Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Abigail Adams to Elbridge Gerry, 4 August 1781 AA Gerry, Elbridge Abigail Adams to Elbridge Gerry, 4 August 1781 Adams, Abigail Gerry, Elbridge
Abigail Adams to Elbridge Gerry
Braintree, 4 August 1781 1

The very quick reply with wish which you honourd my Letter together with the Friendly contents of your polite favour demand my acknowledgement.2

If you Sir as a patriot and a Friend feel for the injurys offerd to your Country and the disgrace with which those in power are endeavouring to load our Friend, you may easily judge of the anxiety of one whose happiness is so interwoven and blended with the injured, that he cannot receive a wound at which the other does not blead.

I presume not to judge of all the consequences which will follow the late determinations of Congress. One only I am satisfied in. If our Friend is cloged and embarrassed as you hint, if his instructions are such as he ought not consistant with the Good of his country and the duty he owes to it, to execute, he will resign his commission and return to his native country.

Here Sir I will give you a few extracts which will shew you his Sentiments not upon the present, but upon his Situation when he returnd from Europe, which you know was not then very Eligible. They were written in a confidential Letter to you, but some parts of the Letter was written with so much freedom that he thought proper to surpress it.3 In speaking of the Jealousy which he had ever observed in Congress of the Massachusetts, he adds “Is it possible that Congress should be respected if she suffers those Men upon whom she has as her records shew most depended from the begining, those Men who had a chief hand in forming her Navy and Army, who have supported her Independance, who have promoted and formed her alliances, to be slandered and disgraced. These things are of more importance in Europe than here to the publick but they are of too much here to be neglected. If the Massachusetts is to be made the But and Sport in the Manner it has been you will soon see it abandoned by all Men of Spirit, or you will See it break the union. For myself I care nothing at all, for my children I care but little for these things, but for the publick I care much. It is really important that congress should not dishonour their own members without cause and is really Important that the Members of Mass Bay should support each others honours and characters. I could return to my practise at the Bar, and 193make fortunes for my children, and be happier and really more respected than I can in the hazardous tormenting employments into which Congress have always put me. I can be easy even under the marks of disgrace they put upon me but they may depend upon it they either mistake their own Interest in putting me into these employments or in putting these Brands upon me.”

Time will shew which of his predictions are true. If our Friend Mr. Lovell returns I shall be fully informed, he has often refered me for information to Mr. A. but that Gentleman is so much ingrossed that I cannot get him even to spend one day with me. Have only been able to see him for half an hour and that in company. I shall be happy sir to see you at Braintree, whenever it suits your convenience; I doubt not of your Friendship or of your assiduity to support my Friend in every measure He may persue for the benifit of his country, but by your Letter and Mr. Lovells late hints I fear it is wholy out of his power. He will immediately upon the recept of the new plan feel his dissagreable Situation and I am pained when I reflect upon the anxiety it will give him. He must and will quit a Situation in which he cannot act with Honour, this his enimies know and they will assuredly answer their end. Those who wish well to their country must mourn the corrupt influence that has poisoned the fountain of power from whence issue Streams which Instead of nourtering and refreshing these Infant States are like to prove as Banefull as the ten fold plagues of Egypt. If you should receive any further information from your Friends at Congress respecting these matters I should take it as a favour if you would communicate them to Sir Your obliged Friend & humble Servant,


Dft (Adams Papers); written on discarded cover sheets of old letters, one bearing the address “Mr. John Thaxter Paris”; docketed by CFA at head of text: “1781?”


Dated from Gerry's acknowledgment, 31 Aug. (below), of the (missing) RC.


AA to Gerry, 20 July (which may not have been sent until some days later), and Gerry's reply, 30 July, both above.


JA to Gerry, 18 Oct. 1779 (LbC, Adams Papers), marked “Secret as the Grave” and then, according to AA, not sent; see above, AA to Lovell, 20 July–6 Aug., and note 6 there. Quotation marks have here been editorially supplied, but it should be noted that AA quotes JA's letterbook text freely and with her own improvements in phrasing.

