Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Thomas Welsh to Abigail Adams, 27 October 1786 Welsh, Thomas AA Thomas Welsh to Abigail Adams, 27 October 1786 Welsh, Thomas Adams, Abigail
Thomas Welsh to Abigail Adams
Dear Madam Boston Octobr 27th 1786

Your esteemed Favor of July 22d did not come to hand untill Capt Callahan had arrived 12 Days, for which and its Contents accept our 383Thanks. I shall see Dr Tufts and attend to the Directions of the Note.1

I am sorry to reflect that the Conclusions drawn in my last to you were so erroneous they were founded upon an opinion of Virtue which I am now convinced is insuficiently possessed by the main Body of the People to govern their political Conduct. The Causes however of the Tumult have been laid in former Administrations.

For several Years the Militia of this Commonwealth had been intirely neglected and with out Officers. The People of the back Counties Suffered to neglect the payment of their Taxes these consequently had accumulated, and the Aversion to discharge increased in Proportion. The County Traders had obtained large Credits of the sea port Merchants and they in their Turns had obtaind Credits in Europe; prior Debts accumulated during and previous to the Warr; and add to this the Bounties promised to the Soldiers2 being all demanded at the same Time was too much for the Virtue of these People to and afforded a Compleat Oppertunity for a Number of bold and designing Men to inflame and mislead others less informed than themselves. The Requisitions of Congress I ought to have mentioned as it is one of the principle Bones of Contention. In short every thing that has the Appearance of Government is matter of Complaint with them.

The present Governor has been exerting himself since his Appointment to get the Militia organized but the former Appointments were such as discouraged the Attempt in part and for the want of this it is generally thought the Insurgents were able to make any Way.

The Continent feels its Infirmity for the Want of committing that Degree of Power to Congress which she wants to regulate the Concerns of the whole and I am fully convinced we shall be a Contemptable People untill it is granted but whether it will ever be I know not.

The Genl Court are sitting and examining into the Causes of the Complaints of the People but I think They will have their Hands full and after they have done they will not be satisfied I am sure.3 They ought not to be gratified but I suppose as they cry for nothing like froward Children they will be visited with a Rod. Blessed with a Constitution faulty only as it is too good they must expect no other than a more rigorous Government in exchange for that which they now dont know the Value of. I hope you will not in fu-384ture be mislead by my Accounts from this Quarter. I am Sensible the Politics of the Country have got beyond my Reach. It is more easy for me to inform you of the little Events which occur in the domistic Circle. Mr Sullivan of Boston you have undoubtdly heard lost his Wife last Winter. He is now about to be married to Mrs Simpson of Portsmouth who made herself famous when the Wife of Mr Barrell of that Place in sueing for a Divorce which she obtained appearing herself in open Court for that Purpose. She has 4 Children and Mr Sullivan seven a patriarchal number. Courage on both Sides, but She has a Fortune and it is said is accomplished.4 Mrs Hayleys marriage is an old affair and Mr Jeffries keeps the Keys now of Course being head of the Family.5 Mr Thos Russell is like soon to have his Family increased,6 but as I think I must have exhausted your Patience I will now tire it no longer but do myself the Honor to subscribe with Sentiments of great Respect to Mr Adams and yourself your most Humle Ser

Thomas Welsh

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr: Grovesnor Square London”; notation: “Ship letter”; stamped: “12 New Rumney”; endorsed: “dr Welch ocbr 27. 1786.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed and at a torn margin.


The 22 July letter is printed above from an incomplete Dft. It does not contain the directives to which Welsh refers.


At this point Welsh struck out an entire line so thoroughly that it is illegible.


The General Court sat from 27 Sept. to 18 Nov. (Mass., Acts and Laws , Resolves of 1786, Sept. sess., p. 347, 422).


James Sullivan's first wife, Mehitable Odiorne, died 26 January. On 31 Dec., Sullivan married Martha Langdon of Portsmouth, N.H., a sister of New Hampshire's recent governor, John Langdon. Her first marriage, to William Barrell in 1765, had ended after just three months when she petitioned the New Hampshire legislature for divorce on the grounds that Barrell was “utterly incapable to satisfy the most virtuous and modest Feminine Inclination and is Impotent to render that due Benevolence which every married woman is warranted.” She later married Thomas Simpson, who died at sea in 1784 ( DAB [Sullivan and Langdon]; Lawrence Shaw Mayo, John Langdon of New Hampshire, Concord, N.H., 1937, p. 23–24; Documents and Records Relating to the Province of New-Hampshire, from 1765 to 1776, ed. Nathaniel Bouton, 7 vols., Nashua, N.H., 1875, 7:93, 97–98; Joseph Foster, The Soldiers' Memorial. Portsmouth, N.H. 1893–1923, Portsmouth, N.H., 1923, p. 46).


