Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 1 October 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw AA Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 1 October 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Adams, Abigail
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams
My Dear Sister Haverhill October 1st. 1786

This Day is the Aniversary of Eleven Years since our dear Mother left us poor Pilgrims, to sojourn here a little longer upon Earth, while she (as we trust)1 went to spend an eternal Sabbath in the blissful regions of immortality. The anual return of those Days, upon which some beloved Friend has been taken from me, I devote more particularly to the recollection of their amiable Qualities, and their many Virtues. I bedew their Ashes with a grateful, reverential, tender, silent Tear.—And while my Memory lasts,

“she shall a while repair, To dwell a weeping Hermit there.”2

I closed my last-Letter telling you, that your and our Thomas B. A. would leave us the next morning. I now have the pleasure of informing you that he acquited himself honorably, and was received without any dificulty. Mr Shaw carried him to Braintree, and left him there. It was not possible for love, nor money to get a Chamber in Colledge, and Doctor Tufts has put him to board with Mr Sewall. I hope the dear Lad will continue to deserve the Love of every one. 352Mr Shaw was exceeding fond of him, and I tell him, really pines after his Nephew.

My Uncle Smith, and Cousin Betsy, Brother and Sister Cranch have made me a visit. It really grieved me to see my Uncle so dejected. His Voice had that mournful Cadence, and was upon that key, which bespeaks our solicitude, and pity. He appeared to have a bad cold, and I observed to him, that I feared he had not eat a sufficient quantity of food to support him. “Yes Child I have, (said he) but my food, nor my Sleep does not seem to do the good it used to—Nothing appears to me as it did once.” Indeed, my Cousin Betsy, and he, both are deeply affected by their late Bereavment. My Uncle is not one of those passionate Mourners who easily throw of their Weeds, and dry up their Tears in the Bosom of another Love. But he is a good man, and behaves with dignity, and discovers proper magnimity, and Resignation of Mind, to the sovereign Disposer of Events.

Mr Allens Family all dined here, on a Saturday and we returned the compliment the next Monday. As her Freinds, and Relations are nearly the same with mine, I think they can make an agreeable division of their Time between us. Uncle, and his Daughter, Brother and Sister went home through Newbury, and I hear Sisters health is much better for her Journey.

I wish my Brother, and Sister Adams could as easily make me a Visit. Thy Sister would indeed, with pleasure “greet thy entering voice.”—But ah me! mountains rise, and Oceans roll between us. You are doing good:—that is my Consolation—and that, is what I heard Betsy Quincy tell her Brother, God sent him into the world for, and all the rest of the Folks. I often tell my little Daughter, I wish she would do half so well herself, as she teaches, or pretends to teach Others.

When I closed my last letter to you, I had many more things to say, and I then intended to have begun another immediately, but since that time we have had somebody sick in the Family, though none with a settled Fever till about three weeks ago a Scholar of Mr Shaws, the Son of Dr Simon Tufts was seized with a Cold, which threw him into a fever upon his Lungs. He never set up, and had his Cloaths on for fiveteen Days, and what rendered it peculiarly distressing to me, was that his Father was in the last stages of a Consumption and it was not posible for his Parents to see him. His Mother was so overcome with the news of her Sons illness, that she almost fainted away. Poor Woman her Situation was indeed distress-353ing. Every little while the Dr bleeds extreamly, and every turn they fear will be the Last. So that she could not leave him, unless we had been very desirous of her coming. But Hall Tufts was very good to take medicine, and was very easy with my Care, which was some releif to my Mind. I have endeavoured that he should not suffer for the want of maternal tenderness, and he is now recovering as fast as any one could expect. How pleasureable it is, to tend upon a person, when we can smile, and say, “they are much better.” I hear that Quincy Thaxter, and his sister Nancy were married at Mr Gays house. QT to a Miss Cushing, and N.T. to her Cousin.

The young widower Cushing, they say is courting his Sister Betsy Thaxter, but I can hardly believe it.3

Miss Nabby Bishop is published, do you see, and is going to be married to Dr Archelaus Putman, a Nephew of Dr Putmans of Salem a Gentleman of independant Fortune.

