Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

121 James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 14 November 1778 Lovell, James AA James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 14 November 1778 Lovell, James Adams, Abigail
James Lovell to Abigail Adams
My dear Lady Sat. Eveng. 14th. of Novr. 1778

Having a good Opportunity, I now forward those Things which were left at York Town by your worthy Husband. I have never yet got the Box of Papers which were carried away by Mr. Sprout's Family.1 They consigned the Box to a most careful Man, Mr. Houston who has promised to send it to me.2 But perhaps it will be a Thing convenient to the Carrier of what is now with me to call at Princeton for the other Property. I took a memorandum of the Contents of the Chest delivered to me by Mrs. Clymar on the day I received it. Perhaps Mr. Adams may have done so at his Departure for Home.

As the Box is not full, I am now thinking to make one Package of Mr. A's, Mr. Dana's and some Articles of my own which will be of use to my poor Boys. I have cast my Eye upon a Box that will answer such a Purpose. The Box though rougher than Mr. A.'s will be as useful in a Family Way. I am yet undecided; but shall let Mrs. Lovell know, by a few Lines, my Decision when made. I mean solely at this Time to name the Articles.

a Brown Summer Coat & Jacket

a Black Cloth Suit

a Nankin Coat & two Pr. of Breeches

a pr. of Cotton Velvet Breeches

a pr. of Buckskin do.

a pr. of Black Silk Stockings

a pr. of Shoes

a pr. of Mittens

a Steel Swivel for an Hanger

2d. Vol. of Symes's Military Guide

2 Vols. on Horsemanship in French

3 Vols. of Vertot's Revolutions

1 Vol. Molesworths account of Denmarc

Horace in Vellum

Tully's Epistles do.

Thoughts on Government—Marble3

Not a line from Mr. A—— up to the 12th. of Augst. tho' I have written to him 14 Times. I shall write again on Monday. I know that several Vessels going hence have failed.—Believe me continuing your affectionate humble Servant,

James Lovell 122

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. Adams Braintree To the Care of Mrs. Lovell Boston.”


The papers had been left at the house of Rev. James Sproat, JA's last landlord in Philadelphia, when Congress hurriedly left that city in the face of Howe's invasion, Sept. 1777. See Lovell to AA, 9 July, above, and references there.


William Churchill Houston (1746?–1788), Princeton 1768, professor of mathematics at Princeton (where he served as JA's guide around the College in 1774), delegate to the Continental Congress, 1779–1781, 1784–1785 ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:112).


The books can for the most part be identified as JA's. The clothes may have been partly Francis Dana's. The books include: Thomas Simes, The Military Guide, for Young Officers, Phila., 1776 ( Catalogue of JA's Library , p. 230); two works on horsemanship that had been presented to JA by Augustin Mottin de La Balme (same, p. 174; see also above, vol. 2:xii–xiii, 268, and illustration facing p. 263); one or more of the numerous historical works of the Abbé René Aubert de Vertot d'Aubeuf (see above, vol. 2:292); Robert, 1st Viscount Molesworth's Account of Denmark, as It Was in the Year 1692, of which JA eventually owned a London, 1694, edition and the sixth edition, Glasgow, 1752 ( Catalogue of JA's Library , p. 170); and JA's own Thoughts on Government . . ., Phila., 1776. For Molesworth and the notable influence of his Account of Denmark on American Revolutionary thought, see Caroline Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman, Cambridge, 1959, p. 98–109, 393–394; Bailyn, ed., Pamphlets , 1:31–32, 43–44, and passim.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 November 1778 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 November 1778 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Passy Novr. 27. 1778

Mr. Brown1 is here, and I cannot miss the Opportunity by him, to write you a Line.

I know not how often you receive Letters from me, so many are taken, or sunk: but I write as often as I can.

I have received some Letters from you, which will occasion your Name to be classed with Mrs. McCaulay and Madame Dacier2 for ought I know. Johnny is very well. Stevens had a fall Yesterday which hurt him a little: but not very badly. He is in a good Way this Morning. The Things inclosed which were a present to me you will do as you please with.

