Adams Papers

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 29 July 1794

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia July 29th: 1794

My dear Madam

I am still waiting for the arrival of Coll: Hamilton whom it is necessary for me to see before my departure, and who has been detained several days in the Country by the sickness of a child.1

I received your favour of the 20th: instt: and my brother is now prepared to go with me.— We should be very happy to comply with your request respecting the bracelets, but we shall certainly not have time for the miniatures to be taken here; and indeed our miniature painters are so indifferent workmen, that it will be best to have them done in Europe.

A very serious opposition to the collection of the Excise has taken place in one of the western Counties of this State. The Collector’s House has been burnt down, and an action between the insurgents and a company of soldiers terminated in the loss of several lives.—2

I enclose with this a pamphlet which has just made its appearance; written as I judge from the face of it by some Englishman, but I know not any Briton in this Country equal to it.

There is much party spirit, much virulence, and some controversial disingenuity conspicuous in this publication. It is certainly not written with a view to popular approbation. But I believe the Doctor and his friends would not find it an easy task, really to answer it—3

A french fleet of forty sail which went from hence about a fortnight since has been picked up by an English squadron on the Coast; and a very small portion of them have escaped.— There is some suspicion I believe of treachery among the french, or by the American Pilots who were with them; but I know not exactly what it is.4

On the other hand the combined armies in Europe, have no reason to boast of their success. Their situation is even extremely critical. And the violent measures pursued by the ministry in England, indicate a consciousness of internal weakness more than any thing that has hitherto occurred.

No account of Mr: Jay’s arrival as yet.5

The Secretary of State and Hammond continue bickering and recriminating.— If the latter is not absolutely instructed to pick a quarrel with us at all hazards his conduct is very indiscreet. He is now at New-York.

A pompous Letter from London giving an Account of the present internal state of France has been published in most of the newspapers here, and has probably found its way into those of Boston. It was written by Jackson, the ci-devant Secretary to the President. It contains information really important, but I know not how far it is to be depended upon. There is a circumstance which proves that the author was vain of his Letter at least.— He addressed and sent it to two different persons: Mr: Pinckney in London, and Mr: Willing in this City.— Mr: Pinckney sent a copy of it to the Secretary of State; so that when Mr: Willing received that sent to him, and was anxious to communicate his very interesting intelligence, he was greatly surprized to find that the President was already in possession of it.6

Instead of Salvator-Rosa, methinks this incident would supply a tolerable subject for the pencil of Hogarth.

I write very freely: indeed I find it difficult to realize that henceforth my Correspondence must be armed at all points, or confidential. It will take me some time to ease myself in diplomatic buckram completely. I have no occasion to request of you that my future letters, may be reserved from all but my father’s inspection.— You will easily distinguish those parts of them which are intended only for yourself and him.

I am in all duty and affection your Son

J. Q. Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs: A. Adams / Quincy.”; internal address: “Mrs: A. Adams, Quincy.”; endorsed: “JQ Adams july / 29 1794”; docketed: “Philadelphia.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 126.

1On 11 July Alexander Hamilton wrote to George Washington asking to be excused from Philadelphia “to make an excursion into the country for a few days to try the effect of exercise & change of air” on his son, John Church Hamilton (b. 1792). Alexander Hamilton had planned to return within a week but was detained at New York and did not arrive back in Philadelphia until 30 July (Hamilton, Papers, description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett, Jacob E. Cooke, and others, New York, 1961–1987; 27 vols. description ends 16:591, 615–616, 627).

2JQA recounts the first violent action of the Whiskey Rebellion. On 16 July a group of armed men attacked John Neville, the regional supervisor for collection of the federal excise in western Pennsylvania, seeking his resignation and his records of tax collection on distilled spirits. A skirmish ensued in which one person was killed. The next day, a much larger mob of several hundred people returned and a second battle followed. Two or three men were killed, others were wounded, and Neville’s estate was burned.

Over the next few months, several thousand Pennsylvanians engaged in a series of actions, some violent, to protest and thwart attempts to collect the excise tax on spirits. Ultimately, George Washington gathered an army of nearly 13,000 from various state militias and personally led them part of the way to put down the insurgency, which was largely accomplished by November. While the army arrested many people as suspects, only a handful were ever tried for treason. All but two were acquitted, and those two Washington eventually pardoned (Slaughter, Whiskey Rebellion, description begins Thomas P. Slaughter, The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution, New York, 1986. description ends p. 3, 217–221). For more on the Whiskey Rebellion, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 6, above.

3Possibly An Impartial History of the Late Revolution in France, from Its Commencement to the Death of the Queen, and the Execution of the Deputies of the Gironde Party, 2 vols., Phila., 1794, 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. 27588. A copy is 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 ).

4On 13 July a French convoy of some thirty ships, mainly merchantmen containing provisions for France, sailed from the Delaware River. The next day they were attacked by British forces. Given the order to disperse, some of the convoy escaped but over half were captured (New York Journal, 16 July; Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, 19 July; Philadelphia Gazette, 30, 31 July).

5News of John Jay’s arrival in London had reached New York by 13 Aug. and Philadelphia by 14 Aug., where it was widely reported. The Philadelphia Gazette of that day, for instance, noted, “By the brig Nancy we learn that Mr. JAY had arrived at London, and was well received by the Ministry.”

6This letter was apparently from William Jackson, Washington’s secretary, to Thomas Willing of Philadelphia, the president of the Bank of the United States (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 ). Dated London, 28 April, it appeared in the Philadelphia Gazette, 16 July. The letter described in glowing terms the “formidable preparations” the French were making for the coming war, including the mustering of troops, gathering of armaments, and preparation of fuel. Jackson also celebrated the agricultural progress of France, noting that “amidst all this din and preparation of arms, the country is more carefully and extensively cultivated than in any former period. … The very avenues and approaches to the Chateaux are ploughed, even walks in the gardens of the Tuilleries are sown and planted, and no country presents a more promising appearance in agriculture than France does at this moment.”

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