John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia January 16. 1797
My Dearest Friend
I went Yesterday to hear Dr Priestley, in the Philosophical Hall of the University and there I met unexpectedly with Dr Euwing and Dr Andross or Andrews.1 Euwing Seems paralytic and falling very fast. The Drift of the Discourse was to shew the Superiour moral Tendency of the Jewish and Christian Religions, to that of all the Pagan Rituals ancient and modern.2
The Weather is moderated. I hope to find a Letter from you this Morning when I go to the senate.
Inclosed is a List of the best natured Toasts I ever read.3 They were Sent me in a Baltimore Paper. They are peculiarly indulgent to me, as they allow me, Salmon & Lobster in Addition to Hog, Homminy, Mush, Milk and Cider. There is no Malice in any of them. An Old Fielder is a tough hardy laborious little Horse, that Works very hard and lives upon very little. very Useful to his Master at small Expence.
Priestly has written something in answer to Volneys Ruins of Empires, which has been more universally read in England than any of his Writings.4
I begin to long for Letters from the Hague. Our next must be important.
It is not probable, that Dr Wests Year 1796 has wholly Stripped the Pope of his Temporalities.
The French People in this Country, Seem to be disappointed and a little confounded, at the Strong Ground which has been taken by the People of this Country in Consequence of Mr Adets Note. There have been no Signs of dismay, except among the Quakers and a few weak merchants in Philadelphia, at the time of the Election.
I, am affectionately and perpetually / your faithful
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “Janry 16. 1797.”
1. Rev. John Andrews (1746–1813), University of Pennsylvania 1765, was ordained as an Episcopal clergyman in London in 1767; he was appointed professor of moral philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania in 1789 and served as provost from 1810 to 1813 (Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, University of Pennsylvania; Its History, Influence, Equipment and Characteristics, 2 vols., Boston, 1901–1902, 1:260).
2. On 15 Jan. 1797 Joseph Priestley preached a sermon on “The Moral Design of Revelation” that included quotations from Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospels, and the Epistles relating to the morality of Revelation. The sermon, along with six others Priestley gave in Philadelphia in early 1797, was published there in March as the second volume of Discourses Relating to the Evidences of Revealed Religion, 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. 32715 (Robert E. Schofield, The Enlightened Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Work from 1773 to 1804, University Park, Penn., 2004, p. 381, 382). For the first volume of Priestley’s Discourses, see JA to AA, 5 March 1796, note 4, above.
3. Not found.
4. The third edition of Priestley’s Observations on the Increase of Infidelity, Phila., 1797, included as a subtitle To Which Are Added, Animadversions on the Writings of Several Modern Unbelievers, and Especially the Ruins of Mr. Volney. Priestley informed his readers that Constantin François Volney bore “such evident marks of prejudice” against Christianity that Priestley considered his writings on religion ineffectual. Both men were living in Philadelphia at the time, and Priestley wanted to provoke Volney into a debate. Priestley sent a copy of Observations to Volney and stated that “it will be in his power to notice any mistake that he shall think I may have made with respect to his opinions” (p. xviii–xix, 142, 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. 32721; Elizabeth M. Geffen, Philadelphia Unitarianism, 1796–1861, Phila., 1961, p. 50).
The Frenchman responded with Volney’s Answer to Doctor Priestley, published in Philadelphia in March, in which he replied, “The question between us is not of a very urgent nature: the world would not go on less well with or without my answer as with or without your book” (p. 3, 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. 33140).
5. In a second letter of the same date, JA hinted at continuing stories of electioneering. He also mentioned a meeting with Col. Jeremiah Wadsworth and recounted Wadsworth’s opinions of French sentiment toward the United States in light of Pierre Auguste Adet’s note (Adams Papers).