Europe is the dullest Place in the World. No News but the Lyes, which the Emmissaries of England are making and spreading, in every Part. We get no News from Congress or any Part of America.

By some Hints in some Letters which I have heard of I expect that the first Vessells will bring us News of some new Regulations of Congress, concerning foreign Affairs.—It is said that Congress have determined to have but one Commissioner at this Court. If this is true, as I suppose it is as it comes from Mr. Deane, I am uncertain 123what is to be done with me. It is said that I am to be sent to some other Court,3 and that the Dr. is to be here alone. If this should be the Case, I shall be puzzled what to do.

The Motives of Congress are very good to save Expences, but this Motive will not have its Effect, if I am to be maintained here, in Idleness, or sent upon my Travells to other Countries, where I shall not be received, which would be the most painfull situation imaginable to me. In this Case I should be at a Loss, whether to return home immediately or wait untill I could write to Congress and obtain Leave.—Some of my friends here are of opinion that I ought not to return without Leave. I would not take any step that should give any just Cause of offence, to Congress or the People. But I cannot eat Pensions and Sinecures, they would stick in my Throat.4

I wish some honest Vessell would arrive and remove my Doubts.

RC and LbC (Adams Papers). Enclosures not found or identified.


Not identified.


Anne (Tanneguy Lefèvre) Dacier (1654–1720), the celebrated French classical scholar, translator, and woman of letters (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ).


LbC adds: “that of Vienna is mentioned”; see the following note.


“Congress yesterday chose you to be their Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of France, and You will very soon receive their Letters, and Credentials. I am very happy on the Occasion, and the more so on Account of the Unanimity with which I learn it was carried; what other arrangements will take place I know not, nor do I much Interest myself on the Subject.” (Silas Deane to Benjamin Franklin, Phila., 15 Sept. 1778, PPAmP.)

For the election on 14 Sept. of Franklin as sole minister to France, which dissolved the Franklin-Lee-Adams commission, see JCC , 12:908. The vote is not recorded. A committee of five was at the same time appointed to prepare Franklin's letter of credence and instructions. The instructions as drafted led to debate, were not adopted until 26 Oct., were not sent until Lafayette sailed from Boston for France in mid-January, and were not received in Paris until almost mid-February (same, 12:1035–1038, 1039–1042, 1064; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:807–809; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:353–354).

It was JA in the first place who had suggested, within a few weeks of his arrival in France, that trying to do business through three diplomatic representatives in Paris was a serious mistake when “one alone would be obliged to no greater Expence, and would be quite sufficient for all the Business of a Public Minister” (to Samuel Adams, 21 May 1778, JA, Diary and Autobiography , 4:107). But in appointing Franklin, Congress neither recalled JA nor gave him notice of what further was expected of him beyond saying that something more on this score would follow, and that “In the mean Time we hope you will exercise your whole extensive Abilities on the Subject of our Finances” (R. H. Lee and James Lovell, for the Committee for Foreign Affairs, to JA, 28 Oct. 1778, Adams Papers; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 2:814–815).

On the very day he wrote the present letter to AA, JA wrote Lovell imploring him to hasten Congress' determination of what was to be done with him:

If you appoint me for any other diplomatic post, especially that which is mentioned to me, Vienna, it will be more disagreable to me than to be recalled. Because Vienna is the Court of all Europe, as I conceive at present, the least likely to receive your Agent. I should 124therefore be reduced to the Necessity of residing at Paris in Idleness, or of travelling to Germany and living there in greater Idleness still, in either Case at a great and useless Expence.

“In Time of Peace, nothing would give me greater Pleasure, than travelling: but at present my Heart is too much affected, with the Miseries of this War, for me to take Pleasure in a mere Gratification of Curiosity, or even in a Pursuit of Taste in Arts, or Knowledge in the Sciences.

“To return home immediately, some Persons here say would give Offence, and be wrong. To wait to write for Leave, would be loosing Time, and putting you to some Expence.—However, I will determine nothing untill I know what is done.” (LbC, Adams Papers.)