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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


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Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0150

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1783-11-20

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

Your favour dated at Amsterdam in july1 was last evening handed to me; and this evening your Letter of the 10th of Sepbr. by Col. Ogden reached me.
I had for some time supposed that the delay of publick buisness would retard your return; hearing that the definitive treaty was not compleated untill september, and knowing that the commercial Treaty was still to form; I had little reason to expect you; unless your State of Health required an immediate resignation of all your publick employments. Your Letter2 therefore which informs me of your determination to pass an other Winter abroad is by no means unex• { 271 } pected. That we must pass it with a vast ocean between us; is a painfull reflection to me, yet thus it must be; I am so much of a coward upon the Water, that even a summers voyage had its terrors. A Winter passage I cannot possibly think of encountering. If I was instantly to set about it, I could not adjust my affairs so as to leave them in any order under a month. Mr. Temple and family sail this week.3 I do not know any person except Mr. Jackson [o]f Newburry-port, who is going abroad; with whom I should like to become [a] passenger, and he goes to Ireland.
But I have a stronger objection than even a winters voyage against comeing at present. It is the undetermined counsels of Congress. They have not yet made any appointment to the Court of Britain. Many are seeking for the place, with more splendid titles, if wealth can give them, and many more thousands to claim it with: I am informd that Mr. Jay, has written pressingly to Congress in your favour, at the same time assureing them, that he would absolutely refuse the appointment, if it should be offerd him;4 but whether you will finally be the person, is left to futurity.
Of this I am sure, that I do not wish it. I should have liked very well, to have gone to France, and resided there a year, but to think of going to England in a publick Character, and resideing there; engageing at my time of life in Scenes quite New, attended with dissipation parade and Nonsence; I am sure I should make an awkward figure. The retired Domestick circle “the feast of reason and the flow of soul”5 are my Ideas of happiness, and my most ardent wish is, to have you return and become Master of the Feast.
My Health is infirm, I am frequently distresst6 with a nervious pain in my Head, and a fatigue of any kind will produce it. Neither of us appear to be built for duration. Would to Heaven the few remaining days allotted Us, might be enjoyed together. I have considerd it as my misfortune, that I could not attend to your Health, watch for your repose, alleviate your Hours of anxiety, and make you a home where ever you resided. More says a very skillfull Dr. depends upon the Nurse than the physician.
My present determination is to tarry at home this winter; lonely as it is without my children; and if I cannot prevail upon you to return to Me in the Spring—you well know that I may be drawn to you.7 One strong tie which held me here is dissolved, my dear Parent; who used to say: I cannot consent to you[r] going child, whilst I live. An other cord and almost the only one which binds me to this place, is like to be loosed. I mean Mr. Cranchs family who talk of removeing to { 272 } Boston in the Spring. Should this take place Braintree would indeed become a lonely spot to me.
Mr. Thaxter will be able to give me when he arrives; the best intelligence upon the Subject.
I hope I shall not miss the French Brig which was to sail to day, but may possibly be detained. I knew not of her going untill last evening.

[salute] Adieu and believe me whether present or absent, most affectionately Yours

[signed] A Adams
RC (Adams Papers); addressed by Royall Tyler: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr. Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America residing at Paris”; endorsed by JQA : “Mrs. Adams. Braintree Novr. 20. 1783”; slight damage to the text where the seal was cut out. Dft (Adams Papers) with some stylistic differences and no mention of the intention of the Cranches to move to Boston; dated 19 November.
1. That of 26 July, above.
3. John Temple, a native of Massachusetts and a relative of England's powerful Temple-Grenville family, had married Elizabeth Bowdoin, daughter of James Bowdoin. A customs agent in Boston before the Revolution, Temple strongly sympathized with the patriot cause, but had mixed feelings about American independence. He was in England from 1773 to 1781, then in Massachusetts until he sailed again for England on 21 November. In 1785 he returned to America and served in New York as Great Britain's first consul general in the United States. Temple's reasons for returning to England in 1783 were to seek a permanent office, to help promote a commercial treaty between Britain and the United States, and to clear himself of any remaining suspicion that he, in 1770–1772, had played any role in the passing to Benjamin Franklin of copies of Gov. Thomas Hutchinson's confidential letters to British officials, a still mysterious incident that had further poisoned the deteriorating relationship between Massachusetts and the British government. See Richard Cranch to JA , 21 Nov. (Adams Papers); JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:70–71, 79–80 and note 1, 91; 3:174, note 2; Franklin, Papers , vol. 20; and Bernard Bailyn, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson, Cambridge, 1974.
4. See Elbridge Gerry to AA , 6 Nov. and note 2, above.
5. See AA to JA , 7 April, note 2, above.
6. The draft reads: “I am still subject to a severe nervious pain . . .”
7. The draft adds: “provided there is any Stability in Congress.”

