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Abigail Adams to John Adams, 28 December 1798

Abigail Adams to John Adams

Fryday Quincy December 28 1798

My dearest Friend

on twesday Evening I received the Mercury, and read in it, the arrival of Capt Jenkins in the America, on sunday. you may well suppose I felt greatly rejoiced expecting from Thomas’s Letter, that he was undoubtedly a passenger. no mention was however made of him in the paper: I expected for two days to hear of him, then I conjectured that not knowing of my being here, was the reason of my not receiving a Letter to notify me. in this Suspence I write to mr smith requesting him to get intellegence for me. I received an answer from him last Evening that he had seen one of capt Jenks owners, but that he knew not of any passengers comeing in her.1 he supposes mr Adams is on Board the ship Barbara Capt Clark who saild at the same time for Boston, the 30 of october, but I have not been yet able to learn any thing further—2 I can only pray for his safety. I watch’d the weather all last week, and tho threatned with a snow storm, it past off, with a small slight portion and ended in a Thaw, by which the travelling is again impeeded it had just got passible, & the Roads were lively. the weather is now moderate and fine. I last Evening received your Letter of December the 19th.3 I cannot say that it added to my spirits, or Rest. the dissapointment from Thomas’s not comeing had already depresst me, and the reflections and observations respecting our Children calls up so many painfull Ideas, that I cannot be otherways than unhappy when I reflect upon them; in silence I do reflect upon them daily. I wish it was other-ways with them. for mrs smith I feel more keenly; because I know She is innocent of the cause of her misfortunes; she is and always was a dutifull and affectionate Child. I hope better days are reserved for her, tho at present the prospect is dark— with respect to what is past, all was intended for the best, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have faithfully served your Generation, that you have done it at the expence of all private Considerations and you do not know whether you would have been a happier Man in private, than you have been in publick Life— the exigencies of the times were such as call’d you forth. you considerd yourself as performing your duty. with these considerations, I think you have not any cause for regreet. what remains to us of Life, we must expect to have checkerd will good and evil, and let us patiently endure the one, and rejoice in the other as becomes those who have a better hope and brighter prospects beyond the Grave—

Much is said in the Philadelphia papers respecting the united Irishmen. is there any reason to think them so formidable as there represented?4 I know there is a banditty of unprincipeld wretches who are employd as emissaries to keep us at varience. a passage struck me in Fennoes paper last Evening, that the democratic society of N york were summoned to meet by one Davis, “when some communications of importance are to be made.”5

I took the more notice of it, from having read a preface, written by one John Davis the translator as he calls himself; of General Buonaparte Campaign in Italy, a work of 300 pages, printed in N york at the Argus office in 98—written by a Genll officer of his Army— I am now reading it, but the stile of the preface struck me as the most conceited Bombastical thing I ever read. “he says he came to this Country the middle of last march, with no other recommendation than a Love of literature. he had caught the Bliss of publication in England, which will ever constitute my supreme felicity”

as a specimin of this superb translators work, he is transported with joy, to have executed the translation of a work that records the actions of one of the Greatest Warriours the World ever produced; compared to whom [“]Hannibal was a stripling, Alexander a holiday captain, and Cæsar a mere candidate for military Fame”

I would recommend to him to translate Buonaparty Campaign into Eygypt.6 query is not this the same fellow probably?

The Book belongs to Nat’ll Austin the Brother of Honestus. you will wonder how I came by it. for the good of the publick it was put into the circulating Library in Boston, taken out by mr d Greenleaf, and by him lent to me7

Master Cleverly is still living. mr Burrel who was sick when you was here recoverd, but a younger Brother of his who lived, with him took the fever and dyed with it. Mr Cranch is getting well I hope, so is B Adams—

I have not heard yet whether Richard dexter has arrived.

I had a Letter from mrs smith in which she expresses her anxiety at hearing you were unwell and fears you took cold in going on in the storm—8 she says she has been greatly afflicted with an Eruption upon her hands which the Dr pronounces the salt Rhume—the same which afflicts you. she complaind of its itching intollerably— sulpher and cream of Tarter she took. you have always found that of service to you, and I would again recommend it to you—

I inclose to you a sermon, Dr Eckley was so polite as to send me two.9 it is a good performance— I see that the yellow fever has not purified the Northern Liberties. what a wretched crew?

adieu ever / yours

A Adams

Love to William

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A / Decr. 28. 98.”

