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Thomas Boylston Adams to Abigail Adams, 12 July 1795

Thomas Boylston Adams to Abigail Adams

The Hague July 12th: 1795.

My dear Mother.

The four Letters which your last favor of April 23. mentions to have been written to me, have been received in their regular order, though some of them were nearly five months old when they came to hand.1 Accept my best acknowledgements for your kindness in writing so often; to solicit a continuance of it from you, is useless, because I know you will omit no occasion of affording to your sons, what is their chief source of consolation in their absence, the satisfaction of reading your letters.

I have not always written when my brother did, because he has frequently sent Letters by the way of England; but I have omitted no direct opportunity from this Country, which, considering the little comparative importance of my communications, may perhaps be often enough.

The intelligence you give of the gradual increase of national sentiments throughout our Country, which have discovered themselves from the Pulpit with such decision, is particularly pleasing, as it may be considered an happy presage, that the true interests of the American people, will no longer be the sport of demagogues & hypocrites. The Clergy of our Country have always been distinguished for patriotism; they have inculcated political order & obedience as the assistant & supporting handmaids of religious freedom, and when it is considered that their sentiments are the voluntary & gratuitous tribute of conviction, their value is appreciated far above the hireling offerings, of a dependent hierarchy.

Nothing can afford more real satisfaction than the certainty that our Country is prosperous, florishing & happy; progressing rapidly in improvements of an useful nature, & increasing in wealth, quite as fast perhaps as may be beneficial to us. There is doubtless much wisdom in the cautionary injunction, “make not haste to be rich,” when applied to a nation, as well as an individual, for “much wealth is corpulence” (says Young) “if not disease”.2 Projects of agrandizement often result from a sudden superfluity, and the success of them is usually proportioned to the rashness which begets them.

The pleasing picture which America exhibits at this moment, is as you observe contrasted by the terrifying & melancholy prospect of European affairs. The different powers are at this time, or probably will soon be, alltogether by the ears. Instead of any rational ground for the expectation of permanent peace, there are many circumstances, which indicate a greater extension of the war. France is still menaced, though her victories & triumphs have already cooled the courage of some who were the first to begin the contest with her; but if they have diminished the fury of these, they have also provoked & aggravated the resentment of others. Russia has already joined the coalition with England & the Emperor, and this event has not only terrified the King of Prussia into a treaty with France in expectation of a more terrible enemy in the rear, but even Denmark & Sweden are more than apprehensive of too intimate regards from the same quarter. They are almost as much alarmed at the prospect of female dominion as the Poles are impatient, though impotent under it.3

The British Ministry instead of sending an Ambassador to treat with the french Republic are said to have dispatched a Minister to reside near the person of Monsieur, now, according to their calculation, as well as actual coronation Louis 18th:. The Emigrant chair under the Prince de Condé & Count d’Artois are to be paid by the British Court; The war of the Vendée is to be kept alive still, which added to the assistance that is to be afforded from without, seems to be the solution of the scheme in part, which is to restore the Ancient Monarchy in France. The British Ministry are literally the Bankers to their Coadjutors in the trade of human buchery, and they do not hesitate also to supply the necessities of their enemies in this particular, though in the latter instance their presents will not pass muster at the Office of verification.4

What aid, support or assistance these projects may receive from the exertions of french Royalists within the territory of the Republic, I know not. Of one thing I am certain, that attachment or even good will to Great Britain, will not be the stimulating motive of them. In one thing frenchmen are united; it is a love for their Country, and a pride of character, which is superior to all their partialities, and even their resentments; and though they may be the worst enemies of each other & of themselves, they are almost universally frenchmen & lovers of France.

At Sea the french are still inferior— within little more than a twelve month they have lost 19 Ships of the Line, either by the accidents & disasters of the Ocean, or taken by the British.5 “The prayers of the unrighteous shall not avail,”6 it is said, & though the prophet Samuel devoutly bent his reverend knees “aboard the Gallic Ship, that France alone might rule the Seas,” the fixed decree, seems not to have relented of its rigor, when assailed by all the fervor of the Patriarchal devotee.

I thank you for the news-boys address; you perceive that I have turned it to account.7 Your domestic anecdotes are always acceptable, though they are sometimes painful. You enjoin upon me insensibility to female charms. Five and twenty years ago, you would perhaps have spared a young man so impracticable, not to say unfeeling, a task. Ask of my Creator to remould my nature, & perhaps I shall yield obedience to it.

