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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0071

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Warren, Mercy Otis
Date: 1774-02-27

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren

Your agreable favour of January 19 demands from me more than I am able to pay. My coin will have more alloy tho it bears the same Stamp of Friendship with your own.
I was not sensible till I received yours that my last Letter to you abounded with so many terrors. I am not Naturally of a gloomy temper nor disposed to view objects upon the dark Side only. I rejoice that all my fears on that account were so soon drowned in an ocean of water instead of being verified by the sheding of Blood. Nor would I again alarm you with apprehensions of tumult and disorder the ensuing week by a dethroned chief Justice attempting to take his Seat upon the bench, who if he should meet with opposition would say with the fallen Angels

What tho the place be lost? All is not lost,

The unconquerable Will And Study of revenge,

Immortal hate And courage never to submit or yield,

And what is else not to be overcome;

That Glory never shall their Wrath or might

Extort from me.2

What a pitty it is that so much of that same Spirit which prompted Satan to a revoult in heaven should possess the Sons of men and eradicate every principal of Humanity and Benevolence. How unbounded { 98 } is ambition and what ravages has it made among the human Species. It was that which led Alaxander to weep for more Worlds to conquer, and Caesar to say he had rather be the first man in a village than the second in Rome and the arch Fiend Himself to declare he had rather Reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. But that Ambition which would establish itself by crimes and agrandize its possessor by the ruin of the State and by the oppression of its Subjects, will most certainly defeat itself. When Alexander Weep't he degraded himself. He would certainly have acquired much greater Glory by a wise and prudent goverment of those kingdoms he had conquerd, than [by] childishly blubering after new Worlds. This passion of Ambition when it centers in an honest mind possess'd of great Abilities may and often has done imminent Service to the World. There are but few minds if any wholy destitute of it and tho in itself it is Laudible yet there is nothing in Nature so amiable but the passions and intrest of Men will pervert to very base purposes. When I consider the Spirit which at present prevails throughout this continent I really detest that restless ambition of those artfull and designing men which has thus broken this people into factions—and I every day see more and more cause to deprecate the growing Evil. This party Spirit ruins good Neighbourhood, eradicates all the Seeds of good nature and humanity—it sours the temper and has a fatal tendancy upon the Morals and understanding and is contrary to that precept of Christianity thou shallt Love thy Neighbour as thy self. I have some where met with an observation of this kind that Zeal for a publick cause will breed passions in the hearts of virtuous persons to which the Regard of their own private interest would never have betrayed them.—You Madam encourage me to hope that these discords and divisions will e'er long cease and ancient fraud shall fail; returning justice lift aloft her Scale. We shall not then see the Worst of Men possessd of every place of eminence in order to serve a party nor the best disregarded because they will not stoop to those methods which would gratify their faction, “and barter Liberty for gold.” I wish to rejoice with you in the happy completion of your prophysy.
I congratulate you Madam upon the return of the very worthy bearer of this Letter.3 I have had a Sympathy for you in his absence being often Subject to the same Misfortune. We have had but little of his company he has been so much engaged in the affairs of the State.—By this opportunity I send you the 3 part of the progress of Dulness, the production of a young Gentleman who is now studiing Law with Mr. Adams and who is look'd upon as a real Genious.—I wish you { 99 } would confide so much in your Friend as to favour her now and then with some of your poetical productions—they would be a great gratification to your assured Friend,
[signed] Abigail Adams
Dft (Adams Papers), without indication of addressee or date, on which see note 1. Bears numerous corrections of phrasing not recorded here.
1. Written doubtless from Boston between 19 Jan. and 27 Feb. 1774 since it answers a letter from Mrs. Warren of the former date, above, and is answered by Mrs. Warren's of the latter date, below.
2. These lines from Book I of Paradise Lost are slightly adapted for AA 's purpose.
3. James Warren. Though a member of the House, he had returned to Plymouth before the General Court was prorogued on 9 March.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0072-0001

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1774-02-27

Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Adams

The Confidence I have in the Candour and Friendship of Both Mr. and Mrs. Adams, together with her request in her last agreable Favour for the Communication of something in the poetical way: Emboldens me to put into their Hands a piece form'd (as nearly as the Writer Could understand it) upon the short sketch of somthing of this kind by Mr. Adams in a Letter to Mr. Warren somtime ago.1
Should have sent it before but was in hopes he Would have Condescended to have given some further hints with regard to several Characters among his titular Deities. Must insist that this falls under the observation of none Else till I hear how it stands the inspection of Mr. Adamss judicious Eye. For I will not trust the partiallity of My own sex so much as to rely on Mrs. Adams judgment though I know her to be a Lady of taste and Discernment. If Mr. Adams thinks it deserving of any further Notice and he will point out the faults, which doubtless are many, they may perhaps be Corrected, when it shall be at his service. If he is silent I shall Consider it as a certain Mark of disapprobation, and in despair will for the future, lay asside the pen of the poet (which ought perhaps to have been done sooner) Though not that of the Friend, which I look upon as much the most amiable and Distinguished Character. And while we unite in deploring the Miserable situation of a people Broken into Factions, where the seeds of Animosity are sown, and Every discordant passion is Gathering strength, may we not without being infected by the better [bitter] Contagion agree in sentiment with regard to the authors of the Wide { 100 } spreading Evil, And rejoice to see the Enemies of our peace about to be deprived of the power of doing further Mischief.
When the public Attention is Engaged by the Calling to Account the Great Delinquents of the day, And the time of men of Abilities is Engross'd in searching for precedents to bring them to justice, will my Friends Excuse the Momentary Interuption of offring anything so unimportant and so little Entertaining as are the productions of Their Real Friend &c.,
[signed] M Warren
P.S. Mr. Warrens Compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Adams. He proposes writing if time permits. A line left with Mr. Otis2 may be soon Conveyed, to Plimouth.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. Adams Boston.” Enclosure printed herewith.
1. JA to James Warren, 22 Dec. 1773 (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.; printed in JA, Works , 9:334–336). || JA 's letter was also printed in Papers of John Adams, 2:2.||By comparing JA 's proposed fable for a mock-heroic poem on the Boston Tea Party and the verses enclosed in the present letter, the reader may judge whether Mrs. Warren used JA 's hints to the best possible advantage. JA 's comments on the poem, which are perhaps more gallant than judicious, are in a letter to James Warren of 9 April 1774 (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.; JA, Works , 9:336–337).
2. Presumably Mrs. Warren's brother, Samuel Allyne Otis (1740–1814), Harvard 1759, a merchant in Boston; he later married AA 's cousin, Mary (Smith) Gray. See Adams Genealogy.