Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Abigail Adams to Nathaniel Willis?, 4 January 1781 AA Willis, Nathaniel Abigail Adams to Nathaniel Willis?, 4 January 1781 Adams, Abigail Willis, Nathaniel
Abigail Adams to Nathaniel Willis?
Dear Sir Braintree, ante 4 January 1781

Your favour of december 211 was deliverd me enclosing the extract relative to Mr. Hutchinson. As you were pleased to express an approbation of it, and to suggest a publication of it, I have returnd it, that you may make that use of it if you think proper.2 In a Letter from Mr. Adams dated the 25 of Sepbr. he writes me that the late orders he had received from Congress would oblige him to a continuance in Holland till countermanded. Britain thought not of peace. She forgot the State of Ireland, France, Spain, West Indies, N. America, the Armed Neutrality of the Maritime powers and their own distracted state in their joy for the News of Charlstown. That the Ways of Heaven were dark and intricate. It seems as if they were permitted to have Success enough to lead them on, untill they become the most striking Spectacle of Horrour that ever was seen. That they were revenging the loss of their power upon those who had uniformly endeavourd to save it. Burk, Kepple, Sawbridge, Hartly, all thrown out.

Ought not this to convince every American of the importance of Independance and the wretched State of Slavery and Subjugation they must submit to by a reunion with her.

I take this opportunity Sir to enclose to you a coppy of a Letter 59which I wish to see published. The writer is well known to you and the Letter stands not in need of any enconium of mine. I requested that it might be given to the publick, and obtaind permission.3 I thought it might serve in some measure as an Antidote to the poison so profusely administered by this celebrated Letter Writer. His Lordship has most certainly laid himself open to the utmost severity of Female pens—but you will find in this Letter Elegance of Stile, Solidity of Judgement, discernment and penetration which would do honour to either Sex but which peculiarly distinguish this Lady. You will be so good Sir as to introduce it in the publick paper secreting the Ladys name and place of abode.

I have the Honour to be with a respectfull esteem your Friend and Humble Servant, A A

Dft (Adams Papers); without date or indication of addressee (but see note 2 below); docketed by CFA: “1781.” Enclosures in (missing) RC are identified in notes 2 and 3 below. Text has been minimally repunctuated for clarity.


Not found.


The “extract relative to Mr. Hutchinson” was originally drawn from JA's letter to President Huntington of Congress, 17 June 1780, commenting on Hutchinson's death in London and his (as JA believed) malign role in the Revolutionary struggle (PCC, No. 84, II; printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:794–798). The text of these comments had been promised to AA by Lovell in his letter to her of 27 Nov. 1780 (q.v. above), and was forwarded to her a few days later via Rev. Samuel Cooper (Lovell to AA, 30 Nov. 1780, Adams Papers). Cooper may have first suggested that JA's remarks be published in Boston; at any rate they were printed in Nathaniel Willis' Independent Chronicle, 4 Jan. 1781, p. 3, col. 2. From these circumstances the editors deduce that the intended recipient of the letter here drafted was Willis and that the letter was written shortly before 4 Jan. 1781. Another possibility, quite as likely, is that this letter was sent to Samuel Cooper for him to forward the enclosed “extract” to Willis.

At about this time AA must have furnished another such communication to Willis and also to John Gill, publisher of the Boston Continental Journal. This was a longer passage, from JA's letter to Huntington of 2 June 1780 (PCC, No. 84, II; printed in Wharton, 3:752–758), containing strictures on Lord George Germain's speech of 6 5 May in Parliament. Both papers printed the passage in their issues of 11 Jan. 1781 (Independent Chronicle, p. 1–2; Continental Journal, p. 1, 4). AA had evidently received it as an enclosure in a letter from Lovell. It had already been printed in the Pennsylvania Packet, 19 Dec., and earlier in Europe from a text JA must have furnished directly or indirectly; see above, Lovell to AA, 19 Dec. 1780, and note 4 there; also a note by CFA in JA, Works , 7:179. AA refers to its publication in Boston in her letter to Mrs. Warren, following, and again in a letter to JA, 15 Jan., below. AA had evidently received it as an enclosure in a letter from Lovell. It had already been printed in a Philadelphia paper of unspecified date and earlier, apparently, in Europe from a text JA must have furnished directly or indirectly; see above, Lovell to AA, 19 Dec. 1780, and note 4 there; also a note by CFA in JA, Works , 7:179. AA refers to its publication in Boston in her letter to Mrs. Warren, following, and again in a letter to JA, 15 Jan., below.


