Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 25 July 1782 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 25 July 1782 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Hague 25 July 1782

In this Country, as in all others, Men are much Addicted to “Hobby Horses.” These Nags are called in the Language of the Dutch “Liefhebbery,” as they are called in French “Marotte.” I had rather ride a Dutch Hobby Horse than an English one or a French. It is the wholesomest Exercise in the World. They live to great Ages by the Strength of it.

My Meaning is this. They pitch in early Life upon some domestick Amusement, which they follow all their days at Leisure hours. I shall give you the History of several.

I Yesterday made a Visit to one, a Mr. Lionet, a venerable old Man of 75, in full Health, Strength and Vivacity, respectable for several Offices which he holds, but more so for vast learning in various Kinds, and great Ingenuity. His Hobby Horse has been natural Knowledge. We went to see a Collection of marine Shells. We were two hours, and had not got half through. The infinite Variety of Figures and Coulours, is astonishing.

But his Curiosity has not been confined to Shells. It has extended to Insects, and he has had it in Contemplation to write as full an Account of these as Buffon has written of Birds, Beasts and Fishes. But beginning with Caterpillars, he has filled a Folio upon that Species—and drew, and engraved the Plates himself.

Thus he rode his Hobby Horse and lived. Without it, he would have died fifty Years ago.

Have you an Inclination to read and inspect Cutts of the Anatomy of Caterpillars—their Nerves, Blood, Juices, Bones, Hair, Senses, 354Intellects &c. &c.—Their moral Sense, their Laws, Government, Manners and Customs.

I dont know whether he teaches the manner of destroying them, and Saving the Apple tree.

I doubt not the Book is worth studying. All Nature is so.—But I have too much to do, to Study Men, and their mischievous Designs upon Apple Trees and other Things, ever to be very intimate with Mr. Lionet, (whom I respect very much however) or his Book. Adieu.1

RC and LbC (Adams Papers).


The extraordinary man concerning whom JA wrote this letter so extraordinarily revealing of himself was Pierre Lyonnet (1707–1789), whose family had fled France as Huguenot exiles. Lyonnet held posts as cryptographer and law translator to the States General at The Hague. He had been trained in the law and is said to have mastered nine languages, including Hebrew; he collected 1,300 varieties of shellfish; he executed work in painting and sculpture that won recognition; and among learned works in various fields he wrote on the theology of insects. But his most famous work was an illustrated Traitcé anatomique de la chenille, qui range le bois de saule, The Hague, 1760, which, according to Hoefer, “has won a place among the most astonishing masterpieces of science.” See Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ; Nieuw Ned. Biog. Woordenboek , 8:1090–1091.

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 27 July 1782 Thaxter, John AA John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 27 July 1782 Thaxter, John Adams, Abigail
John Thaxter to Abigail Adams
Madam The Hague 27th. July 1782

Soon after writing You at Amsterdam,1 I was unfortunate enough to have a Relapse, after I thought that the Fever had entirely quitted me. I was confined there about a fortnight, and then came to this place. I am at present perfectly recovered I hope—for another Turn would fret me out of Existence, which would be no great loss except to my “fair American,” who might whimper and sigh a day or two perhaps, but it would be soon over: whereas if She should put on Mortality and discharge the last great debt, I should get a broken Heart by it I suppose, be tormented a Year or two with ridiculous Visions and Spectres, and be ready every two or three days to commit some act of Violence upon my Life out of mere Despair. I pray therefore She may live, if it is only to save me all this Trouble; as it is I have Torment enough, being twenty or thirty times a day disturbed with her Image passing across the Brain.—This is not to be remedied.

I was much disappointed in not being honored with a Line from You by Return of Trowbridge in the Firebrand. Not a single Letter by this Vessel, tho' directly for this Country. However, Patience as 355the Dutch say—a heavenly Balm for every Wound. I am much in the Practice of this Virtue. I hope I am not forgotten.

You will see by the Date of this, that We are removed from Amsterdam here into the Hotel des Etats Unis. Mr. Dumas, with his Wife and Daughter, are in our Family. Madam Dumas takes exceeding good Care of the House and I hope will save much Expence. She is a great Ceconomist. Her Daughter is a very pretty young Lady of about 16 or 17. Years old,2 and I am very well satisfied that She makes a part of the Family, being no Enemy to the fair Sex. I hope it will be unnecessary to make any Apology here to my “fair American,” or any Protestations to cure any little troublesome Jealousies that may spring up on Account of my being under the same Roof with this young Lady. I mentioned the young Lady's age on purpose to keep my lovely American quiet. She will see I am old enough to be her Father. Pray tell my Flame to make herself quite easy.—But I beg Pardon, Madam, for taking up so much of your time with these Trifles.

The World is in all the Anxiety of earnest Expectation, all on Tiptoe, for News from the combined Fleet. Lord Howe is out with the English Channel Fleet, and an Action is momently expected, tho' the combined Fleet is much superior. The Dutch Fleet is in the North Sea. It is expected the Jamaica and other merchant fleets will fall into the Hands of the French and Spaniards or the Dutch. God grant it, and if a Naval Battle takes place, Success to our Friends and Allies. Fox, Burke, and another of the new Ministry have quitted Administration, because the System they agreed to pursue, and upon which their Administration was founded has been departed from and a new one adopted. Fox is for granting absolute, unequivocal and unconditional Independence to America. Shelburne, who has become first Lord of the Treasury since the Death of the Marquis of Rockingham, is for making the Acknowledgment of our Independence a Condition of Peace, which is tantamount to declaring, We will not acknowledge it at all, for he knows a Condition of this Nature would involve Us in a seperate distinct Negotiation, contrary to good Faith and solem Treaties not only, but repugnant to our Interest. And this is Shelburne's rascally design, to detach Us from France, which would be seperating our Interests from those of the belligerent Powers. The King is determined not to grant unconditional Independence to America, but with his Crown and Life. Bravo.—America is ready to meet the Monster on that Ground. We do not stand in need of his Acknowledgment to make Us independent. The Work is done, and 356he will sacrifice a tottering Crown and forfeited Life to no purpose. Shelburne, infamously deserting his Colleagues, has become the Premier upon Condition of supporting the King in this mad Project. Is there not some chosen Curse, some hidden Thunder &c.? Fox has taken his stand upon the only foundation that can save his Country. If he is not under the Influence of unwarrantable Ambition or mean Jealousy, but has adopted his plan upon mature Reflection and a Conviction of its Utility, and pursues it with firmness and Resolution, he may be as illustrious a Character in the British Annals as a Pitt. But it is Time for another Revolution in that Country, and to add another Martyr to the Rubric, and a few more Ornaments to Tyburn. The Liberties of the Kingdom are gone past Redemption if some bold Spirit does not check this formidable Combination against their freedom.

Remember me, if You please, dutifully and respectfully where due. My most affectionate Regards to the fair of my Acquaintance. Miss Nabby, Masters Charley and Thommy claim the Remembrance and Affection of him who has the honor to be, with the most perfect Esteem & Respect, Madam, your most Ob. & most Hble. Servt., J North3

RC (Adams Papers).


Thaxter to AA, 23 June, above.


Little is known of Mile. Dumas except that her father refers to her as Nancy and that she had a talent for composing patriotic verse, specimens of which were sent to JA by Dumas, 28 March 1783 (Adams Papers).


Thaxter apparently first signed his letter “North Common,” a pseudonym he had occasionally used before in writing AA, then crossed out “Common” and prefixed the initial “J.”