Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams
N York July 11th 1790
my dear son
I believe this is your Birth day, may you have many returns of this Period, encreasing in wisdom knowledge wealth and happiness at every Aniversary. it is a long time since I wrote to you, yet I have not been unmindfull of you I am anxious for your welfare,1 and Solicitious for your success in Buisness. you must expect however to advance slowly at first and must call to your aid Patience and perseverence, keeping in mind the observation of that great Master of Life and manners who has said, “that there is a tide in the affairs of Men”2 it must be some dire misfortune or calamity, if I judge not amiss, that will ever place you in the shallows, but you must expect to contend with envy Jealousy and other malignant passions, because they exist in Humane Nature.3 as the poet observes “envy will merrit as its shade persue”4 but a steady adherence to principals of Honour and integrity, will Baffel even those foes. [“]make not haste to be rich”5 is a maxim of Sound policy tho contrary to the Sentiments of Mankind,6 yet I have ever observed that wealth suddenly acquired is seldom balanced with discretion, but is as suddenly dissipated, and as happiness is by no means in proportion to Wealth, it ought to make us content even tho we do not attain to any great degree of it but to quit moralizing, col Hamilton has agreed to write to Genll Lincoln to furnish 5 Hundred dollars one hundred pounds of which you are to receive and the remainder is to be subject to dr Tufts order.7 I would advise you to keep your Horse at Braintree. you can easily get him when you want him—
you will see by the publick papers that we are destined to Philadelphia, a Grievious affair to me I assure you, but so it is ordained—8 when I shall see you and the rest of my Friends I know not, but if I can hear that you are doing well it will be a great satisfaction to me. Your sister and the children are here to day and send their Love to you. adieu it shall not be so long again before I write to you. Let me hear from you
Yours most affectionatly
RC (Adams Papers). Dft (Adams Papers); filmed at [July 1790]. Tr (Adams Papers).
1. In the Dft, AA originally finished this sentence with “and hope as you advance in Life that your prospects will brighten upon you.”
2. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, scene iii, line 218.
3. AA continues in the Dft, “and because they frequently serve as Agents against distinguishd abilities.”
4. Pope, An Essay on Criticism, line 468.
5. “A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent” (Proverbs, 28:20).
6. From this point, the RC and Dft are significantly different. The Dft concludes as follows: “I know that you have ever been in the habit of economy, some times obliged to excercise more of it, than I could have wisht, but you know the causes and reasons. I do not wish to enumerate them. you will however be the less anxious at a continuence of an old habit, than if you was obliged to commence it at this day. thou shalt Love thy Neighbour as thyself is an injunction of holy Writ, but I know of no Law which obliges us to be unmindfull of ourselves. therefore my advise to my children is to look well to their own affairs.
and if they are calld into publick Life consider well if they can afford to aid their country to the sacrifice of their own I hope they will never be calld to act in such perilious times as has fallen to the share of their Father. if they should I would hope have them keep in mind a maxim which tho it has not met with the Reward which it ought to, has ever been a source of satisfaction to himself. it is never to suffer private interest to Bias his judgment but to sacrifice ease convenience and interest for the general welfare of the country to this principal you must attribute his declared opinion for a Removal from hence to Philadelphia, for tho he Stands upon Record as voting against both N york & Philadelphia, it was oweing to his dislike to the Bill which confined them to Philadelphia for ten years & an agreement to make Potowmack the permanant Residence. as he conceived that ten years hence it might not be most proper place. it will be a greivious thing to me to be obliged to leave this delicious spot, your sister & the children your Brother & other connection, yet for the sake of Peace harmony and justice I am Submissive. I have just been reading the speach of mr Bland Lee and I am much pleased with the candour and good sense it contains. I am still in hopes that the Assumption will be obtaind but I do not think that Congress will rise till August. in your Letter to your Brother you mention the hundred pounds that you want to pay mr Parsons Your Father will write to genll Lincoln to pay it you and to draw upon col Hamilton who will answer the Bill. I would recommend to you to send your Horse to Braintree to pasture & you can easily get him when ever you have occasion.”
On 6 July, Richard Bland Lee of Virginia delivered a “very handsome and pathetic speech, addressed to the passions as well as the understandings of the house” in support of the federal government’s removal to the banks of the Potomac. Bemoaning “local animosities,” Bland Lee emphasized the “ultimate harmony which was to be expected from fixing the permanent residence there” (New York Daily Gazette, 8 July).
7. On 15 July, JA enclosed in a letter to Cotton Tufts “a Bill on General Lincoln for five hundred dollars.” JA instructed, “Out of it, you will let my Son John Quincy Adams receive one hundred Pounds lawful Money to pay Mr Parsons his Honorarium. The Remainder you will apply to repay the one hundred and twenty dollars you lately received of the General, and the rest you will reserve in your hands” (Adams Papers).
8. For Congress’ move to Philadelphia, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 3, above.