Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to William Cranch, 15 November 1797

Abigail Adams to William Cranch

November 15th 1797 Philadelphia

my Dear sir

After an absence of near four Months I returned, to this City the last week. I am disposed to renew my correspondence with you, if you can find leisure to attend it.

The fraternal regard and affection which for many years subsisted between you and my sons is not lessned by time, or diminished by absence, but I trust has grown ripened, and matured by age, and like the Affection of your parents for each other, will burn with undiminished brightness untill the Lamp of Life is extinguishd; for never were sisters more tenderly united or more strongly attached to each other than your Dear Mother, and your affectionate Aunt, and the strong union between our Children has ever been a source of pleasure to me.

upon this principle I communicate to you the inclosed Letters,1 with a confidence that I trust them to safe and honorable Hands— there are some parts of them, you are at Liberty to publish; and I am confident you will not permit them to appear before the publick in so incorrect a manner, as mr Webster has some times done, by those which have been Committed to him. yet he has been frequently indebted to those very Letters for the Summary he has often given of French affairs to the publick. Those parts which I have thought might be communicated are Ist a Letter from JQA, dated Hague June 26th, beginning Top of the last page, “The negotiations for Peace” one from JQA, to me dated Maasluys, July 6th, 1797 beginning with “our Situation with that Country” say France, in lieu of that country say Gen’ll P——y, one from JQA, to me, dated London july 29th, beginning “my Means of communication, are very much reduced since I left blank[] one from TBA to me dated London August 17th beginning with, “The Debates in Congress.”

From those Letters inclosed which are written to the President, you may make such a selection by way of communication as you conceive may tend to Englighten our Countrymen in the views and intrigues of France as they respect America. I have thought the Character of Pastoret as drawn in the Letter dated July 2d might be usefull, and the whole of the last page of the Letter dated sepbr 11th mentioning the publication of Burks and the reflections which follow.2

I have sent you the Letters intire that you might have the whole before you at once, as they contain an accurate view of the gathering storm, which has since the dates of all, but the last, burst forth with a voilence which has rent assunder the Constitution of France, thrown down the pillars, and prostrated the whole fabrick, so that the pained imagination looks forward to a renewall of a Reign of Terror, and Scenes of horrour and Blood, which will cover that Devoted Nation, with “a Darkness visible”3

I have not seen a Washington paper untill my return here for several Months. I find a writer under the Signature of Aristidas, but by no means answering to the Character of the just, endeavouring to sow the seeds of Jealousy and distrust against the measures of Government and excite an oblique against the stamp Act. such disorganizing spirits ought to be consignd to the Regions of Darkness from whence they spring—4 Mr Burk in describing the progress of the French spirit, “observes, that the seeds are sown almost every where, chiefly by News paper circulations infinately more efficacious and extensive than ever they were, and they are a more important instrument than generally is imagined. They are a part of the reading of all, they are the whole of the reading of the far greater Number the writers of them, (speaking of French papers) for the greater part, are either unknown, or in contempt, but they are like a battery, in which the stroke of any one Ball, produces no great effect, but the amount of continual repetition is decisive. Let us suffer any person to tell us his Story, morning and Evening but for one twelvemonth, and he will become our Master.”5 I think with few variations these observations will apply to our Jacobin papers, every good Man should as far as his influence extends, aid, in counteracting these incendaries6

I am daily in hopes of hearing of the arrival of mr Johnson & Family in Maryland. I begin to feel anxious for them, knowing that they saild early in sep’br. will you be so kind as to give me early information. they mean to setle in washingtown, and will be a valuable acquisition to it. I hope you will visit them and Mrs Cranch.7 they are a very domestic Family, as such you will be pleased with them. I was sorry to learn as I did to day by a Letter from your Mother, that Mrs Cranch had been unwell.8 tell her she must keep up her spirits. it is a long lane which has no turn. who of us is exempt from trouble, and sorrow of some kind? my daughter in Law has like her, forsaken Father & Mother and sisters, and gone into a foreign Land without one natural connection. it is a hard trial, I know by experience what it is, to be seperated from all those Dear Relatives. few persons have so often been exercised as I have, but we live not for ourselves—

When you have perused the inclosed Letters you will be So good as to return them to Your affectionate / Aunt

Abigail Adams—

RC (MHi:Cranch Family Papers); addressed by Louisa Catharine Smith: “William Cranch Esqr / Washington”; endorsed: “Mrs. A. Adams / Novr. 15. 1797 / Ansd. 21. & 26th.Dft (Adams Papers).

1In the Dft, AA completed this sentence with the following: “The complaint mr A makes of having his Letters misprinted, you know I complaind of and engaged you to do justice for him in one which I sent you last summer. yours was the only coppy which was correct. you may publish from these inclosed those parts which are marked with inverted commas. I have three Reasons for sending them to you, the first is that in so doing I conceive I communicate a pleasure to you, and information which you could not obtain with so much Authenticity from any other quarter. my second reason is that in your Hands they will be perfectly safe & the extracts made from them be less suspected than from many other quarters and my third, that you will not permit the Printer to commit such egregious Blunders in the publication of them.”

