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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


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Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0077

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Storer, Charles
Date: 1783-04-28

Abigail Adams to Charles Storer

May I address you by the Epithet of my dear Charles? for I realy feel towards you a Maternal Regard. I enjoyed a Feast upon the receit of your Letters.1 Col. Quincys came to my care, I carried them to { 146 } him, there I found your pappa and Mamma, who had just received a packet from you. After mutual congratulations, we set ourselves down to hear and read, Col. Q—y began, whilst the whole circle attended, but it was not Silent admiration. What a fine young fellow, how charmingly he writes says one, why he is a statesman already says an other. How affectionately and respectfully he speaks of Mr.—.2 How sweetly he varies his stile and manner according to the different subjects upon which he writes. What judgment! What prudence! What Love of his Country! O Sir you are a happy Man says one. You have a jewel of a son, says an other: thus were your praises Reverberated; untill the paternal Eye overflowed; and delight Shone in every feature of his face: the Reflextions which filled my mind upon this occasion were pleasing beyond expression. Heaven grant me that I may thus rejoice in my children, thus see them ornaments to their Country, and blessings to their parents.
Here Let me pause and thank you for your favour Nomber 1.3 I assent to your proposal and commence your correspondent, but you must write to me with that freedom and unreserve which I so much admire in your Letters.
You have given me a proof of the confidence of my best Friend towards you, whilst the words “It becomes not me to speak,”4 express more than a page. Believe me I know your thoughts, the person whom they concerned5 is a different Character from what in very early Life you knew him, at least I presume so. I wish him well, I wish him prosperous and happy, and that every juvenile deviation from the Path of Rectitude, may teach him wisdom and prudence in future, but he will never be in any other character in Life to Emelia, than an acquaintance. I speak not this from any recent misconduct, but from a full conviction that it is right.
My family is lessned so much of late that I feel quite dull, my sons are sent from home to school, Emelia and Louissa,6 a Neice of about 10 years old, with two domesticks compose my family. I was loth to part with my sons, but I found it so difficult to procure a Suitable preceptor, and to keep him, that the frequent changes made them unstedy, and injured their Learning. The former was a matter of more importance in my mind than the latter.
Unstable as water, thou shalt not excell said the good old patriarch to his son7—it is an observation as true as it is ancient; and founded upon a knowledge of humane Nature. Youth are peculiarly liable to this frailty, and if it is not early curbed and restrained both by example and precept, it takes root and saps the foundation, it shoots out into { 147 } unprofitable branches, if the Tree blossoms, they wither and are blown by every change of the wind so that no fruit arrives to maturity.
The Character which a youth acquires in the early part of his Life is of great importance towards his future prosperity—one false step may prove irretrievable to his future usefulness. The World fix their attention upon the behaviour of a person just setting out, more particularly so if they stand in a conspicious light with Regard to family or estate, and according to their discretion, prudence or want of judgement, pronounce too precipately perhaps, upon the whole of their future conduct. Of how great importance is it, that good principals be early, inculcated and steadily persued in the Education of youth?
But whither does my imagination lead me, and why all this to me Madam! methinks I hear you inquire. My thoughts are not difficult to trace, I dare say you will find the thread.
Amidst all the anxieties I have felt for the weight of cares and perplexitys which have devolved upon my absent Friend, I have found a consolation in the knowledge of his being accompanied by [a] young Gentleman of so much steadiness and probity as Mr. Thaxter, who by his attention and assiduity would render him every relief in his power, nor was I less gratified when I heard that Eugenio, was to become his Successor.
To a young Gentleman who wishes for improvement the situation will afford him ample scope, whilst the Gentlemans character with whom he resides requires not even my partial pen to delineate. With regard to my visiting Europe—upon some accounts I wish it. From my Infancy I have wished to visit England but this unhappy war, or as Mr. S. Adams expresses it, this Glorious Revolution, alienated my affections from her. I think upon the whole that I feel rather averse to a publick Character.
The particular manner in which you wish your Friends to detail every circumstance to you, which relates to their welfare or happiness must plead my excuse for the domestick communications; besides as you are a Member of Mr. A—s family,8 you by concequence become a relation of mine. I must close my letter to wait upon Dr. Gorden and Lady who are just come to spend the Night with me. We Shall not lack conversation. Dr. Gorden as well as any Man I know of, practices upon the maxim of Epictetus or Pythagoras, I forget which, “Reverence thyself.” Accept my best wishes for your happiness and be assured no one is more disposed to contribute to it than Your Friend.
[signed] Portia
{ 148 }
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mr Charles Storer Paris”; endorsed: “Portia to Eugenio. 28th. April. 1783.” This is one of 13 letters given to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1922, all of which were incorporated into the primary collection of Adams manuscripts. Two others are printed here, AA to Storer, 3 Jan. and 18 May 1785 (below).
1. This is AA 's first extant letter to Storer. By this date, AA had probably received Storer's letters of 17 Oct., and 8 Nov. 1782, and of 10 Feb. 1783, all above. That of 8 Nov. was written as a postscript to JA to AA of that date. Storer may also have written, and AA received, other letters now lost (see Storer to AA , 10 Feb., note 1, above), but the letters upon which AA “feasted” here appear to have been those written to Col. Josiah Quincy, and to Storer's father, Ebenezer.
2. Presumably JA .
3. Storer's letter of 10 Feb., above, in which he explains why “this may be stiled No. 1” even though he had written before.
4. Storer to AA , 10 Feb., above.
5. Royall Tyler.
6. Louisa Catharine Smith.
7. Jacob's dying words to his first-born son, Reuben (Genesis 49:4).
8. See Storer to AA , 17 Oct. 1782, note 8, above.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0078

