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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 4


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Docno: ADMS-04-04-02-0218

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-06-17

Abigail Adams to John Adams, with a List of Articles wanted from Holland

[salute] My dearest Friend

There is not any thing in this Life, now my Dear Friend is seperated from me, that can communicate equal delight and pleasure to that which I feel upon the Sight of Letters written in the well known Hand of my Friend. My Heart Leaps forward to meet them, whilst the trembling Hand uncloses the Seals, and my eager Eyes devour the contents; tho unwilling to reach the close.
Capt. Deshon had the good fortune to arrive safe and brought me Letters only six weeks old;1 these were a cordial to my Spirits; since your first residence in Holland, I have not experienced the happiness of hearing from you in so short a space of time.
The prospect which was opening before you, and the Success with which I hope before this time your negotiations have been Blessed, has communicated a pleasure to my mind, which no one can feel in an equal degree with her, whose happiness is so nearly connected with all you Hope, and all you wish.
What tho old ocean rolls between these vehicles of transitory duration, the immortal Spirit can unite with its kindred mind, and participate in its pains and pleasures.
My dear Friend will feel the truth of what I have now asserted, and mingle the sorrowing tear with Portia, and with a distressed family over the almost departing Spirit of our Dear Brother Cranch.
I wrote you some time ago an account of the severe fit of Sickness with which he was visited, during the winter, but it then pleased Heaven to restore him to some degree of Health.2 His eager desire to be upon his duty in the publick Service, overpowerd the advice of his Friends: and he went to Town, before he had sufficiently recoverd his Health, where he was: only a few days, before he was seized with a pain in his Breast and Side, which terminated in a fever upon his Lungs and immediately threatned his Life. He struggled through the fever, but is now apprehended by his phisicians and Friends to be in a Hectick, accompanied with dropsical Symptoms. He however, as is common in such cases, flatters himself that he shall get well, tho tis 7 weeks since he was taken, and he can scarcly walk his room. He rides out, but cannot bear food equal to an Infant, whilst a cough and swelling of his Stomack, bowels and Legs indicate a speedy dissolution. For him we need not heave an anxious Sigh—but his family { 327 } —his Friends.—You who know his worth can feel their, and your own loss. I dare not flatter myself—my Hopes and fears are at varience. The anxious distress of an afflicted Sister Bears a load of Sorrow to my Heart, whilst I supplicate Heaven that I may not be called to experience a like overwhelming calamity. “O! Spair him, Spair him, Gracious power: O! Give him to my latest Hour” is the constant prayer of Portia.
I reassume my pen, and would tell you that I last evening received from Philadelphia a Letter written May 29, 1781 written Immediately after you took a House in Amsterdam;3 I suppose it to be one of those which was put on Board Gillion—as he has at last arrived at Philadelphia, having been commodore at the taking of Providence by the Spaniards.4 Our poor Charles would have had a fine time of it, if he had continued on Board. I wrote you by the Fire Brand, that I had drawn a Bill upon you for C—s passage,5 but finally finding I could not do it without a discount of ten per cent, and failing in an object which I then had in view, making a purchase in Virmont, on account of the dissagreable turn which affairs took at that time, relative to that state, when it was in the fairest way of being setled, I was advised not to purchase for the present, upon which I paid the passage. I shall not pretend unless upon a pressing necessity, which I do not at present see, to draw any Bills. The Remittances which you have from time to time made me, and which I have been very fortunate in receiving, assist me much better than Bills upon which I must pay a discount. I shall inclose a List of Articles upon which the best profit arrises, and which have the quickest sale. I have a Friend or two, into whose Hands I put what I do not want for my own family, who dispose of them for me. Accept my thanks for those received by Deshon. They came in good order.
