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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


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Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0217

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1775-11-18

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Your kind Letter of the 5th. Inst. came to Hand yesterday by Captain McPherson. I admire your skill in Phisiognomy, and your Talent at drawing Characters, as well as that of your Friend Marcia from whom at the same Time I received several important Characters, which you shall one day see.1
I agree with you in your sentiments that there is Reason to be diffident of a Man who grossly violates the Principles of Morals, in any one particular habitually. This sentiment was conveyed to Us in one of the Paradoxes of the ancient Stoicks, that “all sins were equal,” and the same Idea is suggested from higher Authority, He that violates the Law in any one Instance is guilty of all. I have no Confidence in any Man who is not exact in his Morals. And you know that I look upon Religion as the most perfect System, and the most awfull Sanction of Morality.
Your Goodness of Heart, as well as your sound Judgment will applaud me for using the utmost Caution in my Letters. But if you could see me, and observe how I am employed you would wonder that I find Time to write to any Body. I am very busy and so is every Body else here.
I hope to be with you at Christmas, and then to be excused from coming here again, at least untill others have taken their Turns.
The late Appointment, you mention gives me many very serious Thoughts. It is an Office of high Trust, and of vast Importance at any Time: But of greater at this, than any other. The Confusions and { 328 } Distractions of the Times, will encumber that Office with embarrassments, expose it to dangers and Slanders, which it never knew before. Besides I am apprehensive of other Difficulties. Mr. [William] Cushing has been on that Bench, and was my senior at the Bar. Will he accept under another? Mr. Paine too has taken an odd Turn in his Head of late, and is so peevish, passionate and violent that he will make the Place disagreable, if he does not think better of it. Mr. Cushing, Mr. Serjeant [Sargeant] and Mr. Read are very able Men, and Mr. Paine might be so if he was undisturbed in his Mind. But the Unhappy Affair in his Family, his Church and Town, appears to me to have affected his Mind too much. It is a melancholly Thought to me, because I have ever had a Friendship for him. I am really sorry that he has exposed his Character and Reputation so much of late as he has done, by certain Airs he has given himself, and it has many Times, in the beginning of the summer, when I was in an ill state of Health made me unhappy. But since the Adjournment, I have avoided Altercation with him, and this I shall continue to do.
That Ambition and Avarice reign every where as you observe, is most true. But I hope that Preferment will follow Merit, after our Affairs get into a more settled Course.
Remember me to all.
When you said that Kissing goes by Favour, you did not explain the Particulars I wish you had. But all Censure and Clamour at this Time must be avoided and discountenanced as much as possible.
I should be glad to be informed, whether the Appointment of me, that you speak of, appears to be to the satisfaction of the People or not.2
1. Mercy Warren to JA , 4 Nov.; RC not found, but acknowledged in a letter from JA to Mrs. Warren, 25 Nov. (Adams Papers); probably the same as a Tr of her letter to him dated Oct. 1775 in her so-called Letterbook, MHi, p. 156–159.
2. A few days later, with due diffidence, JA accepted the appointment of chief justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature ( JA to Perez Morton, 24 Nov., Dft , Adams Papers; printed in JA, Works , 3:24, note, from RC formerly in M-Ar but now missing).

