John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia Decr 24 1795
My Dearest Friend
I wrote you this morning inclosing a Post note for 600 and went to Senate with full Expectation of receiving a Letter from you.1 The Door Keeper had the Letters for others but none for me— What a Disappointment! I went mourning and moaping about for Some time, grumbling at my Stars and almost blaming my best Friend: but it was not long before the Letter of the 15 was brought me from the President to whom the Post office had sent it by Mistake.
I am glad the Clover is covered and that French is paid extravagant as he is. The Anti Treaty People are not Supported by the People generally nor by their Legislatures. North Carolina has left them in the Lurch and it is Supposed S. Carolina will not be up to their Pitch.2 In Short all the opposition to the Treaty is likely to vanish in Vapour and foul Smoke.
The Assembly of Virginia, however, have passed a Number of hairbrain’d Resolutions for amending the Constitution, in which I believe they will not be Seconded, unless by Kentucky. After the Experience of our own Government and that of France, when all Sensible Men are convinced that our Constitution, if defective in any Part, wants more Strength in the senate & Executive, to propose to make the senate dependent on Annual Elections and the House of Representatives to participate more in Executive Power is a flight of Ignorance and folly that I could not have expected from a People like the Virginians: nor can it be accounted for but by that Spirit of Irritation and Terror which is inspired by Conscious Debts.3
The Senate is as firm as a Rock and has received I believe an Accession of Strength in the new Member from Georgia.
The Newspapers begin to throw out hints about Titles and Checks and Ballances with a distant View to the approaching Election of Electors of P. and V. P.4 But this at present will counteract their own hopes: for Checks and Ballances having been adopted in Part at least in France, begin to grow more popular all over Europe & America. I dined with The P. Yesterday and shall again to day.
I wish to read your Observations upon Randolphs what shall I call it?— I sent it by last Post. I think it is too evident that the Creature meditated a total defeat of the Treaty; and he had too much Influence in proceeding several Steps in the Business. The Plan Seems to have been to delay the Ratification till the People should have time to set up Such a Clamour as to make it impossible to sign it at all. This was a very friendly Attachment to the Honour and Faith of the P. to be Sure. to say nothing of The senate or Mr Jay. Such a Character in the Cabinet and in the P.s bosom was a Serpent that might have Stung if his Invention Cunning and Courage had been adequate. The P. is more than commonly incensed as I hear against this Man and he certainly has great Reason. His Pamphlet has not blunted the Edge, nor diminished the force of Fauchets Letter in the least. It must totally destroy the Confidence in both Characters for what I see.—
There are Letters to the offices from Mr Adams dated in September— Dont be uneasy— We shall hear in due time.
I am in great Affection
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “December 24 / 1795—”
1. The post note JA sent to AA was to repay a debt owed to Cotton Tufts “and the rest I hope will answer your Ends till March. My Expences here are so enormous, two subscriptions for erecting Colledges in Kentucky and in the Western Territory and a small, too small assistance to Charles will make it almost impossible for me to answer the Demands on me during the Quarter” (Adams Papers).
2. The S.C. house of representatives, on 8 Dec., approved a resolution in opposition to the Jay Treaty and on 11 Dec. described it as “Highly injurious to the General Interests of the Said States.” The state senate failed by a narrow margin to approve a resolution thanking Pierce Butler for his vote against ratification of the treaty. The other senator from South Carolina, Jacob Read, had voted in favor of the treaty (John Harold Wolfe, Jeffersonian Democracy in South Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1940, p. 83, 87).
3. On 12 Dec. the Va. House of Delegates approved a resolution instructing the Virginia congressional delegation to introduce and promote four amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first would require approval of all treaties by the House of Representatives, the second would remove the authority for trying impeachments from the Senate, the third would reduce Senate terms to three years, and the fourth would bar anyone holding a judicial appointment from holding any other office. The Va. senate agreed to these resolutions on 15 Dec., and they appeared in the Philadelphia press a week later (In the House of Delegates, Saturday, December 12, 1795, Richmond, Va., 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. 29798; Philadelphia Gazette, 22 Dec.).
4. The Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 24 Dec., reprinted a piece by “The Ghost of Warren” from the Boston Independent Chronicle directly addressing the question of titles for the U.S. president and recalling the Senate debate on the subject in 1789 in which JA figured prominently. The article notes, “The more important project of giving to the President the title of a king, that the other attributes of royalty might follow in regular succession, was one of the earliest efforts of the aristocratic party in the Senate of the United States. Hardly indeed were they warm in their seats, before they felt the full force of their imaginary importance.” The piece argues that it was the House of Representatives that thwarted the Senate’s attempts to create a more monarchical title. The item concludes, “Let us always remember this sacred & inestimable truth—That the forms only of our Constitution will exist, when these authorities appointed by you cease to respect the interest, the feelings, and the principles of those by whom they are constituted.”