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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0179

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-09-08

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] Dearest Friend

Since you left me I have passed thro great distress both of Body and mind; and whether greater is to be my portion Heaven only knows. You may remember Isaac was unwell when you went from home.1 His Disorder increasd till a voilent Dysentery was the consequence of his complaints, there was no resting place in the House for his terible Groans. He continued in this state near a week when his Disorder abated, and we have now hopes of his recovery. Two days after he was sick, I was seaz'd with the same disorder in a voilent manner. Had I known you was at Watertown I should have sent Bracket for you. I sufferd greatly betwen my inclination to have you return, and my fear of sending least you should be a partaker of the common calamity. After 3 day[s] an abatement of my disease relieved me from that anxiety. The next person in the same week was Susy. She we carried home, hope she will not be very bad. Our Little Tommy was the next, and he lies very ill now—there is no abatement at present of his disorder. { 277 } I hope he is not dangerous. Yesterday Patty was seazd and took a puke.2 Our House is an hospital in every part, and what with my own weakness and distress of mind for my family I have been unhappy enough.
And such is the distress of the neighbourhood that I can scarcly find a well person to assist me in looking after the sick. Mrs. Randle [Randall] has one child that is not expected to live out the night, Mrs. Belcher has an other, Joseph Bracket an other, Deacon Adams has lost one, but is upon the recovery himself, and so are the rest of his family.3 Mr. Wibird lies bad. Major Miller is dangerous. Revd. Mr. Gay is not expected to live.
So sickly and so Mortal a time the oldest Man does not remember. I am anxious for you. Pray let me hear from you soon. I thought you would have left me a Letter at Watertown as you staid so long there. I was disapointed that you did not.—As to politicks I know nothing about them. The distresses of my own family are so great that I have not thought about them. I have wrote as much as I am able to, being very week. I hope to add a more pleasing account er'er I close. Adieu.
Tis now two days since I wrote. As to my own Health I mend but very slowly—have been fearful of a return of my disorder to day but feel rather better now. Hope it is only oweing to my having been fatigued with looking after Tommy as he is unwilling any body but Mamma should do for him, and if he was I could not find any body that is worth having but what are taken up already with the sick. Tommy I hope is mending, his fever has abated, his Bowels are better, but was you to look in upon him you would not know him, from a hearty hale corn fed4 Boy, he is become pale lean and wan. Isaac is getting better, but very slowly. Patty is very bad. We cannot keep any thing down that she takes, her situation is very dangerous. Mr. Trot and one of his children are taken with the disorder.
I shall write every day if I am able. Pray let me hear from you often. Heaven preserve both your life and health and all my sufferings will be but small. By the first safe conveyance be kind eno to send me 1 oz. of turkey Rhubub, the root, and to procure me 1 quarter lb. of nutmegs for which here I used to give 2.8 Lawful, 1 oz. cloves, 2 of cinnamon. You may send me only a few of the nutmegs till Bass returns. I should be glad of 1 oz. of Indian root. So much sickness has occasiond a scarcity of Medicine.
Distroy this. Such a doleful tale it contains can give no pleasure to { 278 } any one. Our other children are well and send Duty to pappa. Bracket has been complaining but has got better. The small pox in the natural way was never more mortal than this Distemper has proved in this and many neighbouring Towns. 18 have been buried since you left us in <the other> Mr. Welds parish. 4, 3 and 2 funerals in a day for many days. Heitherto our family has been greatly favourd. Heaven still preserve us. Tis a melancholy time with us. I hope you will not think me in the dismals, but publick and private judgments ought to be noticed by every one. I am most affectionately Yours,
[signed] Portia
RC (Adams Papers); addressed in an unidentified hand: “The Honble: John Adams Esqr: at the Congress Philadelphia”; endorsed: “Portia. Sep. 8. 10. 1775.”
1. Isaac Copeland, a hired or bound farm boy.
2. Susy and Patty, whose last names are unknown, were evidently young servants or bound girls. AA's subsequent letters report that Susy recovered and returned, but Patty, who was probably a relative of JA or AA and had lived four years in the Adams household, died after a protracted and grisly illness early in October.
3. Deacon Ebenezer Adams (1737–1791) was a double first cousin and Braintree neighbor of JA. See Adams Genealogy.
4. The earliest use of this adjective recorded in DAE is by Joel Barlow in his Hasty Pudding, published 1793: “Brown, corn-fed nymphs and strong, hard-handed beaux.” The more recent Dict. of Americanisms records “corn-fed pork” in 1787.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0180

