Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 December 1775 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 December 1775 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My best Friend Decr. 3. 1775

Yours of Novr. 12 is before me. I wish I could write you every day, more than once, for although I have a Number of Friends, and many Relations who are very dear to me, yet all the Friendship I have for others is far unequal to that which warms my Heart for you. The most agreable Time that I spend here is in writing to you, and conversing with you when I am alone. But the Calls of Friendship and of private Affection must give Place to those of Duty and Honour, even private Friendship and Affections require it.

I am obliged by the Nature of the service I am in to correspond with many Gentlemen both of the Army and the two Houses of Assembly which takes up much of my Time. How I find Time to write half the Letters I do, I know not, for my whole Time seems engrossed with Business. The whole Congress is taken up, almost in different Committees from seven to Ten in the Morning—from Ten to four or sometimes five, we are in Congress and from six to Ten in Committees again. I dont mention this to make you think me a Man of Importance because it is not I alone, but the whole Congress is thus employed, but to apologise for not writing to you oftener.1

Indeed I know not what to write that is worth your reading. I send you the Papers, which inform you of what is public. As to what passes in Congress I am tied fast by my Honour to communicate Nothing. I hope the Journal of the session will be published soon, and then you will see what We have been about in one View, excepting what ought to be excepted.

If I could visit the Coffee Houses, in the Evening and the Coffee Tables of the Ladies in the Afternoon, I could entertain you with many smart Remarks upon Dress and Air, &c. and give you many sprightly Conversations, but my Fate you know is to be moping over Books and Papers, all the Leisure Time I have when I have any.

I hope I shall be excused from coming to Philadelphia again, at least untill other Gentlemen have taken their Turns. But I never will come here again without you, if I can perswade you to come with me. 332Whom God has joined together ought not to be put asunder so long with their own Consent. We will get your Father and sister Betcy to keep House for Us. 2 We will bring Master Johnny with Us, you and he shall have the small Pox here, and We will be as happy, as Mr. Hancock and his Lady.—Thank Nabby and John for their Letters,3 and kiss Charles and Tom for me. John writes like an Hero glowing with Ardor for his Country and burning with Indignation against her Enemies. When I return I will get the sulky back to New Haven, and there leave it to be repaired, to be brought home by the first Post after it is done.

As to coming home, I have no Thoughts of it—shall stay here till the Year is out, for what I know. Affairs are in a critical state and important Steps are now taking every day, so that I could not reconcile it to my own Mind to be absent from this Place at present.

Nothing is expected from the Commissioners, yet We are waiting for them, in some Respects.4 The Tories, and Timids pretend to expect great Things from them. But the Generality expect nothing but more Insults and Affronts. Privateering is licensed and the Ports are wide open. As soon as the Resolves are printed, which will be tomorrow, I'le send them.5

I have had a long Conversation with . He seems to be in a better Temper, and I live on Terms of Decency and Civility with him and he with me. And I am determined to live so. Have lived in more Decency with him and another, since my last Return than ever, at least than since last August when the sin of Precedence was committed. Theres the Rub. But what cant be cured must be endured.6

RC (Adams Papers).


“During his term of service in Congress, JA was a member of ninety, and chairman of twenty-five committees” (note by CFA on this passage, in JA–AA, Familiar Letters , p. 127). This may be short of the truth, and at any rate it hardly more than suggests the burden of committee and administrative work that JA carried during his periods of service in the Continental Congress from Sept. 1774 to Nov. 1777. No intensive study of his work in this capacity has yet been made. Materials for it are profuse though not altogether satisfactory.


This sentence was heavily inked out, probably immediately after being written, but the editors are fairly confident of the reading here given.


Not found.


In his speech to Parliament on 26 Oct. George III had said that “certain persons upon the spot” would be authorized to grant pardons to individuals and receive the submission of such provinces in America as “shall be disposed to return to their allegiance” (Merrill Jensen, ed., English Historical Documents: American Colonial Documents to 1776, N.Y., 1955, p. 852). The eventual but abortive result was the conciliatory mission of the Howe brothers in 1776.


It is not certain just which “Resolves” JA meant, since at this juncture Congress was from day to day adopting resolutions for fitting out armed vessels 333and regulating the embryonic American navy. JA was a prime mover in these measures; see his Diary and Autobiography , 2:198–199, 201–202, 221–222; 3:343–351.


The allusions in this paragraph are a little puzzling. The blank in the first sentence can only stand for JA's fellow delegate Robert Treat Paine, though at this time Paine was absent from Congress as a member of the committee to confer with Gen. Philip Schuyler at Ticonderoga (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 1:xlviii). If, as the editors believe, the first nameless person is Paine, “another” is undoubtedly Thomas Cushing, who was in growing disfavor because of his politics of moderation.

Notwithstanding JA's assertion above that he had “no Thoughts” of returning home, he asked and obtained from Congress on 8 Dec. “Leave to visit my State and Family” because he was “worn down with long and uninterrupted Labour,” and also because he wished to see whether he should now assume his duties as chief justice or continue in Congress. He left Philadelphia on the 9th and arrived in Braintree on the 21st. See his Diary and Autobiography , 2:223–224; 3:350, 359–360.

