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Abigail Adams to John Adams, 20 January 1799

Abigail Adams to John Adams

Sunday 20 Jan’ry 1799

my dearest Friend

I give you joy of the safe arrival of our dear Thomas; whom you will have cordially received before this reaches you; I shall be happy to see him as early as will be convenient for him; but if it is thought best that he should remain a while with you; I shall acquiese, now I have reason to believe him in safety. I hope his Health has not sufferd from his winters Voyage I shall the more readily consent to his remaining a while with you, as his company, and conversation may tend to solace not, your leisure; but your anxious hours.

Pray has our General the newly dub’d Marquis of Granby, Sent you his Memoirs? our Criticks make sad work with them; they are said to be a strange medly, and the Hero is not like, to acquire more fame, from his pen than from his Sword.1

I have lately read in the papers, the answer to the address from the Legislature of Maryland, which has excited a desire to see the address. be so good as to tell William to Coppy & send it me.

You observe in it, that you are [“]not fond of mixing Religion with politicks” that is the Idea. I know not, (as the paper is lent,) whether I have the exact words—2 I think however when Religion has been equally attack’d with the Liberty and Government of the Country, it is proper to manifest a due Respect for that upon which both the other Rest. I have been assured from respectable Authority that the opportunity which the Chief Majestrate has embraced of bearing publick testimony to Religion, in his replies to many of the addresses presented him, and his pointed dissapprobation of infidelity, has done more to stop the progress of it, and to bring into disrepute French Principles than all the Sermons Preachd by the Clergy of our Country. I have endeavourd twice to procure you a set of the addresses but have not yet succeeded. I am told that they are very incompleat and inaccurate, but such as they are I will send them.3

I was pleasd with a little anecdote which I learnt from a Gentleman upon the replie of the House to the Gov’r speech. the answer calls the French [“]Perfidious and unprincipeld” a Jacobin Member from Hopkinton rose, and objected to it. he said, he likd the Gov’r speech very well but the answer went further. He thought it was not treating the Rulers of that Nation with proper Civility, to use such harsh terms. a Member from the Chronical Town of Malborough rose, and requested that the Epithets might remain. he fully assented to them. Nay mr speeker, if there is a word in the Hebrew Greek or Lattin Languages, which will express the sense in stronger or more impressive terms, I would move for adopting them. there were only three dissenting votes.4

The orders to the comanders of our Navy are much approved, and admired; they have Heart of Oak in them.5

our stocks are high. there have not been any at Market untill lately, no defer’d stock to be had at all Six pr ct at seveteen. I have observed that it has been the same at Philadelphia. the nominal price current has been given; but added no sellers— dr Tufts has made the disposition you directed, as soon as it was in his power—

a solomon Thayer has offerd two acres of Salt meddow & 6 of ceadar swamp for sale. the meddow lies near what is calld Rye Island. 50 dollors pr acre the ceadar swamp at 20doll I give you information least I should incur blame for delinquincy as heretofore. beside I always observe your inclination to abate for Land, in proportion as I bring it forward before you. I have no passion for any thing but wood Land, and I believe the greatest Saving of that article may be made by Rumfording our Chimney’s, which I shall be for trying. I am persuaded half the expence of fuel may be saved, and Rooms kept equally warm—6

French says that the Farm he occupies will not answer any persons hiring, if those peices of Land are taken off which you spoke of. some of the salt meddow he would willingly relinquish and would be glad to hire the Farm for several years, but that there are but three peices of ground which answer manure for more than one year, the peice upon the Hill which was Savils the Quincy meddow and the Belcher Land. the other is only fit for tillage & pasturage— if he hired, he should like to take it for three, or more years, that he might bend his strength to Manure.

thus much for domestick Matters I have no Groans or complaints to make, but that of being seperated from you.— every day however shortens the period—

I am as ever your

A Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed by Louisa Catharine Smith: “The President of the United / States— / Philadelphia—”; endorsed: “Mrs A. Jan. 20 / ansd 28. 1799.”

