Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 3 November 1797

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

East Chester 20 miles from N york Novbr 3d 1797

my Dear son

Since my residence at this place, now a Month, occasiond by the prevalence of the yellow fever in Philadelphia, I have had the pleasure to receive two Letters from you; one from the Hague june 26th, the other from London july 29th. the joint Letter you mention as having written, is not yet come to Hand.

The Newspapers before I left Quincy, which was on the 2d of the last Month, had informd us of the Marriage of Mr J Q Adams to Miss Louissa Johnson, upon which the Chronical made as usual, an ill Natured reflection. this induced some friendly Correspondent to place the subject in its true Light in the Centinal; from whence it made its way into the Albany Gazette, and from that into Porcupines paper, from which, as it become a subject of so much importance, I culld it and inclose it to you.1 For myself I sincerely congratulate you upon the Event, and I hope I may add, my dear Louissa too. I want not the Authority of Milton to pronounce the state, a perpetual fountain of Domestic Bliss “to those who like yourself, seek for happiness and pleasure in the Bosom of virtuous Friendship, endeard by those engageing ties, of delicate sensibility, and sweetness of disposition, beauty will forever remain attractive, and knowledge delightfull.[]2

It has given me real pain to find that the Change in your Embassy does not meet your ready assent; or that it should be personally so inconvenient to you, as you represent.

I cannot but flatter myself you will find it more agreable than you anticipate; your Father has written you so fully upon the Subject, and in my mind, obviated every objection, that I think you will feel more satisfied, that you would not have been sent to Berlin at this Time; if mr Washington had continued in office, I fully believe, but I can tell you where you would have been employ’d, as one of the Envoys to France. this was the desire and opinion of all the Ministers, and nothing but your near connextion with the Chief Majestrate, prevented your being nominated. he had a delicacy upon the Subject, and declined it.3 I have one criterion to judge of the utility of the present mission it is the allarm the Jacobins took at it, but this did not lessen the confidence of the people who value and esteem you for what they know you are, and here I may mention an honour paid you by our Academy of Arts, who at their last meeting unanimously voted you a member. you was nominated at a previous meeting by the Rev’d Dr Belknap as I was inform’d.4

The spirit of union and Federalism pervades every part of New England, with very few exceptions. I have been assured from all quarters, that there is but one mind and that mind, is in support of our constitution and Government. they know no distinction between the People and the Government, on every occasion and opportunity they have shewn their attachment to the Government, by personal respect to the Chief Majestrate, both by civil and military exhibitions, which however contrary to the taste and inclination, of one, who through Life, has avoided every kind of show and parade; is now obliged to submit to the Will of the people Some specimins are inclosed.5 N york has endeavourd to Rival Boston. in my journey from Philadelphia in the summer I was a feeling witness to some of these scenes—where the sincerity of the Actors renderd it peculiarly interesting, and proved to me that the people will Love & respect their Chief Majestrate, if his administration is that of Wisdom and justice.

The unjust and piratical plunder upon our unarmed Commerce, has wrought conviction upon the minds of many of the former Idolaters of our Gallic Allies, even in the southern states.6 that Nation will find itself grosely deceived if they consider the nearly equal divission of votes at the Election of Chief Majestrate, as a criterion of the Voice of the people the people wish for Peace. they wish the happiness of all Nations and if no undue Methods had been practised, they would have generally given their suffrages to that person whom they supposed best qualified to promote and ensure the honour and dignity of the Government, without any respect to English or French partizens. The Letter writer is now more generally known, and the hollowness of his Principles better understood. there is an other tale of a more recent date, yet to be unfolded. you can Witness for me, how loth I have been to give him up. it is with much reluctance that I am obliged to look upon him as a Man whose Mind is so warped by prejudice, and so Blinded by Ignorance as to be unfit for the office he holds, however wise and scientific as a Phylosopher as a politician, he is a Child, and the dupe of party.7

on the 13 of this Month Congress are to meet, but I have not any expectation that they will make a Congress untill December.8 The yellow fever has been again Raviging that poor Devoted City. the mortality has not been so great as in the year 1793, but the city has been deserted 30 thousand inhabitants fled from it, very soon after it appeard. 5 Physicians have fallen sacrifices to it.9 it has so far abated as to be thought safe to return to it. I hope it is, as next week we go on—

You will see I date from hence, a Farm purchased by col S——h. prudence requires me to be silent. you will however understand me, when I tell you that I took William and John when I went on to Quincy in july, that I have placed them at an Academy in Atkinson and in the Family of your Worthy Aunt Peabody, whose kindness and benevolence are well known to you— Your sister is going with her little Daughter to pass the Winter with us.—

In one of my Letters I acknowledgd the receipt of the Watch, but unaccompanied by any Bill of the cost. I requested some sattin, and mentiond sending Bills, but I found you had given orders to your Brother to draw for some money to be laid out for your use. I therefore thought it might be more Eligible to pay the sum to him as your Agent, or to any other person so employ’d I now request you to send me the amount, as your Brother writes me you have orderd the silk. I accepted formerly a cloak as a testimony of your filial regard, but I have no design to tax you with my commissions, nor can I send any more untill you comply with my request.10 without any disparagement to your Brother Whom I doubt not, will do the best he can with your property I would advise you to employ our old tried and Faithfull Friend Dr Tufts whose experience and judgment, will not permit him to run any risks. as I know what money you have must be saved by a rigid oeconomy, I wish you might have it placed in safe and productive funds. I have only room left to say to you & yours accept my Maternal / Blessing.

