Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 11 February 1779 AA AA2 Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 11 February 1779 Adams, Abigail Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams 2d
My Dear Daughter Braintree, ca. 11 February, 1779

It is with inexpressible pleasure that I enclose to you a letter from your brother, and that I can tell you, that I last night received four letters of various dates from your papa, and one so late as the 6th of November.1 I would send forward the letters, but know not how to part with them. Your papa writes that he has enjoyed uncommon health for him, since his arrival in France; that your brother is well, and, what is still more grateful to a parent's ears, that he conducts with a becoming prudence and discretion; that he assiduously applies himself to his books. And your papa is pleased to say, “that the lessons of his mamma are a constant law to him, and that they are so to his sister and brothers, is a never failing consolation to him, at times when he feels more tenderness for them than words can express.” Let 162this pathetic expression of your papa's, my dear, have a due influence upon your mind.

Upon politics, your papa writes thus: “Whatever syren songs of peace may be sung in your ears, you may depend upon it, from me, (who unhappily have been seldom mistaken in my guesses of the intention of the British government for fourteen years,) that every malevolent passion, and every insidious art, will predominate in the British cabinet against us. Their threats of Prussians2 and of great reinforcements, are false and impracticable, and they know them to be so; but their threats of doing mischief with the forces they have, will be verified as far as their power.”

This we see, in their descent upon Georgia, verified this very hour.

Almost all Europe, the Dutch especially, are at this day talking of Great Britain in the style of American sons of liberty. He hopes the unfortunate event at Rhode Island will not produce any heart-burnings between Americans and the Count D'Estaing, who is allowed by all Europe to be a great and worthy officer, and by all that know him to be a zealous friend of America.

After speaking of some embarrassments in his public business, from half anglified Americans, he adds, “But from this court, this city and nation, I have experienced nothing but uninterrupted politeness.”

I have a letter from a French lady, Madam la Grand, in French—a polite letter, and wrote in consequence of your papa's saying that, in some cases, it was the duty of a good citizen to sacrifice his all for the good of his country.3 She tells him that the sentiment is worthy of a Roman and a member of Congress, but cannot believe he would sacrifice his wife and children. In reply, he tells her that I possessed the same sentiment. She questions the truth of his assertion; and says nature would operate more powerfully than the love of one's country, and whatever other sacrifices he might make, it would be impossible for him to resign those very dear connections, especially as he had so often given her the warmest assurances of his attachment to them; and she will not be satisfied till she has related the conversation, and appealed to me for my sentiments upon the subject. She is an elderly lady, and wife to the banker, expresses great regard for your brother, of whom she is very fond, says he inherits the spirit of his father, and bids fair to be a Roman like him.

When I have fully translated the letter I will send it forward. I would have written to Mrs. Warren, but have much writing to do, and you may communicate this letter to her, if she can read it; but 'tis badly written, and I have not time to copy.

163 Let me hear from you soon, who am, at all times, your affectionate mamma, A. A.

MS (not found). Printed from Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, . . . Edited by Her Daughter, New York, 1841–1842, 2:15–17. The enclosed “letter from your brother” was presumably JQA to AA2, 27 Sept. 1778, printed above.


See a faulty listing of these letters in AA's reply to JA of 13 Feb., below, and an editorial note there which corrects her list. The letters had come by Capt. Daniel McNeill in the General Mifflin privateer, which reached Boston on 9 Feb. according to the Boston Gazette of the 15th.


JA's letter (of 6 Nov. 1778) said “Russians.” The mistake may have been AA's or that of a copyist or printer when AA2's letters were published in 1842.


Concerning Madame Ferdinand Grand's letter and AA's reply to it, neither of which has been found, see JA to AA, 23 Sept. 1778, above; AA to JA, 13 Feb., below; with notes and references under both letters.