James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 10 August 1781 Lovell, James AA James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 10 August 1781 Lovell, James Adams, Abigail
James Lovell to Abigail Adams
Aug. 10. 1781

I am persuaded to believe that I have acknowledged the Receipt of your Favor of June 30th tho it is not so endorsed.1 I think I recollect 194to have discovered my Unwillingness to persuade my dearest Friend, my affectionate, faithful, generous-spirited Maria to put herself in the Way of a Meeting with a Stranger prejudiced against me and perhaps prompt to utter her Prejudices. I am sure such Ideas rose in my Mind when I first read your Wishes that I should urge an Acceptance of your Invitation, given I am sure, in unfeigned Politeness and pressed afterwards for a most benevolent Purpose. I thank you cordially for your kind Intentions. But I maintain my former Judgment of the Consequences. I hope you see enough of my Temper to prevent you from ever giving me the real Name of Cornelia or Clarinda or whatever C. it was mentioned in one of your Letters, now in Boston. The good Opinion and Confidence of Mrs. L is one of the Chief of the very few Things that are to constitute my Happiness for the short years I may have to live.

I have made Communications to Mr. Samuel Adams if not to you that will answer all those Questions which you was restrained from asking thro' Fear of Rivington. I do really think that no Pique or ill Will against your Mr. A— exists here. Whatever has been done that can excite a Suspicion of the Kind has sprung out of mistaken Principles of general Policy. I am not induced to suppose La Luzerne otherways than friendly and respectful; But when he has, agreably to what Vergennes wrote to him, desired Instructions to our Negotiator to act cordially and unreservedly with those of France, the Measures adopted here, in Consequence, have exceeded his Expectations.

I wish you not to suffer any Vexation of Mind beyond what I do myself. There is no such Idea here as any Criminality in Mr. A—. He is much esteemed. But such is the uncouth way of Proceeding here at Times that unintended Chagrin must arise. Doctor Franklin is experiencing very much I am persuaded on the Appointment of J. Laurens. It is therefore that he has asked for Retirement rather than because of his age.

I am to acknowledge the Receipt of your very kind Epistle of July 14 received the 23d. Your Tenderness will betray you into an Indiscretion if you press your Friends as you proposed.2 There has been a Disposition in the Court to make a Distinction in my Favor. They have done it in more Instances than one, without giving Offence to any of my Colleagues. I have no Right to complain beyond what the Rest have. A Batchelor or a Man with a very small Family can afford to serve. There are 3 of the former and 1 of the latter in our List. I know not Genl. Ward's Number. Those with many may refuse to accept when chosen.


I do not recollect what I have written to make you judge so severely of the Pittance. But be it what it may, it cannot be now altered. In short it is so involved in the Cloud of Calculation in the Case of Mr. Gerry who was 3 Years here that I doubt whether any Member of the Assembly can tell what has been given per day to the Delegates for their Time and Service, exclusive of Expences. It is a Fact that modest Oeconomical Connecticutt has never given less than 3 Spanish or an Equivalent, from the first Congress till this day.—It is my Mishap that I am not what your Ladyship maliciously, in Appearance, wished to call me—“a practicing Attorney.”

I really do not foresee how I am to begin the World at 42 without any of what are called the 3 learned Professions, without Farm or Stock for Trade; and yet if you will believe me I do not feel distressed, for, tho slandrous Females will speak slightly of my Morality I know that I am one of the most religious Men in the World. I am in perpetual Adoration of the Supreme who sent me into this State of Existence and who has given me the Will to labour. While he continues my Health therefore I can maintain more than one especially on the other Side of the Alleghenny Mountains, near the Ohio.

I think that Cornwallis must be on his Way to New York and that the Embarkation in the Cheseapeak was only amusing the Neighbourhood by sailing up and down till the Capital Ships of Convoy should appear at the Capes.

I am, dear Madam, respectfully Your Friend,


RC (Adams Papers).


Lovell had acknowledged AA's letter of 30 June, above, in his of 17 July, also above.


For a raise in Lovell's pay as a delegate to Congress; see AA's letter to him of 14 July, above.