Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Abigail Adams to James Lovell, 8 January 1782 AA Lovell, James Abigail Adams to James Lovell, 8 January 1782 Adams, Abigail Lovell, James
Abigail Adams to James Lovell
Braintree 8? January 17821

Yes I have been Sick confined to my chamber with a slow fever. I have been unhappy through anxiety for my dear Boy, and still am apprehensive of our terrible coast should he come upon it, besides the tormenting cruizers infest our Bay with impuinity and take every thing. You have heard I suppose that the passengers all left the Ship and went to Bilboa upon Gillions abusive treatment of them. My Son was arrived there the day the vessel which brought the News sailed, since which time have heard nothing from thence. The sympathetick part you took in my suposed loss, bespeaks a feeling Heart. I thank Heaven I have not yet been called to taste the bitter cup.

Your kind endeavours have at last happily succeeded and the Boxes have arrived in safety, all the articles in much better Situation than I expected. The contents agree with your former invoice tho not with Mr. A——s memorandom—the china came all safe, one plate and Glass 274excepted, which for such a journey is trifling indeed. I shall acknowledge General Lincolns kind attention by a few lines to him.2

You Query why Portia has not written to you as usual. The real reason was that she was perplexed. The character which she supposed she had in former times corresponded with, was that of a Man of Honour in publick and in private Life, sincere in his professions a Strickt observer of his vows, faithfull to his promisses—in one word a Moral and a Religious Man. Shall the cruel tongue of Slander impeach and abuse this character by reporting that the most sacred of vows is voilated, that a House of bad fame is the residence, and a Mistress the Bosom associate. Truth is the one thing wanting to forever withhold a pen.3

An infamous falsehood I would believe it. My reason for inquiring a character was founded upon the report. Sure I am I sought it not. Since the recept of your last, I have endeavourd to come at the report in such a manner as should give you Satisfaction, this is the reason why I have delayed writing but as I did not chuse to inquire but in a transient manner, I have not been able to obtain it. I observed to you in my last that Massachusets air was necessary for you. I still think so, as it would be the most effectual way to silence the abuse which for near a year has circulated. I know your former reasons will recur and perhaps with more force than ever. Indeed I pitty you. If cruelly used, my Heart Bleads for your troubles, and for your real and substantial misfortunes. I suppose I know your meaning.

Post conveyances are so doubtfull and have been so dangerous that I cannot write freely neither upon publick or private affairs.

You had as good be in Europe as Pensilvana for all the intelligence we have from Congress. No journals, no news papers and very few Letters pass. Deans is taking great Latitudes, one would think him a pensioned hireling by his Letters. Would to Heaven that the whole of his Letters could be proved as false as the greater part of them, but are there not some Sorrowfull Truths?

Sir Janry 8. 1782

Whilst I acknowledge your kind attention to a couple of Boxes in which I was interested and which you was kind enough to forward with Safety by your waggon to Boston, I would not omit congratulating you upon your late honorable appointment which gives universal Satisfaction in your native State at the same time that it demonstrates the Sense which your Country entertain of your meritorious Services. It gives a pleasing prospect to those who wish her prosperity to see 275those advanced to office whos virtue and independant Spirit have uniformly shone from the begining of this unhappy contest.4

Dft (Adams Papers).


Date supplied from continuation; AA may of course have begun her letter on an earlier date.


This acknowledgment has not been found.


The charge of immorality against Lovell, darkly alluded to in AA's letter to him of 15 Nov. 1781, above, was one that recurred more than once in his career, with or without justification, from his undergraduate days on. See Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 14:31, 33. It may have been revived at this time in conjunction with his intercepted letters and his five-year absence from his family. Possibly it influenced his decision to return home for a visit at just this time; see Lovell to AA, 28 Feb., below.


Lovell's new post was that of “continential Receiver of taxes” in Massachusetts, according to AA's letter to JA of 10 April, below. Lovell took up his duties after quitting Congress for good in that month (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 6:xlvi, 328 and note). The office was regarded as a gift of Robert Morris, Congress' Superintendent of Finance, and Rev. William Gordon said he must now consider Lovell “as a Deserter from the cause of liberty, as a place man” (to Horatio Gates, 24 Jan. 1783 [error for 1782], MHS, Procs. , 63 [1929–1930]:480). It was true that Lovell was to live the rest of his life on the public bounty, showing great political agility in obtaining successive state and federal offices under different governors and national administrations. The chronology of these appointments and of Lovell's tenure of them is at best confusing, but see the sketch of Lovell in Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 14:31–48, for the most nearly satisfactory account.

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 12 January 1782 JQA JA John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 12 January 1782 Adams, John Quincy Adams, John
John Quincy Adams to John Adams
Honoured Sir St. Petersbourg Jany. 1/12 1782

Last night I received your letters of the 14th and 15th. You make me a great number of questions at a time, but I will answer them as well as I can.1

The Houses are for the most part built of Brick, and plastered over. They are from two to four Stories high. They are glazed with large panes as in France, and in the winter they have double windows which are taken down in the Spring, that is, in the Months of May or June. They have no Chimneys, but Stoves of which I have given a description to Mr. Thaxter.2 I dont know anything about their State-house, but I beleive it is nothing extraordinary. Voltaire says there are thirty-five Churches here, but I believe if anybody had set him about finding them out he would have found it very difficult; there is a church building here upon the plan of St. Peter's at Rome; It was to be entirely finish'd in fifteen years, has been already work'd upon twenty five, and is far from being half done. There are two Palaces in the city, in one of which her Majesty resides in the winter, and is call'd the summer3 Palace. The Empress stays all summer at a palace called 276Czarskozelo about twenty five English Miles from the city. There is no famous Statuary or Paintings, that I know of. There are concerts once a week in several places. There is a German, an Italian and a French Comedy here. The last is in the Empress's Palace.

