Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 11 January 1785 AA Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 11 January 1785 Adams, Abigail Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw
Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw
My Dear Sister Auteuil January 11 1785

I was doubly rejoiced to receive a Letter from you1 not only on account of the pleasure which I usually enjoy from your pen: but because it informd me of your recovery from a dangerous illness. In a Letter which I wrote you the latter part of December,2 I have given you a long lesson respecting your Health: which altho it might savor something of the Quack, and a little of the Authority of Eldership, Spoke not my Heart, if it manifested not the tender solicitude of a Sister anxious for the Health of one deservedly Dear to her. I must therefore repeat to you; not to encumber your family beyond your Strength. A life of ease, and gentle excercise, is absolutly requisite for you: a tranquil State of mind, which has much to hope and nothing to fear. A different Situation would remove you, much sooner than Your Friends wish, to a state greatly Superiour to that which you now possess. I own myself so selfish that tho I doubt not of your qualifications for it, I hope to see you remain many years subject to the incident infirmities of Mortality, and like your fellow Mortals grow Grey and wrinkled here, before you Bloom afresh in the regions of immortality. I am not a little rejoiced that my Letters proved so benificial to you as you describe, and that I was capable of serving you, tho so far removed from you. A sudden exhilaration of the spirits, has proved of vast service in many disorders. I have experienced the benifit myself. Your family narrative afforded me pleasure because it related those calamities which were happily past, and displayd a more pleasing picture.

I am rejoiced to find that my Sons have been bless'd with so large a share of health since my absence, if they are wise they will improve the rigor of their early Days, and the Bloom of their Health in acquiring such a fund of learning, and knowledge, as may render them usefull to themselves, and benificial to Society, the great purpose for which they were sent into the World. That knowledge which is obtaind in early Life becomes every day more usefull, as it is commonly that which is best retaind. To be Good, and do Good, is the whole Duty of Man, comprized in a few words; but what a capacious Field does it open to our view? And how many Characters 56may grow from this root, whose usefull branches may shade the oppressd; May comfort the dejected: may heal the wounded: may cure the sick, may defend the invaded; may enrich the poor. In short those who possess the disposition will never want employment.

How justly did you describe my Ideas; when you said “a parents thoughts flew quick.”3 Mine, I own, had outstriped that passage; I would not, that a son of mine, should form any sentiments with respect to any female, but those of due decorum, and a general complasance, which every Youth acquainted with good manners, and civility will practise towards them, untill years have matured their judgment, and learning has made them wise. I would; that they should have no passion but for Science, and no mistress but Literature: “so shall discretion preserve them and understanding keep them. If they incline their ears to wisdom and apply their Hearts to understanding.”4

The age of the Young Lady relieved me from some anxiety, especially as I have since heard that she has much older admirers.5 Charles's disposition, and sensibility will render him more liable to female attachments, than the Young Hercules who sits beside me, and who like many other Youths pretends to brave the danger which has never assaild him; but who in time, like that Hero, may find an Omphalia to bring him to the distaff, but who, at present is much better occupied with his Horace and Tacitus.6

I thank you for all your kind Maternal care towards my sons. I hope they will be both sensible of it; and gratefull for it, and that both their uncles and your advice to them will not fail to have a due influence upon their conduct.

I suppose every Letter I write; you will expect that I should give you some account of the amusements I have; and the curiosities I see; there are enough of each in Paris to employ my pen. But of the amusements, the theaters are those only which have yet occupied me; the description of which I must reserve for my Young correspondents.7 As there are a variety of cuorisities I shall endeavour to adapt the account of them to the different tastes of my Friends; I am going this afternoon to visit the Enfans trouvés, which at my return I will recount to you because I know your Benevolence will lead you to rejoice in an institution calculated to save from Death and wretchedness, those helpless Indigent Beings brought into existance by criminality; and owned by no one.

