Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Alice Lee Shippen to Abigail Adams, August 1781 Shippen, Alice Lee AA Alice Lee Shippen to Abigail Adams, August 1781 Shippen, Alice Lee Adams, Abigail
Alice Lee Shippen to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia August 1781

I rejoice at any circumstance that begins a correspondence with a lady whose acquaintance I have long wish'd for; but am sorry the contents of my letter must have given you pain.1 I would much rather endeavor to console you, but am sure your own good sense will suggest to you every consolation. I can truly sympathize with you Madam. I have learnt to mourn for injured worth and merit, your case indeed is not singular, my amiable brothers are as you observe fellow sufferers, they have sacrificed every other prospect for the sole one of serving their Country, and how are they rewarded! and what is worst of all, how are they tied up from the sweet service of America! I will not trouble you with details, or “I could a tale unfold,” but suffice it to say that the wounds we receive are deeper, because they wound our Country, the honest men of America are her barriers, they must be pull'd down, before she can be destroyed. Money and power are now in the hands of bad men, and there is no popular Ear. You are acquainted by this time with particulars. It is a little surprizing is it not that Congress should have join'd Dr. Franklin in commission with your Friend after what has pass'd; Can harmony be expected by joining a mans calumniator with him? It is certainly putting your friend in a disagreable situation, 'tis most probable if an advantageous peace should be negociated, Dr. Franklin will take the credit: if otherwise, he will throw the blame on him he has already marked out; but my 204dear Madam, the slander of corrupt men in a corrupt age, is better than their praise. The Dr. appears to be no respecter of persons, he breaks through every tye of gratitude, and of Country, all his affections centre in one character. He loves a knave wherever he finds him.

Genl. Sullivan is on his return to New Hampshire. I hope he does not deserve what is generally said of him here, that he is under French influence, surely if it be true, he is most unfit for the Councils of America. I am not surpriz'd that the French should interfere, but am both astonished and grieved that any in our Councils should have adopted the weak policy of being governed by them.2

It was my brother R. H. Lee for whom I expressed my anxiety, several Tories laid in ambush for him, but were providentially dissappointed: 15 of them are taken, but I have not yet heard their fate. The Enemy have taken 50 Negroes from my brother Williams estate in Virginia—but this is a small part of what he has lost in this contest.

Dr. Cutting will do me the favor to take care of this letter, he is returning to his native country with the good wishes of every honest, sensible acquaintance wherever he has been.3 His friends are purchased by merit, for he has made no money in the public Service to purchase them with. I refer you to this Gentleman for the news of the day.

Our friend Mr. Lovell delivered your polite letter with his own hand. I thank you, Madam, for the obliging things you are pleased to say in it. My brother A. Lee begs me to return you his most respectful compliments. And I beg you will believe, I always pray that yourself and worthy friend may long continue the ornaments of your Country.

I have the honor to be, with great respect your much obliged humble Servant, A H Shippen

RC (Adams Papers); text in an amanuensis' hand; signed by Mrs. Shippen, whose full maiden name was Alice Harriet Lee.


See Alice Lee Shippen to Elizabeth Welles Adams, 17 June, above.


This is the earliest reference in the Adams Papers to a subject long and bitterly debated in the 19th century among partisans for and against John Sullivan, and now definitely resolved against him. Maj. Gen. Sullivan retired from the army late in 1779 and served as a New Hampshire delegate in Congress, 1780–1781. Here he was on the most intimate terms with the French minister, La Luzerne, and followed a vigorously pro-French (that is to say, anti-Adams) line in his votes relating to foreign affairs. The latest student of Franco-American relations during the Revolution, William C. Stinchcombe, adduces evidence from both the official and personal papers of La Luzerne to show that Sullivan was in the pay of the French foreign office from 1780 to at least 1784 (The American Revolution and the French Alliance, Syracuse, 1969, p. 163 and note); see also William E. O'Donnell, The Chevalier de La Luzerne, Bruges, 1938, p. 20563–65, 171; Charles P. Whittemore, A General of the Revolution: John Sullivan of New Hampshire, N.Y. and London, 1961, ch. 11, which offers some palliatives but by no means exculpates Sullivan; Morris, Peacemakers , p. 210 ff.; and Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 14:332–334.


Dr. John Brown Cutting served as apothecary general in the eastern and middle departments of the Continental Army hospital establishment, 1777–1780 (Heitman, Register Continental Army ). According to Heitman, Cutting was a New Yorker, not a New Englander.

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, August 1781 Thaxter, John AA John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, August 1781 Thaxter, John Adams, Abigail
John Thaxter to Abigail Adams
Madam Amsterdam August 1781

I am almost ashamed to intrude another Letter by this Conveyance, which, if it should prove a safe one, will throw into your hands an Abundance of trumpery from me, sufficient for one Year.

Accept my thanks, Madam, for your Goodness in forwarding my Sister's Letter to me. I feel myself much obliged by your kind attention to me in this way, and particularly for not reading the Letter which You broke open from the best motives. I confess with great Candor, Madam, I had given just Cause for Retaliation: but I felt myself justified in breaking the Seals of your Letters in the Absence of your best Friend, from his Instructions to and Confidence in me. Add to this, an irresistible Inclination to profit of every line from so instructive and so elegant a Pen.—But the Moment You signify your displeasure at such a freedom, I will make a point of disobeying his directions, rather than incur your Censure.

It is near eight Months since the English declared War against this Republick, and the Dutch have done nothing. There may have been one or two Privateers at sea, and they have a small fleet out at present. The most shameful Sloth and the most disgraceful Inactivity have marked their whole Conduct: such are the Principles, systems and Interests of the different Cities and Provinces, there are so many who have Money in the English Funds, they are so hampered with a Love of... 1 so much Jealousy of one another, so many Anglomanes in and out of Government, so many Altercations about augmenting their Army and Navy, so much Crimination and Recrimination, such shifting of Faults from one quarter to another, so much Avarice, so little Love of Country and public Spirit, and so little of any thing...;2 that it will be a long time perhaps before any thing is done to purpose. There must be a great Revolution within before there is much War without. I have written very freely, Madam, and I pray You to take particular Care of this Letter. The Americans that are here feel more for the Injuries and Insults this Country has recieved from England, 206than the Dutch themselves—but I will quit the subject, and I wish to Heaven I was going to quit the Country. There are many worthy Characters in the Republic, real Patriots, and they are pitied, but at large (the Country in general I mean), they have experienced as small a share of that tender sentiment as they deserve. Perhaps they mean to stand still and see their Salvation. May it come to them in due Season.

You will please to present my Duty and Respects where due, and to remember me affectionately to your family.

I have the Honor to be, with the most perfect Respect, Madam, your most obedient and much obliged humble Servant, JT3

RC (Adams Papers). Two passages, heavily scored out because Thaxter evidently thought them too “freely” critical of the Dutch to be entrusted to any eye at all, have been only partially reconstructed editorially.


Remainder of scored-out passage, some eight or ten words, illegible.


One or two scored-out words illegible.


The initialed signature is a monogram.