AA was now submitting for publication a text of Mercy Warren's letter to her son denouncing the immoral teachings of Lord Chesterfield's letters to his natural son. A copy of this letter, dated 24 Dec. 1779, is in the Adams Papers and has been mentioned several times in this correspondence; see AA to Mrs. Warren, 28 Feb. and 1 Sept. 1780, in vol. 3; Mrs. Warren to AA, 21 Dec. 1780, above; AA to JA, 21 Jan. 1781, below. Willis printed it in his Independent Chronicle for 18 Jan. 1781, p. 2, col. 1–3, as “by a Lady, born and edu-60cated in this State, whose friends have repeatedly ventured offending her delicacy by obliging the public with some of her ingenious and elegant productions.” The editorial introduction went on to quote most of the present paragraph from AA's letter. Thus the members of the Adams-Warren circle continued their efforts to furnish antidotes to the “poison” of Chesterfield's “libertine Morals and base Principles,” as JA had long since characterized them (1:376, above).

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, 8 January 1781 AA Warren, Mercy Otis Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, 8 January 1781 Adams, Abigail Warren, Mercy Otis
Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren
Janry. 8th 1781

No, my dear Madam, not affronted I hope; you did not say so with a good grace, the only time I ever knew you miss it in my life.1

Yet by recalling your son so soon, I believe you a little out of the Way. I thought you would have spaird him longer, and given me a little time to have wrote you a Letter. Now I shall only scribble you a line, not worth your worrying your Eyes to read. You have calld upon me too, to tell you a great many things, some I am inclined to, and some Not. The Letter which you wrote me about and which was left to my care I sent with my own by way of Bilboa some time ago; an other which you inquired about, was not in my power to return. I had several uses to appropriate it to, most, if not all of which I have answerd.—As to News from abroad, I have had but one Letter since I saw you of a late date; I meant to give you an extract, but have mislaid it. It however speaks not of peace. Mr. Adams instructions, received by Mr. Searl, will oblige him to continue in Holland this winter. A letter arrived for me at the southward. Mr. Lovell coverd it with a letter of his own, and the Enemy kid Napt them both, when they stole the last Mail.2 Possibly Mr. Rivington may give it me by and by. I question it however. My absent Friend made wise by experience is so warry that I dare say, they will get no Booty in politicks from him. I saw by the last Pensilvana paper under York News, that they had got a Letter of Dr. Rushs which they have promissed to print in the next paper, in which say they, he treats the Rebel Senate with great freedom. That both you and I can believe, from former Specimens. Rush will care as little as any body.3—I wait for a key to a letter which I have now in my possession to give you something, I fancy which will be entertaining. I mean to write you soon and send to Boston for conveyance. My hands freaze by the fire.—I return the Muslin having been supplied. The black hankerchiefs Mr. Gorge may sell at 75, but I had rather the coulourd should be returnd if they will not fetch 80. I can part with them so here.

Regards to the young Gentleman. Enclose a Letter and peice of 61News paper. Have you seen Hutchinsons character, and an other peice in the paper, remarks upon Gorge Germains speach in the house of commons? You will know the writer.4—Pitty my fingers now, and I will tire you out an other time. Nabby sends Duty, longs to come to Plimouth, but I am jealous of trusting her there again least she should love it better than home. I wish you would not live there. Come to Boston, to Braintre I had rather. I fancy the place will be to be sold again.—Yours most affectionately when you are not affronted. When you are—sorrowfull very sorryfull, &c.

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Collection); addressed: “To Mrs. Mercy Warren Plymouth”; docketed in an unidentified hand: “Mrs. Abigail Adams Jany. 8th. 1781,” to which has been added in another unidentified hand: “No. 13.” Enclosed “Letter and peice of News paper” not found.


A recent letter from Mrs. Warren is obviously missing; hence some of the allusions here to inquiries by Mrs. Warren cannot be explained with certainty. Nor can the several other letters AA mentions be identified, though see the following notes.


The post robbed was that of 21 Nov. from Philadelphia; see Lovell to AA, 19 Dec. 1780, above.


The letter in question was presumably Benjamin Rush to Dr. William Shippen, 18 Nov. 1780, a contribution to their bitter dispute over the administration of the medical department of the army. It is printed in Benjamin Rush, Letters , 1:256–260, and does indeed treat the Continental Congress “with great freedom.”


See the preceding letter and note 2 there.