Francis Hall.

The Century, Volume 11 online

. (page 100 of 163)
Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 100 of 163)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

procuring another before this day. Your observa-
tions are very gratefull to me, because they lead me
to hope for some good from a course of publications
which few persons appear to be satisfied with ; for,
indeed, very few have read them in Boston. You
say you had read them all to the date of your letter.
I fear your patience has been put to too great a tryal
to have held out to this day. They are not generally
read by any party, and cannot be expected to be so.

I am not anxious to have them read by the present
age. I wish them to be preserved to posterity, that
the truth may be known without panegyricks on
one hand, or reproaches on the other, which I have
not deserved. The negotiations of the Peace of
1783 are known in detail by nobody but myself;
and as they have been misrepresented, they will be
more so, hereafter, if the truth is not told, and sup-
ported by documents. The history of our country
is getting full of falsehoods, and it is high time for
some of them to be corrected. Hamilton propo-
gated a great many, some of which I am endeavour-
ing to rectify or correct, or chastise. Have I had
any success ? I cannot expect to produce any great
effect. If a little more candor and a little more
moderation can be obtained, I shall think my time
well spent If an excessive partiality for England,
too strongly resembling the sentiments of the Tories
in 1770, I, 2, 3, and four, can be abated, and the
fatal policy of depending on the British Fleet for
protection, be averted, — it will be well worth the

In short, the fatal error of depending on the
wisdom, justice, or benevolence of any foreign
nation for protection or assistance must be corrected,
or we shall be miserably deceived and betrayed.

I am, dear Sir, as I always have been, with great
and sincere esteem.

Your friend and servant,

John Adams.

Colonel Ward.

The language of this letter is very peculiar
for one charged with an over-appreciation
of England, affection for monarchical gov-
ernment and disrinctions of nobility. This
charge is of a piece with the many unwar-
rantable accusations laid at the door of John
Adams. It is one thing to hold an opinion
that a modified monarchy is the more per-
fect form of government, and another to
advocate its adoption by the United States.

There is much truth in the following able
summary of Mr. Adams's later years, found
in Mr. Gibb's " Memoirs ;"

" The later Cunningham letters show the
melancholy sequel of the drama. Mr.
Adams has experienced the usual fate of
patriots — ^ingratitude. Reviled by the Ham-
iltonians, whose designs he had exposed;

Digitized by




neglected by the Democrats, to whom he
could be no longer useful; deserted, in
short, by all, he had retired to private life
soured and discontented, to visit his spleen
on all men, principally on the Federalists."
But would it not have been more just to
say that he sought rather to right himself,
than to visit with revenge the perpetrators
of his wrongs? It seems too much to
say that recrimination was the prime mo-
tive of such labors as the letters to the

The characterization following throws
light on the writer's dispute with Hamilton :

QuiNcv, Sept 27, 1809.

Dear Sir : Your letters are a cordial to me. I
am glad to know that one man of sense has read
my correspondence, as they call it. Hamilton was,
indeed, a most fortmiate and a most unfortunate
man. He had talents and insinuating qualities;
but he was a crafty, designing man, with more am-
bition than principle, more enterprise than judgment

I am very glad they have republished his pam-
phlet I intended to have proposed it, that it might
be more generally known. It is my best document.
He has given publicity to things that would not
have been believed from me. Indeed, some things
that I should never have known without it The
pamphlet was industriously circulated among his
friends, although they were ashamed of it

The partiality for England which you and I
observe among public men does not proceed merely,
as I conceive, from our extensive conmierdal con-
nections ; but from an ambition to monopolyze the
government of this country by means of British
influence. This object has been in view, and this
system steadily, but under cover, pursued from the
Peace of 1783, and there is a party in every State
possessed of great wealth and some talents, closely
combined in this plan. It will be very difficult to
resist them, but they must be counteracted. My
sentiments so entirely coincide with yours in the
whole of your letter, that I need not enlarge. It
gives me great satisfaction to find that we so fully
agree in facts, principles, and system. Nothing I
meet with, gives me more confidence than your let-
ters ; and, therefore, you will give great pleasure by
continuing them as often as possible to

Your friend & servant,

J. Adams.
Col. Ward.

The next letter deals with one of the vital
issues of to-day:

