Adams Papers
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From John Adams to William Cushing, 14 September 1789

To William Cushing

New York septr 14, 89

Dear Sir

I have not yet acknowledged my obligation to you for your favor of Augt 22. if my hasty scrawls written in gloomy times and desperate circumstances, have furnished you an amusement for a vacant hour I am glad of it.

My present office is as agreable to me as any public office ever can be: and my situation as pleasing as any on this earth, excepting Braintree. My compensation will be straightened to such a degree, that to live among foreign ministers, travelling Americans, Govenors, Chancellors, Judges, Senators and Repre in a style which my unmerciful Countrymen exact of all their public men, will require the consumption of the whole of it with the whole income of my private fortune added to it: and after all I shall be but poorly accommodated. But I have often been obliged to apply to myself what one of my predecessors in the Corps diplomatique in Holland, wrote to his master. The President Jeannin, Ambassador from Henry 4th of France, wrote him from Holland “Sire I have been so long used to labour a great deal, and profit little, that the habit is familiar, and I am contented.”1 Jeannin however profited more and labored less, and never ran the gauntlet among halters, axes, libels, Daggers, cannon balls, and pistol bullets as I have done, nor performed one half of the immense journeys and voyages that have fallen to my lot.

Every unpopular point is invariably left to me to determine so that I must be the scape goat, to bear all their sins, without a possibility of acquiring any share in the honor of any of their popular deeds— If legislative, my friend, and judicial work their way, and the executive has not weight to ballance the former, what will be the consequence? an unballanced Legislative is a tyranny, whether in one few or many. A more important question, than yours concerning treason, never was proposed upon any part of the constitution: and upon the right decision: of it will, in my opinion, depend the existence of government. Two sovereignties against which treason can be committed can never exist in one nation or in one system of laws.— We should soon see officers of the national government indicted convicted and executed for treason against the seperate states, for acts done by virtue of their offices and in discharge of their duty. The clause you refer to in ss: 2 Art 4 is this “A person charged in any state with treason, felony or other crime who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall, on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having jurisdiction of the crime” But this in the case of treason can mean only that the traitor may be tried, by the national judicial in the State where the crime was committed according to those words in ss: 2 Art 3 “The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment shall be by Jury: and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed.[”] I am not enough acquainted with the subject of Pyracy to form any opinion.

The character, biography and merits of our friend N—C. has been long since laid before the President, in as handsome terms as I was master of, and if he is passed by it will be from public motives only, I presume. I hope he will bear it with magnanimity: but I know not the Presidents intentions. Mrs A joins with me in kind compts: to Mrs Cushing & yourself— Your letters sir are not like hundred I receive— They contain profound and useful enquiries, a continuance of them will be a favor to

J Adams

LbC in CA’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “C Justice Cushing”; APM Reel 115.

1JA read and admired the tactics of French diplomat Pierre Jeannin (1540–1622), who negotiated the Twelve Years’ Truce of 1609 between the northern Netherlands and Spain (JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:398; Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générate description begins Jean Chrétien Ferdinand Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends ). JA’s mention of Jeannin suggests that he had begun composing his reflections on the civil wars that afflicted Henry IV’s reign, for which see John Adams’ Discourses on Davila, 28 April 1790–27 April 1791, Editorial Note, below.

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