1The ship America, Capt. Robert Jenkins, was owned by William Farris (1753–1837) and Ebenezer Stocker (ca. 1753–1816) of Newburyport. The vessel’s arrival in Newburyport on 23 Dec. was reported in the Massachusetts Mercury, 25 Dec., prompting AA to write to William Smith on 26 Dec. (MHi:Smith-Townsend Family Papers) that TBA was expected to travel on board the ship and to ask Smith for further information. Smith’s reply has not been found (Ship Registers of the District of Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1789–1870, Salem, Mass., 1937, p. 12; Benjamin W. Labaree, Patriots and Partisans: The Merchants of Newburyport, 1764–1815, Cambridge, 1962, p. 212; Madison, Papers, Secretary of State Series description begins The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series, ed. Robert J. Brugger, Mary A. Hackett, David B. Mattern, and others, Charlottesville, Va., 1986–. description ends , 2:286).

2The ship Barbara, Capt. Henry Clark, departed Hamburg for Boston on 27 October. On 28 Dec. it ran ashore in Manchester, Mass., but did not suffer substantial damage. It arrived in Boston on 15 Jan. 1799 (New London Connecticut Gazette, 5 Dec. 1798; Boston Russell’s Gazette, 31 Dec.; Boston Columbian Centinel, 19 Jan. 1799).

3That is, JA to AA, 17 Dec. 1798, above.

4The Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 18 Dec., printed multiple articles detailing the alleged “conspiracies” of the Society of United Irishmen. One stated that the United Irishmen were contributing to an “Age of Insurrection,” and another speculated that all Irishmen in the United States were “wild, and untameable” and had “degenerated into the most brutal ignorance.” A third suggested that it was the United Irishmen’s goal to “bring on a revolutionary state in America,” and a fourth estimated that as many as 40,000 United Irishmen were in the United States and listed seventeen members by name. The Philadelphia Porcupine’s Gazette, 21 Dec., claimed the objectives of the United Irishmen were “of a rebellious nature” and reprinted the list of members.

5Members of the Democratic Society of New York were summoned to a meeting “by one Davis,” according to the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 18 Dec., which also commented, “It is a pity the arm of justice is too feeble to communicate a halter to them.” Matthew Livingston Davis (1773–1850) was a New York City journalist and politician who edited several short-lived Democratic-Republican newspapers in the 1790s. During the 1798 gubernatorial election he organized a Democratic-Republican debating society and in 1799 was named secretary of the Democratic Society (Jerome Mushkat, “Matthew Livingston Davis and the Political Legacy of Aaron Burr,” NYHS, Quart. description begins New-York Historical Society, Quarterly. description ends , 59:123, 125–126 [April 1975]).

6Napoleon’s third dispatches were intercepted by British forces during the Egyptian campaign and were translated and printed in the Massachusetts press in late Dec. 1798. The dispatches were printed as a pamphlet in London on 11 Dec. and in Philadelphia in 1799 (Newburyport Herald, 25 Dec. 1798; Boston Independent Chronicle, 24–27 Dec.; Boston Columbian Centinel, 29 Dec.; London True Briton, 11 Dec.; Copies of Original Letters from the Army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, Intercepted by the Fleet under the Command of Admiral Lord Nelson, London, 1798, and Phila., 1799, 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. 35496).

7For Pommereul’s Campaign of General Buonaparte in Italy, from which AA quoted from p. iii and iv, and for translator John Davis and the loan of this book from the Boston Library Society, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 5, above.

8Not found.

9In his 29 Nov. thanksgiving sermon Rev. Joseph Eckley criticized “the very uncommon advancement of irreligion” in Europe and “the attacks of foreign power and influence” in U.S. politics. He advocated prayer and respect for “the institutions of the Gospel” and continued support for the federal government to overcome these challenges (Eckley, A Discourse, Delivered on the Public Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1798, Boston, 1798, p. 9, 18, 20, 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. 33664).

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