Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 18 May 1778 AA JA Abigail Adams to John Adams, 18 May 1778 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
May 18 1778

I have waited with great patience, restraining as much as posible every anxious Idea for 3 Months. But now every Vessel which arrives sits my expectation upon the wing, and I pray my Gaurdian Genious to waft me the happy tidings of your Safety and Welfare. Heitherto my wandering Ideas Rove like the Son of Ulissis from Sea to Sea, and from Shore to Shore, not knowing where to find you. Sometimes I fancy'd you upon the Mighty Waters, sometimes at your desired Haven; sometimes upon the ungratefull and Hostile Shore of Britain, but at all times and in all places under the protecting care and Guardianship of that Being who not only cloathes the lilies1 of the Feild and hears the young Ravens when they cry, but hath said of how much more worth are ye than many Sparrows, and this confidence which the world cannot deprive me of, is my food by day and my Rest by Night, and was all my consolation under the Horrid Ideas of assassination, the only Event of which I had not thought, and in some measure prepaird my mind.

When my Imagination sits you down upon the Gallick Shore, a Land to which Americans are now bound to transfer their affections, and to eradicate all those national prejudices which the Proud and Haughty Nations whom we once revered, craftily instilld into us whom they once stiled their children; I anticipate the pleasure you must feel, and tho so many leagus distant share in the joy of finding the great Interest of our Country so generously espoused, and nobly aided by so powerfull a Monarck. Your prospects must be much brightned, for when you left your Native Land they were rather Gloomy. If an unwearied Zeal and persevering attachment to the cause of truth and justice, regardless of the allurements of ambition on the one Hand or the threats of calamity on the other, can intitle any one to the Reward of peace, Liberty and Safety, a large portion of those Blessings are reserved for my Friend, in His Native Land.

23 O Would'st thou keep thy Country's loud Applause Lov'd as her Father, as her God ado'rd Be still the bold assertor of her cause Her Voice, in Council; (in the Fight her Sword) In peace, in War persue thy Countrys Good For her, bare thy bold Breast, and pour thy Gen'rous Blood.

Difficult as the Day is, cruel as this War has been, seperated as I am on account of it from the dearest connextion in life, I would not exchange my Country for the Wealth of the Indies, or be any other than an American tho I might be Queen or Empress of any Nation upon the Globe. My Soul is unambitious of pomp or power. Beneath my Humble roof, Bless'd with the Society and tenderest affection of my dear partner, I have enjoyed as much felicity, and as exquisite happiness as falls to the share of mortals; and tho I have been calld to sacrifice to my Country, I can glory in my Sacrifice, and derive pleasure from my intimate connextion with one who is esteemed worthy of the important trust devolved upon him.

Britain as usual has added insult to injustice and cruelty, by what she calls a concilitary plan. From my Soul I dispice her meaness, but she has long ago lost that treasure which a great authority tells us exalteth a Nation, and is receiving the reproaches due to her crimes.

I have been much gratified with the perusal of the Duke of Richmonds Speach.2 Were there ten such Men to be found, I should still have some hopes that a revolution would take place in favour of the virtuous few; “and the Laws, the Rights, the Generous plan of power deliverd down, From age to age by our renown'd forefathers” be again restored to that unhappy Island.

I hope by the close of this month to receive from you a large packet. I have wrote twice before this,3 some opportunities I may miss of, by my distance from the Capital. I have enjoyed a good share of Health since you left me. I have not mentiond my dear son tho I have often thought of him since I began this Letter, becaus I propose writing to him by this opportunity.4 I omit many domestick matters becaus I will not risk their comeing to the publick Eye. I shall have a small Bill to draw upon you in the month of June. I think to send it to Mr. MacCrery who by a Letter received since you went away5 I find is Setled in Bordeaux in the mercantile way, and I dare say will procure for me any thing I may have occasion for. I wish you would be so good as to write him a line requesting the favour of him to procure me such things as I may have occasion for, and in addition to the Bills which 24may be drawn Let him add ten pounds Sterling at a time, if I desire it. The Bills will be at 3 different times in a year. If they should arrive safe they would render me essential service. Our Publick finnances are upon no better footing than they were when you left us. 500 Dollors is now offerd by this Town per Man for 9 Months to recruit the Army, 12 pounds a Month for Farming Labour is the price, and not to be procured under. Our Friends are all well and desire to be rememberd to you. So many tender sentiments rush upon my mind when about to close this Letter to you, that I can only ask you to measure them by those which you find in your own Bosome for your affectionate


