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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


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Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0122

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Warren, Mercy Otis
Date: 1775-02-03

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren

[salute] My Dear Mrs. Warren

The die is cast. Yesterday brought us such a Speach from the Throne as will stain with everlasting infamy the reign of G[e]orge the 3 determined to carry into Execution “the acts passd by the late parliment, and to Mantain the authority of the Legislature over all his dominions.” The reply of the house of commons and the house of Lords shew us the most wicked and hostile measures will be persued against us—even without giving us an opportunity to be heard in our defence. Infatuated Brittain! poor distressed America. Heaven only knows what is next to take place but it seems to me the Sword is now our only, yet dreadful alternative, and the fate of Rome will be renued in Brittain. She who has been the envy of nations will now become an object of their Scorn and abhorance, and as it was said of Rome that she governd other people by her will but her own by Law, they now behold her governd herself by will, by the Arbitary Will of the worst of her own citizens, and arrived at that period which has been foretold when the people co-operateing with the Enimies of the constitution by Electing those to represent them who are hired to betray them, or by submitting tamely when the mask is taken of or falls of, and the attempt to bring beggary and Slavery is avoued or can be no longer concealed. When this happens the Friends of Liberty, should any such remain will have one option still left, and will rather chuse no doubt to die [the] last British freemen, than bear to live the first of British Slaves, and this now seems to be all that is left to americans with unfeigned and penitant suplications to that Being who delights in the welfare of his creatures, and who we humbly hope will engage { 184 } on our side, and who if we must go forth in defence of our injured and oppressed Country will we hope deliver us from the hands of our enimies and those that persecute us. Tho an hoste should encamp against [us] our hearts will not fear. Tho war should rise against us, in this will we be confident, that the Lord reigneth. Let thy Mercy o Lord be upon us according as we hope in thee.
Mr. Adams is in Boston. I have not seen him since the <news> royal mandate arrived. Nor have I been able to learn any further news. I wait for his return with anxiety even tho I expect to be confirmed in all my apprehensions. Those who have most to loose have most to fear. The Natural timidity of our sex always seeks for a releif in the encouragement and protection of the other.
Thus far I wrote with a Heart tremblingly anxious, and was prevented from persuing my Subject by companys comeing in. Upon Mr. Adams'es return I experienced the truth of your observation. He laughed at my fears and in some Measure dispelld them—made me see that we were not called either rebels or Trators, told me that there was no other news by this Ship and he still thought that their fears might have weight with them. I would not have my Friend immagine that with all my fears and apprehension, I would give up one Iota of our rights and privilages. I think upon the Maturest deliberation I can say, dreadful as the day would be I had rather see the Sword drawn. Let these truths says the admired Farmer2 be indelibly impressed on our Minds that we cannot be happy without being free, that we cannot be free without being secure in our property, that we cannot be secure in our property if without our consent others may as by right take it away.—We know too well the blessings of freedom, to tamely resign it—and there really seems to be a ray of light breaking thro the palpable darkness which has for so long a time darkened our hemisphere and threatned to overwhelm us in one common ruin and I cannot but hope with you for more favorable Scenes, and brighter Days. Lord North has luckely thought of a new explanation of his Neroisim. What ever may be their secret motives to a change of Measures is uncertain, but from their formour conduct we shall have little reason to think that justice or Humanity were the motives, and must ever mantain a jealous Eye over those who have acted so repugnant to all Laws both Humane and Divine. May justice and Liberty finally prevail and the Friends of freedom enjoy that Satisfaction and tranquility which ever attends upright intentions and is the sure recompence of virtue.
But if adverse Days are still alloted us, which neither wisdom or { 185 } prudence can prevent, it must be a continual Source of Satisfaction that every method consistant with reason and religion <has> have been adopted to avert the calimities. But if Innocence must be exposed to Caluminy and virtue become the object of percecution and the upright individual fall a sacrifice to his own virtue, still we must not arraign the divine justice which acts not by partial but by general Laws and may have very important and extensive concequences to answer for the general good of Society.3
My Friend assures me that she will comply with my request and gratify my curiosity, but at the same time holds me to conditions which if I comply with it will be only to obtain the greater good for the less. Very selfish motives you will say, tho but few I believe would withstand the temptation.4
I observe my Friend is labouring under apprehensions least the Severity with which a certain Group was drawn was incompatable with that Benevolence which ought always to be predominant in a female character.5 “Tho an Eagles talon asks an Eagles Eye” and Satire in the hands of some is a very dangerous weapon yet when it is so happily blended with benevolence, and is awakend only by the Love of virtue, and abhorance of vice, when Truth is invoilably preserved, and ridiculous and vicious actions are alone the Subject, it is so far from blameable, that it is certainly meritorious; and to suppress it would be hideing a talent like the slothful Servant in a napkin.

