Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 3 June 1797

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch

Philadelphia June the 3. 1797

My Dear Sister

The weather was so cold yesterday that we had fires in our Rooms. I suppose you have weather of a similar kind. we have had frequent showers and yesterday a fine rain. The House have at length got through the answer to the speech, 3 weeks debating whether, they should use the term indignation, or sensibility. the answer as reported and as finally agreed to, is a very handsome one, as well as a firm and decided one. it was carried 60 to 40. the yeas & Nays were taken. amongst the Nays will be found three of Massachuts delegation, Freeman, Who is a devoted ———, Varnum well known and skinner, of whom better hopes were entertaind.1

The appointments of Envoys extraordinary, like every other measure of Government will be censured by those who make a point of abusing every thing. Mr Marshall of Virginna is said to be a very fair and Honorable Man, and truly American. a Lawyer by profession against whom no objection is offerd, but that he is not Frenchman enough for those who would have sent Jefferson or Madison Giles or even Jarvis. Judge Dana is known to be a decided Character, but not a party Man, nor any other than a true American— Yet Bache has undertaken to abuse the appointment, and the Chronical will not fail to retail it that has more low Billingsgate than even Bache.2 but I can read them all with a true Phylosiphical contempt, and I could tell them what the President says, that their praise for a few weeks mortified him, much more, than all their impudent abuse does.

There is no terror Jack asses in your threats

For I am armed so strong in honesty

That they pass by me as the Idle wind

Which I respect not.3

This Day the House in a Body come at 12 to present their answer. the whole Hundred come.4

I hope they will proceed to buisness with some dispatch. I see by the Chronical that you, only have one side of the Question. I think Russel ought to give the debates on the other side5 we have Men from our state who do great honour to it. mr sewall & otis, are the principle Speakers.6 I must retract, however what I have written as it respects Freeman & Skinner. they are on the question of agreeing to the address upon the yea side, but on most questions they vote with the antis. a Virginian who being right and a new member was misrepresented by peter porcupine in his paper. some Gentleman expresst his regreet at it, upon which mr Evans who was the member, observd that peter knew he was a Virginian, and so took it for granted that he must be wrong7

I inclose you a newpaper. it has in it, a Letter of Thomas to mr J Quincy.8 tis said to be from Paris, merly as a cover for you see the spirit of Envy and Jealousy opperating and the misrepresentations respecting only the Change of missions to Berlin instead of Lisbon. at Portugal this present time, it was the opinion of the President & his ministers, that J Q A. could not be equally, usefull to his Country as at the Prussian court. a Treaty was to be renewd with that court, and various other reasons opperated, which it would not be so proper to disclose. the appointment was made thus early to prevent his proceeding to Lisbon Where he would go on the arrival of his successor— but Malovelence is unbounded. the inclosed extract is from Bachs paper. make the Chronical insert it.9

Mr Brisler has accomplishd the buisness for mr Cranch and I inclose the Bill.10 I have had but one Letter from you since I came here.11 We are all in pretty good Health. John Brisler has had the small pox & that very light. remember me affectionatly to all Friends and Neighbours— I am my Dear sister / affectionatly / Your

A Adams

RC (MWA:Abigail Adams Letters); endorsed by Richard Cranch: “Letter from Mrs / A Adams (Pha:) / June 3d. 1797.”

1Thomson Joseph Skinner (1752–1809) served in both houses of the Mass. General Court and was a judge in the Court of Common Pleas from 1788 to 1807. He was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the 4th Congress after the resignation of Theodore Sedgwick and was reelected to the 5th Congress (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, Washington, D.C., 2005; rev. edn., description ends ).

2The Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 2 June 1797, chastised JA for his choice of envoys extraordinary to France, believing the nominations would only “lay the certain ground work of war” and arguing that if the president truly wanted to achieve reconciliation, “he would not have nominated characters who would have carried with them a temper in hostility to the French Republic.” The Boston Independent Chronicle, 12 June, reported the appointments and included a piece on making a treaty with the French Republic: “Do not let us insult them, or disgrace ourselves by a ridiculous parade of resolution about a maritime force which we have neither men, money, credit nor ships of war to carry into effect.” The article further stated: “Let us … appoint honest men, attached to the invincible cause, Republicanism; with complete and discretionary powers” to make a treaty with France, because “short of this, we can expect nothing but additional disgrace and disappointment.”

3Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, scene iii, lines 66–69; AA substituted the phrase “Jack asses” for “Cassius.”

4The reply of the House of Representatives to JA’s 16 May address noted “with extreme regret … the measures of the French Republic tending to endanger a situation so desirable and interesting to our country,” and although the House supported “with the utmost satisfaction … a fresh attempt at negotiation,” it promised “every attention which their importance demands” to the defensive measures proposed by JA. The address was delivered to JA on 3 June, and in his reply of the same date, JA reaffirmed his desire for a diplomatic resolution with France and expressed his satisfaction that House “cooperation may be expected in those measures which may appear necessary for our security or peace” (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 , 5th Cong., 1st sess., p. 234, 236–238).

5The Boston Columbian Centinel, 27, 31 May, printed only summaries of the speeches in the House on 19, 23, and 24 May. However, on 3 June, it printed Harrison Gray Otis’ entire 24 May speech as a corrective to “a mutilated sketch” of the speech that had been “foisted on the public.”

6Samuel Sewall (1757–1814), Harvard 1776, practiced law in Marblehead and served in the Mass. General Court before being elected to the 4th Congress upon the resignation of Benjamin Goodhue. Sewall was reelected to the 5th and 6th Congresses (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, Washington, D.C., 2005; rev. edn., description ends ).

7Thomas Evans (ca. 1755–1815), a lawyer and member of the Va. House of Delegates, was elected to the 5th and 6th Congresses as a Federalist. On 22 May after the reading of the House’s answer to JA’s 16 May speech, Evans moved that the phrase “will be felt with indignation” be changed to “will be felt with sensibility,” as he “wished to avoid using expressions more harsh than were necessary.” The Philadelphia Porcupine’s Gazette, 23 May, described Evans’ amendment as “pusillanimous, whining, and calculated to disguise the real sentiments of the people” and continued, “I will allow the gentleman to have meant, that the insults of the French to our minister, would be heard of with sensibility: this is sense, but it is far from expressing what ought to be expressed on the present occasion” (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, Washington, D.C., 2005; rev. edn., description ends ).

8The enclosure has not been found but was probably from the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 2 June, which printed a letter “written by an American of the first respectability, at Paris,” who believed that a “system of terror is employed against our government with as little ceremony as it was once employed by a British ministry against our nation” and that “A French yoke, or a British, will never fit lightly upon my neck, and I think I am not singular in the delicacy of my feelings.” The article noted that if the “accumulated injuries” compelled America to declare war, “the French nation will be made the blind and deluded instrument of vengeance against their only real and sincere friends.” JA wrote to Josiah Quincy III on 3 June thanking him for sending TBA’s 13 Feb. letter and noting that “the Paragraphs useful to the Public were judiciously published” (CSt:Robert R. Gros Papers).

9The enclosure has not been found but was possibly one of three articles the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser printed about JQA’s nomination to Prussia. On 22 May the Aurora underscored that it was JA’s “first nomination” and that George Washington “never appointed to any station in government, even the most distant of his relations.” The 24 May issue printed a defense of the nomination by “Fair Play,” who noted that “the present nomination is only to a change of situation for a particular purpose, and not a new appointment.” In response, an article on 26 May agreed that JQA, as “the heir apparent,” had been nominated “for a particular purpose” and suggested that it was to interfere with the Franco-Prussian alliance.

10This is probably in reference to Richard Cranch’s 23 April letter to AA, in which he sent condolences on the death of Susanna Boylston Adams Hall and “enclosed Mr. Black’s Order which he desires you to endorse and return to the Collector, who will thereupon discharge that Sum on his Bill against you” (Adams Papers).

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