Cotton Tufts to John Adams, 12 February 1779 Tufts, Cotton JA Cotton Tufts to John Adams, 12 February 1779 Tufts, Cotton Adams, John
Cotton Tufts to John Adams
Dear Sr. Feby. 12. 1779

In the latter End of July and beginning of Novr. last I wrote to You.1 Am uncertain by whom the first was conveyed, the Latter was committed to the Care of Mr. Jenks (formerly my Apprentice) now a Surgeons Mate to the General Pickering Privateer from Salem which saild soon after and was to touch at France in her Cruize. In my first among other Things I gave You an Account of our Season, which from the 24th. of last June to the Beginning of this Month has been uncommon, more especially for violent Storms. That of the 13th. of Augst. was attended with such Consequences as renderd our Expedition against Rhode Island abortive; another violent Storm of Nov. 2d. in which Byrons Fleet then cruising for De Estangs, sufferd greatly. The Storm met them on Georges Bank where the Culloden of 64 Guns is supposed to have foundered and has never been heard of since, in the same Storm the Somerset another 64, was wreckd on the Back of the Cape with the Loss of 50 or 60 Men—from her we have been favoured with 54 Cannon, 200 Blls. of merchantable Powder and many other valuable Articles. The Guns and Powder were safe deliverd at Boston. Decr. 10. We had another violent Storm of Wind and Rain, with the Darkness of the Night and violence of the Storm some People perished on Land and considerable Damage was done to the Shipping. Dec. 22d. the Cold became extreme and continued so to the 28th. On the 25th. PM. it began to Snow, the 26th. it continued, the Wind excessive high and cold severe. The oldest amongst us dont remember a more distressing and violent Storm. This day a Man 164passing over Boston Neck toward Night with his Team was next day found dead, his Team consisting of 4 Cattle and one Horse were froze to Death, the hind Oxen standing. A most Melancholy Account we received from Plimouth 72 Men in the Brig Genl. Arnold froze to Death in the Storm. She saild the 24. from Nantasket, met the Storm, put back and on the 26. got as near Plimouth as the Ice would admit. The 24th. according to Dr. Winthrop has been but once equalld for Coldness in his Day.2

It was on the 2d. Novr. that Byrams Fleet consisting then of 13 or 14 Sail of the Line and 2 or 3 Frigates met with the Disaster already mentiond. On the 6th. of the same Month Monsr. De Estang left this Harbour with a fine Wind; about the same Time a Fleet of 108 Vessells saild from New York with 8000 some say 10000 Troops supposed for the West Indies. We have had Accounts of the Arrival of both. After the Capture of Dominica by the French, Admiral Barrington with a Fleet and Army attacked St. Lucia and took it. Monsr. De Estang arrived with a Force sufficient to Block him in after the Capture. In order to retake it the Count landed several Thousand Men, these were repulsed with a great Slaughter and the Count was obliged to repair to Martineco. Byrons Fleet have since arrived and by the best Accounts the Count is block'd up by Byron in Conjunction with Barringtons Fleet. I am really sorry for Monsr. De Estang. If Success depended solely upon Worth and Integrity he would have certainly had a larger Share. During his Stay here he shewd himself to be a very vigilant officer, and a Man of Wisdom and great Prudence. The Temperance, good Oeconomy and Civility of every order of Men in his Fleet was truly praise worthy. The Damage his Fleet sustained in the Storm of Augt. 13th. renderd a great part of his Fleet unfit for an Engagement more especially his own Ship which was dismasted. As soon as he arrived in Nantasket Road, all possible Expedition was made use off to repair his Fleet, he took every Precaution to prevent a Surprise from the Enemy, he erected Works on Point Alderton, Georges Island, Pectic, Long Island &c. that he could at one Time bring 6 or 700 Guns to bear on an Enemy. While he lay there Howe appeared with a Fleet of 15 or 16 Sail of the Line within Sight of Hull, sent some Frigates within a League of Hull but found the Harbour so well secured that they thought prudent after a few Days Cruise to return to New York.—Accounts from New York and Newport agree that a great Part of the british Troops have left the Continent, some gone to Europe, some to the West Indies, some to Hallifax. Clinton is said to remain at New York with 3000, Pigot or Prescot at Newport with 7000—and we have 165been amused with Stories of their entirely leaving the Continent (to me these have been idle Tales). Some suppose the Want of Transports, some the Want of Provisions have prevented it. Some of the Troops that were supposed to have left the Continent are now exercising their Rage and Cruelty in Georgia under the Command of Col. Campbell (formerly a prisoner at Concord).3