1In late Dec. 1798 Gen. William Heath advertised the recent publication of his Memoirs of Major-General Heath, Containing Anecdotes, Details of Skirmishes, Battles, and Other Military Events, During the American War, Boston, 1798, 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.; rev. edn., description ends No. 33865, with an endorsement of the project by George Washington. Heath opened his memoirs with a reference to John Manners, Marquis of Granby (1721–1770), noting that his physical appearance led French officers during the Revolutionary War to compare him to Granby, a similarity also recorded in François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux’s Travels in North-America, in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782, 2 vols., London, 1787, 1:79. A five-part review of Heath’s memoirs signed “Agawam Critic” and later attributed to John Gardner appeared in the Boston Columbian Centinel, 9, 16, 19, 26, 30 Jan. 1799, savaging the work “as close packed a collection of filth, rags, and folly, as were ever compressed, into a heap of the same size, since the creation of the Universe” (Boston Columbian Centinel, 26 Dec. 1798; DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements; rev. edn., description ends ).

2The Md. General Assembly submitted an address to JA dated 14 Dec. (Adams Papers) that criticized France’s “destruction of religion, and encouragement of loose principles” and applauded the measures of JA’s administration, both “the protective measures … as well as the late regulations for internal quiet.” It also claimed that JA’s “steady patriotism and well tried integrity, constitutes an ample pledge for the future rectitude of your conduct.” In his 23 Dec. reply, which AA likely read in the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 10 Jan. 1799, JA declared his belief in the necessity of religion as “the sacred foundations of morality, government and society” but added, “I am not fond of introducing this sacred topic into political disquisitions.” He also noted that while the situation was hazardous, “the affectionate and ardent support which I have received from my fellow-citizens, has appeared much earlier, and more unanimous, than my most sanguine hopes had ever anticipated.”

3On 1 Feb. AA wrote to JA (Adams Papers), “I have at length procured the addresses and find them better collected and arranged than I expected, tho there are many not yet published.” AA was referring to the publication of Patriotic Addresses description begins A Selection of the Patriotic Addresses, to the President of the United States. Together with the President’s Answers, Boston, 1798, Evans, No. 33345. description ends , the collection of 107 addresses to and 90 replies from JA that was compiled by William Austin and printed in Boston by John W. Folsom. The book was dedicated to the French Directory: “Like fire in a flint, this volume had still been latent in the American bosom, had not your inimitable art extracted it.” Subscriptions for the volume were offered in the Massachusetts Mercury, 9 Nov. 1798, and the book was advertised for sale by several city booksellers on 23 Nov. (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 , 32:201–202; 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.; rev. edn., description ends No. 33345, p. iii).

4On 16 Jan. 1799, the Mass. house of representatives presented its answer to Gov. Increase Sumner’s 11 Jan. address to the Mass. General Court. The answer praised the policy of neutrality and blamed French aggression for precipitating the current crisis. The house noted its belief that while Sumner and JA could not be construed as wishing for war, armed conflict was preferable to loss of national honor. While AA suggested that it was Walter McFarland of Hopkinton who objected to the phrase “perfidious and unprincipled,” the Boston Independent Chronicle, 17–21 Jan., reported that Dr. Aaron Hill of Cambridge moved that the phrase be struck. Edward Barnes of Marlborough responded to the motion as AA described (Boston Columbian Centinel, 19 Jan.; 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. 224–227).

5AA was referring to the orders JA sent to naval captains in the wake of the sloop Baltimore incident, for which see AA to William Smith Shaw, 14 Jan., and note 3, above.

6Rumford fireplaces were designed with a narrow throat to more efficiently move smoke up the chimney without losing the warm air in the room (OED description begins The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d edn., Oxford, 1989; 20 vols.; rev. edn., description ends ).

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