Mr. L—l not long since favourd me with the sight of two Letters from you dated in February.6 With regard to the cypher of which you complain, I have always been fortunate enough to succeed with it.7 Take the two Letters for which the figure stands and place one under the other through the whole Sentance, and then try the upper Line with the under, or the under with the upper, always remembering, if one letter answers, that directly above or below must be omitted, and sometimes several must be skiped over. The contents of those Letters gave me a clearer Idea of the difficulties you have had to encounter, than I before had conceived of. But it must be a pleasing reflection to you that your Labours are at last like to be crowned with { 328 } Success. I wish there was as fair a prospect of an Honorable peace. I hope the late Naval disaster of our Allies will not have a dissagreable Effect upon the united provinces.8
The english will puff and vaunt their Dear Bought victory, without once recollecting that pride commeth before Humility and a haughty Spirit before a fall. The Cabinet counsels of Britain are held in detestation here, and to be insulted by the New Ministry is considerd in a more contemptable Light, than the same offers would have been from the old. America cannot but consider the virtues as all fled from that devoted Island. The different States are instructing their delegates to consider every offer as an insult from Britain (which should give a new edge to their Swords) if Independance is not made the Basis. Ardently as I long for the return of my dearest Friend, I cannot feel the least inclination to a peace but upon the most liberal foundation. Patriotism in the female Sex is the most disinterested of all virtues. Excluded from honours and from offices, we cannot attach ourselves to the State or Goverment from having held a place of Eminence. Even in the freeest countrys our property is subject to the controul and disposal of our partners, to whom the Laws have given a soverign Authority. Deprived of a voice in Legislation, obliged to submit to those Laws which are imposed upon us, is it not sufficient to make us indifferent to the publick Welfare? Yet all History and every age exhibit Instances of patriotick virtue in the female Sex; which considering our situation equals the most Heroick of yours. “A late writer observes that as Citizens we are calld upon to exhibit our fortitude, for when you offer your Blood to the State, it is ours. In giving it our Sons and Husbands we give more than ourselves. You can only die on the field of Battle, but we have the misfortune to survive those whom we Love most.”
I will take praise to myself. I feel that it is my due, for having sacrificed so large a portion of my peace and happiness to promote the welfare of my country which I hope for many years to come will reap the benifit, tho it is more than probable unmindfull of the hand that blessed them.
Your Friends complain that you do not write to them. I say all I can in excuse, but I wish you to notice them all, and in a particular manner to continue your affectionate Regard and attachment to
[signed] Portia
Black and white Gauzes
and Gauze hankerchiefs (the best articles imported)
tapes Quality bindings Shoe binding
{ 329 }
Low priced linen, Black caliminco red tammies
fine threads low priced calicos Ribbons9
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To His Excellency John Adams Esqr Amsterdam or the Hague”; endorsed: “Portia. June 17. 1782.”
1. These must have been JA 's letters of 22, 29 March, above, but apparently not his brief but important letter of 1 April, also above. See AA to JA , 17 July, below: “Your last Letters were dated in March.”
2. See above, AA to JA , 17–25 March.
3. No letter of this date from JA to AA has been found. He had, however, reported his taking up his new residence in Amsterdam in a letter to her of 16 May 1781, above.
4. For the extraordinary adventures of Gillon and the South Carolina after CA and his party had left that vessel at La Coruña, see D. E. Huger Smith, “Commodore Alexander Gillon and the Frigate South Carolina,” So. Car. Hist. & Geneal. Mag., 9 (1908): 1214 ff. Among other things, Gillon had joined a Spanish naval force at Havana and in May participated in the taking of New Providence, which meant the (temporary) transfer of the Bahamas from English to Spanish rule.
5. AA to JA , 25 April, above.
6. JA to Robert R. Livingston, 21, 27 Feb. (PCC, No. 84, IV; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:192–199, 206–207). These had been transmitted by Lovell in a letter to AA of 31 May (in Adams Papers but omitted here). In that of 21 Feb., JA had complained that he could “make nothing of” the coded passages in Livingston's letters.
7. But only with the help of Richard Cranch; see Appendix to this volume.
8. Rodney's defeat and capture of de Grasse at the battle of the Saints Passage, 9–12 April.
9. Compare the nearly duplicate lists at the end of AA 's letters to JA of 25 April, above, and 17–18 July, below.

