Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 8 June 1779 AA JA Abigail Adams to John Adams, 8 June 1779 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
My Dearest Friend June 8th 79

Six Months have already elapsed since I heard a syllable from you or my dear Son, and five since I have had one single opportunity of conveying a line to you. Letters of various dates have lain months at the Navy Board, and a packet and Frigate both ready to sail at an hours warning have been months waiting the orders of Congress. They no doubt have their reasons, or ought to have for detaining them. I must patiently wait their Motions however painfull it is—and that it is so your own feelings will testify. Yet I know not but you are less a sufferer than you would be to hear from us, to know our distresses and yet be unable to relieve them. The universal cry for Bread to a Humane Heart is painfull beyond Discription, and the great price demanded and given for it, verifies that pathetick passage of sacred writ, all that a Man hath will he give for his life. Yet he who Miraculously fed a Multitude with 2 loaves and 5 fishes has graciously interposed in our favour and deliverd many of the Enimies supplies into our hands so that our distresses have been Mitigated. I have been able as yet to supply my own family spairingly but at a price that would astonish you. Corn is sold at 4 dollors hard money per Bushel which is eaquel to 80 at the rate of exchange.

Labour is at 8 dollors per Day and in 3 weeks at 12 tis probable, or 200it will be more stable than any thing else. Goods of all kinds are at such a price that I hardly dare mention it—Linnins at 20 dollors per yard the most ordinary sort calicow at 30 and 40,1 Broad cloths sold at 40 pounds per yard—West India goods full as high, Molasses at 20 dollors per Gallon, sugar 4 dollors per pound, Bohea Tea at 40 dollors and our own produce in proportion, Butchers meat at 6 and 7 and 8 shillings per pound, Board at 50 and 60 dollors per week. Rates2 high, that I suppose you will rejoice at, so would I, did it remedy the Evil. I pay 5 hundred Dollors, and a New continental rate has just appeard, my proportion of which will be 2 hundred more. I have come to this determination to sell no more Bills unless I can procure hard money for them altho I shall be obliged to allow a discount. If I sell for paper I through away more than half, so rapid is the depreciation, nor do I know that it will be received long. I sold a Bill to Blodget at 5 for one which was lookd upon as high at that time. The week after I received it, two Emissions were taken out of circulation and the greater part of what I had proved to be of that sort, so that those to whom I was indebted are obliged to wait and before it becomes due or is exchanged, it will be good for—as much as it will fetch, which will be nothing if it goes on as it has done for this 3 Months past, but I will not tire your patience any longer. I have not drawn any further upon you, I mean to wait the return of the Alliance which with longing Eyes I wait for. God grant it may bring me comfortable tidings from my dear dear Friend whose welfare is so essential to my happiness that it is entwined round my Heart, and cannot be impared or seperated from it without rending it assunder.

In contemplation of my situation I am sometimes thrown into an agony of distress. Distance, dangers—and O! I cannot name all the fears which sometimes oppress me and harrow up my soul. Yet must the common Lot of Man one day take place whether we dwell in our own Native Land, or are far distant from it. That we rest under the shadow of the Almighty is the consolation to which I resort, and find that comfort which the World cannot give. If he sees best to give me back my Friend, or to preserve my life to him, it will be so.

Our worthy Friend Dr. Winthrope is numberd with the great congregation to the inexpressible loss of Harvard College.3

Let no weak drop be shed for him. The Virgin in her bloom cut off, the joyous youth, and darling child These are the Tombs, that claim the tender Tear 201 And Elegiac Song. But Winthrope calls For other Notes of Gratulation high That now he wanders through those endless worlds He here so well discried, and wandering talks, And Hymns their Author with his glad compeers.

The Testimony he gave with his dyeing Breath in favour of revealed Religion, does honour to his memory and will endear it to every Lover of Virtue.4

I know not who will be found worthy to succeed him.

Our Brother Cranch is immersd in publick Buisness—and so cumbered with it that he fears He shall not be able to write you a line.5

Congress have not yet made any appointment of you to any other court. There appears a dilatoryness, an indisicion in their proceedings. I have in Mr. Lovell an attentive Friend who kindly informs me of every thing which passes relative to you and your situation, gives me extracts of your Letters both to himself and others. I know you will be unhappy whenever it is not in your power to serve your country—and wish yourself at home where at least you might serve your family.—I cannot say that I think our affairs go very well here. Our currency seems to be the source of all our Evils. We cannot fill up our continental Army by means of it, no bounty will prevail with them. What can be done with it, it will sink in less than a year. The advantages the Enemy daily gain over us is oweing to this. Most truly did you prophesy when you said that they would do all the mischief in their power with the forces they had here.

