Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Adams, 12 February 1783 Warren, Mercy Otis AA Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Adams, 12 February 1783 Warren, Mercy Otis Adams, Abigail
Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Adams
My Dear Madam Tremont Feb 12 1783

I need not tell you I was much disappointed in not having the pleasure of your Company yesterday and the advocate you Employed1 to appoligize assures me you were not less so. I promissed to Give it under my hand that to the best of my judgment he had obeyed your orders with great punctuallity. As soon as the Roads will permit I will call on you. Though as your Daughter left you this Morning suppose you must be better. Naughty Girl she did not call and tell me so, but I Flatter myself she in this Instance sacrificed her inclinations to her Complasance. Somehow or other my Head dos not feel very sentimental this Morning. Though at the same time have many things to say but in the tete a tete style which all ladies love. A little Fatigue, some Head ache, and a kind of lassitude the Consequence of too much Exercise renders me quite unfit for your Correspondent this day. Yet inconsistent as it may appear, have a Violent inclination to proceed, and least I should indulge it Rather to your Fatigue than Amusment, believe I shall not Venture to begin Another page for I always think it must be Friendship alone that will Give patience to pick a meaning out of my almost uninteligible Characters. It was an observation of the Great Tully, “I am too old to Change my Habits.”2 And I Imagine no one will Contradict me when I assert, I have scribbled too long to Change my Hand. But what Woman lives long Enough not to Change her Mind. Surely not your Friend as she would have kept her Word and Releived you before this. But as we Cannot Reason more Conclusively, (I mean Consequentially) why should we act more Consistantly than Man. Show me says a Celebrated writer one Woman in the World that Can do this for ten Minits together. I would be a little more Candid and only Challenge all the Masculine World to shew me more than one in ten Hundred of Thier sex whom you, would know to morrow from what he appears to be this day. His Darling passion requiring it you will find a Proteus3 in Every Company Circumscribe the Circle to as Narrow limits as you Please.

Some Necessary Domestic Matters Called me from my pen, I resume it again but with a strong inclination to Erase all I have written and perhaps before this you Wish I had had the Resolution. Tell me so, if you do. When I write again, will Endeavor to do it with more Correctness of Style more Elegance of Diction more Esteemation and Candour for the World indiscriminatly. Yet perhaps not with 94more Truth and sincerity, or a stronger pathos of Friendship than this is subscribed from Yours affectionatly

M Warren

“What! a letter to me of two Folio pages and not one Word of politics oh fiy—“Let me see what is the subject, truly I cannot tell. I will write and ask my Friend she Can surly Explain her non meaning. Though the Day may be a little Cloudy with her.” Do so Madam and Forward the Result of your Observations soon very soon to Milton Hill.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. Adams Braintree.”


CA. See AA's letter that follows.


Closing quotation mark supplied. The source of this quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero has not been identified.


In Homer and Virgil, Proteus was a minor sea god who could take almost any shape or form ( Oxford Classical Dictionary ).

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, 12 February 1783 AA Warren, Mercy Otis Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, 12 February 1783 Adams, Abigail Warren, Mercy Otis
Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren
ca. 12 February 1783

Indeed my dear Madam my omiting writing to you by my son was not oweing to the abrupt manner of your closeing your Friendly Billet1 which was sufficiently apoligized for by the counsel2 you employed with all that Eloquence which ever distinguishes him in a female Cause—but to the sudden proposal of Master Charles who no sooner determined to visit Milton than he executed it—and as I had not time to write in my usual lengthy manner; I told him to excuse me to you and assure you that I would not fail the next opportunity.

I will not say that I feel awkward on the renewal of our correspondence, because that would be to insinuate that such feelings are New to be me, where as I affirm that I never took my pen to write to my dear Mrs. Warren without a sensation of that Nature: and I have bit up more goose quils in her service than I ever wore out any other way. The knowledge of her superiour abilities kept me long from that intimacy which her Benevolence and Friendship finally Effected, and tho I have not less Love and respect for her now than I formerly had, before those dismal apprehensions vanished, were vanquished by the free social intercourse of Friendship, I cannot say but a little of the old leaven remains.

What induced my Friend to Epethize with so many hard words the Friendship of the world 3—it could be no New discovery to her that neither nation, or communities use it, but as a more refined and 95polished Name, than for Interest, Self Interest! There are not wanting many in these days of modern refinement and Mandivelean principals4 to asscribe all the social virtues to the same principal Cause and to affirm that no such thing as disinterested Friendship or patriotism exists. I shall not attempt to confute these doctrines by words, but retire into my own Bosom and there feel that they are false.

America is assimilating herself to foreign Nations, and will I fear copy more largely their foibles and vices than their virtues, Simulation and disimulation with their false coin are passing upon us, insted of the pure Bullion of honest truth and integrety—Sterling worth becomes more rare, publick happiness less stable, private and domestick virtues less cherished and cultivated.

What a picture my dear Madam for the rising generation. Shall we shade it from their view, or hold it to them as a warning? Yet why rob them of those few years of happy Credulity when meaning no evil, they are unsuspicious of it in others!——How little do our children know the anxiety of parents towards them—their hopes and their fears—their exultation the exultation which fills the mind and dilates the Heart when they behold them rising in virtue and Eminence. It is a pleasure which the almighty himself enjoyed when he looked upon his works and saw that all was good.

I am called to dinner, but will not go untill I have told my Friend that the first passible roads I will improve in visiting Milton—and hope she will make the same use of them to Braintree.

My affectionate regards attend General Warren at Milton. I had rather have sent them on to Philadelphia.5 You know they are used to travelling that road in search of a disinterested patriot. If he had been there, they would not have failed of success.——I will close my letter with the prospect of a visit from my good fellow traveller this afternoon whom I realy long to see and welcome again to Braintree. Harry6 has had his rejoiceing fit I suppose, so will not be so glad to see me, as some other of his B—n Friends.——I would not have deprived my daughter so soon of the pleasure she took in her at Milton visit if I had known she could not have made her visit to the city before this time as she has long designed one there, and proposed it the week after she left you; I thought it necessary to call her home a day or two before she left me quitted M n.7 Adieu my dear Madam a little attention is necessary to the outward appearence of your Friend before she receives her young visiters. She has really 96had the unpoliteness to address you in a dishabile, having snatchd up her pen upon the return of her son with a determination of convinceing you that my her invitation to a renewal of our correspondence was more than a mere compliment from your assured Friend


Dft (Adams Papers).


Mercy Otis Warren to AA, ante 11 Feb. , above.




See Warren to AA, ante 11 Feb.


Bernard Mandeville's The Fable of the Bees; or, Private Vices Public Benefits (1714 and later edns.) resorted to paradox to argue that vices, i.e. men's selfish actions, through the introduction of inventions and the exchange of capital in the pursuit of luxury, promote progress. Men wholly lack the higher motives attributed to them by most thinkers. Mandeville, who particularly rejected the moralism of the third earl of Shaftesbury, was attacked for his views by many writers ( DNB ).


A reference to James Warren's election to Congress in Oct. 1782, an honor he finally declined on 4 June 1783. See Cotton Tufts to JA, 10 Oct. 1782, note 12, and AA to JA, 13 Nov., note 3, both above.


Henry Warren.


See AA2 to Elizabeth Cranch, ca. 4 Jan. , ca. 11 Jan. , ca. 18 Jan. , and ca. 27 Jan. , and the accompanying notes concerning AA2's visits to Milton and Boston, all above.