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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


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Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0169

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1784-03-15

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My Dearest Friend

I have not received a Line from you, nor heard a Syllable Since yours of November 18th, which I have allready acknowledged.1
I am impatient now, to receive further intelligence from you; and to learn where you are. Captn. Love in the Ship Rossamond, bound to England, must have arrived before this time, by him I trust you have received many Letters from me.2 I have had but one opportunity of writing since which was by a Vessel bound to Amsterdam. In that Letter I was particular with regard to the manner in which I had adjusted our affairs so as to leave them.3 Mr. Jones designs to have his vessel ready to sail the latter end of May, and from present prospects I think it most probable that I shall accompany Mr. Jones and his Lady.
We have intelligence here, of the fluctuating State of the British Ministry.4 Whether it bodes well or ill for America time must determine, it is not a matter of so much Concequence to us, as it has been in times past.
The Court of this commonwealth is now sitting. They have taken up the recommendation of Congress Respecting the Reffugees and there has been, as you may well suppose, much debateing upon it. And it is generally thought, that the Court will rise, without any thing final taking place.5 Dr. Gorden, it seems has been making use of a private Letter, of yours, to him upon this subject,6 the contents of which are variously reported. The Committe I am informed who have this matter under consideration, have sent for the Letter, which will speak for itself: I do not feel very anxious with regard to it, Since I think I know your prudence so well, that you would not communicate, to that Gentleman; any private sentiments, which you would be loth should be made publick.
{ 308 }
One Gentleman sends me word, Mr. A. has written to judge, such a one7—“pray desire him to be cautious, he is not his Friend.” And an other tells me Mr. A. has written a Letter to Mr. Speaker8—“he is not to be confided in, he has no discretion, he communicates the contents of his Letter to persons who are not to be trusted, he is in a certain Box without knowing it.” “And pray,” I ask these persons, “why do you not make use of your own pens to give these cautions, and your reasons for so doing. Why do you not give Mr. A. information respecting those matters which are of importance for him to know?” “O I am so perplext and worried with buisness, that I have not time.” “Very well sir, these Gentlemen of whom you speak, I suppose have found time to write to Mr. A. One of them I know has. I know Mr. A. has always had a Friendship for that Gentleman, a Friendship of an early date, contracted when they were at Colledge—and I believe the regard he professes for Mr. A. is Sincere.” “I dont pretend to say that it is not, but he wants prudence.”
I have not heard any thing from Congress since my last to you; nor can I learn a single step they have taken since. I am now going to write to Mr. Gerry for information.9
Our family is well. Of whom does it consist? Myself and Neice, and two domesticks, Nabby is at Milton. Genll Warren is like to lose his Son Charles, whom they apprehend far gone in a Hectick.10 Col. Quincy died last week with the disorder which I mentiond to you, he made a donation in his will of a hundred pounds to the Society of Arts and Sciences.11 The Land you wish to purchase12 he has given to his Grandsons Samll and Tommas, to be appropriated for the benifit of their education. Mr. Storer is their Gaurdian. They are not yet of age, but I Suppose it will be sold. Dr. Tufts is executor to the Col. and he will take care to procure it when ever it is to be sold.

[salute] I send this Letter by way of Lisbon,13 and beg you to write me by every Opportunity. Yours most tenderly and affectionately

[signed] A A
1. See AA to JA , 3 Jan., and note 2, above.
2. JA received Richard Cranch's letter of 20 Jan., above, which also went by Capt. Love, on 2 April, but he did not receive AA 's letters until May (see JA to Cranch, 3 April, and JQA to JA , 18 May, both below).
3. See AA 's letter of 11 Feb., above.
4. William Pitt the younger, who became prime minister in Dec. 1783, met repeated reverses in the House of Commons in early 1784. Following the dissolution of Parliament on 25 March, however, Pitt won a great majority in the general election and dominated the new Parliament, which convened on 18 May ( DNB ; Namier and Brooke, House of Commons , 1:87–96, 536).
5. Congress passed this resolution on 14 Jan., immediately after ratifying the definitive peace treaty. In keeping with the treaty, Congress recommended that the states return confiscated property to British subjects and to others who were resident in areas controlled { 309 } by the British between 30 Nov. 1782 and 14 Jan. 1784, and who had not borne arms against the United States. All other persons were to be permitted to return to America for up to twelve months to seek restitution of their property through the courts, and the states were asked not to put obstacles in their way ( JCC , 26:30–31). As AA expected, the legislature took no action on this recommendation in the Jan.–March session.
6. JA to William Gordon, 10 Sept. 1783, which Gordon copied and sent to Elbridge Gerry in a letter of 24 Dec. 1783; Gordon also circulated extracts among Massachusetts political leaders (Samuel Adams to JA , 16 April, Adams Papers). In his letter, JA urged moderation in dealing with the loyalists and said in part: “The Stipulations [in the peace treaty] should be sacred, and the Recommendations at least treated with decency and seriously considered. I cannot help saying I wish they could be complied with. We could not obtain the Peace without them. When I agreed, that Congress should recommend, I was sincere” (MHS, Procs. , 63:500–502 [June 1930]).
Although AA here expresses her confidence that JA had not written to Gordon any sentiments that he would withhold from the public, the end of his letter contains a quite negative appraisal of Benjamin Franklin's diplomatic skills. Despite JA 's candor, Gordon asked Gerry to “clear my way to the records of Congress to which others besides members may be admitted, without sacrificing congressional Honour” (same, p. 502), presumably so that all congressmen might read JA 's words to Gordon.
7. Possibly James Sullivan, who resigned from the Supreme Judicial Court in 1782, but who was still called “Judge.” Sullivan wrote to JA on 24 July 1782 and 21 Dec. 1783; according to his Letterbook, JA wrote to Sullivan on 6 Sept. 1782 (all Adams Papers). Other letters may have been lost at sea or have disappeared in later years. No letters for 1782–1783 between JA and the four supreme court justices have been found. The editors have added all of the quotation marks in this paragraph except those around the last sentence.
8. Tristram Dalton, speaker of the House of Representatives, who was JA 's Harvard classmate, as AA mentions toward the end of this paragraph ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 13:569–578). For 1782–1783 the editors have record of seven letters sent by Dalton to JA , but of none in the other direction except for Dalton's acknowledgment of a letter from JA of 18 Aug. 1782 (Dalton to JA , 26 Oct. 1782, Adams Papers).
9. AA wrote Gerry on 19 March, below.
10. That is, consumption ( OED ).
11. That is, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; AA had referred to Col. Quincy's disorder, urinary obstruction (strangury), in her letter of 11 Feb., at note 7, above. CFA omitted the text from this point to the end of the paragraph from AA , Letters, 1841 and 1848. The letter did not appear in AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840.
12. JA to AA , 14 Oct. 1783, and note 5, above.
13. On 13 March, Isaac Smith Sr. wrote to JA (Adams Papers), that “The Ship, Dutche's, of Kingston, in which Mr. Dana came in is now bound to Lisbon, from whence this will be forwarded, as probably itt may reach you allmost as soon as any Other way.”