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Thaxter, John
Date: 1783-04-29

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter

I am largely indebted to you my much valued correspondent for many Letters received in the last four months, to not one of which have I been able to send you a line in return; no vessels have gone from this Quarter since december last.1
I join my congratulations with every real Friend of America upon the safe and Honorable peace obtaind for our Country, thanks be to Heaven, and to the firmness, wisdom and integrity of our negotiaters. I “persue the triumph, and partake the Gale”2 with a satisfaction that neither the envy of some, or the Secret malice of others can rob me of. Do you recollect a Letter of Plinys to Hispulla which you will find in the 7 volume of the Spectator?3 Tis expressive of what I have often felt, to that I refer you for a true disscription4 of an affectionate Wife participating in the Glory and Reputation of her Husband.
Last Evening Your favour of November 205 was deliverd me, and have I really puzzeld you? Are you anxious to know who the Eliza is that wore your Minature? As I have obtaind my end; which was to teaze you a little, in return for your Ideal Fair American;6 I will state facts. Your sisters had sent to Eliza C[ranc]h Your minature to shew to me, and she put it upon her Neck, no further do you mind: and came to see if I knew it, I catcht the opportunity of requiteing you in your own way. I know not whether any of your Female acquaintance after Your comments: which I realy think just, would wear your portrait, but I know several who have Friendship enough for you, to retain you in their Hearts.
I do not see why a subject which appears from all your Letters to { 149 } have taken such a full possession of your mind, should <appear> become to you so impracticable. Return with peace to your Native Land, set yourself down with a fixed resolution to persue your profession; and I dare say success will crown your endeavours. There is more good to be done in Life, says a judicious observer of Humane Nature, by obstinate diligence and perseverence, than most people seem aware of. The Ant and Bee are but little and weak animals; and yet, by constant application they do wonders.7 It is an observation of Plinys that no Mans abilities are so remarkably shining, as not to stand in need, of a proper opportunity, a patron, and even the praises of a Friend to recommend them to the Notice of the World. Your merit I dare say has secured to you the two latter, nor need you dispair of the former, when you return to a Country you have already done honour to.
Heaven has yet in store for you some sweet female companion to smooth the Rugged road of Life,8 and sweeten the bitter cup—indeed you shall not live single. The greatest Authority pronnounced that it was not good for Man to be alone.9
Your Hingham Friends are all well and expect your return with impatience. I cannot tell you much News of the domestick kind. Some persons say that your Friend Mr. Guild is taken with the Quincy, I hope he will do well—tho it is a Mortal complaint.10 With Regard to my comeing to Europe, Mr. A—s Letter of Febry 18 is so explicit with regard to his return that I shall not attempt it, even tho Congress appoint him to the Court of Britain, which tis said will be done.11 Mr. Smith has been waiting to know whether I should go or not, as he has been kind enough to offer me his protection. Common Fame gave him to me for a son12 this last winter, who then so proper to conduct the Mother and daughter abroad in the absence of the Father. Tis true he was politely attentive to Emelia this winter, gave her a ticket to the assembly and attended her there through the Season; which you know is sufficient for the world to unite them for life. Mr. Smith is a Gentleman of a Fair and amiable character and I sincerely wish him happily connected altho his attempts have never yet been successfull, by no means equal to his merit.—Adieu I am hurried to death to close, here is a messenger for my Letter now; I have not time to give it a Second perusal so excuse every inaccuracy and belive me most affectionately your Friend.13
