Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 6 November 1785 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw AA Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 6 November 1785 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Adams, Abigail
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams
Haverhill Novemr. 6th. 1785.

Your Son, My Dear Sister has been a Member of our Family for these five Weeks, almost three of those I suppose he will tell You, Mr. Shaw and I were absent upon our southern Journey. He came a Friday1 in Peabody's Coach, and we began our Rout the next Monday. His Uncle spent Saturday in giving him Directions about his Studies, and what he could wish him to pursue till his Return. Greek seemed to be the grand Object which ought to claim his greatest Attention, he was therefore desired to learn the Grammer. Upon our Return We found he had not been idle, but like a truly ambitious Youth, endeavoured to do more than was required. He was as steady to his Studies as a Philosopher. He was out but three or four times while we were gone, and then only by an Invitation to dine, at Judge Seargants, Master Whites, and Mr. Dodges. Indeed he searches out Knowledge as if it was his Meat, and Drink, and considered it as more precious than choice Gold. When I was at Braintree, I drank Tea with Mr. Wibird. You know he was always very inquisitive. In the course of Conversation Your Son became the Subject. I asked him if he did not think Mr. Adams exceedingly like his Father.—Yes——2 walking across the Room, but at my Question, took his stand before me, his Head inclined on his left Shoulder, one Eye half shut, and his right Hand in his Breeches Pocket. I could not said he, when I saw him, for my life, help thinking of what Addison puts in the Mouth of Syphax. “Curse on the Stripling how he Apes his Sire.”3


There is not a Day passes but what I think of it, but not without wishing the imprecation transformed into a thousand—thousand Blessings.

We had a very pleasant and agreeable visit to Bridgwater, Plimouth, Marshfield, and Hingham, for we found all our Friends well there. But alas! when I came to Weymouth, what bitter ingredients were thrown into my Cup of Pleasure. Our dear amiable Aunt Tufts was laid upon the Bed of Sickness, unable hardly to lift her languid Head—fixed, and piercing were those Eyes which used to beam Benevolence on all. Almost closed were those Lips, upon which forever dwelt the Law of Kindness. Cold, and deathful were those liberal Hands that scattered Blessings, and delighted in seeking out, and relieving the Wants of the Poor, and necessitous. Indeed my Sister the Scene was too—too distressing. I could not speak a word, my Heart felt as if it would have burst its bounds, and would no longer submit to its inclosure. But She is now no longer lingering, trembling, hoping, dying. This painful Scene has closed, and I trust Heaven has opened to her view. When I left her, I thought she could continue but a few Days. And Yesterdays Post has brought us intelligence of her Death. Her emancipation rather. Yes we may—we ought to drop a Tear over our Aunt—for she loved us next to her own Child, and we repayed it with equal tenderness and affection, for she was to us, but one remove from our excellent and much revered Mother. Sweet is the Memory of the just. May their Virtues live in us. May we catch the Mantle, and imbibe a double Portion of their Graces.4

The good Dr behaves like a true Christian. He neither despises the chastening, nor faints under the afflictive Dispensations of Providence. His most sincere and devoted Friend, and Lover is indeed put far away. But Love cemented by Religion ends not here.

“Nor with the narrow bounds of Time, The beauteous Prospect ends, But lengthened thro' the Vale of Death, To Paradise extends.”

The Day I came out of Boston,5 Capt. Lyde arrived. Mr. Shaw went eagerly to the Post Office for Letters, but could find none, only for JQA.6 Mr. Gardner said he had a number in his Trunk, but could not get it on Shore. So we were obliged to Trudg home to Haverhill, without any particular Information of your Welfare. Your Sons both looked so happy to see us return, that I shall always love them the 453better for it. I knew I had insured a hearty welcome by the Letters I had brought.

Curiosity if directed in a right Line, and fixed upon proper Objects may lead to great Acquisitions. But such a curiosity as some People are possessed of—Pray did you never discover that your Sons was almost unbounded.

I never saw Mr. Tyler in the whole course of my Journey, which to me was a matter of Speculation. For I supposed we were upon good Terms. I know not of anything that should have made it otherways unless it was because I gave him in the gentlest manner the greatest Proof of my Friendship. Such neglects to such affection and to such a Person, was what I could not silently nor patiently see. It was too much for Sensibility to bear. —And now I have nothing to do but admire, at the Wisdom, the Fortitude and the Magnimity of that Lady, who would not suffer the voilence of Passion to blind her Judgment, and misguide her Reason,7 and I must place, certain Decissions among the misterious Revolutions of an all wise Providence.

Your kind Letter8 accompanied with presents to the Children, came safe to hand the 29th. of October. Accept my dear Sister of mine, and their Thanks. Betsy Q. says she has told all the Misses in the School that Aunt Adams lives in London, and sent her a beauty Book and Gown. Billy and Betsy Quincy speak very plain, and read very well. Billy was up in the Morning before it was light, got a candle, and set down to read his Book which he had received the night before from his Aunt Adams.

