Adams Papers

Charles Adams to John Adams, 29 May 1793

Charles Adams to John Adams

New York May 29th 1793

My dear Sir

It is with great pleasure I hear that my brother is appointed to speak the town Oration, on the fourth of July next. It would give me infinite satisfaction to hear him, but as I cannot, I request a few copies if they can be procured, as soon as they appear in print.1 Confined as he must be, by the shackles which are, I think erroniously, imposed upon those who have this duty to perform; I have no doubt but he will greatly add to his already far extended reputation. Publicola, has been reprinted in Edinburg and in London; and in an European Magazine, there is a contradiction of your being the Author of those publications, as was indicated by the edition printed in Scotland.2 The reports of Dumourier’s defection, come from so many different quarters, that we begin to give credit to them; nor do I think it so very extraordinary, no man in his right senses could submit to be the instrument of so mad a faction, as now seem to govern in France. We have in our papers this day, a dialogue said to have passed between the General and the Commissioners sent to carry him to Paris: In which Dumourier says “your Convention consists of three hundred fools, governed by four hundred rascals. They have formed a Government infinitely more imbecile, dangerous and destructive, than the former. They will annihilate the nation.”3 I am very much pleased with a writer with the signature of Marcellus; I have seen but one Number reprinted in Fenno’s Gazette, but his sentiments are perfectly coincident with those, which I think every well wisher to his Country, every real American ought to adopt: but alas! what will not this people swallow, if gilded over with the foil of liberty and equality. Where is the Lover of this Country who will not join in the wish? “that laurelled victory may sit upon the sword of Justice and that success may always be strewed before the feet of virtuous Freedom” but we should learn to discriminate; We should learn to distinguish virtuous freedom, from unprincipled licentiousness; then, and then only, can we be a happy or a dignified people.4 While we are continually hunting in the catalogue of improbabilities, for excuses, to palliate the enormities of an enraged clan of Jacobins, we are injuring our morals and destroying our reputations.— Dumourier seems to have expressed great surprize that Condorcet, should not have pointed out a constitution, more worthy of his abilities: but what could he do? Might he not have fallen a victim to just ideas? and I think it is quite time that martyrdom should be discarded at least from France; there is but little encouragement. Monrs Genet is received with open arms in Philadelphia, I know of no objection which can with propriety be offered to this; provided it did not convey the idea of an acquiescence in the transactions in France. I know very well that such ideas as these, are termed Aristocratic. I disclaim the faith. My sentiments are dictated by the purest philanthropy. Can those who with the stern eye of apathy behold murder carnage and every affliction which can desolate a Country, following as a consequence of the unbridled machinations of a few: men Can they love mankind? No person can be more an advocate for civil liberty and civil equality than myself, but name not the French as models; name not that barbarous, that cruel people, as examples worthy to be followed by Americans, who are happy in equal laws and a just Government. Happy! thrice happy people! if they would reflect upon their own prosperity. I have found it adviseable of late, again to peruse with attention the writers upon Natural law. Grotius, puffendorph, Vattel, Burlemaque. many questions interesting to the community, and to individuals, dayly arise. These studies, blended with that of the law, have lately occupied my attention. I think I have pitched upon a method of reading, by far the most preferable: instead of reading the Reporters in course, I take up Espinasse’s Law of actions, a book of great authority and credit, and constantly refer to the cases in the Reporters: a method which fixes much more firmly in my memory the principles of every case: in this manner I intend to go through him, and have no doubt of reaping ample reward for my pains. It has been my endeavor to select in the first instance The Reporters during the time of Lord Mansfield. I have purchased

{ Burroughs
Durnford and East }
Richardson’s pra K B
Cowper Reports Bacon’s abridgment Crompton’s practice
Douglass Espinasse Nisi Prius Powell on Mortgages
Do  on Contracts
W Blackston Lilly’s Entries Highmore on bail
Lovelace laws disposal Kyd on bill of exchange

Laws of the State of New York.—5

Our parties in this City begin to cool down of late; it was quite time, for very warm blood was raised, and it was very much feared that serious consequences might have ensued.

Perhaps you may recollect, that when I was last at Quincy you offered me a work entitled Cours D’Etudes:6 I had then no method of conveying it to New York: should you now remain of the same mind, Brizler will pack them up, and send them to me by Barnard. I had occasion while I was there to peruse several parts of that work, and was highly delighted with it, as containing a very useful and instructive epitome of the Sciences. Judge Duane in his kindness has been pleased to appoint me one of the Commissioners to examine the claims of invalid pensioners. He may think it an honor conferred, but there is no emolument to be derived, and except its being a charitable duty, would be rather tedious. I accepted it on that account; but the late law of Congress has so restricted applicants, that I doubt much whether any one will be able to take advantage of it.7 Our latest arrivals from Europe bring intellegence to the fifth of April only; it appears that communications from France have been of late so impeded that we are led to suspect much of our information has been coined in England. I fear I have long since tired your patience And I will bid you adieu

Beleive me my dear Sir your ever affectionate and dutiful son

Charles Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “The Vice President of the United States / Quincy”; endorsed: “Charles Adams / May 29. / ansd June 5. 1793.”

