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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0154

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1783-12-15

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My Dearest Friend

I returned last Evening from Boston, where I went at the kind invitation of my uncle and Aunt, to celebrate our Anual festival. Doctor Cooper being dangerously Sick, I went to hear Mr. Clark; who is Setled with Dr. Chauncey;1 this Gentleman gave us an animated elegant and sensible discourse, from Isaah 55 chapter and 12th verse—“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with Peace; the Mountains and the Hill Shall break forth before you into singing, and all the Trees of the Field shall clap their Hands.”
Whilst he asscribed Glory and praise unto the most high, he considerd the Worthy disinterested, and undaunted Patriots as the instruments in the hand of providence for accomplishing what was marvelous in our Eyes; he recapitulated the dangers they had past through, and the hazards they had run; the firmness which had in a particular manner distinguished Some Characters, not only early to engage in so dangerous a contest, but in spight of our gloomy prospects they persevered even unto the end; untill they had obtained a Peace Safe and Honorable; large as our designs, Capacious as our wishes, and much beyond our expectations.
How did my heart dilate with pleasure when as each event was particularized; I could trace my Friend as a Principal in them; could { 279 } say, it was he, who was one of the first in joinning the Band of Patriots; who formed our first National Counsel. It was he; who tho happy in his domestick attachments; left his wife, his Children; then but Infants; even surrounded with the Horrours of war; terified and distresst, the Week after the memorable 17th. of April,2 Left them, to the protection of that providence which has never forsaken them, and joined himself undismayed, to that Respectable Body, of which he was a member. Trace his conduct through every period, you will find him the same undaunted Character: encountering the dangers of the ocean; risking Captivity, and a dungeon; contending with wickedness in high places; jeoparding his Life, endangerd by the intrigues, revenge, and malice, of a potent; tho defeated Nation.
These are not the mere eulogiums of conjugal affection; but certain facts, and solid truths. My anxieties, my distresses, at every period; bear witness to them; tho now by a series of prosperous events; the recollection, is more sweet than painfull.
Whilst I was in Town, Mr. Dana arrived very unexpectedly, for I had not received your Letter by Mr. Thaxter.3 My uncle fortunately discoverd him, as he come up into State Street, and instantly engaged him to dine with him, acquainting him that I was in Town, and at his House. The news soon reached my Ears. Mr. Dana arrived, Mr. Dana arrived—from every person you saw, but how was I affected? The Tears involuntary flowed from my eyes, tho God is my witness, I envyed not the felicity of others. Yet my Heart swelled with Grief, and the Idea that I, I only, was left alone, recall'd all the tender Scenes of seperation, and overcame all my fortitude. I retired and reasoned myself into composure sufficient; to see him without a childish emotion.
He tarried but a short time, anxious as you may well imagine, to reach Cambridge. He promised me a visit with his Lady, in a few days, to which I look forward with pleasure.4
I reach'd home last evening, having left Nabby in Town, to make her winter visit. I found Mr. Thaxter just arrived before me. It was a joyfull meeting to both of us, tho I could not prevail with him only for half an hour; his solicitude to see his Parents was great, and tho I wished his continuance with me, yet I checked not the fillial flow of affection. Happy youth! who had parents still alive to visit, Parents who can rejoice in a Son returned to them after a long absence; untainted in his morals, improved in his understanding; with a Character fair and unblemished.
But O my dearest Friend what shall I say to You in reply to your { 280 } pressing invitation; I have already written to you in answer to your Letters which were dated Sepbr. 10th and reachd me a month before those by Mr. Thaxter. I related to you all my fears respecting a winters voyage. My Friends are all against it, and Mr. Gerry as you will see, by the Coppy of his Letter inclosed,5 has given his opinion upon well grounded reasons. If I should leave my affairs in the Hands of my Friends, there would be much to think of, and much to do, to place them in that method and order I would wish to leave them in.
Theory and practise are two very different things; and the object magnifies, as I approach nearer to it. I think if you were abroad in a private Character, and necessitated to continue there; I should not hesitate so much at comeing to you. But a mere American as I am, unacquainted with the Etiquette of courts, taught to say the thing I mean, and to wear my Heart in my countantance, I am sure I should make an awkward figure. And then it would mortify my pride if I should be thought to disgrace you. Yet strip Royalty of its pomp, and power, and what are its votaries more than their fellow worms? I have so little of the Ape about me; that I have refused every publick invitation to figure in the Gay World, and sequestered myself in this Humble cottage, content with rural Life and my domestick employments in the midst of which; I have sometimes Smiled, upon recollecting that I had the Honour of being allied to an Ambassador.6 Yet I have for an example the chaste Lucretia who was found spinning in the midst of her maidens, when the Brutal Tarquin plotted her distruction.7
