Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 13 November 1782 AA JA Abigail Adams to John Adams, 13 November 1782 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
My dearest Friend November 13. 1782

I have lived to see the close of the third year of our seperation. This is a Melancholy Anniversary to me; and many tender Scenes arise in my Mind upon the recollecttion. I feel unable to sustain even the Idea, that it will be half that period e'er we meet again.

Life is too short to have the dearest of its enjoyments curtaild. The Social feelings grow Callous by disuse and lose that pliancy of affection which Sweetens the cup of Life as we drink it. The Rational pleasures of Friendship and Society, and the still more refined sensations to which delicate minds only are susceptable like the tender Blosom when the rude Nothern Blasts assail them shrink within collect themselves together, deprived of the all chearing and Beamy influence of the Sun. The Blosom falls, and the fruit withers and decays—but here the similitude fails—for tho lost for the present—the Season returns; the Tree vegetates anew; and the Blossom again puts forth.

But alass with me; those days which are past, are gone forever: and time is hastning on that period, when I must fall, to rise no more; untill Mortality shall put on immortality, and we shall meet again, 36pure and unimbodied Spirits. Could we live to the age of the Antediluvians we might better support this seperation, but when three score Years and ten circumscribe the Life of Man, how painfull is the Idea, that of that short space only a few years of social happiness are our allotted portion.

Perhaps I make you unhappy. No you will enter with a soothing tenderness into my feelings; I see in your Eyes the Emotions of your Heart, and hear the sigh that is wafted across the Atlantick to the Bosom of Portia. But the philosopher and the statesman stiffels these Emotions, and regains a firmness which arrests my pen from my Hand.

November 25

I last evening received a line from Boston,1 to hasten my Letter down or I should again lose an opportunity of conveyance. I was most unfortunate by the Fire Brands sailing and leaving all my Letters behind. A storm prevented my sending the day appointed, and she saild by sun rise the Next morning. Tho my Letters were in town by nine o clock they missd. I know if she arrives how dissapointed you will feel. I received from France per the Alexander yours bearing no date,2 but by the contents written about the same time, with those I received per Mr. Guild. Shall I return the compliment, and tell you in a poeticall Stile—

“Should at my feet the worlds great Master fall Himself, his world his Throne, I'd Scorn them all.”

No give me the Man I love.

You are neither of an age or temper to be allured with the Splendour of a Court—or the Smiles of princessess. I never sufferd an uneasy sensation on that account. I know I have a Right to your whole Heart, because my own never knew an other Lord—and such is my confidence in you that if you was not withheld by the strongest of all obligations those of a moral Nature, your Honour would not suffer you to abuse my confidence.

But whither am I rambling?

We have not any thing in the political way worth noticeing. The Fleet of our Allies still remains with us.

Our Friend Generall W—n is chosen Member of C—s. I should be loth he should for the 3d time refuse as it leaves impression upon the minds of our good Citizens no ways to his advantage. But this 37good Man is some how or other embitterd. His Lady opposes if not by words, by that which has as strong an influence.3

Who is there left that will sacrifice as others have done? Portia I think stands alone, alone alass! in more senses than one. This vessel will convey to you the packets designd for the Fire Brand. I hope unimportant as they are, they will not be lost.

Shall I close here without a word of my voyage? I believe it is best to wait a reply before I say any thing further. Our Friends desire me to remember them to you. Your daughter your Image your Superscription desires to be affectionately rememberd to you. O! how many of the sweet domestick joys do you lose by this Seperation from your Family. I have the satisfaction of seeing my children thus far in life behaveing with credit and honour. God grant the pleasing prospect may never meet with an alloy and return to me the dear partner of my early years Rewarded for his past sacrifices by the consciousness of having been extensively usefull, not having lived to himself alone, and may the approveing voice of his Country crown his later days in peacefull retirement in the affectionate Bosom of


RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Portia Nov. 13. Ansd. Jan. 29 1783.”


This letter or note has not been identified; either Isaac Smith Sr., Richard Cranch, or Cotton Tufts is its most likely author. CFA omitted the text, from this sentence to “how dissapointed you will feel,” from AA, Letters, 1840, but not from subsequent editions.


See vol. 4:360 and note 1.


See Cotton Tufts to JA, 10 Oct., note 12, above. James Warren had rejected or resigned from one public responsibility after another—paymaster general of the Continental Army and justice of the superior court in Massachusetts, both in 1776, major general of the state militia in 1777, member of Congress in 1779, lieutenant governor in 1780, and member of the Continental Navy Board in May 1782. One reason for Warren's increasing alienation from public service, beginning in the late 1770s, was his growing hostility to John Hancock, the dominant figure in Massachusetts politics. But Warren's distaste for holding office seems to have had its origins in a complex personality that is still not well understood. See vol. 3:208; vol. 4:16, 20; JA, Papers , 4:14, 408; 5:269–272; 6:188–189; 7:111–114, 141–142, 144; 8:93; DAB ; Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 11:590–600.

CFA omitted this paragraph from AA, Letters, 1840, and from JA-AA, Familiar Letters .

