Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams Smith, 27 November 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw AA2 Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams Smith, 27 November 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams Smith
Haverhill November 27th. 1786

I must frankly acknowledge to my Dear Niece that I could not but wonder at her long Silence. I feared that my Letters had not reached her, or that I had inadvertenly written something that had wounded her feelings, and so had, in her estimation, forfeited that Love, and generous confidence which she had so kindly placed in me.1 But when I recieved a Letter from your Mother last April, which announced to me her Daughters being upon the point of Marriage with a Gentleman whose Name she did not mention, and the next week to hear you were really married, you cannot wonder if my Mind felt inquisitive—hurried—and struck with amazement. By this I found that my Niece had been employed in adjusting matters of the utmost importance; and as she knew not how much she was beloved, nor how deeply I was interested in her happiness, I could not so much blame her for not sparing one Moment to acquaint, a most affectionate Aunt of her pleasing Prospects.

As you my Neice have given me a new Nephew, permit me to congratulate you both upon the Celebration of your Nuptials. May he who has so worthyly defended the Liberties of his Country, now dwell in Peace, and Harmony, and enjoy the delights of Friendship, and all the Sweets of domestic Life, and never have occasion again to reassume any Weapons of War. You my Niece who have so happily escaped the dangers, the whirlpools, and the quicksands of the single Life, and have safely arrived at the Haven of Matrimony, will find a new Scene open to your view. And that there are two very principal Characters in which you must become the Actressthat of Wife and Mistress—and before a much more interested Audience than you have yet ever beheld in a publick Theatre. I need not tell you, I mean your Husband, and your Family,—and perhaps e'er long, you may be called to act in a third, not less important, arduous 403and tender. That each have their several incumbent Duties, and that there are certain Traits requisite, without which a Lady of your Judgment, well knows a female Character must be exceedingly imperfect. A proper reverence of yourself—a dignity of Manners—joined with Meekness, and Condescention—gentleness, and sweetness of Temper—have most attractive Charms, and are the richest, and most valuable Ornaments, you can adorn yourself with. They with will render you lovely in Youth, and (I may venture to say,) forever ensure you the attention, the Love, and the best Affections of that Man, who is truly worthy of you.

The Woman who is really possessed of superior Qualities, or affects a Superiority over her Husband, betrays a pride which degrades herself, and places her in the most disadvantatious point of view.

She who values domestick Happiness will carefully gaurd against, and avoid any little Contentions—the Beginnings of Evil—as she would a pestilential Dissease, that would poison her sweetest comforts, and infect her every Joy. There is but one kind of Strife in the nuptial State that I can behold without horror, and that is who shall excell and who shall oblige the most. Since marriage is one of the most important Transactions of our Lives, you will excuse my suggesting to you several Things which I deem so Essential towards the preserving an happy Union, and imputing what I have said, to my Love, and solicitude for your Happiness and not to a fear, that you should be found wanting in any requisite. For she who has been a dutiful Child, seldom fails of becoming a most discreet, and obliging Wife. Sure I am Anything of the preceptive kind would be unnecessary to you who have a living, and a bright Example of the conjugal Virtues in your excellent Mother. There they shine with distinguished Lustre. She who in some measure overcame the ties of Nature, and crossed the wide Atlantic to sooth, and to relieve him whose labouring Mind was vexed, and oppressed with the mighty Cares of a rising Empire, must be possessed of Qualities, and Graces that would endear her, not only to her Husband, but to all who can properly estimate real Worth.

The sensations you experienced upon quitting your Fathers Family were such, as I can easily conceive. What I suffered myself upon the like occasion, Time can never efface. Even blessed with the kindest, and most assiduous Partner, and with the most flattering Prospects, it is at best, as you have well expressed it,

“But a solemn Scene of Joy.” 404

To bid adieu to our former Habitation, and to give up the kind Gaurdians of our youth, and place ourselves under quite a new kind of Protection, cannot but strike a reflecting Mind with awe, and the most fearful Apprehensions—as it is the important Crisis, upon which our Fate depends.

“Happy the Youth that finds his Bride Whose birth is to his own ally'd The sweetest Joy of Life.”2

Our News Paper has announced to us the Nuptials of Revd Mr Osgood, and Miss Breed. Dr Archelaus Putnam and Miss Bishop. Cupid I fancy got fast asleep in his Mothers Lap, and old Plutus, has yoked the Dove.3 Not so with the amiable Peggy White. She is now happily connected with a Gentleman, who, I believe was her first, and her last attachment. Last Week I visited her. She was dressed elegantly, and in all the splendor of Bridal Innocence. She, and her worthy Partner Mr Bayley Bartlet4 looked so happy, and complacent, as must have given pleasure to every beholder. There was always a sweetness, and a dignity in her Manners that I admired; but upon this occasion every Feature appeared more animated, and every Grace had received an additional Charm.

Mr Duncan has married, and brought home his third Wife. She appears to be a very discreet worthy Woman, and agreeable to all the Children. Miss Duncan has greatly recovered her health. When Mr T—— and Miss B will enter the List, Or when Hymen will twist Blessings with their Bands, I cannot say. But I hope the Time is not far distant.

