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Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts, 14 April 1798

Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts

Philadelphia April 14 1798

Dear sir

I sent you a pamphlet containing the instructions to our Envoys, and I now inclose the dispatches from them.1 no Event Since our unhappy controversey with France, has so throughly awakend the people to a sense of their danger as these dispatches; nor any imprest them with such strong conviction of the sincerity and candour, with which our Government has sought peace upon fair and honorable terms, as the publication of the instructions. it has for the present stoped the Current of Jacobinism, and no one is now heard hardy enough to espouse the cause of France, against our own Country; Holland is compleatly Revolutionized in the true French Stile. Charles de la Croix is sovereign he has turnd out of their Assembly & imprissoned every Man of worth and Merrit, every Moderate Man as they have been calld and has now given them a directory intirely devoted to France under his own Authority, which has been sanctioned by the Military directory in France; the last step of national degradation it is worthy of remark, that France excepted, no Kingly power has been entirely destroyd, or kingdom overturnd, but the Republicks have been swallow’d up—2 Great Brittain & America must now make a stand. Britain is able & powerfull united and determined. her Government is strong, and common danger has calld forth all the Aids and resources of the Country. America too may be strong if she will use the means in her power. She has this advantage, a great distance, and a numerous People— You will see Sir by the movements in this city, that the people are throughly allarmed. this morning is to be presented by the grand Ju   an address to the President, approbating the measures he has persued an other address is comeing from the merchants of the city.3

every Man countanance appears alterd in stead of the Gloom and Suspision which hung upon them, light seems to have broken in, and one would Suppose that Some good News had arrived, instead of the prospect of War—but War with union, war in defence of all we hold dear, is not So allarming as the secreet plots which were diging mines for our destruction whilst we believed ourselves secure. amidst the universal satisfaction which seems to have succeeded a painfull state of anxiety and Suspence, one Man appears misirable, pevish and overthrown.

The President received your Letter4 if he can possily get time he will write to you, but he is overwhelmd with buisness, dispatches arriving from England from Holland and from France, officers to appoint Naval & military, Recommendatory Letters to read weigh and examine that he may be enabled to make his appointments judiciously, and now addresses that he cannot get time once a week to Ride or walk, upon which his Health greatly depends but labour with support, is a pleasure to what it is to be for ever tuging against the stream. I presume tho some of our Towns have been guilty of folly, and indiscretion. when our General court meet, they will wipe it of by a declaration to support the General Government5

I do not despair of seeing you sometime in the month of June I do not think it will be earlier.

I am dear sir with sincere / affection your Neice

Abigail Adams

altho the President has been censured for not at first communicating the dispatches, I believe it will be found that he acted right whilst he used only the power vested in him by the constitution he was attentive to the safety of our Envoys, and dispatches went to them by various ways. before the papers were communicated, he had in a Message fully exprest his own sense of our danger and urgd to means of defence. for this he was reviled, and abused, distrusted and scofft at. my fears began to be awakend for his personal safety, but when in compliance with the request of the House the papers were deliverd promptly and without delay, together with the instruction. “Abashd the devil stood” many of the minority declared that the Instructions were all they ought to have been they could not have given more candid and liberal ones, and it is said Giles declared that he believd he should not himself have gone so far—

what becomes of mr Hitchbourn love of the french for us? it is like the Love of a Man, who kills his Friend, and then marries his widow— they would kill all who oppose them & then possess themselves of all we possess6

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Hon’lll Cotton Tufts / Weymouth”; endorsed: “1798 / Mrs. Adams’s / April 14. recd the 25—”; notation: “11.”

1Enclosure not found.

2On 2 Jan. Charles Delacroix de Constant (1740–1805), the former French minister of foreign affairs, replaced François Noël as minister to the Batavian Republic. On 22 Jan. members of the Batavian Assembly, supported by Delacroix, declared themselves a constituent assembly representing the Batavian people and proclaiming their “unalterable aversion” to the stadholder. Delacroix took a leading role in drafting a new constitution, which vested executive power in a five-member directory. Presented on 6 March, the constitution was approved by the legislature eleven days later. The Philadelphia Gazette, 12 April, reported that “six members of the committee for foreign affairs, and 22 deputies of the Batavian republic” were arrested during the events and that the new assembly “sanctioned this act of violence, and have taken from the provinces all right of sovereignty, which they have vested in themselves It is scarcely necessary to add that the French minister at the Hague is supposed to have concerted this act” (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins Jean Chrétien Ferdinand Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends ; Repertorium description begins Ludwig Bittner and others, eds., Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder seit dem Westfälischen Frieden (1648), Oldenburg, 1936–1965; 3 vols. description ends , 3:126; George Edmundson, History of Holland, Cambridge, Eng., 1922, p. 350, 351).

3The Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 14 April, printed the Pennsylvania grand jury’s 13 April address to JA supporting his decision to make public the instructions and dispatches of the envoys and showing “a strong determination to promote and preserve a good understanding with the French Republic, provided it could be accomplished without affecting our national character and the Independence of the United States.” JA’s response, printed at the same time, noted, “The conviction you express, that the conduct of our government to all nations, has been just and honorable, affords me the highest satisfaction.”

4On 31 March Tufts wrote to JA expressing his approbation of JA’s 19 March message to Congress and his concern over local and national factions. He also offered a recommendation of Edmund Soper of Braintree to the office of purser for the frigate Constitution (Adams Papers).

5On 7 June the Mass. General Court would draft an address to JA “as a native citizen of our Commonwealth, and as the supreme Executive of the government of our deliberate choice.” The legislature, “with a mixture of indignation and regret,” noted “the state of our negociations with the French Republick” and declared, “Should any further attempts, either to controul the government, or subjugate the people of the United States, be the result of her inordinate ambition, the citizens of Massachusetts, will meet them with the firm and determined spirit of Freemen” (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. 164–165).

6AA was referring to the scandal arising from Benjamin Hichborn’s involvement in the shooting death of his friend Benjamin Andrews in Jan. 1779 and his subsequent marriage to Andrews’ widow, Hannah Gardner Andrews, in Feb. 1780 (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley, Clifford K. Shipton, Conrad Edick Wright, Edward W. Hanson, and others, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873–. description ends , 17:39; The Papers of Robert Treat Paine, ed. Stephen T. Riley and Edward W. Hanson, 3 vols., MHS, Colls., description begins Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings. description ends 89:46 [2005]). For the Adamses’ previous comments regarding Hichborn’s pro-French beliefs, see vol. 10:454 and 11:445, 459.

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