QuiNCY, October 24, 1809.
Dear Sir : Your favour of the 13th came season-
ably to my hand. Your approbation of my commu-
nications to the public continues to give me great
pleasure, and will continue to console me under all
the abuse that has been or may be produced by
them. To you who have been an attentive observer

of public affairs for half a century there oan be very
little that is wholly new ; but when I consider the
errors that have been published by all our own his-
torians — ^by Ramsey, Gordon, Mrs. Warren, and
even by Governor Sullivan, as well as many others,
I thought it would be pardonable to preserve some
papers whidi might correct them in some degree
The papers of Governor Hancock and Governor
Adams, where are they? I thought it might be
excusable to present some of mine. To preserve
them all would require more time than I can possi-
bly live ; both those relative to the two great events,
the Peace of 1783 with England, and the Peace of
1800 with France, I thought I might live to produce ;
but even this is very uncertain. The method I have
taken and pursued must have a whimsical appear-
ance with Uie present age and with posterity, but I
care not for that I am not ignorant of the person
who caused the new edition of Hamilton's Ub^L
Though it is hushed up in public, I have reason to
believe it is circulated in private ; and the Editor, I
doubt not, will get money by it. Its partisans do
not communicate their underhand maneuvres to yon
nor to me, nor to the public

Your ideas of public faith and public credit are
very correct; but what ideas has this nation of
either ? Paper money. Continental Currency, Land
Banks, old Tenor — ^recollect the history of all these,
and then say what conceptions of public faith, and
what theories of public credit, have been and are stiU
entertained by our beloved countrymen. If I was
the Witch of'Endor, I would wake the ghost of
Hutchinson, and give him absolute power over the
currency of the United States and every part of it,
provided, always, that he should meddle with noth-
ing but currency. As little as I reverence his
memory, I will acknowledge that he understood the
subject of Coin and Commerce better than any man
I ever knew in this country. He was a merchant ;
and there can be no scientific merchant without a
perfect knowledge of the theory of a medium of
trade. If there is one merchant now alive in
America I know him not, and have never heard of
him. Ambition, the downfoll of old O^e's Cat, was
Hutchinson's downfall. But how many humane
and plausible apologies and excuses can be made for
Hutchinson's ambition, not one of which can be
pleaded for Hamilton ? How infinitely superior in
morals and in knowledge was Hutdiinson to Hamil-
ton, and especially in the service of Finance !

It will be eternally in vain to talk of Public Credit
untill we return to a pure, unmixed circulation of
standard gold and silver. There can never be a
government of laws in money matters without a
fixed, phylosophical, and mathematical standard.
Contracts can never be inviolable vrithout a stable
standard. England and Holland have been models
in this respect I will venture to say there is not a
village in the Seven Provinces in which this subject
is not better understood than it is in any part of
America. There is not a Burgomaster, Pensionary,
Counsellor, or Schepen — and there are near five
thousand of them all — who does not understand this
subject better than Hamilton did ; and who has not

Digitized by




a more sacred regard to the scientific principles and
standard of it I despair, as you seem to do, of ever
seeing Britain return to sound policy. If her treat-
ment of America in 1760 and onward ; if her treat-
ment of Holland in 1780 and onward; if her treat-
ment of all Europe for fifteen years past; if her
treatment of the East Indies can leave to our coun-
trymen any confidence in her justice or humanity,
let them enjoy it I own I cannot.

Pray, continue me in your love, and favour me
with your thoughts as often as you can ; for I am,
and have been a long time, with very great esteem.
Your friend and Sert.,

John Adams.

Colonel Ward.

