Adams Papers
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Thomas Boylston Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 August 1799

Thomas Boylston Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia 8th: August 1799.

My dear Mother.

As I am in the City for a few days, you may wish me to write rather oftener than usual, to convince you that I am not ill. The weather since the month of June has been generally more than commonly favorable for this climate— it still continues so, and we begin to flatter ourselves that the City may escape the afflicting scourge it has heretofore experienced.

The mortality which lately prevailed on board the friggate Genl: Green, was a very distressing affair— I lament it the more, as I see among the list of victims in the crew several names of persons with whom I made a slight acquaintance, when I was at Newport.1

You will have read the publication for which the Aurora-man has been bound over to appear & answer at the next district Court. It was republished by Brown & Relf in the Philada: Gazette of the [. . .] currt:— His defence, will, I understand, be an attempt to prove the tr[uth] of what he has asserted— The letter under the hand of John Adams is said to be one in which the subject of his recall from the mission in England & Mr: Pinckney’s appointment as Successor, was spoken of & animadverted upon with freedom— The partition of Braintree into three separate & distinct townships, bearing several names and the calling that Quincy in which he resides, is jocosely mentioned in the same letter as having deprived the Duke of his title. I collected these particulars in conversation, a few minutes ago, with a young man, who is in the secrets of the Aurora party, from being one of its patronizers— Truth, said another, of the same sett to me, is no libel— the Aurora man means to justify by proof of the facts alledged.2

I was told further, by the first of these youth’s, that it looked as if there was likely to be a division in the Cabinet— How so? said I— They say, the old gentleman wont go with them— with whom? Why the violent war party, that pretends to dictate all Executive measures— It is further said, continued he—that the violents are in despair, because the President will have an opinion of his own & will not follow the extravagances of any body. If he perseveres he will shortly have the hearts of all the democrats— God forbid! I exclaimed— I dont mean said he, that the P——t must turn democrat, but only if he acts Independently— Has he ever done otherwise—said I— No, but then we were not always sure of him so much as we are now. This pap & sugar, might do to pacify a crying hungry baby, but what else it is good for, I pretend not to know.

Report says that Truxtun has resigned—disputing precedence with Talbot— This, I suppose, is in part, the tale, which you told me, hung upon the report of Talbots resignation— I heard yesterday, the matter had been referred to the President & he had decided in favor of Talbots right—3

You accompanied the P——t, I perceive, to Castle William and assisted at the Baptismal rites of Fort Independence— I was rejoyced to see your name in company with Mrs: Washington—4

I find the Mansion house in Market Street a very comfortable resort when I come to town, even though I meet but poor cheer—even the water pump is dry in the yard— I believe some of the wood has been carried away, though not much— I shall take particular care of the things I use, & see every thing as secure as I found it.

There is a leak somewhere in the room that serves as a passage from the entry to the kitchen— I found the floor almost covered with water, and as I have no keys to the doors, I cannot open them to admit the air— I have left open the inner doors, which were shut, and the floor is gradually drying, though the next rain will probably wet it again— Dust & Cobwebs are plentiful enough—

Present me kindly to my father & every body—

T. B. Adams.

August 10th: 1799.

P S. The Supreme Court of the U. S. adjourned this day— Little business was done, because there was little to do— I paid my respects to the chief Justice & Judge Chase, but the latter I did not see.5

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs: A Adams”; internal address: “Mrs: A Adams”; endorsed: “T B Adams / August 1 / 1799.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.

1The frigate General Greene, Capt. Christopher Raymond Perry, was struck with fever at Havana on 18 June. After 20 died and 35 were sickened, the vessel returned to Newport, R.I., on 27 July. It reentered service on 28 Sept., sailing for St. Domingue (Philadelphia Gazette, 6 Aug.; Hartford, Conn., American Mercury, 15 Aug.; New York Journal, 5 Oct.).

2William Duane, in the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 24 July, charged that JA’s administration was beholden to Britain, and alleged that in 1798 the British had expended $800,000 in bribes in the United States, claiming: “We have it in the handwriting of John Adams now President of the United States, that British influence has been employed and with effect, in procuring the appointment of an officer of the most confidential and important trust under the government.” The evidence was a May 1792 letter from JA to Tench Coxe (PHi), in which JA suggested that there was “much British Influence in the appointment” of Thomas Pinckney as U.S. minister to Britain. The article prompted the prosecution of Duane on a charge of seditious libel, and in Oct. 1799 Duane was brought to trial in the federal circuit court in Pennsylvania. The trial was postponed, however, and in early 1800 the indictment was withdrawn. When in Oct. 1800 it was suggested that JA’s letter might be a forgery, Duane printed it in full while trumpeting that his indictment had been rescinded on JA’s order. For JA’s comments on the letter, see his 27 Oct. letter to Pinckney (PHC: Charles Roberts Autograph Coll.). As TBA noted, the Aurora article was reprinted in the 5 Aug. 1799 issue of the Philadelphia Gazette, which had been published by Andrew Brown Jr. and Samuel Relf (1776–1823) since 1 July (Smith, Freedom’s Fetters description begins James Morton Smith, Freedom’s Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties, Ithaca, N.Y., 1956. description ends , 282–288; Philadelphia Gazette, 1 July; Margaret Woodbury, “Public Opinion in Philadelphia,” Smith College Studies in History, 5:33 [Oct. 1919]).

3For the dispute between Capt. Silas Talbot and Capt. Thomas Truxtun on their relative naval ranks, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 6, above.

4The Philadelphia Gazette, 8 Aug., reported on JA’s 3 Aug. dedication of Fort Independence, including AA’s toast to Martha Washington.

5TBA was in Philadelphia to attend the U.S. Supreme Court. During the session from 5 to 10 Aug. the justices took action in four cases. In New York v. Connecticut, a dispute over a contested strip of borderland, the justices ruled that private citizens rather than the state of New York were party to the dispute. In Hazlehurst v. United States the court denied an appeal of an earlier ruling that Charleston, S.C., merchants had defaulted on customs bonds. In addition, two estate disputes, Turner v. Enrille and Turner v. Bank of North America, were dismissed owing to incomplete filings by the plaintiffs (TBA to William Smith Shaw, 6 Aug., MHi:Misc. Bound Coll.; TBA, Diary, 1798–1799, 5–9 Aug.; Doc. Hist. Supreme Court description begins The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800, ed. Maeva Marcus, James R. Perry, and others, New York, 1985–2007; 8 vols. description ends , 8:35–37, 178, 186–188, 271–274).

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