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Thomas Boylston Adams to Abigail Adams, 16 September 1799

Thomas Boylston Adams to Abigail Adams

Rock Hall. Germantown 16th. Septr [1799]

My dear Mother.

On the 11th: instt: I received your favor of the 4th: and last evening, on my return from Mr: Breck’s Country seat, where I passed Friday & Saturday night’s, your’s of the 8th: had come to hand. Same time, recd: from William the poem you sent me for Miss Wister & his letter of the 6th: I am obliged by all these things & newspapers to boot. Coopers address, valedictory, I now remember to have seen & read at the time it first appeared, and upon a second perusal, I shall only say, that if Dr: Priestly could recommend such a man as Cooper to office, & assist in giving currency to such opinions as are here expressed, he deserves all, that Porcupine ever wrote or any body else could think against him— I had never heard of his meddling before in any of our political concerns—But I have been told, that “the french Republic,” is still a standing toast with him. Dennie, does not like him, as you may have observed from his remarks on the New Englandman’s letter, though he had only seen the prospectus of it when he commented.1 These exotic reputations are slipp’ry things to build on. I find so little fame, that stands the test of all trials & all scrutiny, that I am sometimes disposed to become a cynic & carp indiscriminately at all that fa[ll] in my way.

I enclose you an extract of a letter from J.Q.A. which came to hand a few days ago— The original letter I shall have to answer before it could be returned to me if I should send it. Indeed, the rest is all of a private and uninteresting nature to any body but myself. I had an idea of sending this extract to the Printer, but he has neglected something I sent him a few days ago, so ungraciously that I wont subject myself to a second slight. These Philadelphia Printers are poor tools to work with on their own side. The Aurora is infinitely the best edited of any among them. This extract will better appear at this moment in a Boston paper, if it be worth appearing at all, so that you may send it to Russell in its present shape, altering only the name of [the] place where received.2 The Treaty with Prussia was signed on the 11th: July, and I suppose a copy has been received e’re this by the Secy—though I know not that it has been.3 I got a letter from Whitcomb since that from my brother, though not so late—& I expect a letter or two of an earlier date from him than the one I have.4

Mr: & Mrs: Breck, their daughter & Mrs: Wilson all desired me to present you their best respects— I was very pleasantly & agreeably entertained during my visit there, which was the first frolic I have had since I left town.

I have not yet perused the poem you sent as a present to Sarah— nor communicated the treasure to her— she will be gratified by this little token of your notice, more than by any reply I could have made to her effusions. It is a little singular, that the father of this family (Mr: Wistar) of German origin, is violently democratic in opposition to all the connection.5

Judge Rush it is, not the Dr: who is using all his influence in favor of Mr: Mc:Kean— I undertook to annalyse the characters of the Republican committee who write for the Chief, but Brown & Relf have not dared to publish & I cannot get the piece from them to send it elsewhere—6

I am in haste dear mother / Your Son

T B Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs: A Adams.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed and due to wear at the edge.

1The Walpole, N.H., Farmer’s Weekly Museum, 19 Aug., disparaged the defense of Joseph Priestley by “A New-England Man,” writing that he “cannot be induced by the subtilty of polemic disputation, by the pomp of learning, by the pride of philosophy, by the pageanty of electric tricks, nor by all the convulsive spasms of the tortured mouse in his exhausted receiver, to respect the character of this ’busy and intermedling priest.’”

2The enclosure has not been found, but was likely an extract from JQA’s 9 July letter to TBA lamenting William Cobbett’s treatment of JA and providing an exhaustive update of Napoleon’s campaigns. He also enclosed letters from German acquaintances seeking assistance with U.S. legal matters and reported that he had sold TBA’s horse and shipped him a trunk (Adams Papers). The Massachusetts Mercury, 1 Oct., printed seven paragraphs of the letter that covered public matters, changing the date to 13 July and attributing it to “a gentleman of respectability in Europe.” A note printed below the extract from the “Communicator” disputed JQA’s assertion that Cobbett’s newspaper was the most popular in the United States, claiming instead that “Porcupine’s Gazette is, and has been long despised by almost all Americans who love their country.TBA received JQA’s letter on 11 Sept. and answered it on the 23d, thanking his brother for the accounts of European politics, reporting on JQA’s financial affairs, and offering comment on Capt. Thomas Truxtun and the yellow fever in Philadelphia (Adams Papers).

3JQA signed the second Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce on 11 July in Berlin, for which see vol. 12:355, 356, replacing the original 1785 treaty, which expired on 8 Aug. 1796. Timothy Pickering enclosed a copy of the treaty in a letter to JA of 16 Sept. 1799 and reported that the original had arrived at his office (Adams Papers).

4The letters from Tilly Whitcomb to TBA have not been found.

5The prominent Democratic-Republican in the Wister family appears to have been Dr. Casper Wistar, a cousin of Daniel Wister. Dr. Wistar was vice president of the American Philosophical Society when Thomas Jefferson was named president of the organization in 1797. On 20 Aug. 1799 Wistar was mentioned as a potential Democratic-Republican candidate for Congress (John W. Jordan, ed., Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania, 3 vols., N.Y., 1911, 1:261–262; Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 29:276–277; Boston Gazette, 20 Aug.).

6The piece TBA sent to the Philadelphia Gazette has not been found but was possibly “To the Electors of Pennsylvania” by “Plain Truth,” which appeared in the newspaper on 4 October. The writer attacked “the ’republican’ committee” that supported Thomas McKean for governor, denied that Federalists were timing their attacks to influence the election, and criticized McKean’s support of Dr. George Logan and the protesters against the Alien Acts who were arrested at St. Mary’s Church in February.

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