Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

215 Abigail Adams to James Lovell, 20 September 1781 AA Lovell, James Abigail Adams to James Lovell, 20 September 1781 Adams, Abigail Lovell, James
Abigail Adams to James Lovell
20 Sepbr. 1781 1

In truth Friend thou art a Queer Being—laugh where I must, be candid where I can.—Your pictures are Hogarths. I shall find you out by and by—I will not Build upon other peoples judgements. My philosopher (I like the Name exceedingly) used to say I was a physiognomist. I have tried not unsuccessfully to find out the Heart of many a one by the countanance. I do not recollect that I ever had that opportunity with my correspondent, twice only in my life do I remember to have seen him, and then my harp was so hung upon the willows that I cared not whose face was sweet or sour. Yet do I remember the traits of Friendship and Benevolence were so conspicuous that they demanded a return in kind, and something like compassion, pitty, commisiration, call it by what Name you please I remember to have felt for the unjust sufferings of a worthy Man. But I did not study the Eye that best Index to the mind to find out how much of Rogury there was in the Heart, so here I have been these four years obtaining by peacemeal what I could have learnt in half an hour.

You may easily suppose that I have before me your Letters of August 4th and 23 and Sepbr. 10th2 but where the inteligence is which you say you told me from Mason I know not. Possibly Rivington may give it to me.3 I suspect it was with the captured post. I perceive you are up in alt with your Superlatives. So am I. Rejoice with me, for I have got a Letter at last. My Dear Friend well—that is a cordial to my Heart. Longs to come home to his American dame—for all the French Spanish Dutch Madams. That is flattering to my vanity—but he does not say so. I only find it out by his saying if he once gets back he will never leave me again. If I ever live to see that once I will hold him to his word. My dear Charles, sweet Boy, been sick of a Fever, and no Mother at hand to nurse and administer to the dear fondling. How does this inteligence soften every fibre and improve the Mothers sad Capacity of pain.

Thus do I run on because I know you take an Interest in my happiness and because I know I can make you feel. I hate an unfealing mortal. The passions are common to us all, but the lively sweet affections are the portion only of a chosen few. I rejoice to find you have recoverd your Health and Spirits. Maria too tells me she has been sick, by Sympathy I suppose—that she will come and see me as soon as she can ride. The embargo is taken off I find. If she comes 216suppose I should make an exchange, give her my Letters for hers. No I wont, I will keep them for—for—there would be too much honey for me who have no right to it.—Laugh and Satirize as much as you please. I Laugh with you to see what a figure your inventive Genious makes in picking up terms—tis necessary to keep a Watchfull Eye over you.

Now to be a little serious, I think my good Gentleman is not very well pleased with the slow movements of the Mynheres—they do not accord with his feelings. He has no doubt forwarded his memorial with his Letters.4 The date of mine is the 22 of May. If any thing of a later date is sent to Congress, I wish you to transmit it by a private hand, I fear the post. We are in great hopes and high expectations of good News from the South. May it be better than our deserts or our hopes will again be Blasted. This vessel brings us News of a Naval engagement between Sir Peter Parker and some dutch Ships. You will have it in the papers. Many thanks for your attention to my and others things. If I had known of your Intention of again opening them I should have requested you to have kept out the white cloth and blew Sasnet to have forwarded provided an opportunity had offered. The rest may take their chance when they can.

I did not misapply Cornelia for Portia. I new it to be no fiction. There realy existed the Dialogue I related and nearly in the same words as I could recollect.

Dft (Adams Papers); without indication of addressee; CFA added “1781” to AA's incomplete date. Written on both sides of a folio cover sheet of a letter, date unknown, sent and franked by James Lovell in Philadelphia to AA in Braintree “To the Care of Isaac Smith Esq Boston.” AA's extremely careless punctuation has been slightly regularized for clarity.


The real date of this letter is questionable. AA clearly wrote “20 Sepbr.” at head of Dft, but in the course of it she mentions receiving “a Letter at last” from JA and specifically identifies his letter as that of 22 May, above. That letter came by Capt. Joseph Newman in the Gates, the precise date of whose arrival in Newburyport, 21 Sept., we know from the Boston Gazette of 24 Sept. (p. 3, col. 1), and whose mail reached Boston on 22 Sept. (see the last postscript in Isaac Smith Sr.'s letter to JA, 13–22 Sept., above; also Richard Cranch to JA, 26 Sept., below). In replying to AA on 9 Oct., below, Lovell speaks of “your Favour of Sepr. 26th,” for which date no letter of hers, either Dft or RC, has been found, and both there and in subsequent acknowledgments (29 Nov., 4 Dec., both below) Lovell, though echoing some points in the present letter, mentions others not in the text as we have it. The best explanation that can be offered is that AA did indeed misdate her Dft (20 for 26 Sept.) and that in the (missing) RC she extended the text and dealt with matters, or raised questions, not in Dft. Both were common enough practices with her, but the evidence available at this time is sufficient only to question, not to redate, the present letter.


These letters are all in the Adams Papers. That of 4 Aug. was really written on 4 Sept. and is printed above under 217its correct date. That of 23 Aug. is also printed above. That of 10 Sept., in a Shandean vein but of little substance, is omitted here.


This was correct. See Lovell's (intercepted) letter to AA of 24 Aug., above.


That is, in his letters to Congress which had come in the Gates and were being forwarded from Boston.

