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William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 18 December 1798

William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia Dec 18th. 1798 Tuesday morning.

I have long been wishing to find time to give my aunt a history of the visit of Dr. Logan to the president, the monday after we arrived in the city. He began by saying that he was extremely sorry that we are not to have the pleasure of Mrs Adams company this winter in this city. The president thanked him. He then said, that he had just come from France and that he had the pleasure to inform the president that the directory had altered their conduct respecting America and had become more pacifick. Why then, said the president, have they not repealed their decrees against our commerce? here Logan stammered and said they were making preparations to do it,—and that he had not the least doubt if he were to send a minister to France, but that he would received. Do you believe said the president if we were to make a treaty with France that she would observe it the first advantageous opportunity she had to break it? Logan said, Oh yes—that the firm and united conduct of the Americans had proved to the directory the impolicy of their conduct. Here the president burst into a broad laugh. Logan said he believed that Tallyrand was a villain but that three of the directory, one of which was Merlin, were honest men— honest men exclaimed the president. You know better Dr Logan— you know that they are the most abandoned and unprincipled set of beings on Gods earth— it is impossible for any one, who has been to France to know otherwise. Here Logan seemed to want some lurking place like the turtle to draw in his head and to hide his face. The president asked him, in the course of the conversation, whom he should send to France. Should he send Mr. Maddison, Mr Burr or even Dr Logan, known opposers to the government or should he send Govenor Jay, did he think the French directory would receive him. Logan said he thought they would. As Logan rose up to go, he said that but three persons knew of his going to France, J. M & Miflin and they only gave him certificates that he was an American citizen. Why said the president you told Johseph Woodward & he told me that Genet, J. and Miflin only knew of your intentions of going & that it was through Genet’s influence that your gained your passport. Here Logan seemed not to know what to say & evidently wished to appear to take no notice of the presidents assertion and to have it passed unnoticed, but the president repeated it and Logan after stammering a little said it must be a mistake he had not seen Genet these eighteen months and never received a letter from him in his life. Thus after being contradicted and caught in two or three most horrid lies all which he bore very well, he marched off, leaving the president and myself laughing1

I have given you, my Aunt, with a tolerable patience, a very inaccurate sketch of Envoy Logan’s visit to the president; & I should not be a son of those men, who fought for the freedom and independence of their country, and sealed their liberty by their blood, did not the fire of indignation kindle in my bosom at such a base, impudent & wicked infringement on the sovreignty of my country.

Logan told Dr Rush that the president treated him with the greatest civility and politeness possible. There is no doubt, I am well informed, but that Logan will be elected a representative for this state.2 This, like most of my letters, will not do to be seen.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “W S Shaw Decbr / 18 / 1798.”

1Joseph Woodward (ca. 1759–1838), a merchant and Braintree’s former surveyor of highways, was in Paris during Dr. George Logan’s unauthorized mission to France. He returned to the United States before Logan, carrying with him duplicate dispatches from Fulwar Skipwith, U.S. consul general at Paris, and an unsigned memorial to Talleyrand, attributed to Logan, that lamented the deterioration of Franco-American relations and called for reconciliation between the two nations. Woodward presented the memorial to JA in Quincy on 1 Nov., claiming that it had been “presented by Dr. Logan to the French minister, & was procured for him by Mr. Richard Codman.” Woodward also alleged that Edmond Charles Genet remained “the principle conductor under hand, of all the French affairs in this country,” largely because it was Genet who procured a passport for Logan to travel to France. Robert Goodloe Harper presented the memorial to Congress during the debates that resulted in the Logan Act, attributing it to Logan (vol. 8:360; Boston Courier, 2 July 1838; Tolles, George Logan description begins Frederick B. Tolles, George Logan of Philadelphia, New York, 1953. description ends , p. 175, 179–180; Samuel Eliot Morison, The Life and Letters of Harrison Gray Otis, Federalist, 1765–1848, 2 vols., Boston, 1913, 1:170–171; JA to Timothy Pickering, 2 Nov. 1798, LbC, APM Reel 119; 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. 2619–2626). For the Logan Act, see Shaw to AA, 28 Dec., and note 1, below.

2Following Matthew Hutson’s resignation, Logan was elected to the Penn. house of representatives on 21 Dec., defeating Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg. Logan served until 1801, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate (Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser, 24 Dec. 1798; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, Washington, D.C., 2005; rev. edn., description ends ).

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