Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams
Quincy Sep’br 15 1795—
My Dear Son
I am ashamed to say how long it is Since I last wrote to You. I have received Your Letters to No 6.1 I believe only one, viz that from England has been lost. So valuable are Your Letters that I regreet the loss of a Line.
Freeman as you fear, will not be heard of again, untill the Sea gives up its Dead. to his Parents he is a loss that never can be made up. they are disconsolate and almost refuse to be comforted. to his Friends and acquaintance he had greatly endeard himself, by his amiable manners and his engageing Deportment. The House of vance & Freeman have been peculiarly unfortunate. since his absence, a valuable vessel & cargo have been captured, belonging to them, and it is Said here that mr Freemans affairs were much embarrassd2
I have felt a reluctance at taking my pen to write you ever since the meeting of the Senate in June, to relate the dishonour and the disgrace of any portion of our Countrymen is a painfull task. no event Since the commencment of the Government, has excited so much undue heat, so much bitter Acrimony, so much base invective, as has been pourd forth against mr. Jay and the Treaty. one of the most mortifying circumstances, is to see Some worthy and respectable Characters Drawn in to the vortex and made the Dupes of Jacobine leaders & F——h Emisaries Your Letter to your Father No 9 is a clue to the whole buisness. it Devolops the dark and secreet designs of those agents of mischief. the contents of that Letter were so important at the period, when it arrived that your Father immediatly inclosed it to the President, who returnd it with the following Passage,
“Mr J Q Adams Your Son must not think of retireing from the walk he is now in. his prospects if he continues in it are fair and I shall be much mistaken if in as short a period as can be expected, he is not found at the head of the Diplomatique Corps—let the Government be administerd by whom so ever the people may chuse his Letter No 9 discloses much important information and political foresight for this proof of your kindness & confidence I pray You to accept my most cordial thanks”3
Many have been the voilent publications against the Treaty. the Train was so concerted that a multilated part of the Treaty, said to be taken from memory, appeard in the Boston papers.4 this was sufficient to exasperate candid & good men. no sooner was this accomplishd, than Benny was Sent on to Boston with Masons coppy, so that the first remonstrance was drawn up in Boston, and as Peter Porcupine observes, in Such haste were the Citizens of that Town, to get the start of other places that the first copy of the Treaty had not been arrived in Town 24 hours—before a Town meeting was convened to condemn it. at this meeting a motion was made to read the Treaty, at least before they remonstrated against it, but this motion was not even Seconded. Jarvis was the Demagogue, and orator. they had an unanimous vote. few persons of Character chusing to remain at a meeting where hissing and Noise and clamour excluded reason and argument.5 N York was not much behind Boston in point of Time, and in other respects far outstriped them, as Stones and Brick Bats were Substituded in the room of Hisses— Smith was their Chairman. a proposition was made for adjourning to a more convenient place for a fair and full discussion, but this was opposed with much clamour.6 there were a great majority of the Merchants Traders and people of property both in Boston & N York in favour of the Treaty, as soon as time was given them to examine & judge for themselves. this will appear by the Names of the Protestors, but the Flame was lighted up, and it spread from capital to capital, Damning cursing the Treaty, mr Jay Senators & even President. the President by a wise and cool and judicious reply to the Boston committe, appeard to allay the Ferment for a Time. several Learned and able pens have been engaged to vindicate the Treaty & enlighten the people. Camillus said to be col H n Curtius said to be mr K g in N York have satisfied every reasonable Man, and a writer in Boston under the Signature of a Feaderilist has written very Sensibly & cooley. Some pamphlets have appeard one written in carolina by mr smith, but none which I have read pleases me more than Peter Porcupine, written by the Author of a Bone for the Democrats.7 These pamphlets as well as news papers I will collect and forward to you by the first direct conveyance to England, for there do I expect to hear of you soon it is of importance that you should receive all the intelligence possible upon the subject. my Letter must swell to a volm to contain all that has been written for & against the Treaty. I should however observe to you that no commotion or meeting has taken place in any of our Country Towns in N England, Dracut the famous Dracut excepted,8 & that the state of Connecticut has been as usual, wise steady and discreat. their Wits have however been active and the Echo will repeat to you many Solid truths—9
You are call’d upon to take a part in this important Buisness— You have put your hand to the plough, and I know you too well to believe or even wish you to look Back; or shrink from your Duty however Arduous or Dangerous the task assignd you. You will prove Yourself the Genuine Scion of the stock from whence You sprang. “Yet with Milton You may say, you are thrown on perilious Times.[”]
My petition to Heaven for you is, that in the Hands of an over Ruling Providence you may be instrumental of much good to your country and that your Life and Health may be preserved a blessing to your Parents and a comfort to their declining Years— this and no other is the ambition of your ever affectionate Mother
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “My Mother. / 15. Septr: 1795. / 21. Decr:— recd. London / 6. Jany: 1796. ansd:.”