I have returned from my visit to the Hopital des enfans-Trouves, and truly it is a painfull pleasing sight. This House was built in the 57Reign of Louis 14th. in the year 1747.8 It was built by a decree of the king and is under the direction of Eight administrators, and is Superintended by Nuns, or charity sisters as they are call'd. We were shewn into a Room Large and airy which containd about a hundred cribs, cradles they call them, but they are more properly cribs, as they are fixd all round the room and are not moveable. Through the middle of the appartment are two more rows the length of the Room, which was I am almost tempted to say the cleanest I have seen in France. Every bed was white linnen, and every child in them appeard neat, and with cloathing that lookd comfortable. I observed too; the large quantitys of necessary linnen which hung at fires in the different rooms, which like every thing else which I saw here; was very white and clean. The rooms too were sweet, which was an other proof of the attention of the Nurses. There were numbers in the Arms; great numbers a sleep; and several crying, which you will easily credit, when I tell you; that this is but the Eleventh day of the Month, and the Charity sister who appeard an intellegent well bred woman informd us; that two hundred had been brought in since the year commenced. Whilst I stood talking with her there was one brought in which appeard to be 3 months old. They generally receive at this House Six thousand a year, (there is an other House of the same kind.) Last year she told us that five thousand five hundred were lodged there, and that House had sent into the provinces 15 thousand which were now at nurse: they keep them out untill they are 5 years old. Children are received here at any hour of the Day, or Night, in the day they are brought in at the door, and in the Night the Nuns watch to receive them. There are certain parts of Paris which are appropriated to this purpose, and small Boxes which may be drawn out from under a cover; in which the child is deposited, and the person who finds it Carries it to this House; where they are received without any further form or declaration from the Commissary of the quarter than naming the place the Day and Hour when the child was found. The person is not obliged to relate any other circumstance. They have always four wet nurses in each appartment for the youngest and weakest of the children: but as fast as they can provide accommodations for them in the Country, they are sent there: where the Air is purer and better than in Paris. The Governess told us that about a third of them died, notwithstanding all their care and attention, that they were sometimes so chill'd with the cold; and so poorly clad that they could not bring them to any warmth, or even make them swallow.

58 “Where can they hope for pity, peace or rest Who move no softness in a parents Breast.”

The Hôpital de la pitié which joins upon this is the place where they are received when they return from the Country. There they are taught to read and write, the Boys to knit, and the Girls to sew and make lace. When they have made their first communion which is from 10 to 12 years of age they are put to trades. They have a church which belongs to the Hospitals, but I had not time to see it. Whilst we approve the Charatable disposition, and applaud the wise institution which alleviates the fate of helpless innocence; can we draw a veil over the Guilty Cause, or refrain from comparing a Country grown old in Debauchery and lewdeness with the wise Laws and institutions of one wherein Mariage is considerd as holy and honourable, wherein industry and sobriety; enables parents to rear a numerous ofspring, and where the Laws provide a resource for illegitimecy by obliging the parents to a maintenance; and if not to be obtaind there, they become the charge of the town or parish where they are born: but how few the instances of their being totally abandoned by their parents? Whereas I have been credibly informd that one half the Children anually born in that immense City of Paris, are enfans trouvés.

Present my Regards to Mr. Shaw, to whom I will write if I have time. Pray has Mr. Allen carried home his Lady yet?!9

I believe Mr. Thaxter has forgotton that I was formerly a correspondent of his, but I design soon to remind him of it. I hear of his success with pleasure; you will not fail to remember me to your Venerable Neighbour at the foot of the Hill, and all her Worthy family. I feel for the sore calimity of Mrs. White: by how many instances are we taught, not to place our affections too firmly upon earthly objects. How doatingly fond was this good Lady of her children, and she had reason to be fond, for they were both amiable and good. To Judge Sergant and family present my Regards. Honest, Modest Mr. Flint shall not be forgotten by me. The air of Haverhill Hill is too keen for him, he should live below it. Mr. Adams by me, presents his affectionate Regards to Mr. Shaw and my worthy Sister, to whom I tender the compliments of the New Year. May this and many succeeding ones find her happy is the ardent wish of her affectionate Sister

Abigail Adams

Will my sister accept a peice of sattin for a peticoat, which if I can smuggle into England in the form of a large Letter; will I hope go 59safe to her hand. There is a trunk of Cloaths sent from the Hague for the Children10 which you will be so good as to let me know when they arrive. Whatever is out grown you will dispose of as you think best and if there is any thing which will serve Mrs. West, who prehaps may be more needy than some others, you will be so good as to give them to her but dont mention my name, as they are all at your disposal.

