Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams and Mary Smith Cranch, 15 March 1783 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw AA Cranch, Mary Smith Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams and Mary Smith Cranch, 15 March 1783 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams and Mary Smith Cranch
My Dear Sisters Haverhill March 15 1783 1

If I had received your Letter2 an hour sooner, I could have sent you an answer the same day, viz. Thursday, by Mr. Badcock3 who dined here, and would conveyed it as far as Milton Bridge himself. But having lost this Opportunity, I must send by the Post. But since you have signified your Request to Mr. Shaw only mediately, he thinks himself entitled to make use of the same Medium in giving an answer. And I am authorised to say, that he complies, most chearfully comply's with the Request, and flatters himself he shall be able to discharge the office of Preceptor to my dear Nephews,4 (provided they will be as assiduous to be taught, as he will be to teach them) so as to give Satisfaction, not only to them, but to their Parents.

If you must put your Children from you, I think I may venture to say, they may have advantages here, which they could not have but in few Families. Two things I particularly disliked in several Families who boarded Scholars. One is giving them scanty meals, and too poor victuals—the other is of vastly more importance, as it affects their minds, and their manners. It is their being sent into the Kitchen to herd among themselves or much worse company. By this ruinous method, their whole subsequent Lives have a Tinture of awkardness, which the politeness of a Court could not wholly erradicate. By this means they imbibe low, and shocking Ideas of wit—the loud unmeaning Laugh—and every species of indelicacy. By this they conceive a low opinion of themselves, feel a consciousness of wrong, which depresses their Spirits, and makes them actually dread going into company that is really good and polite, company that would raise their thoughts, refine their manners, and embelish life with all those pleasing assiduities, which render both Sexes so agreeable to each other.

If your Children should live with us, you my dear Brother,5 and Sisters must permit us, to be the sole Arbiters of their company, and playmates. You may rely upon it, we shall endeavour to discharge our 106duty towards them, with that watchfulness, and tenderness, which parental affection would dictate.

And now my Sisters we will talk about the Terms, if you please. Two Dollars pr week is the price for each of them, including their teaching. I do not know but you may think it too much but the price of necessary Articles are this spring so high, and have been so through the past winter, and alas! are still like to be so I fear, as makes it very expensive living. The uplifted sword, and not the olive-Branch is presented to our view—at least the new papers indicate War, War instead of the blessings of Peace, that we had been solacing ourselves with.6 Though no politician, I confess, I am now disappointed.

If Your Children should come, you mentioned advancing some money, it was very kind, it was like my Relations—but this offer must be refused, if it would be agreeable to pay quarterly, I hope we shall be able to supply them with every-thing nesecssary. But as I have omited purchasing anything for some time in hopes of peace, and am almost out of many things which are not to be purchased here, viz. good Tea, Chokalate or Shells,7 if you or Sister Adams have any quantity, or can purchase any quantity it may be not be disadvantagous to either, for us to take many necessaries in this way—a pound or 2 of poland Starch, for I could not bear to do up their linnen with our Cohos Flour8—will be necessary. If you should send of those articles, let an account be kept by each Sister—and charged to us. We have a sufficent supply for the present of Beef, pork, Corn, and Rye, Butter, milk &c. So that if they should come without any of the above articles, they would not suffer I hope. They shall have a good Chamber, good bed, and beding. I suppose they can all lodge together for the present, or till we can provide another bed. If they come I will speak to Mr. Marsh9 to make some sort of a Desk, or chest with draws. I wish I could step into the Vendue at Boston and procure something that would answer. Sister Adams has had one or 2 looking Glasses broke, if she would give me a peice big enough for Susa to see to do up her hair by, I will take my little Glass and put in the childrens Chamber for I suppose they will want one, to see their smiling, good natured faces in. I thank you and my Cousins10 for their kind offer of doing work for me, and for what they have done already, but unless it be sticking11 and such fine work, I am not under any present necessity, but I should be most heartily glad to have either of my Cousins come and spend some part of the summer with me. I have a very good Girl lives with me, and no babies in my arms.12


Dft (DLC: Shaw Family Papers); text possibly incomplete (see note 12); notation at the top of the first page: “Mrs. Shaw. probably 1782.”


The year date is certain, despite the notation (desc. note, above), from the Shaws' agreement to take on the education of CA and TBA. See note 4.


Not found.


Perhaps the Milton-Braintree area figure that JA had known since 1760. “Badcock” may be a mistake for “Babcock.” See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:170; 2:101, 159.


Up to 1783 AA employed tutors at home for her boys, but shortly after she and/or Mary Cranch received this letter, AA put CA and TBA under the care of their uncle Rev. John Shaw (see AA to JA, 7 April, below). At the same time, Richard and Mary Cranch put their son William at the Shaws. And when JQA returned from Europe, he also studied with Rev. Shaw before entering Harvard.