Richard Cranch to John Adams, 26 September 1781 Cranch, Richard JA Richard Cranch to John Adams, 26 September 1781 Cranch, Richard Adams, John
Richard Cranch to John Adams
Hond. and dear Sir Boston Sepr: 26th. 1781

Tho' I have often wrote to your Excellency, yet I have not had the Happiness of a Line from you since you left us. I have this Day heard that Mr. Codman, who had his mercantile Education under our worthy Uncle Isaac Smith Esqr, will sail tomorrow Morning for Spain.1 I therefore take the liberty of sending a few Lines by him, tho' the Conveyance be somewhat circuitous.

Our Affairs at the Southward wear a very pleasing Aspect at present. The French Fleet under the Count De Grass, consisting of twentyeight Sail of the Line arrived lately at Chessepeak-Bay, and landed three Thousand Men in James River, to reinforce the Marquis De Fayett. General Washington and the Count De Rochambeau with eight Thousand French and American Regular Troops arrived at the Head of Elk, from Rhode Island and North River about the 8th. Instant, where every thing was ready to carry them down the Bay to assist in the great Cause of taking Lord Cornwallis and his Army, and so to free Virginia and the southern States;—an Event that seems in the highest degree probable, nay, we hear from various Quarters that Cornwallis has already proposed Terms on which he would surrender, but which are not accepted. Genl. Green has driven all the Troops that remain in South Carolina, into Charlstown; so that the English hold no other Post in that State at present. Lord Rawdon himself, with a number of others, was taken Prisoner by the Count De Grass's Fleet in their Passage to Virginia: He was on board a Pacquet bound to England. The General Court, now sitting here, received Information yesterday from Genl. Parsons near N. York, that a large Embarkation is taking place at New York, but he could not learn where they were destin'd. Capt. Newman in the Brig Gates from Amsterdam arrived at Newbury Port last Week in five Weeks. Your Lady received by him your Letter of the 22d of May inclosing your excellent Address to the States General of the United Provinces. I have put it into the Press, and it will be out tomorrow.2 I had a few Days before met with the same in French, and had just finished a Translation of it when yours came to hand. I have not yet seen Mr. 218Brush who came Passenger in Capt. Newman, but I hear he brings information that your dear Johnney is gone to Petersbourg with Mr. Dana, and that Master Charles is coming home in Comr. Gellion Gillon. I want much to see Mr. Brush, that I may hear more particularly.3 Your most amiable Lady and Children were well to day, when I received a Line from her,4 dictated by unaffected Tenderness to you and the dear Little Boys, requesting me to see Mr. Brush and enquire every thing that he knows concerning you and them. I have not yet been happy enough to see him.—We have not received a Line from you since last October, except the Letter mentioned above.

The Action between the Dutch Squadron and Admiral Parker on the 5th. Ulto., is worthy the antient Batavian Spirit. I long to see that Spirit fully rouz'd. Time will not permit me to enlarge. I must however give you the Pleasure of letting you know that we are all well in the several Families of Braintree, Weymouth, Hingham &c. longing for the arrival of Comr. Gellion, Capt. Hayden, &c.; when we hope to hear more particularly from you, Cousin Thaxter, &c. In Expectation of which I remain with the highest Esteem and warmest Affection your obliged Friend and Bror.,

Richard Cranch

Please to present my kind Regards to Mr. Thaxter and tell him I have wrote to him several times, but have never received an Answer. I fear most of my Letters to You and Him have miscarried.5

P.S. Should the fate of War throw Mr. Codman in your way, and he should want your Assistance I would warmly recommend him as a young Gentleman of a good Family, and worthy of your Notice. His Brother is Partner with Cousin Billy Smith.

Thursday Morning. 8. o'Clock. As Mr. Codman is not yet gone on board I have enclos'd this day's Paper.6

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To His Excellency John Adams Esqr: Minister from the United States of America to the States Genll: of the United Provinces. Residing at the Hague.”; stamped postal mark: “ASTURIAS”; endorsed: “Mr. Cranch Sept. 26. 1781.” Dft (MHi:Cranch Papers); written on both the blank and printed sides of a broadside resolve of the General Court, “State of Massachusetts-Bay. In the House of Representatives, June 8, 1779,” instructing towns to settle their accounts with the State for payment to soldiers' families. Dft omits a portion of the postscripts; see note 5. For the (missing) enclosure in RC, see note 2.


Stephen or Richard Codman, both Boston merchants and younger sons of John Codman Sr., whose eldest son, John Jr., was a business partner of AA's “Cousin Billy Smith,” as mentioned in the postscript to this letter. See Cora Codman Wolcott, The Codmans of Charlestown and Boston, 1637–1929, Brookline, 1930, p. 63–66.


JA's Memorial of 19 April 1781 was 219printed in the Independent Chronicle of 27 Sept., p. 1–2, and a copy of that issue of the paper was enclosed in Cranch's letter, as the postscript states.


Eliphalet Brush is repeatedly mentioned as a member of the growing American circle in Amsterdam in JQA's Diary, 10 June et seq., and was present at the Fourth of July celebration held there this year. He brought JA's dispatches for Congress in the Gates and is the only passenger noted in the Boston Gazette's account of the arrival of that vessel (24 Sept., p. 3, col. 1). The Gazette identifies him as “of the State of New York.” Brush called on AA and furnished her with much-wanted family news; see AA to JA, 29 Sept., below.


Not found.


Dft ends at this point.


See note 2.