Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 5 March 1797

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia March 5. 1797

My dearest Friend,

your dearest Friend never had a more trying day than Yesterday. A Solenm Scene it was indeed and it was made more affecting to me, by the Presence of the General, whose Countenance was as serene and unclouded as the day. He Seem’d to me to enjoy a Tryumph over me. Methought I heard him think Ay! I am fairly out and you fairly in! see which of Us will be happiest. When the Ceremony was over he came and made me a visit and cordially congratulated me and wished my Administration might be happy Successful and honourable.

It is now Settled that I am to go into his House. It is whispered that he intends to take french Lave tomorrow.1 I shall write you, as fast as We proceed.

My Chariot is finished and I made my first appearance in it Yesterday. It is Simple but elegant enough. My horses are young but clever.2

In the Chamber of the House of Representatives, was a Multitude as great as the Space could contain, and I believe Scarcely a dry Eye but Washingtons. The Sight of the Sun Setting full orbut and another rising tho less Splendid, was a novelty.

C. J. Elsworth administered the oath and with great Energy. Judges Cushing, Wilson and Iredell were present. Many Ladies.

I had not Slept well the night before and did not sleep well the night after. I was unwell and I did not know whether I Should get through or not— I did however. How the Business was received I know not, only I have been told that Mason the Treaty publisher Said We should loose nothing by the Change for he never heard such a Speech in Publick in his Life.3

All Agree that taken all together it was the sublimest Thing ever exhibited in America.

I am my dearest friend most / affectionately & kindly your

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers).

1George Washington left Philadelphia on 9 March, traveling with Martha Washington, Eleanor Parke Custis, and George Washington Motier de Lafayette and his tutor, Felix Frestel. The party arrived at Mount Vernon on 15 March (Washington, Diaries description begins The Diaries of George Washington, ed. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, Charlottesville, Va., 1976–1979; 6 vols. description ends , 6:236–239).

2For JA’s purchase of a new carriage and horses, see vol. 11:497, 508.

3JA’s inauguration as the second president of the United States took place in the chamber of the House of Representatives before a joint Congress, members of the Supreme Court, various “Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors, the Heads of Departments … and a very crowded auditory of the principal inhabitants” of Philadelphia. Prior to receiving the oath of office, JA gave his inaugural address, in which he praised Americans for their revolutionary courage to “cutt asunder the Ties which had bound them and launched into an Ocean of Uncertainty” a new nation. He praised the unity that “good heads, prompted by good hearts” achieved through the Constitution, and he extolled the virtues of a republican government: “This is very certain, that to a benevolent human Mind, there can be no Spectacle presented by any nation, more pleasing, more noble, majestic, or august, than an Assembly, like that which has So often been Seen in this and the other chamber of Congress, of a Government, in which the Executive Authority, as well as that of all the Branches of the Legislature, are exercised by Citizens Selected, at regular periods, by their neighbours to make and execute Laws for the general good.” JA continued, warning that the “danger to our Liberties” required vigilance to “virtuous and independent Elections” and the “Pestilence” of foreign influence. He stated his “conscientious determination to Support” the Constitution “untill it shall be altered by the Judgments and Wishes of the People,” and he offered his “inflexible determination to maintain … that System of Neutrality and Impartiality” previously established and supported by the government and people. About France, JA acknowledged “a personal Esteem for the French nation” and “a Sincere desire to preserve the friendship which has been so much for the honour and Interest of both nations,” but he underscored the need to do so consistent with the “honour and Integrity” of the United States. He finished: “With this great Example before me; with the Sense and Spirit, the Faith and Honour, the duty and Interest of the Same American People, pledged to Support the Constitution of the United States I entertain no doubt of its continuance, in all its Ennergy and my mind is prepared, without hesitation, to lay myself under the most solemn Obligations to Support it, to the Utmost of my Power.

“And may that Being, who is Supream over all, the Patron of order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector, in all Ages of the World, of virtuous Liberty, continue his Blessing, upon this Nation and its Government and give it all possible Success and duration, consistent with the Ends of his Providence.”

JA then “energetically repeated” the oath of office, “seated himself, and after a pause of a few moments, he rose and bowed to all around him and retired” (Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 6 March; “No 11. Address of the President of the United States on the day of his Inauguration into office March 4th. 1797,” DNA:RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, Presidential Messages to the 5th Congress, 1797–1799; Philadelphia Gazette, 6 March).

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