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John Adams to Charles Adams, 13 December 1795

John Adams to Charles Adams

Philadelphia Decr 13. 1795

My Dear Son

So great a Part of my Life has been and Still continues to be Spent in travelling that I seldom trouble my Friends in Conversation or by Letter with the Inconveniences or Adventures I meet upon the Road: otherwise I might give you a Romantic History of my Journey from N. York. The Roads were bad enough and the Company   but Speak well of the Bridge that bears you well over— They behaved civilly to me.

I have read Mr Randolphs Statement of Faih as far as it has been printed tho no part of it is yet published. The whole is advertised for Publication on next fryday.1 I am afraid there will appear a disposition in Some of our Countrymen to be corrupted if they could. but shall be glad if it appears that foreign Powers will neither corrupt them, nor be corrupted by them.

As a Vindication of Mr Randolph, it must I think be a Vindication of his Resignation. If he had not resigned his Continuance in office would have needed Vindication. But how his Character and Conduct in office are vindicated I have not been able to discern. There is such Evidence of Imbecillity and such suspicions of Something a Stretch beyond Weakness remain that I wonder he has Suffered it to be communicated to so many Persons as he has. It is a dark enigmatical Business at best. I never had any great opinion of his Genius or Talents his Penetration, Steadiness or Consistency: but I Supposed he was good natured and doubted not his Integrity. Now all is problematical.

The Speech and the Answer of the senate are Smooth enough.2 Whether the House will ruffle the Waves I know not. The Consequences of any damnatory Vote of the House, would be Such at home and abroad that I cannot think the daring ones will have courage to venture. If the Hopes of the Posts and of Compensation for Losses at sea are dashed and all our Commerce exposed as they must be by any ill temper of that House, I think that the popular Men will become very unpopular.3

I Shall be obliged to you, if your Leisure will allow you to write me, the Sensations and Reflections of your City from time to time as the Measures of Congress devellope themselves.

My Love to my Daughter Adams, the first I have had since your sister changed her Name My Friendship to your excellent Governor. His Palace at New York will not be the largest he will ever inhabit as I guess. While the Idols of Jacobinism & Democracy, Jefferson and Clinton think themselves dying of Rhumatisms amidst the Hozannas of the Mob. I fancy that Health and Spirits will be given to the Man whose Effigies have been so much honoured, that he will live to see the Federal City and inhabit its proudest House. The Passions of the People are not the most Steady Part of them.

Farewell my Dear son. May you enjoy in private Life more Comforts than ever were allotted by the Public to your affectionate Father4

RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); internal address: “Charles Adams Esq.”

1JA indicated in a letter to AA of 13 Dec. that he had received printed but not yet published pages of Edmund Randolph’s Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation from Sen. Alexander Martin of North Carolina. JA extracted portions of it for AA, notably from Jean Antoine Joseph Fauchet’s dispatches, and informed her of its impending publication “next Fryday: but I still doubt whether it will come out unmutilated. The Copy I have stops short at the most material Thing” (Adams Papers). All of the material he copied to AA did in fact appear in the published version, as did the remainder of Dispatch No. 10.

2The Senate appointed a committee of three members to draft a response to George Washington’s address. The draft was submitted and deliberations occurred on 11 December. Most of the draft was routine, congratulating the president on the negotiations with the Native Americans, Morocco, Algiers, and Spain, and met with no opposition. But the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the draft caused some consternation. The fourth paragraph suggests that, on account of the Jay Treaty, “we derive an expectation of the extinguishment of all the causes of external discord, that have heretofore endangered our tranquility, and on terms consistent with our national honor and safety.” The fifth paragraph, directed explicitly to Washington, reads, “Circumstances thus every way auspicious demand our gratitude, and sincere acknowledgments to Almighty God, and require that we should unite our efforts in imitation of your enlightened, firm, and persevering example, to establish and preserve the peace, freedom, and prosperity, of our country.”

Stevens Thomson Mason offered a motion to strike out these two paragraphs, arguing that they attempted to force the minority that had opposed the Jay Treaty to now speak in support of it. Debate ensued, including a lengthy speech by Pierce Butler in support of Mason’s motion. Butler argued, “Our situation, as far as it respects Great Britain, … was not in the least ameliorated” and “depredations on our commerce have not been less frequent of late.” He also felt that describing Washington as “firm” was inappropriate: “Why firmness? he asked. To what? or to whom? Is it the manly demand of restitution made of Great Britain for her accumulated injuries that called forth the praise? for his own part he could discern no firmness there.” Others, including Jacob Read and Oliver Ellsworth, spoke in favor of retaining the two paragraphs, noting that the Senate had assented to the treaty and that the president had an obligation to “not sacrifice … his own conviction” to the opinions of the people. The motion failed on a vote of eight to fourteen, and the address was approved as originally written by the same margin (Annals of Congress, description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, D.C., 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends 4th Cong., 1st sess., p. 14, 15–23).

3Following discussion on 9, 10, and 14 Dec. regarding the process by which an address would be drawn up and presented to the president, the members of the House of Representatives finally began discussion of the substance of their response on 15 Dec. in a Committee of the Whole. After an extended debate centering largely on whether the House should express its “undiminished confidence” in Washington, a decision was reached to expand the committee that had produced the original draft and request that it resubmit a new version. This was accomplished on 16 Dec., and the House moved quickly to approve it. The final text of the House’s response, which was delivered to Washington on 17 Dec., endorsed the president’s work to negotiate with the Native Americans and expressed particular satisfaction “that the late scene of disorder and insurrection has been completely restored to the enjoyment of order and repose.” Avoiding the phrasing that had caused consternation among some members, the response concluded its praise of Washington: “In contemplating that spectacle of national happiness which our country exhibits, and of which you, sir, have been pleased to make an interesting summary, permit us to acknowledge and declare the very great share which your zealous and faithful services have contributed to it and to express the affectionate attachment which we feel for your character” (same, p. 128–129, 134–135, 144–149, 150, 154–155).

4On the same day, JA also wrote a short letter to TBA reporting on news of CA and AA2 in New York City and the impact of the Senate’s new galleries (private owner, 1961).

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