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Thomas Boylston Adams to William Smith Shaw, 29 June 1799

Thomas Boylston Adams to William Smith Shaw

Philadelphia 29th: June 1799.

Dear William

I am favored with your’s of the 23d: instt: and the enclosures—one of which is herewith returned.1

The Lieutenant Governor’s address is quite equal to my expectations, and there is little doubt with me, that he will rise a peg higher, merely, or chiefly because the people would not be united in any man of more capacity and talents.2 If any considerable interval take place prior to a new election, other candidates will be brought forward and I think there will be some risk of a division of the federal interest, which may turn the scale in favor of our General, who will doubtless be found at his post on a new trial of electioneering strength. A suggestion of this sort might be serviceable in the newspapers.3

I have nothing particular to communicate— The weather has been & still is intensely hot; for two days successively the thermometer stood at 92%, but since then we have had a thunder storm or two, which have cooled us a little. Reports are circulated almost daily of cases having already occurred of the yellow fever. The doctors deny most positively that anything so bad exists, though several very sudden deaths have occurred. We expect continual alarm, but no vessel has yet arrived upon which the burthen of importation can be thrown; about the beginning of August we may expect one. The heat is sufficiently intense to create a plague almost of itself.4

Our Court is still sitting— On monday another begins—in short there is very little intermission at this Season.

Great preparations are making for the 4th: by all the military gentlemen. I am invited to dine with the Cincinnati.5

What has become of the answer you expect, I cannot conjecture. It was sent nearly a month ago, but I believe by a private hand.

I should have sent you Fries’s trial, but it has never been published; a new trial having been granted by the Court, the publication would have been improper.6

Give my regards & love where due and accept the best esteem / of

T. B. Adams.7

PS. I am very sure you will thank me, for reminding you that your Orthography grows worse & worse. I know my own to be incorrect occasionally, but I use a dictionary for the most part when writing. “Do thou likewise.8

RC (MWA:Adams Family Letters); addressed: “William S. Shaw / Quincy”; internal address: “W. S. Shaw.”; endorsed: “Phila June 29th / T B. Adams / rec 6 July / Ansd 7th.”; docketed: “1799 / June 29.”

1Not found.

2Following Gov. Increase Sumner’s death, Lt. Gov. Moses Gill addressed the Mass. General Court on 13 June, emphasizing the necessity of reciprocal cooperation between Massachusetts politicians and the federal government. He stated that in his new role as acting governor he would nominate only qualified people for public office and also commented on the importance of religion and education in upholding the “spirit of our Constitution of Government.” The speech was printed in the Boston Columbian Centinel, 15 June (Mass., Acts and Laws description begins Acts and Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [1780–1805], Boston, 1890–1898; 13 vols. description ends , 1798–1799, p. 637–64:).

3The next election in Massachusetts was held in April 1800; Federalist Caleb Strong was elected governor, defeating Elbridge Gerry. Gen. William Heath, whom Sumner defeated in 1799, received only a few votes in 1800 (A New Nation Votes).

4On 23 June 1799 Joseph Ashmead died “of an Inflammatory bilious fever,” and three days later John Parker died “suddenly,” possibly prompting rumors that yellow fever was circulating in Philadelphia. On 1 July TBA noted that the disease had “made its appearance in Penn Street” with a vessel in the city’s harbor alleged to be “the container of the original seeds.” The ship and its cargo had been sealed, and when they were opened, “a dreadful stench proceeded from the place, and several people very shortly after sickened.” TBA added that it was “not yet pronounced an epidemic, tho’ it has excited very great alarm” (Philadelphia Gazette, 24 June; Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 27 June, 5 July; TBA, Diary, 1798–1799).

5Philadelphia’s Fourth of July celebrations were marked by military displays and “rational pleasure and social intercourse.” TBA attended an event hosted by the Pennsylvania branch of the Society of the Cincinnati at Oeller’s Hotel. Its attendees included cabinet members Timothy Pickering, James McHenry, Benjamin Stoddert, and Oliver Wolcott Jr., as well as Edward Shippen (Philadelphia Gazette, 5 July; TBA, Diary, 1798–1799).

6John Fries was sentenced to hang on 13 May. Two days later, William Lewis, one of Fries’ defense attorneys, presented evidence that one of the jurors, Northampton Co. resident John Rhoads, held a prejudicial opinion of Fries prior to the trial. Judge James Iredell subsequently declared a mistrial (Newman, Fries’s Rebellion description begins Paul Douglas Newman, Fries’s Rebellion: The Enduring Struggle for the American Revolution, Philadelphia, 2004. description ends , p. 172–173). See also JA to AA, 11 March, and note 1, above.

7TBA also wrote to Shaw on 16 and 22 June. On 16 June (MWA:Adams Family Letters) he discussed European military affairs, the successful transportation of JQA’s books from Lisbon, and the prospects for his law practice, and he commented on Sumner’s death. In his 22 June letter (MHi:Misc. Bound Coll.), TBA reported his attendance at the Court of Nisi Prius in Philadelphia and noted that Capt. John Henry and Elizabeth Sophia Duché Henry planned to visit Boston.

8Luke, 10:37.

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