Adams Family Correspondence, volume 8

132 Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 21 July 1787 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
My Dear Sister Boston July 21d 1778 [1787]

The Day—the mighty Day is over, & our Sons have perform'd their Parts—& receiv'd the Honour of the college in a manner which will do them credit while they Live— never did you see two Happier Faces than theirs when they return'd from meeting— I do not believe they will ever feel so happy again— If to excell where all did well—can give pleasure your Son must feel a peculiar one. He has a faculty of throughing expresson into his countinance beyond any person I ever met with— I was not in the meeting house, but I am told that he excell'd in his manner every one who ever Spoke in it—The performences of the Day are said by every one to have been the best composition, & the best spoken of any since the universitys were created—

Every thing was conducted in our Chambers with the greatest order & regularity— Mr Beals who lives on our place at Weymouth had the whole care of delivering out drink & we had uncle Smiths Primus—& a Black Servant of cousin Willm. Smiths & our Pheby to attend the Tables—1 she was exceeding useful to me after dinner in washing up the Dishes & clearing the Tables we had two chambers one for the Tables & the other for our company to Sit in. We made no Tea but had cake & wine carried about in stead of it which sav'd us a great deal of trouble

We din'd above a hundred People & treated with cake & wine above four hundred I am very certain we were honour'd after Dinner with the company of His excellency the Governer & L—— Govr. & a number of the Senate—The Resident Professor & Tutors, who all came to congratulate us— In short I had enough to do to set & receive the congratulations of our Friends & acquaintance I most sincerly wish'd you with me to have taken your share— We were not only congratulated that we had a son & Nephew who had done themselves such Honour, that day but that they had sustain'd such amiable good characters during their residence at college— I had as much small Talk to do as their Majestys upon a presentation day—but they never felt half as much pleasure your sons all felt like my own & I presented them as my adopted ones till your return & proud enough I am of them—

Although we had so much company we had enough & to spair of every thing we made 28lb of Flower into cake & fine Plumb cake it 133was. I sent mrs Hall a nice one & several of our common Frinds a slice who could not attend. I hope I have given general satisfaction to all our Freinds we ask'd general Palmers Family two days before commencment they took it into their Heads to be mift because they were not invited sooner & would not come, but if they knew how little I car'd & how little notice I should take of such unreasonable affronts they would keep them to themselves. Cousin Polly poor girl is not long for this world I believe. she fails very fast—2 The rest of the Family are well. The general is very busy erecting large salt Works upon the neck— I hope they will answer his expectations.—

To add to my happiness callahan arriv'd two days before Commencment & brought me an account of your being better than my imagination represented you. I long more than ever for your return—You must take more care of your health these complaints of yours are hard to be cur'd— I have suffer'd much in the same way for the two last years but have injoyd. my health finely sinc last summer till this ugly cold I have now got I was sick enough to have been upon the Bed on Wednesday but I got thro better than I expected too, & am going home this afternoon to be nurs'd up & to rest a little.—

I rejoice to hear of the Safety of my Niece & her little one. I hope her health is perfectly restor'd by this time. pray give my Love to her & to little master & tell him to grow firm enough to receive a hearty Squeeze from his great Aunt when she sees him— If Colln Smith is returnd tell him I had the pleasure of Colln. Humphrys company at our chamber on Wednesday last. That he talk'd of his Friend & that we both wish'd him & indeed all of you with us. The Coll. has promis'd to make us a visit at Braintree with Coll. Hull, Who is a great favourite of mine & Elizas. mrs Hull has just got to Bed with her fourth child3 I have lately been to see them

I have again to thank you for your kind presents to our children They have not time to write by this conveyence, but will soon but my sister why did you procure such costly Scandles. I fear it will not be in character for them to wear them. The maker has mortified them in the length of them for they cannot possible wear them. I wonder what kind of Feet he thought we had in america. I have not seen the chintz but dare say it is pretty. I believe we should have made up our silks if it had not have been for the peculiarty of the times but we did not think it prudent to do it— To say I thank you for all your goodness to us will not express half what I feel— I have receev'd the wastcoats & the linnen for cousin Tom we have not yet made up the fine Piece you sent him before, but are making some 134for him of the coarser Piece you sent by Scot. he will want them for winter & we thought if best to make it of this because the frost would not cut it as if it was finer, & we can only make him just enough for present wear he grows so fast— I shall fix cousin JQ.A well with every thing to last him till the spring. he will lay by his shirts & other matters that will require much mending till he makes us a visit— I wish to have it all done here but some little matters must be done there

Sister Shaw & Sister Smith have both been with us but are return'd without going to Braintree. Sister Shaw looks very well for her—her children are well—but the Sickness prevails yet but it is not so mortal as it has been—

I was call'd off just now to your Friend mrs Rogers for the first time since she return'd. her health is poor. she rejoices to hear from you & mrs Smith hop'd for a Letter sends her Love—

I must leave a thoussand things to say for the next vessel as mr cranch is waiting to put a Packet a Board Folger mr cranch is much gratified with his Letter, thanks you will write as soon as he has time

tell Colln Smith he must not live in new york. we cannot spare my Niece & her little Family—& Grandmamma will not be able to do it I am sure

My Love to mr. Adams—as to you my sister I know not how to bid you adieu— may God preserve you & bring you once more safe to my arms— This is the constant Petition of you / affectionate Sister

M Cranch

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs Cranch july / 21 1787”; docketed by AA2: “Mrs Cranch july 21st 1787.”


