Adams Family Correspondence, volume 8

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 16 July 1787 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
London july 16 1787 my dear sister

If as the poet says, expectation makes the blessing sweet,1 your last Letter was peculiarly so, as you conjectured I was not a little anxious that neither Captain Barnard or Davis brought me a line. I was apprehensive that Something was the matter some imminent danger threatning some Friend, of which my Friends chose not to inform me untill thir fate was decided. I sent on board the Ship, the Solitary Box of meal was searchd throughout. What not one line, from my dear sister Cranch, she who has never before faild me, can it be possible, uncle Smith did not as usual say in his Letter that all Friends were well. Dr Tufts for the first time omitted mentioning my children, that might be because they thought that they had written, thus was my mind agitated untill Captain Scotts arrival who brought me your kind Letter of May the 20th,2 but none from either of my Neices or Children those dear Lads do not write so often as I wish them to, because they have nothing more to say than that they are well, not considering how important that intelligence is to an affectionate parent. mr J Cranch wrote me soon after Barnards arrival and sent me an extract of a Letter from miss B Palmer with a particular account of the performances in April at Cambridge, in which your son & mine bore a part. These Young Gentlemen are much indebted to her for her partiality, and the very flattering manner in which she describes them. I hope they will continue to 117deserve the esteem of all good judges and do honour to themselves and their Country. the account you give me of the Health of JQA, is no more than I expected to hear. I warnd him frequently before he left me, and have been writing him ever since. I hope he will take warning before it is too late. it gives me great satisfaction to learn that he has past through the university with so much reputation, and that his fellow Students are attached to him. I have never once regreeted the resolution he took of quitting Europe, and placing himself upon the Theatre of his own Country, where if his Life is spaired, I presume he will neither be an Idle or a useless Spectator. Heaven grant that he may not have more distressing scenes before him, and a Gloomier stage to tread than those on which his Father has acted for 12 years past, but the curtain rises before him, and instead of peace waving her olive branch, or Liberty seated in a triumphal car or commerce Agriculture and plenty pouring forth their Stores, Sedition hisses Treason roars, Rebellion Nashes his Teeth. Mercy Suspends the justly merited blow, but justice Striks the Guilty victim. here may the Scene close and brighter prospects open before us in future. I hope the political machine will move with more safety and security this year than the last, and that the New Head may be endowed with wisdom sufficient to direct it. there are Some good Spokes in the Wheels, tho the Master workmen have been unskilfull in discarding some of the best, and chusing others not sufficiently Seasond, but the crooked & cross graind will soon break to peices, tho this may do much mischief in the midst of a jouney, and shatter the vehicle, yet an other year may repair the Damages, but to quit Allegory, or you will think I have been reading Johnny Bunyan. The conduct of a certain Gentleman is rather curious.3 I really think him an honest Man, but ambition is a very wild passion, and there are some Characters that never can be pleasd unless they have the intire direction of all publick affairs, and when they are unemployd, they are continually blaming those in office, and accusing them of Ignorance or incapacity, and Spreading allarms that the Country is ruined and undone, but put them into office, and it is more than probable they will persue the same conduct, which they had before condemned, but no Man is fit to be trusted who is not diffident of himself Such is the frailty of humane Nature, & so great a flatterer is Self Love, that it presents false appearences, & deceives it votaries.