Pardon my dear Mother this rhapsody; I am not often so civil to the ladies. Above all believe that filial respect & affection still reign supreme in the heart of / Your Son

Thomas B Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs: A Adams.”; endorsed: “T B Adams july / 12 1795.”

1AA had written to TBA on 30 Nov. 1794, 10 Jan., 11 Feb., and 23 April 1795 (vol. 10:279–281, 345–346, 376–379, 418–419).

2Edward Young, The Complaint; or, Night Thoughts, Night VI, line 507.

3For the Franco-Prussian treaty and the partition of Poland, see vol. 10:408, 422.

Russia had concluded an agreement with Britain in May to support British efforts against France. In exchange for recognition of the partition of Poland and £500,000, Russia would supply 55,000 troops to assist the British in reclaiming the Rhine or attacking the French coast (Jennifer Mori, William Pitt and the French Revolution 1785–1795, Edinburgh, 1997, p. 216–217).

Denmark and Sweden had both strived for neutrality in the European war. They signed an Armed Neutrality Convention in March 1794 and successfully defended their shipping in the North Sea against incursions by the British. Denmark, however, retained its neutrality in 1795, while Sweden concluded negotiations with France for a defensive alliance that provided French subsidies to further protect Sweden’s neutral shipping rights (H. Arnold Barton, Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era, 1760–1815, Minneapolis, 1986, p. 226–227).

4The British government dispatched George Macartney, Earl Macartney, on 10 July to go to Verona to meet with Louis XVIII in exile. Macartney’s mission was to persuade Louis to moderate his demands for full royalist restoration and to remain out of the conflict in exchange for British financial support. Louis accepted the money but refused further cooperation, and Macartney left Verona by Feb. 1796. Around the same time Louis Joseph de Bourbon, 8th Prince de Condé (1736–1818), was commanding a counterrevolutionary army in the Rhineland, while Charles Philippe, Comte d’Artois (later Charles X), had been forced to flee to Bremen following the defeat of the British Army in the Netherlands in the spring of 1795. There the British encouraged his involvement in the Quiberon Bay expedition, for which see TBA to JA, 13 July, and note 3, below. Artois refused but later that summer gratefully accepted exile in Britain, where he sought with some success to raise money and munitions for counterrevolutionaries in La Vendée (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements; rev. edn., description ends ; Philip Mansel, Louis XVIII, London, 1981, p. 78; Bosher, French Rev., description begins J. F. Bosher, The French Revolution, New York, 1988. description ends p. xxxi; Vincent W. Beach, Charles X of France: His Life and Times, Boulder, Colo., 1971, p. 76–87).

5The French Navy, which had been considerably strengthened in the late 1780s, lost ground during the Revolution. Noble-born officers refused to serve under the Revolutionary government, and sailors, influenced by republican principles, believed they no longer should be obliged to obey their superiors. France lacked the resources to maintain its ships, and government decisions further undermined the navy’s ability to successfully prosecute a war with Britain. Between 1793 and 1795 the French Navy lost or repurposed 40 of its 87 ships of the line. By the end of 1795 it had only 30 ships of the line it could call into service. In contrast, at that point, the British Navy had 105 ships of the line (Cambridge Modern Hist., description begins The Cambridge Modern History, Cambridge, Eng., 1902–1911; repr. New York, 1969; 13 vols. description ends 8:447–451; Jonathan R. Dull, The Age of the Ship of the Line: The British & French Navies, 1650–1815, Lincoln, Nebr., 2009, p. 128, 134, 139, 141–142).

6Possibly a reference to Proverbs, 15:29: “The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.”

7TBA quotes in the paragraph immediately above from the Hartford news carrier’s address that AA enclosed in her letter of 23 April; see vol. 10:419, note 5. The poet mocks Samuel Adams for his support of the French: “And now, O Muse! throw Candour’s veil, / O’er aged Sam, in dotage frail; / And let past services atone, / For recent deeds of folly done; / When late aboard the Gallic ship, / Well fraught with democratic flip, / He praying fell on servile knees, / That France alone might rule the seas; / While Sense and Reason took a nap, / And snor’d in Jacobinic cap” (Connecticut Courant, 5 Jan.).

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