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0218

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-11-27

Abigail Adams to John Adams

Tis a fortnight to Night since I wrote you a line during which, I have been confined with the Jaundice, Rhumatism and a most voilent { 329 } cold; I yesterday took a puke which has releived me, and I feel much better to day. Many, very many people who have had the dysentery, are now afflicted both with the Jaundice and Rhumatisim, some it has left in Hecticks, some in dropsies.
The great and incessant rains we have had this fall, (the like cannot be recollected) may have occasiond some of the present disorders. The Jaundice is very prevelant in the Camp. We have lately had a week of very cold weather, as cold as January, and a flight of snow, which I hope will purify the air of some of the noxious vapours. It has spoild many hundreds of Bushels of Apples, which were designd for cider, and which the great rains had prevented people from making up. Suppose we have lost 5 Barrels by it.
Col. Warren returnd last week to Plymouth, so that I shall not hear any thing from you till he goes back again which will not be till the last of <next> this month.
He Damp'd my Spirits greatly by telling me that the Court had prolonged your Stay an other month.1 I was pleasing myself with the thoughts that you would soon be upon your return. Tis in vain to repine. I hope the publick will reap what I sacrifice.
I wish I knew what mighty things were fabricating. If a form of Goverment is to be established here what one will be assumed? Will it be left to our assemblies to chuse one? and will not many men have many minds? and shall we not run into Dissentions among ourselves?
I am more and more convinced that Man is a dangerous creature, and that power whether vested in many or a few is ever grasping, and like the grave cries give, give. The great fish swallow up the small, and he who is most strenuous for the Rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the perogatives of Goverment. You tell me of degrees of perfection to which Humane Nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances.
The Building up a Great Empire, which was only hinted at by my correspondent may now I suppose be realized even by the unbelievers. Yet will not ten thousand Difficulties arise in the formation of it? The Reigns of Goverment have been so long slakned, that I fear the people will not quietly submit to those restraints which are necessary for the peace, and security, of the community; if we seperate from Brittain, what Code of Laws will be established. How shall we be governd so as to retain our Liberties? Can any goverment be free which is not adminstred by general stated Laws? Who shall frame these Laws? Who will give them force and energy? Tis true your Resolution[s] as a { 330 } Body have heithertoo had the force of Laws. But will they continue to have?
When I consider these things and the prejudices of people in favour of Ancient customs and Regulations, I feel anxious for the fate of our Monarchy or Democracy or what ever is to take place. I soon get lost in a Labyrinth of perplexities, but whatever occurs, may justice and righteousness be the Stability of our times, and order arise out of confusion. Great difficulties may be surmounted, by patience and perseverance.
I believe I have tired you with politicks. As to news we have not any at all. I shudder at the approach of winter when I think I am to remain desolate. Suppose your weather is warm yet. Mr. Mason and Thaxter live with me, and render some part of my time less disconsolate. Mr. Mason is a youth who will please you, he has Spirit, taste and Sense. His application to his Studies is constant and I am much mistaken if he does not make a very good figure in his profession.
I have with me now, the only Daughter of your Brother; I feel a tenderer affection for her as she has lost a kind parent. Though too young to be sensible of her own loss, I can pitty her. She appears to be a child of a very good Disposition—only wants to be a little used to company.2
Our Little ones send Duty to pappa and want much to see him. Tom says he wont come home till the Battle is over—some strange notion he has got into his head. He has got a political cread to say to him when he returns.
I must bid you good night. Tis late for one who am much of an invalide. I was dissapointed last week in receiving a packet by the post, and upon unsealing it found only four news papers. I think you are more cautious than you need be. All Letters I believe have come safe to hand. I have Sixteen from you, and wish I had as many more. Adieu. Yours.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed in John Thaxter's hand: “To The Honble: John Adams Esq. at Philadelphia”; docketed in AA 's hand: “Portia Novr. 27 1775.”
1. On 11 Nov. the House of Representatives resolved that because “the important Business of the Colony” had hitherto prevented that body “from proceeding to a Choice of Delegates” for 1776, the commissions of the current delegates were to be extended from the end of December to the end of January (Mass., House Jour. , 1775–1776, 2d sess., p. 269–270). These noncommittal words conceal the intense struggle then going on between radicals and moderates in the House over who should represent Massachusetts in Congress during the critical year 1776. In January the radicals won a partial victory. Thomas Cush• { 331 } ing was displaced by Elbridge Gerry. Robert Treat Paine's place was threatened but in the end retained. Hancock and the two Adamses were reelected. See Mass., House Jour. , 1775–1776, 3d sess., p. 165, and the instructions to the delegates there, 18 Jan. 1776.
2. This must have been Susanna (1766–1826), daughter of Elihu and Thankful (White) Adams; in 1785 she married Aaron Hobart Jr. See Adams Genealogy.