Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 May 1781 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 May 1781 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Amsterdam May 22 1781

I Yesterday received your Letters by Captain Cazneau and Mr. De Neufville received his, and will accordingly send the Things you wrote for.1

You had better pursue this Method and write to Mr. Guardoqui at Bilboa and Mr. De Neufville here for what you want and desire them to draw upon me for the Pay.

I will answer the Letters of my Friends as soon as I can, but I have so many Things upon me at present, that I have not Time. We are all well but Charles, who is yet weak from his Fever, but is getting better daily.

We are anxious to hear further of Green and Cornwallis. Tho Green lost the Field on 15 March, it seems Cornwallis must be in a critical situation.2

I know not what this People will do. I believe they will awake, after some time. Amsterdam, Harlem and Dort have represented the Necessity of an Alliance with America but when the rest will be of their Mind, I know not.3 If they neglect it, they and their Posterity will repent of it.

The Trade will turn away from this Country to France and Spain if the Dutch act so unwise a Part, and indeed, according to every 122Appearance, this Country will dwindle away to nothing. Other Powers will draw away all its Commerce. By an early Treaty with America and active Exertions they might save it: but they seem little disposed as yet.

My dear Nabby and Tommy how do they do? Our Parents, our Brothers, sisters and all Friends how are they?

If I could get back again I would never more leave that Country, let who would beg, scold, or threaten.

As to Peace, mark my Words, the English will never make it with Us, while they have a ship or a Regiment in America. If any one asks whether there is like to be Peace, ask in return, whether G. Washington has taken New York, Green Cornwallis and Charlestown, and Nelson Arnold and Portsmouth?

Rodney has lost most of his Statia Booty. De la Motte Piquet has taken it. The English East India Possessions seem to be going to wreck—their Trade is torn to Pieces, but all is not enough.

If Congress and the states execute their Resolution of cutting off all Communication and Commerce, directly and indirectly with America, this will affect them more than any Thing. But how the Authority can prevent British Manufactures from being imported from France, Holland, Brabant &c. Is the Question.4

RC (Adams Papers). Partial Tr (MHi:Cranch Papers), in hand of Richard Cranch; see note 4. For an important enclosure, not now with the letter, see note 4 also.


AA wrote JA on 15 Jan. by Cazneau; her letter is printed above. A letter she wrote Jean de Neufville & Son the same day has not been found; see their reply, 25 May, below. A version of her order for goods from the Neufville firm had first been enclosed in her letter to JA of 13 Nov. 1780 and is printed above as an enclosure in that letter.


Although Nathanael Greene “lost the Field” at the battle of Guilford Court House, N.C., the action has generally been accounted an American strategic victory because Cornwallis suffered heavier losses and was obliged to abandon the interior of the state; see Isaac Smith Sr. to JA, 23 May 1781, below.


JA refers to the Amsterdam “Proposition” of 18 May, soon thereafter endorsed by the deputies of Haerlem and Dort (Dordrecht). A French text is in the Gazette de Leyde, Supplément, 25 May 1781, and JA sent an English version in his letter to Huntington, 24 May (PCC: No. 84, III; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 4:431–433). See also Thaxter to AA, 27 May, below.


In her reply to the present letter, AA informed JA that it had been almost exactly a year since the date of the last letter that she had received from him (AA to JA, 29 Sept., below). She promptly shared the letter with the Cranch circle, and Richard Cranch copied most of the text, probably for publication, though it has not been found in print (Tr in MHi: Cranch Papers, omitting only the paragraphs dealing with personal matters). In his letter to JA of 26 Sept., below, Cranch remarks that the present letter enclosed JA's “excellent Address to the States General of the United Provinces” and that he had “put it into the Press.” This was the English version of A Memorial to ... the States General, dated 19 April 1781; it was reprinted in the Independent Chronicle of 27 Sept., p. 1, col. 2-p. 2, col. 3.

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 23 May 1781 AA Thaxter, John Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 23 May 1781 Adams, Abigail Thaxter, John
Abigail Adams to John Thaxter
My dear Sir May 23 1781

The sight of your old Friend Mr. Storer will give you sensible pleasure, he means to be the Bearer of this to you. I wish him safe.

