Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams Smith, 23 August 1786 AA AA2 Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams Smith, 23 August 1786 Adams, Abigail Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams Smith
My dear Amsterdam 23d. August 1786

Mr S. and Mr Blount set off tomorrow for London and have engaged to call this Evening for Letters. We have not received a line from you except what these gentlemen brought us, this is the fourth time I have written to you.

If politeness and attention could render a place agreeable, I have had more reason to be pleased with this Country, than any other, that I have visited, and when I get across the water again, I shall not regret the visit I have made here.

These people appear to think of the past, the present, and the future, whilst they do honour to their former Heroes, and patriots, by paintings, sculpture, and monuments, they are establishing wise institutions, and forming the minds and manners of their youth, that they may transmit to posterity, those rights, and liberties, which they are sensible have suffered infringments, but which they appear determined to regain, and are uniting in spirited and vigorous measures, for that purpose. The death of his Prussian Majesty of which there appears at present no doubt, will diminish the influence of the Court party in this country, already in the wane, as the politicians say.1 But of this enough. I was at the play the night before last, the Grand Duke and Dutchess,2 with their Retinue were present, the Dutchess is a fine looking woman. The house is small, but neat well lighted, and I think handsomer than any of the Theatres in England, the actors pretty good. The ladies of this country have finer complexions than the English, and have not spoilt them by cosmeticks. Rouge is confined to the stage here. There is the greatest distinction in point of dress, between the peasantry of the Country and people of distinction, that I have seen in any Country, yet they dress rich and fine in their own way. I went yesterday with a party, to Sardam, by Water about two hours sail. It is a very neat village 325and famous, for being the place where Czar, Peter the great worked as a Ship Carpenter. It was their annual Fair, at which there was a great collection of people, so that I had an opportunity of seeing the various dresses of different provinces. Mr Willink, told us, that there were several peasants who belonged to Sardam, who owned, a hundred thousand pounds property.

To day we dine with the elder Mr Willink, whose lady speaks English very well, and is a very agreeable woman. And this evening we go with them to a different Theatre. They have three play houses in this place. We are undetermined as yet whether to go to Utrecht on Saturday, or set off for the Hague. We should have gone there to day, but the Grand-duke, had taken the boat, and all the publick houses, there fit to go into, so that we did not wish to fall into his corteg3 again, if he continues there longer than Saturday we shall return without visiting that province. We shall make no longer stay at the Hague, than to take leave, as I suppose all will be sable there, we are not prepared to go into company. We have determined to return by Helvot, I suppose in Saturday weeks packet, so that I hope to see you by Monday night, or Tuesday at furthest. I have done what you desired, but to very little more advantage than in London.

Adieu you cannot want more to see us, than we do to return again to you. Love to both of you. I hope my family in Grosvenor Square, has not increased in my absence. I was not aware of a young cook till the morning I left home. I was then thrown into an astonishment in which I should be glad to be mistaken, but am very sure I am not.4 Yours affectionately

A. A.

Tr in ABA's hand (Adams Papers); notation by CFA: “AA to her daughter in London. Mrs W S. S.” Printed in (AA2, Jour. & Corr. , 2:57–59.)


Frederick the Great died on 17 August. Provoked by the arrest of his sister, Wilhelmina, Princess of Orange, Frederick's successor and nephew, Frederick William II, invaded the Netherlands in Sept. 1787, crushed the Patriot forces, and restored the full powers of his brother-in-law Stadholder William V (Simon Schama, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780–1813, N.Y., 1977, p. 106–107, 123–132).


Ferdinand and Maria Beatrice d'Este, Archduke and Archduchess of Austria.


“Vortex” in the printed version.


Presumably a reference to one of the Adamses' servants who was pregnant.

