia Dec 28th. 1798 Fryday Evening

My dear Aunt

Not a single letter have we received from you since Monday. Uncle sighs and says, I wish Aunt would write oftener and I sigh and say, Ah! if she knew half the happiness her letters gave to you us, I am sure she would write every day in the week.

Congress debates have been warm and interesting for two days past on Mr. Griswolds motion respecting punishing interferences in the government &c. but it is decided in our favor sixty five to twenty three. Gallatin was very lengthy but I could not understand scarcely a word he said—this mortified me not a little.1 What! exclaimed I, am I here present before the Legislature of my Country and shall there be an individual, who speaks in such a broken language, that I can not understand him? Don’t you think, Aunt, Gallatin, when he began in life adopted the resolution of King Richard.— “Since I am not shaped for sportive tricks, nor made to court an amorous looking glass—I that am rudely stamped &c. &c am determined to prove a villain—have sworn to be subtle false and treachorous.2

Yesterday we had a second great dinner & twenty eight gentlemen to dine. We had no levy tuesday, christmas. In one of your letters to me, you ask how I succeed in these publick days? You should have asked the president and not me, for you may be certain I never will say any thing against myself.

I feel woried about my mother. I have not had a letter from her since I arrived here, & I begin to be afraid that she is sick. We have had a great thaw and the snow is almost gone. I dont remember a severer winter at the Eastward, than we have had here this season.

Please to remember me affectionately to all and believe me to be / your &c

I send you with this letter, a large bundle, but not of newspapers.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “W S shaw 28 / December 1798.”

1On 26 Dec., in response to Dr. George Logan’s unauthorized mission to France, Connecticut representative Roger Griswold called for a committee to consider amending the Sedition Act to include the “interference” of private citizens in U.S. diplomatic affairs. The resolution, as well as the larger implications of Logan’s actions, were debated on 27 and 28 December. Robert Goodloe Harper led Federalist support, arguing that the resolution would prevent domestic factions, acting in their own interest, from harming national foreign policy. He also argued that Logan’s mission was motivated by the views and goals of the Democratic-Republican Party rather than simply a zeal for peace. Albert Gallatin and John Nicholas led the response, arguing that the language of the resolution was too vague and opposing the expansion of executive power. They also voiced the belief that uncritical support of the government was more to be feared than devotion to France. The vote described by Shaw approved Griswold’s resolution, and a resulting bill was taken up on 9 Jan. 1799. It was passed in a 58 to 36 vote by the House on 17 Jan., and an 18 to 2 vote by the Senate on 25 January. On 30 Jan. JA signed into law what became known as the Logan Act, making it a crime for a U.S. citizen to “commence, or carry on, any verbal or written correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government, or any officer or agent thereof” without authorization (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., 3d sess., p. 2205–2206, 2488–2489, 2493–2546, 2583–2648, 2677–2682, 2686–2721; 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 , 1:613).

2Shakespeare, King Richard III, Act I, scene i, lines 14–16, 30, 37.

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