Adams Family Correspondence, volume 2

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 6 September 1776 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 6 September 1776 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Fryday Septr. 6. 1776

This day, I think, has been the most remarkable of all. Sullivan came here from Lord Howe, five days ago with a Message that his Lordship desired a half an Hours Conversation with some of the Members of Congress, in their private Capacities. We have spent three or four days in debating whether We should take any Notice of it. I have, to the Utmost of my Abilities during the whole Time, opposed our taking any Notice of it. But at last it was determined by a Majority “that the Congress being the Representatives of the free and independent states of America, it was improper to appoint any of their Members to confer, in their private Characters with his Lordship. But they would appoint a Committee of their Body, to wait on him, to know whether he had Power, to treat with Congress upon Terms of Peace and to hear any Propositions, that his Lordship may think proper to make.”

When the Committee came to be ballotted for, Dr. Franklin and your humble servant, were unanimously chosen. Coll. R. H. Lee and Mr. Edward Rutledge, had an equal Number: but upon a second Vote Mr. R. was chosen. I requested to be excused, but was desired to consider of it untill tomorrow. My Friends here Advise me to go. All the stanch and intrepid, are very earnest with me to go, and the timid and wavering, if any such there are,1 agree in the request. So I believe I shall undertake the Journey. I doubt whether 121his Lordship will see Us, but the same Committee will be directed to inquire into the State of the Army, at New York,2 so that there will be Business enough, if his Lordship makes none.—It would fill this Letter Book, to give you all the Arguments, for and against this Measure, if I had Liberty to attempt it.—His Lordship seems to have been playing off a Number of Machiavillian Maneuvres, in order to throw upon Us the Odium of continuing this War. Those who have been Advocates for the Appointment of this Committee, are for opposing Maneuvre to Maneuvre, and are confident that the Consequence will be, that the Odium will fall upon him. However this may be, my Lesson is plain, to ask a few Questions, and take his Answers.

I can think of but one Reason for their putting me upon this Embassy, and that is this. An Idea has crept into many Minds here that his Lordship is such another as Mr. Hutchinson, and they may possibly think that a Man who has been accustomed to penetrate into the mazy Windings of Hutchinsons Heart, and the serpentine Wiles of his Head, may be tolerably qualified to converse with his Lordship.3

Sunday Septr. 8.

Yesterdays Post brought me yours of Aug. 29. The Report you mention “that I was poisoned upon my Return at New York” I suppose will be thought to be a Prophecy, delivered by the Oracle in mystic Language, and meant that I should be politically or morally poisoned by Lord Howe. But the Prophecy shall be false.

RC and LbC (Adams Papers).


Preceding five words not in LbC, added in RC.


As things turned out, the committee was not so instructed.


Maj. Gen. John Sullivan had been captured in the action on Long Island, 27 Aug. (and was afterward exchanged for the British general, Richard Prescott). Sullivan presented Lord Howe's request to Congress on 2 and 3 Sept.; the debate and votes that JA reports here took place on the three following days ( JCC , 5:723, 730–731, 735, 737–738). See also JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:425; Josiah Bartlett to William Whipple, 3 Sept. 1776 (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 2:66–67).

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 7 September 1776 AA JA Abigail Adams to John Adams, 7 September 1776 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
Braintree Sepbr. 7 1776 1

Last monday I left the Town of Boston, underwent the operation of a smoaking at the lines and arrived at my Brother Cranchs where we go for purification; there I tarried till wedensday, and 122then came Home, which seem'd greatly endeard to me by my long absence. I think I never felt greater pleasure at comeing Home after an absence in my Life. Yet I felt a vacuum in my Breast and sent a Sigh to Philadelphia. I long'd for a dear Friend to rejoice with me. Charlly is Banished yet, I keep him at his Aunt Cranch's out of the way of those who have not had the Distemper, his Arm has many Scabs upon it which are yet very soar. He is very weak and sweats a nights prodigiously. I am now giving him the Bark. He recoverd very fast considering how ill he was. I pitty your anxiety and feel sorry that I wrote you when he was so Bad, but I knew not how it might turn with Him, had it been otherways than well, it might have proved a greater Shock than to have known that he was ill.

