Adams Family Correspondence, volume 8

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 28 June 1789 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
Richmond Hill june 28th 1789 My dear sister

I wrote you from Providence some account of my polite reception there & closed my Letter just as I had accepted an invitation to dine with mr Brown & Lady. the forenoon was pass't in receiving visits from all the principal gentlemen and Ladies of the Town, who seemed to vie with each other, to convince me that tho they were inhabitants of an Antifederal state. they were themselves totally against the measures persued by it, and that they entertaind the highest Regard and Respect for the Character with which I was so intimately connected, altho to their great mortification they had been prevented the Honour of having any share in placing him in his respected station1

Mr Brown sent his Carriage & Son to conduct me his House which is one of the Grandest I have seen in this Country. every thing in and about it, wore the marks of magnificence & taste.2 mrs Brown met me at the door & with the most obliging Smile accosted me with—[“]Friend I am glad to see the here” the simplicity of her manners & dress with the openness of her countanance & the friendlyness of her behaviour charmed me beyond all the studied politeness of European manners— they had colleted between 22 persons to dine with me tho the notice was so short, & gave an Elegant 378entertainment upon a service of Plate. towards Evening I made a Tour round the Town, & drank Tea & spent the Evening with mr & Mrs Francis whom I mentiond to you before. here the company was much enlarged, & many persons introduced to me who had no opportunity before of visiting me, amongst those Ladies, with whom I was most pleased was the Lady & two sisters of Governour Bowen.3 about Eleven I returnd To my lodgings and the next morning went on Board the Handcock packet we had contrary wind all Day, by which means we did not reach Newport untill Seven oclock. I had been only a few moments arrived when mr Merchant came on Board and insisted that I with my whole Family should go on shore & Lodge at his House. he would take no refusal. he sent his daughter down to receive & accompany my Neice, & came himself in a few moments with a carriage to attend me. at his House I was kindly & Hospitably Treated by his Lady & daughters.4 we slept there & the next morning were early summond on Board the packet. Captain Brown had very civily taken his wife to attend upon me, & accomodate me during my passage5 I found her a very well Bred Geenteel woman, but neither civility attention or politeness could remedy the sea sickness or give me a fair wind or dispell the Thunder Gusts which attended us both night & day. in short I resolved upon what I have frequently before, that I would never again embark upon the water, but this resolution I presume will be kept as my former ones have been. we were five days upon the water. Heat want of rest, sea sickness & terror for I had my share of that, all contributed to fatigue me and I felt upon my arrival quite tame & spiritless Louissa was very sick, but behaved like a Heroine Matilda had her share but when she was a little recoverd she was the life of us all Polly was half dead all the Passage & sufferd more from sea sickness than any of us. Charls eat & slept without any inconvenience. when we came to the wharff, I desired the Captain to go to our Friend mr MacCormick and inform him of my arrival, if he was not to be found to go to the Senate Chamber & inform mr A. who from the hour of the day I knew must be there. mr otis the secretary came to me with a Carriage & I reach'd Richmond Hill on Thursday one oclock to my no small joy I found mr Adams in better Health than I feard mr & mrs Smith quite well & every thing so well arranged that Beds & a few other articles seem only necessary towards keeping House with comfort, and I begin to think, that my furniture will be troublesome to me, some part of it I mean whilst mrs Smith remains with me. master John was grown out of my knowledge, 379william is still at Jamaica. our House has been a mere Levee ever since I arrived morning & Evening. I took the earliest opportunity (the morning after my arrival) to go & pay my respects to mrs Washington mrs Smith accompanied me. She received me with great ease & politeness, she is plain in her dress, but that plainness is the best of every article. she is in mourning, her Hair is white, her Teeth Beautifull, her person rather short than otherways, hardly so large as my Ladyship, and if I was to speak sincerly, I think she is a much better figure, her manners are modest and unassuming, dignified and femenine, not the Tincture of ha'ture about her.6 his majesty was ill & confined to his Room.7 I had not the pleasure of a presentation to him, but the satisfaction of hearing that he regreeted it equally with myself. col Humphries who had paid his compliments to me in the morning & Breakfasted with me, attended mrs washington & mr Lear the Private Secretary, was the introducter—8 thus you have an account of my first appearence— the Principal Ladies who have visited me are the Lady & daughter of the Governour Lady Temple the Countess de Brehim, Mrs Knox & 25 other Ladies many of the Senators, all their Ladies all the Foreign ministers & some of the Reps.

We are most delightfully situated, the prospect all around is Beautifull in the highest degree, it is a mixture of the sublime & Beautifull— amidst it all I sigh for many of my dear Friends and connections. I can make no domestick arrangment till Brisler arrives— remember me affectionatly to all my Friends particularly my aged parent, to my children to whom I cannot write as yet to my dear Lucy & worthy dr Tufts in short to all whom I love yours most tenderly

A Adams

RC (MWA:Abigail Adams Letters); addressed: “To / Mrs Mary Cranch / Braintree.”


