A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0100

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Tyler, Royall
Date: 1783-06-14

Abigail Adams to Royall Tyler?

You wish me to devote half an hour to you in your absence; you requested and I comply, to shew you that I have a disposition to oblige, but I am very unequal to the task you have assigned as I have no Herculian properties, but can say with Gays Shepard

“the little knowledge I have gaind

is all from simple nature draind.”

I study her as my surest safest guide, for our actions must not only be right, but expedient, they must not only be agreable to virtue but to prudence. It was upon this principal that my late advise2 was founded. You differd so widely from me in sentiment, that I determined never again to tender an opinion unaskd—yet I did not wish you any further influenced by it than appeard to me, to conduce to your <own> happiness.
{ 176 }
Horace has in some of his Epistles this sentiment better one thorn pluct out than all remain, Humane nature is represented by an english poet as a wild where weeds and flowers promiscuous shoot

A garden tempting with forbiden fruit.

Let it be our study to cultivate the flowers, and root out the weeds, to nourish with a softening care and attention those tender Blossoms, that they may be neither blasted in their prime nor witherd in their bloom but as the blossom falls may the fruit <encrease> yet green <. . . to a perfect> ripen into maturity untill the Beauty of its appearence, shall tempt some Fair hand to pluck it from its native soil and transplant it in one still more <beneficial> conducive to its perfection.
Sternses observation may be just, but King Richards was a more independant one. God says, he helps those who help themselves.3 Advise is of little avail unless it is reduced to practise nor ought we implicitly to give up<on> our judgement to any one what ever may be our regard or esteem for them untill we have weighed and canvassed that advise with our reason and judgment—then if it is right agreable to virtue expedient and prudent we ought strictly to adhere to it—a mutability of temper and inconsistency with ourselves is the greatest weakness of Humane Nature, and will render us little and contemtable in the Eyes of the World. There are certain principal which ought to become unchangeable in us justice temperance fortitude hold the first rank—he who possesses these will soon have all others added unto him.
I have not been alone to day. My Weymouth Friends dined with me together with my sister and cousins. You was kindly enquired after, and the vacant Chair lookt solitary. The provision too was not carved with that dexterity and allertness which your hand is accustomed to.4 This evening—I know you think of your solitary Friend—whilst the lightning plays from cloud to cloud and threatens a tempestous Night. You wish yourself at hand to read me some amuseing or entertaining subject, or to beguile the hour with the incidents of the past day, or converse upon some literary subject, but my little slumbering Guests are all locked in the Arms of sleep. My candle and my pen are all my companions. I send my thoughts across the broad Atlantick in serch of my associate and rejoice that thought and immagination are not confined like my person to the small spot on which I exist.

[salute] Adieu—I have complied with your request recive it in the Spirit of Friendship for that alone dictates to the pen of your Friend

[signed] A A
{ 177 }
1. The editors have redated this letter, originally filed and filmed at [June–July 1779] [1779] , Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 350. Royall Tyler is AA 's likely correspondent for several reasons. First, the letter seems to be a response to a reaction by Tyler to AA 's letter of 14 June, above. Second, Tyler is the only person outside the family who enjoyed such an intimate relationship with AA 's household in JA 's absence. Finally, AA 's mention of her correspondent's carving abilities, at note 4, resembles a passage in a later AA letter that almost certainly refers to Tyler.
2. See AA to Royall Tyler, 14 June, above.
3. This may be AA 's joke, since one source of this saying, which appears as early as AEsop's fables, is Benjamin Franklin's Maxims Prefixed to Poor Richard's Almanac (1757). See also AA to Dr. Thomas Welsh, [25 Aug. 1785] , below.
4. See AA 's reference to the carving abilities of “Mr. T—r” in her letter to Elizabeth Cranch, 8 March 1785, below.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0101