“Who combats virtues foe is virtue's friend”

and a keen Satire well applied, has some times found its way when persuasions, admonitions, and Lectures of morality have failed—such is the abhorance of humane nature when it diviates from the path of rectitude, to be represented in its true coulours.

“Well may they Dread the Muses fatal skill

Well may they tremble when she draws the quill

Her Magick quill that like Ithuriels Spear

Reveals the cloven hoof, or lengthen'd Ear,

Bids vice and folly take their Nat'ral Shapes

Turns Counsellors to knaves and Beaux to apes

Drags the vile whisp'rer from his dark abode

Till all the Deamon starts up from the toad.”

You will say perhaps that our Sex is partial to each other. That { 186 } objection if it carries any weight may be made against the person you appeald to.6 But give me leave to Quote a poet upon the Subject.

“When Virtue sinks beneath unnumberd Woes

And passions born her Friends, revoult her foes

Tis Satire's power tis her corrective part

To calm the wild disorders of the heart

She points the arduous height where glory lies

And teaches mad ambition to be wise

In the Dark Bosome wakes the fair desire

Draws good from Ill, a Brighter flame from fire

Strips black oppression of her gay disguise

And bids the hag, in native horrour rise

Strikes tow'ring pride and Lawless rapine Dead

And plants the Wreath on Virtues awful head.”

I must intreat a compliance with my other request. I shall esteem it an obligation conferd upon Your much obliged Friend,
[signed] Abigail Adams
Dft (Adams Papers); undated. RC (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.); undated single leaf containing only last part of text; docketed in an unidentified hand: “Mrs. Adams 1774.” Present text follows Dft to the point where fragmentary RC begins, and thereafter RC ; see note 3.
1. George III's speech at the opening of Parliament, 30 Nov. 1774, which AA mentions as having become known “Yesterday,” was published in the Mass. Spy on 2 Feb. 1775.
2. John Dickinson, author of Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania ..., Phila., 1768.
3. Remainder of text derives from fragmentary RC .
4. Dft adds two sentences omitted in RC : “I have an other motive too in complying which I dare not own to her. Some future time perhaps I may venture to.”
5. In a letter to JA of 30 Jan. Mrs. Warren asked whether she had violated good taste in her satirical portraits in The Group. His answer is in a letter of 15 March. James Warren had sent JA the first two acts of The Group on 15 Jan., and JA had caused them to be printed, anonymously, in the Boston Gazette of 23 January. Warren sent the entire play to JA on 15 March, and its publication in an anonymous pamphlet was announced in the Gazette of 3 April. (All these letters are in Adams Papers or MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.; they are printed in Warren-Adams Letters , 1:35–36, 36–39, 41–44, and JA, Works , 9:354–356.)
6. Dft reads, instead: “You will excuse me for given [giving] my opinion unasked. I will not forestall our other Friend. He shall not know mine till he has given his own.”

