Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 2 December 1781 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 2 December 1781 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Amsterdam Decr. 2 1781

Your favours of September 29 and Oct. 21. are before me. I avoided saying any Thing about Charles, to save you the Anxiety, which I fear you will now feel in its greatest severity a long time. I thought he would go directly home, in a short Passage, in the best Opportunity which would probably ever present. But I am dissappointed. Charles is at Bilbao with Major Jackson and Coll. Trumbull who take the best care of his Education as well as his Health and Behaviour. They are to go home in Captain Hill in a good Vessell of 20 Guns. Charles's health was so much affected by this tainted Atmosphere, and he had set his heart so much upon going home in Gillon that it would have broken it, to have refused him.—I desire I may never again have the Weakness to bring a Child to Europe. They are infinitely better at home.—We have all been sick here, myself, Mr. Thaxter, Stephens and another servant, but are all better. Mr. Thaxters Indisposition has been slight and short, mine and Stevens's long and severe.

I beg you would not flatter yourself with hopes of Peace. There will be no such Thing for several years.


Dont distress yourself neither about any malicious Attempts to injure me in the Estimation of my Countrymen. Let them take their Course and go the Length of their Tether. They will never hurt your Husband, whose Character is fortified with a shield of Innocence and Honour ten thousandfold stronger than brass or Iron. The contemptible Essays made by you know whom, will only tend to their own Confusion. My Letters have shewn them their own Ignorance and Folly, a sight they could not bear. Say as little about it as I do. It has already brought them into the true system and that system is tryumphant. I laugh, and will laugh before all Posterity at their impotent , despicable, ridiculous folly Rage and Envy. They could not help blushing themselves if they were to review their Conduct.

Dear Tom thy Letter1 does thee much honour. Thy Brother Charles shall teach thee french and Dutch, at home. I wish I could get time to correspond with thee and thy sister, more regularly, but I cannot. I must trust Providence and thine excellent Mamma for the Education of my Children.

Mr. Dana and our son are well, at Petersburg.

Hayden has some things for you. Hope he is arrived. I am sorry to learn you have a sum of Paper—how could you be so imprudent? You must be frugal, I assure you. Your Children will be poorly off. I can but barely live in the manner that is indispensibly demanded of me by every Body. Living is dear indeed here.

My Children will not be so well left by their father as he was by his. They will be infected with the Examples and Habits and Taste for Expensive Living, without the means. He was not.

My Children, shall never have the smallest soil of dishonour or disgrace brought upon them by their father, no not to please Ministers, Kings, or Nations.

At the Expence of a little of this my Children might perhaps ride at their Ease through Life, but dearly as I love them they shall live in the service of their Country, in her Navy, her Army, or even out of either in the extreamest Degree of Poverty before I will depart in the smallest Iota from my Sentiments of Honour and Delicacy, for I, even I, have sentiments of Delicacy, as exquisite as the proudest Minister that ever served a Monarch. They may not be exactly like those of some Ministers.

I beg you would excuse me to my dear Friends, to whom I cannot write so often as I wish. I have indispensible Duties which take up all my time, and require more than I have.

General Washington has done me great Honour, and much public 251service by sending me, authentic Accounts of his own and Gen. Greens last great Actions.2 They are in the Way to negotiate Peace, it lies wholly with them. No other Ministers but they and their Colleagues in the Army can accomplish the great Event.

I am keeping House, but I want an Housekeeper. What a fine Affair it would be if We could flit across the Atlantic as they say the Angels do from Planet to Planet. I would dart to Pens hill and bring you over on my Wings. But alass We must keep house seperately for some time.

But one thing I am determined on. If God should please to restore me once more to your fireside, I will never again leave it without your Ladyships Company. No not even to go to Congress at Philadelphia, and there I am determined to go if I can make Interest enough to get chosen, whenever I return.

I would give a Million sterling that you were here—and could Afford it as well as G. Britain can the thirty Millions she must spend the ensuing Year to compleat her own Ruin.

Farewell. Farewell.

RC (Adams Papers).


Not found.


George Washington to JA, 22 Oct., with two enclosures (Adams Papers; text of letter printed in JA, Works , 7:475, and in Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 23:253–254).