RC (Adams Papers.)


MS: “lililies.”


An anti-ministerial speech in the House of Lords on 11 Feb., reported in the Boston Independent Chronicle, 14 May, though evidently AA had received a text from Thaxter; see her letter to him that follows.


AA's two identifiable letters to JA since his sailing and prior to the present letter are those of 8 March (printed above from a draft), which was sent “by a vessel for Bilboa” but never reached him, and another dated 25 March, which was acknowledged by JA in his reply of 16 June but is now unaccountably missing.


She did not do so, however, until three weeks later; see AA to JQA, 10 June, below.


For McCreery's letter or letters, which AA had sent on to James Lovell, see Lovell to AA, 21 March, vol. 2, above, and notes there.

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 21 May 1778 AA Thaxter, John Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 21 May 1778 Adams, Abigail Thaxter, John
Abigail Adams to John Thaxter
Dear Sir May 21 1778

I will not again be so long silent, indeed your repeated kind favours call upon me for acknowledgment. They have afforded both to me, and my Friends a very agreable entertainment, and I esteem myself much obliged that you not only so kindly endeavour to supply the loss of your company, but to releave the many solitary hours which you well know must fall to my share in the absence of a nearer connexion; unattended by the former alleviateing circumstances of hearing weekly from him; I begin anxiously to expect some intelligence, and every vessel which arrives sits my Heart upon the wing. The first News I have, whether fortunate or adverse, I shall immediately communicate to you, knowing how zealously you Interest yourself in my welfare and happiness, as well as the Regard you profess towards our Friend.

I thank you Sir for the entertainment afforded me by the communication of the Duke of Richmonds Speach.1 It is the most agreable to American principals and sentiments of any thing which has reachd us from the other side the water. His Lordship appears to possess some 25portion of that treasure which a Great Authority tells us exalteth a Nation, and peradventure there were ten Like his Lordship in that unhappy Island, I should still hope for a Revolution in favour of the virtuous few.

Harrington in his Oceana has some observations which are very applicable to the present state of Britain. “Rome says he, was never ruined till her balance being broken, the Nobility forsakeing their ancient Virtue, abandoned themselves to their Lusts, and the Senators, who as in the case of Jugurtha, were all bribed, turned knaves, at which turn all their Skill in Government could not keep the commonwealth from overturning. She had sprung her planks and split her Ballast. The World could not save her.”2

If we look to that period in History we shall find that neither the Eloquence of Cicero, the stern virtue of Cato nor the poignard of Brutus and Cassius, could stem the Torrent of vice or save a people who were sunk into every excess of debauchery, grown wicked and Effimanate, having intirely lost that purity of Morals and that Love of Liberty which had acquired them, immortal fame and Glory.—Has not Britain arrived to the same period, and will not her Cicero's and Cato's plead in vain?

Congress have acquired much honour by their late firm and spirited Resolves.3 If the Haughty Tyrant means peace, “Bid him disband his Legions Restore the Empire its Lost Liberty Submit his actions to the publick censure And stand the judgment of an unbribed Senate.” But now we see him, black “With Murder, treason, Sacrilige and crimes That strike our souls with Horror but to name 'em.”

