Adams Papers

From Thomas Boylston Adams to William Smith Shaw, 16 August 1799

Philadelphia August 16th: 1799.

Dear William

I have not as yet acknowledged the receipt of your favor of the 30th: ulto: enclosing Mr: Paine’s Oration; but when I write to one of the family once a week, my conscience acquits me of negligence. I wrote twice to my mother last week.

Your letter is not by me, but I recollect it noticed your having just finished “Davila’s history.” Did you ever read the discourses on that author written in 89—90, which some writers of that day who were displeased with the political doctrines inculcated by them, used to call long–winded, dull, tedious sermons in favor of Monarchy & Aristocracy? I well remember the time when the public were taught & persuaded to conceive an horror & disgust against the reputed author of those harmless papers. Faction existed then as now, but it had not then been organised—The inflamatory materials were concealed beneath the cinders, but the breath of party animosity, aided by the strong gale of french revolution could alone kindle the flame which shortly after burst forth with unequalled violence in all quarters of the globe.

I distrust the political temper & spirit of our Commercial towns & Cities. Whence I derive this jealousy, unless experience& observation have imperceptibly suggested it to my conviction, I am unable to ascertain, but according to my creed the God, Goddess, Patron or Patroness of trade, was one of the first democrats in the world, and her votaries have ever since been more or less infected by such influence. Here is a suggestion which you are welcome to combat if you disagree, and which until I have your opinion, of it, I shall pursue no further.

The electioneering campaign goes on briskly here—We shall have a curious publication on the subject of McKean’s character, pretentions & qualifications, in a few days, if the Committee appointed to draft it, comply with this duty; in the course of the work, some interesting sketches and anecdotes respecting a few of McKean’s friends & recommenders, are likewise promised. Both sides, in many respects, are weak, on the score of former character—Old tories serve to fill the foremost ranks on each. Tench Coxe & Levi Hollingsworth may be balanced against each other. There will be very warm work in some places at the time of election, you may depend.

The Country has suffered much, I hear, for want of rain in the interior of this State, though in other parts the crops of grain were never more abundant—We have a fine rain to day, for the first time, since this month came in—The dust has been suffocating at Germantown, though I have kept pretty clear of it.

Paine’s Oration, though a good one, does not strike me so favorably as others you have sent me—It has great merit as an hasty production, but the style is stiff & seems to labor in several places rather unpleasantly for the reader. I would not criticise a work of a promising Cotemporary, under the circumstances of the one I allude to, if my remarks were for public inspection—It would be ungenerous—

Present me kindly to Quincy, my friend, & to my Quincy friends—believing me always in truth / Your’s

T. B. Adams

MWA: Adams Papers.

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