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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6


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Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0140

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Recipient: Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Date: 1785-10-26

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d

We have had the most considerable freshet in the river that has ever been known. I mentioned in my last that it had rained for two days without intermission.2 The storm lasted longer up in the country, and the river being the final receptacle of all, has been continually swelling till last night. The main street has been full of water, so that at some places boats have been necessary to go from house to house. A blacksmith's shop on the banks seems to have taken a fancy for a { 443 } sailing party, and on its way knocked a vessel off the stocks. The damage done has been considerable.
Last eve, William and Lucy Cranch and Charles arrived here. The fall vacation began last week, but was only for a fortnight. I expected a letter from you by them, but was disappointed. I fear I shall have none, which shall not, however, prevent my writing, but if my letters are, henceforth, still more insipid than those I have already written, you must excuse me, for I have very little subject, and very little time. Now do not think that I am fishing for a compliment. I request you would not reply to this passage. If your affection and candor are such that you can receive any entertainment from such scrawls as I can afford, I have abundantly fulfilled my purpose.
Our three cousins, two brothers, with Mr. Thaxter and Leonard White, (a youth of an exceedingly agreeable disposition and manners,) dined here to-day. The three brothers had not been together before for seven years.3 I felt in such spirits, as you have sometimes seen me in, when you thought I was half mad; and yet, every now and then, the rising sigh would betray, that something yet was wanting; and I assure you I was not the only person present who recollected you, with painful pleasing sensations. Our cousins4 leave us to-morrow to return to Braintree. Charles remains here till the end of the vacation. Lucy and Nancy are very intimate together, not, however, from any similarity of character—you know how serious, how prudent, how thinking your cousin is. Nancy is as gay, as flighty, and as happy, as you could wish to see a person; both their natural dispositions are very good, and that, I suppose, is enough to establish real friendship, though in many points there may be an essential difference.
At length I have got your fine packet,5 which was more agreeable, if possible, as I had given over all hopes of receiving any by this opportunity. Indeed, you do not know how much I was gratified; such parts as I thought might be communicated I read here, and afforded much entertainment to persons that you love and esteem. As I shall have probably nothing of great consequence to say of myself, I will draw my future subjects from your letters.
I am very glad to perceive you are so well pleased with your situation. Speaking the language, and being in the city, are circum• { 444 } stances that must contribute greatly to your satisfaction, and so large a library of books that you can read,6 will serve to pass over the leisure hours more agreeably than when you were in France.
I remember the Mr. Bridgen you mention; he told me once, that all eldest sons ought to be hanged, it was not levelled at me, but against the accumulation of estates, for he is a very high republican. The breakfasts at 6 in the eve and dinners at midnight, are ridiculous enough, but of no great consequence. Nature demands food at some time of the day, but how much that may be varied, as well as the name given to the meal, is, I fancy, quite indifferent.
I am not a little pleased to find your judgment of persons conformable with what I thought of them, when I saw them. Mrs. P. has a Grecian for her husband;7 he has studied his countryman, Plato, and perhaps has now and then to practise some of the precepts of Socrates. Miss H[azen] I have mentioned before; her form is very pretty, her wit agreeable, her ruling passion vanity.
By the papers of yesterday, I was informed of the death of Mr. Hardy, a friend of Mr. Jefferson, to whom I had letters. Also the death of our aunt Tufts; these two events coming to me together, have made me quite sober; reflections upon mortality have been so often made, and are so often introduced into the mind of every one, that it could be no entertainment to you to give you my thoughts at present.
The fact is, a man of great knowledge cannot talk upon interesting subjects in mixed companies, without being styled a pedant; many people, and those perhaps the most fond of hearing themselves talk, would be excluded from conversation, and would call nonsense what they themselves could not understand. His majesty, to be sure, says very good things, and this I can say, he is not the only king I have heard of that could talk well and act ill; the sentiments he professes, I think, confirm what has been said of him, that as a private man, he would have acted his part much better than as sovereign of an empire.
I was very much gratified with the kind notice of Col. Smith. Attentions from persons whose character we respect, although not personally acquainted with them, are very pleasing; be kind enough to present my respects to him. My duty to our parents, and compliments where they will be acceptable.
Yours,
[signed] J. Q. A.
{ 445 }
MS not found. Printed from (AA2, Jour. and Corr. , [3]:89–93.)
1. The date is probably a transcription error; the arrival of the young Cranches and CA , which JQA 's Diary records on 25 Oct. ( Diary , 1:347), establishes the correct date.
2. JQA to AA2 , 1 Oct., above, under “Saturday 22d.” The collision of the sailing blacksmith shop with the vessel under construction occurred on 24 Oct. (JQA, Diary , 1:347).
3. In his Diary, JQA correctly says “six years,” that is, since his and CA 's departure for Europe in Nov. 1779 (same).
4. Lucy and William Cranch; Elizabeth remained at the Whites to continue her musical studies (same, p. 348).
5. AA2 's long letter of 4 July, above.
6. Probably a reference to JA 's library, which was brought, along with his furniture, from The Hague to London in early July (see AA to JQA , 26 June, above).
7. Lucy Ludwell Paradise and John Paradise, an Englishman partly of Greek descent.
8. In his Diary, JQA records learning of the deaths of Samuel Hardy and Lucy Quincy Tufts on 4 Nov., the first through reading a Salem newspaper of the previous day, the second from John Thaxter, who had just returned from Salem ( Diary , 1:351; see also JQA to William Cranch, 6 Nov., below). Hardy, a member of Congress since 1783, was only in his late twenties at his death.