Many Letters lay in Boston for you which have been wrote Months. My good unkle Smith yesterday let me know that a Letter of Mark bound for Nants would sail in a day or two. I eagerly seaze the opportunity and beg you to give my blessing to my son to whom I have not time now to write. I dare not trust myself with the Idea nor can express how ardently I long to see both the parent and son. Our whole family have enjoyed great Health since your absence. Daughter and sons who dayly delight themselves with talking of Pappa and Brother present their Duty and Love. Your Worthy Mamma who is now here requests me to add her tenderest affection to you, who next to the writer is anxious to hear from you. Your Brother requests me to desire you to procure for him 2 peices of Linnin to the amount of 24 dollors which he will pay to me, and to send them whenever you have an opportunity of sending to me. I shall not write for any thing till the Alliance returns and I find what success she has had.

202 My tenderest regards ever attend you in all places and situations know me to be ever ever yours.6

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by JA: “Portia June 8. 1779,” to which is added in John Thaxter's hand: “Answerd 16th. March 1780”; see note 6.


Thus punctuated in MS.




Professor John Winthrop had died on 3 May. Although his death drew forth a number of printed poetical tributes, the lines that follow in AA's letter have not been found among them. We may guess that AA here adapted to Winthrop a tribute to an astronomer that she remembered from one of her favorite English poems in blank verse.


For this “Testimony” see the obituary in the Boston Independent Chronicle, 13 May 1779, p. 2, cols. 2–3.


However, see the following letter. Recently reelected a Braintree representative to the Massachusetts House, Cranch was particularly active at this time as a member of a committee conducting the sale of confiscated loyalist estates in Suffolk County. See the Confiscation Acts of 30 April and 1 May as published in the Boston Gazette, 10 May, p. 2, cols. 2–3, and 17 May, p. 1, cols. 1–3; the proceedings of the committee, signed by Cranch and others, same, 24 May, p. 1, col. 1; and, generally, Richard D. Brown, “The Confiscation and Disposition of Loyalists' Estates in Suffolk County, Massachusetts,” WMQ , 3d ser., 21:534–550 (Oct. 1964).


Thus punctuated in MS. A full stop would be appropriate after either “you” or “situations.”

This letter of course did not reach JA before he sailed for home on 17 June. It was evidently held for him in France, for on 16 March 1780 he answered it in very affectionate terms from Paris some weeks after his return there; see his letter of that date, below.

Richard Cranch to John Adams, 11 June 1779 Cranch, Richard JA Richard Cranch to John Adams, 11 June 1779 Cranch, Richard Adams, John
Richard Cranch to John Adams
My dear Friend and Bror: Boston June 11th. 1779

I have just now deliver'd to your Friend Genl. Warren of the Navy-Board, a Pacquet from Sister Adams directed to you. The Genl. informs me that a Vessell will sail for Nants next Sunday, by which he will send it. Tho' I cannot learn that any of my former Letters have reach'd you,1 yet I gladly take hold of the same Oportunity to try again to convey a Letter to so dear a Friend. I have had the happiness of receiving one Letter (and but one) from you since you left us, the Date of which I cannot recollect, as I have it not here with me, in which you encourage me to make some Communications to the Philosophic Society to which you have been admitted.2 A Compliance with such an Intimation would be extremely agreeable to me was I at Leasure and my Country in Peace; but Bellona and the Muses suit ill together. I hope, however, that in some future Time I may have the Honour and Pleasure of such a Correspondence. You will perceive by the inclosed Paper that I am again return'd a Member by your native Town to represent them in the General Court. The present Time requires much better Abillities than mine to be exerted.—I will, how-203ever, do the best I can. Your Friend Warren, you will perceive, declin'd taking a Seat at the Board, and I am glad of it, as we want such Men in the House. Government has been greatly perplex'd for some Time past; and our greatest Embarrasments have originated, as I apprehend, in the great Scarcity of Grain occasion'd by a severe Drought that cut off a great Part of our Harvest the last Year. Hence the necessity of the Consumer became so urgent that he must give whatever Price the Seller would please to ask for his Grain, and a higher Price was every Day demanded; this encourag'd many base Minds to withold from selling in hopes of getting a still more enormous3 Price in future. This increased the Evil by adding an artificial Scarcity, 'till at last the Price of Corn has amounted to forty dollars per Bushel. The Consequence of which has been that Labour has risen in nearly the same Proportion, and other Produce has been estimated by the Price of Bread; this has led the Merchant and Trader to raise their Goods in a like Proportion, in order to Ballance with the Farmer. This I take to have been the chief Source of the present sudden rise of things, and that the Evil is not to be charg'd wholly or chiefly (as many People will have it) to the Depreciation of the Currency. From this State of Things Government has been oblig'd, in Justice, to allow its Servants six or seven times as much nominally for their Services, as would have sufficed had things remained at the usual Price. Hence the Taxes laid on the People prov'd insufficient for the Purposes of Government—The Treasury is exhausted—temporary expedients of giving Notes, borrowing, &c. are try'd to little purpose—Servants of Government in the main time kept out of their Due—Credit of Government lower'd, and general uneasiness introduced. To remeddy the Evil in part, and to prevent a further Depreciation of the Currency, Congress has call'd upon the United States to pay into the Continenal Treasury by the 1st. of Jany. next forty five Millions of Dollars, six Million of which is apportioned on this State. For the Removal of the former Evil of Scarcity, we must look to him who ruleth the Seasons, and “giveth Bread to the eater.” At present we have more Grain growing, I suppose, than we ever had at one Time before, and a Prospect of a fine Harvest.