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0151

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1783-11-20

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

This evening as I was Setting, with only your sister by my side, who was scribling at the table to some of her correspondents, my Neighbour Feild enterd, with “I have a letter for you Madam”;1 my immagination was wandering to Paris, ruminating upon the long, long absence of my dear son, and his parent; that I was rather inattentive to what he said, untill he repeated; I have Letters for you from abroad. The word abroad, roused my attention, and I eagerly seazied the Letters,2 the hand writing and Seal of which gave me hopes that { 273 } I was once more like to hear from my Young Wanderer; nor was I dissapointed.
After two years silence; and a journey of which I can scarcly form an Idea; to find you safely returnd, to your parent, to hear of your Health, and to see your improvements!
You cannot know, should I discribe to you; the feelings of a parent. Through your pappa, I sometimes heard from you, but one Letter only, ever reach'd me after you arrived in Russia.3 Your excuses however, have weight; and are accepted; but you must give them further energy by a ready attention to your pen in future. Four years have already past away since you left your native land, and this rural Cottage—Humble indeed, when compared to the Palaces you have visited, and the pomp you have been witness too. But I dare say you have not been so inattentive an observer, as to suppose that Sweet peace, and contentment, cannot inhabit the lowly roof, and bless the tranquil inhabitants, equally guarded and protected, in person and property, in this happy Country, as those who reside in the most elegant and costly dwellings.
If you live to return, I can form to myself, an Idea of the pleasure you will take, in treading over the ground, and visiting every place your early years were accustomed wantonly to gambol in—even the rocky common and lowly whortleberry Bush will not be without its Beauties.
My anxieties have been, and still are great least the Numerous temptations and Snares of vice, should vitiate your early habits of virtue, and distroy those principals, which you are now capable of reasoning upon; and discerning the Beauty, and utility, of, as the only rational Source of happiness here, or foundation of felicity here after, placed as we are, in a transitory Scene of probation, drawing nigher and still nigher, day after day to that important Crisis, which must introduce us into a New System of things. It ought certainly to be our principal concern to become qualified for our expected dignity.
What is it that affectionate parents require of their Children; for all their care anxiety and toil on their accounts? Only that they would be wise and virtuous, Benevolent and kind.
Ever keep in mind my son, that your parents are your disinterested Friends, and if at any time their advise militates with your own opinion, or the advise of others, you ought always to be, diffident of your own judgment, because you may rest assured that their opinion is founded in experience, and long observation, and that they would not direct you; but to promote your happiness.
{ 274 }
Be thankfull to a kind providence who has hitherto preserved the lives of your parents, the natural guardians of your youthfull years. With Gratitude I look up to heaven blessing the Hand, which continued to me my dear and honoured parents untill I was setled in Life, and tho I now regreet the loss of them, and daily feel the want of their advise and assistance, I cannot suffer as I should have done, if I had been early deprived of them.
You will doubtless have heard of the Death of your worthy Grandpappa, before this reaches you. He left you a Legacy, more valuable than Gold or silver—he left you his blessing and his prayers, that you might return to your Country and Friends improved in knowledge, and matured in virtue, that you might become a usefull citizen, a Guardian of the Laws Liberty and Religion of your Country, as your Father, (he was pleased to Say) had already been. Lay this bequest up in your memory, and practise upon it, believe me, you will find it a treasure that neither Moth, or Rust can devour.4
I received Letters from your Pappa last evening dated in Paris the 10 of sepbr. informing me of the necessity of his continuance abroad this winter. The Season is so far advanced that I readily sacrifice the desire of seeing him, to his safety. A voyage upon this coast at this Season, is fraught with dangers. He has made me a request, that I dare not comply with at present; No Husband, no Son, to accompany me upon the Boisterous ocean, to animate my courage, and dispell my fears, I dare not engage with so formidable a combatant.
If I should find your Pappa fixed in the Spring; and determined to continue abroad a year or two longer, the earnest desire I have to meet him, and my dear son, might overcome the reluctance I feel, at the Idea of engaging in a New Scene of Life and the love I have for domestick attachments—and the still calm of Life. But it would be much more agreeable to me, to enjoy all my Friends together in my own Native land. From those who have visited foreign climes I could listen with pleasure; at the narative of their adventures, and derive satisfaction from the learned detail, content myself that the “little Learning I have gaine'd is all from Simple Nature divind.”
I have a desire that you might finish Your Education at our university, and I see no chance for it, unless You return in the course of a year. Your cousin Billy Cranch expects to enter next july. He would be happy to have you his associate.
I hope your Pappa will indulge you with a visit to England this winter, it is a country I should be fond of your Seeing. Christianity which teaches us to forgive our enemies, prevents me from enjoining { 275 } upon you a similar vow, to that which Hamilicar obtained from his son Hanible,5 but I know not how to think of loveing those haughty Islanders.
Your Brothers will write to you soon. Your sister I see is prepairing a Letter; Your Friends send you their affectionate regards. And I enjoin it upon you to write often to Your ever affectionate Mother.
[signed] A Adams
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mr john Quincy Adams Paris”; endorsed: “Mrs. Adams. Novr. 20th. 1783”; docketed, also by JQA : “Mrs. A. Adams. 20. Novr. 1783.”
1. Closing quotation mark supplied. AA may refer to Job Field, who would accompany her to England in 1784 and substitute for her ailing servants, John Brisler and Esther Field, on the voyage ( AA to Mary Cranch, 6 July 1784, and note 2, below; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:155, and note 5); several other Fields also lived in Braintree (same, 4:index).
2. Apparently those of 23 July, written at The Hague, and 30 July, written at Amsterdam, both above.
3. That of 23 Oct. 1781, vol. 4:233–234.
4. Matthew 6:19–20.
5. Sometime before his departure with his father from Carthage for Spain in 237 b.c., young Hannibal was made to swear, upon an altar, eternal enmity to Rome, with whom Carthage had been in an intermittent state of war for three decades ( Oxford Classical Dictionary ).