Adams Family Correspondence, volume 8

Abigail Adams Smith to Abigail Adams, 13 August 1788 Smith, Abigail Adams Adams, Abigail
Abigail Adams Smith to Abigail Adams
New-York, August 13th, 1788. My Dear Mamma:

We came to town last evening to dine (by invitation) this day, with the President of Congress, and this morning I had the pleasure of receiving your letter of the 6th. * * * *

I am very sorry to hear that you have had so much sickness and so many other perplexities to encounter, since your return; it increases my desire to be with you, to assist you all in my power. I hope you will escape sickness yourself, and I wish you would not permit your mind to be anxious. I can see, through your letters, that your spirits are hurried, and your mind in a continual agitation. You must overcome this, or you will certainly be sick.

Your request, my dear mamma, for me to make you a visit in November, I am sorry I cannot comply with it. If I undertake the journey at all this season, it must be much sooner. I most ardently wish to see you, and sometimes think I cannot permit this season to pass, without gratifying myself; but the inconveniences of travelling are so great in this country, that I am not quite determined about the matter. Col. Smith wishes to visit General Washington; but if I were to express a strong desire to go eastward, he would not hesitate to undertake the journey as soon as I wished. But we must sometimes sacrifice our wishes to convenience and prudence. If my father should come on in November, I hope you will accompany him, for I shall be very solicitous to have a visit from you at that time.


What to say, or what to expect, respecting the future governors of this our country, I know not. When eleven States have adopted the Constitution, and in reality the Congress ought to have no existence, they are delaying to pass the ordinance for the organization of the new Government, by party cabals and intrigues, by disputing where the new Government shall meet. It has now become a matter of party, totally. Every man consults his own views, and endeavours to bring as many others to his side of the question as he can have any influence over. A. B. has built a fine house, and wants to remove to Philadelphia, that he may outshine brilliancy itself.1 Others have different views; few, I believe, consider the advantage that is to arise to the whole country, or consult convenience at all. The question has now been many weeks in debate, and is not yet decided.

We have dined to-day at the President's—a company of twenty-two persons, many members of Congress, Mr. . . ., &c. Had you been present, you would have trembled for your country, to have seen, and heard, and observed, the men who compose its rulers. Very different, I believe, they were in times past. All were high upon the question now before them; some were for it, and others against it. Mr. . . . was the only silent man at table, and there were very few whose behaviour bore many marks of wisdom. To what a state this country is approaching, I don't know; time only can determine.

It is reported that North Carolina has rejected the Constitution by a majority of a hundred.2 But—to have done with politics.

Col. Smith has received a vote of thanks from Congress, for the manner in which he has conducted the business in Portugal.3 I do not hear that any new appointments are likely to be made to any foreign power. A General Armstrong, a delegate from Pennsylvania, is the man looking forward to the appointment to England.4

Mrs. Knox has gone out of town for some weeks; but when I see her I will mention Cornish to her. I told her that such a person was coming out with you, and she said she remembered her, and should be glad to see her again. General Knox is in Boston; perhaps she had better see him.

Mr. G. . . . called upon me this morning;5 he tells me that he saw my father and yourself in Boston. He is just the same precise, formal being as he used to be, and speaks so prettily that I could not understand him. * * *

Your affectionate daughter,

A. Smith.

MS not found. Printed from AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 2:93–96.

290 1.

Abraham Baldwin (1754–1807), a delegate from Georgia, was originally from Connecticut. He had served in the Continental Congress since 1785, and would serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1789 to 1799 and in the Senate from 1799 to 1807. While Baldwin never owned a home in Philadelphia, he did vote in favor of that city over New York as the site for the new government, though he ultimately preferred a more southern location ( Doc. Hist. Ratif. Const. , 3:308; E. Merton Coulter, Abraham Baldwin: Patriot, Educator, and Founding Father, Arlington, Va., 1987, p. viii, 113–114).


The first North Carolina Convention met from 21 July to 4 Aug. 1788 but by a vote of 183 to 83 refused to ratify the Constitution without amendments and a second constitutional convention. The state did not hold a second ratifying convention until Nov. 1789, when North Carolina finally approved the Constitution by a vote of 194 to 77 ( Doc. Hist. Ratif. Const. , 13:xlii; The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters during the Struggle over Ratification, 2 vols., N.Y., 1993, 2:1068–1069). The New York Daily Advertiser reported this news on 14 Aug. 1788.


On 28 July, Congress acknowledged WSS's work in Portugal and ordered John Jay as secretary for foreign affairs to write to WSS that Congress was “pleased with the manner in which you appear to have treated the affairs” ( JCC , 34:361–362).


Maj. Gen. John Armstrong (1717–1795), born in Ireland, represented Pennsylvania in Congress in 1779–1780 and 1787–1788. He was best known for his military service during the Seven Years' War ( DAB ).


Probably Elbridge Gerry.

