Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to Thomas Welsh, 6 June 1797

Abigail Adams to Thomas Welsh

Philadelphia June 6th 1797

my dear sir

We yesterday received the Centinal. I thank you for the vindication which I found in it.1 I well knew how watchfull the Faction would be to lie in wait & catch at every Straw, misrepresenting and abusing every measure which was intended to secure us from foreign influence. the President waited a reasonable time for the answer of the House to his Speech, before he made his nominations to the senate of envoys extraordianary to the French republick. the Jacobins Seazd this interval to propogate a report that he was not Sincere in his professions to treat. when he sent in his Nominations to the senate, they were obliged to Change their ground. the next attack was upon the persons Nominated judge dana was declared to be an open & avowed Enemy to France. this opinion was propagated by Varnum & confirmd by Freeman. I tell you Names, you will however keep your informant out of sight. they however advanced this at Francis’s Hotel at the publick table at which they Dine; there are others who will transmit the same account I doubt not. the senate however confirmed the Nominations Yesterday 28 senators being present 22 voted in favour Virginna senators, Langdon Cokce of Tenassee, & two others against them.2 You will also see that the Nomination of JQA 19 to 9. No one ventured to utter a syllable against the person, but undertook to judge of the propriety of having a mission there.

We yesterday had Letters from both our sons dated in March 18 I will transcribe a passage from JQAs.

“The french Government at present evidently design to go to War with the united states, unless the Americans will submit to sacrifice their interest their honour and their independance. to Effect this design their great expectation is founded upon the hope of our internal disunion, a hope which is very much encouraged by the Americans who are conversent with the ruling Men in France

[“]The determination for the present is to take and perhaps to condemn all American vessels and merchandize bound to or from any Ports under the dominion of Great Britain. this system has long been discernable but is now openly avowd. upon this Principle they have already taken and condemnd several vessels going from England. the Privateers which took them have generally been fitted out by Americans, and it is from Such Specimins that the Directory judge of the dispositions and Character of the American people.” [“]one of the objects to which this system is destined in plunder they consider the american commerce as a benificial prey, and they are desirious of a pretext to refuse the payment of about 40 millions of livers which I understand they owe to the citizens of the united stats.3 that they are seeking pretexts for a quarrel is plain from every circumstance that has happened Since the note of mr Adet, in october of the last year. but they gradually proceed from one step to an other because the Directory have not by the constitution the right of declaring War and they do not think the Nation or the Legislative assembly Yet sufficiently exasperated to make a proposal to declare war for the present pass. in order to produce such an animosity they are daily useing every means of misrepresentation and falshood against the American Government. at the same time they are offering every provocation of insult indignity and injury in there power, depending either that no power exists on our part to resent them, or if they are resented that our measures will furnish them pretext for further insolence, and perhaps for proposing to the Legislature a Declaration of War.”4

You are at Liberty to communicate this to such Friends as may be relied on.

I inclose You Bache impudenc of this day. I say with the Member from Conneticut, I hope if the Chronical retails it, there will be found American Blood enough in Boston and American ink enough to punish him.5 we now have a Govenour who will give a different Tone to the sentiments of many and will aid the Federal Government. we wait for his Speech with raised expectations.6 I must close or the post will leave me

a kind remembrance to all Friends / from your affectionate Friend / &c &c

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “June 5th ’97 / Mrs. Adams.”

1See Welsh to AA, 2 June, and note 2, above.

2William Cocke (1748–1828) served in the Va. House of Burgesses before moving to Tennessee in 1776, where he was elected one of the state’s first senators in 1796. He joined Timothy Bloodworth, Stevens Thomson Mason, and Henry Tazewell in voting against Charles Cotesworth Pinckney’s nomination. The votes opposing Francis Dana were cast by Cocke, Mason, Tazewell, as well as John Brown, John Langdon, and Alexander Martin, and it was Bloodworth, Brown, Cocke, Langdon, Martin, and Mason who opposed the nomination of John Marshall (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, Washington, D.C., 2005; rev. edn., bioguide.congress.gov. description ends ; U.S. Senate, Exec. Jour. description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1789–. description ends , 5th Cong., 1st sess., p. 243–244). For more on these votes, see JA to TBA, 2 June 1797, and note 5, above.

3On 10 March Joseph Pitcairn wrote to JQA that France planned to demand a loan of 60 million livres from the United States, but he noted that “if our Gouvernment should pay any attention at it, I hope it will only be to obtain the payment of Debts due to their Citizens which I am told amount to 40,000,000. a sum exceeding by 8 Millions the advances made by France during our Revolution” (Adams Papers). JQA repeated the amount in a 27 March letter to Timothy Pickering, where he noted that France was “indebted to a great number of Americans either for supplies or for indemnities of captures and depredations, which they themselves acknowledge to be due. The amount of these debts is said to be nearly or quite forty millions of livres” (LbC, APM Reel 129). For a summary of JQA’s 27 March letter to Pickering, see AA to JQA, 15 June, note 4, below.

4See TBA to JA, 17 March, above. In addition to the extract AA quoted here, JQA also discussed in his letter to JA of 18 March France’s influence in the Batavian Republic and his hope that harmony would be the common goal of the Adams-Jefferson executive. He also reported the death of Marie Dumas (Adams Papers).

5During the 2 June House debate of its response to JA’s 16 May address, Albert Gallatin objected to a sentence stating that the House “did not hesitate to declare, that they would give their most cordial support to principles so deliberately and uprightly established.” John Allen of Connecticut challenged the foreign-born member of Congress: “There was American blood enough in the House to approve of this clause, and American accent enought to pronounce it,” after which a vote was taken and the sentence retained. The following day Allen’s words were twisted by Matthew Lyon, who in attempting to excuse himself from attending the delivery of the response to JA, claimed that “he had no objection to gentlemen of high blood carrying this Address. He had no pretensions to high blood, though he thought he had as good blood as any.” In reporting on these events, the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 6 June, perverted Lyon’s discussion: “A gentleman from Connecticut rose yesterday for the purpose of telling this house that there was American blood enough in it to carry the answer. … I never heard any one before yesterday, boasting of his blood, that I thought had any pretensions to good sense, or good manners” (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. 232–233, 235).

6Increase Sumner’s 2 June address was printed in the Philadelphia Gazette, 9 June.

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