The comedy writer has been drawing his own Character and an other Gentlemans I fancy. strange Man, would he act as well as he 118can write, he might have been an ornament to Society, but what signifies a Head, without a Heart, what is knowledge but an extensive power to do evil, without principal to direct and govern it? “unstable as water, thou shalt not excell” I have often quoted to him.4 I look upon him as a lost Man. I pity his folly, and am sorry he is making himself so conspicuous. I think Sir John Temple was the writer of the Letter from Newyork giving an account of the Play, Birds of a Feather—5 The House at Braintree which you mention I would not fail of having, & am sorry the dr did not bargan for it without waiting to hear from us. We have written him twice upon the subject, as to building we shall never be able to do that, if the dr should purchase it. I wish you would look it over and let us know what repairs are necessary. I shall not be able to write much by Captain Barnard, as we are prepairing for a long jouney. I have been so very unwell through the Spring and winter that the dr Says a journey and change of air is absolutly necessary for me our intention is to visit Devenshire & to go as far as plimouth which is about 200 & 30 miles. as we take the Baby and a Nursery maid, Esther a footman & coachman we shall make a large calvacade and be absent a month or 5 weeks. Col Smith we do not expect back till September. we hear from him by every post. I am distrest for Sister Shaw & her children the disorder is of the most infectious Nature, and a House, linen, & every thing & person requires as much cleansing as with the Small pox, of which I fear people are not sufficently aware. When Mr Copley about a year & half ago lost two fine children with it, the doctors advised to these precautions, & gave large doses of the bark to the attendance. I think Sister Shaw would have done well to have sent both her children out of Haverhill. I pray Heaven preserve them— I did not get a line from her by either of the vessels. I have had with me for a fortnight a little daughter of mr Jeffersons, who arrived here with a young Negro Girl her Servant from Virginia. mr Jefferson wrote me some months ago that he expected them & desired me to receive them. I did so and was amply repaid for my trouble a finer child of her age I never saw, so mature an understanding, so womanly a behaviour and so much sensibility united is rarely to be met with. I grew so fond of her, & she was so attached to me, that when mr Jefferson sent for her, they were obliged to force the little creature away. She is but 8 years old. She would Set some times and discribe to me the parting with her Aunt who brought her up, the obligations she was under to her & the Love she had for her little cousins, till the Tears would stream down her 119cheeks, and now I had been her Friend and she loved me, her pappa would break her Heart by making her go again. she clung round me so that I could not help sheding a tear at parting with her. she was the favorite of every one in the House. I regreet that Such fine spirits must be spent in the walls of a convent. She is a beautifull Girl too, my little Boy grows finely and is as playfull as a Lamb, is the Healthest child I ever saw, and pretty enough. his Mamma I think looks the better for being a Nurse. he is very content with being twice a day supplied by her, feeds the rest, and never misses being twice a day carried out to walk in the air when it is fair weather You see what a mere Grandmama I am that can fill up half a page in writing of the child. this I presume is commencment week. I dare say the young folks feel anxious. I dont know whether I should venture to be a hearer if I was in America I should have as many pertubations as the Speakers. I hope they will acquit themselves with honour. mr Adams desires me to tell cousin Cranch that any of his Books are at his service I believe we must send some of these Young Men to settle at Vermont. can they get their Bread in Massachussets? but the World is all before them, may providence be their Guide.

I send my dear sisters each a tea urn, which must prove comfortable in a hot summers day I have orderd them put up in a Box together and addrest to uncle Smith. the Heater, & the Iron which you put it in with, is to be packed in the Box by the Side of them. whilst your water is boiling, you heat the Iron & put it in to the little tin inclosure always minding that the water is first put in. this keeps it hot as long as you want to use it.— how are English Goods now? cheeper I suppose than I can buy them here, and India much lower, in the article of Spice could you credit it if I was to tell you that I give 2 pound Eleaven Shillings sterling pr pound for Nutmegs—and other Spice in proportion yet tis really so— I cannot write my Neices now, but hope my journey will furnish materials—my Love to them. who owns Germantown now, is mr Palmers family in any way of Buisness? how is miss payne, & where is she?— Mrs Parkers arrival will be an acquisitions to our American acquaintance. she appears an agreeable woman we have a General Stuart & Lady here Philadelphians, lately from Ireland. I knew him when I first came here. he went to Ireland and has been there with her two years, they spend the winter here. Mrs Gardner has never visited me untill yesterday, tho she has been here a Year concequently I have never Seen her, for it is an invariable rule with me to receive the first visit. I 120have formed a very agreeable acquaintance with a Sir George Stanton & Lady. I know not a warmer American. he cultivats their acquaintance, and is a very sensible learned Man. Lady Staunton is an amiable woman and we visit upon very social and Friendly terms. I must however add that Sir George is an Irishman by birth & I have invariably found in every Irish Gentleman, a Friend to America. it is an old observation that mutual Sufferings begets Friendships. Lady Effingham is just returnd to Town after an absence of a 12 Month.6 her Ladyship drank tea with me on Sunday, & I Supd & spent the Evening with her the week after. She has traveld much in Russia Sweeden Denmark Holland France Ireland, and has a most Sprightly lively fancy: joind to a volubility of Tongue which united with good sense & a knowledge of the World renders her a pleasing companion, but She like all the rest of the English Ladies, with whom I have any acquaintance is destitute of that Softness & those feminine graces which appear so lovely in the females of America. I attribute this in a great measure to their constant intercourse at publick places. I will see how they are in the Country. I have been gratified however in finding that all Foreigners who have any acquaintance with American Ladies give the preference to them, but john Bull thinks nothing equal to himself and his Country; you would be Surprizd to see & hear the uncivil things Said against France, and all its productions I have never found so much illiberality in any Nation as this, but there are many Worthy & amiable Characters here whom I shall ever respect, and for whose Sakes this Country is preserved from total Ruin & destruction. but I am running on at a Strange rate. adieu my dear sister, remember me to my Worthy Mother Brothers & all my Nephews Neices & Neighbours, and believe me at all times your affectionate / Sister

