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John Adams to Abigail Adams, 31 January 1796

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia January 31. & last 1796

My dearest Friend

I have a secret to Communicate to Your Prudence. The Defence by Camillus was written in Concert between Hamilton King and Jay. The Writings on the first ten Articles of the Treaty were written by Hamilton The rest by King, till they came to the question of the Constitutionality of the Treaty, which was discussed by Hamilton— Jay was to have written a concluding Peroration: but being always a little lazy and perhaps concluding upon the whole that it might be most politick to keep his Name out of it, and perhaps finding that the Work was already well done he neglected it. This I have from Kings own mouth.— It is to pass however for Hamiltons. All three consulted together upon most if not all the Pieces.

Another Piece of History of a very different kind. You knew Dr Redman, the Manager of the Assembly. The smiling the genteel the well bred—the Gentleman like—the I dont know what—The Judge of some Court here— He went off this Morning in a stage in disgrace, to the southward— This he choose rather than open his Veins Pro more Roma novum.— Alass poor human nature! He has been slandered, with Imputations of something like what they call in London Ladys Pillage—of a very gross kind however—with so much success, that a voluntary Banishment is considered as a very humane & clement Punishment. I hate such subjects and therefore cannot and would not, if I could give you the details—1

I read forever, and am determined to sacrifice my Eyes like John Milton rather than give up the Amusement without which I should despair2

If I did not with you consider the Universe as all one Family, I would never stay another day here.

I have read four thick Octavo Volumes of Tacitus translated by Murphy,3 One thick Volume of Homers Iliad translated by Cowper, besides a multitude of Pamphlets & Newspapers, since I have been here. I dont write enough. The Habit of Writing should not be lost as I loose it—

Peter Pindar has it right

Search We the Spot which mental power contains?

Go where Man gets his living by his Brains.4

If I had got my Living by my Brains for seven Years past I should have had more mental Power.— But Brains have not only been Useless but even hurtful and pernicious in my Course— Mine have been idle a long time—till they are rusty.—

Dr Bollman has given me an Account of his Intrigue to Liberate Fayette: for which I have heard a hint that he expects some office—Entre nous—But he will be disappointed— Fayettes disinterested unpaid services will cost Us very dear— Your son has already advanced to his Wife three hundred Guineas. Which I hope & suppose will be reimbursed to him.5

Mischief always and Villany often lurks under Pretensions and Professions of service without Pay.

With affections which No time nor / Space will abate

J. A

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “Janry 31 1796.”

1Joseph Redman, an associate judge of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, was also one of the managers of the City Dancing Assembly. Redman resigned his judgeship for unspecified reasons on 25 January. He may have later resided in Montgomery, Maryland (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 21 Sept. 1795; Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 9 Nov.; Penna. Archives, description begins Pennsylvania Archives. Selected and Arranged from Original Documents in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1935; 119 vols. in 123. description ends 9th ser., 2:1062 [1931]; 1800 U.S. Census, Md., Montgomery, District 1, p. 216).

2Although John Milton attributed his poor eyesight in part to excessive studying when younger, modern scholars have not settled on a definitive diagnosis. Suggested causes include glaucoma, retinal detachment, or an intracranial tumor. For a summary of these theories, see George B. Bartley, “The Blindness of John Milton,” Documenta Ophthalmologica, 89:22–23, 25–28 (1995).

3Tacitus, Works, transl. Arthur Murphy, 4 vols., Dublin, 1794. A copy of the set is in JA’s library at MB (Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends ).

4Peter Pindar, “Hair Powder; A Plaintive Epistle to Mr. Pitt,” lines 185–186.

5Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles, Marquise de Lafayette, had requested 300 louis d’or ($1333.20) from JQA in a letter of 17 Jan. 1795. JQA supplied the money, ostensibly on behalf of the U.S. government, and had been trying to obtain reimbursement for it since the previous July. As of Aug. 1796, he was still seeking to recover the money (Adams Papers; JQA to Edmund Randolph, 3 July 1795, LbC, Reel 127; JQA to Thomas Pinkney, 12 Aug. 1796, LbC, APM Reel 129).

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