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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


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Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0265

Author: Thaxter, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1780-05-17

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams

I was made happy this day by the Receipt of your esteemed favor of the 2d. of March.
You say, that in the seperation of near Friends, You have ever thought the person left at Home the greatest Sufferer, and that anticipated Evils have often as much Power over the Mind as real ones. This Observation is the Result of that extream Sensibility of which You are possessed, and which has been but too often wounded by repeated Seperations from your dear Friend. In point of duration of Suffering the Person at Home is the greatest, but in point of degree the Traveller is the greatest. It is sometimes the reverse. The Mind by its creative Power forms more dangers and Misfortunes for Friends at Sea and upon Journeys, than it provides Escapes for them, and altho' they hope and wish for their Safety, yet Fears, unfriendly Fears, do but too often damp their pleasing Prospects, and rob the Soul of its Anchor.
Pardon me, Madam, if I once sincerely rejoiced in the Absence of a Family, where I lived so agreeably and happily for several Years. It was in the Storm at Sea; which however would not have been very dangerous to Us had it not have been for the Leak and Age of the Ship. I did then rejoice that You was in Safety and far from witnessing a Scene, which would have awakened, all the Tenderness of a Wife and Mother, and doubly aggravated the Anxiety and Pain of your dearest Friend. In such a Case as this, I think the suffering of the Traveller is greatest.
You tell me, I have given a tolerable Account of Spain, but have not said a Word of the Dulcinas. I saw but one in the Route, that deserved so sweet a Name. This is harsh; but I dare not recal it.
You have rallied me upon my Apathy. This is another part of Speech. But the Parisian Ladies are to rouse me from my secure Slumbers you believe. They are fine Women its true, and have a Vivacity, Sprightliness, Civility, and Politeness which would disturb ones Philosophy. I am not an “Infidel to their Power,” I “bow before it,” yet am “guarded against being conquered by it,” and “do reserve that Triumph” (if it would be a Trophy) “for some fair American” (If I have a Claim to a fair one) “who will charm by accepting, by submitting sway.”
In my Conscience I believe, I have no Apathy nor Stoicism, by Nature, Habit or Grace. I am an Admirer of the Charms of the fair, { 353 } whether of Person or Mind and have felt their Force. But I refer You to the Postscript of my Letter of the 12th. of May for an honest Confession. I have said enough—the Subject always turns my Head and makes me wild and eccentric. You will pardon them I hope.
Masters Johnny and Charley dined with Us to day and are well and conduct well.
Much Duty, Love and Compliments where due. With the greatest Respect, I have the Honor to be, Madam your most humble Servant,
[signed] J T

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0266

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Warren, Winslow
Date: 1780-05-19

Abigail Adams to Winslow Warren

From the Friendship with which I have long been honourd by your Mamma, and the personal knowledge of the amiable disposition of her Son, I am led to the freedom of addressing him upon his quitting his Native land, and joining my wishes with those of his other Friends that his voyage may be fortunate and safe, and that as he becomes acquainted with other Countries he may do credit to his own, which unfortunately for America, has not been the case with many who have visited France.1
The watchfull care of tender parents and the distinguished abilities of his most Excellent Mamma renders every admonition from every other pen unnecessary. Yet her anxiety for the future welfare of her Son and partiality for her Friend led her to obtain a promise from her that she would write him a few lines, e'er he embarked. He will not I hope consider what is written in the Spirit of Friendship as intruded upon him, nor take it amiss if I intimate to him that he has many excitements to do honour to his Country.
The Merrit and example of his parents are an inheritance to him, but an inheritance upon which he cannot subsist unless he transplants into his own life those virtues which distinguish them.
The two most important Lessons in life for a young person to acquire, is a knowledge of themselves, and of the connections they form. As the latter determines and establishes the character, too much attention cannot be paid to this important matter. Who can touch pitch and not be defiled? Tho Merrit alone seldom obtains the distintion that is its due, yet when united with a knowledge of the world and those Graces which happily for Mr. W[arre]n he has not now to ac• { 354 } quire, they will not fail obtaining favour with every character whose acquaintance he would be ambitious to cultivate. May I add that those very accomplishments which ensure him the Esteem of the good and Worthy, expose him to the snares, and machinations of different characters, and that he is entering a world where every thing is sacrificed by the greater part of it, to ambition, to Interest and to the passions. This tho an unpromiseing picture is the Idea that must possess him, in order to avoid falling into the snares which continually await the unguarded and unsuspecting to whom vice frequently makes her approaches in the Form and appearence of Innocent amusements—a well-bred compliance with received customs, and a Liberty which must be allowed in order to please.
The Humane mind is easily intoxicated with pleasure and the purest Manners soon sullied. Virtue may come by degrees to be thought too severe, and an Enemy when it opposes the ruling passion —a Matter of mere decency, a politick phantom, a popular prejudice which ought to be shaken of. Thus the infatuated understanding leads the Heart astray till it fall a prey to crimes of the deepest dye.—May I ask if the Manners of the present day are not a proof of these assertions? but

“Thy tender age that Loves instructions voice

Promise thee Generous, patient, brave and wise

And Manhood shall confirm thy glorious choice

Whilst expectation waits to see thee rise.”

That you may rise to honour and to Fame, the ornament of your Country and the blessing of your parents is the ardent wish of your Friend & Humble Servant,
[signed] A A
Dft (Adams Papers); at head of text in CFA 's hand: “Mr. W. Warren May 19. 1780.”
1. For what lay back, and ahead, of this letter, see Winslow Warren's reply, 26 May; AA to JA , 23 Aug.; both below.