Abigail Adams.

PS having sent you a Lamp I now Send you something to Light it with the directions are with it. I have given these into the care of a mrs Wentworth who came here last Spring in persuit of an estate which I have no doubt belongs to her, but for want of Money She cannot come at it.7 She is a virtuous well behaved deserving woman. she has been I believe as much as a month at different times in my family, and can tell you more about us than perhaps 20 Letters. Dr Bulfinch recommended her to us, when she came.8 I tried to get her some employ but could not succeed, and she is now obliged to return much poorer than when she came, and without any prospect of 121Success. when you go to Town, if you send for her to uncle Smiths, She will come and see you as I have desired her.— Inclosed you find a Louis d'or9

RC (private owner, 1957).


“'Tis expectation makes a blessing dear” (Sir John Suckling, “Against Fruition,” line 23).


27 May, above.


James Warren.


Genesis, 49:4.


Royall Tyler's The Contrast was reviewed in the New York Independent Journal, 5 May. The author, “Philo. Dramaticus,” described the play as “an extraordinary effort of genius. . . . America may one day rank a Tyler in the Dramatic Line as she already does a Franklin and a West in those of Philosophy and the Fine Arts.” Temple was in New York at the time serving as British consul general to the United States (vol. 5:272).


For Catherine Howard, Countess of Effingham, see vol. 6:188, 193.


Mary Wentworth wrote to AA on 13 Aug., just prior to sailing for the United States, to thank her “for all your Favours. Words Cannot Express the Sense I have of your Goodness to me: What an unhapy Destitute Creature I Should have bene, in my Disapointd, Preplexing Situation Without your Kind assistance: it is to you: By Gods premision I Shall owe, the Blessing of Seeing my Beloved Husband and Family again” (Adams Papers).


For Dr. Thomas Bulfinch of Boston, see vol. 2:16.


AA may have intended to scratch out this final sentence. See also the postscript to AA to JQA, 18 July, below.

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 16 July 1787 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
Braintree July 16th 1778 [1787]

My dear sister will I am sure excuse me if I send her now but a short Letter—when she is inform'd that there is but one day between this & commencment & that I have but just hear'd that capt. Folger will sail this week

It is true we are doing but little but it makes us more work than Ten such entertainments at home. every thing is dress'd here, & to be cut cold at cambridge except Green Peas. we are allamoding Two rounds of Beef, Boiling four Hams of Bacon & six Tongues. They smell finely I assure you. this will be all our meat—cider Punch wine & Porter our drink: we have had our Tables & seats made here, nothing but Boards plain'd, making them hear will save us five or six-dollars we have Milk Bisket & plumb Cake to be eat with our Tea. Betsy Smith from Haverhill has been here some time. She & Lucy are gone to day mr JQ.A. & Billy also. tomorrow mr Cranch & I go. Betsy is not well enough to be in such a Bustle so she will stay at home & take care of the House— her nerves are so weak that she cannot bear to be in the company of strangers without being distress'd she has lost her Flesh surprizingly within two months I feel very anxious about her. was it Lucy I should certainly in a 122consumtion, but this poor Girl is so subject to dissorders & so apt to recover them that I cannot but hope she will be again restor'd Cousin JQA has lost as much Flesh as she has but he looks much better than he did in the spring he is going a journey to Haverhill after commencment