I brought home from Braintree a Suit of Cinnamon couloured Cloathe for Cousin Thomas which came from Holland,9 and last Week we devoted to turning the Coat, and fixing the little Gentleman up, and I assure you he looked quite smart to Day.

Cousin Betsy Cranch is in Town, keeps at Mr. Whites, and learns Musick upon Miss Peggys Forte Piano. I wish we owned one, and then we should not lose the pleasure of her company. Story informs us of the Force, and power of Musick. Orpheous with his Lyre put inanmate nature in Motion, and brought Euridice even from the Realms below. But the power of Melody is now so lessoned, that should this lovely Maid strike the softest, sweetest Notes in nature, I fear they would not charm? bring you back to your native Land. Duty with you has a more powerful Charm.

Adieu my ever dear Sister, and believe me to be with the tenderest Love, Your affectionate Sister

Eliza. Shaw

RC (Adams Papers). Dft (DLC: Shaw Family Papers).


30 September.


In the draft, “said he” appears after the dash.


Joseph Addison, Cato, I, ii. The speaker was not Syphax, the Numidian ally and then traitor to Cato the Younger, but Sempronius, a Roman senator. Sempronius speaks of Porcius, one of Cato's sons, whom he sees as “ambitiously sententious,” like his father.


See Proverbs 10:7; 2 Kings 2:1–15, esp. verses 8, 9, and 13.


20 Oct. (JQA, Diary , 1:344).


AA to JQA, 11, 23 Aug., both above; William Vans Murray to JQA, 2 Aug., Adams Papers (see JQA to AA2, 1 Oct., above, under “Saturday 22d” ).


Both Mary Cranch and Cotton Tufts were informed of AA2's dismissal of Royall Tyler in letters from AA (15 Aug., and 18 Aug., both above) carried by Capt. Lyde, who arrived in Boston on 20 October. The news evidently reached Shaw after her return from Boston, on the same day, although AA's letter to her of ca. 15 Aug. , above, also carried by Lyde, does not mention the subject.


Of ca. 15 Aug. , above; there AA mentions sending books to each of Elizabeth Shaw's children, and to TBA.


Perhaps the suit of “Chocolate coloured Cloaths” mentioned at the end of the 6 Nov. 1784 inventory (Adams Papers) of JQA's possessions that were sent from Holland to Boston; the last section lists clothes sent from The Hague to JQA at Auteuil.

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 8 November 1785 Cranch, Mary Smith AA Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 8 November 1785 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
My dear Sister Braintree November 8th 1785

Although I have written so largly to you by the last vessels that Saild1 I cannot bear to let another go without a few Lines. I have not yet receiv'd your Letters by Charles Storer. He is not come to Boston. I am anxious to receive them. I want to know what it is, whether any thing in particular has happen'd to make my Neice take such a determin'd part with regard to a certain Gentleman.2 He is very jealous that I have acquainted you with some of his conduct which he knows I cannot approve. He is mistaken. I have been too much affraid of making mischief to do it, and I plainly perceiv'd that he would do his own Business for himself, without the assistance of any body else. You have not told me whether you receiv'd a Letter from me by Mr. Bulfinsh,3 that is the only one in which I ever mention'd his ditaining cousins Letters for a long time from her Friends. I know not whether Mrs. Guild would have ever got hers4 if I had not accidintly Seen them and told her that he had Some for her. She Sent for them often but he would neither Send them, nor go to see her although he was in Boston three weeks of the time out of the month he detain'd them. At last She talk'd to Mr. Wibird about it, and got him to ask him what he meant. Betsey was present when he did. He first ask'd him whether he had a Letter for Mrs. Guild. He colour'd up to his ears, but after Some time, in a mumbling manner he Said yes. “And why do you not give it to her?” “I have a particular reason for not doing it.” “It must be a very particular one indeed or 455it will not excuse you from a charge of breach of trust.”5 The next day He sent two to her by Cousin Tommy. The first which I saw had the Seal broke, that She never receiv'd, so She told me the other day. He would have serv'd Cousin Betsy Palmer in the same manner If Betsy Cranch had not insisted upon his telling her whether he had one or not.6 He open'd his Pacquit in the room with us. This was the first he receiv'd in the Spring. Cousin Betsy was present. We Saw five or Six Letters. He said there was but one of them for him. He gave Betsy Cranch one.7 We ask'd him if there was not one for Cousin Betsy. He would not answer, but carried them all into his chamber. I thought there was one for her and told my Betsy to make him Say whether there was or not. “He did not know but there was.” He look'd a little vex'd but went up and got it.8 You cannot wonder if after this we could not place any confidences in him. He has conduct'd Strangly towards the Germantown Family ever Since last winter, has not been there above there three times since, and he may have Spoken to Cousin Betsy Six times but not more, and all this for nobody knows what that I can find out. I could tell you more but as you are not like to be any further connected with him, I will let him alone: I have not Seen him Since his chagrine. His officce has been shut up and he in Boston for five weeks. The court has sat two of them. I know no more about his business than you do. If cousin knew how he had show'd her Letters about she would be very angry. He has I hear been reprov'd for it by some of the young Fellows he show'd them too. His answer was “He was so proud of Miss A's Letters that he could not help it.” Did he mean (when he told cousin that he had written by the way of Amsterdam)9 that he had written to her before the first october Letters? He told me and others that he never had written her one before, and that he had reciev'd Six from her before she could have had one from him. I ask'd him what excuse he had made for himself. He Said none, and that he would not let her know that he had reciev'd one of hers if he did not think other people would tell her. How he does delight to plague Those he thinks he can?

