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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0119

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Macaulay, Catharine Sawbridge
Date: 1774

Abigail Adams to Catharine Sawbridge Macaulay

[salute] Madam

In the last Letter which Mr. Adams had the honour to receive from you, you express a Desire to become acquainted with our American Ladies.1 To them Mrs. Macaulay is sufficiently distinguished by her superior abilities, and altho she who is now ventureing to address her cannot lay claim to eaquil accomplishments with the Lady before introduced,2 yet she flatters herself she is no ways deficient in her esteem for a Lady who so warmly interests herself in the cause of America—a Cause madam which is now become so serious to every American that we consider it as a struggle from which we shall obtain a release from our present bondage by an ample redress of our Grieveances—or a redress by the Sword. The only alternative which every american thinks of is Liberty or Death.
“Tender plants must bend, but when a Goverment is grown to strength like some old oak rough with its armed bark it yealds not to the tug, but only nods and turns to sullen state.”
Should I attempt to discribe to you the complicated misiries and distresses brought upon us by the late inhumane acts of the British parliment my pen would faill me. Suffice it to say, that we are invaded with fleets and Armies, our commerce not only obstructed, but totally ruined, the courts of Justice shut, many driven out from the Metropolis, thousands reduced to want, or dependant upon the charity of their neighbours for a daily supply of food, all the Horrours of a civil war threatning us on one hand, and the chains of Slavery ready forged for us on the other. We Blush when we recollect from whence these woes arise, and must forever execrate the infamous memory of those Men whether they are Americans or Brittons, whose contagious Ambition first opened the pandoraen Box, and wantonly and cruelly scatterd the fatal ingrediants—first taught us filled with grief and anxiety to inquire
{ 178 }

Are these thy deeds o Britton? this the praise

That points the growing Lusture of thy Name

These glorious works that in thy [better?] Days

fild the bright period of thine early fame

To rise in ravage and with arm prophane

From freedoms shrine each sacred Gift to rend

and mark the closing annals of thy reign

With every foe subdued, and every Friend.

You will think Madam perhaps from the account I have given you, that we are in great confusion and disorder—but it is far otherways. Tho there are but few who are unfealing or insensible to the general calimity, by far the greater part support it with that firmness, that fortitude, that undaunted resolution which ever attends those who are conscious that they are the injured not the injurer, and that they are engaged in a righteous cause in which they fear not to “bare their bold Breasts and pour their generous Blood.” Altho by the obstruction of publick justice, each individual is left at a loose, to do that which is right in his own Eyes, yet each one strives to shew his neighbour that the restraints of Honour and of conscience are more powerful motives, than the judiciary proceedings of the Law. Notwithstanding the inveterate Malice of our Enimies who are continually representing us, as in a state of anarchy and confusion, torn up with intestine broils, and guilty of continual riots and outrage, yet this people never saw a time of greater peace and harmony among themselves, every one uniting in the common cause, and strengthning each other with inconceivable constancy and sumpathetick ardor.
I mean always to Except those whose venal Souls barter freedom for Gold, and would sell their Country, nay gladly see an innocent land deluged with Blood, if they could riot upon its Spoils, which heaven Avert!—Tis with anxious Hearts and eager expectations that we are now waiting for the result of the united Supplications of America. Yet having so often experienced their Enefficacy we have little reason to hope. We think we have more to expect from the firm and religious observance of the association which accompanied them3—for tho it was formerly the pride and ambition of American[s] to indulge in the fashions and Manufactures of Great Brittain now she threatens us with her chains we will scorn to wear her livery, and shall think ourselves more decently attired in the coarse and plain vestures of our own Manufactury than in all the gaudy trapings that adorn the slave.—Yet connected as we are by Blood, by commerce, by { 179 } one common language, by one common religion as protestants, and as good and loyal subjects of the same king, we earnestly wish that the three fold cord of Duty, interest and filial affection may not be snapped assunder. Tis like the Gordean knot. It never can be untied, but the sword may cut it, and America if she falls to use the words of the revered and ever honourd Mr. Pitt, will fall like a strong Man, will embrace the pillars of State and pull down the constitution along with her.
I must intreet your pardon Madam for Detaining you so long from the important Services in which you are engaged, but having taken up my pen I could not refrain giving utterance to some of those Emotions which have agitated my Bosom and are the cause of many anxious hours to her who begs leave to subscribe herself Dear Madam your great admirer & humble Servant,
[signed] Abigail Adams
Dft (Adams Papers), undated, with numerous cancellations and insertions not noted here; notes by CFA at head of text assign date “1774” and recipient's name.
1. The letter in question, dated 11 Sept., was enclosed in Edward Dilly's letter to JA of 24 Sept. 1774 (both in Adams Papers).
2. Mercy (Otis) Warren, who became a frequent correspondent of Mrs. Macaulay.
3. The “association” was the nonimportation, nonconsumption, nonexportation agreement adopted by the first Continental Congress, signed by the members on 20 Oct., and widely printed and circulated. See JCC , 1:75–81; “Bibliographical Notes” in same, p. 127; and facsimile of signed MS in pocket inside back cover of that volume.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0120

