Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

John Quincy Adams to Louisa Catherine Johnson, 12 February 1797 Adams, John Quincy Johnson, Louisa Catherine
John Quincy Adams to Louisa Catherine Johnson
The Hague Sunday February 12. 1797. “This day, which saw my Delia’s beauty rise, Shall more than all our sacred days be blest; The world, enamour’d of her lovely eyes, Shall grow as good and gentle as her breast.1

I was reflecting this morning, with what peculiar force and propriety, I could make the application of these tender and affectionate lines of Hammond, and how much more truly they were suited to the object of my constant love than to the person for whom they 557 were originally destined, when your Letter of the 31st: of last month was brought me. … It put an end at once to the delicious contemplation in which I was indulging my fancy, and to the resolution I had taken of writing you a letter full of the feelings which the recurrence of this day raised in my Heart, and which I hoped would contribute something at least to your present pleasure while it should bear the sincere testimonial of my ardent prayers for your happiness through a numerous succession of similar anniversaries.— “I now must change those Notes for tragic”—2 I must reply to a Letter, which but for the profound affection and indissoluble attachment I feel for its writer, I should think most kindly used by leaving it without any reply at all.

You have again in this Letter repeatedly intimated that you think yourself obliged to assert spirit, and to resent what I wrote you in my Letters of Decr: 20. and Jany: 10.—and you tell me that I “seem to have very little knowledge of your disposition, or I should easily have seen that such letters would not pass unnoticed.”— Let us understand one another, Louisa.— I have always expected and intended that the communication of sentiments between you and me, should be free, candid, open and undisguised;—if on either side they should occasionally give pain I have trusted that the certainty of mutual affection would at least secure the most favourable construction; that nothing sarcastic, nothing bitter, nothing indivious would ever pass between us; that expostulation itself would speak the language of love, and that Spirit, would never be needed, or called in aid for the settlement of our differences.— Let me now assure you that I never thought your disposition deficient in Spirit, and that I am fully convinced you have as much of it as can be consistent with an amiable temper, but let me earnestly entreat you never to employ it in discussion with me, and to remember that it is in its nature a repellent quality; that whenever it is used, and more especially when it is professedly used, it inevitably necessitates either a similar return of Spirit, or an acquiescence and obsequiousness, painful to him who makes and unworthy of her who receives the sacrifice.— I do most cordially wish my amiable friend that you may never have occasion to know whether I should possess a proper degree of Spirit or not, in opposition to you.

You say “I should be sorry to put it in your power or in that of the world, to say I wished to force myself upon any man, or into any family.”— I feel all that you meant I should feel by this suggestion; I see the suspicion of your heart in which it originated, and deeply as 558 it probes my sensibility, my bosom is protected by the clear and unhesitating consciousness that the suspicion is without any foundation.— I can say the same of the other passage, where you observe that I “appear to regret what had passed in respect to your attending me to Lisbon, and have taken an improper method of shewing this regret,” but as you apologize yourself for this conjecture, I will assure you that my only regret was, of having at the moment of my own hopes and expectations of an early removal, by imparting them to you led you to make preparations of departure, of which you reminded me at the moment of my disappointment.

You have in some former letters spurned at the idea of thinking yourself honoured by your connection with me. And you now again mention I will not say with what temper of mind, my Dignity. Is it because you know Louisa how much I despise every sentiment of arrogance or pride resulting from such a source as these? is it because you know how much my feelings must be wounded by imputations of motives which I disdain, that you so often address them to me?— No, my friend, you tell me, that it is not for the pleasure of distressing me that you avow yourself offended, and I will not imagine, that you can ever consent to use weapons merely for the sake of the venom with which they are pointed.

My dignity, my Station or my family, have no sort of concern with any subject of debate between you and me— When I spoke of your dignity in a former Letter, I meant and could mean only the dignity of your sex and of your personal character. It would therefore have been as improper to reverse the expression, as it was erroneous in you to give it a construction so different from that in which it was used.

