Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 29 October 1775 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 29 October 1775 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Octr. 29.1775

I cannot exclude from my Mind your melancholly Situation. The Griefs of your Father and Sisters, your Uncles and Aunts, as well as the remoter Connections, often croud in upon me, when my whole Attention ought to be directed to other Subjects.

Your Uncle Quincy, my Friend as well as Uncle, must regret the loss of a beloved Sister, Dr. Tufts my other Friend I know bewails the loss of a Friend, as well as an Aunt and a sister, Mr. Cranch the Friend of my youth as well as of my riper Years, whose tender Heart sympathizes with his fellow Creatures in every Affliction and Distress, in this Case feels the Loss of a Friend, a fellow Christian, and a Mother.

But alas what avail these mournfull Reflections. The best Thing We can do, the greatest Respect We can show to the Memory of our departed Friend, is to copy into Our own Lives, those Virtues which in her Lifetime rendered her the Object of our Esteem, Love and Admiration. I must confess I ever felt a Veneration for her, which seems increased by the News of her Translation.

Above all Things my dear, let us inculcate these great Virtues and bright Excellencies upon our Children.

Your Mother had a clear, and penetrating Understanding and a profound Judgment, as well as an honest and a friendly and a charitable Heart.

There is one Thing however, which you will forgive me if I hint to you. Let me ask you rather, if you are not of my opinion? Were not her Talents, and Virtues too much confined, to private, social and domestic Life. My Opinion of the Duties of Religion and Morality, comprehends a very extensive Connection with society at large, and the great Interest of the public. Does not natural Morality, and much more Christian Benevolence, make it our indispensible Duty to lay ourselves out, to serve our fellow Creatures to the Utmost of our 317Power, in promoting and supporting those great Political systems, and general Regulations upon which the Happiness of Multitudes depends. The Benevolence, Charity, Capacity and Industry which exerted in private Life, would make a family, a Parish or a Town Happy, employed upon a larger Scale, in Support of the great Principles of Virtue and Freedom of political Regulations might secure whole Nations and Generations from Misery, Want and Contempt. Public Virtues, and political Qualities therefore should be incessantly cherished in our Children.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. Adams Braintree To the Care of Coll Warren”; endorsed: “ocbr. 29”; docketed in an unidentified hand.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 29 October 1775 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 29 October 1775 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia, 29 October, 1775 1

Human nature with all its infirmities and depravation is still capable of great things. It is capable of attaining to degrees of wisdom and of goodness, which, we have reason to believe, appear respectable in the estimation of superior intelligences. Education makes a greater difference between man and man, than nature has made between man and brute. The virtues and powers to which men may be trained, by early education and constant discipline, are truly sublime and astonishing. Newton and Locke are examples of the deep sagacity which may be acquired by long habits of thinking and study. Nay, your common mechanics and artisans are proofs of the wonderful dexterity acquired by use; a watchmaker, in finishing his wheels and springs, a pin or needlemaker, &c. I think there is a particular occupation in Europe, which is called a paper-stainer or linen-stainer. A man who has been long habituated to it, shall sit for a whole day, and draw upon paper fresh figures to be imprinted upon the papers for rooms, as fast as his eye can roll, and his fingers move, and no two of his draughts shall be alike. The Saracens, the Knights of Malta, the army and navy in the service of the English republic, among many others, are instances to show, to what an exalted height valor or bravery or courage may be raised, by artificial means.

It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to 318excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.

But their bodies must be hardened, as well as their souls exalted. Without strength and activity and vigor of body, the brightest mental excellencies will be eclipsed and obscured.

MS not found. Printed from (Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, ed. CFA, Boston, 1841, 1:72–73. See note 1.)


Place and date, including the brackets, are given here as found in CFA's text. This is the first letter in the correspondence between JA and AA known to have been available to CFA but not now to be found as an original in the Adams Papers. In the volumes of “Family Correspondence” which CFA caused to be bound up, the present editors have found no indication of the removal of this letter, so that it was evidently taken out of the sequence early, perhaps in the 1830's, and, after a transcript for publication was made, was perhaps given away to some applicant for a specimen of JA's handwriting. (See Introduction to JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:xxxiv–xxxv.)

A close comparison of the texts of this letter as printed in 1841 and as reprinted in JA–AA, Familiar Letters , 1876 (p. 119), shows that CFA further corrected and “improved” his grandfather's epistolary style when reprinting letters he had edited before.