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MY DEAREST FRIEND,
ENCLOSED is another production of Porcupine, whose quills will stick.
" And Midas now neglected stands With ass's ears and dirty hands."
The President appears great in Randolph's vindication throughout, excepting that he wavered about signing the treaty, which he ought not to have done one moment. Happy is the country to be rid of Randolph ; but where shall be found good men and true to fill the offices of government ? There seems to be a necessity of distributing the offices about the Stales in some proportion to their numbers ; but, in the southern part of the Union, false politics have struck their roots so deep that it is very difficult to find gentlemen who are willing to accept of public trusts, and, at the same time, capable of discharging them. The President offered the office of state to several gentlemen who declined : to Mr. Patterson, Mr. King, Mr. Henry of Virginia, Mr. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, of South Carolina, and three others whose names I don t recollect. He has not been able to find any one to accept the war office. The expenses of living at the seat of government are so exorbitant, so far beyond all proportion to the salaries, and the sure re ward of integrity in the discharge of public functions is such obloquy, contempt, and insult, that no man of any feeling is willing to renounce his home, forsake his property and profession, for the sake of removing to Philadelphia, where he is almost sure of disgrace and ruin. Where these things will end I know not. In perfect secrecy between you and me, I must tell you that I now believe the President will retire. The consequence to me is very serious, and I am not able, as yet, to see what my duty will .demand of me. I shall take my resolutions with cool deliberation. I shall watch the course of events with more critical attention than I have done for some time, and what Providence shall point out to be my duty, I shall pursue with patience and decision. It is no light thing to resolve upon retirement. My country has claims, my children have claims, and my own character has claims upon me ; but all these claims forbid me to serve the public in disgrace. Whatever any one may think, I love my country too well to shrink from danger in her service, provided I have a reasonable prospect of being able to serve her to her honor and ad vantage. But if I have reason to think that I have either a want of abilities or of public confidence to such a degree as to be unable to support the government in a higher station, I ought to decline it. But in that case, I ought not to serve in my present place under another, especially if that other should entertain sentiments so opposite to mine as to endanger the peace of the nation. It will be a dangerous crisis in public affairs if the President and Vice President should be in opposite boxes.
These lucubrations must be confined to your own bosom. But I think, upon the whole, the probability is strong that I shall make a voluntary retreat, and spend the rest of my days, in a very humble style, with you. Of one thing I am very sure it would be to me the happiest portion of my whole life. I am, with unabatable affection,
- John Adams
- Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife. Edited by His Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume II, 1841