Mary Hayley married Patrick Jeffery Esq. in Boston on 13 Feb. (Boston, 30th Report, p. 413).


Sarah Sever and Thomas Russell had a daughter, Sarah, on 1 Dec. (“An Account of the Russell Family of Charlestown,” 1905, p. 26–27, MHi: Sullivan-Russell Papers).

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

Two Vessels arrived from London while I was upon my little southern Tour. It was in vain that I enquired after Letters directed 385to me. “You have received one from Mrs Smith.”1 Yes, It was a sweet Morsel, it informed me of her Marriage, but not half enough to reperuse by our chearful fireside, no particulars of the proceedings, to satisfy the Curiosity of an hundred inquiring Friends. I cannot say but what I feel Chagrined and should be much more grieved if I could entertain an Idea that my dear Sister thought me less interested than Others, in any Event, or in any Circumstance that could affect her Happiness.

She has a thousand avocations. She is treasuring up Knowledge, a Fund for the improvment, and entertainment of her Friends, Neices, and Grand-children. She will adorn, and make old-age honourable. She will smooth, and sweeten the decline of Life by her instructive Conversation. Her setting Sun, will diffuse chearfulness, light, and knowledge upon all around her.

She has many Correspondents. She needs an Amanuensis. She has been very good to me, and seldom has omited writing. Thus in the Multitude of my Thoughts I comforted myself.

Cousin William Cranch came last Week and carried Home my Neice Lucy, so that my Family is reduced now to quite a small one. I endeavour in every Situation of Life to be Content. But I think I never felt happier than when my Nephews were around me, and I fancied I was supplying their dear Mothers Place in some small Degree. And Cares, if not too great are always pleasing to the active Soul.

Cousin Lucy has been happier, in this Visit to Haverhill, than she has ever been before, for it has so happened that some one, or other of the Family has always been sick, but now she has escaped with my Children only having the Chin Cough,2 and Hall Tufts a Lung Fever. She has fine Health herself, and is possessed of an excellent Temper. Her constitution will never be impaired by any voilent agitation of Spirits, for she is sensible, modest, gentle, tranquil, not greatly elated, or depressed. Perhaps not quite so sociable, and engaging to Strangers as her Sister; she rather withdraws, than obtrudes upon your Notice. But the more she is known, the more she is beloved, and esteemed. I have been particular because I think her Manners were not formed when you left America, and she is much likelier, and more improved now than when you saw her.

We had the pleasure of finding all our Friends comfortable, and well upon our Journey. My Father Shaw is still living, and makes old-age honourable by his chearful, and pleasant Conversation. It is 386indeed a Crown to such, who have fought, a good Fight. And I never saw a Man glide down the slope of Life with more ease, and fewer Complaints than he.3

The cheif Conversation in that part of the Country, (setting aside political matters) was relating to Mr Oaks Angier's Life, and Death. He died of a Consumption last September, after a few Months lingering Illness. What has he left is the question? Ten thousand pounds L M,4 which he had amassed in the course of about fourteen Years Application to Buisness. Clear of every incumbrance. He made his Will, and divided it between his Wife and five Children. He spoke for his Coffin, and ordered every Affair, relating to their mourning. He advised his wife to marry again if she could with advantage charging her at the same time to get some able Lawyer to draw the marriage Articles, that she might not be tricked out of what he had given her.5 He directed that his eldest Son should have a liberal Education,6 after that, study Law with Mr Davis, and give him the same sum of Money, which Mr Davis had given his Father for the like purpose. The other Children were to live with their Mother, allowing her a Dollar pr week for their Board.

His two Daughters when they were of a proper age, were to be sent to Boston, and put to School there, three Summers, and directed them to have every advantage that could be obtained for them.7 His own Brother, and his wives Brother are the Executors of his very particular last Will, and Testament.8 I am very sorry, I cannot find the News Paper that I might give you his Character, as it was given to the Publick. But whatever Censure, or Eulogy the world may pass upon his Character—You know the Man.—In the course of a few years he had often said, that no Man had any right, or buisness to live after they were forty years old. And (perhaps) least he might view himself as a cumberer of the Ground, his Maker gave him leave to Depart just as he had entered his fortieth year.

