Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to William Cranch, 27 May 1789

John Quincy Adams to William Cranch

Newbury-Port. May 27th: 1789.

I should have answered your last favour,1 ere this [but in?] [conse]quence of the information you gave me, I went to Haverhill [last?] Thursday and returned but the day before yesterday. Regularly the Sunday is my scribbling day, but as there are several opportunities for sending at present, I [can]not suffer the week to pass over without noticing you, and must there fore [steal?] an hour or two from—from whom?—why first negatively not from my Lord Coke: no nor from any other Lord or gentleman that has any connection with laws, except the eternal and immutable laws of nature. But from the divine Shakespear whom I read with more fervent admiration than any thing—but enough of this.

[With respect?] to Charles the tender solicitude, which you feel in regard to his conduct is only an additional evidence of a disposition, which I have long known to be peculiarly yours. it adds to the number of obligations for which I feel myself indebted to you, but it cannot add any thing to the settled opinion which I have of the excellency of your heart.— I wrote him a very serious Letter three weeks ago and conversed with him at Haverhill upon the subject in such a manner as must I think lead him to be more cautious.2 However I depend much more upon the alteration which is soon to take place in his situation, than upon any advice or counsel, that I can ever give him. I am well convinced that if any thing can keep him within the limits of regularity, it will be his knowlege of my fathers being [near him and the?] fear of being discovered by him.—

If you have an opportunity to send to Braintree I wish you would inform my Mother, that by sending the articles [which?] I [men]tioned to her, immediately to Boston, I shall probably soon get them here. But 17? Cave, Cave, Cave!3

You say nothing concerning the Letter which I [enclosed in my?] last for Thomas & Co: I should be glad to hear if it was transmitted to them.—4 I believe I shall not soon attempt to mount my Pegasus again Some of the characters contained in a certain Vision which [you] have seen have been handed about in this Town. All of them have been applied to as particular persons, and reports have been spread, that I avow’d myself to be the author, and named the said persons for whom they were written— Not a word of truth in all this, and yet it has made me enemies—5 And the circumstance has been employ’d as an argument to prove me to be the author of a scurrilous enigmatical list which I have mentioned to you heretofore.6 “He abuses people in rhyme, and therefore, he doubtless abuses people also in prose.” Such is the reasoning; and so little capacity or inclination is there to distinguish between a Satire and a lampoon.—If you wish to thrive in the world and to pass for an amiable, clever, discreet good man, let your invariable maxim be NEVER TO DISAPPROVE.


J. Q. Adams.

RC (MHi:Adams Papers, All Generations); addressed: “Mr: W[m] Cranch. / Boston.”; endorsed: “J. Q. A. / May 27. 1789.”; notation: “Favd. by Mr: Smith.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed and the paper damaged by water.

1Not found.

2Not found, but JQA mentioned in his Diary that he wrote to CA on 2 May. The brothers may also have had a conversation on 25 May, when JQA was at Haverhill (D/JQA/14, APM Reel 17).

3This sentence was written sideways in the margin beside this and the following paragraph.

4Neither JQA’s letter to William Cranch nor one to Isaiah Thomas & Company has been found, but one of JQA’s poems appeared in the next issue of Thomas’ Massachusetts Magazine under the pseudonym Alcander (May 1789, p. 321).

5For JQA’s satirical poem, “A Vision,” about several young women in Newburyport, see Diary, 2:154, 381. On 10 June 1790, William Cranch wrote to JQA of an encounter Cranch had with a mutual acquaintance, Betsy Foster. Cranch reported that Foster said “she did not know any person she should be so afraid of, as you. I demanded the grounds upon which she had formed such an opinion. She said she was not much acquainted with you, but that she had in her pocketbook a little piece of satirical Poetry which she thought would justify her fears. She then produced a Copy of the Vision. She was charmed with it, but she could not help being afraid of the Author.” Foster went on to describe parts of the poem as “illiberal” and “very unjust.” Cranch assured Foster that “if there is anything illiberal in the Vision I was certain you could not be the Author” (Adams Papers).

6This “enigmatical list” appeared in the 29 April 1789 issue of the Newburyport Essex Journal, which is apparently no longer extant. An article in the Essex Journal, 6 May, signed Eugenio claimed in regard to the list that “I must confess I never was witness to so much scurrillity and baseness— Who but a ruffian—a villain—an enemy to the loveliest work of God—a base traducer of merit, would lurk behind the Printing Press, and throw promiscuously arrows poisoned with obscenity and defamation, to wound the bosom of the defenceless fair.”

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