Front Page Titles (by Subject) 25 April 1791: TO A. HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 8 (Letters and State Papers 1782-1799)
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25 April 1791: TO A. HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 8 (Letters and State Papers 1782-1799) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 8.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO A. HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Philadelphia, 25 April, 1791.
I do myself the honor to transmit to you my accounts which remain unsettled, for the last two years and eight months of my administrations abroad in the service of the United States. I have left a blank for my salary. In my own opinion it is but justice that it should be filled up with the sum of two thousand five hundred pounds sterling a year, because this was the contract under which I accepted my commission for the peace in 1779, and that for their High Mightinesses in 1781, which last continued in force until my return home. The resolution of Congress, which stated the salary of a minister abroad at nine thousand dollars, could not reasonably be intended to operate upon ministers and commissions which had been given and accepted upon different conditions. Such an interpretation of it would make it amount to a breach of public faith. Moreover, I have been well informed by Mr. Gerry, who proposed the alteration, that the reason of this resolution was a supposition that, in that time of peace, the expenses of living in Europe were reduced. This motive was so far from being a just one, as applied to me, that I found the expenses of living in London about a quarter part dearer than I had ever known them in Paris or the Hague. This, therefore, was rather a reason for raising my salary to three thousand pounds sterling a year, which I actually spent, than for reducing it to nine thousand dollars. I have been informed by Mr. Barclay that Dr. Franklin charged, and has been allowed, two thousand five hundred pounds sterling a year till his return, and as I am in the same predicament with him, it is at least as just that it should be allowed to me; indeed, it is more so, because I certainly was obliged to spend more than that sum, and he undoubtedly spent less.
I have also requested an allowance for a private secretary. As the business of my mission to Holland, as well as that to England, lay upon me, in addition to my share in all the negotiations with Prussia and the other powers of Europe, as well as the Barbary States, it may readily be conceived that I had a great deal of business and still more writing to do, as copies of all such correspondences must be preserved, and therefore I hope the charge for a private secretary will not be thought unreasonable.
An allowance is asked also for one ministerial or diplomatic entertainment for each year. This is done for three reasons: 1. because it is the custom of the whole Corps Diplomatique; 2. because it seems to be a reasonable custom; and 3. because Mr. Franklin has charged and been allowed for all extraordinary entertainments, as I suppose, as he told me he had charged them or should charge them.
An outfit I have asked for, amounting to one year’s salary. This will be but a very inadequate compensation to me, for the extraordinary expenses I was put to by the variety of services and multiplicity of commissions which were heaped upon me. My case is singular, and distinguished from that of every other gentleman who has ever been sent abroad in the service of the United States. In 1779, Congress sent me abroad, with two commissions, one to negotiate a peace, and another to his Britannic Majesty to negotiate a treaty of commerce with that power. Under these commissions I went to Paris, and resided there, which obliged me to take a house or apartments ready furnished, and establish a household, equipage, and set of servants there. In 1780, Congress sent me a commission to borrow money in Holland, to the amount of ten millions of dollars. This obliged me to live in Holland. In 1781, Congress sent me a commission to treat with that republic, and a letter of credence to the States-General. This obliged me to hire a house and completely furnish it, because there was no such thing to be hired in Holland as furniture, as might be done and was done by Mr. Deane, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Jay, and myself at Paris. My commission for the peace obliged me to make journeys to Versailles. My commission for borrowing money not only augmented my expenses, but gave me more trouble and occasioned more labor and perplexity than all the other services. The frequent removals from one country to another, the continual change of servants and liveries, the wear and tear of baggage, and destruction of furniture, beside the perpetual plunder I was subjected to in my absence from my house in one country, while attending my duty in another, have wasted and consumed my salary in such a manner, that my family must be deprived of that reward for my time, trouble, risk, and services, which all of us were entitled to, and which some may have been happy enough honestly to secure. I say all of us were entitled to it, because Congress, on the 28th September, 1776, resolved, that their ministers should live in such a style and manner as they might find suitable and necessary to support the dignity of their public character, and that, besides their actual expenses, a handsome allowance be made to each of them, as a compensation for their time, trouble, risk, and services.