Isaac Smith Jr. to the Reverend William Smith?, 5 December 1775 Smith, Isaac Jr. Smith, Rev. William Isaac Smith Jr. to the Reverend William Smith?, 5 December 1775 Smith, Isaac Jr. Smith, Rev. William
Isaac Smith Jr. to the Reverend William Smith?
Dear Sir1 Enfield near London Decr. 5 1775

The present opportunity appears to me so convenient for writing to you, that I cannot avoid sending you a few lines.—I will not now trouble you with my motives for leaving home, so soon after I last saw you. You will do me the justice, Sir, to believe me, that it was not owing to the want of affection to my Country, or of sympathy with my friends and immediate connections. The distressed circumstances of both have, from the first moment of my arrival here, oppressed my mind in a degree, that has rendered me far from happy at this distance from them.2

I suppose by this time, you are impatient in general to know what effect the various unfortunate events, that have happened in America during the spring and summer have upon Parliament this Winter. The King's Speech you will have probably before Christmas. The spirit of the two Houses is the same, and the measures proposed in it, have been approved and adopted. The K. is enabled, if he pleases, to embody the Militia of the Kingdom. A Bill is passing to prohibit all intercourse with the Colonies, and authorize the K. to appoint Commissioners in the Colonies, for the purposes of granting pardons, opening the Ports, and restoring trade as usual, upon Submission. 25,000 men or more are to be in America in the Spring, and 70 Sail of men of war. This force however, (say the Ministry) is not intended, for immediate action, but to give greater weight to the proposals of the Commissioners, who will be vested with large discretionary powers, to terminate the contest, if possible, without further effusion of blood. An end this, which almost every man in the Kingdom wishes to see 334accomplished. The Minority have received a small increase this Session. The D uke of Grafton, with a number of his connections, has joined their number. They have exerted themselves with great warmth, but with their former inefficacy. The Ministry carry every point, by a majority of two to one. On one occasion the last week, the opposition was no more than ten. Gov. Pownall is no longer our Advocate. Lord G. Sackville Germaine is appointed Secretary for the American Department. The last petition to his Majesty from the Congress has been laid before the House of Lords, but tho the D. of G. moved a resolve in consequence of it, none was passed.

Individuals, and particular branches of trade and of manufacture must and indeed do suffer, yet I hear no general complaint of the failure of either. The woollen Manufacture, which is the proper Staple of G.B. is said to be fully employed. To tell you the truth, Sir, we have not a sufficient knowledge among us in general of the commerce or the wealth of this Country. I know, how ready we are to imagine, that both are absolutely dependent upon the Colonies for their existence. I wish for our own sakes, that we were not quite so confident. It is a good old rule, tho' grown rather obsolete, “boast not thyself of tomorrow.” To me we seem to be waging a most unequal war. G.B. if it does fall, will fall gradually and imperceptibly. God alone knows the consequences of the present dangerous contest, and his wise providence commonly causes civil convulsions to advance the good of mankind. Confidence in his government is at all times our duty, but in such as these, it is certainly one of peculiar importance, a Virtue of the most desirable kind. How to acquire it indeed in any just degree, is a difficulty which experience alone can tell!

I am at present at this place in an agreeable situation, and officiating to a small Society. But I shall not take up my Abode in Old England from choice and inclination. I wish for nothing more ardently upon earth, than to see my friends and Country again in the enjoyment of peace, freedom and happiness. Nor shall I delay my return to them, the moment that I find there is the least certainty of their being restored to a better Situation, than is now their unfortunate lot.

I wish, Sir, to say much more to you, but I know not whether this will reach you. To Dr. T.3 I shall write with pleasure another time, tho' I consider myself indeed, as writing to him now. I should be glad to hear from you, if possible. I beg to be remembred in the most affectionate manner to my Aunt, and every body else at Weymouth and Braintree, and am, dear Sir, with sincere respect Your, much obliged.

I Smith junr. 335

P.S. I had fully designed to have wrote by this Conveyance to M.A.,4 but for several reasons, hope he will forgive me, that I do not.

RC (Adams Papers); docketed in the hand of William Gordon(?): “I. Smith Jnr. Decr. 5. 1775.” Probably enclosed in AA's letter to JA, 2–10 March 1776, below, q.v.


The name of the recipient of this letter has been assigned conjecturally and solely on the basis of internal evidence. At the close of the text the writer asks to be remembered to “my Aunt, and every body else at Weymouth and Braintree.” Isaac had only one aunt in either place, namely Mrs. William Smith, AA's mother, the news of whose recent death he had obviously not heard. The allusions in the letter to others in the Weymouth-Braintree circle fit in perfectly well with the assumption that it was addressed to AA's father. Apparently he turned it over to her and she sent it on, with a tart comment or two, in hers to JA, 2–10 March 1776, below.


He had arrived in London in June after a four weeks' voyage (Isaac Smith Jr. to Isaac Smith Sr., 26 June 1775, MHi: Smith-Carter Papers).


Doubtless Dr. Cotton Tufts.


Thus in MS, the editors suppose for “Mr. A.,” meaning JA.