Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 29 June 1774 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 29 June 1774 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dear York June 29. 1774

I have a great Deal of Leisure, which I chiefly employ in Scribbling, that my Mind may not stand still or run back like my Fortune.—There is very little Business here, and David Sewall, David Wyer, John Sullivan and James Sullivan and Theophilus Bradbury are the Lawyers who attend the Inferiour Courts and consequently conduct the Causes at the Superiour.

I find that the Country is the Situation to make Estates by the Law. John Sullivan, who is placed at Durham in New Hampshire, is younger, both in Years and Practice than I am; He began with nothing, but is now said to be worth Ten thousand Pounds Lawfull Money, his Brother James allows five or six or perhaps seven thousand Pounds, consisting in Houses and Lands, Notes, Bonds, and Mortgages. He has a fine Stream of Water, with an excellent Corn Mill, Saw Mill, Fulling Mill, Scyth Mill and others, in all six Mills, which are both his Delight and his Profit. As he has earned Cash in his Business at the Bar, he has taken Opportunities, to purchase Farms of his Neighbours, who wanted to sell and move out farther into the Woods, at an Advantageous Rate. And in this Way, has been growing rich, and under the Smiles and Auspices of Governor Wentworth, has been promoted in the civil and military Way, so that he is treated with great Respect in this Neighbourhood.

James Sullivan, Brother of the other, who studied Law under him, without any Accademical Education, (and John was in the same Case,) is fixed at Saco, alias Biddeford in our Province. He began with neither Learning, Books, Estate or any Thing, but his Head and Hands, and is now a very popular Lawyer and growing rich very fast, purchasing great Farms &c., a Justice of the Peace, and Member of the General Court.

David Sewall of this Town never practices out of this County, has no Children, has no Ambition, nor Avarice they say, (however Quaere). His Business in this County maintains him very handsomely, and he gets beforehand.

Bradbury at Falmouth, they say, grows rich very fast.

I was first sworn in 1758; My Life has been a continual Scaene of Fatigue, Vexation, Labour and Anxiety. I have four Children. I had a pretty Estate from my Father, I have been assisted by your Father. I have done the greatest Business in the Province. I have had the 114very richest Clients in the Province: Yet I am Poor in Comparison of others.

This I confess is grievous, and discouraging. I ought however, to be candid enough to acknowledge that I have been imprudent. I have spent an Estate in Books. I have spent a Sum of Money indiscreetly in a Lighter, another in a Pew, and a much greater in an House in Boston. These would have been Indiscretions, if the Impeachment of the Judges, the Boston Port Bill, &c. &c. had never happened; but by the unfortunate Interruption of my Business from these Causes, these Indiscretions become almost fatal to me, to be sure much more detrimental.

John Lowell, at Newbury Port, has built him an House, like the Palace of a Nobleman and lives in great Splendor. His Business is very profitable. In short every Lawyer who has 1 the least Appearance of Abilities makes it do in the Country. In Town, nobody does, or ever can, who Either is not obstinately determined never to have any Connection with Politicks or does not engage on the Side of the Government, the Administration and the Court.

Let us therefore my dear Partner, from that Affection which we feel for our lovely Babes, apply ourselves by every Way, we can, to the Cultivation of our Farm. Let Frugality, And Industry, be our Virtues, if they are not of any others. And above all Cares of this Life let our ardent Anxiety be, to mould the Minds and Manners of our Children. Let us teach them not only to do virtuously but to excell. To excell they must be taught to be steady, active, and industrious.

I am &c. your John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. Abigail Adams Braintree”; endorsed: “No 3.”


Here and below, MS is torn by seal.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 June 1774 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 June 1774 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dr. York June 30th, 1774

I have nothing to do here, but to take the Air, enquire for News, talk Politicks and write Letters.

This Town has the best Air I ever breathed. It is very level and there are no Mountains or Hills to obstruct the free Course of the Air, upon any Point of Compass for 8 or 10 Miles. It lies upon the Sea on the south And has a River running through it. The Weather has been inexpressibly fine all this Week. The Air is as clear, as bright, as 115springy, as you can conceive. Braintree Air is thick and unelastic in Comparison of this. What then is that of Boston?

I regret that I cannot have the Pleasure of enjoying this fine Weather, with my Family, and upon my farm.—Oh, how often am I there! I have but a dull Prospect before me. I have no hope of reaching Braintree, under a Fortnight from this Day, if I should in twenty days.

I regret my Absence from the County of Suffolk this Week on another Account. If I was there I could converse with the Gentlemen, who are bound with me for Phyladelphia. I could turn the Course of my Reading and Studies to such subjects of Law and Politicks and Commerce as may come, in Play, at the Congress. I might be furbishing up my old Reading in Law and History, that I might appear with less Indecency before a Variety of Gentlemen, whose Educations, Travel, Experience, Family, Fortune, and every Thing will give them a vast Superiority to me, and I fear to some of my Companions.

This Town of York is a Curiosity, in several Views. The People here are great Idolaters of the Memory of their former Minister Mr. Moody.1 Deacon Sayward says, and the rest of them generally think, that Mr. Moody was one of the greatest Men and best Saints, who have lived since the Days of the Apostles. He had an Ascendency, an Authority over the People here as absolute, as that of any Prince in Europe not excepting his Holiness.

This he acquired by a Variety of Means. In the first Place he settled in the Place without any Contract. His professed Principle was that no Man should be hired to preach the Gospell, but that the Minister should depend upon the Charity, Generosity, and Benevolence of the People. This was very flattering to their Pride. And left Room for their Ambition to display itself, in an Emulation among them, which should be most bountifull and ministerial.

In the next Place, he acquired the Character of firm Trust in Providence. A Number of Gentlemen came in one day, when they had nothing in the House. His Wife was very anxious, they say, and asked him what they should do? “Oh, never fear, trust Providence, make a fire in the oven, and you will have something.” Very soon a Variety of every Thing that was good was sent in, and by one O Clock they had a Splendid Dinner.

He had also the Reputation of enjoying intimate Communications with the Deity, and of having a great Interest in the Court of Heaven by his Prayers.

He always kept his Musquet in order and was fond of Shooting. 116On a Time, they say, he was out of Provisions. There came along two wild Geese. He takes Gun and crys if it please God I kill both, I will send the fattest to the poorest Person in this Parish. He shot and kill'd both, ordered them, plucked, and then sent the fattest to a poor Widow, leaving the other which was a very poor one at home, to the great Mortification of his Lady. But his Maxim was perform unto the Lord thy Vow.

But the best Story I have heard Yet, was his Doctrine in a Sermon from this Text—Lord what shall We do? The Doctrine was, That when a Person or People are in a state of Perplexity, and know not what to do, they ought never to do they know not what? This is applicable to the Times.

He brought his People into a remarkable Submission and Subjection to their Spiritual Rulers, which continues to this Day. Lyman their present Parson, does and says as he pleases, is a great Tory and as odd as Moody.

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. Abigail Adams Braintree”; endorsed: “No 4.”


Samuel Moody (1676–1747), Harvard 1697, settled at York the year after his graduation and ministered there until his death. Much of the local lore about this eccentric “spiritual dictator” of a frontier settlement for half a century has been gathered in the admirable sketch of him in Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 4:356–365.