RC (DLC: Shaw Family Papers).


That of ca. 15 Oct. 1784, above.


14 Dec. 1784, above.


AA rephrases Elizabeth Shaw's speculation, in her ca. 15 Oct. letter, that AA would be concerned that CA might take a premature interest in Nancy Hazen, who had come to live with the Shaws, and to whom AA refers in the next paragraph.


Proverbs 2:11 and 2:2.


The source of AA's information is not known to the editors, but Elizabeth Shaw mentions one of Nancy Hazen's admirers, a William Osgood, in her letter of 30 Jan., to Mary Cranch (DLC: Shaw Family Papers).


In Greek mythology, Omphale was a Lydian queen who bought Hercules' labor for a year. Alexandrian poets and Ovid, in his Heroides, portray Hercules performing domestic chores, and Omphale bearing Hercules a son. Oxford Classical Dictionary .


See AA to Elizabeth Cranch, 3 Jan., above.


AA2, in her description of this institution (under 12 Jan.) helps to explain AA's chronological error: “Louis 14th, by a declaration of an order of his council, authorized the establishment of this hospital, .... This house was built in the year 1747” ( Jour. and Corr. , 1:41).


Rev. Jonathan Allen of Bradford, Mass., would marry Elizabeth Kent of Charlestown, AA's first cousin, on 11 Dec. 1785 (JQA, Diary , 1:369, note 1).


See the inventory of JQA's clothing and books, 6 Nov. 1784, Adams Papers.

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 16 January 1785 Cranch, Mary Smith AA Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 16 January 1785 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
My Dear Sister Braintree Janry 16th 1785

Not one line from my dear Sister have I reciev'd sinc last September. What can be the reason? I hope the letters we have written to you are all come safe to your Hands and that you have had no great expence in geting them. We have done all we could to prevent it. John Cranch tells us of a large Pacquit coming from the Hague by the English Ambassador which Mr. Elworthy sent to you. I hope one of them was mine the first I sent you.1 It was directed to be sent to London but Uncle Smith thought you would be at the Hague and sent it to Holland.

I long to know what you have been doing since you wrote last. What you have seen and whether you can speak French glibly. Where Cousin Nabby is, whether in a Nunnery or not. If She is how She likes it. What success my dear Brother meets with, and above all when you will come Home. Indeed my Sister Braintree is a dull place without you. I missd you Sadly in the Summer, but this Winter much 60more. Mr. Cranch keeps in Bostoon as usual, but he has mov'd his Lodgings to a Brother of the Mr. Fosters2 where he was when you went away. He is now well accomidated with room enough. The People neat sensible and obliging. We have been blessed with Health, excepting little indispositions now and then some times. I have had more Rhumatick Pains this winter than I ever had in my life. Betsy has not had one of her Ill turns since you went away, I hope She has out grown them. I heard last week from Haverhill. They were all well. Sister Says you said you should send the children some stockings. Charles is in want of some. I have bought two pair for him. Your Mother Hall is well, desires I would give her Love to you all. Our Germantown Friends affairs are yet in a bad way, and Cousin Jo3 is again shut up in Boston. He open'd a shop in town. He had goods of Mr. Swan and others upon commission, but he could not do business enough to pay his rent and support his Family and make payments as they expected. Mr. Swan more careful than the others Siez'd every thing he had in his Shop which oblig'd him to Shut up. I pity them from my Heart. What can they do next. The House is strip'd of almost all the furniture. You may remember a consignment of about four Hundred pound Sterling that Mr. Bond Who married Hannah Cranch sent him. I fear he will lose the greatest part of it. He happen'd to come to Boston just as he shut up,4 part of his goods were among those that Mr. Swan took. Most of them were Sold and the Money Spent. He has got part of the Firniture made over to him. Their distresses are very great and will be greater I fear.

