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John Adams to Abigail Adams, 11 March 1797

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Phila. March 11. 1797

My Dearest Friend

Yesterday only I recd yours of March 1.— am surprized you should have recd none from me from 11. Feb.

I have written never less than once a Week, seldom less than twice and 9 Weeks out of 10, three times, ever Since I left you. The Roads or some irregularity of the Post must have occasioned your disappointment.

I hope you will obtain Mr Mears, but I must leave every Thing to you— The Load of Business that now compells my Attention every day is such that I cannot think a moment about my farm

Mr Maund writes me that he has sent me a Barrell of seed oats of a superiour quality, to Boston by a Captain Allen, who was to Sail beginning of March, from Virginia1

The Family is gone— Mr Lear and Mr Dandridge remain—2 But it is a great Work to arrange and clean the House— I cant get into it before the middle of next Week

I hope Billings will Sow the Barley and Grass seed well— what will become of my Meadow Cornfield I know not.— However I must leave that, and all the rest to you & I could not trust it better.

My Heaps of Compost will suffer I fear. I sent you the last Letters from our Sons.3

My Aunt Veseys death was unknown to me am very glad you went to the Funeral.

The Feast that Succeeded was one of those Things which are not to my Taste. I am glad you went— I went too.— But those Things give offence to the plain People of our Country, upon whose Friendship I have always depended. They are practised by the Elegant and the rich for their own Ends, which are not always the best. If I could have my Wish there should never be a Show or a feast made for the P. while I hold the office.— My Birth day happens when Congress will never Sit: so that I hope it will never be talked of.4 These are hints entre nous. I am, my dear / est friend ever yours

John Adams

Washington has at last denounced the forged Letters.5

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “March 11th / 1797.”

1On 13 Feb. John James Maund wrote to JA to offer the oats and at the same time presented his respects to AA and to his “friend” TBA (Adams Papers). It is unclear if the oats were received, although AA informed JA on 31 March, below, that William Smith was making inquiries. Maund (d. 1802) was a Virginia attorney who had spent time in Philadelphia in 1794, where he apparently made the acquaintance of the Adamses (Washington, Papers, Presidential Series description begins The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, ed. W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Jack D. Warren, Mark A. Mastromarino, Robert F. Haggard, Christine S. Patrick, John C. Pinheiro, David R. Hoth, and others, Charlottesville, Va., 1987–. description ends , 15:668).

2Tobias Lear, George Washington’s former secretary, lived in Washington, D.C., at this time but had come to Philadelphia in Feb. 1797 to help the Washingtons close their household. Bartholomew Dandridge Jr. also stayed behind to help settle the Washingtons’ affairs, remaining in Washington’s employ until his departure for The Hague as secretary to William Vans Murray (vol. 11:528; Washington, Papers, Retirement Series description begins The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, ed. W. W. Abbot, Edward G. Lengel, and others, Charlottesville, Va., 1997–1999; 4 vols. description ends , 1:23–25).

3For the letters JA forwarded to AA, see AA to JA, 12 March, and note 1, below.

4Public celebrations for JA never reached the level accorded to Washington. Celebrations of JA’s 30 Oct. birthday, which throughout his public life generally fell during the congressional recess, were held only in central New England, most prevalently during the Quasi-War (Simon P. Newman, Parades and the Politics of the Street: Festive Culture in the Early American Republic, Phila., 1997, p. 74). In 1798 JA and AA declined an invitation to celebrate Washington’s birthday in Philadelphia; for AA’s comments on the subject, see her letter to Mary Smith Cranch, 15 Feb., and note 4, below.

5During the Revolution the British attempted to undermine Washington’s command of American forces by publishing a series of forged letters, allegedly captured after the fall of Fort Lee in Nov. 1776, that exposed Washington’s pro-British sympathies and low opinion of American troops. Largely discredited at the time of their publication in London in 1777 and in the United States in 1778, a pamphlet of the letters was reprinted in Philadelphia in 1795 in the midst of political furor over the Jay Treaty. Washington waited until the end of his public career to denounce the letters, describing them as “base forgery” in a 3 March 1797 letter to Timothy Pickering. Believing their original intent was “to strike at the integrity of the motives of the American Commander in Chief” and more recently that “another crisis in the affairs of America having occurred, the same weapon has been resorted to, to wound my character and deceive the people.” Pickering submitted Washington’s letter to the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, which printed it on 10 March. It was then widely reprinted; see, for example, the New York Daily Advertiser, 13 March, Massachusetts Mercury, 21 March, and the Charleston, S.C., City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, 29 March (Worthington Chauncey Ford, The Spurious Letters Attributed to Washington, Brooklyn, N.Y., 1889, p. 9–11, 20–21; Stewart, Opposition Press description begins Donald H. Stewart, The Opposition Press of the Federalist Period, Albany, N.Y., 1969. description ends , p. 531–532; Letters from General Washington to Several of His Friends, in June and July, 1776, Phila., 1795, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 28969; Pickering, To the Editor of the United States Gazette, no imprint, 1797, MWA, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 33072).

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