I am not acquainted with the particular circumstances attending the renewal of your commission; if it is modeled so as to give you satisfaction I am content; and hope you will be able to discharge it, so as to receive the approbation of your Sovereign.
A Friend of yours in Congress some months ago, sent me an extract of a Letter, requesting me to conceal his Name, as he would not chuse to have it known by what means he procured the Coppy. From all your Letters I discoverd that the treatment you had received, and the suspence You was in, was sufficiently irritating without any thing further to add to Your vexation. I therefore surpresst the extract; as I knew the author was fully known to you: but seeing a letter from G[e]n. W[arre]n to you, in which this extract is alluded to;8 and finding by your late Letters, that your situation is less embarrassing, I inclose it;9 least you should think it much worse than it really is: at the same time I cannot help adding an observation which appears pertinant to me; that there is an ingredient necessary in a Mans { 281 } composition towards happiness, which people of feeling would do well to acquire—a certain respect for the follies of Mankind. For there are so many fools whom the opinion of the world entittles to regard; whom accident has placed in heights of which they are unworthy, that he who cannot restrain, his contempt or indignation at the sight, will be too, often Quarrelling with the disposal of things to realish that Share, which is allotted to himself.”10 And here my paper obliges me to close the subject—without room to say adieu.
RC with enclosures (Adams Papers); endorsed: “recd. 5. May 1784.” Enclosures: (1) A copy of Elbridge Gerry to AA , 24 Nov., in Royall Tyler's hand; printed above. (2) An extract, also in Tyler's hand, copied from an extract that was originally enclosed with Gerry to AA , 18 Sept.; printed with that letter, above. The extract is from Benjamin Franklin to R. R. Livingston, 22 July. Following the extract, Tyler added an “Extract from Mr. G[erry']s letter Inclosing the above,” which consisted of the first three sentences of the second paragraph of Gerry's 18 Sept. letter, ending “the Doctor's Craft is apparent.” This second enclosure is endorsed, like the inclosing letter: “recd. 5. May 1784” at the bottom of the text; and docketed on the back, in an unknown hand: “ AA 83 19 December.” AA 's rather unclear “5” was misread for a “9.”
1. The annual festival was the commemoration of the Boston Tea Party, which had taken place on 16 Dec. 1773; the sermons marking this event in 1783 were preached on Sunday, the 14th. AA probably went to Isaac Smith Sr.'s home on Saturday, if not earlier (see AA to JA , 7 Dec., note 1, above). John Clarke, Harvard 1774, was ordained as assistant to the aged Rev. Charles Chauncy, Harvard 1721, the pastor of Boston's First Church (the “Old Brick”) in 1778, and succeeded him in 1787 (William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, N.Y., 1857–1869, 11 vols., 8:10).
2. That is, the 19th of April 1775, the day of the battles of Lexington and Concord; JA departed for Congress about 26 April (vol. 1:188–189, and note 1).
3. That is, JA 's letters of 1, 4, and 7 Sept., all above; that of 1 Sept. gives the fullest information on Dana's departure for America.
4. In AA, Letters, 1840, CFA omitted this and the following paragraph. He included them in AA , Letters, 1841 and 1848.
5. Probably Gerry's letter to AA of 24 Nov., printed above.
6. From this point, CFA omitted the entire text from AA, Letters, 1840. In AA , Letters, 1841 and 1848, he dropped the sentence after “Ambassador,” included the following brief paragraph, and omitted the long concluding paragraph that discussed Franklin's attack on JA .
7. In Roman legend Lucretia, the wife of Tarquinius Collatinus, was famed for her virtue. When her husband and several other Roman nobles each boasted of their wives' decorum, and then returned from a military camp unannounced to test their claims, only Lucretia was found spinning with her handmaidens; the other wives were all dancing and revelling. Lucretia's beauty, however, aroused Sextus, son of Tarquin, king of Rome, who by deception and then violence entered her home and raped her. She made her relatives swear to avenge her and then took her own life. Outraged by Sextus' crime and his father's oppressive rule, the Romans drove the Tarquins from the city and established the republic. The primary ancient sources of this story are Livy and Ovid; the major English literary source is Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece (1594), a long poem of rhymed seven-line stanzas.
8. James Warren to JA , 27 Oct. (Adams Papers). In this long, rather gloomy letter about the enemies of virtue, in and out of Congress, Warren remarked: “the Old Man [Franklin] . . . is, as You might expect Your determin'd Enemy,—You will before this reaches You get a Paragraph of one of his Letters, which if You should by an Interval be in possession of Your right Mind will put the Matter out of Doubt.” JA had probably received this letter by 6 April, when he wrote to Arthur Lee { 282 } (Adams Papers). JA is not known to have received any extract of Franklin's letter prior to 5 May 1784, when he marked the receipt of both the present letter from AA and the extract which accompanied it.
9. Printed at Gerry to AA , 18 Sept., above.
10. AA neglected to provide opening quotation mark. The quotation has not been identified.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0155

