John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia Decr 30 1796
My dearest Friend
The Prospect that opens upon me presents Troubles enough of every kind.— I have made Some Inquiry concerning Horses and Carriages, and find that a common Chariot of the plainest Sort cannot be had under Twelve hundred Dollars, and if you go to a little more ornament and Elegance you must give fifteen hundred. The President has a Pair of Horses to sell, one 9 the other 10 Years old for which he asks a thousand Dollars. And there is no Probability of procuring a decent Span for less than Six hundred dollars.
House Rent, another indispensable Article will be extravagantly high.— The Plenty of Paper, has unsettled every Thing. Nothing has a Price. Every one asks and every one cheats as much as he can, I think.
I wish I knew what would be asked for a Chariot in Boston.
The President Says he must sell Something to enable him to clear out. When a Man is about retiring from Public Life and sees nothing but a Ploughshare between him and the Grave, he naturally thinks most upon that. When Charles the fifth resigned his Empire and crown, he went to building his Coffin—1 When I contemplated a Retirement I meditated the Purchase of Mrs Veseys Farm and thought of building a Tomb on my own Ground adjoining to the burying Yard.2
The President is now engaged in his Speculations upon a Vault which he intends to build for himself, not to Sleep but to lie down in.3
So you See, my little head is made like two great heads and I have ambitiously placed myself between them.
Mrs Blodget, who I dare say is more desirous that you should be Presidante than that I should be Presidant, Says She is afraid President Washington will not live long. I should be afraid too, if I had not confidence in his Farm and his Horse.
He must be a fool, I think who dies of Chagrin, when he has a fine farm and a Narragansett Mare that Paces, trots and canters. but I dont know but all Men are such fools.
I think a Man had better wear than rust.
The Boyish Language of the Emissaries from Monroes Academy is not confined to Boston Market.— Captn. Barney is holding the Same Cant.4
John Adams must be an intrepid to encounter the open Assaults of France and the Secret Plotts of England, in concert with all his treacherous Friends and open Enemies in his own Country. Yet I assure you he never felt more Serene in his Life. Yours most tenderly
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “December 30 1796.”
1. After Charles V abdicated his throne in 1556, he retired to the monastery of Yuste in Spain. Two years later he reputedly requested that a priest perform—and Charles himself participate in—a funeral mass for himself. Stories circulated, inaccurately, that Charles went so far as to lie in his intended coffin as part of the ritual (William Robertson, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, 3 vols., Phila., 1867, 3:332, 335, 469–472).
2. For JA’s purchase of the Veasey property in Feb. 1788, see vol. 7:144.
3. George Washington took no steps at this time to build a mausoleum. In his July 1799 will, however, Washington instructed his heirs to rebuild the existing family vault at Mount Vernon in a new location on the property. After Washington’s death, discussion arose about reinterring his remains in a crypt in the U.S. Capitol, but that never occurred. It was not until 1831 that the family complied with the terms of the will, reinterring the bodies of Washington, his wife, and various other family members in a new tomb at Mount Vernon (Washington, Papers, Retirement Series, description begins The Papers of George Washington: Retirement Series, ed. W. W. Abbot, Edward G. Lengel, and others, Charlottesville, Va., 1997–1999; 4 vols. description ends 4:491, 511).
4. On 29 Dec. 1796 the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States reported that Capt. Joshua Barney, who was then in the service of the French Navy, had arrived in Annapolis, Md., and was awaiting the outcome of the presidential election before returning to France. The extract reported, “Barney says, should Adams be elected President, we shall certainly be engaged in a war with France in less than three months:—and he knows not how we could have avoided that misfortune, but by electing Mr. Jefferson our President, who stands much higher with the French nation than any other man in our country” (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 ).