Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 12 March 1797

Abigail Adams to John Adams

Quincy March 12th 1797

My Dearest Friend

After a week of anxious expectation, I received by last Thursdays post, a packet containing three News papers a pamphlet, two excellent Letters from our Dear sons, and fourteen lines from a hand, from which I was desirious of receiving, fourteen times as much.1 unreasonable do you exclaim! Publick Buisness, publick cares, allow’d, but there is a kind of communication and intercourse which is a relieaf to the burdend mind, at least I conceive so.

I have read the address the answer, and the reply.2 upon reading the first period in the address, it Struck me as obscure oweing to the length of the period. I read it a second time, the sense was clear but some how, it did not seem what I wanted to have it; I attempted to throw the Ideas into an other form, but could not succeed, without weakning the force of expression, or greatly lengthing the address. I therefore concluded that you had labourd yourself under the same difficulty. I made no remark upon it, but in my own mind. Three persons have since mentiond to me, the same thing, and one of them told me that he had himself been trying to place the Ideas of the first period in shorter sentances, but met with the Very obstical which I had myself before experienced. the address brought into view a Number of home Truth’s, Evident to Some, unseen by others. as the Sentiments of the writer are known to me, I trace their meaning, end and aim, and pronounce them all wise, just, and Good. the answer of the senate, is Manly, dignified, affectionate and cordial. the Reply will tend to strengthen the bond of union. the whole is calculated to remove the film from the Eyes of those who are disposed to see. I have heard but one remark, and that was from Jarvis. he was glad to see you come out so fully and declare that the senate were equal to the defence and preservation of the constitution, and that it needed not a more permanant counsel.3 with mischievious men, no honest man would hold communion: but with men who have been mislead, and who possess integrity of Heart, every good Man would be desirious of standing fair. to the latter the conduct of H——n has been misterious, and they are ready to think that the President is a more impartial Man than they were taught to believe, and that the opposition and Secret machinations and intrigues of a certain Character arose altogether from knowing that the Man whom a majority of the people wishd to succeed the President was too independent in his Sentiments to receive controul. they conclude that they have been mistaken in him.

I see by the paper received last Evening that the senate are notified to convene, by which I judge there are subjects of concequence to be imparted.4 are there any official accounts of the reception of Pinckny by the Directory? Such reports are in circulation.5 I am pleasd to find mr Murray appointed as the Successor of our son.6 I do not know where a properer person could have been found. Russel the Printer is an abominable Blunderer, he is not fit to publish state papers. no less than three blunders has he made in publishing the address to the senate & in the reply to their answer as you will see by reading it.7 my mind has ever been interested in publick affairs. I now find, that my Heart and Soul are, for all that I hold Dearest on Earth is embarked on the Wide ocean, and in a hazardous Voyage. may the experience wisdom and prudence of the helmsman conduct the vessel in Safety.

I am as ever a fellow Passenger

Abigail Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. March 12 / ansd 22d. 1797.”

1With his letter to AA of 24 Feb., for which see vol. 11:575–576, JA likely forwarded TBA to JA, 26 Nov. 1796, for which see same, 11:413–417, and JQA to JA, 17 Dec. (Adams Papers), for a summary of which see same, 11:433.

2On 22 Feb. 1797 the Senate submitted its reply to JA’s 15 Feb. address, thanking him for his long and continued service and expressing its belief that his “conduct will be measured by the Constitution, and directed to the public good” and that he could therefore expect “a confident reliance, that you will be supported, as well by the people at large, as by their constituted authorities.” JA responded the following day acknowledging its approbation with thanks. Both the Senate’s reply and JA’s response were printed by the Boston Price-Current and Boston Independent Chronicle, 6 March (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, D.C., 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends , 4th Cong., 2d sess., p. 1555–1556, 1557–1558).

3In a letter to JA of 28 Feb., Thomas Welsh similarly described Dr. Charles Jarvis’ comments on JA’s 15 Feb. address and on his election: “It was a great Task for any Man to follow successfully in the same Office and maintain the same Respect & Confidence which the late President has enjoyed, replied that no Man ever had a better Oppertunity to do well than Mr Adams whose Abilities and Integrity were universally acknowledged who would act for himself and not be led by any one & that he had it in his power to do more for this Country than any Man ever had done and that it was impossible he could do worse than Washington” (Adams Papers).

4The Boston Columbian Centinel, 11 March, reported news from Philadelphia of the 4th, including the following notice: “The Senate of the U.S have received a notification from the President, convening them on Saturday next.” There is no record that JA issued the notice, and it most likely referred to a message submitted by George Washington on 1 March convening the Senate for the Saturday, 4 March, inauguration (Annals of Congress, 5th Cong., special sess. no. 1, p. 1580).

5Credible reports of France’s refusal to receive Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as U.S. minister and his subsequent expulsion from the country had surfaced in Philadelphia by this time, although the government had yet to receive official confirmation from its diplomats in Europe. Similar reports had surfaced in Massachusetts but were discounted by the press as “unfounded” (Philadelphia Gazette, 9 March; Timothy Pickering to JQA, 15 March, Adams Papers; Boston Columbian Centinel, 8 March; Newburyport Impartial Herald, 10 March). For more on Pinckney’s reception in France, see vol. 11:457–458.

6For William Vans Murray’s appointment as JQA’s replacement at The Hague, see same, 11:457. News of Murray’s appointment was reported in the Boston Columbian Centinel, 11 March.

7The masthead of the Boston Columbian Centinel identifies its printer, Benjamin Russell, as “Printer to the United States, for the Northern States.” JA’s address to the Senate was printed in the newspaper on 1 March but contained two substantial omissions, which are represented in brackets in the following sentences: “I ought not to declare, for the last time, your adjournment, before I have presented to every senator present, and to every [citizen who has ever been a] senator of the United States, my thanks, for the candor and favor invariably received from them all” and “In all the abstruse questions, difficult conjunctures, dangerous emergencies, and animated debates upon the great interests of our country, which have so often, [and] so deeply impressed all our minds, [and interested the strongest feelings of the heart,] I have experienced a uniform politeness and respect from every quarter of the house.” JA’s answer to the Senate’s reply, printed on 11 March, contained only one error, the insertion of “found” instead of “known” in the following phrase: “wherever it shall be known, both at home and abroad” (U.S. Senate, Jour. description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1789–. description ends , 4th Cong., 2d sess., p. 325; Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, D.C., 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends , 4th Cong., 2d sess., p. 1557).

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