A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close
-
The Adams Papers Digital Edition is undergoing active maintenance while we work on improvements to the system. You may experience slow performance or the inability to access content. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will endeavor to return to full capabilities as soon as possible.

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0067

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1783-04-16

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

It Seems as if Providence had ordered many Things for the last Months, in Such a manner as to put my Patience and Resignation to the Tryal. I dont know whether Jobs Tryals were more Severe. 1. Mr. John who was to have been at the Hague by Christmas has been detained at Stockholm, Copenhagen and Hamborough at which last Place he was on the 4. of this month, you may imagine my Anxiety about him. 2. Your Letters concerning Miss N. have given me as much Concern as they ought—not knowing the Character2 nor what to advise, but feeling all a Fathers Tenderness, longing to be at home that I might enquire and consider and take the Care I ought. 3. The Uncertain State of Things in England, leaving me idle, with nothing to do but Think of my Situation. 4. The Want of Intelligence from America, in Answer to the most important Dispatches both to the public and to me which ever crossed the seas, not one Word yet. 5. Standing here in Relation with two Personages at least in whom I can have no Confidence.3 Mr. Jay has been my only Consolation. In him I have found a Friend to his Country, without Alloy. I shall never forget him, nor cease to love him, while I live. He has been happier than I, having his Family with him, no Anxiety for his Children, and his Lady with him, to keep Up his Spirits. His Happiness in this particular, has made me more unhappy for what I know under the Seperation from mine.
In answer to one of your Letters,4 I assure you that all the Money { 125 } I advanced to the Prisoners in England was out of my own Pocket. I had at that time no Public Money in my Power. So that it may be paid to you if it is ever paid at all.
I am afraid that all the Money you have laid out in Vermont Lands is lost.5 You can ill afford it, I assure you. You are destined to be poor in your old Age, and therefore the more perfectly you reconcile your self to the Thought of it the better. Your Children have no Resource but in their own Labour. They will have this Advantage, they may labour a little for themselves, more than their Father could ever do, without betraying Trusts which it was his duty to Accept.

[salute] Adieu my dearest Frd Adieu.

1. No evidence survives to suggest whether this letter or the one immediately following was composed first.
2. Royall Tyler.
3. Probably Benjamin Franklin and either Henry Laurens or the Comte de Vergennes.
4. That of 25 Oct. 1782, above; see note 8.
5. The editors are unaware of any information JA had in 1783 that AA 's Vermont investment was unsound, although he was cool toward the idea from his first knowledge of it. See JA to AA , 12 Oct. 1782, note 6, above.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0068

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1783-04-16

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

If Congress when they revoked my Commission had appointed another to make a Treaty of Commerce with Great Britain, We should have had the Business all done on the 30 of Nov. Shelburnes Ministry would not have been condemned in the H. of Commons, and the definitive Treaty would have been signed before now and I Should be ready to embark for the Blue Hills, where I must go to recover my health, repose my Spirits, take a little Care of my Sons and Daughter, and be made much of, by their Mother.
My last Voyage and Residence in Europe has broken me very much. Millions of Contrivances are used, by some invisible Spirit, with Arrows shot in darkness to render an honest Mans Life uncomfortable to him, in every Part of Europe. In England the only Place where I could go with honour, I should live the Life of a Man in a Barrell Spiked with Nails. The Vanity, Pride, Revenge, of that People, irritated by French and Franklinian Politicks, would make it Purgatory to me. I sometimes feel Seriously afraid that Congress will send me, a Credence to that Court. I should be terrified at the sight of such a Thing.
{ 126 }
My Health, to Speak to you Seriously, demands a Voyage home, my native Air and Repose from Business. You know very well that those Remedies alone have heretofore saved my Life.1 The Consequences of that Amsterdam Fever, are still upon me in Swelled Ankles, Weakness in my Limbs, a Sharp humour in my Blood, lowness of Spirits, Anxieties &c. I exercise every day on horse back or on foot, and take every Precaution in my Power, but all does not avail.
I begin to suspect that french and franklinian Politicks will now endeavour to get me sent to England, for two Reasons, one that I may not go to America where I should do them more Mischief as they think than I could in London. 2. That the Mortifications which they and their Tools might give me there might disembarrass them of me sooner than any where.
Is it not Strange and Sad that Simple Integrity should have so many Ennemies? that a Man should have to undergo so many Evils merely because he will not betray his Trust? If I would have given up the Fisheries and Illinois and Louisiana and Ohio, I might have had Gold snuff Boxes, Clappings at the Opera, I dont mean from the Girls, millions of Paragraphs in the Newspapers in praise of me, Visits from the Great, Dinners Wealth, Power Splendor, Pictures Busts statues, and every Thing which a vain heart, and mine is much too vain, could desire. Mais Je ne Sçais pas, me donner aux tells Convenances et Bienseances.
I have found by Experience, that in this Age of the World that Man has an awfull Lot, who “dares to love his Country and be poor.”2
Liberty and Virtue! When! oh When will your Ennemies cease to exist or to persecute!
Our Country will be envied, our Liberty will be envied, our Virtues will be envied. Deep and subtle systems of Corruption hard to prove, impossible to detect, will be practised to sap and undermine Us and the few who penetrate them will be called suspicious, envious, restless turbulent ambitious—will be hated unpopular and unhappy.
But a Succession of these Men must be preserved, for these are the salt of the Earth. Without these the World would be worse than it is. Is not this after all the noblest Ambition. Such Ambition is Virtue. Cato will never be Consull but Catos Ambition was sublimer than Caesars, and his Glory and even his Catastrophy more desirable.
I have Sometimes painted to myself my own Course for these 20 Years, by a Man running a race upon a right line barefooted treading among burning Ploughshares, with the horrid Figures of Jealousy Envy, Hatred Revenge, Vanity Ambition, Avarice Treachery Tyranny { 127 } Insolence, arranged on each side of his Path and lashing him with scorpions all the Way, and attempting at every Step to trip up his Heels.
I have got through, however to the Goal, but maimed scarrified and out of Breath.
1. JA may have in mind his removal from Boston to Braintree in April 1771 and his journey to take the waters at Stafford Springs, Conn., in May-June, both done to improve his health, which he thought threatened by Boston air and the press of his legal practice (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:15–35; 3:296). He may also be remembering his journeys home from Congress in 1775 (twice), 1776, and 1777. JA did not record any concern over his health on the occasion of his previous return from Europe, in 1779.
2. Alexander Pope, “On His Grotto at Twickenham,” last line, slightly altered.