By Express received yesterday from Genl. Gates (who commands on the R: Island Station) it appears that the Enemy are again in the North River with a Design, as he supposes, to attack Genl. Washington, and make Depredations on the Eastern States; I cannot learn what Number of the Enemy are at North River. We have ordered two Thousand Men to be raised immediately to fill up our Part of the Continental Batallions, and eight Hundred Men for the Defence of R: 204Island State. The Tory Band of Loyal Refugees, as they stile themselves, headed by George Leonard the Miller, are employ'd in coasting between N. York and Nantucket on the notable Business of Sheep-stealing, robing Hen-roosts &c. We have taken several of their small Arm'd Vessells; and this Morning arrived here the Blaze-Castle of eighteen Carriage and six Swivel Guns, taken by three of our Letter of Marque Vessells. She had 90 Men, and was sent from Hallifax on purpose to Cruise on this Coast. The Vessells that took her had just sail'd from Piscataqua, bound to the W: Indies. It seems the Commander of the Blaze-Castle had received intelligence of several Merchant-Men being about to sail from Portsmouth, and was watching for them, but caught a Tartar.4 I have enclos'd an Address from Congress which was read in Court this Day, and order'd to be reprinted.5 I think it will give you Pleasure; also one of 6 Mr. Tudor's Orations presented to you by Mr. Gill the Printer,7 and some NewsPapers.

I hope you will excuse the Length of this letter, and believe me to be with the highest Esteem, your oblig'd Friend and Brother,

Richard Cranch

Mrs. Adams and your Children were well Yesterday. Mrs. Cranch and our Children, and all Friends at Braintree and Weymouth were well when I left home, whose best Wishes attend you. Give my Love to Cousin Johnny and desire him to write to his Cousins by every Oportunity. They did not know of my Writing at present, or else they would have wrote to him.

P.S. Our House has voted a Tax of £1800,000 (being the six Million Dollars for the Continent) and One Million Pounds for the use of this State, to go out directly.8

RC (Adams Papers). Enclosures not found; for those that are identifiable, see notes 5 and 7.


None has been found that reached JA in Europe.


See JA to Cranch, 6 Aug. 1778, above.


MS torn, damaging several lines of text.


For the details see the Boston Gazette, 14 June 1779, p. 3, col. 1.


To the Inhabitants of the United States of America, a hortatory address on the financial difficulties of the country, drafted by John Dickinson, agreed to in Congress on 26 May, ordered to be printed, and signed by President Jay ( JCC , 14:649–657; 15:1456; Evans 16636). On 11 June the General Court ordered that it be reprinted “in Hand-Bills and sent to the several Ministers of the Gospel in the Towns and Parishes [for reading after divine service] . . . , also to the respective Town-clerks,” &c. (Ford, Mass. Broadsides , 2191; Evans 16637). There are two copies of the Massachusetts reprint in MHi: Broadside Coll.


Here and below, MS is torn.


William Tudor, An Oration, Delivered March 5th, 1779, . . . to Com-205memorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770, Boston: Edes and Gill (Evans 16550).


Cranch was mistaken. The sum to be raised by taxes, voted on 9 June, was £2,800,000 (Mass., House Jour. , May–June 1779, p. 35).