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-04-05-02-0106

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1783-06-30

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My Dearest Friend

I wrote you a Letter a fortnight ago1 to send per this opportunity, but meeting with the Consul in Boston,2 he informd me, that the America would sail in a few days. I gave it to him and hope it has reachd you as he promised a particular attention to it. Mr. Smith will be the Bearer of this; I need not ask your particular attention to him. He is most worthy and Good, Benevolent and kind, Generous to his Friends and connections who stand in need of his assistance; he has been industerous and successfull in Buisness, and is untainted by the vices of the age. Yet with all these virtues and accomplishments he has not found Success among the Fair. Why? Because he has not address.3 I know not any other reason. He can inform you of our little excursion to Haverhill where he was kind enough to accompany me, on a visit to my sister and our two dear Boys, whom I found well pleased with their Situation. I tarried with them 8 days. Whilst I was there, Charles whose constitution is exceedingly delicate was seazd with a pluratick disorder. Giving him an Emetick and attending immediately to him, he so far recoverd as to be able to ride home with me, to which the doctor advised. And it was of so much service to him, that I hope he will be able to return to his studies in a week or ten days. The weather was so extreemly hot, and the fatigue of my journey, has so enfeabled me that I scarcly know how to hold my pen.
The Country looks well, and the season is promising, tho rather { 189 } dry. But I never shall take a journey which will be truly pleasent to me, unaccompanied by my Friend. And yet how few in the course of 19 years that we have been connected, have we taken together? Tho your life has been one continued Scene of journeying, in the early part of my Life, Maternal duties prevented my accompanying you, and in the Later the Stormy Scenes of war. Few persons who so well Love demestick Life as my Friend; have been calld, for so long a period, to relinquish the enjoyment of it; yet like the needle to the pole, you invariably turn towards it, as the only point where you have fixed your happiness. It is this belief which has supported me thus far through the voyage, but alass how often have I felt the want of my pilot, obliged “to act my little part alone.” I cannot say with Dyanthe4 that I wished not for my associate. And is the time near at hand, when Heaven will again bless us in the Society of each other? I would fain flatter myself that it is. O! May we taste, may we drink of the cup of happiness without one alloy, and be as blest as we can bear, “all Various Nature pressing on the Heart.” Thus let us retire into ourselves, and rejoice in the purity of our affections, the simplicity of our manners and the Rectitude of our Hearts, for without an ostentatious boast we may claim them all.

“And that which nothing Earthly gives, or can distroy

The Souls calm Sunshine, and the Heartfelt joy.”5

But from this picture of domestick felicity shall I reverse the Medal and shew you a political state of discontent, jealousy, and rangling. The Stormy Scenes of war have subsided—but in lieu of them, what have we—a Legislature composed of wise Heads, and skillfull hands—by their deeds shall ye know them.

“In parts Superiour what advantage lies?

tell (for you can) what is it to be wise?

Tis but to know how little can be known;

To see all others faults, and feel our own

Condemn'd in bus'ness or in arts to drudge

Without a second, or without a judge

Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land

All fear, none aid you, and few understand.”6

By the best information I can obtain few of these superiour parts are like to become troublesome to our Legislators the present year. In my last I gave you some account of them, and the principal upon which many of them were Elected. Last week came on the choice of { 190 } delegates for Congress, and every Member who composed the last,7 was left out. They even went so far, as to propose recalling them immediately; and voting that they should never be again chosen. Here I believe they exceeded the bounds of the constitution, and the limits of Reason. So high does the spirit run against commutation to the Army. Connecticut I hear has voted their Army one years pay, and Road Island were doing something of the kind.8 All seem determined to act contrary to the Resolve of Congress. The Army are disbanding fast, without a six pence to bear their expences home; and live upon the kindness of the people. The New Members chosen for Congress are our Friend Mr. Gerry, who is gone on, Mr. Dalton your old Friend, Mr. Partridge, Mr. Danilson, Judge Sullivan. I have engaged our Friend Dr. Tufts to write you fully upon political matters.9 He will give you much better information than I am able to; yet I cautiond him not to coulour even to the Life, least you should reluct at the Idea of a return to us. Yet no one has experienced a larger share of the turbulent scenes of political Life than my Friend, or steared through them with more honour and reputation. I heed not the little sarcastick reflextions of Reviewers, Magazine writers or News paper scriblers and rather consider it as a compliment, than a reflextion, that they should have nothing to offer against my Friend, but that he was not nobly descended. Mean are those arts indeed which would derogate from the Merit of a Man, upon account of the honest occupation of his parents. The truly noble mind spurns the Idea.