Author: Thaxter, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1783-12-16

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams

[salute] Madam,

I have this moment received your polite Invitation to dinner tomorrow, and am extremely sorry, that a severe Cold, which has confined me a day or two to the House, prevents my accepting it. I had engaged to dine in Company tomorrow if well enough, but could easily set aside the Engagement, if nothing else but that prevented. I should be very happy to see Mr. Shaw, and if I have not that pleasure on this Visit, I will wait on him and Mrs. Shaw at Haverhill very shortly.1
Under No. 1244. in the inclosed Paper, you will find 19. Lines which made a very sensible Impression upon your dearest Friend.2 He requested me to give them to you, which I should have done on Saturday last,3 if I could have readily put my hands upon them.
My Sisters are very sensible of your kind Invitation to them, but as my Brother is gone to Town, and they have no Gentleman to accompany them, they hope you will excuse them.

[salute] Please to present my best Regards to all Friends, and to be assured that I am, Madam, with the most perfect Respect, Your most obedient and most Hble Servt.

[signed] J Thaxter Junr.4
1. Thaxter would set up a law practice in Haverhill in May 1784 (Elizabeth Shaw to AA , 6 May 1784, below).
2. Enclosure not found; the reference is probably to an English newspaper.
3. AA to JA , 15 Dec., above, says that she saw Thaxter in Braintree upon her return from Boston on Sunday evening, 14 December.
4. On 26 Dec., Thaxter wrote to AA (Adams Papers) to apologize again for not visiting Braintree. On this occasion, the failure of his baggage to arrive from New York left him with “an absolute Want of Cloathes” with which to appear in polite society. With that letter he enclosed an unidentified “Gazette and Pamphlet” for James Warren.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0156

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1783-12-26

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

[salute] My Dear Son

Your Letters by Mr. Thaxter I received;1 and was not a little pleased with them; if you do not write with the precision of a Robertson, nor { 283 } the Elegance of a Voltaire, it is evident you have profited by the perusal of them.
The account of your northern journey and your observation upon the Russian Goverment; would do credit to an older pen.
The early age at which you went abroad; gave you not an opportunity of becomeing acquainted with your own Country. Yet the Revolution in which we were engaged, held it up in So striking and important a Light, that you could not avoid being in some measure irradiated with the view. The Characters with which you were connected, and the conversation you continually heard; must have impressed your mind with a Sense of the Laws, the Liberties, and the Glorious privileges, which distinguish the Free sovereign independant States of America.
Compare them with the vassallage of the Russian Goverment you have discribed, and Say, were this highly favourd land Barren as the mountains of Swisserland, and coverd ten months in the Year with Snow; would she not have the advantage, even of Italy, “with her orange Groves, her Breathing Statues, and her melting Strains of Musick” or of Spain with her treasures from Mexico and Peru; not one of which can Boast that first of Blessings, the Glory of Humane Nature; the inestimable privelege of setting down under their vines; and fig trees, enjoying in peace and security what ever Heaven has lent them; having none to make them affraid.2
Let your observations and comparisons produce in your mind, an abhorrence, of Domination and power, the Parent of Slavery Ignorance, and barbarism, which places Man upon a level with his fellow tennants of the woods.