In one part of your letter you “confess yourself astonished at the weakness you have betrayed; that it now strikes you in a most glaring light, and that you can scarcely believe it possible that you could have acted in so ridiculous a manner.”— You add that your mind “is doubly wounded at the idea of having given rise to the stile in which my Letters were written” which have so much offended you, and yet in another part you say they are equally “unaccountable and undeserved.”— These expressions suffer me to say, my dearest friend, are on both sides remote from the sober medium of reason. Your proposal to come here, was adopted by you, without a full consideration of its natural and inevitable consequences, but without the faintest shadow of indelicacy in your heart which I firmly believe to be purity itself.— There was one consideration, which it is natural 559 enough should not have occurred to you, but which upon candid reflection I am perswaded will not now escape you: it is the appearance which it would have given to me and my conduct in the opinion of the world.— It was under that impression, and feeling it perhaps too forcibly (for indeed my Louisa I cannot bear the imputation of unnecessary harshness to you) that I wrote both the obnoxious Letters; and now that I apologize from the deepest of my heart for every word which may have contained one particle of superfluous asperity, I only request you to consider the whole subject deliberately in that point of view, and am perswaded that after such deliberation, if you still remain convinced that my two Letters were undeserved, you will at least perceive that they were not unaccountable.

That I ever pretended to say that I could see no fault in you, My Louisa, I do not recollect. If I ever did, it must be attributed to the blindness of an irrational Love, or to the natural exaggeration of expression, which ardent Sentiment often inspires, but which without any suspicion of insincerity, you must of course have concluded was exaggeration.— I have always believed and still believe you to possess a virtuous Heart, an intelligent mind, an accomplished person and a gentle disposition, all of which qualities contributed to inspire the strong affection which I have for you; but I never seriously believed or pretended that I believed you exempt from the common and universal imperfections of humanity; or from occasional errors of the mind, and varieties of temper.— As I knew that in the progress of Life, I should often need your indulgence for similar failings of my own, I have hoped that I should always be enabled to extend my indulgence to your’s; that every trivial failing would be overlooked by the eye of tenderness, or swept away by the hand of reciprocal benevolence. I still cherish the same hope, and while I receive with thanks every frank and candid avowal of the particulars in which you think my conduct or my language offensive or censurable, I shall only repeat the request that you would never again try my temper by a formal and professed assertion of your Spirit

The last Post from Bremen had brought me your kind and affectionate Letter of Jany: 27.3 A Letter where all your natural loveliness of disposition appears; which brought me at once obliging congratulation, soothing consolation and auspicious augury.— Oh my Louisa! let us forever discard a subject of correspondence which tends mutually to excite sensations of a nature so different from these. Let our only exchange of sentiments, be that of tenderness and Love.

I hope the indisposition which you mention as having been 560 prevalent in the family has totally disappeared, and beg to be remembered with respect and affection to all. I feel very much obliged to Miss Henning for her kind recollection, and hope you will assure her of my respectful esteem in return.

I am ever faithfully and tenderly your friend.


RC (Adams Papers); docketed by JQA: “J. Q. A. / 12. Feby: 1797. / recd: / Ansd:.” FC-Pr (Adams Papers); APM Reel 131.


James Hammond, “Love Elegies,” Elegy 10, lines 1–4.


John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IX, lines 5–6.


LCA wrote to JQA on 27 Jan. congratulating him on JA’s election and mistakenly reporting that Thomas Pinckney was vice president. She also remarked that her family had recently been ill but were now recovered (Adams Papers).

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 13 February 1797 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
my Dearest Friend Quincy Feb’ry 13. 1797

It is now the Middle of Feb’ry it will be the 20 by the Time this reaches you. the whole Months has been a Thaw So that to present appearences we shall have an early Spring. Billings has been Several Day at work upon the Wall. he tells me he shall want help to cart & Digg. Veseys time is just expiring, and as he is a bird of passage, he does not incline to tarry longer, So that I have to Seek a Hand, and to hire occasionally, for I think this wall which Billings computes at 30 Days, ought to be compleated as soon as possible. the Hill must however be ploughd, in a week or ten Days. unless the Weather changes, it may be Done. write if you are like to Send Seed. French was with me a Day or two Since, to know if I had received an answer from You respecting his remaining upon the place. I told him that there was no Doubt he might have it. he proposed breaking up 3 or 4 acres upon Belchers Side adjoining to Dr Phips. he Says that will be Sufficient, and that the manure will be required upon the Gound which is to be Sown So that much corn will not be profitable. I conversd with the Dr upon the Subject. he proposed letting French take the place for two years as an inducement to him to carry on Manure, but this is as you please.

