Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams Smith, 2 January 1795

John Adams to Abigail Adams Smith

Philadelphia, January 2, 1792 [1795].1

My Dear Daughter:

I received this day your kind letter of the 30th ult.2 With cordial affection and sincerity do I reciprocate your compliments of the season, and wish you and yours many happy returns of these pleasant anniversaries.

There has lately been published extracts from a Journal of Brissot, in which, as upon many other occasions, there has appeared a disposition to give to Mr. Jay as much of the honour of the peace as possible, and to take away from your papa as much of it as possible. Mr. Jay is represented as insisting on an acknowledgment of our independence antecedently to treating, and as bringing me over to his opinion.3 Mr. Jay’s commission was in autumn of 1782. In July, 1781, more than a year earlier, and indeed before Mr. Jay had anything to do with peace,—before the commission was issued by Congress, in which Mr. Jay was united with me in the negotiations for peace, the enclosed letters were written by me to the Count De Vergennes, received by him, and transmitted by me to Congress, received and read by them, and now stand recorded in the office of the Secretary of State.4 By these you may judge whether Mr. Jay brought me over to his opinion, or whether I brought him over to mine; whether I joined with Mr. Jay, or Mr. Jay joined with me.

God forbid that I should deny Mr. Jay’s merit in that business, or diminish his fame. All I desire is, that my children, if they should ever have any tenderness for their father’s character, may know where to look for the means of maintaining it. Show these letters to Col. Smith and to your brother Charles. And if either Col. Smith or your brother think it worth while to show them to Mr. Webster, in confidence, they have my leave to do it.

I am, my dear child, / Your affectionate

John Adams.

MS not found. Printed from AA2, Jour. and Corr., description begins Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, Daughter of John Adams, … Edited by Her Daughter [Caroline Amelia (Smith) de Windt], New York and London, 1841– [1849]; 3 vols. description ends 2:113–114.

1The dating of this letter is based on WSS’s letter to JA of 9 Jan., below.

2Not found.

3Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville’s Nouveau voyage dans les États-Unis de l’Amérique septentrionale, 3 vols., was originally published in Paris in 1791. The first two volumes appeared in translation in New York in 1792 and in London in 1794 in single volumes entitled New Travels in the United States of America. In the work, Brissot related an anecdote about the attempt of the Comte de Vergennes, the French secretary of state for foreign affairs, to convince the American peace commissioners “that the independence of America should not be considered as the basis of the peace; but, simply, that it should be conditional. To succeed in this project it was necessary to gain over Jay and Adams. Mr. Jay declared to M. de Vergennes, that he would sooner lose his life than sign such a treaty; that the Americans fought for independence; that they would never lay down their arms till it should be fully consecrated. … It was not difficult for Mr. Jay to bring Mr. Adams to this determination; and M. de Vergennes could never shake his firmness” (1794 edn., p. 114).

The extracts appeared in a defense of John Jay, originally published in the Virginia Gazette, 10 Dec., and reprinted in the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 20 December. For more on the original article, see 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 20:36–38.

4For JA’s letters to the Comte de Vergennes of 13, 16, 18, 19, and 21 July 1781, and his letters to the president of Congress of 14 and 15 July, all dealing with the terms of negotiation of an Anglo-American peace and American acceptance of the Austro-Russian mediation, see JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint, and others, Cambridge, 1977– . description ends , 11:413–417, 418–422, 424–430, 431–434. Congress received these items on 3 Oct. (JCC, description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford, Gaillard Hunt, John C. Fitzpatrick, Roscoe R. Hill, and others, Washington, D.C., 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends 21:1032).

Jay was appointed to the joint peace commission on 13 June 1781, but JA did not receive word of that appointment until August; for a discussion of the decision to expand the peace commission and its full text, see JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint, and others, Cambridge, 1977– . description ends , 11:368–377.

Index Entries