Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

Obituary of Elizabeth Quincy Smith, 6 October 1775 UNKNOWN Obituary of Elizabeth Quincy Smith, 6 October 1775 UNKNOWN
Obituary of Elizabeth Quincy Smith
Weymouth Octer. 6th 1775

Last Sabbath departed this Life universally lamented Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, the amiable and virtuous Consort of the Revd. Mr. William Smith of this town; Aged 53 years. She has left a disconsolate Husband and four Children to mourn her Loss.1

No external motives to virtue with which mankind are favoured are more powerfully operative than living Examples of Piety and goodness: But next to these, perhaps, may be ranked the faithfull Coppies of Piety and virtue exhibited in the Characters of departed Saints. Hence we find that our blessed Lord, when on Earth, propos'd his Example to his Followers—“Learn of me &c.” and hence also the holy Apostle recommends as patterns to the primitive Christians the Characters of those departed Worthies who “thro' Faith and Patience inherited the promisses.”

Those who had the Happiness of being acquainted with Her whose much lamented Death gave rise to these Reflections, will not be offended at seeing so amiable a Character as hers modestly presented to publick view.

Tho' Mrs. Smith decended from very worthy and honourable Ancestors the pride of Parentage never found a place in her Heart: her true Dignity Sprung from a nobler Alliance. She “was born of God” and as a Christian was carefull without ostentation to walk in all the Commandments and Ordinances of the Lord blameless and to Teach the same to her family2 carefully avoiding that blind zeal for Trifles which so often alienates the affections of Christians and sours the sweetest Temper. In the various Social Relations of Wife, Mother and Mistress of a Family She was kind, tender and humane: but these soft and amiable Qualities appeared much more in obliging Actions than warm Expressions. In Sickness especially, her kind Assistance extended far beyond the limits of her Family or particular Connections. It was enough that the distressed was poor or a Stranger or Friendless to call her from her beloved retirement to their help and assistance; indeed it was in visiting and assisting the sick and Distressed that Mrs. Smith peculiarly excell'd. Her Tenderness and Attention were such as almost to prevent the Wishes of the Patient while the Chearfullness with which she administered to their Necessities “made languor smile and smothed the bed of Death.”

In her Domestick Oeconomy she was a Pattern of Prudence and 294Industry and by imploying the Industrious Poor3 promoted at once the publick Good and that of individuals by the best kind of Charity.

In her Relation to the Parish, as the Wife of their Minister She was remarkably Prudent and Discreet never intermedling as a Party in any of the little Feuds and Quarrels that might happen in the Parish: but on the contrary allways using her best endeavours to restore Peace and Friendship where they had been unhappily interrupted: And such was her great Prudence and her mild and friendly manner of address that the blessing of the Peace Maker was often hers. Her treatment of the Parishioners was with the utmost frankness and affability when she met them abroad and with the most friendly Hospitality when she entertained them at home. By such a Prudent, virtuous and kind behaviour she gained the universal love and Esteem of that worthy Community where she had for more than thirty years resided And where perhaps in all that time no Death was ever more sincerely or more universally lamented than hers. In the Course of life she was often visited by long and painfull Indispositions of body; but She received the visits of those harbingers of Death with Christian Fortitude: and when at last her constitution tender and delicate at best was forc'd to yield to the king of Terrors; even then she was not “afraid with any Amazment” but calmly resigned her Soul into the hands of her great Redeamer saying with the blessed St. Stephen “Lord Jesus receive my Spirit.” With these Words she clos'd the Mortal Drama, Her next were heard in heaven!4

MS (Adams Papers); in an unidentified hand and without docketing or other markings; see note 1.


This obituary tribute is not in the hand of any member of the Smith family or circle known to the present editors. It is probably a fair copy of a missing original to which, as some phrases in the text suggest, AA may well have contributed. The tribute was printed in the Halls' New-England Chronicle or Essex Gazette of 19 Oct. 1775—a paper which had recently been published in Salem, was currently published in Cambridge, and after the British evacuation was transferred to Boston. The newspaper text is somewhat shorter and contains a number of verbal changes; only two variants are noted here.


Remainder of this sentence omitted in newspaper text.


Newspaper text reads: “... and by employing many of her poor Neighbours in making Clothing.”


For a more searching comment on the subject of this obituary, see JA's first letter to AA of 29 Oct., below.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 October 1775 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 October 1775 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dear Philadelphia Octr. 7th. 1775

Yesterday, by the Post, I received yours of Septr. 25th., and it 295renewed a Grief and Anxiety, that was before almost removed from my Mind. Two days before I had the Pleasure of a very valuable Letter from Coll. Quincy,1 in which he kindly informed me that you and Our Family were so much better that you and my dear Nabby, had made a Visit at his House: and Mr. Williams, who brought the Letter acquainted me that he had been to Braintree after the Date of it, that you was in good Spirits, that Tommy was so much better as to be playing abroad, and that he hoped Patty was not dangerous: you will easily believe that this Information gave me great Pleasure and fine Spirits: It really relieved me from a heavy Load: But your last Letter has revived my Concern.—I will still hope however that your excellent Mother will yet be spared for a Blessing to her Family and an Example to the World. I build my Hopes of her Recovery, upon the Advantage of a Constitution which has hitherto sustained so many Attacks and upon a long Course of exact Temperance which I hope has deprived the Distemper of its most dangerous food and Fuel.—However, our Lives are not in our own Power. It is our Duty to submit.—“The Ways of Heaven are dark and intricate.” Its designs are often inscrutable, But are always wise and just and good.

It was long before I had the least Intimation of the Distress of the Family, and I fear, that your not receiving so many Letters from me as usual may have been one Cause of Infelicity to you.—Really, my dear, I have been more cautious than I used to be. It is not easy to know whom to trust, in these times, and if a Letter from any Person in the situation I am in, can be laid hold of, there are so many Lies made and told about it, so many false Copies taken and dispersed, and so many false Constructions put, that one ought to be cautious.

The Situation of Things, is so alarming, that it is our Duty to prepare our Minds and Hearts for every Event, even the Worst. From my earliest Entrance into Life, I have been engaged in the public Cause of America: and from first to last I have had upon my Mind, a strong Impression, that Things would be wrought up to their present Crisis. I saw from the Beginning that the Controversy was of such a Nature that it never would be settled, and every day convinces me more and more. This has been the source of all the Disquietude of my Life. It has lain down and rose up with me these twelve Years. The Thought that we might be driven to the sad Necessity of breaking our Connection with G.B. exclusive of the Carnage and Destruction which it was easy to see must attend the seperation, always gave me a great deal of Grief. And even now, I would chearfully retire from public life forever, renounce all Chance for Profits or Honours from 296the public, nay I would chearfully contribute my little Property to obtain Peace and Liberty.—But all these must go and my Life too before I can surrender the Right of my Country to a free Constitution. I dare not consent to it. I should be the most miserable of Mortals ever after, whatever Honours or Emoluments might surround me.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. Adams Braintree”; added in another hand: “To the Care of J Parke Esq”; endorsed: “Octobr. 7”; docketed in an unidentified hand.


Dated 22 Sept. 1775 (Adams Papers) and largely devoted to proposals for defending Boston Harbor.