Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 12 August 1785 AA Jefferson, Thomas Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 12 August 1785 Adams, Abigail Jefferson, Thomas
Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson
Dear sir Grosvenor Square London August 12 1785

I would not omit so good an opportunity as presents by Mr. Short,1 of continuing the correspondence which you have done me the honour to Say you consider as settled.

Your obliging favours of june 21 and july 7th were punctually deliverd, and afforded me much pleasure.

Were you to come to this Country, as I sincerely hope you will, for the sake of your American Friends2 who would rejoice to see you; as a Husbandman you would be delighted with the rich verdure of the field, and the high cultivation of the Lands. In the Manufactory of 263many articles, the Country can boast a superiority over their Galician Neighbours. But when you come to consider the Man, and the social affections; ease, civility, and politeness of Manners, this people suffer by the comparison. They are more contracted and narrow in their sentiments notwithstanding their boasted liberality and will not allow their Neighbours half the Merrit, they really deserve. They affect to despise the French, and to hate the Americans, of the latter they are very liberal in their proofs. So great is their pride that they cannot endure to view us as independant, and they fear our growing greatness.

The late Arrets of his most Christian Majesty3 have given the allarm here. They term them Calamitous, and say they will essentially affect their trade. If Ireland refuses the propositions4 with steadiness, and firmness, England may be led to think more justly of America. If a person was to indulge the feelings of a moment, the infamous falshoods, which are daily retailed here against America, would prompt one to curse and quit them, but a statesman would be ill qualified for his station, if he feared the sarcasm of the sarcastic, the envy of the envious, the insults of the insolent or the malice of the dissapointed, or sufferd private resentment to influence his publick Conduct. You will not I dare say envy a situation thus circumstanced, where success is very dubious, and surrounded with so many difficulties. It is rather mortifying too, that Congress appear so inattentive to the situation of their Ministers. Mr. A has not received any letters of any concequence since the arrival of Col. Smith, nor any answers to the lengthy Letters he has written. Mr. Short informs us that you are in the same situation. What can have become of the said Mr. Lamb mentiond by Mr. Jay? Is he gone with all his papers directly to the Barbary Powers? I suspect it, but Mr. A will not think so.5

I fear Mr. Short will not have a very favourable opinion of England. Unfortunately Col. Smith set off, upon a tour a few days after his arrival, and Mr. Short having but few acquaintance will not find himself highly gratified; we have accompanied him once to the Theater, but after having been accustomed to those of France, one can have little realish for the cold, heavy action, and uncouth appearence of the English stage.6 This would be considerd as treason of a very black dye, but I speak as an American. I know not how a Siddons may reconcile me to English action, but as yet I have seen nothing that equals Parissian ease, and grace. I should like to visit France once a year during my residence in Europe.

The English papers asscribe the late disturbances in the provinces 264of France, to the example set by the Rebellious Americans, as well as every failure of their own Merchants and Manufacturers7 to the Ruinous American trade, tho prehaps two thirds of them never had any intercourse with America. O! for the energy of an absolute government, aya and for the power too. How many Letters de cachet have these abusive Beings deserved?8

The cask of wine you mentiond in your Letter, Mr. Adams request you to take if agreeable to you. He has written to Mr. Garvey with respect to that which is under his care.9 As to the House rent which you mentiond, neither you or Mr. Adams can do yourselves justice unless you charge it, and Mr. A is fully determined to do it. There is an other heavy expence which I think he ought to Charge this Year.10 These are the Court taxes. Being considerd as minister in Holland, the servants applied for their perquisites which was allowd them by Mr. Lotter, tho realy without Mr. Adams's knowledge or direction. At Versailles he went through the same ceremony, and when he came to this Court all the servants and attendants from St. James came very methodically with their Books, upon which both the Names of the Ministers and the sums given were Specified. Upon the New Years day this is again to be repeated: and the sum this year will amount to not less than a hundred pounds, which will be thought very extravagant I suppose; but how could it be avoided? Our Countrymen have no Idea of the expences of their Ministers, nor of the private applications which they are subject to, many of which cannot be dispenced with. All the prudence and oeconomy I have been able to exercise in the year past, has not enabled me to bring the year about; without falling behind hand. I have no objection to returning to America, but I have many, against living here at a greater expence than what our allowence is: because we have 3 children in America to Educate, whose expences must be, and have been borne by our private income which for 12 years past has been diminishing by Mr. Adams's continued application to publick buisness: these are considerations Sir which some times distress me. As I know you are a fellow sufferer you will excuse my mentioning them to you.