I wish you to make provision in March for the payment of Haydens Note. his Brother call’d a few Days Since and ask’d me if I would take it up. I told him I was not prepaird then, but if he wanted the Money I would procure it for him in a few Days. he replied that he would not give me the trouble to Do that. if his Brother was really in want he would let me know. I then told him I 561 would take it up by the middle of March, but still I would get the Money immediatly if he would Send me word. I have not heard Since So presume he will wait till March. my Rates were sent the first of this Month. they amount to 178 Dollors and half the Farm tax upon which French & Vinton are to 24 Dollord, 16 Burrels. they have taken it upon them to Rate Your personal estate at 90 Dollors. I know of no one article of living which does not exceed in price this Year the last; during 8 weeks of as good travelling as ever was known in the Winter, there was a plenty, but no glut of the Market or fall of prices. I am disposed with you to curtail every expence which the Parsimony of our Rep’s require, and I would calculate for a surpluss of Revenue too. it will be there Disgrace, not ours, but they will bring their Government into contempt by it. they cry out, the high prices are but temporary, but they will starve out their officers whilst that temporary continues, which has been annually proving worse for these Six Years.

I have been much diverted with a little occurence which took place a few Days since and which serve to Shew how little founded in nature, the so much boasted principle of Liberty and equality is. Master Heath has opend an Evening School to instruct a Number of Apprentices Lads cyphering, at a shilling a week, finding their own wood and candles.1

James desired that he might go. I told him to go with my compliments to Master Heath and ask him if he would take him. he did & Master Heath returnd for answer that he would. accordingly James went after about a week, Neighbour Faxon came in one Evening and requested to Speak to me. his errant was to inform me that if James went to School, it would break up the School for the other Lads refused to go. pray mr Faxon has the Boy misbehaved? if he has let the Master turn him out of School. O no, there was no complaint of that kind, but they did not chuse to go to School with a Black Boy. and why not object to going to Meeting because he does mr Faxon? is there not room enough in the School for him to take his Seperate forme. Yes. did these Lads ever object to James playing for them when at a Dance. how can they bear to have a Black in the Room with them then? O it is not I that Object, or my Boys, it is some others. pray who are they? why did not they come themselves?. this mr Faxon is attacking the Principle of Liberty and equality upon the only Ground upon which it ought to be supported, an equality of Rights the Boy is a Freeman as much as any of the young Men, and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction. 562 how is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? is this the Christian Principle of doing to others, as we would have others do to us? O Mam, You are quite right. I hope You wont take any offence. none at all mr Faxon, only be so good as to send the Young Men to me. I think I can convince them that they are wrong. I have not thought it any disgrace to My self to take him into my parlour and teach him both to read & write— tell them mr Faxon that I hope we shall all go to Heaven together— upon which Faxon laugh’d, and thus ended the conversation I have not heard any more upon the Subject—.2 I have sent Prince Constantly to the Town School for some time, and have heard no objection—

I think You will excuse My attendance at Philadelphia till October. I hope however You will be able to come on in june. I talkd with Dr Tufts on the subject of building a Barn. he says he should advise to Building only a coach House for the present and appropriate the whole of this Building for the Hay. he thinks Some alteration may take place in the course of an other year which perhaps may render it less expensive inclosed is a line which I received from mr Bracket a Day or two since.3 I fear your more serious occupations will put out of your mind all personal concerns. adieu my Dear Friend do not let any thing put out of Your Mind Your ever affectionate

A Adams—

RC (Adams Papers).


Possibly Samuel W. Heath, who married Anna Penniman of Braintree in Dec. 1796 (Massachusetts Mercury, 13 Dec.).


Probably James Faxon, who had seven school-age sons by 1797 (Sprague, Braintree Families ).


Not found.