John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia Feb. 3. 1793
My dearest Friend
General Lincoln setts out Tomorrow, and I should not dare to let him go without a Love Letter to you.
After a November December and January the fairest softest and finest that ever were known in this Place, The Month of February has been ushered in by a considerable Snow: but the Weather is again so fine that the sun will soon restore Us the naked ground: I should like it better in its White Robe of Innocence till the 20th of March.
I dined Yesterday at Mr Daltons. Mrs Dalton enquires affectionately and sends her regards &c
Fryday night I Spent with the Philosophical society. The Meeting was thin: but I was not able to perceive any great superiority to our Accademy, except in the President.1 There are able Men however, and I was agreably entertained. Mr Jefferson was polite enough to accompany me: so you see We are still upon Terms. I wish somebody would pay his Debt of seven Thousand Pounds to Britain and the Debts of all his Country men and then I believe his Passions would subside his Reason return, and the whole Man and his whole State become good Friends of the Union and its Govt. Silence however on this head, or at least great Caution.
I hope the Boston Rejoicings were at the success of the Arms of France, and not intended as Approbation of all the Jacobinical Councils. I am enough in the Spirit of the Times to be glad the Prussians and Austrians have not Succeeded, but not to exult in the Prison or Tryal of that King to whom though I am personally under no Obligation, my Country is under the greatest.2 It is Providentially ordered that I who am the only man American who was ever Accredited, to him and retired from his Court without his Picture, and under his displeasure Should be the only one to bewail his Misfortune. The accursed Politicks of his knavish Favourite have cost him his Crown if not his head. The Duke de la Rochefaucault too, is cutt to Pieces for his Idolatry.3 If I had not washed my own hands of all this Blood, by warning them against it, I should feel some of it upon my soul.
Macchiavels Advice to cutt off a numerous Nobility had more weight than mine to preserve them and Franklins Plagiary Project from Marchement Nedham had more Weight with Fools than all my Proofs strong as holy Writ.4 The Vengeance of Heaven for their Folly, has been revealed in more shivering Terms than in any of my numerous Examples
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Febry 3. 1793.”
1. JA is making fun of himself; he was elected president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston on 24 May 1791 after the death of the organization’s first president, James Bowdoin. He would remain in that position—albeit largely in an honorary capacity—until his resignation on 4 June 1813. David Rittenhouse was president of the American Philosophical Society (Frank E. Manuel and Fritzie P. Manuel, James Bowdoin and the Patriot Philosophers, Phila., 2004, p. 250–253; Amer. Philos. Soc., Trans. description begins American Philosophical Society, Memoirs, Proceedings, and Transactions. description ends , 3:xxviii , 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. 25103).
2. Louis XVI, who had been arrested in Aug. 1792, was tried by the National Convention and executed on 21 Jan. 1793. Marie Antoinette was guillotined on 16 Oct. (Bosher, French Rev. description begins J. F. Bosher, The French Revolution, New York, 1988. description ends , p. xiv, xx, 180). See also Descriptive List of Illustrations, Nos. 9 and 10, above.
3. Louis Alexandre, Duc de La Rochefoucauld d’Anville (1743–1792), a philosophe and friend of the United States who had corresponded with JA, was stoned to death by a French mob in Sept. 1792 (JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 4:42; Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins Jean Chrétien Ferdinand Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends ).
4. In The Prince, ch. 9, “Of the Civil Princedom,” Niccolò Machiavelli warns of the difficulty of a prince coming to power through the support of the nobility because he “finds many about him who think themselves as good as he, and whom, on that account, he cannot guide or govern as he would.” Machiavelli further notes that the prince “need not alwfays live with the same nobles, being able to make and unmake these from day to day, and give and take away their authority at his pleasure” (Machiavelli, The Prince, transl. N. H. Thomson, N.Y., 1910, p. 35).
Marchamont Needham (or Nedham) (1620–1678), a provocative British journalist, was best known for his satirical writings and frequently shifting allegiances during the English Civil War. Needham wrote several tracts in defense of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth and the overthrow of the monarchy, including The Case of the Commonwealth of England Stated, London, 1649; The Excellencie of a Free-State; or, The Right Constitution of a Common-wealth, London, 1656; and Interest Will Not Lie; or, A View of England’s True Interest, London, 1659 (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 ). JA believed that Franklin had been unduly influenced by Needham’s antimonarchical writings and that the French, in turn, were unduly influenced by Franklin. See, for example, JA to TBA, 26 April 1795 (PWacD) and 7 April 1796 (DLC).