Mr. Bond is a little sprilly kind good natur'd sensible Man. They hop'd to have seen you in the West.5 You would be diverted to hear him give an account of the Preparations that were made to recieve you. Their Houses were all set in order, and new cloaths purchased to waite upon your Ladyship in. John Cranch had his Hair dress'd and Powder'd a thing which was never done but twice before in his life. A new Hat was procur'd and a pair of Buckels were put into his shoes which had not been fastend with any thing but shoe strings for Seven years before. John Palmer had a new coat &c. and was greatly concern'd least the Lane leading to his House should not be wide enough to admit your carriage to come up to the Door. But poor Creatures how you dissapointed them by landing at Dover. If you should go to England again you must if you can, make them a visit.

Mr. Thacher was installed on wednesday last, and on thursday evening he married Judge Quincy to Miss Gerrish.6 I expect to see a pompous account of it in the news Paper. I was in Boston yesterday. 61All our Freinds were well. Mrs. Otis and Mrs. Guild are in a very thriving State.7 The Doctor and Aunt Tufts are well. Aunt has had her Health better than common this winter. Lucy8 has been with her for above a month. You never saw such a fine winter as we have had thus far. We have had fine slaying for Six Weeks without any interuption. Snow enough and not a Bank to be Seen. You may turn out of the road better than in Summer.

Mr. Tyler had determin'd to carry all our Children to Haverhill this week in his sleigh but the court sets in Boston and will prevent him he thought, it would have been up. His business I think increases and as far as I can judge he attends it with steadiness. He has his share at this court. Billy is now at home and will write to cousin John if the vesel does not sail too soon for him. He is Studous and behaves well, is determin'd to study Law if he lives to come out of College, hopes for the Company of his Cousin next spring. Your Neighbours are all well, and desire to be remember'd to you. Mrs. Quincy sends her Love to you. Uncle Quincy has been confin'd to his chamber above two months with the Rhumatism in his Hip and Leg. He is better but not down Stairs yet. I frequently visit him. He sends his Love too, and indeed I do not know Who does not, so pray excuse me for the future from particularizing. I am out of all patience with my Letters. They are all narritive, do not expose me to any body. Pray find some way to let me hear9 from you oftner. Remember me kindly to Mr. Adams and my Cousins and believe me at all times your affectionate Sister.

RC (Adams Papers); slight damage where the seal was cut away.


Probably Mary Cranch to AA, 7 Aug. 1784, above; see Mary Cranch to AA, 3 Oct., postscript, and AA to Mary Cranch, 9 Dec., note 2, both above.


Perhaps a brother of Joseph Foster, the State Street merchant who was a passenger with AA on the Active in June-July 1784 (see vol. 4:348, note 11; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:164; AA to Mary Cranch, 6 July 1784, above).


Joseph Pearse Palmer.


Comma supplied.


That is, the West Country of England. The persons appearing in this paragraph lived in Devon, near the ports of Plymouth and Exeter. In July-Aug. 1787, AA, JA, and AA2 visited several Cranches and Palmers in this area, including Joseph Cranch of Axminster, nephew of Richard Cranch, and John Palmer of Horsham, nephew of Gen. John Joseph Palmer. See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:203–210; AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 1:85–89; and particularly AA to Elizabeth Cranch, 1 Oct. 1787 (Adams Papers), which describes John Cranch's dress and manners, and the impossibility of reaching John Palmer's farmhouse by coach.


Edmund Quincy IV, then age 81, married Anna Gerrish, who was in her sixties, on 13 Jan. 1785. The Boston Gazette of 17 Jan. carried an account of Rev. Peter Thacher's installation at the Brattle Square Church, and a brief notice of the Quincy-Gerrish wedding.


Both women, AA's cousins, were pregnant. Elizabeth Quincy Guild gave birth to Benjamin Guild Jr. on 8 May 1785.


Lucy Cranch.


Mary Cranch wrote the text after “hear” in the left margin.