A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 4


This note contained in document ADMS-04-04-02-0151
3. AA did not learn of JA's illness for a long time to come, because this letter was not received for many months; her first reference to the news in it was in her letter to JA of 17 March 1782, below.
JA had returned to Amsterdam from Paris by the end of July. On 24 Aug. he received a letter from Franklin dated on the 16th enclosing a packet from Congress that contained JA's new joint commission and instructions to treat of peace as adopted by Congress in June (Adams Papers; JA, Works, 7:456–457). JA replied next day, 25 Aug. (Adams Papers; JA, Works, 7:459–461); but on 4 Oct. he wrote again to Franklin in a letter that began: “Since the 25th of August, when I had the honor to write You, this is the first Time that I have taken a Pen in hand to write to any body, having been confined and reduced too low to do any kind of business by a nervous Fever” (PPAmP: Franklin Papers; printed from LbC, Adams Papers, in JA, Works, 7:465–466). The letter sent to Franklin is, however, actually in John Thaxter's hand and only signed by JA, as are the two or three other letters sent over his name during the preceding six weeks.
The illness was severe. In apology for having lately written so little to Congress, JA told Pres. Thomas McKean on 15 Oct.:
[N]ot long after I got home I found myself attacked by a Fever, of which at first I made light, but which increased very gradually and slowly, until it was found to be a nervous Fever of a very malignant kind, and so violent as to deprive me of almost all sensibility for four or five days, and all those who cared any thing about me, of the hopes of my life. By the help however of great skill and all powerful Bark I am still alive, but this is the first time I have felt the Courage to attempt to write to Congress. Absence and Sickness are my Apologies to Congress for the few Letters they will receive from me since June.
“Whether it was the uncommon Heat of the Summer, or whether it was the Mass of pestilential Exhalations from the stagnant Waters of this Country that brought this disorder upon me, I know not: but I have every Reason to apprehend, that I shall not be able to re-establish my Health in this Country. A Constitution ever infirm, and almost half an hundred Years old, cannot expect to fare very well amidst such cold damps and putrid Steams as arise from the immense quantities of dead Water that surround it.” (PCC, No. 84, III; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 4:780||; also printed in JA, Papers||.)
For his later recollection of this illness, see JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot, p. 148, in which he says it resulted from “Anxiety concerning the state of my affairs in Holland,” the “unwholesome damps of the night,” and “excessive fatigue” from travel and work, and “brought me as near to death as any man ever approached without being grasped in his arms.”
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/