John Adams Letters document,


Philadelphia, 19 April, 1796.


THE sensations of 19th April, 1775, and those of this morning, have some resemblance to each other. A prospect of foreign war and civil war in conjunction, is not very pleasant. We are a poor, divided nation, in the midst of all our prosperity. The House of Representatives, after debating three weeks about asking for papers, are now beginning another discus sion, which may last as long, on the merits and de merits of the treaty. If the House refuse to make the appropriations, it is difficult to see how we can avoid war, and it is not easier to find out how we can preserve this government from dissolution. We must, however, coolly and patiently study and search for the means and resources which may be left to avoid war and support government. Mr. Swift and Mr. Good hue have spoken ably in favor of the treaty, and Mr. Nicholas and Mr. Giles spoke more moderately against it than was expected.

I had no letter from you yesterday. Briesler says the mail goes now three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. I shall endeavor to write by each, though it may he but a line of remembrance. I hope your indisposition was not a grave one ; but the omission of a letter yesterday gave me some fears.

I cannot deny the right of the House to ask for papers, nor to express their opinions upon the merits of a treaty. My ideas are very high of the rights arid powers of the House of Representatives. These powers may be abused, and in this instance there is great danger that they will be. Such a combination of party motives as debts, anti-federalism and French influence, seldom occurs to overawe the members and lead them into party violence. But the faith and hon or of the nation are pledged, and though the House cannot approve, they ought to feel themselves bound. Some persons still think the House will comply. But there is an inveteracy and obstinacy on this occasion such as I scarcely ever saw. The pride of Madison, Giles, Baldwin, ill brooking the superior powers of the Senate, emulating the dignity and lustre of members of that body, ardently struggling to rival an Ellsworth, a King, &c. These are feelings that our law-givers, in framing our constitution, did not advert to. The elections of the two Houses by such different bodies as the people and their legislators, will always leave this difficulty in full force. The leading members of the House, such as Madison, and Baldwin, should have been ere now senators.

But I must not speculate. I must come to some thing more pleasing, assurances of the perpetual affection of

J. A.

John Adams