The Doctor has written you upon the subject10 but he poor man has had his Hands and Heart full ever Since he reciev'd your Letters. Our good Aunt Tufts after a most distressing Sickness which She bore with a patience and fortitude which would have Surpriz'd you has exchang'd this troublesome World for one where all Tears will be wip'd from her Eyes. She so earnestly long'd for her release that her dearest connections could not wish for her staying longer here. She 456dy'd last Lords day evening about half after six o clock. I follow'd her to the Grave and saw her deposited by the side of our dear Parents. It Was a solemn scene to me. The Doctor behaves like a saint. His son is so softend11 that he made us a visit the day after, and has promiss'd to repeat them. The poor have lost a Friend indeed but no one has met with so great a Loss as Lucy Jones. She is much affected.

Your Mother Hall is well. We have had several Sudden Deaths within a week in this Parish. Hannah Whits Husband, The widdow Crane and Sally Brackit a Daughter of James Brackit. She was sick but three days of a Putred Fever, you may remember her Blooming countinance.12 Your Neighbours are well. Esters mother spent an afternoon with me a few days sinc. Cousin Charles Billy and Lucy have been to Haverhill to see their Friends: Betsy is there yet. They are all well. Cousin John very Studious, and is a mere recluse. He however went with Miss Peggy and Betsy to Newburry and Spent two days at Mr. Daultons, and pleass'd enough they were. Betsy will write you all about it.

Do not read any more of this Letter to any body than you find necessary. I do not wish to prejudice any body, but you know not how uneasey all of us have been, for the Happiness of your Family, and yet every Body was affraid to Speak. Before he receiv'd her last Letter he had written her a very long one. I wonder if he has Sent it. I wish you could see it if he has.13 He is so suspicious of me that I believe I am not very favourably mention'd in it. I must repeat He has no reason for it. I have been his Friend as far as he would let me be so, but Surely I owe more to you than to him.—Mr. Cranch will send you Some chocalate by Capt. Young if he can get him to take it.

Cousin Charles behaves well at college. I have got a surtout of cousin Johns14 alter'd for him and Tommy has taken his. I am going to get Some worsted stocking for them. Do you know that Cousin John has Sixty five pair of Stockings Thread cotton and Silk and not one pair of them have the Heels lin'd or run? We have been fixing a reasonable number for him and have put by the others till they are worn out. I am asham'd to send you this without copying it but my pen is so bad and my time So short that I cannot do it.

I do not know of another vessel to Sail for England this fall. If there Should be one I shall write again. I believe you have reciev'd more from me than from any one else. I feel as if I wanted to be always Scribling to you. Give my Love to Mr. Adams and my dear Niece and believe me at all times your affectionate Sister

M. Cranch

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “1785 Mrs Cranch 8 November.”


Mary Cranch to AA, 14 Aug., and ca. 23 Oct., both above.


Royall Tyler, whom AA2 dismissed on ca. 11 Aug. , above; see AA to Mary Cranch, 15 Aug., to which Cranch responded on ca. 23 Oct., both above.


Of 4 June, above; see Richard Cranch to JA, 3 June, above.


No letter from AA2 to Elizabeth Quincy Guild has been found.


All closing quotation marks inserted by the editors.


No letter from AA2 to Elizabeth Palmer has been found.


This letter has not been identified.


No letter from AA2 to Elizabeth Palmer has been found.


See AA to Mary Cranch, 15 Aug., and note 7, above. Closing quotation mark supplied in the previous sentence.


Perhaps Cotton Tufts to AA, 12 Oct., above, although that letter was a response to AA's concern about Tyler in May; no letter from Tufts to AA in late October or early November is known to the editors.


See JQA to AA2, 29 Aug., note 18, above.


Sarah, daughter of James and Mary Brackett, died on 31 Oct., at age 18 (Pattee, Old Braintree and Quincy , p. 123).


No letters from Royall Tyler to AA2 have been found.


Perhaps the “blue great Coat,” listed in the inventory of 6 Nov. 1784 (Adams Papers), as being sent to Boston from Holland; or the “green Surtout” listed in the same inventory as sent from Holland to JQA in France.