John Quincy Adams to John Adams
London November 21. 1795.
Since my last Letter (15.) nothing very material has occurred.1 The newspapers enclosed will shew you the degree of opposition that is made against the Convention bills as they are called.2 The City of London has instructed its members to vote against them. They will however pass.
I know not whether you have seen the review of the new Edition of your book, and therefore send the monthly Review that contains it.3 The writer seems to know a little more of it than Boissy d’Anglas
I am here in an unpleasant state of suspense and idleness. But I must not complain.
Your affectionate Son
John Q. Adams.
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “The Vice-President.”; endorsed: “J. Q. A. / Nov 21. 1795” and “Bet. N. 15. and 16.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 130.
1. JQA’s most recent letter to JA, of 17 Nov., provided a lengthy description of political activities in France, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. JQA outlined the current composition of the new French legislature, observing, “If the tone of the Directory can be anticipated by any consideration of the character of its members, it will not be remarkable for stability or harmony. … The new Legislature did not assemble under the fairest auspices that could be wished. A civil war in the heart of Paris, but a few days before stifled in blood, a paper currency depreciated to the lowest extreme of sufferance; an expence of more than an hundred daily millions to support, and defeat, a word of which they had almost lost the use attending their armies.” Although the Dutch were outwardly celebrating their liberty under the French, JQA believed, “They are however at length seriously alarmed. They expect an attack from a corps under the hereditary prince of Orange; they are afraid of Prussia, afraid of England; afraid of their own people.” Likewise, Great Britain, too, JQA saw as divided: “The uneasiness and discontent which has been produced by the War has naturally mingled with the revolutionary principles and designs; but hitherto an occasion had been wanting to connect them closely with the pursuits of the opposition leaders. That occasion seems to be now furnished, and it gives a consistency to the party adverse to the Government, that is really formidable” (Adams Papers).
2. The enclosures have not been found, but the London newspapers contained extensive coverage of the debate over what would become the Treasonable and Seditious Practices Act and the Seditious Meetings Act, both still under discussion in Parliament, including reports of mass meetings in opposition to the bills. See, for example, London Tomahawk, 12 Nov., and London Courier and Evening Gazette, 16 November.
3. John Stockdale published a new edition of JA’s three-volume Defence of the Const. in London in 1794. The enclosure has not been found but was presumably the Monthly Review, 2d ser., 16:547–553 (Jan.–April 1795). The positive review indicates that “readers will derive much pleasure, and … instruction” from JA’s history of “republics democratical, aristocratical, monarchical, or regal and mixed.” The writer also uses the review as a call for reform of the British government, arguing, “With a constitution so admirably adapted as that of Great Britain is shewn to be for the preservation of liberty, such, in the general outline, with due allowance for antient institutions, ought to be the present picture of British freedom. If the fact be in any respect otherwise, the defect, not being in the machine, must be in the manner of working it. When the absurd and disgraceful antipathy, which has arisen in this country against reform, shall have subsided, we trust that such regulations will be adopted, as will effectually prove that the balancing system of government, so ably defended in this work, is practically, as well as theoretically, productive of every blessing which can be enjoyed in a free government.”