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John Adams to Abigail Adams Smith, 6 February 1796

John Adams to Abigail Adams Smith

Philadelphia, February 6, 1796.

Dear Mrs. Smith:

I have received your kind letter of the first of this month.1 Mr. Langworthy appears to me, as he does to you, a man of information and good sense: how much of the projector and adventurer may be in him, time will discover; I know not his resources nor his connections. Searchers and diggers for mines have generally been as unsuccessful as inquirers after the philosopher’s stone, a universal menstruum for converting all metals into gold. I have learned from him that Mr. John Cranch is a charming painter, but without much encouragement; which I always expected would be his destination.2 Dr. Bollman, too, has called on me, and with an extravagant character for knowledge and capacity, he appears to me to be an adventurer with still less judgment and solidity. A Franklin and a Bancroft sometimes succeed, after enterprises of a very wild and irregular kind; but an hundred fail and perish in their career, before they reach their object.3 I write these few free sentiments to you, confiding in your discretion, which I very well know.

Osgood, not the Milford parson, but the quandam member of Congress and the Navy Board, my old friend and correspondent, I am told is become a great student in the prophecies of Daniel and John, and that he has lately read Homer, (so have I,) and found out that it was written by King Solomon, and that under inspiration. He has written something and printed it; but whether he has published, or only keeps copies for his particular illuminated friends, I know not.4

The world, my dear child, I think with you, is running wild, and quitting the substance to seize on a shadow. It is endeavouring to shake itself loose from every divine and moral tie, every restraint of law and government, every salutary bias of genuine discipline and virtuous education. If they could succeed, they would either wholly depopulate the earth, or at least restore the reign of savage and brutal barbarity. Oh my soul! come not thou into their secret!5

There is a youth, I mean a young generation, coming up in America, which, I hope, will make good the ground of their predecessors. You, my dear daughter, will be responsible for a great share in the duty and opportunity of educating a rising family, from whom much will be expected.

I rejoice that my grandchildren are happily through the measles, and pray you to remember me to them, as well as to their father, and all friends.

I am, my dear child, / Affectionately your father,

John Adams.

MS not found. Printed from AA2, Jour. and Corr., description begins Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, Daughter of John Adams, … Edited by Her Daughter [Caroline Amelia (Smith) de Windt], New York and London, 1841–[1849]; 3 vols. description ends 2:146–148; internal address: “To Mrs. Smith.”

1Not found.

2For the British painter John Cranch, a nephew of Richard Cranch’s, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 4, above. According to WSS, Langworthy “was the intimate friend and Companion of Mr. Cranch in England & I believe is some how related to the family” (WSS to JA, 21 Jan., Adams Papers).

3Justus Erich Bollman went into business with his brother Ludwig, primarily importing Silesian linen and exporting West Indian goods to Hamburg. In the second decade of the nineteenth century, Bollman developed a process for creating malleable platinum suitable for industrial use on a large scale (John A. Chaldecott, “Justus Erich Bollman and His Platinum Enterprises: Activities in North America and Europe before the Year 1816,” Platinum Metals Review, 25:164–165 [1981]).

4Possibly a reference to Samuel Osgood, Remarks on the Book of Daniel, and on the Revelations, N.Y., 1794, 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, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 26663. For Rev. David Osgood of Medford, see vol. 7:404.

5Genesis, 49:6.

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