2Cranch obliged AA’s request. The Washington Gazette, 25 Nov. – 2 Dec., published excerpts from each of the identified letters, along with an excerpt from JQA to JA, 31 Aug., for which see AA to JQA, 23 Nov., note 2, below. They were also reprinted in the New York Daily Advertiser, 16, 18 December. JQA’s letter to JA of 2 July (Adams Papers) described Claude Emmanuel Joseph Pierre Pastoret as “one of the most distinguished members, of the Council of 500. He came in at the first Constitutional election in Oct. 1795, and was not a member of the Convention. He has all along supported with eloquence and firmness the cause of moderation and Justice against the revolutionary violence and wickedness which has so often prevailed even since the establishment of the Constitution.” Pastoret (1756–1840) was a French statesman exiled during the 18 fructidor coup who managed to escape before he was forcibly deported (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins Jean Chrétien Ferdinand Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends ).

In his 11 Sept. 1797 letter to JA (Adams Papers), JQA offered extensive commentary on several publications on French affairs. He also reported that Edmund Burke had died in July and commented that if the governments of Europe “are considered as composing a sort of confederated whole, their situation and circumstances appear to resemble in an extraordinary degree those in which the same portion of the Earth were placed at the period when the Roman Republic fell, under the Ambition and talents of Caesar. … The ultimate consequence in that instance was the total dissolution of the system by which Europe was governed, and centuries of barbarism: the novelties of this day are calculated to produce with much greater rapidity the same effect. If there be any accuracy in this view of things, the similarity between the character and genius of Burke and those of Cicero, will appear wonderfully striking.” AA did not enclose this letter to Cranch; instead, she forwarded an extract in her own hand, noting, “I have made this extract in lieu of sending the whole Letter which the P. could not spair” (MHi:Adams-Cranch Family Papers).

3Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1, line 63. In the Dft, this paragraph reads: “Since the writing of all these Letters but that of sepbr 11th, the Reign of Terror and absolute Despotism has again commenced in France by the overthrow and banishment of every Man disposed to the system of Moderation justice & Peace; a Military Government so usurped & so corruptably administerd as we have every reason to expect it will be, presents to the imagination renewed scenes of horrour massacre & ‘Darkness visible’ exhausted as that Nation is, and embarrassed as all the states & kingdoms of Europe are who have voluntarily enterd, or been forcibly dragged into the war. we have no reason to expect but what every day will witness some new voilence, some dreadfull calamity to the Humane species, for in the Chaos which France is plunged no order or harmony can arrise, and we have nothing to look for, but Robbery and plunder so long as we expose our Property unarmed to their grasp, yet we have in our power the Means at least of protection.”

4A series of five articles signed Aristides was printed in the Lexington Kentucky Gazette, 6, 9, 13, 16, 20 Sept., and republished in the Washington Gazette, 14–21 Oct., 21–28 Oct., 28 Oct. – 4 November. Addressed “to the Citizens of Western America,” the articles commented on the differences between the eastern seaboard and the western states, arguing that the East was too closely aligned with British ideas about debt and taxation. Aristides claimed that citizens residing in the West “are so far removed from those foul nests of political iniquity, the large commercial cities on the Atlantic shore, that we can think and act like the free born sons of America ought to do.” He accused the Federalists of having “uniformly and invariably adopted the British systems of government— Every plan that a corrupt and degenerate people held out for imitation, they copied literally,” particularly in terms of taxation: “imposts, duties and excise are increased to a number approaching fast to the hateful catalogue of our British model.” He also claimed that “a national debt with its appendage a national revenue, is the carcass on which the vultures of government prey,” and he believed the U.S. government had “invariably pursued a line of conduct calculated to suppress the rising importance of Western America.”

5Burke, Three Memorials on French Affairs description begins Edmund Burke, Three Memorials on French Affairs. Written in the Years 1791, 1792, and 1793, London, 1797. description ends , p. 17–18.

6In the Dft, AA began the next paragraph, “I hope my dear sir that you find the persuit of the Law both pleasing and profitable to you. I most sincerely wish you success.”

7In the Dft, AA continued: “and present my congratulations to them on their arrival and to inform mrs Johnson, that Mrs Adams was well on the 19 of sep’br and sustaind the painfull seperation from all her Family with a becomeing fortitude, that mr Adams had not received his instructions at that Date. they went by mr marshal of whose arrival we are not yet informd. I must request mrs Cranch to form an acquaintance with the Family there are six daughters yet unmarried, accomplishd young Ladies those who are grown up, very domestick. so is their Father & Mother. Mrs Johnson I personally know— she is a very amiable woman and they are going to become inhabitants of Washington.”

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