In Decembr. last A Piece appeard in the Pensylvania Paper which gave no small Uneasiness to the publick. The Author mortified at his recall from —— complaind to the publick that Congress had not given him a full hearing, tho it had been requested; laid open many Transactions and Affairs in ——, reflected upon a certain Family, some of whom are nearly connected with You in a publick Character, pointed out the Absurdity of their Appointments, having such close Connections with Great Britain and one of them employed in services at first Blush inconsistent, with many other interesting Matters of which You will hear more hereafter. This Piece was answered by Common Sense. A Paper War ensued. Many Things were said by both Sides which were painful, imprudent and to the last Degree impolitic. Though this may sooner or later give Our Ministers at Versailles some Trouble, Yet much Good in the End may result from it.

I am My Dear Friend sometimes in Doubt whether Civilization (as it is commonly understood it is but a softer Name for Dissimulation) and the Knowledge of the Arts and Sciences have really mended the World. The Art of looking one Way and moving another is brought to greater Perfection in the present than in any former Age. The next Century will probably refine upon this untill it shall be verefied what an old Saint in ancient Days said of the then World, All Men are deceivers (to say Lyars would be uncivil and I should be loth to make the World worse than it is).

I am now got to the 5th. of March having had no conveyance for the aforegoing.—The Month of February hath made amends for the Roughness of the latter End of December and the greater part of January—the Weather was mild and open, Farmers turning up their Lands, mending Fences and busied in the Affairs of Husbandry as if Spring had opened.

By the last Advices from the West Indies Count De Estang was at Martineco, not blockd up as mentiond before, but lately reinforced with a Number of Capital Ships.—Manly in the private Ship Cumberland was lately capturd by the Juno of 38 Guns and sent into Barbadoes. Eight or Ten Prizes have arrived within 6 Weeks past—one a 166Privateer of 16 Guns from Liverpool taken by the Dean, another of 16 Guns capturd by the Franklin.

April 12th.

The Month of March has been as rough as February was mild. The Snow lay 15 Inches on a Level the 25th. of March. The 22, 24th. violent Storms of Snow. Since April came in we have had fine Weather.

Our latest Advices from Georgia are that the Enemy, who for some time past had reignd triumphant there, have met with some severe Repulses and are making hasty Steps to Savannah. We are a strange Set of Mortals. A Little Chastisement does not move us, but when the Blow comes heavy the Spirit rises, it was some Time before Our Brethren at the Southward realized the Matter. They are now roused and are pressing on with Vigor and I trust with the Smiles of Providence they will clear that State of inbred Enemies and foreign Murderers.—Our Insidious Enemies had for Three Years past employ'd Agents in that State to enlist Regiments into their Service and after enlisting men swore them to Secrecy. This they have done (I make no doubt) in all our States. When I reflect upon the numerous Acts and Stratagems, the open Attempts and secret Designs together with the powerful Fleets and Armies employd against us and the peculiar Scituations and Circumstances of the Continent I am almost astonished to find that We are still an unconquerd People. Had not Heaven appeared for us We must long before this Time have been subject to the Will of our Enemies. Thanks to Heaven the Teeth of the Lion are broken. Great Britain is falling and She will no more rise among the Nations of the Earth, Glorious and powerful as heretofore, but will meet with that Hatred and Disgrace which is due to her Injustice and Cruelty and with that Scorn and Contempt which her unbounded Pride and Insolence hath merited.

Mr. Jenks has returned from the Cruize without touching at France, that I doubt whether You will receive my Letter sent by him. May this meet with a better Fate and reach you in the Enjoyment of Health and every desireable Good.

Our Friends here are well, Mastr. Charles Adams and Billy Cranch dind with us to Day having kept Sabbath at their Grand Pa's, by whom I find that Yours are all well.—I will compound with You for a Letter half so long as this, but one as long as again4 would be esteemd a valuable Present.—Adieu.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Dr. Tufts Feb. 1779.”

167 1.

These letters were actually dated 5 Aug. and 2 Nov. 1778, both above.


Professor John Winthrop of Harvard had kept weather records, which are still extant, since 1742. See JA, Earliest Diary , p. 34 and note 93 there.


Note at foot of page in MS: “A great Part of Georgia has fallen in the Power of the Enemy.”


Thus in MS.