Descriptive List of Illustrations
“The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, 17 June 1775,” by John Trumbull, 1786 19
John Adams first met Dr. Joseph Warren (1741–1775) in April 1764 when Warren inoculated him against smallpox. The two became friends as they worked together for independence, though Warren took a more radical stand than Adams. Warren made his mark with orations on the 1772 and 1775 anniversaries of the Boston Massacre and was responsible for dispatching Paul Revere and William Dawes on their nighttime rides of 18 April 1775. As a general in the Continental Army, Warren dodged enemy fire on 17 June 1775 to join American troops in the Battle of Bunker Hill. During the conflict he was killed by a musket ball to the head. British soldiers buried his body on the battlefield, but it was later exhumed and interred under King's Chapel (John Adams to Abigail Smith,
[13 April 1764]
, and note 2
, vol. 1:28, 29;
Sibley's Harvard Graduates
, 14:513, 515–516, 519–520, 525–526).
John Trumbull (1756–1843), the son of Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, was a nineteen-year-old adjutant in the First Regiment of the Connecticut militia when he witnessed the battle from a post five miles away on the Roxbury Heights. A few miles to the southeast on Penn's Hill in Braintree, Abigail Adams and seven-year-old John Quincy Adams also watched the Charlestown engagement. The next day, Abigail wrote to her husband in Philadelphia to lament the death of Warren on “perhaps the decisive Day . . . on which the fate of America depends” (Abigail Adams to John Adams, 18 June 1775
, and note 3
, vol. 1:222, 223–224;
Sibley's Harvard Graduates
, 18:331, 334; Theodore Sizer, ed., The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull: Patriot-Artist, 1756–1843
, N.Y., 1970, p. 17–19).
English artisans refused to engrave Death of General Warren
because it glorified an American victory, so Trumbull, with the help of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, produced an engraving on the Continent. Probably because the work's theme offended English sensibilities, the engraving was a commercial failure. Two copies of
the print now hang in the Adams family “Old House” at the Adams National Historical Park, gifts from the artist to John Quincy in 1826 (Theodore Sizer, The Works of Colonel John Trumbull: Artist of the American Revolution
, rev. edn., New Haven, Conn., 1967, fig. 145; Jefferson, Papers
Courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery Trumbull Collection
Playbill for Gen. John Burgoyne's The Heiress
John Burgoyne (1722–1792) was a 62-year-old retired general of the British Army seven years removed from his defeat at Saratoga when he began writing The Heiress
on a Lancashire retreat in 1784. The play debuted as an anonymous work on 14 January 1786 at the Drury Lane Theatre, though as Abigail Adams 2d suggested a week later, the London press was already reporting that it was “said to be written by Genl Burgoine” (to John Quincy Adams, 22 Jan. 1786
, below). After the drama made an impressive debut, Burgoyne revealed his authorship despite the risk that—as he told a friend—“the change of my design will be imputed to vanity” (quoted in James Lunt, John Burgoyne of Saratoga
, N.Y., 1975, p. 323–324).
While two earlier dramas by Burgoyne had enjoyed modest success, The Heiress played an outstanding initial run of 31 nights and returned to the stage the following season. Based in part on Denis Diderot's Le Père de Famille, Burgoyne's comedy of manners contrasts the conceited and wealthy Miss Alscrip with the graceful and poor Miss Alton. Miss Alscrip is set to inherit a fortune, but through a series of comedic turns Miss Alton is revealed as the true heiress. The revelation allows the refined Lord Gayville to marry his true love, Miss Alton, rather than the coarse Miss Alscrip to whom he was formerly engaged. An element of the play's initial success was the presence of popular actors Thomas King and Elizabeth Farren in leading roles. At his death in 1792, Burgoyne's obituary gave equal billing to his career as a playwright and his military accomplishments, noting especially his “much celebrated comedy,” The Heiress (Lunt, Burgoyne of Saratoga, p. 324–325, 327; Gerald Howson, Burgoyne of Saratoga: A Biography, N.Y., 1979, p. 282–284; E. Cobham Brewer, The Reader's Handbook, rev. edn., London, 1902, p. 409).
Courtesy of the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, England.