1. For JQA’s letters to AA of 25 April and 16 May (nos. 5 and 6), see vol. 10:419–422, 434–438.
2. Freeman & Vans, the business partnership of Jonathan Freeman Jr. and William Vans, had suffered a number of financial reverses between 1794 and 1795. They lost four ships with substantial cargo to wreck or capture, failed to receive payments due for thousands of dollars worth of goods, and faced substantial debts of their own in Great Britain (William Vans, An Appeal to the Public, by William Vans, Native Citizen of Massachusetts, against the Slanders Circulated by Stephen Codman, Salem, 1827, p. 53, 100–104). See also vol. 10:437–438.
4. The Boston Independent Chronicle, 6 July, reprinted from the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 29 June, a heavily edited summary version of the treaty “collected from memory after an attentive perusal” by an unnamed “Citizen.” The introduction further notes, “There necessarily must be deficiencies in an account of this kind which depends entirely upon memory, and for the same reason there may be inaccuracies, but I trust the latter are few.”
5. For Benjamin Franklin Bache’s publication of the treaty, provided to him by Sen. Stevens Thomson Mason, see vol. 10:467; for the first Boston publication in the Columbian Centinel, 8 July, and subsequent town meeting on 10 July, see same, p. 472–473, 474. George Washington responded to the Boston town meeting’s petition in a reply dated 28 July and directed to the selectmen of Boston. In his letter Washington noted, “I have weighed with attention every argument which has at any time been brought into view. But the Constitution is the guide which I never can abandon.—it has assigned to the President the power of making Treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate. It was doubtless supposed that these two branches of government would combine without passion and with the best means of information, those facts and principles upon which the success of our foreign relations will always depend; that they ought not to substitute for their own conviction the opinions of others; or to seek truth through any channel but that of a temperate and well informed investigation.” The letter was printed in the Philadelphia Gazette, 15 Aug., and first appeared in Boston in the Massachusetts Mercury, 18 August.
Mason (1760–1803), a Virginia lawyer, had replaced James Monroe as Virginia’s senator in 1794; he would serve until his death (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989; rev. edn., bioguide.congress.gov. description ends ).
6. For the New York City town meeting on the Jay Treaty, chaired by WSS, see vol. 10:473, 474.
7. William Loughton Smith published anonymously A Candid Examination of the Objections to the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, between the United States and Great Britain. … By a Citizen of South-Carolina, Charleston, S.C., 1795, 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. 29534. William Cobbett, as Peter Porcupine, wrote A Little Plain English, Addressed to the People of the United States, on the Treaty, Negociated with His Britannic Majesty, and on the Conduct of the President Relative Thereto, Phila., 1795, 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. 28437.
8. Some 160 inhabitants of Dracut, Mass., met in a town meeting in early Aug. 1795 to debate the Jay Treaty. “After discussion thereon they passed several resolutions expressive of thir disapprobation of it, which were voted to communicated to the President of the United States. A vote also passed, for an address to His Excellency the Governor, requesting him to call the General Court together, to ‘remonstrate against the fatal instrument’” (Massachusetts Mercury, 11 Aug.; Newburyport Impartial Herald, 11 Aug.).
9. The Echo; or, A Satirical Poem on the Virtuous Ten, and Other Celebrated Characters, Hartford, Conn., 1795, 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. 28855, appeared in the Connecticut Courant, 17, 24 Aug., as “Echo.—No. XVIII” and was first published in the Boston Federal Orrery, 20, 27 August. Later attributed to Lemuel Hopkins, the poem mocks the so-called Virtuous Ten, that is, the ten senators who voted against consenting to the Jay Treaty. In the poem, an opponent of the treaty opines, “I tho’t when Mr. Jay was sent to treat, / That Britain was to lose and we to get; / Instead of which, it seems, that Mr. Jay / Basely agrees to meet them half the way. / How foolish! how ridiculous a plan, / To take an inch, when he might had a span! / He ought at least to have made them promise well, / Even if he knew they never would fulfil. / This is the rule I practise every day, / I often promise, but I seldom pay” (p. 12).