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0123

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1775-02-25

Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Adams

I had the pleasure of hearing Yesterday by a transient person that { 187 } my much Esteemed friend Mrs. Adams was well. I wish she had been kind Enough to have put a line into his Hand for me who is always highly gratified with Every such intimation of friendship from those she loves.
I thank you for the Letter I Received by Mr. Warren,1 and for the Copy of a very agreable one to a Distinguished Lady that accompanyd it, and did I not fear you might tax me with the Nonperformance of some former Engagements, I believe I should have spared you the trouble of perusing the Enclosed.2 But I think Every Mark of trust and Confidence Reposed demands some instance of A Reciprocal Wish to oblige, for friendship is of too Delicate a Nature to suffer the least Neglect without pain.

“By smallest Violations apt to die

Reserve will Wound it and Distrust Destroy.”

Therfore I must tell you that I never once suspected that the unlimited Confidence Reposed in you and in the Worthy partner of your Heart was Ever Betrayed.3 But there are some things Reported (tho I believe merely from Conjecture) which I could have Wished the World Might not have suspected: Considering how Cruel and Vindictive Mankind Generally are: but Methinks something like Conscience wispers me that I ought to Behave in such a Manner as to be able to Wish with the ancient sage for a Window in my Breast. Yet if I had I think though some might assert the pen at times bears a little tincture of Gall, they Might see in the Heart, Wrote in Legible Characters, a Readiness to forgive the Bitterest Enemy to myself, my friends, or my Country, on the least Mark of Repentance (from A proper sense of Virtue) or even Could one be Convinced that their pernicious Conduct Arises from Error of judgment, and not from a perverted Mind Devoid of Every principle of Rectitude or Humanity.
If you please you may tell a Gentleman of my acquaintance whom I much Esteem, that I am very Glad Massachusetensis has fallen into such Excelent hands, into the hand of a person so Capable of Developing the intracate Windings, of that state Crokedile, of tracing the Movements of the Narrow souled junto, and unraveling the Lybarinths of that Corrupt influance Which has brought one of the finest Countrys in the World to the Verge of Distruction. But though I have been highly pleasd and Entertained for several Weeks past with the productions of the just and Masterly pen of Novanglus, Yet I was in hopes Ere this to have heard something perticularly from Mr. Adams. As I think he Could not very well avoid making some kind of answer { 188 } to my Last4 ('tho perhaps I ought to ask pardon for Calling of his Attention a moment from more important services) I am under some Apprehension least a letter may have miscaried as none has yet come to hand.
Every week brings us inteligence from Boston by a post Rider from Plimouth who I suppose Generally calls at Your Neighbur Brakets. I mention this that the want of safe Conveyance may not prevent us the pleasure of hearing from Braintree Friends.
Do let me know if the Letters to Mrs. Macauley are gone, and by whom. The Enclosed is Rather more lengthy than I should have presumed to have been, to a Lady of her Distinguished Character but that I thought the Circumstences of America were such that it demanded some perticulers from Every hand, more Especially as we have so Many Busy and Mischevious tongues and pens (of not much more importance than a Womans) to Vilify and misrepresent us.
If you Recieve any pleasure in the perusal, or if the Gratification of Curiosity is a Ballence for the trouble of picking it out I shall not Regret the puting it into your hand, as an oppertunity of obliging Mrs. Adams will always give pleasure to her sincere & affectionate Friend,
[signed] Mercy Warren
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For Mrs. Adams.” Enclosure: Mrs. Warren to Mrs. Macaulay, 29 Dec. 1774; see note 2.
1. Apparently missing.
2. The “Distinguished Lady” was certainly Catharine Macaulay, and the “Copy” of a letter to her is probably AA 's letter printed above under the assigned date of 1774. The enclosure in Mrs. Warren's letter was a long letter to Mrs. Macaulay, 29 Dec. 1774, which remains in the Adams Papers. Apparently no early opportunity for conveying it occurred; before long, communication with England was cut off, and it was never sent.
3. This and what follows pertains to rumors attributing to Mrs. Warren the authorship of The Group. The rumors were correct, but she did not relish them.