The Religion is neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant, but as Voltaire has in his history of Peter the great, treated upon that subject, I will give you what he says about it.

“La Religion de L'Etat, says he, fut toujours depuis le onzieme siecle, celle qu'on nomme Grecque, par opposition a la Latine: mais il y avait plus de pays Mahometans et de Payens que de Chrétiens. La Sibérie jusqu'a la Chine etait idolatre; et dans plus d'une province toute espece de Religion etait inconnue.

“Le Christianisme ne fut reçu que trés tard dans la Russie, ainsi que dans tous les autres pays du Nord. On prétend qu'une Princesse nommée Olha l'y introduisit á la fin du dixieme siécle. Cette princesse Olha ajoute-t'on, se fit baptiser à Constantinople. Son exemple ne fit pas d'abord un grand nombre de proselytes; son fils Stowastoslaw qui regna long terns ne pensa point du tout comme sa mere; mais son petit fils Volodimer, né d'une concubine, ayant assassiné son frere pour regner, et ayant recherché l'alliance de l'Empereur de Constantinople Basile, ne l'obtint qu'a condition qu'il se serait baptiser; c'est a cette époque de l'anneé 987. que la Religion grecque commenca en effet a s'etablir en Russie.

“Il y eut toujours, depuis la naissance du Christianisme en Russie, quelques sectes, ainsi que dans les autres etats; car les sectes sont souvent le fruit de l'ignorance, aussi bien que de la science pretendue. Mais la Russie est le seul grand etat Chretien où la Religion n'ait pas excité de guerres civiles, quoiqu'elle ait produit quelques tumultes.

“La secte de ces Roskolniki composée aujourd'hui d'environ deux mille males, est la plus ancienne; elle s'etablit dès le douzieme siècle par des zélés qui avaient quelque connaissance du nouveau testament; ils eurent, et ont encore la pretention de tous les sectaires, celle de le suivre à la lettre, accusant tous les autres Chrétiens de relachement, ne voulant point souffrir qu'un pretre qui a bu de l'eau de vie, confere le bâteme, assurant avec Jesus-Christ, qu'il n'y a ni premier ni dernier parmi les fideles, et surtout qu'un fidele peut se tuer pour l'amour de son Sauveur. C'est selon eux un très grand peché de dire alleluja trois fois, il ne faut le dire que deux, et ne donner jamais la bénédiction qu'avec trois doigts. Nulle societé, d'ailleurs, n'est ni plus regleé, ni plus severe dans ses moeurs: ils vivent comme les Quakers, mais ils n'admettent point comme eux les autres Chrétiens dans leurs assem-277bleés, c'est ce qui fait que les autres leur ont imputé toutes les abominations dont les Payens accuserent les premiers Galiléens, dont ceux-ci a chargerent les Gnostiques, dont les Catholiques ont chargés les Protestans. On leur a souvent imputé d'egorger un enfant, de boire son sang, et de se mêler ensemble dans leurs ceremonies secrettes sans distinction de parenté, d'age, ni même de sexe. Quelquefois on les a persecutés: ils se sont alors enfermés dans leurs bourgades, ont mis le feu à leurs maisons, et se sont jettés dans les flammes.

“Au reste, il n'y a dans un si vaste Empire que vingt huit Siéges Episcopaux, et du terns de Pierre on n'en comptait que vingt deux: ce petit nombre etait peut-être une des raisons qui avaient tenu l'Eglise Russe en Paix. Cette Eglise d'ailleurs etait si peu instruite, que le Czar Fédor frére de Pierre Le Grand, fut le premier qui introduisit le plein chant chéz elle.

“Fédor et surtout Pierre, admirent indifféremment dans leurs armées et dans leurs conseils ceux du rite Grec, Latin, Luthérien, Calviniste: ils laisserent a chacun la liberté de servir Dieu suivant sa conscience, pourvu que l'etat fut bien servi.

“Il n'y a jamais eu en Russie d'etablissement pour les juifs, comme ils en ont dans tant d'etats de l'Europe depuis Constantinople jusquà Rome. De toutes les Eglise Grecques la Russe est la seule, qui ne voye pas des Synagogues à coté de ses temples.”4

I don't wonder that you find it Strange that there is no good Dictionary to be had, but there is nobody here but Princes and Slaves; the Slaves cannot have their children instructed, and the nobility that chuse to have their's send them into foreign countries. There is not one school to be found in the whole city.

I am your dutiful Son.

P.S. Please to present my respects to Messrs. Deneufville and to all friends.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “J.Q.Adams, ansd. 5. Feb. 1782.” LbC (Adams Papers).


JA's letters to JQA of 14 and 15 Dec. 1781 are both above. From a letter Francis Dana wrote JA on 31 Dec. 1781 / 11 Jan. 1782 (Adams Papers), it appears that he too had read these, and he had this to say in response to JA's concern over JQA's studies and his possibly being “troublesome” to Dana:

“My ward is not troublesome to me. I shou'd be unhappy to be deprived of him, and yet I am very anxious about his education. Here there are neither schools, instructors, or Books. A good Latin Dictionary is not to be got in this City. Had he finished his classical studies I shoud meet with no difficulty in his future education. I wou'd superintend and direct that in the course you wou'd choose and point out. I cou'd not indeed do without him unless a certain person cou'd replace him.”


In the letter immediately following.

278 3.

This slip of the pen occurs also in LbC.


Copied, with silent deletion of some phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, from Voltaire's Histoire de l'empire de Russie sous Pierre le grand, 2 vols, n.p., 1759–1763, p. 65–73. Concerning JQA's purchase of a copy of this work, now among his books in MBAt, see above, JQA to AA, 23 Oct. 1781, note 2.