Abigail Adams to John Adams
Quincy Janry 24. 1794
my dearest Friend
We have had four days and Nights of Rain an old fashiond rain. if there had been upon the Ground a Body of snow, the flood of Rain, would have carried away all our Mills and Bridges it has laid our fenses in the meddow below the House flat the water is a foot above the bridge at mr Blacks, and over the Top of his wall which he built last Summer. till this Rain we have not had water to Grind with in Town, & the wells were very low. I expect a Fe’bry. winter.
The news of last Evening is that the duke of yorks Army with himself are captured and Toulon retaken with every ship, this in a hand Bill from Genet, who seems out of Breath for Joy, as he represents the whole city of Philadelphia he says the News arrived by a vessel from France which was sent there by the President, “and that Congress could not stay in their sitting”1
if I thought such an event would accelerate an Honorable Peace in Europe and enable France to Govern themselves, I could most sincerely unite in acclamations and congratulation’s but such is the state of wild Frenzy which possesses that devoted Nation, that they will instanly invade England if in their power, possess themselves of Spain, & over turn every Throne, which they have ability to assault. Brissot and 14 others have follow’d the Queen in quick succession. Houchard we are told is also Goullitened,2 if it was not treating a subject so melancholy, with too much levity; one might advise any future general, whom the Convention may be disposed to invest with the Chief command, to send them such an answer, as it is said Harry the 8th of England received from a Foreign Lady to whom in the latter part of his Reign, he signified that it was his pleasure to marry her. to which she replied, [“]I am highly sensible of the honor your Majesty intends me, and if I had more Heads than one, should be proud of the Alliance, but as I have not, I must beg leave to decline the connexion”3
I hope tomorrows post will bring us more particulars, than Genets hasty hand Bill. I am some times almost tempted to wish that I was as ignorant of the Affairs of my Country, as those who are busied in a Round of dissipation. I should at least be free from the constant anxiety and solicitude which at present occupies all my thoughts, if by it, I could render any Service to my country, I should receive some compensation. I want to hear every day from you. I want to sit down and converse with you. every evening, I sit here alone and Brood over probabilities and conjectures. The Democratick Societys might more properly be termd Genetian. the resolves publishd in yesterdays paper of that society in Philadelphia, are rather more assuming than their Boston Brethren.4 they are not yet sufficiently powerfull to carry their measures into effect. Swift says that [“]Man is so much of the Nature of a sheep, that whoever is bold enough to give the first great Leap over the Heads of those about him, tho he be the worst of the flock, shall be quickly followd by the rest, besides when Parties are once formd, the Stragglers look so ridiculous and become so insignificant, that they have no other way but to run into the herd, which at least will hide and protect them, and where to be much considerd requires only to be very voilent.”5 from these causes I dare say do the Numbers in these Societyes increase, for the People are happy are contented Satisfyed with the Government and those who administer it. all those who wish to disturb it, will be found like Jarvis Austin Morten when weighd in the balance, wanting—wanting office wanting property or wanting morals—
Thus do I run on, merely for the sake of saying something to you, which may perhaps be as much to the purpose, as somethings which you hear in the assembly over which you preside, and if it should not, why then I can relinquish my right to a terms so long hackned that I am almost tempted never to claim it again, except it is to assure
You that my Heart bears an equal degree of affection and tenderness towards you with that expressd by your own, for your
Mrs Brisler was well this evening
Love to son Thomas—
RC (Adams Papers); addressed by JQA: “The Vice-President of the United States / Philadelphia.”; endorsed: “Mrs A. Jan. 24. / ansd Feb. 4. 1794.”
1. The Boston American Apollo, 23 Jan., reprinted an express from Edmond Genet to the French consul at New York exulting over an apparent French victory: “The Duke of York is taken, with his whole army; Toulon is re-taken, with every ship in the harbour. All this, my dear fellow-citizen, has been communicated to the Congress, not officially, but as certain: The Congress could not stay in their sitting—the whole people in Philadelphia are in the greatest joy; and compliments and salutations are coming to me from every part. … Let our friends know this news—and let us cry out together, Vive la Republique!”
Genet’s information was only partially correct. Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827), King George III’s second son, led the British portion of the combined armies against France. While the British Army was eventually pushed back from Belgium later in 1794, the French never captured the duke or his soldiers. The French Army successfully broke the siege of Toulon in mid-Dec. 1793, with Napoleon Bonaparte playing a decisive role in his first significant military victory. And the U.S. Congress adjourned an hour early on 14 Jan. 1794, “owing to the sensation which the receipt of an account of the recapture of Toulon and capture of the Duke of York and his army, produced” (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 ; Bosher, French Rev., description begins J. F. Bosher, The French Revolution, New York, 1988. description ends p. 199–200, 203; Cambridge Modern Hist., description begins The Cambridge Modern History, Cambridge, Eng., 1902–1911; repr. New York, 1969; 13 vols. description ends 8:352; Philadelphia General Advertiser, 15 Jan.).
2. Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville was executed on 31 Oct. 1793 and Gen. Jean Nicolas Houchard (b. 1740) on 15 Nov. (Bosher, French Rev., description begins J. F. Bosher, The French Revolution, New York, 1988. description ends p. xxvii, 204; 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 ).
3. The quotation is attributed to Christiana of Denmark, Duchess of Milan (1522–1590), in Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England, 4th edn., 5 vols., London, 1786, 1:113–114.
4. At a 9 Jan. 1794 meeting of the Democratic Society of Pennsylvania, its members passed a series of fourteen resolves outlining an extensive agenda including the protection of the right of free association, defense of France against all of its enemies, promotion of the Franco-American alliance, support for French representatives and their activities within the United States, and opposition to British impressment of American sailors, among other issues. By contrast, the Massachusetts Constitutional Society, which met on 13 Jan. in Boston, published a more general declaration in support of the French Revolution and “the cause of Liberty” (Boston Independent Chronicle, 16, 23 Jan.).
5. Jonathan Swift, “A Discourse of the Contests and Dissensions between the Nobles and the Commons in Athens and Rome,” in The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, D.D., ed. John Nichols, 24 vols., N.Y., 1812, 2:322.