John Adams to Charles Adams
Philadelphia Jan. 2. 1794
This morning I recd your agreable Letter of the 30. Ult.—I wish you would explain to me what you mean, by “most of them finding their Purses lightened by their Connections[”] with (blank). Have they lent him Money?1
The Letter you mention was written in a careless haste intended for no Eye but yours and I fear not fit for any but a partial one— but if you think it will do any good, you may give an Extract, without any name or hint that can turn the Attention to me. if you do, cutt it out of the Paper and inclose it to me, for I have forgotten almost all about it and have no Copy.2 have all the five Numbers of Columbus been printed in the N. York Papers? I have not seen any one.3
I have Seen and detested the Libel on the President and observed the Proceedings in Consequence of it. Between you and me, if Virtues descend not by Inheritance, the Printer in Question is a Proof that an ill temper sometimes does. I am sorry however for I feel a regard for the Race who have good Qualities tho obscured by a little ill Nature. Mr Jefferson resigned his Office at the End of the Year and Yesterday was nominated and this day appointed Mr Randolph in his Stead.4 Mr Jefferson is going to Montecello to Spend his Days in Retirement, in Rural Amusements and Philosophical Meditations— Untill the President dies or resigns, when I suppose he is to be invited from his Conversations with Egeria in the Groves, to take the Reins of the State, and conduct it forty Years in Piety and Peace.5 Amen. He goes out with a blaze of Glory about his head, at least in Southern Eyes for his astonishing Negotiations with Hammond Genet and Viar.6 I cannot Say however that I am pleased with his Resignation. He might have worn off his sharp Points and become a wiser Minister than he has been sometimes. His Abilities are good—his Pen is very good—and for what I know the other Ministers might be the better for being watched by him. They will however be watched by other Centinels in sufficient Numbers. I dont dislike a Precedent of Resignation, for I sometimes feel as if it would one day be my own Case and I should be glad to have an Example to quote.
The Reasonings of Columbus, I am informed have carried Conviction to multitudes whose opinions were very different for Want of Information. It is indeed a luminous Production. The Writer had better mind his office, there are quantum meruits there. but none in Politicks, for an independent Man.
My Regards where due.
Fennos Paper is now a daily Advertising Paper, and whether it will be better than others I dont yet see.7 You have all in your N. York Papers that appears here and more. Not one Printer in this City has had the sense, Taste or Spirit to reprint a Line of Columbus; an habetude unpardonable.
You must be very discreet with my Letters— I shall write to you in Confidence Things not fit to be seen by others, as not sufficiently guarded & reserved.
yours as ever
RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); endorsed: “Jany 2 1794.”
1. See vol. 9:491–492. JA refers to Edmond Genet.
3. Portions of Columbus appeared in the American Minerva, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24 Dec. 1793, and the New York Daily Advertiser, 17, 28, 30 Dec., 1, 2 Jan. 1794. It was not reprinted in Philadelphia.
4. Edmund Randolph, who had previously served as U.S. attorney general, replaced Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state. Randolph held the position from 2 Jan. 1794 to 19 Aug. 1795 (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 ).
5. Egeria was a Roman water goddess, one of the Camenae associated with the Muses and linked to a grove just outside of Rome. She supposedly instructed Numa Pompilius (r. 715–673 B.C.), the legendary second king of Rome, who reigned for forty years (Oxford Classical Dicy. description begins Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, eds., The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3d edn., New York, 1996. description ends ).
6. José (or Josef) Ignacio de Viar served as Spanish chargé d’affaires in the United States from 1789 to 1796 (Repertorium, description begins Ludwig Bittner and others, eds., Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder seit dem Westfälischen Frieden (1648), Oldenburg, &c., 1936–1965; 3 vols. description ends 3:445).
7. John Fenno’s Philadelphia Gazette of the United States temporarily ceased publishing during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic but appeared again at the end of 1793 in its new format, an attempt to improve its profitability (Jeffrey L. Pasley, “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic, Charlottesville, Va., 2001, p. 58–59).