Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, February – March 1782 AA Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, February – March 1782 Adams, Abigail Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw
Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw
My dear sister Braintree, February–March 1782 1

I yesterday received a congratulatory Letter from you,2 upon the safe arrival of my dear Charles, an event which has relieved me from many anxieties and filld my Heart with gratitude to that gracious Being who protected him from the perils of the deep, and from the hostile foe, who raised him from Sickness and has restored him to his Native Land, undepraved in his mind and morals, by the facinating allurements of vice, decked in Foreign garbs—and this I assure you I esteem not among the least favours with which his absence has been distinguished.

The fond Mother would tell you that you may find in him the 285same solid sober discreet Qualities that he carried abroad with a modesty bordering upon diffidence, no ways inclined to relate his adventures but as you question him concerning them—perfectly attached to the modest republican Stile of Life, as tho he had never experienced any other. As to any alteration in his person, I perceive none but growth which has not been rapid. If no unforeseen disaster prevents I hope to bring him to visit you in the course of the Spring. He desires his duty to you, and love to his unknown cousins.

I wrote you a long Letter a months ago,3 but thought to coppy it as it was very carelessly written. I was that Night calld to attend the Sick and I greatly feared dying Bed of our worthy Brother Cranch. For ten days I beheld him in this critical state. Encompassed with my own anxiety, and the anguish of his whole family, I was greatly distresst. Gracious Heaven has restored the good Man to his family and Friends who were trembling least he should cease to be and the faithfull faill4 from among the children of Men. Whilst I attended round his Bed, I could not avoid often looking abroad and in imagination beholding my dearest Friend laid upon his sick Bed unattended by the wife, the sister or daughter, whose constant and solicitous care and attention might mitigate the riggour of the fever, and alleviate the pain—but with strangers and in a foreign Land my dear Friend has experienced a most severe sickness. In November he wrote to Charles in Bilboa5 that he was recovering from a fever which had left him very weak and lame, and this is the latest intelligence I have received.

You may well suppose me anxious. My Heart sometimes misgives me. I long yet fear to hear. I have one only confidence to repair to. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right and have I not experienced signal favours—shall I distrust his providentiall care?

I am sorry to hear you complain as the Spring approaches. You have but a slender constitution. I would advise you to a free use of the Bark and a journey. I hope you are not in the increasing way, as I think your Health ill able to bear it. We have none of us nursing constitutions—twice my life was nearly sacrificed to it.

Is our intelligence true that you are like to have cousin B——y6 for a Neighbour. I hope it will prove for her happiness and then I shall most sincerely rejoice in it. Mrs. Gray is like soon to confirm the observation that there scarce was ever any such thing under the Sun as an inconsolable widow. Grief is no incurable disease; but time, patience and a little philosophy with the help of humane fraility and address will do the Buisness. She is however like to be 286joined to one of the most amiable of Men, which is too great a temptation to be over balanced by the Sum total of 5 children.7

Let me hear from you oftner my Sister. I really am conscience smitten at my neglect. A Good example will awaken my future attention and produce the consequent reformation of your ever affectionate Sister,


Dft (Adams Papers); without date or indication of addressee; docketed by CFA: “1782.”


Dated thus approximately from the references to CA's return home from Europe (late January); to the imminent Otis-Gray marriage (see note 7, below); and to the recovery of Richard Cranch, also reported in AA to JA, March 17–25, below.


Letter not found.


Thus in MS. Letter not found.


Thus in MS.


Letter not found.


Not identified. The Shaws lived in Haverhill.


Mary, or Polly (Smith) Gray, cousin of AA and Mrs. Shaw, widowed in 1779, was to marry the widower Samuel Allyne Otis on 28 March 1782. See Adams Genealogy under both names

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 4 March 1782 JQA JA John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 4 March 1782 Adams, John Quincy Adams, John
John Quincy Adams to John Adams
Honoured Sir St. Petersbourg February 21 / March 4 1782

I receiv'd three days agone your favour of Feby. 5th. I have found a good Latin and french Dictionary, but I should be glad to have one Latin and English, because I am obliged at present to translate every thing into French, unless I translate the words twice; by which, (besides it's being very troublesome), the sense of the Latin will be often lost. I can get any Latin books here that I want. I have finished Cornelius Nepos, and have translated Cicero's first oration against Catilina.

I have not made many acquaintances here, but there is a subscription Library of English books, to which Mr. Dana has subscribed, so that I have as much as I want, to read. I have lately finished Hume's history of England and am at present reading Mrs. Macaulay's.1 In the third volume of Hume's history I find an exact description of the present state of this Country in these few lines.

“If we consider the antient state of Europe, we shall find that the far greater part of the society were every where bereaved of their personal liberty and lived entirely at the will of their masters. Everyone that was not noble was a slave. The peasants were sold along with the land. The few inhabitants of cities were not in a better condition. Even the gentry themselves were subjected to a long train of subordination, under the greater barons or chief vassals of the 287crown, who tho' seemingly plac'd in a high state of splendor, yet, having but a slender protection, of the law, were exposed to every tempest of state, and by the precarious condition in which they lived, paid dearly for the power of oppressing and tyrannizing over their inferiors.”

Please to give my duty to Mamma whenever you write. I will write to her as often as I can.

We have had here lately some days exceeding cold. Reaumur's Thermometer has been as low as 32 degrees below the degree of freezing but it thaws at present, and it is likely we shall not have again this winter such severe cold weather. We open a window every morning for about a half an hour, so that we always have fresh air in our chambers.

You ask me in your letter, what is the Language of the Russians? Voltaire says, “Un Grec fut premier Métropolitain de Russie ou Patriarche. C'est déla que les Russes ont adopté dans leur langue un alphabet tiré du Grec; ils y auraient gagné si le fond de leur langue qui est la Slavone, n'était toujours demeuré le même, à quelques mots pres, qui concernent leur Liturgie et leur Hiérarchic.”2 To this may be added that their alphabet is composed of 36 letters. But all the nobility speak French and German.

I am your dutiful Son, J. Q. A.

P.S. Please to present my respects to Mr. Thaxter, and to all Friends. Mr. D. is well and writes by this post.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “A Son Excellence Mr: Adams. Ministre Plenipotentiaire des Etats Unis de l'Amérique. a Amsterdam.” LbC (Adams Papers).


Catharine (Sawbridge) Macaulay's massive History of England, from the Accession of James 1 to That of the Brunswick Line, 1763–1783, was considered an antidote to David Hume's History of England ... to the Revolution in 1688, 1754–1761. Hume's England was frequently reprinted, and a number of editions were owned by the Adamses. JQA had borrowed the eight-volume set of Hume he was reading from “the English Library” in St. Petersburg (JQA, Diary, 4, 18, 24 Feb. 1782), and the Macaulay History from the same source (same, 25 Feb.). The Diary also indicates that he had located some booksellers' shops and was making frequent book purchases.

On Mrs. Macaulay's reputation as an historian and JA's early correspondence with her, see above, vol. 1:xiii, and references there.


Quoted by JQA from his copy (in MBAt) of Voltaire's Histoire de l'empire de Russie sous Pierre le grand, n.p., 1759–1763, 1:67.