Adams Papers

John Adams to Charles Adams, 4 December 1790

John Adams to Charles Adams

Bush Hill Decr. 4. 1790

My dear Charles

Although I am much obliged to you for your kind Letter of the Second, and the News and Observations in it; I am dissappointed in not receiving you as I expected, instead of a Letter.1 I thought it was Sufficiently explained and understood between Us, that you were to be at Philadelphia on the first monday in December. But as it now appears otherwise I desire you to loose no time in coming on; as I want you, for the Sake of your Mother your Brother and yourself: besides a little selfish interest I have in you.

We have had a melancholly house but are all now better. Your Brother, weak as he is, has passed the worst of his disorder, as we hope.

My Love to Col & Mrs Smith, Billy & Tommy and all Friends.— Johnny is as hearty and as gay as you can imagine. His Health has been immoveable, and his almost alone.

Judge Wilsons Lectures commence on monday fortnight: and I wish you to apply to him as early as possible. He will be pleased to have you and your Brother, as Hearers. You must take minutes of what you may hear and Send them to John.2

Your Haerlem Oil is pronounced to be an empirical medicine.—3 This Town is full of Accademies Professors, Letures and Students both of Law and Physick: and will afford you a good opportunity of improvement, in various kinds of Knowledge. No Advantages or Opportunities however will avail like Patience and Study.

The great medical Characters here, Jones Shippen Rush and Khun’s were educated in Europe at Leyden, Paris, London or Edinburgh: but in Law Mr Ingersol alone has Studied at the Temple— exept Mr Shippen who is not yet in Practice.4

on a Visit to Dr Jones Yesterday I had the Pleasure to See the Portraits of Boerhaave, Muschenbroek Mead & sloane, over his mantle Piece: and remaked the Pleasure with which he related the Lectures he had heard at Leyden and Paris.5

The great Judges and Masters of the Law are to be the Objects of your Admiration and Imitation. There is no Character more venerable on this side of Heaven than a wise and upright Judge. The destroyers of Mankind however glorious are hateful in comparison.

But where do I wander? I only took my Pen to desire you to come immediately to your affectionate Father

John Adams

RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); addressed: “Mr Charles Adams / at Col Laurence’s / New York”; internal address: “Mr Charles Adams.”; notation: “Free / John Adams.”

1Not found.

2James Wilson (1742–1798), Pennsylvania statesman and Supreme Court justice from 1789 until his death, delivered a series of lectures on the law at the College of Philadelphia starting 15 Dec. 1790. Newspapers reported that the introductory lecture was attended by leading figures in national and local politics: “The President of the United States, with his lady—also the Vice-President, and both houses of Congress, the President and both houses of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, together with a great number of ladies and gentlemen, were present; the whole composing a most brilliant and respectable audience” (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 ; Pennsylvania Packet, 25 Dec.). This first talk was subsequently published as An Introductory Lecture to a Course of Law Lectures, Phila., 1791, 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, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 24007.

3Haerlem Oil, also known as Dutch Drops, was a mixture of turpentine, balsam of sulphur, and petroleum used internally to treat rheumatic complaints (Robert Dunglison, A Dictionary of Medical Science, 4th edn., Phila., 1844, p. 503; J. Worth Estes, Dictionary of Protopharmacology: Therapeutic Practices, 1700–1850, Canton, Mass., 1990, p. 71, 93).

4John Jones (1729–1791) studied with doctors in London, Paris, Edinburgh, and Leyden before completing his M.D. in 1751 at the University of Rheims (Martin Kaufman and others, eds., Dictionary of American Medical Biography, 2 vols., Westport, Conn., 1984). For Adam Kuhn, William Shippen Jr., and Jared Ingersoll, see vol. 2:112, 171, 287; for lawyer Thomas Lee Shippen, whom the Adamses knew in London in 1786 as he pursued plans to study at the Temple, see vol. 7:303, 304.

5Petrus van Musschenbroek (1692–1761), a Dutch scientist who lectured at several European universities on experimental philosophy and physics, was well known for his experiments with the Leyden jar. Hans Sloane (1660–1753), the famous British physician and collector, included Queen Anne and King George II among his patients (Charles Coulston Gillispie, ed., Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 16 vols., N.Y., 1981; 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. description ends ). For Dutch botanist and physician Herman Boerhaave, see vol. 4:xiii; for Richard Mead, another British doctor, see vol. 5:171.

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