Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 17 August 1782 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 17 August 1782 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend August 17. 17821

Your Favour of June 17. arrived this Day and gave me, all the tender and melancholly Feelings of which my Heart is susceptible.

How shall I express my solicitude for my amiable, my venerable Friend and Brother? This World contains not a wiser or a more virtuous Man. Just now placed in a situation, too where all his great Talents and excellent Virtues might have their full Effect!—But it is but a Part that We see. I tremble for his Family. Possibly he may still be spared. But We must all expect.—I have been within an Hairs Breadth, and although recovered to tolerable Health and Spirits, I am still feeble, and shall never be restored to all my former Force.

Before this Time, you will have learned our full Success here. The Treaty is not yet compleated but it is in a fair Way. This Nation cannot depart from its Forms, and it takes a long time for a Treaty to undergo the Examination of so many Provinces and Cities. But this Nation will stand firm. I am now happy in the Intimacy of many leading Characters and know their Views and Designs very well and We may depend upon their steady Attachment to Us and to the good System.

You have not yet an Idea of all the Difficulties I have had to encounter. Some of them ought not to be committed to Paper. They were cruel, but I bore them and they are over. I am now as agreably situated as I can ever be without my Family.

It is to me an insipid Life, this of an Ambassador, and I wish it at an End....2


The naval Disaster you mention, has no ill Effect upon this People.

My dear Children are never long out of my Thoughts. Where is Charles's Pen? I hear sometimes of Miss Nabby in Boston. How is Mr. Tommy?

Our Northern Friends are well.


RC (Adams Papers).


The order in which JA composed his two letters of this date to AA cannot be definitely settled, but a comparison of the opening sentences of the two at least suggests that this letter was the first and the following one a sequel.


Suspension points in MS.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 17 August 1782 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 17 August 1782 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend August 17. 1782

The Situation of my dear Brother, at the date of yours 17. June, has allarmed me so much that I dread to hear any further News of him. An Affection for him has grown old with me as it commenced very early in Life and has constantly increased. Mr. Smiths Letter of 6 of May1 did not surprise me so much because I had often known him in great distress in the Lungs but these disorders are new. The World has scarcely a worthier Man to loose.

My Friends may think strange that they dont receive Letters from me oftener. I believe they think I have a great deal of Leisure. I wish I could change Situations with them, and then they would see what a pretty Thing it is to be an American Minister.

I am not idler than I used to be. My whole Time is spent in necessary and unavoidable Services. The Silk Machine is not more complicated nor more delicate than the System of Politicks of the United States.2 It extends its Branches into every Court and Country of Europe. In order to know what it is they must come and see and try the Experiment.—I am weary of it.—I am no more able to maintain all the Correspondences I have than to remove mountains. I am obliged to sacrifice my Friendships as well as my other Affections to my Duty. Mr. Thaxter has been sick this 2 or 3 months, which has made the Burthen heavier for me, indeed too much for my feeble Frame. He is now pretty well. If I should be obliged to go to Paris or Vienna, to talk about Peace, another Scaene of Pleasure and Amusement would open upon me, such as I have had a long succession of. Such Pleasure and Amusement as millions of Perplexities, and millions 366of Humiliations and Mortifications aford. All of them however have not yet subdued my proud heart.

I have nothing to do but pray for the abundant Outpowerings3 of Patience, Patience, Patience.

A good Peace would be a Reward for all. I dont know how it is— I suppose it is my Vanity. But I was under no Fears of a bad Peace, while I was alone. I was very sure of my own Firmness or call it Obstinacy, if you will. I had no Jealousies, no Suspicions, no Misgivings. I cannot say the same now. I have a good Opinion, however, of one of my Colleagues, and wish I could have of the other. Yet if I had known that Mr. Jefferson would not have come and Mr. Laurens resigned, I would have refused to share in the new Commission.4 I shall do the best I can.—Adieu.

RC (Adams Papers).


Isaac Smith Sr. must be meant; his letter has not been found.


From the context this appears almost certainly to be a slip of the pen for “the United Provinces,” i.e., the Dutch Republic.


Thus in MS.


In the preceding sentence JA alludes of course to Jay and Franklin, respectively. Jefferson had declined appointment to the peace commission at the outset (Aug. 1781) because of the illness of his wife (who died soon afterward). After much vacillation, Laurens eventually served, but only during the very last days of the negotiation in November. See the exchange between JA and Laurens, 18 and 27 Aug. 1782 (both in Adams Papers, that of 18 Aug. a letterbook copy); JA, Works , 7:612–613, 614–616.