The state of Rhode Island had declined to send delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, to hold a ratifying convention, or to select electors to choose a president and vice president. Under increasing commercial pressure and in order to participate in the debates over the Bill of Rights, Rhode Island finally called a convention and ratified the Constitution in May 1790 by a vote of 34 to 32 (Florence Parker Simister, The Fire's Center: Rhode Island in the Revolutionary Era, 1763–1790, Providence, 1979, p. 233–240).


John Brown's house, located at the corner of Power and Benefit Streets in Providence, was considered at the time one of the finest homes in America. Today it houses the Rhode Island Historical Society. John and Sarah Brown's only surviving son, James (1761–1834), chose not to enter the family mercantile business (James B. Hedges, The Browns of Providence Plantations: The Colonial Years, Providence, 1968, p. xx, 19, 199).


For the Bowen family, see AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 19 June, note 6, above.


Henry Marchant (1741–1796) had known JA in the Continental Congress, where Marchant served from 1777 to 1779. He represented Newport in the Rhode Island General 380Assembly from 1784 to 1790 and was a staunch advocate of ratification. He and his wife, Rebecca Cooke, had two daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, as well as a son, William ( DAB ; James N. Arnold, Vital Record of Rhode Island, 1636–1850, 21 vols., Providence, 1891–1912, 4:104).


Capt. James Brown was married to Free-love Brown (ca. 1765–1819), the daughter of Col. William Brown of Providence (Arnold, Vital Record of Rhode Island, 13:221, 14:541).


For Martha Washington and her family, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 11, above.


George Washington's illness was more serious than most people realized, with a fever stemming from an infection connected to a tumor in his leg. He had the tumor removed on 17 June 1789. By early July, he was able to conduct government business though he remained weak for some time thereafter (Washington, Papers, Presidential Series , 3:76–77).


Tobias Lear (1762–1816), Harvard 1783, originally from New Hampshire, served as Washington's private secretary from 1786 to 1793 ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ; Washington, Papers, Presidential Series , 1:98).

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 28 June 1789 Adams, John Quincy Adams, John
John Quincy Adams to John Adams
Newbury-Port June 28th: 1789 Dear Sir.

It has not been altogether from a neglect of my duties that I have hitherto omitted writing you; from situation as well as from inclination, I have been in a great measure secluded from such political information, as might afford you any entertainment, and from a proper modesty, I thought it best to forbear transmitting, any insignificant details concerning my own person.— Even now the same motives which have hitherto deterred me from writing, are not without their influence: but perhaps a moment's relaxation from the affairs of a Nation, to attend to those of a private and domestic nature, may not be disagreeable; and if my Letter should be impertinent, I shall at least solace myself with the reflection that it can probably only add one, more to an innumerable quantity of a similar nature.

Three months have elapsed, since my return to this Town. My Health has been restored beyond my expectations, and I have been able without injuring it, to devote a larger portion of my Time to study, than I hoped to when I left Braintree.— Lord Coke, Saunders, Hale and Blackstone have contributed to add to my small stock of professional knowledge; and I have made some researches into the doctrine of pleading.1 My greatest apprehensions at present, are with respect to the practical part of the profession. The skill to apply general knowledge to particular cases, is no less important than the knowledge itself; and a new piece of mechanism, will often perform its operations with great irregularity, however well it may be constructed. I remain still in a state of irresolution and suspense with respect to the place of my future residence. I have consulted Mr: Parsons upon the Subject: he said he could not advise me so 381

382well at present, as he might after the federal judiciary System shall be established; because he knew not what vacancies might be created by that circumstance. He however hinted that if either himself or Mr: Bradbury should be removed he should recommend this place to me.—2 I know not what his own expectations are; but I have some reason to suppose he has his eye upon two offices; those of the district Judge, and Attorney general; either of which I believe would suit him well.—3 And by his putting the supposition of his being taken off from the practice I have conjectured that there was in his own mind, an idea of the probability of his appointment.— As I believe his talents are much better calculated to administer laws than to make them, I wish he may succeed. Perhaps even an involuntary consideration of my own interest, has some effect to give a bias to my opinion. I am the more free to make this confession, because I suppose the appointments are all adjusted ere this, and I shall not therefore appear in the humiliating light of a solicitor; which I wish ever to avoid; and in which I am well perswaded I should be unsuccessful were I now to assume it.

As our Newspapers are probably transmitted to you with regularity, I can give you very little news in the public Line. The very great majority of votes by which Mr: H. was reelected, and the influence which was successfully exerted for Mr: A. appeared somewhat singular, after the event of all the contests relating to the federal elections; There have been a variety of subordinate political manoeuvres in the choice of representatives of the different towns. Those in Boston, you have undoubtedly been informed of. There was in this town a faint struggle for a change in the representation; but the old members came in with a respectable majority.

