“A small neat looking man”

In Record of a Life, Louisa Catherine Johnson, soon to be the wife of John Quincy Adams, describes a visit her father received in London in 1795 when he was the American consul.

It was about this time that a Gentleman called on my father a small neat looking man in a very handsome chariot with livery Servants &ce. He walked into the Office entered into conversation very agreeably and then presented some papers to my father which concerned some American business to be done before the Consul—My father returned the papers for signature and stood to see the name when to his utter surprize he discovered that it was the Traitor [Benedict] Arnold, and he deliberately took up the pen with the Tongs and put it into the fire—The gentleman sneaked off endeavouring not to notice the act—This trait will give you real insight into your Grandfathers character—He was a perfect Gentleman in his manners and universally respected—the American Sailors adored him and his house was their refuge on all occasions—Noble in his sentiments; noble in his Acts; he was ever ready to defend the unfortunate, and his temper was so open and confiding he soon became the victim of fraud and conspiracy.

Here Louisa is full of praise for her father whom she dearly loved; he was soon to lose his fortune and, incidentally, his ability to pay her promised dowry.

The passage is from A Traveled First Lady: Writings of Louisa Catherine Adams edited by Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), pages 22-23. The miniature of Benedict Arnold is by Du Simitiere, c. 1779.

posted October 13th, 2014 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Adams, Louisa Catherine, Arnold, Benedict


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