Adams Family Correspondence, volume 9

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 30 May 1790 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
my dear sister May 30 1790. N york

your kind Letter of various dates came safe to Hand. I was allarmed at not hearing from you, & feard that you were all sick. the disorder termd the Influenza has prevaild with much voilence, & in 62many places been very mortal, particularly upon long Island. not a Creature has escaped in our Family except its Head, and I compounded to have a double share myself rather than he should have it at all. heitherto he has escaped, not so the President. he has been in a most dangerous state, and for two or three days [I a]ssure you I was most unhappy. I dreaded his death from a cause that few persons, and only those who know me best would believe. it appears to me that the union of the states, and concequently the permanancy of the Government depend under Providence upon his Life. at this early day when neither our Finances are arranged nor our Government Sufficiently cemented to promise duration, His death would I fear have had most disasterous Concequences. I feard a thousand things which I pray, I never may be calld to experience most assuredly I do not wish for the highest Post. I never before realizd what I might be calld to, and the apprehension of it only for a few days greatly distresst me, but thanks to Providence he is again restored. Congress will set till july it is thought, and I fear adjourn to Philadelphia. I say I fear for it would be a sad buisness to have to Remove. besides I am sure there is not a spot in the united states So Beautifull as this upon which I live, for a summer residence but personal inconveniency out of the question I do not see any publick utility to be derived from it,—and I wish the Idea might Subside untill time should make it proper to fix a permanant Seat. I fear I must relinquish the Idea of visiting my Friends I want to see you all and my young Nephew whom you describe with all the fondness of a Grandmamma. mrs Norten will find her Health improved by Nursing I dare say. my Love to her and to cousin Lucy. how I long to have you come and see me.

I am affraid my dear sister I shall have to trouble you with the care of a commencment for Thomas, like that which you so kindly made for his Brother but I Shall know more about his inclinations when I hear from him I am unhappy at the account you give of mrs Turner poor Girl. She is going after her Mother at an early period of Life You did not say if the child was living, but I presume it is.

I do not know what to do with our House if the Ladies remove. I sometimes wish it was all in cash again do you know of any Body trusty enough to leave it with—

You will be so good as to have all Thomas things brought home and a Glass which still remains at mr Sewalls—1 my best regards to mr Cranch & all other Friends

Yours most affectionatly

A Adams

RC (MWA:Abigail Adams Letters); addressed by CA: “Mrs Mary Cranch. / Braintree.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


While beginning his studies at Harvard, TBA boarded at the home of former Harvard professor Stephen Sewall, where he used CA's furniture (vol. 7:183, 341).

Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts, 30 May 1790 Adams, Abigail Tufts, Cotton
Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts
dear sir N york 30 May 1790.

I received your kind Letter of May last week1 I was very sorry to hear that you and your Family had not escaped the prevailing sickness. the disorder has universally prevaild here. not a single one of our Family, except mr Adams has escaped, and Polly, it was very near proving fatal too. We Have been in very great anxiety for the Pressident. during the state of Suspence, it was thought prudent to say very little upon the Subject as a general allarm might have proved injurious to the present state of the Government.2 he has been very unwell through all the Spring, labouring with a Billious disorder but thought, contrary to the advise of his Friends that he should exercise it away without medical assistance; he made a Tour upon Long Island of 8 or ten days which was a temporary Relief, but soon after his return he was Seazd with a voilent Plurisy Fever attended with every bad Symptom, and just at the Crisis was seazd with Hicups & rattling in the Throat, so that mrs washington left his Room thinking him dying the Physicians apprehended him in a most dangerous state. James powders had been administerd, and they produced a happy Effect by a profuse perspiration which reliefd his cough & Breathing, and he is now happily so far recoverd as to ride out daily.3 I do not wish to feel again Such a state of anxiety as I experienced for several days I had never before entertaind any Idea of being calld to fill a Place that I have not the least ambition to attain to, the age of the two gentlemen being so near alike that the Life of one was as Probable as that of the other,4 but such a Train of fearfull apprehensions allarm'd me upon the threatning prospect, that I Shudderd at the view. the weight of Empire, particularly circumstanced as ours is, without firmness without age and experienced without, a Revenue setled, & establishd, loaded with a debt, about which there is little prospect of an agreement, would bow down any man who is not supported by a whole Nation & carry him perhaps to an early Grave with misiry & disgrace. I saw a Hydra Head before me, envy Jealousy Ambition, and all the Banefull passions in League. do you wonder that I felt distrest at the view? yet I 64could not refrain from thinking that even a Washington might esteem himself happy to close his days before any unhappy division or disasterous event had tarnishd the Lusture of his Reign