Docno: ADMS-04-04-02-0219

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Thaxter, John
Date: 1782-06-17

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter

[salute] My dear Sir

I had no intention that the Fire Brand should sail without my replying to your repeated kind favours; I have been happy in receiving several Letters from You; the intrinsick value of which lead me most pathetically to mourn the loss of those which have failed.
The time which I meant to have appropriated in writing to you, was most melancholy employed in attending the sick and I feared dying Bed of our dear and worthy Friend Mr. Cranch who was seized with a repeated Sickness, before he had recoverd his Strength from a former illness—by which means the vessel sailed without a line to testify the sense I had of your goodness. It will greatly aflict you I know to hear, that this worthy Friend of ours, is in so great a decline as to Baffel the Art of the physicians, and to have the most allarming Symptoms of a speedy dissolution. Your sympathetick Heart will enter into the Distresses of a family for whom you have ever entertaind an affectionate Regard. They are great indeed. Heaven support them through them all.
{ 330 }
“When Heaven would kindly set us free
And Earths enchantments end
It takes the most Effectual way
And robs us of our Friends.”
I hope my dear Sir that your situation is more agreable by this time, and that your residence is at the Hague rather than in Amsterdam. But you sigh for America. You had better become a Captive in America, than an American Captive in any of the British dominions. A British prison has many horrors, their tender mercies are cruelties. The advantages to be derived by a return, in the present State of things will hardly compensate the risk. The young Gentlemen of the present day scarcly know what to do with themselves. Trade is so hazardous having no protection, and Money so scarce that there is little encouragement in that Branch. Our Staple, our fishery, we possess not, and we have no other. Divinity, you know what encouragement that meets with, and have no appetite to become a preacher. Phisick, that swarms—we have been Blessed with a large portion of Health throughout the State, and have had but small employ for the faculty. Law, upon that you fix your Eye. Some get Bread, some have made fortunes, but that time is passed away with the destruction of our Navy. But methinks I hear you say, I am spending the best of my days, I am advanceing towards 30, I could wish to settle down in my own Country in some reputable Buisness, this I shall have to do when ever I return. How can I connect myself untill this is done, and a Batchelor I do not wish to live. All the dear Girls for whom I have a Friendship will get married—even my fair American does not know how highly I value her.—Softly Sir, and I will tell you for your consolation, not one of all the number for whom you have particularly expressd a regard, have the least present prospect of being united—even your Sally is far distant from the Alter, and the triumvirate of Betsys are yet single, the solitary Hannah has lost her Grandmamma and Aunt, her cousin is gone to Barbados, and she still wears the appearence of a young Nun. The widowed Betsy is a widow still.
Matrimony is not in vogue here. We have Ladies, but not a gentleman in the whole Town, and the young Gentlemen of the present day, are not intirely to the taste of those Ladies who value a virtuous Character. Licentiousness and freedom of Manners are predominate. Rosseau observes, that the manner of thinking among Men in a great measure depends upon the taste of the Ladies. If this is true, the manners of the present day are no complement upon the fair Sex. The { 331 } Manners of the two Sexes, I believe keep pace with each other; and in proportion as the Men grow regardless of character, the women neglect the Duties of their Sex. Of how much importance then are Manners to a young [Esquire?]. Tis Luxery my dear Sir which ruins and depraves our Manners. We are ready imitators of the Nations with which we are connected, and it is much to be feared if the days of American simplicity and virtue are not already passed.
Fordyce, to whom our Sex are much indebted for the justice he has done them, observes that the company of virtuous and well bred women is the best School for Learning the most proper demeanor, the easiest turn of thought and expression and right habits of the best kind, that the most honorable the most Moral the most conscientious Men, are in general those who have the greatest regard for women of reputation and talents.1
I have nothing new to write you of the political kind, but what will be old e'er it reaches you.
We mourn the naval defeat of our Allies, and dispise the offers of the British Cabinet. Infamy and disgrace be their portion and the inheritance of their childrens children.—I fear the fate of this Letter. Scarcly any thing can pass we are so infested with British cruizers.

[salute] Should it find its way to you receive it with the affectionate Regard and Sisterly Love of

[signed] Portia
RC (MB): addressed: “To John Thaxter Esqr Amsterdam or the Hague”; endorsed: “Mrs. Adams 17. June 1782. Recd, in August & Answered.”
1. AA earlier cited with commendation James Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women (vol. 1:61–62, above), of which a copy of the 4th edn., 2 vols., London, 1767, is in MQA. Fordyce also published The Character and Conduct of the Female Sex, London, 1776.