[signed] Portia
RC (MB); addressed: “To Mr John Thaxter Paris”; endorsed: “Mrs. Adams 29th. April 1783. Recd. 26. August 1783.” Dft (Adams Papers); written at the bottom of the reverse side, in AA 's hand: “prussia.” The Dft was written on one half of a large sheet { 150 } of paper that JA had used as a cover for letters that he sent to AA , and it shows faded seal markings; AA used the other half to draft her 28 April letter to JA , above. Major variants between the RC and the Dft are indicated in the notes.
1. The draft is more specific: “no vessels have gone from this Quarter to any part of Europe since the Iris saild in december last.” Since AA 's last letter to Thaxter, 26 Oct. 1782, above, Thaxter had written ten letters to AA ; all appear above.
2. Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, epistle IV, line 386.
3. The Spectator, London, 1767, 7:207–208 (the conclusion of The Spectator, No. 525, 1 Nov. 1712). Pliny the Younger wrote to Hispulla, his wife's aunt, to thank her for the excellent education she had given her niece, and to tell her how devoted his wife was to him, and what pleasure she took in every aspect of his career as a lawyer, writer, and public official.
4. In the draft, AA wrote and then struck out: “of the pleasure and satisfaction with which,” and replaced it with the text in the recipient's copy.
5. This is the letter begun on 19 Nov. 1782, above, which Thaxter finished on 20 November.
6. The draft reads: “your fair American, whom I rather suspect is merely Ideal.”
7. This and the preceding sentence are not in the draft.
8. In the draft these words follow: “may she never be called to the trials of Seperation which have torn so often torn the Heart of Your Friend.” The rest of the sentence in the recipient's copy and the sentence that follows there are not in the draft.
9. Genesis 2:18.
10. In place of this final clause, the draft has “constant application and attendance may have a good Effect.” Benjamin Guild would marry Elizabeth Quincy, daughter of Col. Josiah Quincy, in May 1784.
11. In the draft AA is less decided: “I am at a loss what to determine with regard to comeing abroad even tho Mr. Adams should be detained an other year. I shall better be able to judge when I hear from congress.” The draft was apparently composed before 29 April, when AA reported to JA that she had received his 18 Feb. letter the previous evening (to JA , 28 April, postscript, above), and perhaps on or before 27 April, when AA2 mentioned AA 's receipt of an 18 Feb. letter ( AA2 to Thaxter, 27 April, above; see AA to JA , 28 April, note 19, above). AA 's statement here that she would not attempt to cross the Atlantic even if Congress should appoint JA minister to Great Britain contradicts her 28 April letter to JA , and its 29 April postscript, above, as well as the drafts of both that letter and the present one.
12. That is, a son-in-law; see AA to JA , 7 April, above. If William Smith, AA 's cousin and son of Isaac Smith Sr., really did court AA2 , he seems to have made little impression on her.
13. The draft continues: “An other opportunity will soon offer when I shall write you again. I must close now or I shall not have leisure to reply to Mr. Storer's polite and Friendly epistles—continue to write whilst you tarry abroad to your sincerely affectionate Friend.”