Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 10 February 1796

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia Feb. 10. 1796

My dearest Friend

The inclosed Slip from Benjamins Paper of this Morning will Shew you that the Electioneering Campaign is opened already. The “good Patriot, Statesman and Philosopher” is held up as the Successor.1 I am determined to be a Silent Spectator of the silly and the wicked Game and to enjoy it as a Comedy a Farce or a Gymnastic Exhibition at Sadlers Wells or Astleys Amphitheatre.2 I will laugh let them Say what they will, and I will laugh let it go as it will.— I know however how it will go as well as if it was already gone.

The P. looks to me worried and growing old faster than I could wish and his Lady complains of Infirmities of Age and lowness of Spirits for the first time. The Accursed Spirit which actuates a vast Body of People Partly Antifederalists, partly desperate Debtors and partly frenchified Tools, will murder all good Men among Us and destroy all the Wisdom & Virtue of the Country. Our Years Glasses are almost run out. they cannot rob Us of much Enjoyment for We have not much to enjoy. Certainly We shall have more in private than in public Life.3

RC (Adams Papers).

1The enclosure has not been found but was a squib from the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 10 Feb., celebrating Thomas Jefferson’s recovery “from his late indisposition. May he long live, and in the moment of necessity re-appear and save his country from the unhappy effects to which it is exposed.”

2Philip Astley (1742–1814), an equestrian performer, opened his Amphitheatre in London in the late 1760s to house the circus he had built around his horse-riding tricks. Although Astley initially faced considerable controversy regarding the legality of the enterprise, the Amphitheatre eventually became a British institution until its demolition in 1893 (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements; rev. edn., description ends ).

3In another letter to AA written this same day, JA quotes at length from Jacques Necker’s Essay on the True Principles of Executive Power in Great States, 2 vols., London, 1792, on the tendency of public officials to pursue their private interests. JA further observes that such realities hold true even in the United States but that he nonetheless wishes to continue in politics: “The various Elections of the United States, will soon call forth all these Personal Interests in all their Vigour, and all the Arts of Dissimulation to conceal them. I am weary of the Game. Yet I dont know how I could live out of it. I dont love Slight neglect, Contempt, disgrace nor Insult more than others. Yet I believe I have firmness of Mind enough to bear it like a Man, a Hero and a Philosopher. I might groan like Achilles and roll from Side to side, abed Sometimes at the Ignorance, Folly, Injustice & Ingratitude of the World. But I should be resigned and become more easy and chearful and enjoy my self & my Friends better than ever I did” (Adams Papers). See also JA to CA, 9 Feb. 1796, and note 5, above.

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