For the Assumption of the debts you will see in the papers a wise and judicious Speach of Father Sherman as he is call'd, and a very able & Lengthy one of mr Ames's.5 all has been Said upon the subject that reason justice, good policy could dictate. I hope it will yet take place, but mr M—— leads the Virginians like a flock of sheep. if congress should rise without assuming, I perdict that the Next year will not be so tranquil as the last, let who will hold the Reigns

With Regard to our own private affairs mr A says the Money for mr Parsons shall be ready at the Time when our sons time is up and that he approves of your proposal that John Should pay it himself to mr Parsons. as to the House, he thinks that, if a credible person or Family could be found to take the rest of the House at a Rent, equal to the present after deducting what must be given for an office, it would be advisable to let mr J—— have it, but if not an office had better be procured else where, and he would request you to use your own judgment about it. if you are in want of 30 pounds before commencment you will draw for it. I am fully of your mind that the place which Pratt lives upon had better be let at a certain sum under restrictions. as to the other, it would be better for us if the whole sum had been laid out in paper securities, then one might have had a chance of some benifit from it. Pratt has such an Army to mantain, & tho an honest Man I believe, he must be embarressd with such a Numerous Family. I believe G Thayer a much better Farmer.6

As to commencment I do not know what Thomas wishes. if I could have been at Home to have taken the trouble upon myself I should have been willing that he should have made a similar entertainment to his Brothers, and am willing that it should be so now, but know not how to trouble our Friends with it. it has given both mr A & me great satisfaction to learn that he acquited himself so much to his Honour & the pleasure of his Friends at the exhibition

The Hams arrived safe and appear to be very fine. I shall pay Barnard the money for them.

Present me kindly to all inquiring Friends and believe me Sincerely Yours

A Adams

you will be so good as to write me Soon

RC (Adams Papers); addressed by JA: “Honble Cotton Tufts / Boston”; endorsed: “Mrs. Abiga. Adams / May 30. 1790—”

65 1.

Not found.


Initially, George Washington's family and advisors attempted to keep news of his illness from the public to avoid causing any panic, but the situation was nonetheless widely known throughout New York and had been reported in the newspapers as early as 18 May (Washington, Papers, Presidential Series , 5:397).


James’ powders, a medicine containing oxide of antimony and phosphate of lime patented by Dr. Robert James (1705–1776) of London in 1746, was used to treat fevers and inflammatory conditions ( DNB ).


Washington was only three years older than JA.


The speeches by Roger Sherman and Fisher Ames in support of assumption were published in the New York Daily Advertiser on 27 and 29 May 1790, respectively ( First Fed. Cong. , 13:1419–1424, 1432–1446).


Matthew and Chloe Pratt of Weymouth, married on 21 Dec. 1775, had eight children at the time. The youngest, Elizabeth, had arrived on 4 April (Vital Records of Weymouth Massachusetts to the Year 1850, 2 vols., Boston, 1910, 2:152, 236; Braintree Town Records , p. 854). The Pratts had lived in JA's childhood home (the John Adams Birthplace) since 1778, originally sharing the house with Matthew's brother James and his wife. The family vacated the property by 1792 (Laurel A. Racine, Historic Furnishings Report: The Birthplaces of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Quincy, Mass., 2001, p. 37–39).