Abigail Bromfield Rogers, by John Singleton Copley, 1786 38
When Abigail Adams 2d visited the London studio of artist John Singleton Copley in February 1786, she found Abigail Bromfield Rogers (1753–1791) sitting for a portrait (Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 9 Feb. 1786
, below). A stunning image was taking form on Copley's canvas, where the 32-year-old Rogers was depicted against a dramatic landscape and sky as a lady promenading in a flowing satin dress trimmed with lace, complemented by an oversized hat bedecked with ribbons and ostrich plumes. (Frank W. Bayley, A Sketch of the Life and a List of Some of the Works of John Singleton Copley
, Boston, 1910, p. 84).
Abigail Bromfield Rogers was the daughter of Henry Bromfield, a merchant of Boston and London. Abigail's mother, Margaret Fayerweather Bromfield, died of smallpox when her daughter was eight years old, and a year later Abigail's father married Hannah Clarke of Boston. In 1769 Hannah Clarke's sister married John Singleton Copley. Thus, the painter of the London portrait was the step-uncle of his subject (Daniel Denison Slade, “The Bromfield Family,”
:38–39; John B. Carney, “In Search of Fayerweather: The Fayerweather Family of Boston,”
:66–67; Martha Babcock Amory, The Domestic and Artistic Life of John Singleton Copley
, Boston, 1882, p. 20).
Abigail Bromfield married Boston merchant Daniel Denison Rogers on 15 October 1781. John and Abigail Adams and the Rogerses were acquainted with each other before the Rogers family moved from Boston to Europe in 1782. During their time together in London, the couples became intimate friends. The Copleys moved in the same circle and became especially close to Abigail Bromfield Rogers during a 1785 scarlet-fever epidemic when Rogers took care of three of the Copleys' children while the parents nursed two others, both of whom eventually died (“Genealogical Memoir of the Family of Rev. Nathaniel Rogers,”
:67; Abigail Adams to John Adams, 17 July 1782
, and note 1
, vol. 4:343, 348; Amory, Domestic and Artistic Life
, p. 106–107; Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 22 Jan. 1786
, and note 47
The Adamses were saddened by the Rogerses' departure for America shortly after Abigail Bromfield Rogers sat for her portrait. “He is a worthy Man, and she one of the best and most amiable of women,” Abigail Adams wrote to Mary Smith Cranch. “There is not an other family who could have left London that I should have so much mist, go and See her my sister when she arrives. You will find her one of those gentle Spirits in whom very little alteration is necessary to fit for the world of Spirits, and her Husband seems to be made on purpose for her” (21 March 1786
Courtesy of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums. Gift of Paul C. Cabot, Treasurer of Harvard University, 1948–1965, and Mrs. Cabot.
“Wife & No Wife —— or —— A Trip to the Continent,” by James Gillray, 1786 69
On a 1784 ramble in the park, a 21-year-old Prince of Wales sighted a 27-year-old Maria Anne Smythe Weld Fitzherbert riding in her carriage. The prince was immediately infatuated and initiated a pursuit of Fitzherbert, which in the coming years would rock the monarchy and supply ample fodder for newspaper printers and caricaturists alike.
The daughter of Royalist Roman Catholic parents, Fitzherbert (1756–1837) had already been twice widowed by the age of 24. When she arrived on the London scene in March 1784, she immediately drew the attention of the city's elite bachelors—among them
the future George IV of England. Fitzherbert was unmoved by the ardent pursuit of the prince. In desperation he stabbed himself, prompting her to flee to the Continent. He pursued her there and successfully pressed his case. In December 1785 the couple signed a letter of marriage in a secret ceremony in the bride's drawing room. The prince then shocked the royal family and the public by beginning to treat Fitzherbert as his wife, violating protocol by not seeking the king's permission and possibly forfeiting his crown, as specified in the Act of Settlement, by marrying a Roman Catholic.
