Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

70 Isaac Smith Jr. to Abigail Adams, 21 February 1771 Smith, Isaac Jr. AA Isaac Smith Jr. to Abigail Adams, 21 February 1771 Smith, Isaac Jr. Adams, Abigail
Isaac Smith Jr. to Abigail Adams
Madam London, Feb. 21. 1771

Your kindness to me in a former absence, requires some acknowledgment in this. I write to you, therefore, with the view of repaying an obligation, not of giving you any entertainment.

After a short, tho' not a very comfortable passage over the Atlantic, I landed at Dover, a town remarkable for nothing but extortion, except the Castle, which was originally founded by Julius Caesar, and compleated about 400 years since. It is situated on a summit extremely difficult of ascent, and commands a widely-extensive view. One may see from it, on a clear day, the Coast of France.—From Dover we went to Canterbury, a considerable city, which has a Cathedral, of 1100 years standing, an amazing pile of gothic architecture. But as I went into the City in the evening and left it again before light, I was obliged to lose sight of this antique and curious object.—From Canterbury I rode thro' a most delightful country, beautifully variegated with hills and dales; and very different from our own at this inclement season of the year. The ground was every where cover'd with verdure; the flocks ranging the meads, and the soil, preparing under the cultivation of industry, for the produce of another year. The vast bodies of chalk and flint-stone, with which the ground is naturally interspersed, are very surprizing.

Such is the extent of this metropolis; that, tho' I have been here for several weeks, I have not seen above one half of it. The principal objects of curiosity, which I have visited, are the Tower, the Cathedral of St Paul, the bank of England, the Theatres, and the Opera. Of these, the first alone has too much variety, to be comprized in the compass of a single letter. It has been the repository of our military trophies, both in ancient and modern times. What particularly struck my attention in the Tower, was the small Armory, (as it is called) which is such an immense collection of small arms of every kind, as to form almost a perfect wilderness; and disposed in an infinite variety of forms, as pyramids, pillars, serpents, hydras, shells, half-moons, fans, furbelows, flounces, &c. &c. Among the rest is an Organ, composed of pistols, to the number of 2000 or more. I need not tell you, that St Paul's is an Edifice of vast magnificence, probably more so than any other of the sacred order in the world. It is calculated to inspire one on the entrance, with sentiments of awe and veneration. But it is rather a mere display of pomp and grandeur, than of any real service to the interest of religion. The beauty of the Theatre 71consists in the scenery and in the representation. The former is often extremely natural, and sometimes extremely elegant and grand. The stage has produced in the Course of the Winter, two new pieces, each of which has met with the applause of the publick. One of them, entitled the West-Indian, I have the pleasure of sending.1 The Opera is an Italian Entertainment; entirely given in that language, and to an Ear, captivated with the charms of vocal music, is capable of affording an exquisite entertainment. You have heard, perhaps, of the Female Coterie. I conceived it to be some whimsical, or rather merely ideal institution, before I came here; but find it a real and strong instance of the impetuosity of the better sort of people in the pursuit of pleasure and dissipation. It is a Club, (the leaders of which are the fair sex,) calculated for the very genteel purposes of gaming and extravagance, gallantry and intrigue.

The french language is here made an early and essential part of education. I dined the other day with a Gentleman and had no sooner sat at the Table, than I heard the G. and Lady, with their two little Misses, chattering in a dialect, to which I was not greatly accustomed; but found upon a little attention, that Miss Mary-Ann and her sister, neither of 'em (I suppose) eight years old, were already very well qualified to converse a la mode a Paris.

You will please, to give my most affectionate regards to your sister Betsey (to whom I shall write, as soon, as I have it in my power) and to every friend either in Weymouth or Boston; and to favour me with your epistolary friendship, whenever you have leisure and opportunity.—I am, my dr. Mrs A. very affecty. Your's,

I. Smith

RC (Adams Papers).


A highly successful comedy produced and published in London this year by Richard Cumberland.

Isaac Smith Jr. to John Adams, 21 February 1771 Smith, Isaac Jr. JA Isaac Smith Jr. to John Adams, 21 February 1771 Smith, Isaac Jr. Adams, John
Isaac Smith Jr. to John Adams
Dear sir London, Feb. 21. 1771

I have very little of a political, or of any other kind of entertainment to give you. Yet I cannot omit a few lines, however small an expression they may be, sir, of my esteem and regard for you.

The apprehensions of a war, the delay of Commerce, the distress of individuals, and the liberal expences of public treasure have at length ended in this—after a negociation of four months—that the object in dispute, Port Egmont,1 shall be restored to the Crown; with 72this proviso, however, to remain a bone of contention for the future. The Parliament, (as was natural,) have given their sanction to the Convention. But it is not expected, that this measure will tend to prolong the public tranquillity for any considerable Space of time. Nothing, it is said, prevented the Spaniards from coming to an open rupture, but the great aversion of the french King to War. Indeed the present state of his kingdom gives him very good reason to be indisposed to foreign hostility. He has lately ventured on an exploit, that may probably involve him in a very considerable dilemma—the exile of his prime minister, and of the whole (or at least, of most of the members of the) parliament of Paris.—America is not to become an object of parliamentary attention during the present session. Both Houses are extremely cautious, with regard to making their debates public. I was introduced (with Mr. Palmer) to the Gallery of the house of Commons the last week, but was not allowed to remain there, after the Speaker assumed the Chair.2—I find, that the mercantile part of Boston have lost sight of principle, as well as of resolution. The large orders, which are sent here for Tea, perplex the mind of every friend to our interest or reputation, and give credit to the high reflections, which had before been made on our political falshood and hypocrisy.