We come now to Mr. Adams's analysis
of the character of amiable and admirable
Fisher Ames. It seems to us full of acute-
ness and candor. Mr. Ames's position
toward Mr. Adams is sufficiently familiar.
In 1792 he wrote to Minot: " I trust New
England will rouse and give Mr. Adams a
firm and zealous support. Is it not strange
that a man, unblemished in life, sincere in
politics, firm in giving and maintaining his
opinion, and devoted to the Constitution,
should be attacked?" Before reading Mr.
Adams's letter, while the three characters
are before us, it will be interesting to
contrast Mr. Adams's and Mr. Amd^'s
opinions of General Hamilton. " It was by
the practice of no art," said Mr. Ames —
^*by wearing no disguise. It was not by
accident, or by levity or profligacy of party,
but in despite of its malignant misrepresen-
tations ; it was by bold and inflexible adher-
ence to truth, by loving his country better
than himself, • • • • that he rose.
• • • • As a statesman he was not
more distinguished by the great extent of
his views, than by the caution with which
he provided against impediment, and the
watchfulness of his care over right and the
liberty of the subject. • ♦ ♦ ♦ No
man ever more disdained duplicity, or car-
ried frankness further than he. • ♦ ♦ •
The name of Hamilton would have honored
Greece in the age of Aristides."

QuiNCY, November 14, 1809.
Dear Sir : Your letter of the 2d is, like all your
other letters, a cordial to me. I seem to be con-
versing with one of the 6V/!6»fi^m/r:^if^niim. Your
sentiments and mine upon Public Faith and PuUic
Credit are perfectly consonant and concordant As
long as Old Tenor or New Tenor, Land Bank Bills,
Continental Currency, or Bank BiUs of any kind,
are made the medium of trade and standard of value,
there can be no certain public or private (aith, public
or private credit. There has scarcely been a public

or private contract or covenant honestly fulfilled
since 1775. Poor Mr. Ames ! 1 loved him living,
and tenderly regard his memory since his decease.
He had brilliant talents, amiable dispositions, and
virtuous principles and habit. His mind, neverthe-
less, always appeared to me to be sicklied over with
a pale cast of thought, unfavourable to every man
who had been active in the Revolution, and very
charitable to all who had been active in the opposi- .
tion to it, or neutral, or lukewarm in the course
of it.

I attributed this bias to several causes.

I. His father and his mother, if I remember right,
were both of this character. I may be mistaken in
this ; but having been personally acquainted with both,
this is the impression that remains upon my mind.

2. He married a daughter of CoL Worthington,
who was never a Whig, but stood high in the esteem
of all the ministerial people, and all their connec-
tions and friends. This alliance recommended him
to all that kind of men in all the States in the Union.

3. To my certain knowledge, he was early adopted
by that circle in Boston, and was expressly sett up
and cried up as a rival to Jarvb, and to prevent him
from being sent to Congress in 1789; and to oppose
Hancock and Adams in the government of Massa-
chusetts. 4. All these causes contributed to endear
him to Hamilton, and Hamilton to him ; for Hamil-
ton owed his first rise, his continued support, and
all his panegyrics, to this class of people and the
speculators. Hamilton led him to support all his
crude notions of finance, a science which neither of
them ever understood. 5. The narrow circle in
which Mr. Ames moved all his lifetime never
afforded him an opportunity to know much of the
world, or the general character of mankind ; and, to
speak impartial truth, he nevef was remarkable for
sagacity or profound judgment His fancy was the
most shining faculty of mind, and his eloquence his
most eminent talent Thus circumstanced, he
naturally and easily imbibed all that admiration,
esteem, love, and almost devotion to England ; all
that hatred and horror of France ; and all that con-
tempt of his own countrymen which appears in his
works, and which was common to him and all his
connections ; and which, you know, was so conspicu-
ous in Hutchinson, the Olivers, Tim Ruggles, and
all the Tories of their times.

You think it probable that Bonaparte will subject
the Continent of Europe. I cannot agree with you
in this opinion. If he maintains his own power
over France, and places his brother on the throne
of Spain, and maintains another brother as King of
Holland, and another as King of Westphalia, — all
this will not be subjecting Europe. All this will be
but a rope of sand, unless it is cemented by more
numerous armies than he can command. I hope
Britain will not be able to maintain her assumed
sovereignty of the seas, because it will be more
dangerous and oppressive to mankind than all the
dominion which Napoleon will ever acquire over
Europe. Your question whether " South America
will declare for a new Spanish kingdom '* is more
difficult to answer. I am not sufficiently informed

Digitized by




of the slate of South America, nor the character of
the people, to form a judgment

All that I know is, that superstition is their most
predominant character. They think salvation is
monopolized by old Spain and her colonies, and the
English as hereticks, all doomed to everlasting flames.
I should guess they will not harmonize long with
the English, as subjects or as allies, but finally settle
down with Spain, whoever may be king.
I am, Sir, with great regard.