Caricaturists soon joined the fray, and James Gillray's “Wife & No Wife” appeared on 27 March. In addition to depicting a cartoonish prince and his bride, Gillray drew in Lord Frederick North asleep in the guise of a coachman and Edmund Burke marrying the couple in the robes of a Jesuit. Charles James Fox is shown giving away the bride, holding her wrist as the prince places a ring on her finger. Fox became deeply embroiled in the “Fitzherbert follies” in April 1787 when he announced in the House of Commons, after a false assurance by the prince, that no marriage ceremony had ever taken place. Fitzherbert remained at court living openly with the prince even after his marriage to Caroline of Brunswick in 1795, only retiring to Brighton after a final falling-out with the prince in 1803 (Shane Leslie, Mrs. Fitzherbert: A Life Chiefly from Unpublished Sources
, London, 1939, p. 1, 3, 12, 15, 16–17, 19–20, 64; Mary Dorothy George, Catalogue of the Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum
, 11 vols. in 12, London, 1938, 6:293; Stanley Ayling, George the Third
, N.Y., 1972, p. 317, 341;
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Col. William Stephens Smith, by Mather Brown, 1786 219
When Col. William Stephens Smith (1755–1816) introduced himself to Abigail Adams in May 1785 as the secretary to the American legation in London, she thought him “a Modest worthy Man.” The 29-year-old decorated veteran of the Revolution took an immediate interest in her daughter, Abigail Adams 2d, who at the age of nineteen was nearing the end of a troubled engagement to Royall Tyler. By the middle of the summer, the senior Abigail hinted to Smith that her daughter's engagement might be broken, and Smith withdrew for a tour of Prussia. Abigail 2d dismissed Tyler in August, and in December Smith returned to initiate a courtship. To the great happiness of all the Adamses, the couple wed on 11 June 1786 (Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 6 June 1785
, vol. 6:170; vol. 5:xxxviii–xxxix
; Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 13 June 1786
, and note 4
Smith was the son of a wealthy New York merchant and graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1774. During the Revolution, he rose through the ranks, serving with distinction at Harlem Heights, Throgs Neck, and Trenton. As an aide to George Washington, he supervised the 1783 British evacuation of New York. In the spring of 1785, Congress appointed him to the
London diplomatic post, and he arrived in the city one day before the Adamses arrived from Auteuil on 26 May (
; vol. 5:xxxix
; vol. 6:172–173
In the summer of 1785 the Adamses sat for portraits by artist Mather Brown, an American studying in the London studio of Benjamin West. Abigail 2d was particularly pleased with the one of herself, describing it to John Quincy as “a very tasty picture.” After Abigail 2d and Smith married, Smith sat for a companion portrait to that of his wife. Both paintings now belong to the Adams National Historical Park (Dorinda Evans, Mather Brown: Early American Artist in England
, Middletown, Conn., 1982, p. 195, 228–229; Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 4 July 1785
, and note 29
, vol. 6:216, 222).
Courtesy of the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Massachusetts.
“View of the Bridge over Charles River,” 1789 226
As early as 1713 Bostonians had mulled the construction of a bridge between Boston and Charlestown to replace the ferry that had operated since 1630. The opposition of Harvard College (which owned the ferry) and the difficulty of building a span strong enough to withstand tidal currents and ice floes thwarted plans until 1785 when the legislature approved a charter for the Charles River Bridge Company. The company consisted of 87 shareholders, including John Hancock, Thomas Russell, and Nathaniel Gorham. The shareholders agreed to assume the costs and risks of construction in exchange for the right to collect tolls for forty years (a term later extended to seventy years).
Construction was begun in the spring of 1785 and completed in thirteen months. The bridge was a marvel of eighteenth-century engineering. Seventy-five oak columns supported a span 1,503 feet long and 42 feet wide. A thirty-foot-wide drawbridge in the middle could be raised by two men, and lamps illuminated walkways along each rail. The bridge eliminated what had been an eight-mile detour to Brookline and was put into immediate use by pedestrians, coaches, wagons, and cattle-drivers. In the first four days alone, 500 vehicles and horses passed through the gates, paying tolls ranging from three pence to a shilling. Interest in the bridge was still strong in September 1789 when the illustration reproduced here appeared in Massachusetts Magazine (1:533).
The opening of the new bridge was timed to coincide with the eleventh anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1786 and was a grand event. Dignitaries paraded with artisans who had built the span and attended a banquet on the site of the battle. “I never saw such a vast crowd of people in my life, they poured in from every part of the country,” Lucy Cranch wrote her aunt Abigail Adams in London. “The Bridge looks beautifully in the evening, there are 40 lamps on it.” John Quincy Adams took a different view of the celebrations, refusing to attend what he considered
an affront to the memory of the fallen. “I do not think this was a proper place for revelling and feasting,” he wrote his sister. “The idea of being seated upon the bones of a friend, I should think would have disgusted many” (Lucy Cranch to Abigail Adams, 24 June 1786
; John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 18 May 1786
, both below).
