Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

John Adams to Abigail Smith, 13 April 1764 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Smith, 13 April 1764 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Smith
My dearest Boston, 13 April 1764

We arrived at Captn. Cunninghams, about Twelve O'Clock and sent our Compliments to Dr. Perkins. The Courrier returned with Answer that the Dr. was determined to inoculate no more without a Preparation preevious to Inoculation. That We should have written to him and have received Directions from him, and Medicine, before We came into Town. I was surprized and chagrined. I wrote, instantly, a Letter to him,1 and informed him we had been under a Preparation of his prescribing, and that I presumed Dr. Tufts had informed him, that We depended on him, in Preference to any other Gentleman. The Dr. came, immediately with Dr. Warren,2 in a Chaise—And after an Apology, for his not Recollecting—(I am obliged to break off my Narration, in order to swallow a Porringer of Hasty Pudding and Milk. I have done my Dinner)—for not recollecting what Dr. Tufts had told him, Dr. Perkins demanded my left Arm and Dr. Warren my Brothers. They took their Launcetts and with their Points divided the skin for about a Quarter of an Inch and just suffering the Blood to appear, buried a Thread about half a Quarter of an Inch long in the Channell. A little Lint was then laid over the scratch and a Piece of a Ragg pressed on, and then a Bandage bound over all—my Coat and waistcoat put on, and I was bid to go where and do what I pleased. (Dont you think the Dr. has a good Deal of Confidence in my Discretion, thus to leave me to it?)

The Doctors have left us Pills red and black to take Night and Morning. But they looked very sagaciously and importantly at us, and ordered my Brother, larger Doses than me, on Account of the Difference in our Constitutions. Dr. Perkins is a short, thick sett, dark Complexioned, Yet pale Faced, Man, (Pale faced I say, which I was glad to see, because I have a great Regard for a Pale Face, in any Gentleman of Physick, Divinity or Law. It indicates search and study). Gives himself the alert, chearful Air and Behaviour of a Physician, not forgeting the solemn, important and wise. Warren is a pretty, tall, Genteel, fair faced young Gentleman. Not quite so much Assurance in his Address, as Perkins, (perhaps because Perkins was present) Yet shewing fully that he knows the Utility thereof, and that he will soon, practice it in full Perfection.

The Doctors, having finished the Operation and left Us, their Directions and Medicines, took their Departure in infinite Haste, depend on't.


I have one Request to make, which is that you would be very careful in making Tom, Smoke all the Letters from me, very faithfully, before you, or any of the Family reads them. For, altho I shall never fail to smoke them myself before sealing, Yet I fear the Air of this House will be too much infected, soon, to be absolutely without Danger, and I would not you should take the Distemper, by Letter from me, for Millions. I write at a Desk far removed from any sick Room, and shall use all the Care I can, but too much cannot be used.

I have written thus far, and it is 45 Minutes Past one O Clock and no more.

My Love to all. My hearty Thanks to Mamma for her kind Wishes. My Regards as due to Pappa, and should request his Prayers, which are always becoming, and especially at such Times, when We are undertaking any Thing of Consequence as the small Pox, undoubtedly, tho, I have not the Least Apprehension att all of what is called Danger.

I am as ever Yr. John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For Miss Abigail Smith Weymouth.”


Not found.


Joseph Warren (1741–1775), Harvard 1759, the physician-orator-soldier who became JA's close and admired friend and who was killed in the battle of Bunker Hill ( DAB ). Among Warren's papers on deposit in MHi are an account book, 1763–1768, and a day book, 1774–1775, of his medical practice. No entry for inoculating Peter Adams has been found therein, but there are entries during 1764–1765 for a number of transactions with Dr. Nathaniel Perkins showing a close professional relationship between the two physicians at this time. There are also later entries (e.g. 10 Aug. 1768, 14 May and 24 Dec. 1774) for visits to and prescriptions for AA and JA.

John Adams to Abigail Smith, 14 April 1764 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Smith, 14 April 1764 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Smith
Saturday. Two O Clock 14 April 1764

The Deacon and his Three Children are arrivd and the Operation has been performed, and all well. And now our Hospital is full. There are Ten, of Us, under this Roof, now expecting to be sick. One, of Us, Mr. Wheat, begins to complain of a Pain Under his Arm and in his Knees, and about his Back, so that We expect within a few Hours to see the Course of the Eruption and of the fever that preeceeds and accompanies it.

Your Friends, Miss Paine1 and Miss Nicholson2 have been here, and are gone. I delivered your Letters. Arpasia asked me, if you was five feet and six Inches tall? I replyd I had not taken Measure as Yet. You know the Meaning of this Question. She is neither Tall, nor short, 30neither lean nor fat—pitted with the small Pox—a fine Bloom. Features somewhat like Esther Quincy's.3 An Eye, that indicates not only Vivacity, but Fire—not only Resolution, but Intrepidity. (Scandal protect me, Candor forgive me.) I cannot say that the Kindness, the softness, the Tenderness, that constitutes the Characteristick Excellence of your sex, and for the Want of which no Abilities can atone, are very conspicuous Either in her Face, Air or Behaviour.

Is it not insufferable thus to remark on a Lady whose face I have once only and then but just seen and with whom I have only exchangd two or three Words? Shes a Buxom Lass however, and I own I longed for a Game of Romps with her, and should infallibly have taken one, only I thought the Dress I was in, the Air I had breathd and especially the Medicine I had taken, would not very greatly please a Lady, a stranger, of much Delicacy. Poll. Palmer and I shall unquestionably go to romping very soon.

Perkins, Sprague4 and Lord, are the Physicians that attend this House. Each has a few Particulars in Point of Diet, in which he differs from the others, and Each has Pills and Powders, different from the others to administer, different at least in size, and shape and Colour. I like my own vastly the best, tho Dr. Lord is really a Man of sense.

I fear I must write less than I have done. The Drs. dont approve it. They will allow of nothing scarcly but the Card Table, Chequer Bord, Flute, Violin, and singing, unless, Tittle Tattle, Roll and Tumble, shuttle Cock &c.

Pray write as often as you can to yr. John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For Miss Abigail Smith Weymouth.”


Eunice Paine (1733–1803), sister of JA's friend and rival at the bar Robert Treat Paine. She never married and for years led a somewhat peripatetic life in the homes of her friends. In the Cranch-Palmer-Smith circle of female correspondents she used the fanciful name “Silvia,” and it is by that name that JA alludes to her in several letters that follow. (Eunice had evidently had the smallpox and, since she was staying in Boston, frequently visited the Palmer girls at the Cunninghams.) Some of her letters are published in Ralph Davol, Two Men of Taunton, Taunton, 1912; more will appear in the forthcoming collection of Paine Papers in preparation by Stephen T. Riley for the Massachusetts Historical Society.


“Arpasia,” described below. See a note on her under AA to JA, 12 April, above.


Esther (1738–1810), daughter of Justice Edmund Quincy; she and Jonathan Sewall (1728–1796) had filed marriage intentions in January of this year (Boston Record Commissioners, 30th Report, p. 422). See Adams Genealogy.


John Sprague (1718–1797), Harvard 1737, of Boston and later of Dedham (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 10:240–243).