You were so kind sir as to tell me you would execute any little commission for me, and I now take the Liberty11 of requesting you to let Petit12 go to my Paris shoemaker and direct him to make me four pair of silk shoes, 2 pr sattin and two pr fall silk; I send by Mr. Short the money for them. I am not curious about the colour, only that they be fashonable.13 I cannot get any made here to suit me, at least I have faild in several attempts. Col. Smith proposes visiting 265Paris before he returns, and will be so good as to take Charge of them for me. An other article or two I have to add, a Glass for the middle of the table. I forget the French name for it. I think they are usually in 3 peices. If you will be so good as to procure it for me and have it put into a small Box well pack'd and addrest to Mr. Adams; Col. Smith will also have the goodness to take care of it for me; and to pay you for it: I do not know the cost, as we had one at Auteuil, which belongd to the House. I have to add four Godships,14 these are so saleable in Paris that I think they are to be had for Six livres a peice, but should they be double that price it cannot be thought much of for deitys. Apollo I hold in the first rank as the Patron of Musick Poetry and the Sciencies. Hercules is the next in my favour on account of the numerous exploits and enterprizing Spirit. If he is not to be had, I will take Mercury as he is said to be the inventer of Letters, and God of eloquence. I have no aversion to Cupid, but as I mean to import them through the Hands of a Young Gentleman, one should be cautious of arming persons with powers: for the use of which they cannot be answerable; there cannot however be any objection to his accompanying Madam Minerva and Diana, Ladies whose company and example are much wanted in this city. If you have any command to execute here you will do me a favour by honouring with them Your obliged Humble Servant

A. Adams

RC (DLC: C. W. F. Dumas Papers). Dft (Adams Papers); the Dft is incomplete


Because William Short traveled to The Hague before returning to Paris, Jefferson did not receive this letter until 23 Sept. (Jefferson to AA, 25 Sept., below).


The draft has “Friend.”


See AA to JQA, 11 Aug., note 4, above.


See AA2 to JQA, 4 July, and note 31, above.


On 11 March, John Jay had entrusted four commissions, directing JA, Franklin, and Jefferson to negotiate treaties with Algiers, Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis, to Capt. John Lamb, a mariner and merchant from Norwich, Conn. Jay referred to these documents in his letter to the three commissioners of the same date, and suggested that they appoint Lamb, who had offered his services for this task in February, to negotiate with the Barbary powers, under their direction (Jefferson, Papers , 8:19–22). Jay also briefly mentioned Lamb in his letter of 13 April to JA ( Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, 1:480–483). All these documents are in the Adams Papers. On John Lamb and negotiations with the Barbary states, see AA to Cotton Tufts, 18 Aug., below; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:182, note 2; and Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 8:72–73, 250–251.


The draft adds: “Indeed most of the Ammusments of this Metropolis are closed, for the Season.”


This word, barely legible, appears to have been corrected from “Manufactories.” The draft has “Manufactory.”


Jefferson had given ironic praise to the energy of absolute government in his letters of 21 June and 7 July, above.


See Jefferson to AA, 21 June, and note 7, above; and JA to Anthony Garvey, 16 July (LbC, Adams Papers).


In her draft, AA adds here: “I wish you would give me your opinion of it.” Also in the draft, AA calls these “Court taxes,” “Etraines,” as she had earlier in writing of them; see AA to Cotton Tufts, 3 Jan., and enclosure, above.


The draft has “liberty to send by Mr. Short a Louis requesting . . .”


Adrian Petit had served the Adamses at 266Auteuil, and after their departure for London in May, he helped Jefferson handle the disposal of the wine JA had bought. At some point between May and September he entered Jefferson's service. See Jefferson, Papers .


The draft adds: “they are all for me, and the whole four pair will not cost me more than one pair here.” In the draft, AA does not say anything about her failure to find shoes that suited her in London.


The draft ends here, at the bottom of a page; the remainder is missing. Jefferson discusses the “four Godships” in his reply of 25 Sept., below.

Abigail Adams to William Stephens Smith, 13 August 1785 AA Smith, William Stephens Abigail Adams to William Stephens Smith, 13 August 1785 Adams, Abigail Smith, William Stephens
Abigail Adams to William Stephens Smith
Dear Sir London, Grosvenor Square August 13, 1785

Your letter from Harwich, dated August 10,1 reached us upon the 11th. We were very glad to hear of your arrival there, and continue to follow you with our good wishes.

When you tendered me your services, and asked my commands, I did not know you had any thoughts of returning by the way of Paris; otherwise I should have charged you with a few. I now write by Mr. Short, requesting your care of an article or two which Mr. Jefferson will be so good as to procure for me.2

Nothing new in the political world has taken place since you left us, but a fresh report by way of Minorca, that the Algerines had, upon the 13th3 of July, declared war against America. This I suppose is circulated now, in order to raise the insurance upon the few American vessels ready to sail. The report says that twelve of their ships are ordered to cruise in the Mediteranean for ours;4 but it will probably be so long before this letter will reach you, that what is news now, will not be so then.