A A—

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by TBA: “Mrs: A Adams / 3 Novr: 1797 / 24 Jany 1798 Recd: / 5 Feby Answd.Tr (Adams Papers).

1Enclosure not found. The Boston Independent Chronicle, 14–18 Sept., remarked that JQA’s “negociations, have terminated in a Marriage Treaty with an English lady. … It is a happy circumstance that he has made no other Treaty.” The Boston Columbian Centinel, 20 Sept., called the Chronicle squib “an imposition on the public, who ought to be informed, without derogating from the merits of the ladies of England, that Mrs. A. is an American lady” and added, “if every negotiation Mr. A. makes in Europe, terminates as happily for his country, as this will for him, we shall have additional cause to praise the wisdom of that illustrious character, who selected him from his fellow-citizens as one of the representatives of the United States, in the Eastern hemisphere.” The Centinel article was reprinted in the Albany Gazette, 6 Oct., and the Philadelphia Porcupine’s Gazette, 12 October.

2A possible conflation of Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 4, line 728, which characterizes married life as bliss, and a paraphrase of Isaac Bickerstaff, The Tatler, 1 July 1710, reprinted in The Tatler by Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire, 4 vols., London, 1794, 4:11.

3On 21 April 1797 Oliver Wolcott Jr. responded to a request from JA for comment on a series of questions regarding French conduct. Wolcott noted, “For the reasons which have been stated, the expediency of uniting two of the Ministers now in Europe with Mr. Pinckney is respectfully suggested.— If the idea be admissable, it is believed that Mr. King & Mr. Adams are the most proper Characters” (Adams Papers).

4JQA was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on 23 August. On 16 July 1798 Eliphalet Pearson, the corresponding secretary, wrote to JQA enclosing his membership certificate and apologizing for the tardiness of the letter, noting that the previous recording secretary had never prepared the document. This letter, and the certificate dated 23 Aug. 1797 and signed by JA, Pearson, Rev. Joseph Willard, and John Davis, are both in the Adams Papers.

Rev. Jeremy Belknap (1744–1798), Harvard 1762, formerly served as pastor of the Congregational Church in Dover, N.H., but had been the minister of the Federal Street Church in Boston since 1787 (vol. 7:183; DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ).

5Enclosures not found.

6The Albany Gazette, 16 Oct. 1797, commented that “the bold efforts of our fellow-citizens in the southern states, to enlighten their countrymen on their political interests … will be followed by very salutary effects. These efforts ought to have been made earlier, as they were in the northern states. But late as they are, they will be useful in preparing the public mind, either for peace or war.” An article questioning Thomas Jefferson’s conduct with regard to France was originally printed in a Virginia newspaper and republished in the New York Commercial Advertiser, 25 October.

7In addition to Jefferson’s letter to Philip Mazzei, for which see AA to JQA, 15 June, and note 8, above, AA was probably alluding to a letter Jefferson sent to Peregrine Fitzhugh on 4 June, in which he characterized JA’s convening Congress in May as “an experiment of the new administration, to see how far and in what line they could count on it’s support.” In a letter to JA of 23 June, Uriah Forrest, Fitzhugh’s nephew by marriage, summarized Jefferson’s letter: “It is extracted without exaggeration indeed not so strong in substance as the letter but as I put it to paper from memory (though immediately after twice reading) I chose to give it every degree of moderation it was susceptible of” (Adams Papers). JA replied to Forrest on 28 June, describing “the Paper inclosed” as “a Serious Thing. It will be a Motive in Addition to many others, for me to be upon my Guard. It is evidence of a Mind Sowered, yet Seeking for Popularity, and eaten to an honeycomb with ambition: yet weak, cofused, uninformed and ignorant” (private owner, 2009). Fitzhugh wrote to Jefferson on 15 Oct. informing the vice president that excerpts of the 4 June letter had been printed in the Baltimore Federal Gazette, 29 July; a paraphrased version appeared in the New York Minerva, 2 August. For more on Jefferson’s letter to Fitzhugh and its publication, see Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 29:415–419, 555–561.

8The 2d session of the 5th Congress was convened on 13 Nov., although a quorum was not achieved in the House until 15 Nov. and in the Senate until 22 Nov.; the session adjourned on 16 July 1798 (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, Washington, D.C., 2005; rev. edn., description ends ; 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., 2d sess., p. 469–471, 625–626).

9The New York Commercial Advertiser, 12 Oct. 1797, reported that a number of Philadelphia physicians had contracted yellow fever, and by 10 Oct. five had died: Benger Dobel, William Annan, Nicholas Way, Jacob Thompson, and Samuel Jones (Richard Folwell, Short History of the Yellow Fever, that Broke Out in the City of Philadelphia, in July, 1797, Phila., 1799, p. 26, 35, 54, 57, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 32138).

10For AA’s receipt of the cloak, see vol. 11:296.

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