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George Cabot to Abigail Adams, 11 May 1798

George Cabot to Abigail Adams

Brookline May 11th. 1798—

Dear Madam

I feel too sensibly the obligations you have laid me under by the letters you had the goodness to write on the 3d & 4th.— they deserve a better return than it is possible for me to make; while I can only offer the effusions of a grateful heart I see too plainly that those alone wou’d not be acceptable— you require a Serious engagement on my part which I am forbidden to make by motives that cannot be resisted.— it is impossible for me to make a different determination & yet it is with infinite pain I declare it.—1

no one can estimate more highly than I do the importance of a naval force as connected with the safety of our commercial property & as forming an essential ingredient in the national Defence— if the restless ambition which is destroying Europe shou’d bring us visitors we ought to be prepared to receive them on our coasts & to take advantage of those accidents to which all Fleets are liable, but the creation arrangement & direction of a force for this purpose cannot proceed from feeble hands— if my friends cou’d have endowed me with the requisite energies, I wou’d have made every sacrifice to the public service, but you must allow me to judge exclusively on this point & I will always yield every other.—

Mrs. Cabot desires to be rememberd with every sentiment of esteem & respect in which I pray to be united.—

I remain Dear Madam / Your most humble & obliged servant

George Cabot.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs. Adams—”

1AA’s letters to Cabot have not been found, but presumably were notes congratulating Cabot on his appointment as secretary of the navy. JA made the nomination on 1 May, and the Senate gave its advice and consent on 3 May. In addition to this letter to AA, Cabot wrote to Timothy Pickering on 11 May to decline the appointment, citing poor health and a lack of maritime experience (U.S. Senate, Exec. Jour. description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1789–. description ends , 5th Cong., 2d sess., p. 272, 273; Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., Life and Letters of George Cabot, Boston, 1878, p. 156–158).

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