Your obliged, humble servant,

John Adams.
Colonel Ward.

The following letter has a fine strain of
irony, and displays throughout a rare clear-
ness of vision.

QuiNCY, December 14th, 1809.

Dr. Sir : I must, though much against my incli-
nation, agree in your opinion expressed in your kind
letter of the 27th of Nov., that "it will be a* long
time before the evil of a paper medium will be cor-
rected." Vour reasons for this opinion, and your
judgment of the ill efifect of this swindling system,
are infallible. The Article, "Foreign Relations,"
in the " Patriot," was not from me. Nothing from
me has appeared without my name.

The terror of Napoleon has been artificially and
chimerically wrought up in the minds of a part of
the American people, beyond all truth, probability,
or possibility. The English calculation has always
been that three tons of shipping are indispensably
necessary for the transportation to America of every
single soldier with his arms, munitions, provisions,
and accoutrements.

Some of our orators say that Napoleon will send
two hundred thousand men to conquer us. He
must have six hundred thousand tons of transport
ships then ; where will he get them ! All Europe,
England included, could not furnish them without
stagnating the commerce of the whole globe.

They say that he sent forty thousand men to St.
Domingo : what is become of them ? The climate
has killed them. The climate of South America and
of our Southern States, would be as fetal as the
West Indies. But the truth is, he never sent a
quarter part of 40,000 men to St. Domingo.

Louis 14 and Louis 15 exerted all their zeal,
and all the resources they could spare, to trans-
port troops to the West Indies and to Canada, to
defend their possessions, in former wars; but they
never could get over ten thousand men.

G. Britain, in our Revolutionary war, never had
in North America, including Canada, at any one
time, more than five and twenty thousand men.
During some part of the war, I thought they had
forty thousand. But, upon examining their own most
authentic documents and memorials, I have long
settled an opinion that they never exceeded twenty-
five thousand. And what was the number of trans-
ports ? Six hundred, as it has often been said ; four
hundred is the smallest number I ever heard. It is

certain that England, Scotland, and Ireland could
not furnish enough. They were obliged to hire
ships in Holland, Sweeden, and Italy. Where,
then, is Napoleon to get his two thousand ships of
three hundred tons each, to transport his 200/100

No ! Let us reason more like philosophers and
politicians ! Let us say that Napoleon has found
in Spain two millions of geese of the breed of Gon-
zales ; that these geese are to be yoked together by
tens ; every ten is to transport his man across the
Atlantic, and alight upon the cloud-capt towers,
gorgeous pgdaces, and solemn temples of our great
cities — descend like clouds upon the inhabitants and
make themselves masters of all at once. I have
been told by experienced courtiers and able states-
men in France, that " a king of France never went
to bed with any reasonable certainty upon his mind
that he should -not awake in the morning at war
with some power or other. The death of some
Prince, Minister, or General, or any one of a thou-
sand accidents which no human wisdom could for-
see or prevent, might light up the flames of war in
an instant, in places where they thought themselves
most secure." This is an undoubted truth, and it
will be more constantly true of Napoleon and his
successors for a century to come, than it was of the
Bourbons. Men and money grow not upon cur-
rant-bushes and grape-vines. All the men and
treasures that France can command, will be neces-
sary to defend themselves at home. Napoleon's
lif^ is the most uncertain one in Europe. He wiD
have too much to do (o take care of it. All the
world will agree he would be mad to come here.
His Empire would be usurped in his absence. He
would not dare trust any of his Generals with a large
army here ; knowing that, if he conquered us, which
he could not, he would set up for himself. Europe
is not subdued. Neither Germany, Denmark,
Sweeden, Russia, Holland, Spain, or Portugal, are
subdued. The power of Napoleon will be con-
stantly in danger, in all of them, for a century. He
has prevailed in Germany because the House of
Austria was odious ; and in all the rest of Europe,
because England was odious. But security Napo-
leon never will have. And without security in
Europe, he cannot think of wasting and ruining
himself in America. Si quid ncvisH rectius, impertu.
I am, with great esteem.

Your humble servant,

John Adams.