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 13 November 1782 AA JQA Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 13 November 1782 Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy
Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams
November 13th 1782

How is it my dear son? You who used to be so punctual in your returns to your Friends that I your affectionate Mother have received but one Letter from You since you left Amsterdam.1

Has the cold Nothern Regions frozen up that Quick and Lively immagination which used to give pleasure to your Friends? Has it 38chilled your affections, or obliterated the Remembrance of her who gave you Birth?

To what Cause shall I attribute your Silence? The further you are removed from me, and the more difficult it is to hear from you; the greater my anxiety. It is too, too, hard, to be totally deprived of the company and Society of your Father, as I have been for three years past and to be forgotton by my Son.2

Neither Time or distance have in the Least diminished that Maternal Regard, and affection which I bear you. You are ever upon my heart and Mind, both of which take no Small interest in your advancement in Life. Consider my dear Son; what your Situation is. Your Fathers Station abroad, holds you up to view, in a different Light from that of a Common Traveller. And his virtues will render your faults; should you be guilty of any, more conspicuous. But should you as I would fondly hope Religiously adhere to the precepts you have received from him, and to the advise and instruction of your Friend and patron, then shall I see you become a usefull Member of Society, a Friend to your Country and a Guardian of her Laws and Liberties—for such is the example you have before you.

This day 3 years ago, you quitted your Native Land. You have been a great traveller for your years, and must have made many observations Worthy a place in your memory.

The Empire where you now reside, must afford ample Scope for a Genious to descant upon. But you are confined to your studies you will tell me, and have little opportunity for observation. But you cannot reside amongst a people, without learning Something of their Laws customs and Manners. Nor can you if you are capable of the Reflection which I think you are, omit compareing them with those of your own Country, and others which you have travelled through. It will be of advantage to you to compare the Monarchical goverments with the Republican to reflect upon the advantages, and disadvantages arising from each, and to commit your thoughts to writing, to watch with attention the judgment and opinions of Learned Men whom you may hear conversing upon Subjects of this Nature. Attend to the Historians you read, and carefully observe the Springs and causes that have produced the rise and fall of Empires. And give me your own reflections in your own Language. I do not expect the Elegance of a Voltair3 nor the Eloquence and precisian of a Robinson,4 yet they will have a preferable value to me, because they will shew me what you have gained by attention and observation. Mr. Dana will I doubt not; be ever ready to assist you with his advice and 39counsel. Endeavour by an obligeing Respectfull attentive Behaviour to secure his Friendship, he will not advise you but for your good, he will not chide you, but for your amendment. Attend to him as your guardian, patron, and Friend.

Your sister desires to be rememberd to you. She has written to you twice since your residence in Petersburgh5 but has not received a line from you. Your Brothers live at home under the tuition of a Mr. Robins. They make good proficiancy in their studies. Tommy has written you a Letter which I shall inclose.6 Your Worthy Grandparents are still Living and desire to be rememberd to you. Your uncle Cranch has had a long and dangerous sickness, but is in a great measure recoverd.

I most sincerely wish the contending Nations at peace, for after all the great and mighty victories of conquering Nations, this war upon our own species is a savage Buisness, unworthy a Rational and immortal Being whose study ought to be the happiness and not the destruction of Mankind.

Make my most Respectfull Regards to Mr. Dana and tell him I feel myself indebted to him for his care and kindness to you. Tell him his worthy Lady was well this week, and that I expect to pass a few days with her soon. Believe me my dear Child with the tenderest wishes for your Health and happiness your ever affectionate Mother

Abigail Adams 7

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mr John Quincy Adams Petersburgh”; docketed: “A. Adams. 13. Novr. 1782.”


That of 23 Oct. 1781 (vol. 4:233–234). The present letter is AA's only surviving one to JQA during the same period.


At some point after receiving this letter (in Holland, to which he returned from Russia by mid-April), JQA put a period after “past” and crossed out the rest of the sentence. See his explanation in JQA to AA, 30 July 1783, below.


Half of JQA's brief letter of 23 Oct. 1781 to AA was a description of St. Petersburg taken directly from Voltaire's Histoire de l'empire de Russie sous Pierre le grand, without any further description by JQA (see vol. 4:233–234).


In his reply to this letter, 10 Sept. 1783, below, JQA understands this to be “Robertson.” This must be the Scottish historian William Robertson, author most notably of The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V (1769). At some point JA acquired a London 1777 edition of Charles V, and he refers to the work in a 1779 letter to AA ( Catalogue of JA's Library ; vol. 3:178). JQA had read it in March–April 1782 in St. Petersburg, although AA presumably did not know this (Diary, 1:113, 122).


See vol. 4:126–127, 319–321. AA2 wrote the first letter in May 1781, shortly before JQA left Holland for Russia; he received it between late October and mid-December 1781 in St. Petersburg, where he transcribed it (same, p. 127). JQA received AA2's second letter, of May 1782, in September. No letters from JQA to his sister are known from the time of his embarkation on his second trip to Europe in Nov. 1779 until his return in May 1785.


Not found.


The last letters in the signature were cut out with the seal.