“Primus” was likely Primas Cooley of Weymouth, who had married Rachel, “a Negro Woman,” in 1775 (Vital Records of Weymouth Massachusetts to the Year 1850, 2 vols., Boston, 1910, 2:225).


Despite her ill health, Mary (Polly) Palmer survived until Nov. 1791 (MHi:Peabody Family Papers, Mary Palmer Letters, 1790–1791). See vol. 7:201–202, note 5, for an account of the accident that caused her illness.


William and Sarah Hull's fourth child, Nancey, was born on 19 June 1787 (Vital Records of Newton, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850, Boston, 1905, p. 104).

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 22 July 1787 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Adams, Abigail
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams
Haverhill July 22d 1787 My Dear Sister—

The last Week has indeed been a Week of Joy to me— We have “eat our Bread with gladness, & drank our Wine with merry Hearts—”1


My dear Nephews have done themselves, & their Friends honour by their publick Performances— And Mr Shaw, & myself shared in a very particular manner, the general satisfaction, & Festivity of the Day—

William Cranch had a Dissertation shewing the Utillity, & necessity of three Branches in the Legislature.—

Your Son spoke an English Oration upon the importance of preserving publick Faith, &ce—

Leonard White had a Conference with Loyd, & Amory upon the Question, which had the greatest Influence upon Mankind, Wealth—Power—or Fame—2

Freeman from Sanwich spoke a most excellent Oration, both as to matter, & manner, & I should be too partial, if I had not preserved a Wreath, to bind around his Head—

I think both the Orators (for I cannot now recollect, & separate each part) represented to us the honourable, happy state we were in, at the close of the last War—marked out in very striking coulours, each footstep by which we had fallen into our present state, & shewed that Idleness, & Luxery ever did, & ever would bring on loss of Credit—Scorn, & Derission—Civil Wars—Anarchy, & all its dreadful Consequences—

J,Q,A, & Freeman were the Competiors of the Day, & seemed to vie with each other who should excell the most— The young Ladies charmed with the gracefullness of Freeman, would no doubt have presented him with the Palm—But more accurate Judges, & the admirers of dignity of Sentiment, & Composition would at least have debated upon the Preference—

I am sure no one could be a Judge of Mr Adam's Eloquence unless they kept their Eye fixed upon his Face, & saw each Passion, & each Feeling called up, & most strikingly, & happily delineated there—

It is 17 years since I have attended a Commencement before this— They speak now, there Performances cheifly in English, & of late years have greatly improved in the Art of Speaking—3 I have thought Oratory was too little attended too by this University—& many of our most sensible Youths have suffered sadly by the neglect— I wish they may not now run into the oposite extreme— For whoever expects now to be noticed, & wishes to make a Figure, reads Sheridan, & Blair with the greatest avidity, to the too great neglect (I fear) of Classickcal Authors, & more substantial knowledge— For after all, it must be considered only, as an exterior 136accomplishment as an elegant Dress to a fine Woman, rendering her more conspicuous, & strikingly lovely—

The Centinel I see, has conveyed to the World with its usual good-humour some strictures upon Commencement Performances—But malevolence shall not cast a shade nor Scurility pluck the Laurel from their Brow—4

The Young Gentlemen may well content themselves, with the ample applause of the Day—

The Monday before Commencement we had a very fine rain, & the weather was uncommonly pleasant the whole of the week, I believe there never was so cool a Commencment known— Mr Shaw, & I, lodged at Professor William's— He rose early in the morning to take a walk anew over the classick ground, & found People who were making Booths upon the Common, thressing their Arms acros's their Breasts, to keep themselves warm—A curious sight this upon our Commencment Day—

Dr Tufts, & Mr Cranch had provided a very elegant, & genteel Entertainment— There was quite a large Company at the Chambers; but there was enough of every-thing, & to spare— There was not anything wanting but you, & part of you, to grace, & crown the whole—

It was exceeding pleasant for me, to see, & to recognize so many of my former Friends, & Acquaintance— I stood above an hour answering, & passing the usual Compliments of the Day— I thought of you at the Levee—Though there was this difference I suppose—Complacency & all the social affections of the Heart shone in their Countenances, which is never, or very seldom seen, in a Company of Strangers, wholly uninterested in each others welfare—