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 30 August 1786 JQA JA John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 30 August 1786 Adams, John Quincy Adams, John
John Quincy Adams to John Adams
Dear Sir Cambrige August 30th: 1786

I received a few days agone, your favour of June 2d:1 you mention an Affair, concerning which I had determined to write in the begin-326ning of this Quarter. I have thought much of an Office in which to Study the Law. Should you return home next Spring, and be yourself at Leisure to instruct me, I should certainly prefer that to studying any where else. But if you are still detained in Europe, I should wish to Live in some place, where there might be Society sufficient for relaxation at Times, but not enough to encourage dissipation. Boston I should for several Reasons, wish to avoid. The Principal ones are, that it is unfavorable to Study, and that it would be almost doubly expensive. Mr: Parsons of Newbury, has been mentioned, and I should be very glad to study with him. However it is not perhaps a matter of much consequence whose office I am in, if my Time is well spent in it. I look forward with mingled Pain and Pleasure, to the Time when, I shall finish the Collegiate Term. I have made it my endeavour to be intimate, only with the best Characters in my Class, and there are several, with whom I enjoy many social half hours: as our pursuits are confined here, meerly to Literature, it is necessary to be a very Close Student, in order to acquire a respectable Character. Out of an hundred and sixty Students, that are here, there is undoubtedly every gradation, from the most amiable disposition to the worst; from the smallest genius to the greatest, and from the compleat ignoramus to the youth of learning. There are some who do not study twelve hours in the course of a twelve month, and some who study as much almost everyday, and it always happens that their Reputation, is in an exact Ratio to the attention they pay to studying. The good scholar is esteemed, even by the idle; but the bad one, is despised as much by those who are like him, as he is by the judicious. This is the common Course; but in these peaceful mansions there is the same Spirit of intrigue, and party, and as much inclination to Cabal, as may be discovered at Courts. It has not the same Opportunities to show itself, and remains for the most part concealed. But there are certain Circumstances and Situations in which it breaks forth with great vehemence. This has lately been the Case with my Class. It is customary early in the first Quarter of the Senior Year, for Each Class, to meet, and choose by ballot, one of its members to deliver a Valedictory Oration on the ensuing 21st: of June; and four others, to collect the Theses which are published by the Class when they take their degrees. We have lately gone through this business. There were different parties for three Persons, as Orator, and there was a great deal of intriguing carried on. One only could 327be successful, and Little of Newbury Port, was finally chosen. A Person who to an excellent genius, unites an amiable disposition, and an unblemished moral character.2 The Class did me the honour to choose me among the Theses collectors; and for the mathematical Part. Little did I think, when you gave me those Lessons at Auteuil, which you call our suppers, that they would have been productive of this effect. It is a laborious task, and will confine my studies for the ensuing year, much more to the mathematics, than, I should have done if I had been left at my own disposal.

My Brother Tommy was admitted about ten days ago, and as there were no vacant Chambers in College, he boards at Mr: Sewall's. He may next year live with Charles, and by that means obtain a very good chamber. He is very young to be left so much to himself as all scholars are here. But his disposition is so good and his inclination for studying such, that I dare say he will behave very well. Charles is attentive to his Studies, and much esteemed both by his Classmates, and by the other Students.

I write this without knowing of any opportunity to send it by. I hope soon to write to my Mamma, and Sister; but I am very much hurried yet for want of Time. And if I fail writing, I hope they will not attribute it to neglect, or any diminution in my filial and fraternal Sentiments; but to the little Time that I can possibly spare. I should wish for Ferguson's Astronomy, 1 Vol 8 vo.3 We shall begin to study it I believe in December, and shall be happy, to receive it by that Time. My Brothers and Cousin desire to be remember'd.

Your dutiful Son J. Q. Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr: Minister Plenipotentiary, from the United States of America, to the Court of Great Britain London.”; stamped: “24 no.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed and at tears in the paper.


Of 3 June , above.


JQA's class chose Moses Little as their valedictory orator on 28 August. His chief rivals were Nathaniel Freeman and John Jones Waldo (JQA, Diary , 2:82–84 2:82–83, 83–84 ). For JQA's sketch of Little see Diary , 2:218.


JQA's copy of James Ferguson, Astronomy Explained upon Sir Isaac Newton's Principles, and Made Easy to Those Who Have Not Studied Mathematics, 7th edn., London, 1785, is at MQA.