Adams Papers

John Adams to Thomas Welsh, 13 September 1790

John Adams to Thomas Welsh

New York Septr. 13. 1790.

My dear Dr Welsh

I received your Letter, before my Departure for Philadelphia, but had not time to answer it.1

It is not probable that any Special Agents will be employed in the Business you had in contemplation. The Board consists of Men, who will Study Æconomy, in that as well as in all other Affairs committed, to their Charge; and therefore the Loan Officers or Collectors or some other known Character will have this Additional Duty annexed to him, without any other Reward, than the honour of it, as I Suppose.2

I have much Satisfaction in finding my Son in your Family. What the Conjunctions and Oppositions of two Such political Planets may produce I know not.— Politicks are bred in the Bones of both of you. but your good Example will teach him I hope to take Politicks by Way of Amusement, or Spectacle without ever Suffering their Interference with your Professions.3

I recollect the painful Years, I Suffered from 1758 when I was Sworn at Boston, to the year 1761 too perfectly not to Sympathize with John. Dont let him flatter himself with hopes of a run of Business, which is neither to be expected, nor would be beneficial. His Business is to Study, and be constant to his Office and in Court. Causes and Clients will come soon enough for his Benefit, if he does that. “My Knowledge of the Law cost me Seven Years hard Study in that Great Chair” Said John Reed, who had as great a Genius and became as eminent as any Man.4 “Attend to the Study of the Law rather than the Gain of it” Said my Master Gridley to me; and I recollect the precept with Pleasure enough to recommend it to my Sons.5 I can ill afford to maintain my Sons at their Studies, but I had rather do that than have them overwhelmed with a run of Business at first, which must put an End to their Studies.

If a Fathers Partiality has not deceived me very much, John is as great a Schollar as this Country has produced at his Age; and I know he has a Spirit that will not stoop to dishonourable Practice or Conduct. I am therefore perfectly at ease in my Mind about his success. Whether his Reputation Spreads this year or two or three years hence, is indifferent to me, provided his Anxiety does not injure his health. I have seen too many flashing Insects in my day, glitter and glare for a moment and then disappear, to wish that my sons may Add to the Number.6

The best regards of my family accompany my own to Mrs Welsh, from, my dear sir, your Fnd & sert

John Adams

RC (MHi:Adams-Welsh Corr.); addressed: “Dr Thomas Welsh / Boston”; internal address: “Dr Welsh.”; endorsed: “Vice President / Septr 13. 1790”; notation: “Free / John Adams.” LbC in CA’s hand (Adams Papers); APM Reel 115.

1Not found.

2On 21 Sept. Welsh again asked for inside information that JA might have as a commissioner of the federal sinking fund, saying “it might serve me and I think injure nobody” (Adams Papers). JA responded on 10 Oct.: “It would give me great Pleasure to comply with your request, and to be of Service to you, in any Way in my Power: but I am not at Liberty to communicate the most distant hint to any one, relative to the Subject” (MHi:Adams-Welsh Corr.). Welsh apparently asked a third time through JQA; see CA to JQA, 7 Nov., below.

3Although Welsh’s social circle included many prominent Boston politicians, he himself never served in public office.

4John Read (1680–1749), Harvard 1697, was the leading attorney of his day and instrumental in shaping the practice of law in early New England (DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ).

5Jeremiah Gridley, the well-respected attorney who supported JA’s admission to the Boston bar, advised JA: “Pursue the Study of the Law rather than the Gain of it. Pursue the Gain of it enough to keep out of the Briars, but give your main Attention to the study of it” (JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 1:54–55). For Gridley, see also JA, Legal Papers description begins Legal Papers of John Adams, ed. L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel, Cambridge, 1965; 3 vols. description ends , 1:ci.

6In his reply of 21 Sept., Welsh concurred: “The Doctrine of Patience which you emphatically inculcate I have long since been a Convert to. From the first Insertion of the Plough of the husbandman into the Soil to the Consummation of [his] Wishes in harvest a constant Exercise of this Virtue is necessary. Your Son is fully convinced of the Necessity of it and will let it have its perfect work. He is indeed what you think him to be and will in a very reasonable time acquire Business Confidence and Reputation in his Profession” (Adams Papers).

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