Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Abigail Adams to James Lovell, 30 June 1781 AA Lovell, James Abigail Adams to James Lovell, 30 June 1781 Adams, Abigail Lovell, James
Abigail Adams to James Lovell
My dear Sir Braintree, 30 June 1781 1

At length the mistery is unravelld, and by a mere accident I have come to the knowledge of what you have more than once hinted at. A Letter of Mrs. Shippen addressed to Mrs. A. but without any christian Name or place of abode,2 was put into my Hands Supposed for me, I opened and read it half through before I discoverd the mistake. Ought Eve to have laid it by then when so honestly come at? But pay for peeping is an old adage and so have I—for after mentioning our 165affairs in France and giving a Specimin of the Abilities of the present plenipotentiary together with his recommendation of “a mere white curd of asses milk” she adds “this same Gentleman is now blacking the character of Mr.—to Congress more than he did Mr. S— and he has got the French Minister to join him.”3 This allarmed at the same time that it enlightned me. Is Monsieur G—r or L—n meant?4 If the Latter I am very Sorry that he should become a dupe to the wiles of the Sorcerer, he was no Stranger when he left France to the views and character of the Man and I always supposed him Friendly to my——.5 The duce take the Enemy for restraining my pen. I want to ask you a hundred Questions and to have them fully and explicitly answerd. You will send me by the first opportunity the whole of this dark prosess. Was the Man a Gallant I should think he had been monopolising the Women from the enchanter. Was he a Modern Courtier I should think he had outwitted him in court intrigue. Was He a selfish avaritious designing deceitfull Villan I should think he had encroached upon the old Gentlemans perogatives but as he is neither, what can raise his malice against an honest republican? Tis fear, fear, that fear which made the first grand deciver start up in his own shape when touchd by Ithuriel's Spear. The honest Zeal of a Man who has no Sinnester views to serve, no Friends to advance to places of profit and Emolument, no ambition to make a fortune with the Spoil of his country, or to eat the Bread of Idleness and dissapation—this this man must be crushed, he must be calumniated and abused. It needs great courage Sir to engage in the cause of America, we have not only an open but secret foes to contend with. It comes not unexpected upon me I assure you, he who had unjustly traduced the character of one Man, would not hesitate to attack every one who should obstruct his views and no Man however honest his views and intentions will be safe whilst this Gentleman holds his office. I hope you will be very particular not only in transmitting the accusation but what Effect it has had in your Body, what measures have been taken in consequence, and whether you have acquainted my Friend with it. If not I beg it may be done that he may take proper measures in his defence.—We receive no inteligence from Holland. Mr. Dana was in France from November to March when he went to Amsterdam to Mr. A. who was there in March and at the Hague as I learn by a Letter from Young W——n6 dated 10 of March at Brussels. I suspect Mr. A. is apprehensive of trusting Letters or dispatches by way of France or he would certainly have written by vessels which have come from thence.—You will smile when you see by my last Letter, how 166much I misunderstood your hints. I believe you did it on purpose. I supposed by what you wrote that some slanderous tongue wished to wound me by reports injurious to the character of my best Friend. He is a good Man, would to Heaven we had none but such in office. You know my Friend that he is a man of principal, and that he will not voilate the dictates of his conscience to Ingratiate himself with a minister, or with your more respected Body.

Yet it wounds me Sir—when he is wounded I blead. I give up my domestick pleasure and resign the prospect I once had of an independant fortune, and such he could have made in the way of his Buisness. Nor should I grudge the sacrifice, only let not the slanderous arrow, the calumniating stabs of Malice rend in peices an honest character which is all his Ambition.

Who steals my purse steals trash twas mine, tis his and has been slave to thousands but he who filches from me my good Name takes that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.

Inclosed is a Letter for Mrs. Shippen. You will be so good as to deliver it and transmit a reply should she ask you. I have invited your good Lady to make me a visit, offerd to send a chaise and Brother Cranch would Gallant her, but she pleads indisposition—the very reason why she ought to come. Do Sir use your influence and request her to visit me. Tell her you know I shall love her as much as I respect her now and that not only for her own sake but for a certain connection that she has who tho some times very sausy yet taking his correction patiently is the more Esteemed by


Dft (Adams Papers); without date or indication of addressee; at head of text in CFA's hand: “1782.” Enclosure in (missing) RC: AA to Alice (Lee) Shippen, 30 June, of which Dft is printed following the present letter.


Date supplied from Lovell's acknowledgments of 17 July and 10 Aug., both below.


Alice (Lee) Shippen to Elizabeth (Welles) Adams, 17 June, q.v. above, with notes there.


