Adams Papers

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 March 1797

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia March 22d. 1797

My dearest Friend

Last night for the first time I slept in our new House.— But what a Scene! The Furniture belonging to the Publick is in the most deplorable Condition— There is not a Chair fit to sit in. The Beds and Bedding are in a woeful Pickle. This House has been a scene of the most scandalous Drunkenness and Disorder among the servants, that ever I heard of. I would not have one of them for any Consideration. There is not a Carpet nor a Curtain, nor a Glass nor Linnen nor China nor any Thing.1 Dont expose this Picture.

This morning I recd your favours of March 12 and 13th.— I am highly pleased with your Criticisms and Observations on my Adieus to the Senate, their Answer and my Reply. Before now you have a long Speech, which I hope you will descant on as learnedly and ingeniously.

As to the farms I must leave all to you and Dr Tufts. Let Trask clear all the Bushes in Curtis’s Pasture. I want to have clean Work made there. You have not mentioned My Mares nor Colts— Are the Mares in a Way to breed Us Horses?

I have procured five Horses, which with my little fellow at home, will be all I shall keep.

As to Public affairs all is Suspence at present— Nothing can be determined till further and more Authentic Accounts arrive.

I never wanted your Advice & assistance more in my Life.— My Country will not always oblige her Public Men to make Brick without Straw— As soon as I shall be out of the Question, their Presidents will go on Swimmingly whoever lives to See it. But it is wicked to complain.

I have not been able to receive any Company. And the House will not be fit for some time.

I am with all Affection and / ardent Wishes for your Society

J. A.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A”; endorsed: “March 22 / 1797.”

1In February George Washington made an inventory of goods—both public and private—in the presidential mansion in Philadelphia. About the condition of the furnishings he wrote: “Nothing herein has been said relatively to the Table Linnen, Sheeting, China and Glass-ware which was furnished at the expence of the United States; because they have been worn out, broken, stolen and replaced (at private expence) over & over again.” He also noted that “except a few of the most durable articles” none of the kitchen furnishings remained and that “the Carpets also are entirely worn out.—all on the floors, at present, have been purchased on private account.” In a letter to Washington of 15 March, Tobias Lear described the condition of the house, “now preparing for the President … everything will be in as good order as it can be put.” Lear further described the results of a public auction of some of the furnishings in which “The Lustres—Stoves & other fixtures in the House will be taken by the President at cost or a fair valuation. There is nothing to be sold of the public furniture.” On 20 March Lear further reported to Washington that the house had been vacated on the 18th but that it would be “some days yet before Mr Adams can take up his own residence in it as they are putting new Carpets on the floors and talk of having the Rooms painted,” neither of which appears to have happened (DLC: George Washington Papers, 1741–1799, Series 4, General Correspondence, 1697–1799; Washington, Papers, Retirement Series description begins The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, ed. W. W. Abbot, Edward G. Lengel, and others, Charlottesville, Va., 1997–1999; 4 vols. description ends , 1:37, 38).

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