Mr Shaw talks of going to Bridgwater in about a week or fortnight, and we shall hear more as we pass through the Town. Perhaps I may pick up some anecdotes that may amuse you. At present my thoughts are not very bright, they have of late been so contracted, and absorbed in a dark, Chamber, arround a sick bed, that I believe I need some relaxation, and diversion to call up my Spirits.

Mr Thaxter and Miss Betsy are going to Boston next week. We have chosen him one of the Commitee, to answer an address of the Select men of Boston. I think he has drawn one that will do him honour.4

At present our States are in a dissagreeable Situation. The time is now come, for all to know, what manner of Spirits we are of, and whether we will support Government or not. The Court meet at Newbury the5

RC (Adams Papers.)


Closing parenthesis editorially supplied.


William Collins, “Ode Written in the Beginning of the Year 1746,” lines 11–12.


John Cushing and Elizabeth Thaxter, the elder sister of the first Mrs. Cushing, did not marry. In Dec. 1787, Cushing wed Christiana Thaxter, the cousin of his first wife (History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, 3 vols. in 4, Hingham, 1893, 2:165, 3:233).


On 11 Sept., the town of Boston adopted a circular letter censuring those fomenting Shays' Rebellion and endorsing the governor's efforts to preserve state government. On 3 Oct., the town of Haverhill voted to approve Boston's address and appoint a committee to draft a reply. Haverhill's response, dated 10 Oct., concludes: “This town has borne its full share of all the burdens, losses and expences of the late war, and its subsequent proportion of public expences since the peace.—The present form of government we deliberately adopted and wish not to see it sacrificed—We are ready therefore, to join you in a firm and vigorous support of our Constitution, in the redress of grievances, and in promoting industry, oeconomy, and every other virtue which can exalt and render a nation respectable.” For the full printed 354text of Boston's circular letter see Massachusetts Centinel, 13 Sept.; for Haverhill's response, see Boston Independent Ledger, 16 October.


At this point, the text ends at the bottom of the fourth MS page of the letter; any continuation is missing.

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 8 October 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith AA Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 8 October 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
Dear Sister Braintree october 8th 1786

I last evening receiv'd your kind Letter by the Way of new york and most heartily congratulate you upon the marriage of your only Daughter. It is a very desirable thing to see our children happily Settled in the world. Your anxietys for my dear Niece for several years have been very many and great. They are I hope now all at an end, at least of such a kind. No state is exempt from troubles, and those which our children suffer are keenly felt by a tender Parent. The character you have given of coll. Smith Seems to insure her from any but what are unavoidable in the happiest marriages. They have my warmest wishes for their Happiness and prosperity. I do not wonder you felt agitated at giving your Daughter away. I think I Should tremble at such an event as much as I did when I gave myself away. My dear neice must have discover'd the difference between a real and feign'd attachment, though her good nature and delicacy may have prevented her making the comparison, but if I am to believe a Lady where —— Boarded last Fall his was real also. His mortification and rage were real I believe. I never doubted it. She veryly thought he would have gone distracted.” “He put no Such airs on here, he too well knew we were not to be deceiv'd. 1 We were us'd to call things by their right names. The violent Passion which he put himself into, the day you left us, excited no emotion in the beholders, but contempt. It procur'd him no pity, no gentle soothings from the girls. They knew not how to adminster comfort to a Person Who could thro himself upon the Floor—upon the couch—and upon the chairs, and bawl like a great Boy who had misbehav'd and was oblig'd to go to school without his dinner. Never did I see JQA laugh in such a manner as when he was told of this scene. Meeting with Such unfeeling companions then, he had no incouragment to seek consolations from them again. Both your and our Family are represented as treating him very ill. “If he was to blame for neglecting her so long he wrote her a long letter in vindication of himself,” and at my expence as well as that of others of her correspondence who never mention'd his name said I.” “Why he thought somebody must have been enjuring him so She never 355would have treated him in such a manner only for not writing to her.” That was not all, and he knows it.” “Well he has Suffer'd for it I am sure, poor creature. He had nobody but me to open his mind too,” and happy had it been for you and yours if he had not open'd so much of it to you unhappy woman I could have said. “She has not better'd herself by what I can hear: my Brother and Sister know him, and say he is a man of no abilities and is of no profession and in any thing will not bear a comparison with.” “I hope not in good truth, was what I thought.” I said I knew him not, but I had receiv'd a good character of him from every one I had inquir'd of, who did, that he had been long enough in your Family for mr Adams to form an opinion of him and I believ'd he Was as capable of forming a Judgment of his character and his abilities as any one She had receiv'd her inteligence from: and that you were Satisfied as to both. How could She talk thus to me about Persons one of Whom I have reason to think, She had better never Seen.2 I hope the coll will come and give them the lie. When you lay all three of my Letters together you will think of the Pupil of Pleasure, of Philip Sedley3 and be thankful. Is it not astonishing that he should be continu'd in the Family and no notice taken? Some think it is not because, tis not severly felt, but that he is so unhappily circumstanced that he cannot resent it, and some say they have made a bargain.4 I could give you some curious annecdotes of last Winters gallantry in this Town: I did hint it then I was affraid to do more. A Friend interposed and in some measure Sav'd her character.