Our general Court, after sitting, about a month, and busying themselves upon the subject of Finance just sufficient to refer it over to the next Session, have adjourned to some time in January; when it will be too late in the political year, to adopt any decisive measures.4 There has been a scheme on foot for sinking our State debt by means of a Lottery. From Mr: Parsons's conversation I have supposed that the plan originated with him; and in his speculative principles he thinks it would reconcile the claims of public Justice, with the interests of an impotent debtor. The proposal was to redeem £40,000 of the debt, by refunding only £10,000 in Specie to the adventurers.— Besides the impropriety of encouraging a gambling disposition among the people, I confess the plan appears to me equally inconsistent with the dignity of a sovereignstate and with 383the integrity of an honest debtor. For whatever expedients may be used to conceal or disguise the iniquity of the transaction, nothing can be more clear than that where a debt of £40,000, is paid with 10,000 the creditor must be defrauded. The bill pass'd in the House by a majority of 73 to 52, but was non-concurred by the Senate.

The High Sheriff of this County, M. Farley, died about a week since. The place has been offered to Mr: Jackson, who has declined accepting it: and Mr: B. Bartlet of Haverhill is named as the person who will probably be appointed.5 My Mother and Brother I suppose have arrived at New York before this. They left Boston ten days ago. If it should be convenient and agreeable, I shall ask permission to pay you a visit about the beginning of October. I mentioned September to my Mamma; but I did not then recollect that our Court of Common Pleas sits in this town in that Month; when my attendance at the office will probably be required.

Col1: Smith and My Sister, with their children I hope are well. I know not what apology I shall make to them for not having written to them; I intend however soon in some measure to repair my fault.— I shall hope at least to hear often from my brother Charles; he is still more averse than I am to epistolary exertions; but it is an aversion which I hope he will make a point of overcoming.

The proceedings of Congress have almost entirely superseded all other subjects of political speculation. The revenue bill has hitherto chiefly engaged the public attention. The original duty upon molasses, exceedingly alarmed many of our West India merchants, and whatever may be said of discarding all local & personal considerations, they have not I believe, been so much pleased with any Act of the President of the Senate, as his turning the vote for reducing the duty to 3 cents. This observation however only applies to a few; for I do not know that the circumstance is generally known.—6 The Judiciary bill has not yet been published here: I had a transient sight of a copy, which I believe Mr: Dalton sent. Mr: Parsons thinks 6 Judges will not be enough; and objects to the joining the district Judge to the other two in the circuits. Because it gives him a casting voice in affirming his own decisions.7

I am, Dear Sir, your dutiful Son.

J. Q. Adams.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “J. Q. A. June 28. / ansd July 9. 1789.”


JQA was likely reading Sir Matthew Hale, The History and Analysis of the Common Law of England, London, 1731, and Sir Edmund Saunders, Les reports du tres erudite Edmund Saunders . . . des divers pleadings et cases en le Court del bank le Roy (The Reports of the Most Learned Sir Edmund Saunders . . . of Several Pleadings and Cases in the 384 Court of King's Bench), 2 vols., London, 1686. For JQA's comments on William Blackstone's Commentaries and Sir Edward Coke's Institutes, see Diary, 2:372–373.


Theophilus Bradbury (1739–1803), Harvard 1757, initially practiced law in Falmouth, Mass. (now Maine), where his law students included Theophilus Parsons. He moved to Newburyport in the late 1770s. He served in Congress from 1795 to 1797 and as a judge on the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court from 1797 until his death ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 14:143–146).


Parsons never held any federal positions, nor did he leave Newburyport until 1800, though he was named chief justice of the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court in 1806 ( DAB ).


The General Court met from 27 May to 26 June, after which it adjourned until 13 Jan. 1790 (Mass., Acts and Laws , 1788–1789, p. 604, 611).


Gen. Michael Farley of Ipswich, a former member of the Mass. General Court and Executive Council, died on 20 June. He was succeeded by Bailey Bartlett of Haverhill, whom Gov. John Hancock appointed to the position on 1 July. Bartlett continued in that position, with one brief interval, until his death in 1830 (D. Hamilton Hurd, comp., History of Essex County, Massachusetts, 2 vols., Phila., 1888, 1:619, 2:2009–2010).


For the records of the debates in the Senate over the duty on molasses, see First Fed. Cong ., 9:55, 57–58, 66–68. “An Act for Laying a Duty on Goods, Wares, and Merchandises Imported into the United States” ultimately set the rate at 2 ½ cents per gallon (1st Congress, Sess. I, ch. 2, sect. 1). While the Senate debates were secret, the Massachusetts newspapers did report what they could learn on the subject, focusing particularly on the duties on molasses and rum; see, for example, Massachusetts Centinel, 6, 17 June 1789.


The judiciary bill, “An Act to Establish the Judicial Courts of the United States,” was signed into law on 24 September. It provided for six Supreme Court justices (one chief justice and five associates). It also established a structure in which the circuit courts, which reviewed district court decisions, would include a district court judge and two Supreme Court justices. In the final version of the law, however, a district court judge was specifically forbidden from voting on any appeal of his own decision (1st Congress, Sess. I, ch. 20, sects. 1, 4).