MHS for the Media

PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN ABIGAIL ADAMS LETTER: A blend of business, news, and political observations

Abigail Adams letter to Dr. TuftsBOSTON, June 2011—The Massachusetts Historical Society is pleased to announce that it recently acquired a letter that Abigail Adams wrote on 2 March 1788  to Dr. Cotton Tufts, the Adamses' financial agent in the United States for the period that they were abroad. Judge Lawrence T. Perera donated the letter as a gift in memory of his father, Guido R. Perera. It is a classic example of Abigail’s correspondence with Dr. Tufts, blending business issues and personal news with astute political observations. Adams Papers Managing Editor Margaret A. Hogan comments, “We had no previous record of this letter. Abigail’s comments on the state of politics in Europe, and her observations concerning events related to the U.S. Constitution, make this a valuable letter for scholars interested in the Adamses and the history of the era.”

Married to John Adams, Abigail was an invaluable partner to him as his political career developed. After his election to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774 and throughout the Revolution, Abigail was often left alone to raise the children, manage the farm, supervise the household and tenants, and care for extended family and friends. The letters she exchanged with John and other family members reveal her cares and worries, document her frank opinions and advice, and give an extraordinary view of everyday life in 18th-century New England.

In 1784, Abigail joined her husband in Europe, where he had been on diplomatic missions since 1779. This letter to Dr. Tufts was one of the last letters Abigail wrote from her home in Grosvenor Square, London, to the United States prior to her return in June 1788. Cotton Tufts, a cousin of Abigail’s, was one of the Adamses’ most important correspondents while they were abroad.  He, in fact, helped to negotiate the purchase of the house now known as the Adams National Historical Park that John and Abigail would make their home upon their return to Massachusetts.

Along with her comments on the increasingly tenuous situation in France, where the financial and political crisis would shortly lead to revolution, Abigail’s thoughts on the American government and the need for it to be put on a stronger footing are especially noteworthy. Consideration of the new U.S. Constitution by the individual states was ongoing at this time—Tufts himself represented Weymouth as a delegate to the Massachusetts ratifying convention—and Abigail makes clear her own position: “How necessary is it my dear sir, for our own National honour & dignity Safety & security, that we should not cavil away our present advantages, but that our Government should assume a New & more respectable form, and by experience, rectify what we find amiss—” Also remarkable in this letter is Abigail’s particular appreciation for “the writer of those excellent paper”—Publius, the pseudonym used collectively by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison—in authoring the Federalist Papers.