Before Elizabeth's marriage in 1777, AA did not have much use for John Shaw, and as late as 1778 she expressed reservations about him (vols. 1:176, and note 1; 2:173; 3:78, and note 10). Thus AA's willingness to entrust her boys' schooling to Shaw may have marked a change in her views. Later passages in this letter also suggest the possibility that AA was concerned that her sister was in financial need, and that she and Mary Cranch were trying to help out.


Richard Cranch.


The news from Europe in the Boston press for February pointed toward peace, and culminated in the publication in the Evening Post on the 22d, of George III's 5 Dec. 1782 speech to Parliament, announcing the preliminary peace between Great Britain and the United States. Reports in early March, however, centered on the negotiations between Britain, France, and Spain, which were at a difficult stage, and in the 13 March issue of the Independent Chronicle, under “London, Jan. 7,” appeared the notice: “Jan. 7. We are assured that fresh orders have been sent to all the different offices since Friday, to accelerate every preparation for war, as if no negotiation was on the carpet.” In the same issue, under “Boston, March 13,” was the statement: “No accounts received since our last are able to determine the important matter of peace or war.—Tho' our London papers are down to the 10th of January they afford us nothing decisive; . . .” In the next few issues, Bostonians learned that peace had finally prevailed.


Ground mussel shells were used medicinally, externally as a drying agent, and internally for promoting perspiration during fevers (Richard M. Lederer Jr., Colonial American English, A Glossary, Essex, Conn., 1985).


That is, Haverhill flour. “Cohos” was an Indian term for the Haverhill region and its rivers ( Dict. of Americanisms ). Poland starch was probably made from Polish wheat, a highgrade European variety.


Probably of Haverhill; see vol. 3:319.


Probably her nieces, AA2, Elizabeth Cranch, and Lucy Cranch, who are often called cousins by their aunts.


Perhaps stitching, or embroidery.


The appearance of the text suggests that it may break off here. The word “arms” is written below a struck out word at the end of the last line; the end punctuation may be a comma.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 28 March 1783 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 28 March 1783 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Paris March 28. 1783

On the 30 Nov. our Peace was Signed. On the 28. March We dont know that you have Yet heard of it.1 A Packet Should have been Sent off. I have not yet received the Ratification of the my Dutch Treaty.2 I know not when I Shall be able to embark for home. If I receive the Acceptance of my Resignation, I Shall embark in the first ship, the first good ship I mean, for I love you too well, to venture my self in a bad one, and I love my own Ease to well to go in a very Small one.

I am Sometimes half afraid, that those Persons who procured the

108 image 109 image 110

Revocation of my Commission3 to King George, may be afraid I shall do them more harm in America, than in England, and therefore of two Evils to choose the least and manoeuvre to get my me sent to London. By several Coaxing hints of that Kind, which have been written to me and given me in Conversation, from Persons who I know are employed to do it, I fancy that Something of that is in Contemplation. There is another Motive too—they begin to dread the Appointment of some others whom they like less than me. I tremble when I think of such a Thing as going to London. If I were to receive orders of that sort, it would be a dull day to me. No Swiss ever longed for home more than I do. I Shall forever be a dull Man in Europe. I cannot bear the Thought of transporting my Family to Europe. It would be the Ruin of my Children forever. And I cannot bear the Thought of living longer Seperate from them. Our foreign Affairs, are like to be in future as they have been in times past an eternal Scaene of Faction. The fluctuation of Councils at Philadelphia have encouraged it, and even good Men Seem to be Seized with the Spirit of it.

The definitive Treaty is yet delayed, and will be for any Thing I can see till Mid Summer. It may however be signed in a few Weeks. If it should be signed I could go home with the Dutch Ambassador,4 in a Frigate which will sail from the Texel in June. But So many Points are uncertain, that I cannot determine on any thing. Dont think of coming to Europe however, unless you should receive a further desire from me, which is not at all probable. My present Expectations are to pay my Respects to you, at Braintree, before Midsummer.

My dear Daughters happiness employs my Thoughts night and Day. Dont let her form any Connections with any one, who is not devoted entirely to study and to Business. To honour and Virtue. If there is a Trait of Frivolity and Dissipation left, I pray that She may renounce it, forever. I ask not Fortune nor Favour for mine, but Prudence, Talents and Labour. She may go with my Consent whenever she can find enough of these.5

My Son, has been another Source of Distress to me. The terrible Weather has made his Journey from Petersbourg very long. But I have a Letter from him at Hamborough the 14th.6 and hope he is at the Hague by this day. I am much relieved on his Account. My Charles and Thomas how are they? Fine Boys I dare Say? Let them take Care how they behave if they desire their Fathers Approbation. My Mother and your Father enjoy I hope a good Share of Health and Spirits. Mr. Cranch's Health is perfectly restored I hope, and Uncle Quincy7 and Dr. Tufts as good and as happy as ever. Why should not my Lot in 111Life be as easy as theirs? So it would have been if I had been as wise as they and staid at home as they do. But where would have been our Cod and Haddock, our Bever skins Deer skins and Pine Trees?8 Alass all lost, perhaps. Indeed I firmly believe so, in a good Conscience. I cannot therefore repent of all my fatigues, Cares, Losses, Escapes, anxious Days and Sleepless nights.