Shareholders of the Charles River Bridge Company realized enormous returns. At the end of four decades, initial investments of £100 (about $333) returned profits of $7,000. The company enjoyed a monopoly until 1828 when the legislature voted to build another bridge despite the promise of exclusivity in the 1785 charter. The company litigated the matter in federal court, and a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state's right to disregard the previous decree due to an overriding public interest (Stanley I. Kutler, Privilege and Creative Destruction: The Charles River Bridge Case, N.Y., 1971, 1–3, 6–13; Boston Gazette, 26 June 1786; Boston Independent Chronicle, 22 June 1786).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
“The Bosom Friends,” 1786 260
“This is the Season of the Year in which London is a desert, even fashion languishes,” Abigail Adams wrote to Elizabeth Cranch on 18 July. “I however inclose you a Print of the Bosom Friends. When an object is to be ridiculed, tis generally exagerated. The print however does not greatly exceed some of the most fashionable Dames.”
The caricature Abigail enclosed was published by Samuel W. Fores on 28 May and depicted a trio of London women with the exaggerated profiles that marked the silhouette of the day. The “pouter pigeon” look was a short-lived trend of a fashion era known for its constantly changing designs. Also depicted are oversized hairdressings, a longer-lived and more frequently lampooned fashion element of the era (Mary Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, London, 1938, 6:380–381; Diana Donald, The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Reign of George III, New Haven, Conn., 1996, p. 87, 90).
The reign of George III is rightly called the Age of Caricature, and fashion and culture were popular subjects. In addition to providing entertainment and warning women on what looks to avoid, caricatures were moral statements about the excesses of fashion. An underlying theme of condemnation was not lost on Abigail Adams, who told Elizabeth Cranch that Americans should not emulate the women of London. “Pray does the fashion of Merry thoughts
prevail with you,” Abigail wrote. “I really think the English more ridiculous than the French in this respect. They import their fashions from them; but in order to give them the mode Anglois, they divest them both of taste and Elegance. Our fair Country women would do well to establish fashions of their own; let Modesty be the first, ingredient, neatness the
second and Economy the third. Then they cannot fail of being Lovely without the aid of olympian dew, or Parissian Rouge” (Donald, The Age of Caricature
, p. 85–86, 89, 93; Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, 18 July 1786
Courtesy of the Trustees of the Baker Baker Estate and Durham University Library, England.
“Margaret Nicholson Attempting to Assassinate His Majesty King George III,” 1786 301
Margaret Nicholson, a delusional 36-year-old daughter of a Durham barber, approached George III as he stepped down from his carriage at St. James' Palace on 2 August. She carried a rolled document that appeared to be a petition, but when she was within reach she attempted to stab the king with an ivory-handled dessert knife. The knife broke on her second thrust, and the king escaped with only slight damage to his waistcoat (
“She was immediately taken,” Abigail Adams 2d reported in a letter to John Quincy Adams later that day. “His Majesty tis said desired she might not be Hurt as he was not injurd. This request prevented her being torn in peices by the Guards and she was taken into Custody and is said to be Insane. . . . She has since been examined, and is to be tried in a few days. It is Supposd She will be Confind in a priests Mad House for Life.” Nicholson was examined by the Privy Council, declared insane, and committed to Bethlehem (Bedlam) Hospital, where she resided until her death in 1828. William Stephens Smith reported to the Adamses on 8 August that “Margaret Nicholson is still in confinement and furnishes Paragraphs and Prints,” one of which, published by Carington Bowles, is reproduced here (
; Abigail Adams Smith to John Quincy Adams, 27 July 1786
; William Stephens Smith to John and Abigail Adams, 8 Aug. 1786
, both below).
While the king was unruffled by the attack, Queen Charlotte and the couple's children were overcome. “It was an evening of grief and horror to his family,” a contemporary observer wrote. “Nothing was listened to, scarce a word was spoken; the Princesses wept continually; the Queen, still more deeply struck, could only, from time to time, hold out her hand to the King, and say, 'I have you yet!'” The public was equally moved and crowded the royal family's carriage shouting huzzas when the king and queen toured Kew Gardens on 8 August. “I shall always love little Kew for this,” Queen Charlotte reportedly told her husband (Christopher Hibbert, George III: A Personal History, N.Y., 1998, p. 227; John Brooke, King George III, N.Y., 1972, p. 315).