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0141

Author: Smith, Catharine Louisa Salmon
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1785-10-26

Catharine Louisa Salmon Smith to Abigail Adams

[salute] Dear Sister

My heart has dictated many Letters to you since the recept of yours,1 but my time has been so wholy taken up in my famely, (haveing no Schoole to send my little tribe to) that not a moment could be spared even for so necessary and incumbant a Duty.
Your kind letter was handed me by your Son, who I had long been most ardently wishing to see. He is indeed ten times welcome to this Section of the Globe again. I should feel myself happy if it were in the power of me or mine to render him any service and suply in any way the place of a Mama and Sister to him. But alas! my power is circumscribed within a narrow compass, and I fear I must set myself down contented with only wishing that I could be useful to my Friends. If you will point out any way wherein I can be serviceable to you, or yours, be assured that my utmost abilities shall be exerted for that purpose. My little Girls are tolerably notable with their Needles, and if you will oblige them with any commands of that sort they will execute them with pleasure, and you will confer an additional obligation on them and on their Mamma.
Young Mr. Adams is both in person and mind just what the fond heart of a Parent could wish, and were I not writeing to his Mamma I would say, he is the most ameable, and accompleshed young Gentleman I have ever seen. Your other sons I have not seen since I came from Weymouth, but I had the pleasure of hearing from them last Evening,2 and they were well.
It is now almost two years since I have seen you. Had I been told { 446 } when I parted with you at your Gate in Braintree that we should not meet again for such a length of time I should have been truely unhappy. Heaven for very wise purposes keeps the Book of fate fast locked that we may not unfold its leaves and see what is in the Bosom of futurity. What a scene of Misery would this World be to many of its inhabitants were it permited that we should know but the one half of the ills we must suffer as we pass down the Stream of Life! In every Calamity the hopes of something better which we have in prospect keeps the Spirit from sinking, I speak experimentally for I have lived upon hope for many years past. I set and please myself with illusions, with dreams—and if it were not for treading so much on this enchanted ground I should dispair—but I will not suffer this enemy to happiness to approach me. I cultivate all in my power a Chearful dispossition. Tis a duty I owe my Children for how could I otherwise inspire them with a chearful gratitude to him whose sentence governs eternity and whose goodness is over all his Creatures, were they to see anxiety painted on my brows.
Judge Russel's famely are removed to Charlestown. The Judge has built a very elegant House on the same Spot where his other stood. There are a number of handsome buildings erected in Charlestown, and a Bridge is almost compleated across the ferry, which will be of great advantage to that formerly poor place. It begins already to make quite a smartish appearance. I'll assure you it gives me pleasure to see so great a number of the inhabitants again settled in their own peaceful habitations. May no enemy molest them and may they have nothing to make them affraid.