I long my dear sister to have you return, but where we shall be I know not. This House is upon Sale and whether we shall purchase it or not is uncertain. We cannot unless we can get what is due to us from the publick, or Sell our estate at weymouth. Mr Evans has alter'd his mind and will not settle at Weymouth. After accepting their call he told them he must go to Phylidelphia to get a certificate of his ordination and a dismission from the Presbitiary. When he return'd he said he could not be sittled so Soon as he expected, as the body would not sit till october. They look'd upon him notwithstanding as their minister, and expected he would Stay with them at least part of his time. Instead of which he never has above three or four days excepting Sundays and above half his time has sent other persons in his room. He would not even stay to visit the sick when they had notis nor attend a funereal. They complain'd he resented it, and has ask'd leave to withdraw his consent which they will grant. I have thought ever since he return'd that he wish'd to be 356disingag'd and was trying to find some pretence to ask for a dismission. I know not what he has in view, but this I am Sure of, that he will hurt his character by it. He desir'd to have our House ready for him by July. Mr Hagglet5 who was a very good Tenant left it and now we cannot find any body to take it. I wish it was in Braintree—Poor Weymouth has again to seek a Pastor, but it is not their fault.

Captain Barnard is arriv'd and brought us Some magazines for which I thank you, but no letters. Callahan is not yet arriv'd. I hope for some by him. You have sent an April magazine twice and no July one except one of the Fashens, which we did not need: for would you believe it if I were to tell you the Fashions had arriv'd before it? To what a Pitch of Folly have we arriv'd, they are study'd as a Science. Your Mother Hall and Brothers Family are well. Madam Quincy and daughter and all your Nieghbours also. Uncle Quincy cannot be perswaid'd out. Mr wibird is well and Still lives in the Worst House in Braintree. Betsy is at Bridgwater Plymouth &c upon a visit. Lucy is at newbury Port. I wish you had one of them with you, or rather I wish you would come home and let us be all together here. Our dear Sons are an honour to us, they are well, but what shall we do with them when they come out of college? We have each of us one which we must think of Something for. The Law was what they both thought of, but unless we have more peace among us they had better take their axe and clear new Land. They are good Lads and I hope will never want Bread.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs Cranch 8 ocbr 1786.”


While trying to clarify her meaning here, Cranch may have neglected to cross out two of the quotation marks. Her use of quotation marks throughout the remainder of the paragraph is irregular.


This extended passage of quoted dialogue conveys the heated exchange between Cranch and Elizabeth Hunt Palmer that took place at Mrs. Palmer's Boston home about 9 September. See Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 24 and 28 Sept., both above.


Philip Sedley, the title character of Samuel Jackson Pratt's The Pupil of Pleasure, 1778, employs dissimulation, hypocrisy, and a pleasing façade to increase his personal profit and pleasure, the consequences of which introduce greater sorrow and vice into the community.


A reference to Joseph Pearse Palmer's poor financial situation and Royall Tyler's status as a boarder in his home.


For Rev. William Hazlitt, see vol. 5:480–481.