The Family Tenants were all there—Belcher—Beale & Pratt—who were very necessary, & useful— But as I returned from Meeting, passing the Colledge Entry, there sate in state our sable Domestic, accompanied by her solemn faced Partner, with his sabbath Day Coat, & tie Wig full powdered, looking like a piece of mock majesty— I could not but be diverted after Dinner to see him devouring the delicious Fragments—now mouthing a sweet crumb of Bread—now a fat slice of Bacon, & Tongue—now a rich piece of alamode Beef—& now a fine spoonful of green Peas—Lettice—Pickles &cc—clearing Plate by Plate & handing them, to his charming dewy, oderiferous Phebe, who was so kind as to wash them—

But what (my Dear Sister) gave a relish to every other enjoyment was the arrival of Callihan the Monday before, which brought us Letters announcing the welfare of your Family, & the Birth of your 137Grandson— May you ever have Cause to rejoice in the Day— Kiss the sweet Fellow once—twice—three & tell the little Cherub his Aunt sent all she could—as a Token of her Love, & ardent Wishes, that his Life, & Health may be preserved— And in this Wish is included a sincere Petition, that its Parents may be surrounded with every Circumstance that can render Life delightful—smooth the Brow of Age—or sweeten the Bed of Death—

Your Letters gave me peculiar pleasure, for though they informed me of your poor Health, yet you was so much better than I feared, that I really felt releived—For my whimsical Brain had suggested to me that something was the matter— Last Fall, my Sisterly Spirit crossed the wide Ocean, & carefully attended you in your Illness—& early this Spring it went forth, & was siting by your side, nursing you night, after night, & kindly endeavouring to alleviate every Pain—

You may say, many wise Things upon this Subject—That I ought not to “believe in lying Vanities, & forsake real mercies—”5 I feel its force—But had much rather hear all were well, than read whole Volumes, upon the Folly of Enthusiasm—6

Judge Blodget deliverd to me your Packet, filld with every Expression of kindness To say I thank you, does not convey half the gratitude I feel— Mrs Allen too sends her Love, looked quite pleased & gratified when I presented her with the Box— She has been a little unwell with Billious disorders—but expected every Day those little matters would come in use—

August 21st.

When I began this Letter I hoped to have sent it imediately, but could not get it into Town soon enough— Mr & Mrs Evans have spent a fortnight with us— He is a worthy, good, sensible man, though the People of Weymouth can hardly say as He passes, “the Lord bless & prosper you”— He was reading in the Book you sent me, (which is an excellent one) the Authors opinion of early marriage He dissaproved of it greatly— I did not think his reasons sufficient— I told him very few had, or could have those Opportunities for improving which Mrs Evans had been favoured with— I was pleased to see they were not lost upon her— She is really a fine woman— An equality of Age, I see is as nothing in the Eye of Affection, for I know of no persons who seem more delighted, & happy in each other company— He is now gone with her to Exeter, & is preaching there—


Your Sons have each of them favoured us with a visit— Thomas has grown so much; you would scarce believe it was the little Lad you left with us— He is as good as ever— The Misses think Charles a mere Adonis—a perfect Beauty— I said to him one Day “Charles the Girls fancy you are handsome”— [“]Do not forget it is a Gift of Nature, & as it is not your own acquisition, you can have no title to be vain— We would wish you to be esteemed (& I think we have Cause) & admired for the more lasting, & valuable Qualities of the Mind—” I hope I shall not make my sister anxious, she has no reason to be—but at a critical age— May Minerva with her broad Sheild, preserve the dear Youth, from every Guile— They are happy in having one who knows the dangers, & Temptations

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs Shaw july 22 / 1787.” Dft (DLC:Shaw Family Papers).


Ecclesiastes, 9:7.


For James Lloyd Jr. and Jonathan Amory, see JQA, Diary , 2:97, 218–219, 223, 224.


Early Harvard commencement exercises were conducted nearly entirely in Latin. By the late eighteenth century, they had shifted to include more English, a trend that continued into the early nineteenth century by which time they were performed almost entirely in English (Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard , p. 33–34, 247).


The review of the exercises of the graduating class in the Massachusetts Centinel, 21 July, was largely complimentary, though in part in a rather backhanded fashion. The piece commented, “We shall premise, that the whole tenor of the performances reflected the highest honour upon the Patrons of the University, as well as upon the gentlemen who exhibited. The tediousness of fulsome syllogism was considerably abridged of the length to which it is usually extended, and we are induced to hope, that this species of scholastic jargon, so unprofitable to the hearer, and so mortifying to the disputant, will soon become unfashionable upon this day— All sound argument is indeed grounded upon syllogism, but it would surely be more entertaining and instructive, to discover this mode of reasoning in conferences and orations, than to view it in the ungraceful garb in which the schools have clothed it.”


“They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy” (Jonah, 2:8).


The RC ends here, presumably missing its final page. The last three paragraphs are reproduced from the Dft.