Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 11 November 1796

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

Quincy Nov’br 11th 1796

my Dear Son

I have to acknowledg the receipt of two kind Letters from You Since I wrote You last, No 21 from the Hague June 30. and No 22 July 25. for both of them accept my Cordial Thanks. Letters from either of my sons, give me a flow of spirits for a week, and a Durable gratification in the perusal of them, as they contain judicious reflections and observations which would do honour to the most experienced Statesmen, not only in the partial mind of a fond Parent, but are so esteemed by disinterested judges.

Before this reaches You, the Solemn News of the Presidents declaration to retire from the publick service together with his Excellent address to the people, will no Doubt be communicated to you by some earlier opportunity. Words cannot do justice to this last Legacy. Where shall we look What Page of History can shew us a Character like Washingtons

“Who has made fair Plenty through the Land increase

Given Fame in War, and happiness in Peace”

God Almighty bless him in this world and the next.

You quite mistook my meaning, when I observed to You, “That if two Events Should take place, You must not expect promotion.[]1 by the first I meant the Resignation of the President. the other was, that his successor might be one who would feel a Delicacy on account of your Personal Connection with him. but the President has not left this Subject to embarress his Successor, should he be the person contemplated, and whilst I consider it as the reward of Merrit I feel myself indebted to his Paternal care.

“If to me Sons are given

Such as in fondness, parents ask of Heaven”

I rejoice that they are found worthy of the Confidence of their Country, and hope that they will ever prove Some of its firmest pillars and Supporters.

I wrote to you upon My first hearing of your appointment to Portugal, and in My Zeal for your Welfare, I fear I might mix more warmth of expression, than on maturer reflection I ought to have Done. What ever I wrote was well intended. my fear arose from the Youth and inexperience of the Lady with whom you was about to connect yourself, least she should contract Tastes and Sentiments altogether Anti American, least the Stile and Manners of a court Should make too Deep an impression upon a Youthfull Mind, to realish the Republican Manners of an American

Your experience will I hope gaurd you against those evils, and impress them upon her mind. I think you ought not to go to Portugal alone. Your Brother means to return to us. You whose chief delight is in Domestick Life, must feel yourself in a Desert without a companion. as you have fixd, and I trust wisely, I advise you to marry the Lady before you go to Portugal. Give my Love to her and tell her I consider her already as my Daughter, and as she made England delightfull to you, I hope she will, every other Country.

As your return to America will be postponed, I shall not say any thing upon the intimation you gave of setling at the Southard. The Lady it is who is to forsake Father and Mother, and follow the fortunes of her Husband, but this must be the Subject of a future Letter.

I inclose to you a News paper2 all the Arts of the Jacobins are in practise at the approaching Election, united with the Pride of the old Dominion and foreign influence. you will see in the paper which I have inclosed to Thomas, Adets Letter.3 You will mark the period at which it appears the people are not insensible to this movement. the News papers inform us that the most active measures are taking by the Democratic Societies to ensure success to their Candidate, by circulating Hand Bill containing libels on mr Adams. Gate post, Doors of Houses & posts are coverd through the Country, a right Gallic measure. Men are hired to ride through the Country with Bags of these Hand Bills. I do not however learn that they contain any thing but to represent him as attach’d to Monarchy to Tittles &c that he is Enemical to the Rights of the people, all of which these very engines of Mischief know to be false.4

they have Dropt all Candidates but the Vice President & mr Jefferson, who on the other side has his Principles and pratises throughly Desected. inclosed is a paper which will give you some Idea of the subject, but who the writer is, is unknown both to your Father and to me.5

You will readily suppose that a fiery ordeal is prepareing.

Our Friends here are all well and desired to be affectionatly rememberd to you. I am my Dear Son your / Ever affectionate Mother

A Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by TBA: “Mrs: A Adams J Q A / Novr. 11— 1796 / Jany 27 1797 Recd: / Feby 8 Do Answd.” Tr (Adams Papers).

1AA is paraphrasing from her letter to JQA of 25 May, above.

2Not found.

3On 27 Oct. Pierre Auguste Adet wrote to Timothy Pickering enclosing the Directory’s 2 July decree on neutral navigation, for which see TBA to JA, 6 Aug., and note 5, above. In his letter Adet justified the decree on the grounds that the U.S. failure to defend “the vexations imposed upon their commerce” by British encroachment disadvantaged France under the terms of the 1778 Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, especially in light of the fact that the British assault on American shipping continued even after the Jay Treaty was completed. Adet ignited a public exchange with Pickering by publishing the letter in the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 31 Oct. 1796; it was reprinted in the 8 Nov. Massachusetts Mercury, which AA likely enclosed with her letter to TBA of the same date, above. Pickering’s reply of 1 Nov. was first published in the Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser, 3 Nov., and appeared in the Massachusetts Mercury, 11 November. His letter countered that the Franco-American treaty confirmed the policy that “free ships should make free goods,” and thus that France had no right to seize neutral American vessels trading with the British. Pickering also noted that the British had issued no new orders regarding the seizure of American ships carrying French goods, but that such seizures were within the law of nations. Pickering concluded by chiding Adet for making his original note public, arguing that “it was properly addressed to its government, to which alone pertained the right of communicating it in such time and manner, as it should think fit to the citizens of the United States.” The public debate continued with a long second letter from Adet, dated 15 Nov., in which the minister suspended his functions in the United States, charging that America had surrendered its rights as a neutral to Great Britain and had violated its treaty agreements with France. While summaries appeared earlier, the entire letter was first published in a special issue of the Philadelphia Gazette, 21 Nov., and would appear in the Boston Columbian Centinel, 3 December.

4A contributor to the New York Herald, 29 Oct., asked, “Whence this extraordinary exertion in favour of Mr. Jefferson? and why are so many handbills in circulation villifying Mr. Adams? … and what is the object of Mr. Jefferson and his partizans?” Handbills condemning JA’s Defence of the Const. description begins John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, London, 1787–1788; repr. New York, 1971; 3 vols. description ends as a “Eulogium of Monarchy and the British Constitution” and JA as an “avowed MONARCHIST” had appeared in Boston as early as 24 Sept. but were most virulent in Pennsylvania, where prior to the state’s 4 Nov. election of presidential electors, John Beckley, a Virginia politician working on behalf of Thomas Jefferson, arranged for the distribution of thousands of handbills and sample ballots encouraging residents to vote for Jefferson. This was the first use of such tactics in a U.S. presidential election. Most often these handbills cited brief excerpts from the Defence to demonstrate JA’s “royalist” leanings. One reprinted part of a letter by Thomas Paine in which he equated JA’s preference for hereditary government to treason: “John Adams is one of these men, who never contemplated the origin of government, or comprehended any thing of first principles. If he had, he must have seen that the right to set up and establish hereditary government, never did and never can exist” because doing so was “of the nature of treason” (Americanus, Boston, 24th Sept. 1796. At This Important Crisis, 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. 29982; Republican, Fellow Citizens! The First Concern of Freemen, Calls You Forth into Action, [Phila., 1796], 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. 30411; Robert V. Friedenberg, Communication Consultants in Political Campaigns: Ballot Box Warriors, Westport, Conn., 1997, p. 4; Public Notice. Friday the Fourth Day of November Next … Extract of a Letter from Thomas Paine, [Phila., 1796], 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. 30983).

5The enclosure has not been found but was probably one of the Phocion articles, for which see JA to AA, 7 Dec., and note 2, below.

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