John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams
London April 24th: 1796.
My dear Mother.
You will find by the papers that I send with this letter, what you will perhaps know before the receipt of it; that is that the negotiations for Peace have stumbled at the threshold, and that a trial of one more year of War is to be endured by the contending Nations. The Notes of Mr: Wickham & Mr: Barthelemi are considered as decisive upon this point.—1 The scarcity of provisions has suddenly disappeared both in France and in this Country. Wheat and flour have fallen from excessive to very moderate prices. There are complaints here of a great scarcity of money, but it will find its relief in a new loan for seven millions and an half which is already made.
I send you likewise some late reviews which may give you the literary news, more valuable because more durable than those of a political nature.—2 The famous Shakespeare manuscripts about which I wrote you soon after my arrival here, are now generally considered as mere forgeries. The play of Vortigern was once performed, and fairly laughed off the stage.
I had not an opportunity to judge of it myself as I could not attend on the Evening of its first and only performance, but the opinion of all those who heard it appears to be unanimous, that it is not only an imposture but a very awkward and clumsy one.— Volumes have been written & published on the subject, and men of all sorts take now a pride in girding at the poor proprietor of the manuscripts.
I have no letters from my father dated later than December. None from you later than January, none from any of my friends in America of a more recent date. Still I flatter myself I have not been forgotten. I write so much and so often that I seldom get a correspondent of equal punctuality with myself.— From other Americans however, I collect the information of that Country, as late as the beginning of March.3 It looks fair and promising. But our political tides ebb and flow with such rapidity and violence that I place not the most thorough reliance on the permanency of any favourable prospect.
I beg to be remembered affectionately to all friends, and remain your invariably faithful Son
John Q. Adams.
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs: Adams. Quincy.”; endorsed: “J Q A April 24 1796.” FC-Pr (Adams Papers); APM Reel 131.
1. William Wickham (1761–1840) was a British politician and diplomat. In 1795 he became the British minister plenipotentiary to Switzerland. Wickham wrote to François Barthélemy, the French minister to Switzerland, on 8 March 1796 asking him to respond to three questions concerning the possibility of negotiating a peace with France via a congress or written communications with Wickham or some other means. Barthélemy replied on 26 March that although the Directory desired “a just, honourable, and solid peace,” it did not want to enter into a congress with Britain that would “render all negotiation endless.” A British note of observation, dated 10 April, concluded that at that time “nothing is left for the king but to prosecute a war equally just and necessary” (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., www.oxforddnb.com. description ends ; Parliamentary Hist., description begins The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, London, 1806–1820; 36 vols. description ends 32:1407–1409).
2. This enclosure has not been found but was possibly from one of the London newspapers that provided reviews of the first and only performance of Vortigern on 2 April at the Drury Lane Theatre; see, for example, London Times, 4 April, or London Lloyd’s Evening Post, 1–4 April.
3. Probably Oliver Wolcott Jr. to JQA, 10, 17, and 27 Feb.; and Timothy Pickering to JQA, 9 March (all Adams Papers). Wolcott’s letters discussed U.S. Treasury remittances being sent to Dutch bankers and his confidence that America would be able to pay all of the interest and installments on its loans through 1 June. Pickering’s 9 March letter expressed regret that the instructions for further negotiations between the British government and the United States did not reach England in time for JQA to participate in the exchange of ratifications for the Jay Treaty.