Abigail Adams Smith to John Quincy Adams, 20 August 1788 Smith, Abigail Adams Adams, John Quincy
Abigail Adams Smith to John Quincy Adams
Jamaica August 20th 1788—

It was with real pleasure my Dear Brother that I received a few days since your letter of july 20th1 It was a scource of double Sattisfaction as it releived me from an anxieity I had felt least you were less disposed to be attentive to your Sister than formerly, and as it informd me of your wellfare, I had sometimes been grieved at others half offended at not hearing from you, but the date of yours and hearing from Mamma that it had been delayed some weeks, by mistake; has releived my mind from every anxiety respecting the decrease of affection or attention—on your part—

it gives me uneasiness my Dear Brother to observe from the tenor of your letter that you permit the Cross accidents of Life to affect your spirits too much, true Philosophy does not Consist in being insensible to them, but in supporting ourselvs above them with becomeing dignity, and in acquiessing with chearfullness to those events which are irremidable, and by striving to attain such a Station in Life as we may not be subjected to their influence

I am going to give you a little advice and to tell you in what respects I think you amiss in your judgement, if you should disagree with me in opinion—I shall expect you to offer your reasons in vindication of yourself—

“you say that a young Man at your time of Life aught to support himself” and regret that it is not in your power to do it— it is not 291 often the Case that young Men of your age let them have been ever so fortunate in acquiring their professions at an early period do it independant of their Parents it is most fortunate for themselvs and their friends if they possess the disposition, which will in time ensure them the ability

your absence in Europe at that period when you would have been pursueing a Profession had you been at home, was not a fault, you was necessitated to it and it will not eventually prove a disadvantage—but I hope may be advantageous to you in future, I think you were right in returning at the time you did and that you discovered a judgement above your years in the path you have pursued since your return— I dont mean to flatter you—

you are now pursueing a profession which is undoubtedly the first of all the Learned Professions—and by which a Man may acquire eminence and independance if he pleases, but you must not be impatient, nor discouraged— for a few years you must acquiesse in the Humble Station of a Student,—as you term it,—and be Content to rise by degrees,—but I see no reason why you should exclude yourself from society,— it is not Policy for you to do it, you should when an opportunity offers visit, and pay any little attention that civility may dictate, to those persons with whom you may have been formerly acquainted and keep yourself up in the minds of People, who are not obliged to remember you unless you are sometimes to be seen

your station even at this period is as respectable for your own Country as the more exalted one in which you have been known in Europe by many of your fellow Citizens excuse the freedom with which I write, and beleive me that it arrises from the interest I feel in every thing which respects your proggress and Situation in Life—

it would contribute greatly to my happiness to receive you here and it will not I flatter myself be a long time before you will find it Convenient to make us a visit— CollnSmith will I am sure be very happy to become personally acquainted with you—

I hope my Father will determine to Come on to Congress in November, if a new Election for President should take place I have no doubt but he will be chosen and if there should not—I think it will be of service to himself and to the Country if he accepts of the choise made—

I will indeavour to forward to you the debates in Congress—respecting the place at which the new Government should meet—2 you will there see—party interest interfereing and even rejecting 292arangements which in duty to their Country ought to have been early decided— tis time indeed that there was a change—

Colln Lee from Virginia a nephew of the Mr Lee's3 —and a Member of Congress told me the other day that it was his opinion, and the opinion of others, and, he spoke as a Southern Man;—that the offices of Vice President and Chief justice, would lay between my Father and MrJay,—that he wished my Father might be appointed to the latter and accept of it—for he esteemed it next to the Presidentship—the most respectable under the new Government and that it was esteemed of more importance than the Vice Presidents. I wish our Dear Father to Consider well—as he no doubt will, before he decided against accepting it,

I hope he will not be inclined to going abroad again, his Chrildren are comeing forward into Life and it will be much in his Power to assist them forward by his Precept advice and judgment— a Situation abroad however respectable it may be made—is an exclusion from his friends, and by a Long absence every one is last in the remembrance of his Countrymen—and his family neglected—(at least under our Governments) our Country is not able if they were disposed to make such provision for those Persons who have been long in their service as to render them independant at the decline of Life— nor are they disposed to make any provission for their decendants— every one must move independantly—by the force of his own respectability—in this Country—to be sure Interest and intrigue are not excluded—but this is the Principle— of such service as you can be in promoting my views and designs—so far I will give you my support—provided there is no fear of your clashing with my pursuits— I see its operation on many—and I dispise it—but I fear I shall tire your patience with my Politicks both public and private—

I Shall not dispute the subject of Federal or antefederal with you, I think that the Constitution is now too generally adopted by the States to be receded from by any one with good intentions, but of the affect I Confess myself doubtfull— there is a great deal to be done to Sattisfy the Sanguine—and perhaps there may be found more perplexity in doing than is yet suspected by any one— it is a most important and critical era in the fate of our Country— may She be so Conducted as to insure peace tranquility and happiness to her Subjects is my wish, and in this I dare say you will not dissent from your affectionate Sister

A Smith—

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “My Sister— 20. Augt:1788.” and “My Sister Augt:20. 1788.”

293 1.

Not found, but see JQA, Diary , 2:433.


For the debates over the location of the new government, see JCC , 34:358–360, 367–368, 383–388, 392–402. They also appeared in the New York Daily Advertiser, 21 August.


Col. Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee (1756–1818), of the extended Lee family of Virginia, represented that state in Congress from 1785 to 1788. The “Mr Lee's” included Arthur, Richard Henry, and William Lee, all of whom were cousins of Henry's father, Henry Lee Sr. ( DAB ).