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0170

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1784-03-15

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

[salute] My dear Son

As I did not write you by the last conveyance I will not omit the present. I supposed your sister had got a Letter for You, but I found afterwards that she did not send it, because she could not please herself.
This Week I received your trunk which Mr. Dana brought with him. You cannot conceive the pleasure I took in looking it over. The Books it is true were in a language that I understand very little off,2 but I know enough of them to be pleasd with the collection and to { 310 } be satisfied that You profitted by them. The first Idea which struck me upon opening the trunk was the order and care in which they were placed. Here I saw the example of your patron was carefully followed. In the next place the Books were all of the usefull kind, such as tended to make you a good classical Scholar and others to store your mind with usefull Historick knowledge. The large pile of translation shew me that you had not been Idle and your little poettical transcripts, convinced me that your taste in poetry was delicate chaste well chosen and made with great judgment. These little Volumes I value more than all the contents of the trunk besides, first because they are in a Language which I can read, secondly because they are in your own hand writing, and thirdly because they shew a purity of sentiment and are seclected by yourself.3
I shall have good care taken of your Books that they may be preserved for you against your return which I hope I shall live to see. And I please myself with the prospect of your growing into Life a Wise and Good Man. In your early days you had a great flow of Spirits and Quick passions. I hope you have acquired reason to govern the one and judgment to Guide the other, never suffer the natural flow of your Spirits to degenerate into noisy mirth. Tis an old observation that empty vessels sound the loudest; I never knew a Man of great talants much given to Laughter. True contentment is never extreemly gay or noisy. My own Ideas of pleasure consist in tranquility. I do not mean by this that you should assume a character foreign to your age. Youth is the season for Innocent Gayety and mirth, and the laughing philosopher was I believe the happier man. But in moderation of enjoyment consists the most perfect felicity of the humane mind and there is a certain point which I term tranquility, beyond which is disgust, or pain—and I know from experience that sudden and excessive joy will produce tears sooner than Laughter.
We have had a very severe winter but some very good Sleying which I improved one week in visiting your Brothers. I found them happy and studious. Your Uncle Shaw offerd your Cousin Billy at the Winter Vacancy half a Yeard forward, and he was accepted without any difficulty. He is now become a Student at Harvard and promises by his good disposition and his attention to his Studies to make a Worthy Man. Your Brother Charles expects to enter the commencment after next.
I hope some future day will bring me the happiness of seeing my family again collected under our own roof happy in ourselves and { 311 } blessed in each other. If it is determined that I and your sister must first cross the Atlantick, heaven Grant us a happy meeting in a foreign Land with those who are so dearly allied to us by conjugal and fillial parental and Fraternal bonds—which is the most ardent Wish of your ever affectionate Mother
[signed] AA
RC (Adams Papers); marked at the top by CFA : “178<3>4 Copy. J. Q. Adams.”
1. AA sent this letter by the same vessel bound for Lisbon that carried her letter of 15 March to JA , above (see AA to JA , 12 April, below).
2. Probably Latin, of which AA had virtually no knowledge. She acquired some familiarity with French in her teens (vol. 1:3–4).
3. Several of the books that JQA purchased while in St. Petersburg, and which ended up in his library in Quincy, are identified in JQA, Diary , 1:102–148 passim. JQA 's unbound MS translations of Cicero's orations and biographical sketches by Cornelius Nepos are in M/JQA/44 and 45 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel Nos. 239 and 240). Of JQA 's four commonplace books containing material written in Russia, M/JQA/24 and 26 (Reel Nos. 219 and 221) are filled with the verse of Dryden, Pope, Thomson, and Gray, as well as of over a dozen minor poets of the period. These two little books likely came to America in 1783, and appear to be the focus of AA 's remarks here. The arrival dates of the other booklets is less certain. M/JQA/1 (Reel No. 199) contains a few passages from the British historians Hume, Robertson, and Catherine Macauley copied in 1782, as well as fragmentary notes from the 1830s. M/JQA/25 (Reel No. 220) contains JQA 's 1782 transcription, made in a contemporary German handwriting style, of a German play, Ludwig Holberg's Der Geschwätsige Barbierer (The Talkative Barber), as well as passages from the Iliad that are accompanied by translations by Pope and Cowper. JQA entered the Homeric passages several years after he left Russia, for Cowper's Iliad was not published until 1791. The annotation in JQA, Diary , 1:102, 103, 107, 115, 138, and 139 gives further details on many of these MS booklets.