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
The Amsterdam Exchange, by Hermanus Petrus Schouten, 1783 337
“The exchange is a large Square surrounded with piazza,” Abigail Adams wrote to Mary Smith Cranch after she was taken by a friend
to see the financial center of Amsterdam. “Here from 12 till two oclock, all and every person who has buisness of any kind to transact meet here, sure of finding the person he wants, and it is not unusal to see ten thousand persons collected at once. I was in a Chamber above the exchange, the Buz from below was like the Swarming of Bees” (12 Sept. 1786
When Abigail visited the Exchange, or Bourse, in August 1786 it was almost two centuries old and a hub of the commerce of the city, region, and continent. Amsterdam commissioned architect Hendrick de Keyser to construct the building in 1608, sending him first to London to study the design of the stock exchange there. De Keyser built an open-air courtyard surrounded by a Mannerist Flemish colonnade and accented with a clock tower that chimed the opening and closing of trading. Shops filled the second level. The Amstel River flowed beneath the building through five stone arches high enough to permit the passage of boats.
By 1835 the crowding that Abigail described had overwhelmed the De Keyser building, and it was replaced with a structure designed by Jan David Zocher. That too proved inadequate and was replaced in 1903 by the present exchange of Hendrik Petrus Berlage. The Berlage building, now a concert hall, featured brick, iron, stained glass, and ornamental scuplture and exerted a strong influence on architectural design in Amsterdam in the early twentieth century (Knopf Guides, Amsterdam, N.Y., 1993, p. 132–133; Geert Mak, Amsterdam, translated by Philipp Blom, Cambridge, Mass., 2000, p. 102).
Hermanus Petrus Schouten (1747–1822) sketched the De Keyser exchange three years before Abigail's visit. Schouten, a Dutch draftsman of German ancestry, was a leading producer of topographical drawings of Amsterdam during the 1780s and 1790s. His detailed and precise drawings of the city's buildings and streets reflected his esteem for the seventeenth-century painter Jan van der Heyden (Ton Geerts, “Hermanus Petrus Schouten,” The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner, N.Y., 1996, 28:166–167).
Courtesy of the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The Royal Crescent, Bath, by Thomas Malton Jr., 1777 449
“What I think the beauty of Bath; is the Cressent,” Abigail Adams wrote her sister after visiting the city in early 1787. “The front consists of a range of Ionic Colums on a rustick basement. The Ground falls gradually before it, down to the River Avon about half a miles distance, and the rising Country on the other side of the River holds up to it a most delightfull prospect. The Cressent takes its name from the form in which the houses Stand; all of which join. There is a parade and street before them a hundred foot wide and nothing in front to obstruct this Beautifull prospect” (Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 20 Jan. 1787
The majestic 500-foot curved Royal Crescent is considered one of the great pieces of eighteenth-century architecture. Built between 1766 and 1774 by John Wood the Younger, the thirty attached
private houses stand fifty feet high and are faced with 114 columns. The houses were built one at a time and sweep in a near-perfect arc. While the nearby Circus of John Wood the Elder was the crowning achievement of a period of architectural development that preceded the Seven Years' War, his son's Royal Crescent represents the pinnacle of a second period of expansion during the 1760s and 1770s. The buildings became the centerpieces of Bath's Upper Town, a new city center to the north of the original city. The architectural renaissance of the eighteenth century paralleled a cultural rebirth that saw Bath transformed from a traditional walled town to a fashionable resort for wealthy nobles and heads of state (James Crathorne,
The Royal Crescent Book of Bath
, London, 1998, p. 74, 75, 77; Barry Cunliffe, The City of Bath
, New Haven, Conn., 1986, p. 134; David Gadd, Georgian Summer: Bath in the Eighteenth Century
, Bath, 1971, p. 83–85, 104).
The Royal Crescent appears frequently in English fiction. Baroness Emmuska Orczy had her fictional Scarlet Pimpernel reside in the Royal Crescent no. 16, and Charles Dickens had Mr. Pickwick stay in a Royal Crescent townhouse in The Pickwick Papers. The building also appears in the works of Jane Austen and Henry Fielding (Crathorne, Royal Crescent Book of Bath, p. 81).
Courtesy of the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Bath, England, and Bridgeman Art Library.