Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 1 September 1778 Lovell, James AA James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 1 September 1778 Lovell, James Adams, Abigail
James Lovell to Abigail Adams
Philada. Sepr. 1st. 1778

Yesterday the Letters of Portia of June 24th. and Augst. 19th. came to my hand together, by Post. The wishes expressed in the latter 1 have made all the Impressions of the most pleasing Commands, and shall be strictly attended to upon the first possible Occasion of fulfilling them; which must, I think, be soon, tho the Embargo is not yet taken off.

As to the former, I will not now make it the Baisis of a Declamation against Flattery. I will only tell the sudden Effect which it produced, upon the quick glancing of my Eye over it. Did it add to my former great Respect for the Writer of it? No, Portia, not at the first Reading; but it forced from me, almost audibly, in a grave Assembly where I broke the Seal, “gin ye were mine ain Thing how dearly I would love thee”! Excuse me, Ramsay,2 if I now misspell you; I am sure my Feelings did Justice to your Sentiment!—A second Reading restored me to 84 Decorum, and I recognized my Age, tho I did not find any sudden Aids from Philosophy; nor do I now think that one single Plunge into the Waters of Lethe would quite prevent all after Recollection of the pleasing Impulse which I felt on this Occasion.

I will not, at this Moment, suffer my Ideas to deviate so widely from the Track they have been in as to go into the Trenches and covered Ways at Newport. I will still make them attend to your American Republican, who can, as readily as Vertumnus, throw aside an “awkward” Cloak, in the Presence of a Pomona.3 You will think less of what he can do than of what he really will. You may contemplate Judge Adams at the Louvre; while he will render you Justice with Interest, by contemplating the Mistress of his Happiness, a Portia.

Though I have just avoided a certain Part of your Letter, yet, perhaps, in the Shade of Evening a Raven or a Screech Owl may send Voices to my Ears which will attune my Nerves for a Dirge upon blasted Hopes and abortive Victory.

But,—I almost forget that the Post is to convey this memorandum of my constant affectionate Wishes for your Happiness.

James Lovell

RC (Adams Papers).


Concerning a barrel of flour AA wanted shipped to her. This was not mentioned in her draft printed above under the assigned date of 19 Aug., but it must have been added in the (missing) RC; see Lovell's next letter, 12 Sept., below.


Allan Ramsay (1686–1758), Scottish poet ( DNB ). For the lyric quoted, see Ramsay's Poems, London, 1800, 2:261.


For the legend of Vertumnus' wooing of Pomona, see Harper's Dict. of Classical Lit. under the name of the former.

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 2 September 1778 AA Thaxter, John Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 2 September 1778 Adams, Abigail Thaxter, John
Abigail Adams to John Thaxter
Dear Sir Sepbr. 2. 1778

I was much surprized to Night upon receiving a Letter from you,1 in which you say you have not heard from Home since june; I have wrote many Letters to you since that time and have sent 4 or 5 from your Friends all under cover to Mr. Lovell to you. What can have become of them I know not, unless some of them being directed to York Town travelled that way and have been lost. Do not think unkindly of us, for I assure you many Letters have been sent since that time. I saw your Mamma last week. She is very anxious for your Health. I deliverd with my own hand the Letter to your sister.2 You mention comeing home in October. Your Mamma and Sister are very 85desirous of seeing you, but say they would not have you return, unless you mean to quit your place. You know your own situation best, and whether it is worth your while to tarry longer. You may be assured of a Hearty welcome from your correspondent, tho I shall regreat the loss of my intelligencer.

You will hear no doubt before this reaches you of our unhappy Failure in the Rhode Island expedition, and yet no one to be blamed that I know of either for want of courage or conduct, but the Hand of providence was against us. The Terible Storm I mentiond to you in my last so impaired and shatterd the Counts Fleet that he was under a necessity of comeing into Boston to refit, in consequence of which the Enemy took the advantage of it, and attacked our Army. A pretty smart engagement ensued, in which we lost tis said a hundred Men killd and a 100 & 80 wounded, but did not loose ground, drove the Enemy back to their entrenchments, their loss have not heard. By orders since from General Washington the Island is quitted and every thing brought of without molestation. The reason for leaving it, is that How had sent his Fleet that course, and now finding the Island evacuated they are hovering about this coast 20 Sail of them. Poor Boston is again distress'd, and I own my Spirits not a little agitated. Tis now past Eleven o clock, and as I sit writing to you I hear the alarm Guns fired; the Count has this day orderd his Men to entrench upon Georges Island. Guns are carrying to Nantasket, what ships he has fit for an engagement are drawn up in order of Battle, but his own is disabled more than any other. The seat of war appears to be drawing into this quarter again. Should they attempt landing here, which I can scarcly believe, they will I hope meet with distruction, but they come upon us rather unexpectedly, and would greatly distress us. More Guns—I believe I shall not sleep very soundly to Night.3

You inquire after my Dearest Friend. O Sir, I know not how to curb my impatience, only twice have I heard and those Letters dated in April. I wish a thousand times I had gone with him. We have not had a vessel from France since july when I heard by Sir James Jay. I think it very strange indeed and apprehend they must have been taken.

I would be more perticuliar but the News paper will tell you all the New's. We are very dry here, our crops are very much cut of, and this Fleet raises the price of every article which before exceeded in Lawfull money what they used to be in old tenor. I cannot say I shall come to the Town for a support, for I think I ought to come to the Continent.4 Some where or other I must find it, what signifies what one was once possessd of, when a hundred pounds Lawfull Money is reduced to 86thirteen pounds, six & 8 pence. I cannot name you an article save House Rent but what exceeds and eaquels that difference.

Tis very late, but I will not seal to Night. I will add a few lines in the morning if I am not captivated5 before that time.

Thursday morg. 3

I heard nothing further last Night. What tremours they had in Town I know not, but am inclined to think they were pretty great, as the Night before the Bells rung and the Militia were paraded at Eleven o clock at Night.

I must hasten and close or loosse this conveyance. Excuse all inaccuracies from your Friend Portia

RC (MB); addressed: “To Mr. John Thaxter Philadelphia”; endorsed: “Mrs. Adams 2. Septr. 1778.”


Thaxter to AA, 21 Aug., in Adams Papers but not printed here.


Letter not found.


Three of the disabled ships, including Estaing's flagship, the 90–gun Languedoc, were at anchor in what is now Quincy Bay and were thus in plain sight of the villagers of Braintree; the rest of the fleet lay in Nantasket Roads, and several adjacent islands and promontories were fortified to protect it (J. J. R. Calmon-Maison, L'amiral d'Estaing, 1729–1794, Paris, 1910, p. 218). See maps above, vol. 1, following p. 240.


That is, appeal to the Continental Congress for financial support.