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 2 December 1781 Thaxter, John AA John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 2 December 1781 Thaxter, John Adams, Abigail
John Thaxter to Abigail Adams
Amsterdam Decr. 2d. 1781

'Tis a pleasing Reflexion to one absent, that his Correspondence with his friends meets with no untoward Accidents, even though the subject matter of his Scralls should be in a stile little interesting or entertaining. But I am deprived of even this satisfaction, for almost all my Letters are on board the Indian.1 It is needless for me to add an Apology after this, especially as Newman, Brown, Skinner, Hayden &c. were to have sailed under Convoy of this same Indian. I had the honor to write You by a Brig bound to Philadelphia commanded by Capt. Reeler, which sailed in Septr. or October. I also answered a polite Letter from Miss Nabby by the same Opportunity.2 I hope they will arrive safe. If they do not, I hope my dear friends will pardon my not attempting any thing further against so decisive a fatality.

With the most unfeigned Joy, I congratulate You at this late period on the glorious News of the surrender of Cornwallis. It is an Event 252that has acquired much Reputation to our Arms in Europe; nor has the humidity of this Climate prevented its Inhabitants from exhibiting some symptoms of Life and Warmth on the Occasion. Indeed I must say that this is a peculiar People; but whether zealous of good Works or saved of the Lord, is not for me to determine.

I believe I promised You, Madam, in a former Letter to transmit You some Account of this Country. What Demon of Madness or Folly seized me at that time, to precipitate myself into so rash an Engagement I know not. I am totally unequal to the Task. I was certainly mad or in Love or something quite as distracted as either, to promise an undertaking of this kind. I beg You to have the Goodness to excuse me, and to apply to your dearest friend, who will throw more light on this subject in one Line, than I could do in many pages of my flummery.

Thus much I must say for this Country, that upon this Occasion (I mean the last Surrender) they have discovered much Joy and satisfaction. Some are affected to America upon principles which a Love of Liberty and an attachment to the Dignity and Rights of Humanity alone can inspire. These are few in number. Others would love Us if they had less Money in the English funds. Some are too rich to trouble their heads about America—others too poor, tho' perhaps well disposed, to aid her. Some would trade if they dare. Others are governed by the immense profits in view. As to national Affection, extended one Jot or tittle farther than an Idea of Gain, it is a mere Chimera. Nations collectively are not capable of this noble Sentiment, and Policy is often employed to smother and extinguish the first dawnings of it. The History of the Policy of most Governments seems to be little else than a portrait of the worst passions of the human Heart, a Compound of the Intrigues, Subtleties, Subterfuges and Caprices of the weak, the wicked, and the great, and the Blood and Treasure of poor miserable Mankind must flow in Torrents to support their nefarious System. Such is the Lot of Humanity. Who can mend it? I know not.

I have not as yet seen my dear Friend Mr. Storer. I am impatient to see him, and not less so to enquire of him, which of the Betsy's it is that belongs to me, as all parties are agreed, You inform me, Madam, that it is one of that Name. I beseech You to gratify my Curiosity in sending me her Name: otherwise I shall be fidgeting for six Months and perhaps fall in Love with some one of that Name upon the Strength of it.—Are none of the young Ladies of Braintree about entering into Wedlock or courted? For Heaven's sake what do 253the young Gentlemen mean? Are there not five Suitors to be found, possessed of Accomplishments and Virtues sufficient to render themselves agreable to the amiable five, who live at the foot of Penns Hill, by the Church, down a Hill and on the Farms? If I saw the least possible Chance for myself; if I was not so old and advanced in life as to be indifferent; if I had not set my Heart upon living in the Woods upon my Return, I would begin to make Propositions at least to one. My best Love to them all. God bless them with good Husbands. Much Duty and Respect where due. With the most perfect Esteem, I have the honour to be, Madam, your most humble Servant,

North Common3

Excuse haste and Errors and so much of love affairs.

RC (Adams Papers).


That is, the South Carolina; its name under French ownership had been L'Indien.


Thaxter to AA, without day, Aug.; and to AA2, 25 Aug.; both above.


What prompted Thaxter to adopt this pseudonym, briefly, is not known. Later he occasionally used another, “J. North,” in writing AA.