1On 4 July, JQA delivered an address at Boston’s Old South Meeting House, which Benjamin Edes & Sons published some days later. “Seventeen times has the sun, in the progress of his annual revolutions, diffused his prolific radiance over the plains of Independent America,” JQA said. “Millions of hearts which then palpitated with the rapturous glow of patriotism, have already been translated to brighter worlds; to the abodes of more than mortal freedom.” The press reported an enthusiastic reaction to the address: “The elegance and spirit of the composition, and the forceful elocution of the Speaker, excited such a burst of admiration, as would have flattered a CATO” (JQA, An Oration Pronounced July 4th, 1793, Boston, 1793, p. 12, 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. 25076; Massachusetts Mercury, 5 July). An incomplete Dft and Tr of the oration are in the Adams Papers, filmed at 4 July.

2JQA’s Publicola articles were first published in Edinburgh in 1791 as Observations on Paine’s “Rights of Man” without any identifying author, though they were commonly attributed to JA. John Stockdale—a friend of JA—subsequently published them in London in 1793 under the title An Answer to Pain’s Rights of Man. By John Adams, Esq. but stopped the printing when he learned that JQA, not JA, was the author. The European Magazine, Feb. 1793, p. 85, included a note avowing that JA had not written the pieces (JQA, Writings description begins Writings of John Quincy Adams, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford, New York, 1913–1917; 7 vols. description ends , 1:66; John Stockdale to JA, 16 March, Adams Papers). See also TBA to AA, 27 May [1792], and note 5, above.

3Reports of the French National Convention for 1 April 1793 included an extended dialogue between General Dumouriez and the commissioners from the Convention. This dialogue suggested that it was Dumouriez’s “fixed intention” to go to Paris to protect the queen and her children, and he further threatened that “the convention will not exist three weeks longer” and expressed his determination to restore the monarchy (New York Journal, 29 May).

4Marcellus appeared in the Boston Columbian Centinel, 24 April, and 4, 11 May. The third installment was also reprinted in the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 25 May, and CA quotes from the final lines of that piece. Marcellus examines the role the United States and its citizens should play in the war among the European powers, arguing that “a rigid adherence to the system of Neutrality between the European nations now at war, is equally the dictate of justice and of policy, to the individual citizens of the United States, while the Nation remains neutral.” Furthermore, he suggests that “the natural state of all nations, with respect to one another, is a state of peace.”

5Henry Cowper, Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Court of King’s Bench: from . . . 1774, to . . . 1778, London, 1783; William Douglass, A Summary, Historical and Political, of the First Planting, Progressive Improvements, and Present State of the British Settlements in North-America, 2 vols., Boston, 1747–1752, 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. 5936; Charles Durnford and Sir Edward Hyde East, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of King’s Bench, London, 1787; Matthew Bacon and others, A New Abridgement of the Law, 5 vols., London, 1736–1766; John Lilly, Modern Entries, Being a Collection of Select Pleadings in the Courts of King’s Bench, London, 1723; Peter Lovelass, The Law’s Disposal of a Person’s Estate Who Dies without Will or Testament, 4th edn., London, 1787; Robert Richardson, The Attorney’s Practice in the Court of King’s Bench, London, 1739; George Crompton, Practice Common-placed; or, The Rules and Cases of Practice in the Courts of King’s Bench and Common Pleas, Methodically Arranged, 2 vols., London, 1780; John Joseph Powell, A Treatise upon the Law of Mortgages, London, 1785; Powell, Essay upon the Law of Contracts and Agreements, London, 1790; Anthony Highmore, A Digest on the Doctrine of Bail in Civil and Criminal Cases, London, 1783; Stewart Kyd, A Treatise on the Law of Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes, London, 1790; Laws of the State of New York, Albany, N.Y., 1777–  .

6Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, Abbé de Mureaux, Cours d’étude pour l’instruction du prince de Parme, 16 vols., Parma, Italy, 1775. Copies of all but vol. 13 are in JA’s library at MB (Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends ).

7On 28 Feb., George Washington signed into law “An Act to Regulate the Claims to Invalid Pensions,” which modified the earlier “Act to Provide for the Settlement of the Claims of Widows and Orphans . . . and to Regulate the Claims to Invalid Pensions,” enacted the previous year. The new law created higher bars to establish legal claims of disability from military service during the Revolutionary War, including oaths from two doctors and multiple witnesses testifying to the injury and strict deadlines for applications. The act also required that all evidence be submitted either to a district court judge or to a three-person commission appointed by the judge (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., p. 1346–1348, 1436–1437).

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