“Honour and shame from no condition rise

Act well your part, there all the Honour lies.

What can ennoble sots or slaves or cowards?

Alass! not all the Blood of all the Howards.”10

I hope my dear John is with you. I long to hear from him, much more to see him. I shall expect you by September. Do not delay it till late in the year. I shall continue writing to you untill you tell me You are about to embark. Continue to Frank your letters, if they catch one without they make me pay enormously. I Sent per the America a little invoice of a few articles.11 As there is little hazard of the loss of the Letter, I do not think it worth repeating. Our Friends are all well and desire to be affectionately rememberd to you. I call upon Nabby to write you and suppose she will. Adieu—and believe me most sincerely when I echo back, the most pleasing attestation of my Friend, Yours entirely and forever,
[signed] Portia
{ 191 }
RC (Adams Papers); addressed by Royall Tyler: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr. Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America. at Paris”; endorsed: “Portia. 30. June 1783”; docketed in a later hand: “Family Letter.”
1. That of 20 June, above, which was probably largely written well before that date (see note 8 to that letter).
2. Philippe André Joseph de Létombe, French consul general to the United States, 1781–1792 (Abraham P. Nasatir and Gary Elwyn Monell, French Consuls in the United States, Washington, 1967, p. 563).
3. Either a dutiful and courteous approach in courtship or a general presentation or bearing ( OED ).
4. Perhaps the Roman goddess Diana, usually thought of as virginal.
5. Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, epistle IV, lines 167–168.
6. Same, lines 259–266.
7. Those dropped were Nathaniel Gorham, Samuel Osgood, Stephen Higginson, and Samuel Holten, all of whom voted for commutation ( JCC , 24:210). In the first vote for new congressmen on 27 June, Elbridge Gerry received by far the highest number of votes cast jointly by the two legislative houses—141 out of 145—and 101 legislators supported Tristram Dalton. No other candidates won a majority of the votes on this first day. The next day, George Partridge, James Sullivan, and Timothy Danielson were chosen, but only after the first tallies were rejected for irregularities. Dalton declined his election, and Samuel Osgood was chosen on 9 July by a vote of 79 out of 142, a rather slim majority. Sullivan never attended Congress and resigned in Feb. 1784, to be replaced by Francis Dana, who was elected unanimously. Records of the States, Microfilm, Mass., A.1b, Reel 11, Unit 1, p. 130, 132–133, 161, 341, 375; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 7:lxviii, lxix.
8. See Cotton Tufts to JA , 26 June (Adams Papers).
9. Same.
10. Pope, Essay on Man, epistle IV, lines 193–194 and 215–216.
11. No separate “invoice” enclosed with AA to JA , 20 June, above, has been found, but see the items that AA lists in that letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0107

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Thaxter, John
Date: 1783-07-01