Your letter, sir, I delivered to Mess. Dilly, who have both treated me with the greatest kindness and complaisance.3 I have had the pleasure of meeting with Mrs. McAulay, at their house; who enquired of me with regard to you, and informed me, sir, that she should write to you, as soon as she had published a fifth Vol. which she has now in her hands. She is not so much distinguished in company by the beauties of her person, as the accomplishments of her mind.4

In a box, directed to Mr. Josh. Quincy,5 I have had the pleasure of inclosing you a piece lately published here, called an historical essay on the English Constitution; not that I am acquainted with the value or importance of the work.6 You will also find in it one or two books, which I bo't by desire of my Uncle Smith, to whom, as well as to Dr. Tufts, I wish my respect and regard.—You will please, sir, in the intervals of business to indulge me with your epistolary friendship. Every occurrence of Boston will be interesting to me in my absence.—I am, my dear sir, Yr. very hum: serv't.,

I. Smith jr:

It is said that Capt. Preston will be reimbursed in the expences of his prosecution and meet with some further compensation for his confinement.7


RC (Adams Papers); at foot of text: “To John Adams Esq. Boston.”


In West Falkland Island in the South Atlantic, from which a Spanish expedition had recently expelled a small English garrison.


The Adamses' friend Joseph Palmer was in England on a business mission. In the Adams Papers is a contemporary copy of a letter he wrote a Boston friend and business associate, Thomas Flucker, from Bristol, 30 July 1771, from which the following revealing passages are quoted:

“I have had considerable Opportunity of obtaining Truth and Certainty, respecting the Operation of the Non-importation agreement; and find that some Manufactory-Towns and Villages felt no ill effects from it; but others were almost ruin'd, and poor Laborers almost starved, and the poor Rates almost doubled. Details on British woolen manufactures, prices, and wages follow. Most of the Merchants that I convers'd with in London, and in other Parts, said, that they tho't the Ministry must certainly have had the Tea Duty repeal'd, had the Non-importation continued only 3 Months longer. And several Gentlemen of the lower House, have to me, express'd their Uneasiness that there was not a total Repeal; and look upon the keeping up a Contention with the Colonies, as, in some future time, driving them into a kind of Necessity to manufacture for themselves, and finally throwing off all dependence upon G.B. ... I pretend not to be wholly free from Prejudice, and confess I think myself in more danger of going too far on the liberty side, than on the side of Prerogative; yet I will venture to say, that you may rely upon this Account of matters, to be strictly true; and I care not a farthing who is made acquainted with the Substance of it, knowing it is founded on the best evidence....

“I hope to go from hence in about a fortnight; having taken Passage in the Brig Sukey, Andrew Gardner, Master; and with me are three of my Couzins, who are Adventurers to N.E. If I had given all the Encouragements, that might justly have been given, I might have bro't over great numbers; but that was not my Business;... and therefore I have not said all that I tho't might justly be said in favor of Emigration from O.E. to N.E. However, I have 'special Reasons for thinking that there will be more Adventurers to N.A., in future, than for some Years last past: and am fully persuaded that great numbers wou'd soon remove, had they sufficient to pay their Passage; but they can't bear the tho't of being sold, tho' for only a very short time, to pay their Passage. Thus they are scared at the Prospect of Bondage for a short time; not discerning the Slavery they are now in, and which is now increasing; and which will probably increase, 'till the Spirit of Despotism produces some violent Convulsions in the State, and the People resume their natural Power, and dictate, or ascertain with greater Precision, the Powers of both the Prince and the People. Such a Crisis has long been expected and dreaded, by the People in middling ranks of life; and they still expect it with some degree of terror. And as the natural right and liberties of men, are much more generally understood, than heretofore; and as by the Spirit that I have observ'd among these People, I can have no Apprehension of the establishment of Despotism; yet such a Crisis of public Affairs, must be dreaded by every friend to Peace and righteousness. The extraordinary Price of Provisions, of late Years, has enabled the Farmers to spend more time in reading and Conversation, than heretofore; and to give better Education to their Children. Thus Riches among the great, has produced Luxury, which leads to despotism for it's Continuance; and Luxury has raised the Price of Provisions, and consequently enriched and enlightened the Farmers; whose newly-acquired Knowledge will naturally Operate to the enlargement of their Liberties, and Oppugnation to Despotism.”


Edward and Charles Dilly, booksellers in the Poultry, London. They were sympathetic with the American cause and published much concerning it, as well as books by American authors (including JA) before and after the Revolution; see L. H. Butterfield, “The American Interests of the Firm of E. 74and C. Dilly, with Their Letters to Benjamin Rush, 1770–1795,” Bibliog. Soc. Amer., Papers, 45 (1951): 283–332. No correspondence between JA and the Dillys earlier than 1774 survives in the Adams Papers, though probably JA began buying books from them at an earlier date; see his reply to the present letter, following.


Catharine (Sawbridge) Macaulay (1731–1791), radical whig pamphleteer and historian and a correspondent of JA. See his Diary and Autobiography , 1:360–361; 2:75–76.


Doubtless Josiah Quincy (1744–1775), “the Patriot.”


An anonymous work by Allan Ramsay, first published in 1765. No copy survives among JA's books in the Boston Public Library, but see Sowerby, Catalogue of Jefferson's Library , 3:124, for the present edition, published by the Dillys in 1771.


“Captain Preston [Thomas Preston, the officer who commanded the troops involved in the incident known as the Boston Massacre] has had all his expences paid and a Pension of £200 a Year bestowed upon him” (Lord Barrington to Thomas Gage, London, 5 March 1771, quoted in Randolph G. Adams, “New Light on the Boston Massacre,” Amer. Antiq. Soc., Procs., 47 [1937]:354