If the articles I have submitted are allowed me, difficult as it will be to justify myself to my family, I shall be content; but if not, I must crave an allowance of one half per cent., as commissions on nine millions of guilders, by me borrowed in Holland for the United States. When Congress allows four per cent. to the houses of Willink and Van Staphorst, and their undertakers, upon all these loans, which has already amounted to a handsome fortune to each house, it would be extremely hard and unreasonable to oblige me, who had more trouble with every one of these loans than those houses had—nay, who had more trouble with the first of them than they have had with the whole—not only to do this whole business for nothing, but live at my own expense while I did it. This must be my hard fate, if nothing can be allowed me as commissions, nor for extraordinary services. Considerable sums were spent by me, at times, for secret services, and other sums, to no small amount, were advanced to Americans in distress, some of them in prison, and others escaped; but, as I have no vouchers for these and I suppose Congress would not be willing to set a precedent, I make no charge for them, although they were advanced out of my own money—part of my salary. Let me ask the favor of you, Sir, to look over these accounts, and then present them to the auditor, that they may be settled in some way or other by the next session of Congress. With great esteem I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
HENRY KNOX TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 10 June, 1791.
My dear Sir,—
I embrace the occasion of inclosing some letters, to thank you and Mrs. Adams for the comfortable accommodation of your house at Bush Hill. While the inhabitants of this city are panting for breath, like a hunted hare, we experience in the hall at Bush Hill a delightful and animated breeze.
The paragraphs in the Connecticut and New York papers, relative to your journey, indicate envy and blackness of heart. Who the author of these articles is, I know not, and it is quite immaterial. But eminence must be taxed.
Perhaps the “political heresies,” mentioned in the preface to the American edition of Paine’s pamphlet, as coming from a more respectable quarter,1 may occasion some uneasiness. But the author has assured me, that the note he wrote to the printer never was intended for publication, but as a sort of apology for having detained the book, which was a borrowed one, longer than the impatience of the printer would admit.
But, if the idea was aimed at your doctrines, it ought not to create a moment’s pain. Conscious, as you are, of the invariable pursuit of the public happiness, regulated by the sober standard of reason, it is not the desultory ebullition of this or that man’s mind, that can divert you from your object. For while human nature shall continue its course according to its primary principles, there will be a difference of judgment upon the same objects, even among good men.
The President is expected to arrive here about the 23d or 25th instant, but there is no information from him since the 16th of May. He has been perfectly received according to the abilities of the places through which he has passed.
The Indian campaign must go forward. We have marched and shall march by the latter end of this month two thousand eight hundred men. This force will be adequate, with the addition of the troops already on the frontiers.
I am, &c.
T. JEFFERSON TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 17 July, 1791.
I have a dozen times taken up my pen to write to you, and as often laid it down again, suspended between opposing considerations. I determine, however, to write, from a conviction that truth between candid minds can never do harm. The first of Paine’s pamphlets on the Rights of Man, which came to hand here, belonged to Mr. Beckley. He lent it to Mr. Madison, who lent it to me; and, while I was reading it, Mr. Beckley called on me for it, and as I had not finished it, he desired me, as soon as I should have done so, to send it to Mr. Jonathan B. Smith, whose brother meant to reprint it. I finished reading it, and, as I had no acquaintance with Mr. Jonathan B. Smith, propriety required that I should explain to him why I, a stranger to him, sent him the pamphlet. I accordingly wrote a note of compliment, informing him that I did it at the desire of Mr. Beckley, and, to take off a little of the dryness of the note, I added that I was glad it was to be reprinted here, and that something was to be publicly said against the political heresies which had sprung up among us, &c. I thought so little of this note, that I did not even keep a copy of it; nor ever heard a tittle more of it, till, the week following, I was thunderstruck with seeing it come out at the head of the pamphlet. I hoped, however, it would not attract notice; but I found, on my return from a journey of a month, that a writer came forward, under the signature of Publicola, attacking not only the author and principles of the pamphlet, but myself as its sponsor, by name. Soon after came hosts of other writers, defending the pamphlet, and attacking you by name, as the writer of Publicola. Thus were our names thrown on the public stage, as public antagonists. That you and I differ in our ideas of the best form of government, is well known to us both; but we have differed as friends should do, respecting the purity of each other’s motives, and confining our difference of opinion to private conversation; and I can declare with truth, in the presence of the Almighty, that nothing was further from my intention or expectation than to have had either my own or your name brought before the public on this occasion. The friendship and confidence which has so long existed between us, required this explanation from me, and I know you too well to fear any misconstruction of the motives of it. Some people who would wish me to be, or to be thought, guilty of improprieties, have suggested that I was Agricola, that I was Brutus, &c., &c. I never did in my life, either by myself or by any other, have a sentence of mine inserted in a newspaper, without putting my name to it; and I believe I never shall.
