Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

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.

Isaac Smith Sr. to John Adams, 23 May 1781 Smith, Isaac Sr. JA Isaac Smith Sr. to John Adams, 23 May 1781 Smith, Isaac Sr. Adams, John
Isaac Smith Sr. to John Adams
Sir Boston May the 23d. 1781

Not knowing but this may reach you as soon or sooner than a conveyance from Newbury (a ship of the Tracy's Capt. Brown) by whom Mrs. Adams has wrote you—As such I take upon me to trouble you with a few lines, to let you know Mrs. Adams and family were well Yesterday.

We have a ship from Port Loreon Lorient last week in 27 days, but as to News we have nothing Material, was in hopes the Dutch had made a decliration but we dont find they have. The Alliance and a large french ship sent in here lately a large privateer, they took on there passuage. Another of which sort they took likewise which they carried with them to Philadelphia. This privateer belonged to Guernsey &c. We are in pain for the Alliance and the Other ship which itt is said are very Valuable, As there are ships superior Cruising of the Delaware, who have taken the Confederacy with the Clothing that has been sometime att Hispaniola and we have lost Our state ship the Protector, Capt. Williams, both ships being carried to N. York. The french are good in coming to Our Assistance, but as they are not superior by sea, the british has the Advantage of transporting by water to any part of the Continent which makes the charge to us by land very heavy. Iff we had but a superiority by sea but for One six Months we should be Able to do any thing and every thing we want to do. Iff we could have from Our Allie's, the charge itt might cost in the transporting and maintaining troops Vested in the shiping itt would Answer better purposes, and till then we may linger Out the Warr seven Years longer. The british have kept att Gardner-bay a harbour Opposit to New London were they lay exposed to any superior force.


The seat of the Warr itt looks likely will be in the southern goverments. As Genl. Phillips, Arnold &c. keep footing in Virginia and go on in the burning way, I have Often thought whether some remonstrance to the Neutral powers representing there barbarous and Unpresidented method of burning private property wherever they go might not have some influence to make them asshamed of there Conduct, but, there late conduct att St. Eustatia gives but little hopes of a reformation. Iff the british Conduct, towards the dutch dont stirr them up to Act with spirit, nothing ever will.

Genl. Cornwallis put Out a pompuss proclimation after the battle with generall Green the 15 March, Offering protection to the Inhabitants when itt was not in his power to defend himself as Genl. Green drove him Out of the Country. Although Cornwallis kept the ground, which is all he had to boast of, Yet as the Old saying is he came off second best as the battle ruined him haveing 700 killed, taken &c. and Green not half the Number. The latest Account from the Southward is that General Green was att Cambden, the garison on his Approach haveing fled.

Here is a ship called the Robin Hood in which Charles Storer, and half a dozen more Young passengers, are going bound to Gottenburgh Denmark in there way to Holland.

Mrs. Dana received a letter from Mr. Dana (by the Loryon ship) of the 22d. March. She was well Yesterday.

You would get much the best conveyance by way of Bilbao for any private letters as there is several Armed Vessell's gone there round by the way of the West Indies.

And when you are att leisure iff you would favor me with a line itt would be Agreeable—to Your huml. Servant, IS

Doctor Tufts is returned a senator in the room of Mr. Nyles.1

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed in John Thaxter's hand: “Isaac Smith Esqr. 23d. Feby. sic 1781.”


Cotton Tufts was elected one of the senators for Suffolk co. in the place of Deacon Samuel Niles of Braintree, and sat in the Senate for over a decade (Boston Gazette, 4 June, p. 2, col. 2; Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 12:497). On Niles, JA's early political mentor, see JA, Diary and Autobiography , index; Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 9:72.