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Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) to James Bridge

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00958.05 Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 September 1789 Pagination: 4 p. ; 23 x 19 cm.

Summary of Content: Adams chronicles a trip to New York to visit the first United States Congress. Adams describes his interactions with a man named Atkins and another named Mr. Mayer in Newport. He also describes various passengers on the ship he took to New York. In New York, Adams heard speakers in the House of Representatives discuss various topics. He comments on the lower than expected level of eloquence, expressing confidence that he and Bridge will be great statesmen. He notes that Gerry Jackson of Georgia and Aedanus Burke of South Carolina speak most, and Ames, Madison and Vinning speak best. Continuing the letter on September 27, Adams mentions meeting President and Mrs. Washington, Mr. Dalton, and several senators. He notes that Supreme Court appointments took place.

Full Transcript: New York September 21st. 1789.
I wrote you from Newport a detailed account of my adventures from the time I left you, to the date of my letter; I suppose you ...have received it before this. Four days I was detained in that place by the unindulgent winds; my time roll'd tediously on; I pass'd however a great part of it at Mr: Marchant's, as agreeably as the nature of circumstances would admit. I transiently met with two or three characters, who afforded me some diversion: among the rest, Mr: Mayer whose manners were represented to us by Atkins in such a ridiculous light. I have been vexed at his sarcastic descriptions, for had it not been for them. I am persuaded I should have been very much pleased with this young man. Every word he spoke assumed a disgusting form, which at the same time I was conscious, was not its natural appearance, and many observations which from a stranger would have appeared ingenious and sensible, became trivial, and unmeaning from the medium through which I was constrained to receive them. - Ridicule itself cannot however long resist truth and justice; and although this Mayer has in reality some affected airs, yet he is much superior to the character I had expected to find after hearing Atkins's comments. We sail'd from Newport on Monday morning. I had a large number of fellow passengers, and as usual there was a considerable diversity of character among them. - Two ladies, of whom we saw but little; but whose presence was sufficient to lay a disagreeable restraint upon some of us, and to excite many a blush in the modest part of us, at the uncomplaisant freedom in which the others indulged themselves. Mr: Flagg from S. Carolina, the fame of whose phaeton is more extensive than his own. He is however a very agreeable man, a good companion, and a gentleman. [2] a Doctor Oliphant of Newport, a man who since he was turned of three score and ten has been married, and got two children: [sentence strikeout] three anglo-americans, from the colonies; two of them were lawyers, and one of them as profane a dog, as ever ensured safety to a vessel at sea, by being reserved to a drier death. a German Doctor, who was violently frightened, at a squall of wind which came on one evening, and who afforded great sport to the refugee; who exhibited his bravery by rallying the poor germans upon his terror, in a manner equally impious and sarcastic. The passage is about 200 miles in length, and we were pretty well favoured in performing it in about 50 hours. I arrived here very much fatigued on Wednesday the 16th. instant, so that I might as well have spent two or three days in Boston and then came on in the stage; however as the matter is now all over, I shall not much regret the disappointment of my sagacity; nor regret a circumstance, which has given me a view of Rhode Island.
Since my arrival here, I have been very constant in my attendance in the galleries of the house of representatives and have heard almost all the speakers, upon the various topics of the permanent seat of residence, the amendments, the judiciary system, judges salaries &c. &c. The greatest speakers in the house, as to quantity are, Gerry Jackson of Georgia, and Burke of S. Carolina; and as to quality, Ames, Maddison and Vining. Yet you might search in vain throughout the house, for the flashes of Demosthenes, or for the splendid illumination of Cicero. - Nay I frankly acknowledge, that I have as yet heard no speaking equal to what I have heard from Dr Jarvis in our State legislature - My ideas of modern eloquence, have indeed been very much reduced since I have heard the most popular speakers both at the bar, and in popular assemblies - The terrors which you and I have often mutually expressed to each other, with respect to the prospect of our future success, as speakers, are in my mind giving way to a confidence, perhaps too presumptuous, that we shall not [3] be inferior to men who at this day are distinguished as the most able orators. - I am sure we may be as great statesmen. -
Sunday September 27th:
I received a day or two since a letter from Putnam, which alarmed me very much on account of your health - I hope however that long before this you have been restored to health and spirits. - Since the date of the former part of my Letter I have continued to attend the debates in the house; and I have been confirmed in the opinion respecting the various speakers, which I have already expressed to you in a summary manner. - For a more particular account I must defer to the time when I shall again have the pleasure of shaking hands with you; which I expect will be in the course of three or four weeks.
I have paid but few visits and made but few new acquaintance since my arrival; having had but very little spare time upon hand. I have however been presented to the President and his Lady and attended their Levees, for so they are without scruple called; and they want nothing but time, to acquire all the regularity and formality of those established in european Courts. - I have met several times Mr: Dalton, who has been extremely civil to me; and yesterday I had the honour of dining at his house in company with grave Senators and ministers of State. - He talks of going this week to Philadelphia, and intends to spend some part of the recess in Massachusetts.
The judicial appointments took place yesterday; I send you a list of them, thought perhaps you may see them sooner in the newspapers. The Supreme Judges are some of the first characters on the continent, and all the appointments are extremely respectable. There will undoubtedly be many disappointments, but perhaps it would have been impossible to have collected a greater mass of abilities and of public confidence. You will not be sorry to see Lowell taken off, and two vacancies left in our supreme court. Though we shall not gain so much from this circumstance as some others.
[4] I wish you to remember me respectfully to Mrs: Hooper and to Betsey. Present the sincerity of friendship to all the members of the club; who engage a double portion of my thoughts every friday evening. - I will leave it to your own ingenuity to express my sentiments in the most agreeable manner to those lovely girls, who are subject to so much abuse, and yet are so much more interesting than some of my friends are willing to allow. - I trust I shall soon her from you.
Your sincere friend Adams.
See More

People: Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
Bridge, James, 1765-1834
Burke, Aedanus, 1743-1802

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PresidentTravelCongressTransportationMaritimeGovernment and CivicsSupreme CourtJudiciaryFirst Lady

Sub Era: The Early Republic

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