I heard the other day by a Letter Mr Gill writ his uncle that mrs Smith was safe a Bed with a son nam'd after the Baron Stubend.1 I most sincerly congratilate you all upon this event but the same Letter inform'd us you was confin'd to your chamber by sickness— Joy & sorrow follow each other in swift succession in this imperfect state— I fear you do not use exercise enough any more than your eldest son— He will take a journey after the Bustle of commencment is over to Falmouth & then sit down to the study of the Law will mr Parsons. There will be a hard parting on Billys side at least. He wishes to study with his cousin but we cannot pay his Board & the demands of a Teacher also at least for a year or two the expence of the last year has been very great & yet Billy has been as prudent as a child could be, but I hope we shall get through it without injuring any one & that it will not be lost upon him. He has behav'd well & pass'd thro college without a censure Tomorrow he will compleat his eighteenth year— There is no time of Life exemted from temtations, but I have thought that there was none more critical for a Gentleman than from eithteen to twenty two. Passion is then the strongest & is too apt to prove an over match for Reason. we have some melancholy instances of it in our young Freinds upon Milton Hill you will drop a tear when you know what characters they have acquir'd in the world.2 The Parents have taken it amiss that our sons do not visit them more & that there is not a greater intimacy with their Children—but my dear sister—I have beg'd them if they value their reputations not to have the least appearenc of any with them—I expect to have a complaint enter'd against me before your Ladyship upon the account of it, but sure I am that was you here you would do the same I am greev'd for their Parents— Let us teach our children humility—& not to think more highly of themselves than they ought. Let us teach them that no rank of their ancestors be if ever so high will secure them the approbation esteem & respect of the world without the strictest attention to the rules of honour morality, & Religion

our sons look a little anxous as the Day approaches—I wish it was over. Billy is too busy assisting us too think much but my Nephew walks about with his hands hung down crying “oh Lord! oh Lord—I 123hope it will rain hard that all their white wigs may be wet who would not let us have a private commencment—” be compos'd said I, perform your Parts well & you will find that the Honour you will gain & the pleasure you will give your Freinds will over ballance all the anxietys you have experienc'd—

adieu for the present I must go & pack to send another cart tomorrow one is gone to day. I am almost sick with a cold & cough— I have been pouring down medicene for two days hoping to remove it—but it sticks fast & is obstinate— If callahan should get in & I should hear good tydings from my dear Friends it may do much to help me—

RC (Adams Papers).


William Steuben Smith's father had served with Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron von Steuben (1730–1794), a veteran of the Prussian Army who joined the Continental Army in 1778 ( DAB ; Roof, Smith and Lady , p. 141).


For Winslow Warren's financial and legal troubles, see vol. 7:104, 111. Many years later, on 2 Feb. 1820, JQA would write a scathing analysis of the entire Warren family in his Diary. He recalled that James and Mercy Otis Warren “during my earliest infancy were the dearest and most intimate friends of my father and Mother. They had then five sons—James, Charles, Winslow, Henry and George, of whom the two youngest were very nearly of my age— They were five as handsome, well-bred and promising boys as ever kindled the hopes of a parent; and among the earliest and profoundest of my recollections are the constant and urgent admonitions of my dear mother to look to those children as my model and to imitate their deportment and manners— Yet eve'ry one of them has turned out unfortunately—” JQA went on to elaborate on their misfortunes, including James' injury during the Revolution, which left him a “helpless cripple”; Charles' early death from consumption; George's “intemperance”; and Winslow's “licentious and adventurous life . . . the plaything of practised harlots.” Only Henry received some praise for achieving “a more respectable standing in Society” though he too had to be “removed from a public office for malversation” (D/JQA/31, APM Reel 34).