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter

[salute] My Dear Sir

Mr. Smith is at last about to leave us. I cannot in conscience omit so good an opportunity of writing, altho I hope you will be here almost as soon as he arrives abroad. He expects to sail the Next day after tomorrow which will be the 3d. of july. He went from here this morning, not a little dissapointed that he was to go abroad without me, as he politely expresst the pleasure he had anticipated in accompanying my Ladyship and daughter abroad. Few young Gentlemen have gone from hence with a worthyer character than Mr. Smith possesses, and he will do honour to his Country, where ever he resides. If he has not all those Brilliant accomplishments which distinguish some who are favorites of the Fair, he has all those virtues of the Heart which endear him to his Friends, and will render him respectable among the worthy of every Country. He “that commends an other,” Says the Spectator, “engages so much of his own Reputation as he gives to the person commended.”1 I can safely trust mine upon the Established character of this Gentleman. He can inform you of every thing respecting us, which you wish to know. He can { 192 } tell you that your Fair American, and many other Fair Americans, are still Single, tho he has made some efforts to lesson the Number, but in spight of him, they will continue blind to their own Interest.
I scarcly know what to entertain you with, in return for the many kind, and repeated favours You have of late obliged me with. Politicks—I think you must be surfeited with them. Shall I talk of my self and contrast my simple manners; and republican stile of Life, with the pagentry, Splendour, and courtly Life you are necessatated to endure. As a novelty, it may please for a time, but I dare say you have seen enough of the painted greatness to discern the daubing, and to prefer the Native Beauties, and comparitively Simple, Rustick, and plain manners of America, to the more Luxurious and refined Manners of European Courts.
You have drawn a very agreable picture of your American party.2 I should have been happy to have made one of the number, but now think it improbable that I shall ever visit Europe. I sometimes think the pleasentest days of my life are past, I have slided on in the absence of my Friend, with few enviers, because I stept not out of the path in which I had been accustomed to walk, nor sought to vie with the Beau Mond. I mixed not with the frequenters of the Ball or assembly room, and I extended not my acquaintance amongst the polite and fashionable circle of the present day, but convinced that the Honour, and Reputation of a Lady in the absence of her Husband, was necessaryly connected with retirement, I followed my own inclination, and gratified my taste; by associateing only with a seele[c]t number of Friends whose manners and taste, corresponded with my own, and from whose converse and society, I could reap profit and entertainment. Large mixed companies, are not calculated for true Social converse. It is an observation of Rochfoucaults that a company to be truly agreable should not consist of more than the number of the Muses, nor less than the Graces.3
I presume he meant to except Lovers, who you know are all the World to each other, and to whom the company of a third person is dissagreable, or if it is not it is seldom fit that a third person should be witness, to what they cannot be actors in, for if I recollect aright, there are a thousand little tendernesses, which pass between persons of this character, which can make no one but themselves happy.
But to return to my subject, I foresee a different scene of Life opening before me, I see my Friend still connected with publick life in his own Country, and probably in a situation which will create envy { 193 } in the Breasts of some and Calumny in the mouths of thousands, himself his wife his children will all be scrutinized with an Eye of jealousy. I shall become a spectator of a thousand anxious cares, and tormenting perplexities, of which I have heitherto only heard—at least there is a strong probability that this may be the case. I have no reason to think that my Friend would be permitted to retire from publick life, whilst his active powers can be of any service to his Country. A State of inactivity was never meant for Man; Love and the desire of glory as they are the most natural, are capable of being refined into the most delicate and rational passions.4 That Ambition which in the mind of Alexander became a scourge to mankind, in an Alfred and Augustus would have been employed for the benifit of their fellow Mortals.5

“Reason the bias turns to good, from ill.

And Nero reigns a Titus if he will

The fiery Soul abhorr'd in Cataline

In Decius charms, in Curtius is divine

The same ambition can distroy or save

And makes a patriot, as it makes a knave.”6

Remember me kindly to Mr. Storer, tell him I mark him as one of those Genious'es capable of being eminently serviceable to mankind. There is a large tax upon his merit I expect he always pays, in solid coin, even without alloy. Accept my kindest wishes for your Health and prosperity. And believe that no one is more sincerely Interested in the safety of your return to your native Land, than Your Sincerely affectionate
[signed] Friend Portia
RC (MB); endorsed: “Mrs. Adams 1. July 1783.” Dft (Adams Papers). Substantial material in the Dft that is not in the RC is noted below.
1. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, The Spectator, No. 188, 5 Oct. 1711.
2. Thaxter's letter to AA of 19 Nov. 1782, above.
3. That is, between three (the Graces) and nine (the Muses).
4. The passage following the semi-colon, to the end of the sentence, was substituted for this long passage in the draft:
“. . . and he is truly unhappy who has nothing further to hope. If mankind were divested of those two great active principals hope and fear, an unmanly indolence and security would unfit him for all the social and relative duties of life.
“'Strength of mind is exercise not rest' (Pope, An Essay on Man, epistle II, line 104). It is storied of Domitian that after he had possessd him self of the Roman empire, his desires turned upon catching flies. Tho this was a <more laudible> less criminal persuit than many in which he had been engaged, those Qualities which made him a conquerer might have been more honorably employed.”
5. The draft concludes as follows: “He is the truly noble minded man whose enlarged { 194 } soul can embrace the whole Humane Race, who is charmed alone with that applause which is the Fair attendant of virtue.
“But whither does my fancy lead me? If I had Eugenio['s] pen I might fill six pages with one impertinance, but to tell you the real truth, we have been scorching under the torid Sone for ten days past, and it has enervated [and] enfeabled every faculty of my mind.”
6. Pope, Essay on Man, epistle II, lines 197–202.