Adams Papers
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William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 25 November 1798

William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia Nov 25th 1798 Sunday Evening

My dear Aunt

I have a thousand things to tell you and but a few minutes to write. We arrived in this city fryday Evening about seven Oclock— the first week we had most beautiful weather & found the roads most excellent— the President said he never knew them to be so good. but the snow made them as bad as they were before good. We had not been in the house but a few minutes before his Excellency the Govenor came in, with a couple of Gentlemen, whom he introduced to the president & then turned round & shook hands with them himself, as if he had not before seen them. “I wish to God, Mr president, you had not come till tomorrow; for I had ordered all my troops out to escort you into the city— you may depend upon it, sir, that there are not any citizens of the United States (here he let his hat fall) more attached to the federal government & to you, personally, Sir, than those of Pensylvania & they wished very much to show you their respect & attachment on this occasion. I wish to God, Sir, you had not come till tomorrow.” If the above will divert you as much as it did those who heard him, I shall not repent relating it to you, but must beg you not to show the letter to any one.1

I was very sorry to find all the way as we rode through Massachusetts, that great prejudices had been made against the land tax & Mr Packard of Malborough told us, that a Number of his parishioners had told him that they voted for Mr Varnum for no other reason than as he was a great opposer to the “Land Tax.”2 I believe it is pretty certain that if Mr. G had consented to have stood as a candidate, he would have had a very great majority.3

I have at last put the office in tolerable order & all the papers in their proper departments, but found it no small piece of business for many of the papers were loose & in confusion. I find Mr & Mrs. Brisler very good friends, they pay every possible attention to me. He has written you five or six letters since he left Trenton respecting the house &c but as they were directed to the president Mr. Hastings sent them to Philadelphia, two of them he has stopped & two will go with this.4 Brisler says he has no encouragement now to make good diners &c for there are no ladies & if every thing is ever so good, gentlemen never give any credit. He cannot find the stamp for invitation cards & we want it very much. If you recollect where it is please to write.

I want to hear how my mother went home, how my good Uncle Cranch does &c. please to write to me often, I shall write to you again in a few days. The president is pretty well & in tolerable good spirits but very much involved in business.

I am my dear aunt your affectionate nephew.

Wm S Shaw

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “W S Shaw / Novbr / 25 / 1798.”

1In the afternoon of 23 Nov. Gov. Thomas Mifflin dispatched two cavalry troops to escort JA to Philadelphia. After they had ridden outside of the city, it was reported that the president was not expected to arrive until the following day, and the troops returned thereby missing JA and Shaw’s arrival that night (Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 24 Nov.; Philadelphia Porcupine’s Gazette, 24 Nov.).

2After being instructed on 6 April to determine the need for new revenues, Robert Goodloe Harper, as chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, submitted a report in early May recommending that an additional $2 million be raised through a national direct tax. “To be laid by uniform assessment, on lands, houses, and slaves,” the tax would be apportioned to the states according to their populations. Two bills resulted from the recommendation, one authorizing the direct tax and another establishing the terms of valuation. The first was introduced by Harper on 15 May and, after lengthy debate, was passed on 12 July and signed into law by JA on 14 July. The related bill establishing how the nationwide valuation of property would function was introduced by Harper on 5 June. This also underwent extensive debate before passing both houses on 3 July and being signed into law by JA on 9 July (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 , 30:354; 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. 1563–1564, 1595–1611, 1613–1630, 1707, 1812, 1837–1855, 1869, 1893–1896, 1898–1899, 1917–1925, 2049–2061, 2066–2067; U.S. House, Jour. description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1789–. description ends , 5th Cong., 2d sess., p. 365, 366, 384; 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. 527 533 536, 538; U.S. Statues at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 1789– , Boston and Washington, D.C., 1845–. description ends , 1:580–591, 597–604).

3In the Massachusetts congressional elections, Elbridge Gerry received only 98 votes in the 2d middle district to Joseph Bradley Varnum’s 1,632 (A New Nation Votes).

4Not found.

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