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Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 20 February 1779, "In the Margin are the Dates..."


In the Margin are the Dates of all the Letters I have received from you. [In the margin of the manuscript are the following dates: March 25, June 10 [Abigail to John, 10 June 1778] , June 18 [Abigail to John, 18 June 1778] , May 18 [Abigail to John, 18 May 1778] , Octr. 10, 21 [Abigail to John, 21 October 1778] , 25 [Abigail to John, 25 October 1778] , Decr. 2, 15 [Abigail to John, 13 December 1778] ., Jany. 2 1779 [Abigail to John, 02 January 1779] , 4. ] I have written you, several Times that Number -- they are allmost all lost, I suppose by yours.

But you should consider, it is a different Thing to have five hundred Correspondents and but one. It is a different Thing to be under an Absolute Restraint and under none. It would be an easy Thing for me to ruin you and your Children by an indiscreet Letter -- and what is more it would be easy, to throw our Country in convulsions. -- For Gods sake never reproach me again with not writing or with Writing Scrips. Your Wound are too deep.

You know not -- you feel not -- the dangers that surround me, nor those that may be brought upon our Country.

Millions would not tempt me to write to you as I used. I have no security that every Letter I write you will not be broken open and copied and transmitted to Congress and to English News Papers. They would find no Treason nor Deceipt in them it is true, but they would find Weakness


and Indiscretion, which they would make as ill an Use of.

There are Spies upon every Word I utter, and every Syllable I write -- Spies planted by the English -- Spies planted by Stockjobbers -- Spies planted by selfish Merchants -- and Spies planted by envious and malicious Politicians.

I have been all along aware of this, more or less, but more so now than ever.

My Life has been often in danger, but I never considered my Reputation and Character so much in danger as now.

I can pass for a Fool, but I will not pass for a dishonest or a mercenary Man.

Be upon your Guard therefore -- I must be upon mine -- And I will.



Cite web page as: Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 20 February 1779, "In the Margin are the Dates..." [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Original manuscript: Adams, John. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 20 February 1779, In the Margin are the Dates..." . 2 pages. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Butterfield, L.H., and Marc Friedlaender, eds. Adams Family Correspondence. Vol. 3. Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973.
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