Col. Ward.

There is one remaining letter, \iTitten
a little more than a year after the proceed-
ings to which the attention of the reader is
directed. " It was one of those periods
when my conduct was unknown to most
men, misconceived by many, and misrepre-
sented by more." Again we hear the bur-
den of the old Jjatriot's song. Is it tuned
to truth ? If so, let our blended pity and
charity cover the failings of those dedining

Digitized by




years of a most eventful, useful, and honor-
able life. After all, this great man*s claim
upon America, and upon lovers of freedom
the world over, is above and beyond either
charity or pity. His rights at our hands
were established before the evil days ; before
he was made the nominal head of his
nation. A great and glorious record stands
against his name, and it will overshadow
all personal weaknesses and imperfections.
Stem integrity, rigid adherence to and faith-
ful perfonnance of the highest duties devolv-
ing upon man — this will be remembered
of John Adams. Divine he was not, human
he was ; and to himianity he appeals.

QuiNCY, January 4, 181 1.

Dear Sir : I am astonished ! Looking in a ban-
die of letters, I found one from Col. Ward, unan-
swered, dated i8th January, 1810. A letter from
such a correspondent, unanswered for a year, was
such a proof of inattention, negligence, and bad
oeconomy as convinced me that I was grown old. A
merchant who sends to sea a trifling adventure, and
receives in return for it a rich cargo, and knows that
a repetition of the enterprise will produce an equal
profit ; if he sleeps over his good fortune and forgets
to pursue it, deserves to be a bankrupt ^ Duane's
threat to Coleman was not personal to him. It was
intended, and was so understood, to hold up a rod
of retaliation over Hamilton and a still higher

Negro Slavery will now, I hope, be gradually
abolished. Saint Domingo has convinced the Eng-
lish that a multiplication of negroes will soon make
all their Islands scenes of blood, if not hords of

pirates. I wish I could be more charitable than to
ascribe to this apprehension, rather than to justice,
humanity, reason or liberty, the late zeal of that
nation to interrupt the AfTrican commerce, both of
their own people and ours.

Your answer to the question, ** How are we to
make the times better ? " is a masterly delineation
of the only system that I can conceive likely to sue-
ceed. I wish we made more haste to adopt it.

I know not whether 1 shall ever get through with
my rude and crude negotiations in Holland. The
printers have commonly three months* copy before-
hand; but they are so slow in publishing it, that
perhaps they find the public weary of it or disgusted
with it I have no anxiety to quicken them. It
was one of those periods in which my conduct was
unknown to most men, misconceived by many, and
misrepresented by more. I thought it, therefore, a
duty I owed to myself, to my family, to my country
and her posterity, in all my naked simplicity to
appear before the publick, and let her impartial
voice approve or censure, according to the truth.

What wild work are our Banks making ! They
are a very heavy and a very unequal tax upon the
community, for the extravagant profit of individu-
als — the madness of the many for the interest of the
few. Will they not make an entire change in our
form of government ? If, as you fear, " our present
Administration would not be competent to conduct
a war to the best purposes," where shall we find,
and how shall we obtain another that will do bet-
ter ? We must make the best of such as we have
and such as we can procure. This is the best
maxim of philosophy in public and private life.

I wish you as many revolutions of the seasons as
you shall relish or wish.

John Adams.

Col. Ward.


The School QuMtiOQ.

The President, in his annual message, presented
a series of propositions on the subject of schools,
which have awakened very wide and various com-
ment, and given the American people something to
think of. He recommends an amendment to the
Constitution, which shall require every State :

First, To establish and forever maintain Free
Public Schools for the education of every child ;

Second, To forbid in those schools the teaching
of religious, atheistic, or pagan tenets ;

Third, To prohibit the granting of any school
funds or school taxes to any religious sect or

Well, we are glad that the President has made
these recommendations. It is better to meet the
issues involved now than at a later period. They
were sure to come. In some cities and States they

had already come, and had even thus early shown
that they were vital, and that they held within them-
selves the menace of the public tranquillity.

But the sword which our soldier-President wields
is a double-edged one. It holds about as keen an.
edge for the Protestant as for the Catholic The
former will be obliged to relinquish his Bible as a

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 100 of 163)