I have taken the liberty, sir, of requesting Mr. Jefferson to introduce you to two gentlemen and ladies; the first of the gentlemen is much esteemed in the world, for his patronage of the sciences, and for his knowledge and skill in music and poetry; and the other for his notable exploits and heroism. One of the ladies is of a very ancient and noble family; she is eminent for her wisdom, and exceedingly fond of all those in whom she discovers a genius, and a taste for knowledge; the other is a single lady, remarkable for her delicacy and modesty.5 As there is some talk of their coming to London, they may possibly accompany you here. There will be no difficulty on account of the language, as they speak one as perfectly as they do the other.

I had some idea of mentioning a young gentleman6 of my acquaintance, whose manners are very insinuating, but as he does not always conduct himself with the prudence I could wish, and is very fond of 267becoming intimate, his company sometimes proves dangerous; but Mr. Jefferson, who knows them all, I presume, will use his judgment, and upon that you may safely rely.

I hope you will not travel so rapidly as to omit your journal, for I promise myself much entertainment from it upon your return. I presume that the family would join me in their regards to you, if they knew that I was writing; you will, from the knowledge you have of them, believe them your well wishers and friends, as well as your humble servant,7

A. Adams

RC not found. Printed from (AA2, Jour, and Corr. , 1:119–121.) Dft (Adams Papers); notation on last page by AA2: “To Co Smith”; and by CFA on the first page: “To Col Smith.” The editors have favored the printed text over the Dft here on the supposition that it is based on the RC, which passed from William Stephens Smith to his and AA2's daughter, Caroline de Windt, who published it along with various other letters by and to AA2. A few variants in the Dft are noted below.


Not found. Col. Smith wrote to JA from his lodgings at Leicester Fields on 4 Aug. (Adams Papers), asking permission “to take a small tour on the Continent—a general Review of the Prussian Army takes place the latter end of this or the beginning of the next Month, I should like to see it.” On 5 Aug., JA, imagining that Smith would make a fairly brief tour beginning in a month that was “so dull and so disgusting and unwholesome in London” with the city “so deserted by Men of Business as well as others,” granted his request (PCC, No. 92, I, f. 19).

The colonel departed London on 9 Aug. for the North Sea port of Harwich to catch the boat for Holland, in company with Francisco Miranda, the South American soldier whom he had met in New York during the war (and whose 1806 abortive military expedition to free South America from Spanish rule Col. Smith would be charged with aiding). Smith carried letters of introduction from JA to C. W. F. Dumas at The Hague, and to Messrs. Willinck and Staphorst at Amsterdam (LbCs, Adams Papers).

Smith and Miranda reached the Netherlands on 11 Aug., and traveled through Rotterdam, The Hague, and Amsterdam into northern Germany, stopping at Minden, Hanover, Brunswick, and Potsdam before reaching Berlin on 31 August. They reviewed Prussian troops and visited garrisons and cultural sites in the Berlin-Potsdam area from 5 to 23 Sept., and then continued their tour through Leipzig, Dresden, and Prague to Vienna, staying in the Austrian capital from 14 to 26 Oct., when Col. Smith finally departed for Paris.

The expansion of his “small tour” delayed Smith's return to London to early December, long after JA expected him, and considerably annoyed the minister, who found himself coping with an extensive correspondence in the fall without a secretary. Col. Smith recorded the better part of his journey, from 11 Aug. to 26 Oct., in great detail; this diary is published, in English, in Archivo Del General Miranda, Viajes Diaros 1750–1785, Caracas, 1929, 1:354–434. See Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale (Miranda); DAB (Smith).


See AA to Jefferson, 12 Aug., above.


The draft has: “The Eleventh of july.“


From this point, the draft reads: “Mr. Short will set out on twesday, but as it is not probable that this Letter will reach you untill you arrive in Paris it will then be so old a date that I should not have written but to have askd your care of my things.”


AA refers to the four “Godships”—Apollo, Hercules, Minerva (Athena), and Diana (Artemis)—mentioned in her letter to Jefferson of 12 Aug., above.


Cupid; see AA to Jefferson, 12 Aug., above.


This paragraph is not in the draft, which has in its place: “Callihan is arrived from Boston this day, if any thing worth communicating should come to hand when I get my Letters which I am just going to seek it shall be communicated by Sir Your Friend and humble servant.“