While the Empress is refusing peace under a mediation, unless Oczakow and its territory be ceded to her, she is offering peace on the perfect statu quo to the Porte, if they will conclude it without a mediation. France has struck a severe blow at our navigation by a difference of duty on tobacco carried in our and their ships, and by taking from foreign built ships the capability of naturalization. She has placed our whale oil on rather a better footing than ever, by consolidating the duties into a single one of six livres. They amounted before to some sous over that sum. I am told (I know not how truly) that England has prohibited our spermaceti oil altogether, and will prohibit our wheat till the price there is 52s. the quarter, which it almost never is. We expect hourly to hear the true event of General Scott’s expedition. Reports give favorable hopes of it. Be so good as to present my respectful compliments to Mrs. Adams, and to accept assurances of the sentiments of sincere esteem and respect, with which I am, dear Sir,
Your friend and servant,
TO T. JEFFERSON.
Braintree, 29 July, 1791.
Yesterday, at Boston, I received your friendly letter of July 17th with great pleasure. I give full credit to your relation of the manner in which your note was written and prefixed to the Philadelphia edition of Mr. Paine’s pamphlet on the Rights of Man; but the misconduct of the person who committed this breach of your confidence, by making it public, whatever were his intentions, has sown the seeds of more evils than he can ever atone for. The pamphlet, with your name to so striking a recommendation of it, was not only industriously propagated in New York and Boston, but, that the recommendation might be known to every one, was reprinted with great care in the newspapers, and was generally considered as a direct and open personal attack upon me, by countenancing the false interpretation of my writings, as favoring the introduction of hereditary monarchy and aristocracy into this country. The question everywhere was, what heresies are intended by the secretary of State? The answer in the newspapers was, “The Vice-President’s notions of a limited monarchy, an hereditary government of King and Lords, with only elective Commons.” Emboldened by these murmurs, soon after appeared the paragraphs of an unprincipled libeller in the New Haven Gazette, carefully reprinted in the papers of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, holding up the Vice-President to the ridicule of the world for his meanness, and to their detestation for wishing to subjugate the people to a few nobles. These were soon followed by a formal speech of the lieutenant-governor1 of Massachusetts, very solemnly holding up the idea of hereditary powers, and cautioning the public against them, as if they were at that moment in the most imminent danger of them. These things were all accompanied with the most marked neglect, both of the governor and lieutenant-governor of this State, towards me; and all together served as a hue and cry to all my enemies and rivals, to the old constitutional faction of Pennsylvania, in concert with the late insurgents of Massachusetts, both of whom consider my writings as the cause of their overthrow, to hunt me down like a hare, if they could. For this state of things Publicola, who, I suppose, thought that Mr. Paine’s pamphlet was made use of as an instrument to destroy a man for whom he had a regard, whom he thought innocent, and, in the present moment, of some importance to the public, came forward. You declare very explicitly that you never did, by yourself or by any other, have a sentence of yours inserted in a newspaper without your name to it. And I with equal frankness declare that I never did, either by myself or by any other, have a sentence of mine inserted in any newspaper since I left Philadelphia. I neither wrote nor corrected Publicola.1 The writer, in the composition of his pieces, followed his own judgment, information, and discretion, without any assistance from me.