This Night our good unkle came from Town and brought me yours of August 20, 21, 25, 27 and 28th for all of which I most sincerely thank you. I have felt uneasy to Hear from you. The Report of your being dead, has no doubt reach'd you by Bass who heard enough of it before he came away. It took its rise among the Tories who as Swift said of himself “By their fears betray their Hopes” but How they should ever take it into their Heads that you was poisond at New York a fortnight before that we heard any thing of that villans Zedwitz plan of poisoning the waters of the City, I cannot tell.2 I am sometimes ready to suspect that there is a communication between the Tories of every State, for they seem to know all news that is passing before tis known by the Whigs.

We Have had many Stories concerning engagements upon Long Island this week, of our Lines being forced and of our Troops retreating to New York. Perticuliars we have not yet obtaind. All we can learn is that we have been unsuccessfull there; having Lost Many Men as prisoners among whom is Lord Sterling and General Sullivan.

But if we should be defeated I think we shall not be conquered. A people fired like the Romans with Love of their Country and of Liberty, a zeal for the publick Good, and a Noble Emulation of Glory, will not be disheartned or dispirited by a Succession of unfortunate Events. But like them may we learn by Defeat the power of becomeing invincible.

I hope to Hear from you by every Post till you return. The Herbs you mention I never Received. I was upon a visit to Mrs. S. Adams about a week after Mr. Gerry returnd, when She entertaind me with a very fine Dish of Green Tea. The Scarcity of the 123article made me ask her Where she got it. She replied her Sweet Heart sent it to her by Mr. Gerry. I said nothing, but thought my Sweet Heart might have been eaquelly kind considering the disease I was visited with, and that tea was recommended as a Bracer. A Little after you mention'd a couple of Bundles sent. I supposed one of them might contain the article but found they were Letters. How Mr. Gerry should make such a mistake I know not. I shall take the Liberty of sending for what is left of it tho I suppose it is half gone as it was very freely used. If you had mentiond a single Word of it in your Letter I should have immediately found out the mistake.

Tis said that the Efforts of our Enemies will be to stop the communication between the colonies by taking possession of Hudsons Bay.3 Can it be effected? The Milford frigate rides triumphant in our Bay, taking vessels every day, and no Colony nor Continental vessel has yet attempted to hinder her. She mounts but 28 Guns but is one of the finest sailors in the British Navy. They complain we have not weighty mettle enough and I suppose truly. The Rage for privateering is as great here as any where and I believe the success has been as great.

It will not be in my power to write you so regularly as when I was in Town. I shall not faill doing it once a week. If you come home the Post Road you must inquire for Letters where ever the Post sit out from.

Tis Here a very General time of Health. I think tis near a twelve month since the pestilance raged here. I fear your being seazd with a fever, tis very prevalant I hear where you are. I pray God preserve you and return you in Health. The Court will not accept your Resignation, they will appoint Mr. Dalton and Dana to releave you.

I am most affectionately Yours.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Portia ansd. Sep. 21.”


In his reply of 21 Sept., below, JA read this date as 9 Sept., and CFA also printed this letter in Familiar Letters with that date. Although AA's 4's, 7's, and 9's are often scarcely distinguishable from each other, the editors believe she intended “7” here.


Lt. Col. Herman Zedtwitz of the New York Line was court-martialed, convicted, and cashiered on 25–26 Aug. for attempting to give intelligence to the enemy, specifically for writing a long letter to Gov. William Tryon (dated 24 Aug. and promptly turned in by an agent Zedtwitz had bribed) which contained a hodgepodge of truth and fancy. One of his fancies was that he had seen “4 Fellows at the Generals [Washington's] Hous wich proposed to Spoil the Watering place [on Staten Island where the British were encamped], they brought along 14 Botles of Stof as Black as an Ink it was Tried and Found good as they The gen: promised Every 124one £1000 if it Stands 6 weeks.” The proceedings of the court martial are printed and a facsimile of Zedtwitz's letter is reproduced in Force, Archives , 5th ser., 1:1159–1162.


Thus in MS, but meaning, surely, the Hudson River.