Adams Papers
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William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 9 February 1799

William Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia Feb 9th [1799] Saturday Eve.

My dear Aunt

Yours of the 2d of Feb. I received this morning— The president says he cannot blame you for not writing oftner because you write two to him to his one—but could he write as freely as you can and had he as much leisure he should write you every day.

Last Evening we went to the play. Secrets worth knowing & the children in the woods constituted the entertainment. The plays were good but the actors most miserable. Scenes, in which one would suppose the whole soul would be interested, were recited with all the sang froid of a Dutchman.1 The president had a very severe head ache all the time. You will not hear of my going agan very soon.

Congress have passed one more bill, the 2d only, further to suspend the intercourse between the U.S. & France &c. & the president’s aprobation of which, I shall go on monday to inform the house.2 They have but three weeks to sit from to day. On monday the petitions to repeal the Alien and sedition bills & which were referred to a committe of the whole house. will be called up and it is probable will occasion considerable debate in the house.3

With affection & esteem / your

Wm. S. S—

RC (Adams Papers).

1Thomas Morton’s comedy Secrets Worth Knowing and farce The Children in the Wood were performed at Philadelphia’s New Theatre. Thomas Wignell and Rose Sydney were the leads in the comedy, which was panned in the Porcupine’s Gazette, 8 Feb.: “It has neither wit, elegance nor pathos; it has neither character, plot nor probability; it is a jumble of absurdities shocking to common sense, conveyed in language the most grovelling and spiritless.” JA’s expected attendance was announced by the Philadelphia Gazette, 8 Feb., along with the erroneous statement that AA would join him. The next day the same newspaper reported that John Darley sang a specially written ode to the president: “Let distant Wars their thunders roar, / And Europe’s plains be drench’d with gore; / Secure in Peace we firmly stand, / While Adams guards with you our Land.”

2On 9 Feb. JA signed into law an act continuing the June 1798 prohibition of American ships from entering French ports and vice versa, which was set to expire at the end of the current congressional session. The president was given the power to suspend the law at any time and to grant special clearances while it was in effect. On 11 Feb. 1799 Shaw appeared in the House of Representatives and informed members that the bill had been signed (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 1789– , Boston and Washington, D.C., 1845–. description ends , 1:565–566; 613–616; U.S. House, Jour. description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1789–. description ends , 5th Cong., 3d sess., p. 472).

3Several petitions to repeal the Alien and Sedition Acts were introduced in the House beginning on 12 February. The first was from “a number of aliens, natives of Ireland, resident within the United States,” for which see Shaw to AA, [11] Feb., and note 4, and AA to JA, 25 Feb., and note 1, both below. This was followed by others from citizens of Pennsylvania and New York. These petitions were referred to a select committee, which recommended on 25 Feb. that it was “inexpedient” to repeal the acts (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. 2884–2907, 2955, 2957–2959, 2985–2993).

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