Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 23 September 1778 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 23 September 1778 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Passi September 23 1778

A very idle, vain Conversation, at a Dinner, has produced you this Letter from a venerable old Lady, in this Neighbourhood, the Wife of Monsr. Grand the Banker.1

As the Subject was introduced, and according to the turn that the Conversation really took, there was not so much Vanity and Ostentation on my Part, as you will suspect from her Account of it. But as I speak french very imperfectly and she understands not a syllable of English I suppose she did not fully understand me.—All that I maintained was that it was the Duty of a good Citizen to sacrifice all to his Country, in some Circumstances. God Grant I may never be called to do this again so often as I have done already: for I have hazarded all very often and done as much as sacrifice all sometimes.

You will have a delicate Task to answer her. Write to her in English —she has a son about five and twenty who is a Master of English and will interpret.2

It is a virtuous Family, and very civil to me and my dear Johnny of whom the whole Family is very fond.3

We are in deep Concern for America, the last Accounts having left D'Estaing going to Rhode Island and Ld. Howe after him.

It is high Time for me to write to my Children but hitherto I have 92not had time. I hope you have received twenty Letters from me, in which I have desired you to draw upon me for what Money you want. Yours,

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers). Concerning the (missing) enclosure see note 3.


The writer was Marie (Silvestre) Grand, wife of Ferdinand Grand (1726–1794), whose banking house in the Rue des Capucins handled financial transactions between the French government and the new United States (Lüthy, La banque protestante en France , 2:339 and passim). The Grands had a suburban villa in Passy near the residence of the American Commissioners; see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:303.


Jean François Paul Grand (afterward Grand-Labhard) (d. 1829), who married his cousin Marie Labhard and became a partner in his father's banking firm (Lüthy, La banque protestante en France , 2:341, 820).


Although Mme. Grand's letter has been lost, its tenor is clear from these comments by JA and a summary of it in AA's letter to AA2, ca. 11 Feb. 1779, below. It reached AA with the present letter early in February, and she followed JA's instructions in answering it. This answer, which must have been among AA's most interesting efforts of the kind, was enclosed in her reply to JA of 13 Feb. 1779, below. This, however, did not reach JA before he left Paris on 8 March, and the enclosure was ultimately delivered by hand to Mme. Grand after JA's return to Paris almost a year later; see JA to AA, 27 Feb. 1780, below. Despite its circulation in French as well as English, no version has so far been found. “Your Letter to Madam Grand,” John Thaxter wrote AA, “is rendered into French and admired by every one that reads it, for its excellent Sentiments” (16–27 Feb. 1780, below). Four months later it was still circulating in France and producing “Encomiums and Tears” (Thaxter to AA, 18 June 1780, below).

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 September 1778 JQA AA John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 September 1778 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abigail
John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams
Honoured Mamma Passy september the 27th 1778

My Pappa enjoins it upon me to keep a journal, or a diary, of the Events that happen to me, and of objects that I See, and of Characters that I converse with from day, to day, and altho I am Convinced of the utility, importance, & necessity, of this Exercise, yet I have not patience, & perseverance, enough to do it so Constantly as I ought. My Pappa who takes a great deal of Pains to put me in the right way, has also advised me to Preserve Copies of all my letters, & has given me a Convenient Blank Book for this end; and altho I shall have the mortification a few years hence, to read a great deal of my Childish nonsense, yet I shall have the Pleasure, & advantage, of Remarking the several steps, by which I shall have advanced, in taste, judgment, & knowledge.1 a journal Book & a letter Book of a Lad of Eleven years old, Cannot be expected to Contain much of Science, Litterature, arts, wisdom, or wit, yet it may Serve to perpetuate many observations that I may make, & may hereafter help me to recolect both persons, & 93things, that would other ways escape my memory. I have been to see the Palace & gardens of Versailles, the Military scholl at Paris, the hospital of Invalids, the hospital of Foundling Children, the Church of Notre Dame, the Heights of Calvare, of Montmartre, of Minemontan, & other scenes of Magnificense, in & about Paris, which if I had written down in a diary, or a Letter Book, would give me at this time much Pleasure to revise, & would enable me hereafter to Entertain my Freinds, but I have neglected it & therefore, can now only resolve to be more thoughtful, & Industrious, for the Future & to encourage me in this resolution & enable me to keep it with more ease & advantage my father has given me hopes of a Present of a Pencil & Pencil Book in which I can make notes upon the spot to be Transfered afterwards in my Diary & my Letters this will give me great Pleasure both because it will be a sure means of improvement to myself & enable me to be more entertaining to you.

I am my ever honoured & revered Mamma your Dutiful & affectionate Son John Quincy Adams

RC and LbC (Adams Papers); aside from better paragraphing in LbC, the differences between the two texts are negligible. Text is given here in literal style.


JQA's earliest surviving diary (D/JQA/1) was begun on 12 Nov. 1779, the day he left Braintree for Boston to board the French frigate La Sensible for his second voyage to Europe. But he had begun a letterbook some months before he wrote the present letter; see above, JQA to TBA, 29 May, note 1.