Adams Papers

From Margaret Shippen to Abigail Smith Adams, 14 May 1799

Philadelphia May 14—[1799]

Hond: Madam

Permit me to address you on the most interesting occasion & I am persuaded you will be influenced when you shall have considered that what I am about to propose is for your own honor. I would Madam bring before your mind, the Sufferings of John Fries, a man condemned to death for having opposed an Officer; (which it seems, is by our courts defined High Treason) & for which he now lies in a loathsome dungeon fated to die unless the heavenly quality of Mercy is exerted in his favor. When your Just and intelligent mind examines the severity of this sentence; & your more amiable sensibility has imagined his anguish & distresses; let me intreat you to intreat our President to shield the unhappy Victim by his Prerogative. He cannot, he will not be deaf to the angel tongued influence that pleads for mercy. How charmingly appropriate for a being whose only hope is mercy invoking Mercy for another! If it be said that State reasons are against his being pardoned; that it is necessary for example to take the life of our fellow Creature, let us for a moment reflect how little such examples avail in england Where executions are so frequent for stealing: experience teaches that where sanguinary laws prevail there, the greatest Crimes prevail also: It is not to be presumed if this unhappy man had known the action he was about to commit, was high Treason; he had committed it. Let it not be said that our former President was more humane than our present. Recollect the classical & affecting story of the Third Edwards Queen at the Siege of Calais & be assured (if a motive be wanting) that like Philippa you will conquer all hearts by a Successfull intercession on this Occasion and add to the high Veneration with which / Madam / I have the honor to be <y> / your most Obedient Servant.

Margaret Shippen

DLC: Shippen Family Papers.

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