May 26

Some days have pass'd since I found time to write a line; when in the begining of this Letter I promised to communicate you the first intelligence I obtaind, I flatterd myself with the hopes that it would not have been of so disagreable a Nature as the Capture of the Boston. —Many very many melancholy Ideas haunt my immagination upon this occassion. The account of it is in the New York paper which mentions as I am told the Name of the Ship which took her, and that she was carried into Portsmouth.4 The Report here gains full credit. 26I have some faint hopes that she was not Captured till after she had landed my Best Friend. A few days I hope will make the matter certain, for a dissagreable certainty is preferable to a painfull suspence. My Friends endeavour to console me even supposing so mortifying an event has taken place, with the hopes that he may in the Hands of providence be renderd as serviceable to his Country even in Captivity, as he might have been in the honorable post assignd him.

I own it has dampt my Hopes, and I believe the publick expectations, but the situation of affairs are such, that I think I have not that occasion for anxiety which I should have had if such an Event had taken place ten months ago. The publick who have sequesterd him to their Service will I hope take an honorable care of him.5

I have the pleasure to inform you that four of your sisters are hapily through the small pox, and the eldest6 like to do well. She did not go in with the first class. In this Town it has been breaking out in the natural way for more than a month. The people not being able to get a vote for a Hospital, were in a rage, and begun to inoculate in their own Houses. The Whole farms7 become a Hospital, not one family but inoculated in their houses, and in consequence of that the Town gave leave for a number of houses to be taken up,8 and this parish are with their minister almost all under inoculation. They will begin in Weymouth next week, when my Father is determined to take it.

In none of your Letters have you told me a word about your Situation, are you in an agreable family, how do you do? are you more reconciled to York Town? Is General M——n9 a member of Congress, how is the Army new modled, where is Dr. Rush. Present my compliments to General Roberdeau and family for whom I have a great Respect. Our Great Man 10 designs soon for Congress it has been said for more than a month, tomorrow and to-morrow and tomorrow. Was there ever any thing decisive in him?

Continue to write me by every opportunity. You well know the pleasure I always take in hearing from my Friends, and among that number I have long Ranked my correspondent who may be assured that he will ever find one in his affectionate Cousin,


RC (MB); addressed in an unidentified hand: “John Thaxter Esqr. In York Town Pennsylvania.” Incomplete and undated Dft (Adams Papers); docketed by JQA: “May—To John Thaxter,” to which CFA added: “1778.” Numerous small variations in phrasing between RC and Dft are not recorded here.


See preceding letter and note 2 there.


There are two editions of James Harrington's Oceana and Other Works among JA's books in the Boston Public Library, London, 1747, and London, 1771. AA was probably using the earlier edition; however, her quotation is 27not from the Oceana proper but from Harrington's defense of it entitled The Prerogative of Popular Government (1747 edn., p. 323; 1771 edn., p. 299–300). As usual when quoting, AA took some liberties with her source.


Of 22 April, rejecting Lord North's conciliatory proposals; see JCC , 10:374–380.


In later letters AA says the port was Plymouth. The precise source of this report has not been found (and AA herself evidently did not see it in print), but as early as 30 April the Newport Gazette, a loyalist paper, alluded to the Boston as among the Continental frigates “taken and destroyed” by the British (p. 2, col. 1). See, further, AA to James Warren, ca. 7 June, and to James Lovell, 12 June, both below. Garbled accounts were still circulating in July; see the New York Royal Gazette, 1 July 1778, p. 3, col. 2.


Dft ends at this point.


Celia Thaxter (1749–1829). See Adams Genealogy.


“The Farms,” or “Massachusetts Farms,” was an old name for what is now North Quincy.


For the town's deliberations and decisions on inoculating “hospitals” during April and May, see Braintree Town Records , p. 492–494.


Probably Thomas Mifflin is meant.


John Hancock. He at length set out for Congress on 3 June, with attendant publicity (Boston Gazette, 1 June; Independent Chronicle, 4 June).