I have thought of you often, since I heard your Father and Mother were gone to the Haugue. I have longed to look in upon you. But all we can do at present, is to write to each other, which I hope you will never omit doing by every Opportunity, as it will exceedingly gratify her who wishes you every possibly degree of felicity, and though I am distant from you, am at all times, your truly affectionate Aunt

E Shaw

Dft (DLC: Shaw Family Papers); addressed: “To Mrs Abigail Smith London Wimpole Street.”


No letters from AA2 to Shaw have been found.


Isaac Watts, “The Indian Philosopher,” lines 43–45.


Rev. David Osgood (1748–1822), Harvard 1771, pastor of the First Church of Medford, married Hannah Breed on 1 November. Osgood also himself performed the marriage of Dr. Archelaus Putnam and Abigail Bishop on 12 Nov. ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 17:570–571, 579; Massachusetts Gazette, 14 Nov.).


Bailey Bartlett (1750–1830), a member of 405the Massachusetts state legislature and later a member of Congress, married Peggy White (1766–1831) on 21 November. They ultimately had thirteen children, nine daughters and four sons (Levi Bartlett, Genealogical and Biographical Sketches of the Bartlett Family in England and America, Lawrence, Mass., 1876, p. 22–24).

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 28 November 1786 AA JQA Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 28 November 1786 Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy
Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams
My dear Son November 28 1786

Since I wrote you, the packet from N york has arrived after a passage of 43 days, and by that your Letter of August 30th came safe to hand, and upon reading it I was glad to find that your sentiments so nearly agreed with mine. You will inquire into mr Parsons' Terms and with the advise of Dr Tufts look out for Board. But I will get your Father to write you I had rather you should have his opinion directly than at Second hand.

I hope you will not apply so constantly to your Studies as to injure your Health: exersise is very necessary for you, but from the accounts from my Friends I fear you do not pay attention enough to it.

By captain Callihan you received your Books and Letters I presume. I am quite impatient to get Letters from my Friends, tho I know they will be such as to give me pain. The Newspapers and Letters from Newyork are filld with accounts of the most allarming Nature, and I could not refrain shedding tears over them, to behold my Countrymen who had so nobly fought and bled for freedom, tarnishing their glory, loosing the bands of society, introducing anarchy confusion and despotisim, forging domestick Chains for Posterity. For the experience of ages, and the Historick page teach us, that a popular Tyrranny never fails to be followed by the arbitrary government of a Single person. Who can refrain from anxiety, who can feel at Peace or set Idle, and see whole Bodies of Men giving into those very practices which are sure to work their destruction, breaking a constitution by the very same errors that so many have been broken before?

Common sense and plain reason will ever have some general influence upon a free people, and I will Still hope and believe that a Majority of our CountryMen will bear their testimony against such lawless proceedings, and that by wisdom and firmness they will be able to restore order and harmony without the dreadfull necessity of Shedding Blood. Rome had her Caesars and her Pompeys, nor will America be less productive; civil dissensions never fail to spirit up the ambition of private Men; the Same Spirit which prompted Hon-406estus to attack the order of the Lawyers, as he terms them, has diffused itself throughout Massachusets, His publications were calculated to sow the seeds of discontent, and dissention amongst the populace and to pull down the pillars of the State. Would to Heaven that none but such as himself, might be crushed by the fall.

I had flatterd myself with the hope that my Children would reap the benifits of an equitable and peaceable Government, after the many Perils and difficulties which their Father had pass'd through to obtain one. But if this is not like to be the case, I would enjoin it upon each of them to turn their attention and their Studies to the Great Subject of Government, and the Rights of Mankind, that they may be qualified to defend them, in the senate, and in the Feild if necessary. You have an Elder Brother whose Heroic Soul and independant Spirit, Breaths the ardour of a Hero and a Freeman, and I have reason to bless the hand of Providence which saved a beloved child from impending ruin, and gave her a Protector, in a Man of Honour and integrity. We are as happy, as the distance from our Friends, and the dissagreeable state of our Country will permit us to be.

I am glad to find by your Letter your Brother Tommy is admitted colledge. I hope you will watch over him with the care of a parent, and the affection of a Brother. I fear their will be no passenger by this packet to whom we can commit our Letters, and if so I am wholy at a loss for a conveyance as Cushing is not like to get out till Spring.

December 3. 1786

I have a Letter or two for some other of my Friends but they must wait. I heard yesterday that Captain Sayer was arrived. I received one Letter only and that from Mrs Rogers dated 16 of october, which came up by the post.1 I trust the captain is orderd to deliver his Letters himself. As the Wind is against his comeing up, it may yet be Several days before we get our Letters which you know is very mortifying to Your affectionate Mother

A. A.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed by WSS: “Mr. John Quincy Adams Student at Cambridge near Boston in Massachusetts north America Pr. Packett”; stamped: “ /DE” and “POST A ”; mail notations: “2/3”; “6.16”; “post pad 2p—”; and “J Q A”; endorsed: “Mrs: Adams. Novr: 28. 1786.”; docketed: “My Mother. 28. Novr: 1786.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


Not found.