Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

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.

James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 4 December 1781 Lovell, James AA James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 4 December 1781 Lovell, James Adams, Abigail
James Lovell to Abigail Adams
Decr. 4th. 1781

In answer to some Questions contained in your Letter of Sepr. 261 you may know that Mr. Laurens might pay any sum up to five hundred pounds sterling therefore the same is now to be done at discretion. F. Dana is accompanied under somewhat similar discretionary stipulations. Indeed you are mistaken about the Scales. I should be happy to be sure of what you only conjecture. I mean that J. Jay goes.

The Boston Papers first and afterwards your Letter of Novr. 15 made me yesterday very happy after eight and forty hours of most painful Condolance with your Family upon information given to Genl. Lincoln by his Son from Cambridge under date of the 17th.2 I will permit my dull Thoughts under a former date3 to go on that you may the better judge of my present Joy. You will yet embrace your dear Charles whom I had buried under the Waves without daring to tell you the whole of my Imaginations.

I have already mentioned the Goodness and Punctuality of Genl. Lincoln by which my honest tho ineficacious Endeavours to serve you are intirely eclipsed. You will look to Col. Crafts for what has been long under my Care.4


There is in this City a Gentleman by the Name of Philmore.5 I know not that I have ever seen him; but I have been accustomed on hearing his Name mentioned to suppose it Philip More. Mr. Osgood6 tells me he spoke with a Man at a Tavron here by the Name of More, and if I recollect right I sought the same Person to be the Bearer of some Letters to Boston but found he was gone to Baltimore. As to his Character Mr. O supposes him to be one of the Chiefs of that honest industrious Class who have made the Roads smoke for two or three Years by their Changes and Exchanges. If I saw him, I have forgot it. But, my esteemed Friend, what is he more or less to me than any other of his Tribe or Name?

“You had not replied to mine of Oct. 9. You had felt a Reluctance at Writing.”7 You do not say at answering or noticing it. Yet your following Expressions excite an Idea of the Kind, and have in them a sort of Asperity which I own I never expected to experience again after the date of some of your former Letters. I have not a Copy of any one Line that I have ever written to you; nor do I recollect that I have at any Time made a Copy; so that I know not whether the Scrawl of Octr. 9th. was a simple one or whether it had any Thing about it that you could conceive was intended as a “Border.” Be assured of my settled deliberate Resolution not to waste a drop of Ink or injure the Fibre of a Quill in that Way.—I presume you can turn your Eye upon what is before me of Novr. 15. You have said too little or too much: I think the former. I must know More, or you will “not act the part of a Friend in that particular.” I have a Right to conclude that some Circumstances have retarded the Progress of your (friendly) Pen if “only one is wanting to put a final Stop to it.” I am very uneasy at this same Letter of yours of Novr. 15th. And my present Circumstances make that Assertion convey the most respectful Compliment that I have ever paid you. For you are to know that I am so far pressed with what I call real substantial Misfortune, the End of which I do not foresee, that a Letter verbatim like yours from any other Pen but one on Earth would not have been read a second Time over, much less would it have found Room to have operated in my Head or Breast. Your good Sense and your Friendship make the second Claim to my Attention after that Sovereign one which Mrs. Lovell secures by an avowed, uniform, unabating Love and a prudent Confidence which is sure not to be abused.

Must I become the Slave to Opinions? You betray me Madam. You have almost brought me to think that the Breath of a Villain is an Object for my Resentment.


RC (Adams Papers). Passages within double verticals have been deciphered from Lovell's cipher, on which see Appendix to this volume.


No letter of this date from AA to Lovell has been found, but an apparently incomplete Dft of it, dated 20 Sept., is printed above under the latter date; see note 1 there. AA's “Questions,” here answered by Lovell, are not in AA's Dft. They must have related to the sums allotted by Congress to JA and to Dana for payment of secretaries, and whether John Jay would attend the peace negotiations at Paris.


“As I was coming out of Boston yesterday Col. Crafts informed me that a ship had just arrived from France and brought an account that the Carolina frigate was wrecked on the coast of Holland and that the Captain of the ship had on board a list of the people that were lost. Jackson, John Trumbull and a son of Mr. Adams' were among the number” (Benjamin Lincoln Jr. to Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, Cambridge, 17 Nov., MHi: Lincoln Papers).

AA had, however, already written Lovell on 15 Nov. (though it reached him later than Lincoln's report) that the South Carolina had put into La Coruña in Spain.


Lovell to AA, 29 Nov., above.


See Lovell to AA, 26 Nov.—2 Dec., above.


Lovell is here responding to a query in AA's letter to him of 15 Nov., above. Philip More (or Philmore?) has not been further identified.


Samuel Osgood (1748–1813), a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress, 1780–1784 ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ).


Lovell here paraphrases AA's letter to him of 15 Nov., q.v. above.