“A day, an hour of virtuous Liberty,

is worth a whole eternity of Bondage.”3

You have seen Power in its various forms—a Benign Deity, when exercised in the surpression of fraud, injustice, and tyranny, but a Demon when united with unbounded, ambition: a wide wasting fury, which has distroyed her thousands: not an age of the World, but has produced Characters, to which whole humane Hecatombs have been sacrificed.
What is the History of mighty kingdoms and Nations but a detail, of the Ravages, and cruelties, of the powerfull over the weak? Yet it is instructive to trace the various causes, which produced the strength of one Nation, and the decline and weakness of an other; { 284 } to learn by what arts one Man has been able to Subjugate millions of his fellow creatures; the motives which have put him upon action, and the causes of his Success—Sometimes driven by ambition and a lust of power; at other times, swallowed up by Religious enthusiasm, blind Bigotry, and Ignorant Zeal, Sometimes enervated with Luxury, debauched by pleasure, untill the most powerfull Nations have become a prey, and been subdued by these Syrens; when neither the Number of their Enemies, nor the prowess, of their Arms, could conquer them.
History informs us that the Assyrian empire sunk under the Arms of Cyrus with his poor, but hardy Persians. The extensive, and opulent empire of Persia, fell an easy prey to Alexander, and a handfull of Macedonians, and the Macedonian empire when enervated by the Luxury of Asia, was compelld to receive the yoke of the victorious Romans. Yet even this mistress of the World, as she is proudly stiled, in her turn, defaced her glory, tarnished her victories, and became a prey to Luxury, ambition, faction, pride, Revenge, and avarice, so that Jugurthy after having purchased an acquittance for the blackest of crimes, breaks out into an exclamation, “O city, ready for Sale, if a Buyer rich enough can be found!”4
The History of your own country, and the late Revolution, are striking and recent Instances of the mighty things achived by a Brave inlightned and hardy people, determined to be free, the very yeomanry of which, in many instances, have shewn themselves superiour to corruption, as Britain well knows, on more occasions than the loss of her Andry.5
Glory my son in a Country which has given birth, to Characters, both in the civil and military Departments, which may vie with the wisdom and valour of antiquity. As an immediate descendent of one of those characters, may you be led to an imitation of that disinterested patriotism and that Noble Love of your country, which will teach you to dispise wealth, tittles, pomp and equipage, as mere external advantages, which cannot add to the internal excellence of your mind or compensate for the want of Integrity and virtue.
May your mind be throughly impressed with the absolute necessity of universal virtue and goodness as the only sure road to happiness, and may you walk therein with undeviating steps—is the Sincere and most affectionate wish of your Mother
[signed] Abigail Adams
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mr John Quincy Adams Paris”; endorsed: “Mrs. Adams. Decr. 26. 1783”; docketed, also by JQA : “My Mother. 26. Decr. 1783.”
{ 285 }
1. Those of 4 and 10 Sept., above.
2. Micah 4:4.
3. Joseph Addison, Cato, II, 1.
4. Sallust, Jugurthine War, 35. Jugurtha, prince of Numidia, a client state of Rome, assassinated his rivals for the throne and bought off Roman army commanders and an ambassador before he was defeated and captured. The Romans executed Jugurtha in 104 b.c. ( Oxford Classical Dictionary ). JA 's library has The Works of Sallust, translated into English, by Thomas Gordon, London, [1744], and Bellum Catilinarium et Jugurthinum, a Latin edition with parallel English text, by John Clarke, 4th edn., London, 1766 ( Catalogue of JA 's Library ).
5. AA refers to the virtue of American militiamen who seized Major John André on 23 Sept. 1780 and, refusing his offers of large bribes to release him, carried him before American officers, who found him guilty of spying and executed him on 2 October. For America's patriots, the determination of their militiamen and officers in seizing, convicting, and executing André made a gratifying contrast to the treachery of the American general Benedict Arnold, whose plans of the fortifications at West Point Major André was carrying to the British army at the time of his capture ( DNB ).