You observe, “that you and I differ in our ideas of the best form of government, is well known to us both.” But, my dear Sir, you will give me leave to say that I do not know this. I know not what your idea is of the best form of government. You and I have never had a serious conversation together, that I can recollect, concerning the nature of government. The very transient hints that have ever passed between us have been jocular and superficial, without ever coming to an explanation. If you suppose that I have, or ever had, a design or desire of attempting to introduce a government of King, Lords, and Commons, or in other words, an hereditary executive, or an hereditary senate, either into the government of the United States or that of any individual State, you are wholly mistaken. There is not such a thought expressed or intimated in any public writing or private letter, and I may safely challenge all mankind to produce such a passage, and quote the chapter and verse. If you have ever put such a construction on any thing of mine, I beg you would mention it to me, and I will undertake to convince you that it has no such meaning.
Upon this occasion I will venture to say, that my unpolished writings, although they have been read by a sufficient number of persons to have assisted in crushing the insurrection of the Massachusetts, in the formation of the new constitutions of Pennsylvania, Georgia, and South Carolina, and in procuring the assent of all the States to the new national constitution, yet have not been read by great numbers. Of the few who have taken the pains to read them, some have misunderstood them, and others have wilfully misrepresented them, and these misunderstandings and misrepresentations have been made the pretence for overwhelming me with floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous abuse, unexampled in the history of this country.
It is thought by some, that Mr. Hancock’s friends are preparing the way, by my destruction, for his election to the place of Vice-President, and that of Mr. Samuel Adams to be Governor of this commonwealth; and then the Stone House faction will be sure of all the loaves and fishes, in the national government and the State government, as they hope. The opposers of the present constitution of Pennsylvania, the promoters of Shays’s rebellion and county resolves, and many of the detesters of the present national government, will undoubtedly assist them. Many people think, too, that no small share of a foreign influence, in revenge for certain intractable conduct at the treaty of peace, is and will be intermingled. The janissaries of this goodly combination, among whom are three or four who hesitate at no falsehood, have written all the impudence and impertinence which have appeared in the Boston papers upon this memorable occasion. I must own to you, that the daring traits of ambition and intrigue, and those unbridled rivalries, which have already appeared, are the most melancholy and alarming symptoms that I have ever seen in this country; and if they are to be encouraged to proceed in their course, the sooner I am relieved from the competition, the happier I shall be.
I thank you, Sir, very sincerely for writing to me upon this occasion. It was high time that you and I should come to an explanation with each other. The friendship that has subsisted for fifteen years without the smallest interruption, and, until this occasion without the slightest suspicion, ever has been and still is very dear to my heart. There is no office which I would not resign, rather than give a just occasion to one friend to forsake me. Your motives for writing to me I have not a doubt were the most pure and the most friendly; and I have no suspicion that you will not receive this explanation from me in the same friendly light.1
T. JEFFERSON TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 30 August, 1791.
My dear Sir,—
I received some time ago your favor of July 29th, and was happy to find that you saw, in its true point of view, the way in which I had been drawn into the scene which must have been so disagreeable to you. The importance which you still seem to allow to my note, and the effect you suppose it to have had, though unintentional in me, induce me to show you, that it really had no effect. Paine’s pamphlet, with my note, was published here about the second week in May; not a word ever appeared in the public papers here on the subject for more than a month, and I am certain not a word on the subject would ever have been said, had not a writer, under the name of Publicola, at length undertaken to attack Mr. Paine’s principles, which were the principles of the citizens of the United States. Instantly a host of writers attacked Publicola, in support of those principles. He had thought proper to misconstrue a figurative expression in my note, and these writers so far noticed me as to place the expression in its true light; but this was only an incidental skirmish, preliminary to the general engagement, and they would not have thought me worth naming, had not he thought proper to bring me on the scene.2 His antagonist, very criminally, in my opinion, presumed you to be Publicola,1 and on that presumption hazarded a personal attack on you. No person saw with more uneasiness than I did this unjustifiable assault, and the more so, when I saw it continued after the printer had declared you were not the author. But you will perceive from all this, my dear Sir, that my note contributed nothing to the production of these disagreeable pieces. As long as Paine’s pamphlet stood on its own feet and on my note, it was unnoticed. As soon as Publicola attacked Paine, swarms appeared in his defence. To Publicola, then, and not in the least degree to my note, this whole contest is to be ascribed, and all its consequences.