I feel the loss of Mr. Russel's famely very sensibly, it is like looseing a kind parents House. I have ever received the same friendly treatment from all the famely as if I had been a member of the same. Mr. Chambers R——I has purchased the Estate in Lincoln and lives upon it.3 He wishes me to come to the House with the same freedom as when his father and Sisters were there, but he has no Lady nor is there a probability that he will have one soon. So I have never been to visit him. Their might be an impropriety in it in the Worlds Eye, and I have ever made it a fixed rule never to do a thing if I have the least shadow of a doubt concerning the propriety of it, and flatter myself that I find my account in being thus circumspect, in preferring my Reputation unsullied by the wicked breath of Malice, or the censor of an ill Judgeing world, who cannot always know our motives for doing a thing however laudable they may be, but must Judge by the appearance untill the Event justifies or condemns the Action.
{ 447 }
Louisa is all Joy, and gratitude for your kind letter4 and other testimonies of your kindness, and you will permit me to join my thanks with hers, for I feel myself as highly obliged. She is grown quite a great girl as tall as her mamma, and begins to look a little plumper not so gauky and holds up her head like a Miss in her teen's.
Mr. S[mit]h has not been in this part of the Country for almost two years. I seldom hear from him and when I do the intelegence is not what I could wish. Poor unhappy man! He has my prayers for his reformation and restoration to virtue and to his famely, and I hope they will reach him. With what a heart felt Satisfaction would I take the unhappy wanderer by the hand and lead him back into the path of rectitude and to a reconcileation with his God. It is yet in his power to add much to the happiness of his famely, and ensure to himself a comfortable evening of Life.
I hope before this time you have received a letter from me and one from Louisa which were wrote last Spring5 I forget the date. If you have not you surely think me very negligent.
My little folks all send their duty. My most affectionate regards attend Mr. Adams and Miss Nabby. I will write to her as soon as I can get time.6
Adieu my dear Sister. I ought to apologize for the length of this. I am with the liveliest sentiments of Gratitude your affectionate Sister
[signed] Catharine L Smith
1. Not found, but probably dated in early May, when AA wrote letters to other relations and friends in America for JQA to deliver; JQA delivered the letter on 13–14 Sept. (see JQA to AA2 , 8 Sept., above).
2. No letters from CA or TBA to Catharine Smith have been found.
3. The estate, now known as the Codman House, west of the center of Lincoln, had been inherited by Chambers Russell about 1743, who in turn left it to his nephew, Charles Russell. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts confiscated the property after Charles fled to Antigua as a loyalist refugee in 1775, but it was occupied during and briefly after the war by Charles' father, Judge James Russell, who had been burned out of his Charlestown, Mass., home by the fire accompanying the Battle of Bunker Hill. Charles' younger brother Chambers bought the estate in 1784 by paying a pre-Revolutionary lien on it, and lived in it until his early death in 1790, when it passed to his brother-in-law, John Codman Jr. Codman considerably remodeled and enlarged the house before his death in 1803. Catharine Smith first mentions Judge James Russell's friendship for her in her letter to AA of 27 April, above. See Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 9:81–87; 14:202–204; An Account of the Celebration of the Town of Lincoln, Mass., 1754–1904, Lincoln, Mass., 1905, p. 136, 142–146, and illustration at p. 66.
4. Not found.
5. Catharine Smith's letter of 27 April is above; young Louisa Catharine Smith's letter has not been found.
6. No letter from Catharine Smith to AA2 has been found.