I need not add any thing in recommendation to you, who know him so well further than to say his character is not less fair or amiable, than it was when you quitted your native Land. He will I hope continue as free abroad from the fashionable vices of other countries; as he has steared clear of those of his own. He posseses engageing manners, and an Attractive form. I saw the Gloom which spread over the countanances of some of his Female acquaintance here when he bid them adieu, the other day, and as it was a circle of sensible, virtuous Girls, it was a proof of his merit, considering there was no partiality of a particular kind amongst them.1

The Gentle Eliza dropt a tear as it brought fresh to her mind the amiable Phylander, the chosen Friend of this young Gentleman—now alas! no more.2 As to the other Eliza, I believe if their were any Convents in America, she would immediately devote herself. She still excludes herself from company, wears her widow garments, and mourns for the living or dead refusing to be comforted. There is another Lady of the same Name in whose heart it is said your Friend Charles has an Interest. I tell you this that you may decide the matter between you, as all parties are agreed that your Fair American bears that Name. I do not mean any Lady belonging to this Town—I clear the favorite of your youth from the Number.

Not a line from you this age—the climate of the United provinces does not extinguish Friendship, I hope, if unfriendly to Love. I am so anxious to hear from my dear Friends, that every arrival is eagerly sought after, and inquired into, but every one proves a dissapointment to my hopes. I wish you would write journals so far as you could with safety. They would greatly entertain me.

Politicks my Friend—learn them from the statesmen. I have written enough allready. They told us from York that poor Trumble was Executed—I never doubted their good will, tho I never credited the report. May his sufferings teach wisdom to our American youth.3

Are you not satisfied with Europe? Do you not wish to return to the wild and native Beauties of America—to the rugged Rocks of Braintree and the contemplative Groves

“Where the free soul looks down to pitty kings.” 124

The season is delightfull, it is the Charming month of May. Who can forbear to join the general smile of Nature?

“Full of fresh verdure and unnumberd flowers The negligence of Nature, wide and wild where undisguised by mimic Art she spreads unbounded Beauty to the roving Eye.”

The cultivated charms of Europe will give you a higher realish for the Natural Scenes of your own country, were it only by way of variety, which Gentlemen4 are always fond of, but if you wish to connect yourself happily, you must banish all roving Ideas. There is no Country where matrimony is held in higher estimation than your own, where the conjugal union is considerd in a more solemn and sacred light or adhered to with a stricter fidelity. Property is so equally distributed, Nobility excluded, Rank and precidency gained so small a footing amongst us, that Heart for Heart is the only Barter known. The affections have full scope; Decorum alone is necessary.

Prize O! prize the blessing whilst it lasts, e'er Luxery and corruption debases and debauches the natural Innocence and Simplicity of our Land, e'er she eradicates all those tender Sentiments which constitute domestick felicity.

Your Worthy Mother is recovering from a long and painfull disorder with which she has been greatly afflicted through the winter. Your Pappa came very near representing your Native Town this year.5—I enjoin it upon my Friend to let no opportunity slip of writing—your Friend Watson6 would sometimes be able to convey Letters. We long for News from abroad, all intelligence seems to be cut of, 8 months have elapsed since I received a line from Amsterdam. I am wholy uncertain where my Friends are, but think they cannot be in France or I should have heard from them.7

All happiness is wished you by your affectionate Friend, Portia

RC (MB); addressed in AA 2's hand: “Mr. John Thaxter Amsterdam”; endorsed: “Mrs. Adams 23d. May 1781.” Dft (Adams Papers); varies from RC at a number of points, two of which are recorded in notes below.


Charles Storer (1761–1829), Harvard 1779, a distant family connection of AA, was an intimate of the Adams and Smith family circles in Braintree and Boston and, after arriving in Europe, was at first to join and then replace his friend John Thaxter as JA's private secretary. He was the son of Deacon Ebenezer Storer of Boston by his first marriage and thus a stepson of Hannah (Quincy) Lincoln Storer. See Adams Genealogy and numerous allusions to young Storer in letters that follow, as well as some correspondence between Storer and more immediate members of the Adams family.


The “amiable Phylander” was doubtless Nathaniel Cranch, who had died in an accident in April 1780 when engaged 125to his cousin Elizabeth Palmer (“The Gentle Eliza”); see Adams Genealogy on both, and a note on the accident at vol. 3:328–329, above. The other two Elizas mentioned by AA, below, and Thaxter's “Fair American” are too shadowy for certain identification.


By “York” AA means New York, and her source was doubtless one of the loyalist newspapers published there. John Trumbull, who had gone to Europe to pursue his studies in painting, was not executed but had a close call with the law in London. See note at vol. 3:328, above, and John Trumbull, Autobiography, ed. Theodore Sizer, New Haven, 1953, p. 58 ff.


Dft reads: “which you Gentlemen.”


Col. John Thaxter (1721–1802), Harvard 1741, of Hingham, lost his bid for election to the General Court, in which he had served earlier, to Capt. Charles Cushing (Boston Independent Chronicle, 7 June 1781, p. 3, col. 1; Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 11: 69). The elder Thaxter was AA's uncle by marriage; see Adams Genealogy.


Not further identified.


Preceding two sentences not in Dft.