Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, 10 December 1778 AA Warren, Mercy Otis Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, 10 December 1778 Adams, Abigail Warren, Mercy Otis
Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren
Braintree December 10 1778 1

Nothing but a very bad soar finger has withheld my Hand from writing to my Friend, and telling her that I most sincerely sympathize with her in the late melancholy dispensation of providence towards her, an Event tho not unexpected yet when we are calld to the trial of resigning our dear Friends to the Grave Nature will recoil, and the Beleif of a Glorious immortality can only support the anguish of a bleeding Heart, or bring the mind quietly to submit to the allotments of Heaven.

From this and other sources you have reason for consolation. Your parent had lived to a good old age with Honour and reputation, the recollection of his virtues will embalm his memory to you.2

“The sweet remembrance of the just Shall flourish when they sleep in Dust.”

Nor am I unmindfull of my Friend or less disposed to sympathize with her in an other call which she will soon have to exert her fortitude;3 this life is well termd a checkerd state; tis wisely orderd so, since with all the visisitudes we pass through we are still strongly attached to it. I rejoice with my Friend that she has the best of Earthly comforts to support her, and console her, through the painfull task to which she is call'd, there is such a cheering influence, in the Bosom of a Friend, that those only who are deprived of it, can truly estimate its worth.

The most Forlorn and Dismal of all states is that of widowhood. How often does my Heart bleed at thinking how nearly my own Situation is allied to that, nor can I sometimes refrain from wishing that the wisdom of the continent had made choise of some person whose seperation from his partner would have been little or no pain, or mortification—many such might have been found I dare say. Heaven can witness for me that I judge not by my own feelings, but from the conduct of too many of my sex.

Two Letters I have had the pleasure of receiving since I saw you, the latest date 27 of August.

Never says the writer was the Spirit of a Nation higher than the French, never Nation had more cause for Dejection than England, persons from England say that the General opinion is that Independance will be agree'd to, but be not Deceived—it is time enough to believe it when it is fact. He adds do not be anxious about Spain, nor 133any thing else. Let us sing, O be joyfull! I fancy the writer has imbibed some of the Spirit of the Nation from the climate, he appears to be in high Spirits.

This Letter was wrote more than ten days ago, but my finger was so bad that I could not finish it. I now propose sending it by my Daughter who earnestly hopes to see Plimouth tomorrow. I commit her to the care of a Friend who I hope will advise, admonish and direct her, with the same freedom she would one of her own. Tho large in stature, she is young in years.

My best regards to our worthy suffering Friend Mrs. Lothrope. I never see her but she brings to my mind Shakespears

“Patience on a Monument smiling at Grief.”

Love attend Master Henery with his smileing countanance and Master George with his Grave Senatorial face.4

You will be so good as to write often to me. I shall endeavour to fullfill my promise whenever any thing offers worth communicating from your Sincere Friend,


RC (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.); addressed in John Thaxter's hand: “Mrs. Mercy Warren Plimouth”; docketed in two later unidentified hands: “Mrs. Adams Decr. 1779 No. 10.”


In the MS the year “1779” was added to AA's day and month date, very likely in the same early hand that mistakenly docketed this letter as 1779 instead of 1778.


James Otis Sr. (1702–1778) had died at Barnstable on 9 Nov.; identical obituary notices of him appeared in the Boston Continental Journal, 12 Nov., and Boston Gazette, 16 Nov. 1778.


James Warren Jr. (see vol. 1:419) was about to sail as an officer of marines on board the Continental frigate Alliance, Capt. Pierre Landais; see Mrs. Warren to JA, 15 Dec. 1778 (Adams Papers; Warren-Adams Letters , 2:82).


Henry (1764–1828) and George (1766–1800), 4th and 5th sons of James and Mercy (Otis) Warren (Mrs. Washington A. Roebling, Richard Warren of the Mayflower . . . , Boston, 1901, p. 28).

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 10 December 1778 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 10 December 1778 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Passy Decr. 10 1778

It is now my Turn to complain. Last night We had great Packetts from the Council,1 but no Line from you. If Vessells sail from Boston, within four Leagues of you, without your Knowledge, is it to be wondered that Vessells 500 Miles from me should sail without mine. What is more striking, altho our Plymouth Friend had just received a Letter from me, I have no Line from him. We are not yet so happy, as to learn from Congress, what they have done upon foreign Affairs. 134We expect Intelligence every Moment—I hope it will arrive, before the Fleet of Merchant Vessells sails, which is going out, that I may be able to inform you, how I shall be disposed of.

We are now inquisitive to know where Clinton is gone, and D'Estaing. It is given out in England that Clinton is gone to Carolina. The British Fleet in Europe makes but a poor Figure. Their Privateers have taken a great many Prizes, but the Kings ships come off, second best.

You wish you had ventured with me—I wish you was here—no I dont, I wish I was there. But I assure you I know not how you could have lived thro the Voyage. I often asked myself, what should I do if a certain Lady was with me. You can have no Adequate Idea of our Voyage.

Did I ever tell you that Governor Wentworth made me a Visit to clear up his Character. He declared to me upon his Honour, that he never wrote the Letters that were published in his Name, and that he never directly nor indirectly, had any Concern in Counterfeiting Continental Bills or New Hampshire Bills, or any other Paper Money. He desired me to let Mr. Apthorp know that he was well. I since hear, he has got a Pension of 500 a Year. A poor Pittance for a Governor to live on in London—especially with his Extravagant Humour.2 You are studying French I hope. Oh that I had studyed it, you know when.

RC (Adams Papers).


One of the “great Packetts” from the Massachusetts Council was doubtless “One hundred Copies of an Act intitled 'An Act to prevent the return to this State of certain Persons named and described and others who have left the same and joined our inveterate and Cruel Enemies'” (Deputy Secretary John Avery to Franklin, Lee, and JA, 23 Oct. 1778, PPAmP).


John Wentworth (1737–1820), JA's Harvard classmate and the last royal governor of New Hampshire, had fled to Nova Scotia and then to England; in the preceding May JA had encountered him at the Comédie Francaise in Paris; see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:308; 4:85. At least one of “the Letters that were published in Wentworth's Name,” dated 17 Jan. 1777 at his winter quarters in Flatbush, Long Island, and directed to his sister, has been published in full in the Provincial Papers: Documents and Records Relating to the Province of New Hampshire, Concord and Nashua, 1867–1944, 7:394–395. In publishing an extract of it in his biographical sketch of Wentworth, Mr. Shipton has said: “Intercepted, this letter was published throughout the United States, and did much to ruin Wentworth's reputation” (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 13:671). The counterfeiting charge stemmed from a published confession of a convicted counterfeiter in the Continental Journal, 9 Oct. 1777, accusing Wentworth while in Newport, R.I., of being “the fount from which counterfeit currency was flooding the insurgent colonies” (same).

“Mr. Apthorp” was James Apthorp (1731–1799), a Braintree loyalist who had married Sarah Wentworth, a sister of Wentworth's wife (and cousin), Frances; see vol. 2:267, above; John Wentworth, The Wentworth Genealogy: English and American, Boston, 1878, 1:317–318, 519–520.