Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 December 1796

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia Decr 8 1796

My Dearest Friend

Inclosed are Some Signal Accomplishments of Prophecies.

Be cool and discreet in your Communications of them.

No Such Person as Jasper Dwight is known to either of the Senators of Vermont. The Signature is thought to be fictitious.1

I have no Letter from you later than the Sunday after my Departure.

Major Butler has indeed resign’d.2

They kept back Paines Letter Several Weeks, presuming no doubt that it would not promote their Election. It appeared for the first, this morning.

I think, of all Paines Productions it is the weakest and at the Sametime the most malicious.— The Man appears to me to be mad—not drunk— He has the Vanity of the Lunatick who believed himself to be Jupiter the Father of Gods & Men.

There is a Dr Edwards here—a Relation of Mr Burr & Pierpoint Edwards who has lately return’d from Paris.— Perhaps he may be the Pensilvanian of whom you read.3

I can Say nothing of Election. I have recd to Day the Votes of New Jersey but know not for whom they are, as they are under Seal.

I am

J. A.

The Feelings of Friendship excite a Curiosity to know how McKean will vote.4 By that I shall guess how Gov. Adams would have voted.

But I have Seen Friendships of S. Quincy Jona Sewall, Daniel Leonard—Gen. Brattle—Treasurer Grey and fifty others go away like a vapour before political Winds—and a constant Succession of Others go the same Way from that time to this, that I cannot depend upon any Judgment I can form from any Feelings of my own.5 No private Friendship would induce me to Spare a wrong Political Character. But McKean & Adams can never believe the Lies that are told. If they could vote against me it must be because they think I should not be Supple enough to the French.— I have known the Time when both of them would have been as Stiff as myself.

I feel myself in a very happy temper of Mind— Perfectly willing to be released from the Post of Danger but determined if call’d to it, to brave it, if its horrors were ten times thicker than they are. I have but few Years of Life left and they cannot be better bestowed, than upon that Independence of my Country in Defence of which that Life has ever been in Jeopardy.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “December 8 1796.”

1While the enclosures have not been found, AA’s reply of 23 Dec., below, indicates they were pamphlets by Thomas Paine, for which see JA to AA, 4 Dec., and note 4, above, and by Jasper Dwight of Vermont. Dwight was a pseudonym for William Duane (1760–1835), an American who became a political radical while living overseas. He described George Washington’s retirement speech as “fraught with incalculable evils to your country” and also criticized the president for the “deviation in the latter part of your administration from the spirit and tenor of your former professions, and the proper and true interests of your country” (Jeffrey L. Pasley, “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic, Charlottesville, Va., 2001, p. 176–178, 180; Jasper Dwight, A Letter to George Washington, President of the United States: Containing Strictures on His Address of the Seventeenth of September, 1796, Notifying His Relinquishment of the Presidential Office, Phila., 1796, p. 6, 42, 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. 31315).

2Frustrated with his inability to counter Federalist policymakers, Pierce Butler formally resigned his Senate seat on 25 Oct. (The Letters of Pierce Butler, 1790–1794: Nation Building and Enterprise in the New American Republic, ed. Terry W. Lipscomb, Columbia, S.C., 2007, p. xxxiv; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989; rev. edn., description ends ).

3Dr. Enoch Edwards was not, in fact, a close relative of Aaron Burr and Pierpont Edwards, both of whom descended from Congregationalist theologian Jonathan Edwards. Enoch was the son of Alexander Edwards, a wealthy Baptist from Pennsylvania (William H. Edwards, Edwards’ Genealogy: Timothy and Rhoda Ogden Edwards of Stockbridge, Mass., and Their Descendants, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1903, p. 6, 15, 16; DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; Hywel M. Davies, Transatlantic Brethren: Rev. Samuel Jones (1735–1814) and His Friends: Baptists in Wales, Pennsylvania, and Beyond, Bethlehem, Penn., 1995, p. 92, 101–102).

4Thomas McKean was elected as one of Pennsylvania’s Democratic-Republican electors and voted for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr (Kurtz, Presidency of JA, description begins Stephen G. Kurtz, The Presidency of John Adams: The Collapse of Federalism 1795–1800, Philadelphia, 1957. description ends p. 411, 413).

5JA is referring to the political rifts created by the American Revolution. For Gen. William Brattle, Samuel Quincy, and Jonathan Sewall, see JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint, and others, Cambridge, 1977– . description ends , 1:xv, 4, 30, 253; for Daniel Leonard, see same, 2:xi, 217. For Harrison Gray, see JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 1:210–211, 212.

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