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1783-06-19

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

The Legion of Lauzun has arrived,1 and We hope has brought the Orders of Congress, for Us, but We have not yet received them, and are as much at a Loss as ever. I know not whether my Resignation is accepted, and consequently can give you no Conjecture, when I Shall be able to get away. As the Spring and Summer Passage is lost, I cannot now embark before September or October, or November. Whether I Shall embark from France, Holland or England I dont know. It will be according as I shall hear of a convenient Passage. Write me by all these Ways. I have received no Line from you, dated Since December.
The definitive Treaty may be Signed in three Weeks: and it may as probably be trained2 on till Christmas. In the last Case, provided the Acceptance of my Resignation Should not arrive, it may be Spring before I can embark. In this State of Suspense and Perplexity you may well Suppose I do not Sleep upon a bed of Roses, especially, as the Public Affairs are as uncertain as our private ones.
I Should like very well, to take a Short Tour to London before my Return, for the Sake of taking a look at that Country, and Seeing Some Personages there, because if I waive this Opportunity, it is not likely I Shall ever have another. Once more at home, it is not probable, I Shall again go abroad. Indeed it is more for the Sake of Mr. John than my own, that I wish to see England, at all.
I was at Versailles, the day before Yesterday and paid my Respects to the King and Queen, Monsieur and Madame his Lady, the Comte D'Artois, Madame Elizabeth and the Mesdames of France Adelaide and Victoire.3 As the Weather was more like a Spring Equinox than a Summer Solstice, the Number of Ambassadors was Smaller than { 178 } usual, and the Attendant Croud less, So that I had a better Opportunity, of viewing the Royal Family at Leisure, then ever I had before.
I dined and breakfasted in deed, with the Ambassadors and found them universally more Sociable, than ever they were before. They begin now universally to consider and treat Us, as Members of their Body.4
It is forbidden I Suppose to Princes and Princesses upon these Occasions, to utter a Sentiment least they Should betray a Secret of State or Say something which might lead a Sagacious Ambassador to political Consequences. According No one Word is ever Said, except asking a Question about some common Thing, as the Weather, the Spectacles, or have you come from Paris to day.
I know an Ambassador who has been fourteen Years at a Court, who has attended regularly once a Week, who says that a Prince has never failed to ask him the Same question, every Time. “Did you come from home to day”—and never any other. This Ambassador too, is of the highest Rank.
Among all the Officers, who come in Play upon these Occasions Such as Introducers of Ambassadors, Secretary of the Presentations of Ambassadors &c., there ought I think to be one, Praeceptor to teach the Princes and Princesses, the Art of asking Questions and making Observations upon these Occasions.
The Prince of Orange's Court is a Miniature of that of Versailles. The Ceremonials, and the Conversation of Princes and Princesses is much the Same. The English Gentlemen here particularly Mr. Hartley tells me, I must be presented at Court, if I should go to London only for a Visit, in my publick Character as a Minister at the Peace. This is rather a discouraging Circumstance, as I should wish to go incog. as much as possible, and my Appearance at Court would make more Talk than I wish. I should be Stared at, as a Sight. I Should be treated however complaisantly enough, I doubt not. The Case is altered. I had rather make my Court to my Princesses at5 Pens Hill, than to all the others in the World. This Honour I hope for but cannot promise myself so soon, as I wish.
1. The French forces commanded by the Duc de Lauzun, the last major unit of the Comte de Rochambeau's army to return to France, were formally released from service by George Washington on 23 April, and thanked by Congress on 1 May, shortly before their departure (Howard C. Rice Jr. and Anne S. K. Brown, eds., The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, Princeton and Providence, 1972, 1:76, 168; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:397–398; JCC , 24:317–318).
2. Dragged, now obsolete ( OED ).
3. “Monsieur” was the Comte de Provence, { 179 } brother of the king, who later became Louis XVIII; the Comte d'Artois, youngest brother of the king, later became Charles X; Elisabeth was the king's sister; Adélaïde and Victoire were sisters of the king's father, the late Louis Dauphin (see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:137, and note 2; Dorothy Moulton Mayer, Marie Antoinette: The Tragic Queen, N.Y., 1969, p. 20, 23, 366).
4. JA gives a detailed account of his conversation with several of these diplomats in his Diary entry for 17 June ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:137–138).
5. Here JA thoroughly crossed out two or three words, rendering them illegible.