Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts, 8 March 1785 AA Tufts, Cotton Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts, 8 March 1785 Adams, Abigail Tufts, Cotton
Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts
My Dear Sir March 8th. 1785

Mr. Adams received last Evening a Letter from you dated January 1st,1 in which you inform him of some little purchases which are very agreeable to him. I wrote you by his consent in January respecting Mr. Alleynes Farm. I suppose my Letters have not yet reachd America, as Captain Young has been detained Months in England longer than was expected. We are a little alarmed at the Hazard we have run, 77because we find it impossible upon the present Establishment to save any thing from it. I believe I mentiond to you that with the assistance of my son I had kept a Regular account of all our expences. And I am sure you will suppose that we live very differently from what we really do, when I assure you that I am obliged to Economize not to be in debt at the close of every Month; if Congress would place us where we were at first, we might get through the purchase of the place, but as that is yet dubious and our sons are going into College which will be attended with a large expence, we are fearfull of being involved in difficulties, and tho it is an object very desirable to us, we fear we shall be obliged to give up the Idea of it. If Mr. Alleyne however should be as dilatory as he has hitherto been, I will not dispair, if our former request have not reachd you so as to have taken decisive measures. You will go no further at present than to make inquiries what it may be had for, and what you really think the value of it, which you will be so kind as to transmit to us. I recollect a story of a minister of Queen Elizabeths whom she one day visited, and observed to him that he had a very small and indifferent House. May it please your Majesty said the minister, the House is big enough for the Man, but you have made the Man too big for the House.

As to the Medford Farm you will be so kind as to have every thing done which will be for the benifit of it. We have so perfect a confidence on your judgment with regard to all these matters that we scarcly wish to direct about them, and Mr. A has been so long a statesman that I cannot get him to think enough upon his domestick affairs. He loves to have every thing as it should be, but does not wish to be troubled about them. He chuses I should write and think about them and give directions. Tho I am very willing to releive him from every care in my power, yet I think it has too much the appearence of weilding instead of sharing the Scepter.

I cannot Sir give you any very promising account with Regard to the Treaties of commerce. Prussia have compleated theirs all to signing. As to England they appear as much infatuated as ever, no answer has been as yet sent to the information which our ministers gave them in December, that they were ready to go to England and treat with them.2 I have heard that our Merchants are very Angry that the ministers do not Treat, and that they reflect upon them. What more can be done than to inform the Courts of their powers, and to offer them term of treatys. They cannot compel nations into treaties. England is very sour and bitter haughty and imperious, and I hear abuses America upon every occasion. Time was you know Sir, when 78an amicable treaty might have been made with England very favourable to America, and you know to what intrigues it was oweing that the Commercial powers were taken from the person in whom they were first invested;3 but Time past, can not be recalled, as our Country Men now feel, and as was then predicted.

Mr. Jays acceptance as minister for Foreign affairs4 gives us hopes that his wisdom and integrity will have a happy influence upon our affairs. Mr. Adams's Colleigue Mr. Jefferson is an Excellent Man. Worthy of his station and will do honour to his Country. He has been sick all winter and is now far from being well. Dr. Franklin goes not out at all. Remember me sir to my dear good Aunt and to your son and Neice.5 My Heart always overflows when I think of all my dear Friends in America, in the first of that Number I hold you and yours and such I hope you will ever consider your affectionate

A Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed by JQA: “Honble. Cotton Tufts Esqr. Boston Massachusetts”; endorsed: “Mrs. Adams Lettr. March 5th”; in another hand?: “recd. by Dr. Clarke May. 17. 1785.” Some damage to the text where the seals were torn away, and along one edge.


Not found. JA's letter to Tufts of 5 March, above, acknowledges receipt of the letter.


See AA to Mary Cranch, 9 Dec. 1784, note 4, above.


Congress' decision, in July 1781, to revoke JA's sole power to negotiate a commercial treaty with England (see AA to Tufts, 3 Jan., and note 8, above; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:104, and note 1).


Congress elected John Jay secretary of foreign affairs in May 1784, just as he was preparing to return to America ( JCC , 26:354–355). Jay assumed his office on 21 Dec. 1784, and formally notified JA, Franklin, and Jefferson of his acceptance on 14 January (Jefferson, Papers , 7:606). JA, who had expressed his concern to Jay on 15 Dec. over whether he would accept the office, warmly congratulated him on 9 March (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 363, 371).


Probably a daughter of Dr. Cotton Tufts' brother, Dr. Simon Tufts, and his first wife, Lucy Dudley Tufts, who died in 1768.

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 20 March 1785 AA Thaxter, John Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 20 March 1785 Adams, Abigail Thaxter, John
Abigail Adams to John Thaxter
My Dear Sir Auteuil March 20. 1785

To what cause shall I attribute your silence, that not a line has reachd me since I arrived in Europe? Altho I have not written to you since my arrival, yet as a Friend and former correspondent I feel myself entitled to your remembrance. I have heard from others of your welfare and pleasing prospects, in which be assured no one more sincerely rejoices than your Friend.

My son too complains that altho he has repeatedly written to you, and other Friends, he has not received a line in reply. He hopes soon however to refresh the memory of them, by his return to America, 79where he flatters himself he shall be kindly and cordially received notwithstanding their failure in literary testimonies of remembrance.

