Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1 December 1794

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Phila. Decr. 1. 1794

My Dearest Friend

Your Letter of the 19th of Nov. gave me, in addition to the ordinary Satisfaction I receive from your Letters, the Pleasure of knowing that your Visit to Haverhill, the damp Vapour of whose River I dreaded, had not injured your health.

You ask me, if Dr Tufts may be collecting Materials, this Winter for Building on the Medford farm? I fear it will be a very costly Undertaking considering the Extravagant Prices of every Thing, and it will keep me Streightened and poor for a long time. I expect the Expence of Building will be 300£, the Interest of which is Eighteen Pounds a Year near half the annual Rent of the whole Estate. I am willing to sell the whole for what it will fetch or to buy the whole at any reasonable Rate. But is it desired of me to build the whole House at my own Expence, when the half only of the Place is yours? I know however your tender and laudable Attachment to the Place, and will consent cheerfully to whatever you determine. or I will desire Dr Tufts to consider me as his son, when he considers sister shaw as his Daughter, and do for Us both, as a father.

We had last night and to Day another North East Storm which I hope has brought up a fresh Stock of Seaweed upon the Beach. Your Annals of Agriculture are more entertaining to me than political History or amorous Romance.

You will see the Address of the House and the Reply. cold, frozen, Stiff, awkward Stuff— The Reply as an Echo to the Address is an admirable one.— richly merited.1

The News from Europe is enigmatical enough at present. The whole Theatre of Europe has been taken up, for years, with the Representation of a Tragedy of Errors. one knows not what is true, nor what is false: what is right nor what is wrong. Suspense and Pyrrhonism is all my Mind can rest on— One Truth however results from every fact and every Report, every certainty and every Supposition—our own indispensible Duty to preserve our Neutrality.

The Members of Congress begin to See the Danger of receiving Foreigners with open Arms, and admitting them into our Legislatures so easily as We have done. The Western Insurgents are almost all Irish White Boys, and peep O Day Boys &c imported and many of them sold since the Peace.2


J. A

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Decbr 1 1794.”

1The House of Representatives appointed a committee on 20 Nov. to draft a response to George Washington’s address to Congress and began to debate the committee’s draft the next day. Those debates continued until 28 Nov. when a majority agreed to the text; they delivered the response to Washington on the 29th and he replied the same day. The House’s address, while supportive of Washington’s actions, was formal in tone and emphasized the “consolation” of the Whiskey Rebellion and its aftermath: “It has demonstrated to the candid world, as well as to the American People themselves, that the great body of them, every where, are equally attached to the luminous and vital principle of our Constitution, which enjoins that the will of the majority shall prevail; that they understand the indissoluble union between true liberty and regular Government; … in a word, that they are capable of carrying into execution that noble plan of self-government which they have chosen, as the guarantee of their own happiness, and the asylum for that of all, from every clime, who may wish to unite their destiny with ours.” Washington replied briefly, acknowledging the support of the House but emphasizing that, “notwithstanding the consolations which may be drawn from the issue of this event, it is far better that the artful approaches to such a situation of things should be checked by the vigilant and duly admonished patriotism of our fellow-citizens, than that the evil should increase until it becomes necessary to crush it by the strength of their arms” (Annals of Congress, description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, D.C., 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends 3d Cong., 2d sess., p. 891–892, 893–905, 906–949, 950).

2While many Irish and Scots-Irish immigrants were involved in the Whiskey Rebellion—and were the ethnic groups most frequently blamed for it—in fact, Germans, English, and Welsh were also heavily involved (Slaughter, Whiskey Rebellion, description begins Thomas P. Slaughter, The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution, New York, 1986. description ends p. 66, 194–195, 269–270).

“Peep-o’-day Boys” were members of an Irish secret society of Protestants, established in the mid-1780s and known for their attacks on Catholics. The name came from their practice of “visiting” Catholics early in the morning to search for illegal arms (Charles George Walpole, A Short History of the Kingdom of Ireland, 2d edn., London, 1885, p. 421–422).

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