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Warren, Mercy Otis
Date: 1775-01-25

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren

[salute] Dear Mrs. Warren

I wrote you last Sabbeth evening2 in a good deal of pertubation of Spirits. I fear I did wrong in sending it you; I then promised to acquaint you with the result as soon as I knew it. Mr. Adams returnd a monday night in order to Relieve me from my apprehensions. It does not appear that there was any premediated design to raise a Tumult. An officer very drunk sallied forth, and was seen in that state by the Watch who suspecting that some evil might ensue offerd to see him to his lodgings. He readily consented, but his Servant comeing up and seeing him with the Watch, enterd into a Quarrel with them, and ran to Jones tavern and raised nine officers who were pretty well warmd with liquor and they without inquireing into the merits of the cause, fell upon the Watch. The people applied to the General. He orderd them under guard, and a court martial sat upon { 180 } them a monday. I have not heard what they did. The Watch enterd their complaint befor Justice Quincy and Warrents were issued out. Yesterday Mr. Adams went to Town to attend the examination before Justice Hill, Quincy and Pemberton. I hear the court was much crouded, and that they did not get thro, but adjourned till to day.3—Thus are we to be in continual hazard and Jeopardy of our lives from a Set of dissolute unprincipald officers, and an Ignorant abandoned Soldiery who are made to believe that their Errant here is to Quell a Lawless Set of Rebels—who can think of it without the utmost indignation. “Is it not better to die the last of British freemen than live the first of British Slaves.” Every act of cunning and chicanery is made use of by the execrable Massachusettensis “to make the worse appear the better reasoning” and with high words that bare semblance of worth, not substance gently raise their fainting courage and dispell their fears “and now his Heart distends with pride, and hard'ning in his strength glories.” I do not think it unlikely that he receives a share of the Money we are told was sent as a bribe for the Leaders of the people. “Sly undermining Tool” representing the Whigs as men of desperate fortunes as tho Truth could not be told only by men of fortunes and pensioners. When is it ever told by them? Are not pensions and places productive of a most narrow sordid and mercenary Spirit, and are we not told that they are granted more for Ministeria[l] than publick Services?—Help me to a Name befitting the character of this Miscreant!4
We have had a Town meeting this week for the chusing of Delegates, and voted to send but one by which means Col. Thair [Thayer] is left out and Deacon Palmer chosen. They voted also to pay a Shilling L M5 to every Man who will excersise once a week from 3 o clock till 6 and to pay the Money which shall be collected as taxes into the hands of the Select Men.6
We have had a Rumor here that a collection of tories from Marshfield have flown to Town, to request a regiment of Soldiers to protect them, and in concequence of it that 100 & 25 have embarked but should it be so what they can propose we can not immagine, unless it is to give them opportunity to escape.
Dft (Adams Papers), undated; in JQA 's hand at head of text is an assigned (and erroneous) date: “1777.”
1. Internal evidence makes it possible to date this letter precisely. As the newspapers indicate, the “examination” before the Suffolk justices began on Tuesday, 24 Jan., and was continued next day, which AA speaks of as “to day,” i.e. 25 Jan. 1775.
2. This letter, which must have been { 181 } written on 22 Jan., has not been found.
3. The Boston Gazette of 30 Jan. gives a detailed account of this incident. Eight British officers were bound over by the justices on 25 Jan. “to answer for their conduct at the Superior Court, ... but the good People of this County will rather chuse to hear no more of this Matter, than return Jurors [to] the Superior Court upon the Act of Parliament to regulate the Government of this Province, which they have resolved never to submit to.”
4. The author of the “Massachusettensis” papers, which appeared in the Boston Post Boy, 12 Dec. 1774–3 April 1775, was Daniel Leonard, though JA , who answered them in twelve numbers over the signature “Novanglus” in the Boston Gazette, 25 Jan.–17 April 1775, long supposed they were the work of Jonathan Sewall. See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:161; 3:313.
5. Lawful money.
6. This meeting was held on Monday, 23 January. It elected Joseph Palmer to the second Provincial Congress, instructed him to “attend to the Spirit & letter” of the “recommendations & resolves of the continental Congress,” and voted a long series of measures for the encouragement of the militia ( Braintree Town Records , p. 453–454). Though JA had been a member of the first Provincial Congress, which had by now taken over the functions of the General Court, he was glad to have been left out of the second Congress (along with Ebenezer Thayer), for reasons he detailed to James Warren in a letter of 15 March (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.; JA, Works , 9:354–355).