It is with no small regret that I see the day speedily hastning, which is again to seperate me from this Branch of my family, but I do not consult my own pleasure or satisfaction which must necessaryly suffer a diminution; but the future benifit and prospects of a Youth just Launching into the world. An American breize will be more likely to set him forward on his Voyage with less danger to his passage than the European gales, which too often wreck the adventurous Passenger, and always hazard his safety.

But to quit Allegory, it is in complience with his own requests, that both his Parents have consented to his return. A Year spent at Harvard with diligent application may qualify him to commence the study of the Law, and prepare him for a usefull Citizen in his native Country. You and the rest of our Friends I hope will aid him, by your advice and counsel, and from his present disposition and inclinations, I think he will not willingly give them any cause of displeasure.

You may posibly think it much out of season, if I should now congratulate you upon your return to your native Country, but I never before could do it, with such a firm persuasion of the utility of it, or paint to myself the amaizing difference which subsists between those Countries which have passt the Zenith of their glory, saped by Luxury, and undermined by the rage for pleasure, and a Young a flourishing a free, and I may add, a virtuous Country uncontrouled by a Royal Mandate, unshackled by a military police, unfearfull of the thundring anathamas of Ecclesiastic power, where every individual possest of industery and probity, has a sure reward for his Labour, uninfested with thousands of useless virmin, whom Luxery supports upon the Bread of Idleness, a Country where Virtue is still revered; and modesty still Cloaths itself in crimson. But you have lived too long in Europe to require any description from my pen, and I dare say have too often contrasted the difference not to wish a long long youth to America.

Do you expect from my pen a detail of politicks? I can only tell you, that neither England or Spain will enter into any treaty here; Prussia is the only power with whom a final treaty is closed. Other Courts move so slowly that no buisness is yet concluded with them. We hear daily and bitter complaints of the British temper and disposition towards America, but it is not the Mercantile Clamour of a people which designates the sense of the Cabinet. We suffer for want of a Minister there. You know it is the policy of ....1 to prevent an 80exchange of ministers with the British Court, but the invitation from St. James to Congress to send a minister and the late appointment of Mr. Temple as consul General,2 are proofs that they are not so indifferent with regard to a connection with America as Refugees and others pretend. You are too well acquainted with Courts not to know, that you must look behind the scenes to discover the real Characters of the actors, and their naturel appearence, whilst the World see no further than the Stage, without once conceiving that all Courts are James'es.

The ministers have received Authentic accounts that an American vessel has been Captured by one of the Emperor of Morocas Corssairs. He has not sufferd the Men to be enslaved, as those which are taken from other Nations are, but has informed the Ministers that he will release them as soon as Congress will send a person to treat with him, and that he is ready to enter into an alliance with America upon the same footing with other Nations, which you know is with Cash in hand, but as the Ministers here have no Authority upon that score, they are much perplexed what course to take.3 Some are for making war upon these people as pirates, but England France and Holland treat and pay, would it not be folly and madness in America to Wage War? Mr. A's dutch loan has succeeded so well that there is cash enough to treat with, provided Congress think proper. The words which were once represented as so reprehensible, viz. “I will go to Holland and see if I cannot make America less dependant upon France,” have been literally accomplishd, in more instances than one, for not a single stiver is to be had any where but in Holland, even the interest due to this Court is drawn from thence.4 But what does our Country design. Interest is a canker worm which will knaw to the vitals, and to borrow abroad even for the payment of interest they will find very bad policy.

On Monday last I dined with the Dr. Franklin 5 who has always been vastly social and civil to me. He looks in good Health, but is much afflicted with his disorder which prevents his riding or walking. He tells me that he is fully determined to go out to America in the spring, but I think whatever his inclination may be, his infirmities will prevent him. Mr. Jefferson too has been sick these four months. Mr. A is very happy in him. As to Col. Humphries he looks Built for duration.

Pray make my affectionate Regards to all your family and tell me how they do. I cannot in future suffer either Courts or Writs to Rival me in your Regards, nor will I give place to any female but a wife. 81Be not alarmed at the word, Since you will find the reality a very necessary ingredient in your future portion of happiness. At least that is the opinion of one who has had twenty Years experience in the Connubial State. A greater felicity than a happy union cannot therefore be wished you by your affectionate Friend

Abigail Adams

Be so good as to present my Respects to Judge Sergent and family. Emelia joins in affectionate Remembrance to you.

RC (MB); endorsed: “Mrs. Adams March 20th. 1785.” Dft (Adams Papers); notation in JQA's hand: “To J. Thaxter. May 1785”; originally filmed under May 1785, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 364.


AA probably intended Vergennes, the French foreign minister. Many French and British merchants were also cool toward Britain exchanging ministers with the United States.


John Temple was appointed the first British consul general in the United States on 5 Feb., presented his commission to John Jay on 24 Nov., and was formally accepted by Congress on 2 Dec. 1785 ( JCC , 29:886, 897–898).


JA discusses this issue at length in his Diary for 19 and 20 March ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:173–175).


JA had negotiated the most recent Dutch loan on 9 March 1784 (same, 3:168, note 1). For the quotation, see AA to Cotton Tufts, 3 Jan., note 8, above.


Both AA2 and JQA place the most recent Adams visit to Franklin's for dinner on Thursday, 17 March, and give details of that occasion. The Adamses had entertained several guests on Monday, 14 March, but the ailing Franklin probably did not attend (AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 1:56–57; JQA, Diary , 1:235–237).