Nothing in Life ever cost me so much Sleep, or made me so many grey Hairs, as the Anxiety, I have Suffered for these Three Years on the Score of these Objects. No body knows of it: Nobody cares for it. But I shall be rewarded for it, in Heaven I hope. Where Mayhew, and Thatcher and Warren9 are rewarded I hope, none of whom however were permitted to suffer so much. They were taken away from the Evil to come.

I have one favour for you to ask of Mr. Adams the President of the senate. It is that he would make a compleat Collection of his Writings and publish them in Volumes. I know of no greater service that could be rendered to the Rights of Mankind. At least that he would give you a List of them. They comprize a Period of forty Years.10 And although they would not find so many Rakes for Purchasers, as the Writings of Voltaire, they would do infinitely more good to mankind especially in our rising Empire. There Posterity will find a Mass of Principles, and Reasonings, Suitable for them and for all good Men. The Copy, I fancy would Sell to Advantage in Europe.

Yours most affectiatly and eternally.

RC (Adams Papers).


On 22 Feb. the Boston Evening Post had printed George III's speech of 5 Dec. 1782 opening Parliament, which “admitt[ed America's] separation from the crown of these kingdoms,” and mentioned “provisional articles agreed upon.” The newspaper also included a separate report that the articles of peace were signed. Capt. Joshua Barney of the packet Washington, who left Lorient on 17 Jan. arrived in America with the preliminary articles on 12 March (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 7:71). Definite news of the completion of the preliminary treaty, though without the text of the articles, arrived in Boston within a few days (Boston Evening Post, 15 March). Finally, on 1 April, “by a gentleman immediately from the Southward,” Bostonians learned of the contents of the treaty (MHi Broadside Coll.).


The Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the Netherlands, negotiated and signed by JA on 8 Oct. 1782, was ratified by Congress on 23 Jan., but JA did not learn of its ratification until late May. See vol. 4:381; JCC , 24:64–82; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:135–136, note 1; and JA to AA, 4 Feb., and note 2, above.


See JA to AA, 4 Feb., and note 4, above.


Pieter Johan van Berckel, who sailed for America on 23 June (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:17, note 2). JA had written to van Berckel on 11 March (JA, Works , 8:46–47), congratulating him on his appointment as minister to the United States, and advising him to sail to Boston and travel overland to Philadelphia to familiarize himself with the country.


This sentence appears crowded into the space separating this paragraph and the next. AA quotes “whereever She can find enough of these” in her letter to Royall Tyler, 14 June, below.


JQA to JA, 12 March, above, whose date 112 JA misread (see note 1 to that letter).


Norton Quincy.


See JA to Richard Cranch, 15 Dec. 1782, and note 1, above.


Rev. Jonathan Mayhew (1720–1766), Boston's fiery Whig preacher, Oxenbridge Thacher (1719–1765), an ally of James Otis in the early 1760s, and Dr. Joseph Warren, twice Massacre Day orator, who died at Bunker Hill. JA had been a good friend of Thacher, and of Warren, who was the Adams' family doctor when they lived in Boston. See AA's moving letter to JA on the occasion of Warren's death (vol. 1:222–223, and note 3).


Samuel Adams, chosen president of the Massachusetts senate in 1781, could be said to have begun his political writings in 1743, “a Period of forty Years” prior to this letter, by arguing the affirmative in his M.A. thesis, “Whether it be lawful to resist the Supreme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot be otherwise preserved.” In 1748 he began contributing political pieces to the short-lived Public Advertiser. But these early works either did not survive or cannot be positively identified, and his extant political writings begin in 1764.

The genesis for this first expression of interest by JA in seeing his second cousin's work published is not certain, but he proposed this project to Samuel directly in a letter of 5 April (NN: George Bancroft Coll.), stating, more briefly, the same reasons given in this letter. JA's weariness with Europe, his longing for retirement from public life, and perhaps a belief that his sixty-year-old cousin would soon leave the public scene, may all have contributed to a desire to see Samuel's public achievement preserved. On 10 April, in a letter to William Lee (LbC, Adams Papers), JA reiterated this desire, and gave the additional reason that the publication of Samuel Adams' works would show how important a role he had played in the Revolution. Such an edition, JA implied to Lee, would also help place the inflated reputation of Benjamin Franklin in perspective.

Samuel Adams did not respond to JA's suggestion, however, and he made no attempt to publish an edition of his writings. The only editions of his work appeared much later, the first by his grandson William V. Wells, in The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams, Boston, 1866, 3 vols.; the fullest by Harry Alonzo Cushing, ed., The Writings of Samuel Adams, N.Y., 1904–1908, 4 vols.