Adams Family Correspondence, volume 2

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 14 September 1776 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 14 September 1776 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia Saturday Septr. 14. 1776

Yesterday Morning I returned with Dr. F. and Mr. R. from Staten Island where We met Lord Howe and had about three Hours Conversation with him. The Result of this Interview, will do no disservice to Us. It is now plain that his Lordship has no Power, but what is given him in the Act of Parliament. His Commission authorises him to grant Pardons upon Submission, and to converse, confer, consult and advise with such Persons as he may think proper, upon American Grievances, upon the Instructions to Governors and the Acts of Parliament, and if any Errors should be found to have crept in, his Majesty and the Ministry were willing they should be rectified.

I found yours of 31. of Aug. and 2d. of September.1 I now congratulate you on your Return home with the Children. Am sorry to find you anxious on Account of idle Reports.—Dont regard them. I think our Friends are to blame to mention such silly Stories to you. What good do they expect to do by it?

My Ride has been of Service to me. We were absent but four days. It was an agreable Excursion. His Lordship is about fifty Years of Age. He is a well bred Man, but his Address is not so irresistable, as it has been represented. I could name you many Americans, in your own Neighbourhood, whose Art, Address, and Abilities are greatly superiour. His head is rather confused, I think.2

When I shall return I cant say. I expect now, every day, fresh Hands from Watertown.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. Adams at Mr. John Adams's Braintree Massachusetts Bay”; franked: “free John Adams”; postmarked: “PHILA. SEP 14.” LbC (Adams Papers).


A single letter, printed above under its first date.


JA's “Ride” to and from Staten Island, with Benjamin Franklin and Edward Rutledge, began on the 9th and ended on the 13th. The interview with Lord Howe occurred on the 11th at the Christopher Billopp house in Tottenville. JA's retrospective account of the journey and interview is justly famous, and is accompanied by pertinent passages from the Journal of Congress and from his own contemporaneous letters ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:414–430). Congress published the relevant papers, including the report of the committee, under date of 17 Sept. (broadside in NN; Evans 15168). The best British 125account is by Henry Strachey, secretary to the Howe brothers' commission, whom JA was to encounter again during the negotiations for a preliminary peace with Great Britain in the fall of 1782; Strachey's narrative was first printed accurately (from a MS in NN) by Paul L. Ford in an article entitled “Lord Howe's Commission to Pacify the Colonies,” Atlantic Monthly, 77:758–762 (June 1896); see also Ambrose Serle, American Journal, ed. Edward H. Tatum Jr., San Marino, Calif., 1940, p. 100–101, and various sources cited in Stokes, Iconography of Manhattan Island , 5:1010. On 19 Sept. the Howes issued in broadside form a further “Declaration,” in which they gave up on Congress but appealed again to all persons disposed to reconciliation with Great Britain; an example in MHi is reproduced as an illustration in this volume.

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 15 September 1776 AA JA Abigail Adams to John Adams, 15 September 1776 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
Sepbr. 15 1776

I have been so much engaged this week with company that, tho I never cease to think of you I have not had leisure to write to you. It has been High Court week with us, judge Cushing and Lady kept here, the judges all dined with me one day and the Bar an other day. The Court sit till Saturday Night, and then were obliged to continue many causes. The people seem to be pleased and gratified at seeing justice returning into its old regular channel again.1

I this week received two Letters, one dated july 27 and another july 29th. Where they have been these two months I cannot conceive, I hear of an other by the Express but have not yet been able to find it. I write now not knowing where to direct to you, whether you are in the American Senate or on Board the British fleet is a matter of uncertainty. I hear to day that you are one of a committee sent by Congress to hold a conference with Lord How. Some say to negotiate an exchange of General Sulivan, others say you are charged with other matters.

May you be wise as Serpents. I wish to hear from you, the 28 of August was the last date. I may have Letters at the Post office. The Town is not yet clear of the small Pox which makes it dificult for me to get a conveyance from there, unless I send on purpose.

I only write now to let you know that we are all well, anxiously longing for your return.

As this is a child of chance I do not chuse to say any thing more than that I am Sincerely Yours.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed in an unidentified hand: “To The Honble: John Adams Esqr. at New York or Philadelphia”; franked: “Free”; endorsed (twice): “Portia.”


This was the first session of the Superior Court in Suffolk co. closing in Sept. 1774. In Feb. 1776 the General Court had named Dedham and 126Braintree, alternately, as the places of sitting in Suffolk because the British still occupied Boston; and now, although the British had left months ago, the smallpox epidemic in Boston made another meeting place highly advisable. The act of Feb. 1776 was repealed in November, and beginning in Feb. 1777 the sessions returned to Boston. See Mass., Province Laws , 5:455–456, 593–594; Quincy, Reports , p. 341–342.

For more details on this session of the Superior Court in Braintree, see James Sullivan to JA, 22 Sept. (Adams Papers).