People seem much divided in their Opinion, some suppose he was a real Convert, Others, that he was only frighted at the Idea of dying—and that, had he been restored to Health, he would have been the same scoffer, and despiser of Religion he was before.

It was not till the last week of his Sickness that he sent for Mr Reed, and beged him to propound him to the Church for full Communion, and his Wife for Baptism for herself and all their children. His Request was made known to the Church, while he lay a poor lifeless Corpse in his own House, and Providence did not suffer him to live, to be admited as a member here below. I hope he is received 387into the Church triumphant, and that he is made white in the Blood of the Lamb. But Oh my Sister! how terrible it is, for any one to leave the important Concerns of Eternity, to a Moment of Time.

He sent for every person who thought themselves abused, and ill treated by him, and desired their forgivness. He thanked God that he had been true to his Client, and wronged no man designedly. Thus ended the Life of a Man indefatigable in his Proffession, possessed of great Qualities, and great Faults.

November 3d.

We have had a remarkable pleasant Fall, almost as warm as July and August, without any long Storms as usual. Last Thursday we kept our Doors, and windows open, and a monday it snowed the whole afternoon.9 So changeable is the Weather, but not more various than human Events. For last Night I received a Letter from my Sister Cranch, informing of Cousin Lucys return in fine health and Spirite, and making them all happy. But alas! there Joy was soon turned into mourning, for Mr Cranch came from Boston the same Evening, with a Letter in his Pocket which brought the melancholly Tydings of Mr Perkins Death. He was seized with a Fever upon his Lungs, and dyed last August, after a few Days Iillness. You know what a sincere affection my Sister Cranch had for this amiable, virtuous young Man—And cannot wonder if she is deeply wounded. But the gentle Eliza, I tremble for her. His virtues had of late taken full possession of the Heart of Eliza—Dear unhappy Girl—I hope thy better Days are to come.10

This Letter must go by Capt Marsh to Boston, for I hear a Vessel will certainly sail in a Day or two. I shall write to Mrs Smith and forward it to go in the same Vessel if possible. My Son made me promise I would ask Aunt Adams to send him the Childrens Friend.11 I told him it was too large a Request for a little Boy to make. And Quincy she has set by and done half a dozen Letters up, full of Love she says to her Aunt, but you must accept the Will for the Deed. It is late—and I must bid you good Night—wishing you Health, and every Blessing. I hope to hear from you soon, and that you are not injured by your late Excursion to the Hague. Once more adieu yours affectionately

Eliza Shaw

Mr Shaw sends his Love, and best Respects and thanks for the Book.

RC (Adams Papers.)

388 1.

AA2's letter to Shaw has not been found.


Whooping cough.


Rev. John Shaw of Bridgewater was 78 years old and would live until 1791 ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 8:627–629).


Lawful money, that is, Massachusetts currency.


Susanna Howard (or Haward) Angier (1751–1793) eventually remarried, to Jesse Fobes, in 1792 (same, 16:7; Vital Records of Bridgewater Massachusetts to the Year 1850, 2 vols., Boston, 1916, 1:141; 2:134, 472).


Charles Angier (1774–1806), Harvard 1793 ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ).


The Angiers had three daughters: Mary (b. 1776), Sarah (b. 1780), and Susanna (b. 1783). All three were still living in 1786 (same, 16:7).


Oakes Angier's brother was Samuel Angier (1743–1805), Harvard 1763, who served as the second minister of the First Congregational Parish of East Bridgewater, following in the footsteps of his father, Rev. John Angier (same, 6:370; 15:350). Oakes had three brothers-in-law: Edward, Daniel, and Martin Howard (or Haward) (Vital Records of Bridgewater, 1:137, 139, 141).


JQA noted that it “Snow'd all the morning” of Monday, 30 Oct., in Braintree ( Diary , 2:120).


Elizabeth Cranch was indeed deeply affected by the death of Thomas Perkins in Kentucky. She confided to her diary that “the dreaded event has taken place—and Heaven deprives me of the friend on whom my Heart lean'd” (MHi: Elizabeth Cranch Norton Diary, 21 Nov.).


Arnaud Berquin, The Children's Friend; Consisting of Apt Tales, Short Dialogues, and Moral Dramas, 24 vols. in 12, London, 1783.