Adams Papers
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William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 12 December 1798

William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia Dec 12th 1798 Wednesday morn.

My dear Aunt

The president received two letters the latest dated 3d of Dec from you last Evening with a letter inclosed for your son at Berlin which, I shall superscribe and deliver to Mr Pickering with your respects with a great deal of pleasure.1 I am very sorry to see that you were not so well as you were when you wrote the 25th of Nov. You do not write in half so good spirits.

I find Mr. Otiss family very friendly to me— I go and return when I please. I drank coffee last evening at a Mrs. Willings & there I heard Love defined in such a farcical manner by a lady, that I must tell you.2 Love she said was a very difficult thing to define, but she understood by it “a certain dizziness which kept one from minding his business.”

Mr Brisler and family are all well— he has a most excellent servant to supply Johns place & does not know what he shall do with Dexter. James the coachman has a legacy left him by a man who died with the yellow fever of fifteen hundrend pounds.

It would do you good to hear the affectinate enquires made after you by gentlemen and ladies, even Dr Logan was extremely sorry, he said that we were not to have the pleasure of Mrs Adams company this winter

I enclose to you with this, two of the Auroras, which is more inveterate than ever against the federal goverment—an excellent charge of Judge Cushings &c &c.3

I have been called below a dozen times since I began to write you, I have but little time as my own as yet. Please to excuse the carelessness of the writing &c &c & remember me to all who enquire after me. Where is Cousen L Is she so precious of her love that she can’t send a little at least to me.

Your affectionate nephew

Uncle is in tolerable good spirits

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “W Shaw decbr / 12 / 1798.”

1That is, AA to JA, 29 Nov. and 2 Dec., and to JQA, 2 Dec., all above.

2Probably Maria Benezet Willing (d. 1799), who lived at 80 Walnut Street with her husband, George Willing (Thomas Willing Balch, Willing Letters and Papers Edited with a Biographical Essay of Thomas Willing of Philadelphia (1731–1821), Phila., 1922, p. lix–lx; Boston Columbian Centinel, 17 Aug. 1799; Philadelphia Directory description begins Philadelphia Directory [title varies], issued annually with varying imprints. description ends , 1798, p. 154, 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. 34593).

3Shaw probably enclosed the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 4 and 10 Dec. 1798. On 4 Dec. an article briefly discussed Judge William Cushing’s 23 Nov. charge to the grand jury of the circuit court for the district of Virginia, which criticized Democratic-Republicans and the French Revolution, defended the Alien and Sedition Acts, and praised George Washington and JA. On 10 Dec. the Aurora printed JA’s 8 Dec. message to Congress, describing it as “less violent than that which preceded it” but also labeling it an “unfortunate” form of “speechifying” that was only useful as “a thermometer by which the heat of the political atmosphere is to be ascertained.” The article also described the U.S. Navy as “blustering,” praised Dr. George Logan for his mission to France, and further criticized the 1792 appointment of Gouverneur Morris as minister to France and JA’s account of whether the Directory sought peace (Doc. Hist. Supreme Court description begins The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800, ed. Maeva Marcus, James R. Perry, and others, New York, 1985–2007; 8 vols. description ends , 3:305–316).

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