Adams Family Correspondence, volume 8

Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams Smith, 7 July 1788 Adams, Abigail Smith, Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams Smith
Braintree, July 7th, 1788. My Dear Child:

It has been no small mortification to me since my arrival here, that I have not been able to hold a pen, or use my hand in writing, until this day. I came on shore with three whitloes upon the thumb and two fingers of my right, and two upon the left hand, so that I could not do the least thing for myself. I begged my friends to write, and let you know of our arrival, after a very tedious passage of eight weeks and two days. My first inquiry was of Mr. Knox, who came on board as soon as we made the light-house, after my dear son and daughter; and by him I had the happiness to learn of your safe arrival. When I came up to town, I received your kind letter with the greatest pleasure; it afforded me much entertainment. I wrote you one letter at sea, which contained a statement of occurrences until a fortnight before our arrival, when my fingers began to torment me.

The newspapers have no doubt informed you of our gracious reception, and of our residence at the Governor's; from whom, and his lady, we received the most pointed civility and attention, as well as from the ladies and gentlemen of Boston.1 The Governor was for escorting us to Braintree in his coach and four, attended by his light horse; and even Braintree was for coming out to Milton bridge to meet us, but this we could by no means assent to. Accordingly we quitted town privately; your papa one day, and I the next. We went to our worthy brother's, where we remained until the next week, when our furniture came up. But we have come into a house not 278half repaired, and I own myself most sadly disappointed. In height and breadth, it feels like a wren's house. Ever since I came, we have had such a swarm of carpenters, masons, farmers, as have almost distracted me—every thing all at once, with miserable assistance. In short, I have been ready to wish I had left all my furniture behind. The length of the voyage and heat of the ship greatly injured it; some we cannot get up, and the shocking state of the house has obliged me to open it in the garret. But I will not tire you with a recital of all my troubles.

I hope soon to embrace you, my dear children, in Braintree; but be sure you wear no feathers, and let Col. Smith come without heels to his shoes, or he will not be able to walk upright. But we shall be more arranged by that time, and, I hope, the chief of our business done. We have for my comfort, six cows, without a single convenience for a dairy. But you know there is no saying nay.

Sweetly do the birds sing. I will not tell you your brother is here, because he has not written to you. But I must leave off, or you will think me as bad as Esther; indeed, I feel almost bewildered.

Affectionately yours,

A. Adams.

MS not found. Printed from AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 2:84–86.


When the Adamses arrived in Boston on 17 June, Gov. John Hancock “having previously ordered, that every mark of respect be paid his Excellency on his arrival, the approach of the ship in which he arrived, was announced by a signal from the Light and a discharge of cannon from the Castle—when off the Castle he was saluted with a federal discharge of cannon from that fortress, and when the ship had arrived at her moorings, the Secretary of the State, by order of his Excellency the Governour repaired in his Excellency's carriage to the end of the pier, from whence, in the State barge, the Secretary waited on the Ambassadour on board, and in his Excellency the Governour's name, congratulated him on his arrival, and invited him and family to his Excellency's seat. . . . the Pier was crowded—and his Excellency welcomed on shore by three huzzas from several thousand persons.” On the following day, the General Court issued a formal statement of congratulations on JA's “many successful labours in the service of your country” (Massachusetts Centinel, 18, 21 June).

John Adams to Abigail Adams Smith, 16 July 1788 Adams, John Smith, Abigail Adams
John Adams to Abigail Adams Smith
Braintree, July 16, 1788. My Dear Child:

Your mamma's hand has been wholly unable to hold a pen, without exquisite pain, from the time of our arrival; and I am afraid your brothers have not done their duty in writing to you. Indeed, I scarcely know what apology to make for myself. Would you believe this is the first day that I have taken a pen into my hand since I came ashore?


I am happy to hear from all quarters a good character of all your brothers. The oldest has given decided proofs of great talents, and there is not a youth of his age whose reputation is higher for abilities, or whose character is fairer in point of morals or conduct. The youngest is as fine a youth as either of the three, if a spice of fun in his composition should not lead him astray. Charles wins the heart, as usual, and is the most of a gentleman of them all.

You, my dear daughter, are in new scenes, which require new duties. Mr. Smith's mother has a right to all the dutiful filial respect, affection, and attention, that you can show her; and his brothers and sisters you ought to consider as your own. When I say this, I say no more than what I know must long ago have occurred to a lady of your reflection, discretion, and sensibility.

I wish to be informed, as fully as may be with propriety, of Mr. Smith's views. My desire would be to hear of him at the bar, which, in my opinion, is the most independent place on earth. A seeker of public employments is, in my idea, one of the most unhappy of all men. This may be pride; but if it is, I cannot condemn it. I had rather dig my subsistence out of the earth with my own hands, than be dependent on any favour, public or private; and this has been the invariable maxim of my whole life. Mr. Smith's merit and services entitle him to expect employment under the public; and I know him to be a man of too much spirit as well as honour, to solicit with the smallest degree of meanness for any thing. But I would not be dependent; I would have a resource. There can be none better than the bar. I hope my anxiety for his and your welfare, has not betrayed me into any improper expressions, or unbecoming curiosity.

You may be anxious, too, to know what is to become of me. At my age, this ought not to be a question; but it is. I will tell you, my dear child, in strict confidence, that it appears to me that your father does not stand very high in the esteem, admiration, or respect of his country, or any part of it. In the course of a long absence his character has been lost, and he has got quite out of circulation. The public judgment, the public heart, and the public voice, seem to have decreed to others every public office that he can accept of with consistency, or honour, or reputation; and no other alternative is left for him, but private life at home, or to go again abroad. The latter is the worst of the two; but you may depend upon it, you will hear of him on a trading voyage to the East Indies, or to Surrinam, or Essequibo, before you will hear of his descending as a public man beneath himself.


Write me as often as you can, and believe me / Your ever affectionate father,

John Adams.

MS not found. Printed from AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 2:87–89.