Opening quotation mark editorially supplied. “This same Gentleman” is Benjamin Franklin, and the “mere white curd of asses milk” his grandson William Temple Franklin. The blank in this sentence should be filled in with “Adams” (meaning JA). “Mr. S—” is AA's miswriting of “Mr. L—” (Arthur Lee).


AA's question derives from Mrs. Shippen's reference to “the French Minister” as Franklin's accomplice. This left AA puzzled whether the French foreign minister, “Gravier” (i.e. Vergennes), or the French minister to the United States, La Luzerne, was meant. The matter is clarified in Lovell to AA, 13 July, below, and in note 7 there.


Doubtless “husband” is meant.


Winslow Warren; see AA to JA, 28 May, above.

Abigail Adams to Alice Lee Shippen, 30 June 1781 AA Shippen, Alice Lee Abigail Adams to Alice Lee Shippen, 30 June 1781 Adams, Abigail Shippen, Alice Lee
Abigail Adams to Alice Lee Shippen
My dear Madam Braintree june 30 1781

Your favour of june 17 was put into my Hands last Evening, and tho not realy intended for me, I cannot but consider it as a fortunate mistake on two accounts not only as it explained to me the machinations of a Man, Grown old in the practise of deception and calumny, but as it give me an opportunity of an epistolary acquaintance with a Lady, whom a dear absent Friend long ago taught me to respect;—my Friend Mr. Lovell had before given me some hints respecting an affair which you speak of more explicitly, but the late captures of the post have taught him caution, and he waited for a private hand to convey to me in full the particulars to which you refer. You Madam who have Sufferd yourself from the unjust aspercions cast upon a much injured Brother can judge of my feelings upon this occasion and they I trust will plead my excuse with you for replying to a Letter which was meant for a Lady of the same name but by mistake was given to me. I shall however forward it with a proper excuse to her.1 As I am wholy Ignorant of the Nature of the charges which this finished character has exhibited to Congress against my absent Friend, I can only say that those who have no private Interest to serve, no Friends to advance, no Grandson to plenipotentiarise, no Views incompatable with the welfare of their country, will judge I hope more favourably of a Gentleman whose Heart and Mind are truly republican, and who has through a course of years to the great loss of his private Interest sacrificed that and his domestick happiness of which he was not a little fond, to the repeated calls of his country which he ever obeyed, tho I challange his greatest Enemy to Say that he ever sought or in the remotest degree solicited the employments with which he has been honourd. If upright and good intentions with a fair full and diligent discharge of the duties of his office will merrit the approbation of his employers I dare say my absent Friend will be able to justify his conduct and to exculpate himself from the Slander of his accuser whose sly secret Malice is of a more dangerous kind than the open attacks of an avowed Enemy. It is some consolation however to have an associate even in misfortune, and my Friends character is not the first which has been immolated by this unprincipeld Gentleman to the Alters of envy, Calumny and disapointed ambition. It has been the Misfortune of America in the unhappy tradigy in which She has been engaged, that some of her principle characters have discraged2 the Scenes. Her Frankling, Dean, and 168Arnold may be ranked with her Hutchinson and Galloway. If the Aspercions you mention are such as to obtain the Notice of congress, I hope they will do my Friend the justice to acquaint him with them before they give credit to a Gentleman whom they have long had reason to execrate and who if continued in office will still embarrass their affairs and discourage the faithfullest servants of the publick from engageing in its service.

I mourn my dear Madam with the Cittizens of Virginia their depopulated Towns and dessolated habitations. May it not be the intention of providence that each one of the united states should itself suffer the cruel ravages of the Merciless foe, that they may thus be taught to sympathize with each other, and prize the dear bought blessing earned with the blood of some of their best citizens who with less danger and hazard might not realize the intrinsick value of their Independance. Is the Brother for whom you are Distressd Mr. Richard Henry Lee?3 I have often heard my Friend express a great regard for him as a Gentleman firm in the Cause of America and an able defender of her Rights.

You will be so good Madam as to present my respectfull Regards to Dr. Lee who did me the Honour of a visit and with whom I have some little acquaintance and pardon the freedom I have taken in replying to a favour designd for an other, but which will not deprive you of a return from her. Permit me Madam the Honour of subscribeing myself with Sentiments of Esteem your Humble Servant,

A Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); at foot of text in AA's hand: “To Mrs S Shippen”; at head of text in CFA's hand: “1782.” The (missing) RC was enclosed in the (missing) RC of AA's letter to James Lovell of the present date, of which the Dft is printed above.


Doubtless AA forwarded to Mrs. Samuel Adams the missent original of Mrs. Shippen's letter of 17 June, q.v. above, but neither the original of that letter nor AA's covering note has been found.


Thus in MS, for “disgraced.”


AA's conjecture was correct. Richard Henry Lee was serving in the Virginia House of Delegates.