You speak of the execrable paragraph in the Connecticut paper. This, it is true, appeared before Publicola, but it had no more relation to Paine’s pamphlet and my note than to the Alcoran. I am satisfied the writer of it had never seen either; for when I passed through Connecticut about the middle of June, not a copy had ever been seen by anybody, either in Hartford or New Haven, nor probably in that whole State; and that paragraph was so notoriously the reverse of the disinterestedness of character which you are known to possess, by everybody who knows your name, that I never heard a person speak of the paragraph but with an indignation in your behalf, which did you entire justice. This paragraph, then, certainly did not flow from my note, any more than the publications which Publicola produced. Indeed, it was impossible that my note should occasion your name to be brought into question; for, so far from naming you, I had not even in view any writing which I might suppose to be yours,2 and the opinions I alluded to were principally those I had heard in common conversation from a sect aiming at the subversion of the present government to bring in their favorite form of a King, Lords, and Commons.
Thus, I hope, my dear Sir, that you will see me to have been as innocent in effect as I was in intention. I was brought before the public without my own consent, and from the first moment of seeing the effort of the real aggressor in this business, to keep me before the public, I determined that nothing should induce me to put pen to paper in the controversy. The business is now over, and I hope its effects are over, and that our friendship will never be suffered to be committed, whatever use others may think proper to make of our names.
The event of the King’s flight from Paris, and his recapture, will have struck you with its importance. It appears, I think, that the nation is firm within, and it only remains to see whether there will be any movement from without. I confess, I have not changed my confidence in the favorable issue of that revolution, because it has always rested on my own ocular evidence of the unanimity of the nation, and wisdom of the patriotic party in the national assembly. The last advices render it probable that the Emperor will recommence hostilities against the Porte; it remains to see whether England and Prussia will take a part.
Present me to Mrs. Adams with all the affections I feel for her, and be assured of those devoted to yourself by, my dear Sir, your sincere friend and servant.
[1 ]Mr. Jefferson. See the next letter.
[1 ]Samuel Adams.
[1 ]The papers of Publicola were written by John Quincy Adams, then a young man commencing life as a lawyer in Boston. They were collected and printed in England, as the work of his father.
[1 ]The copy of this letter is upon a separate sheet of paper, and not in the letter book. It terminates as above. Mr. Jefferson alludes to its contents in his memorandum for the 13th of August, 1791. Works, edited by T. J. Randolph, vol. iv. p. 453.
[2 ]Is it possible that Mr. Jefferson, at this time holding the office of Secretary of State, could have persuaded himself that his position in the country was of so little weight? Some idea of the effect in Philadelphia of the publication may be gathered from the extracts from a letter of Mr. Lear, of the 8th May, printed in Washington’s Writings, vol. x. pp. 161-163, note. Mr. Jefferson, in his letter of the same date, anticipated the consequences very clearly.
[1 ]If this was criminal, Mr. Jefferson, probably, erred with him. He attributes one article in Fenno’s paper, at least, to Mr. Adams. Sparks’s Washington, vol. x. p. 159, last line of note.
[2 ]But on the other hand is the following, addressed to another person; “That I had in my view the Discourses on Davila, which had filled Fenno’s papers for a twelvemonth without contradiction, is certain.” Jefferson to Washington, (8 May, 1791,) in Sparks’s edition of Washington’s Writings, vol. x. p. 160, note. Those who are curious in such matters would do well to compare the tone of the two letters throughout.