Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

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.



John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 2 September 1778 Thaxter, John AA John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 2 September 1778 Thaxter, John Adams, Abigail
John Thaxter to Abigail Adams
Madam Wednesday Philadelphia Septr. 2d. 1778

Your much esteemed favors of 23d. July and 19th. Augst. came to hand on Monday. Your Letters and the inclosed ones were very acceptable; as they contained agreeable Information. The Letter of June from you and also those from home of the same month mentioned that our Parents were under the operation of a disease, which has swept away its thousands. Tho' Art has check'd its malignity, yet fears will arise when near connections have it in the way which promises the greatest success. The present Letters contain the only information from that Quarter since June—an Interval of more than two months. I will only say that my sensations in that period were neither pleasing nor agreeable.

Should I pass over the Quotations and observations in your letter respecting the Commissioners without expressing Admiration, I should deprive myself of the pleasure which the pertinency of both inspired on the perusal. There is not a passage in Milton more applicable—it designates their characters in a very just manner. Their productions 87since the last publication of Congress are curious. Govr. Johnstone has made a seperate declaration—Carlisle, Clinton and Eden a joint one. There is neither decency nor conclusive reasoning in either of them. Johnstone to prevent embarrassments and difficulties has seperated himself from his Colleagues in Iniquity, Congress having declared they could not negociate with him as a Commissioner. The Commissioners may publish their productions—Congress I believe will not. It is not known among people here that Congress have recieved any thing further from them. You will therefore Madam use your discretion as to a communication of the above. I believe it is somewhat private as yet.

We hear nothing of consequence of late of the expedition against the inchanted Island. Great men have gone—may great Exploits be atchieved. I hope the present Expedition has no features of the old. Success there will materially affect the Councils and Operations of the Enemy at New York. For that reason I most ardently wish for it. The departure of the French Fleet has no doubt thrown embarrassments upon the operations on the Island, but I presume not insuperable Obstacles. The Spirit of the Militia does them great honor. If General Spencer is within the Atmosphere of the Troops he ought to be sacrificed. It must be damp, rainy or foggy wherever he is if fighting is the Object.1

The Charges against General Lee were as follows viz. 1st. Disobedience of orders in not attacking the Enemy agreeable to repeated instructions. 2d. Misbehaviour before the Enemy in making an unnecessary, disorderly and shameful retreat. 3d. Disrespect to the Commander in Chief. He was found guilty of the whole of the 1st. and 3d. and in part of the 2d. viz. in making an unnecessary and disorderly retreat. The proceedings of the Council of War are publishing.2 Every one that reads them will judge for themselves. He is suspended.

You propose a number of Questions to me respecting the Ladies in this part of the world, which I beg leave to arrange under the two following heads viz. Sense and Beauty. I can answer them Madam, only in general terms, as a multiplicity of business and other causes have prevented any considerable Intercourse with them. I have been introduced to Ladies possessing the former and latter. You will excuse any thing of a descriptive nature, lest insipidity or partiality should be the most conspicuous Color in the portrait. I possess not a descriptive talent, but good Sense and Literature I respect in both sexes. As to the Question which immediately affects me, I must candidly answer, that 88a cold phlegmatic frame has in times past and does at present render me invulnerable to the most poignant shafts of the celebrated Bow. This is a constitutional answer. It is a misfortune—and one without remedy.

I am much obliged by your polite Caution, Madam: Be assured that the greatest attention shall be paid to the preservation of the health of so valuable a Lad as he who has the honor to be with great respect your most humble Servant,

J.T. Junr.

RC (Adams Papers).


Maj. Gen. Joseph Spencer of Connecticut had led the abortive attack on the British in Rhode Island a year earlier; see vol. 2:351–352.


On 21 Aug. Congress “Ordered, That 100 copies of the proceedings of the court martial of the trial of Major General [Charles] Lee, be printed for the use of the members” ( JCC , 11:826). They were published as Proceedings of a General Court Martial, Held at Brunswick, in the State of New Jersey . . . for the Trial of Major General Lee, Phila., 1778 (Evans 16140). A copy bound for CFA and with his bookplate is in MHi.