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-09-17

Abigail Adams to John Adams

I set myself down to write with a Heart depressed with the Melancholy Scenes arround me. My Letter will be only a Bill of Mortality, tho thanks be to that Being who restraineth the pestilence, that it has not yet proved mortal to any of our family, tho we live in daily Expectation that Patty will not continue many hours. A general putrefaction seems to have taken place, and we can not bear the House only as we are constantly clensing it with hot vinegar. I had no Idea of the Distemper producing such a state as hers till now. Yet we take all posible care by shifting her bed every day. Two of the children John and Charlss I have sent out of the house, finding it difficult to keep them out of the chamber. Nabby continues well. Tommy is better, but intirely striped of the hardy robust countanance as well as of all the flesh he had, save what remains for to keep his bones together. Jonathan is the only one who remains in the family but what has had a turn of the disorder. Mrs. Randle has lost her daughter, Mrs. Bracket hers, Mr. Thomas Thayer his wife. 2 persons belonging to { 279 } Boston have died this week in this parish. I know of eight this week who have been buried in this Town.
In Weymouth it is very sickly, but not Mortal. Dr. Tufts tell[s] me he has betwen 60 and 70 patients now sick with this disorder. Mr. Thaxter has been obliged to go home as it was not posible for me to accommodate him. Mr. Mason came this week, but if he had been inclined I could not have taken him now.1 But the general Sickness in the Towns determined him to return home for the present. The dread upon the minds of people of catching the distemper is almost as great as if it was the small pox. I have been distress'd more than ever I was in my life to procure watchers and to get assistance.
I hear Mr. Tudor has been dangerously sick, but is now upon the recovery. Mr. Wibird is very low indeed, scarcly able to walk a step. We have been 4 Sabbeths without any meeting. Thus does pestilence travel in the rear of War to remind us of our intire dependance upon that Being who not only directeth the arrow by day, but has also at his command the pestilence which walketh in Darkness. So uncertain and so transotory are all the enjoyments of Life that were it not for the tender connections which bind us here, would it not be folly to wish for a continuance here? I think I shall never be wedded to the World, and were I to loose about a Dozen of my dearest Connections I should have no further realish for Life.
But perhaps I deceive my self, and know but little of my own Heart;

“To Bear and Suffer is our portion here.”

And unto him who mounts the Whirlwind and directs the Storm I will chearfully leave the ordering of my Lot, and whether adverse or prosperous Days should be my future portion I will trust in his right Hand to lead me safely thro, and after a short rotation of Events fix me in a state immutable and happy.
You will think me melancholy. Tis true I am much affected with the distress'd Scenes around me but I have some Anxietyes upon my mind which I do not think it prudent to mention at present to any one. Perhaps when I hear from you, I may in my next Letter tell you. In the mean time I wish you would tell me whether the intercepted Letters have reachd Phyladelphia and what affect they have there. There is a most infamous versification of them I hear sent out. I have not been able to get it.2 As to politicks there seems to be a dead calm upon all sides. Some of the Tories have been sending out their children. Col. Chandler has sent out his children, and Mr. Winslow has sent out his daughter. People appear to be gratified with the remon• { 280 } strance, address and petition,3 and most earnestly long for further intelegance.
God helps them that help themselves as King Richard said and if we can obtain the divine aid by our own virtue, fortitude and perseverance we may be sure of releaf.
Tomorrow will be 3 weeks since you left home in all which time I have not heard one word from you. Patience is a Lesson I have not to learn so can wait your own time, but hope it will not be long er'e my anxious heart is releaved. Adieu. I need not say how sincerely I am your affectionate
[signed] Portia
RC (Adams Papers); addressed in an unidentified hand: “Honble. John Adams Esqr. Philadelphia To the care of Col: Warren”; endorsed: “Portia Sep. 16. 1775.”
1. Jonathan Mason (1756–1831), of Boston, College of New Jersey 1774, began his law studies with JA, was admitted to the bar in 1779, and later served as a Federalist in both the Massachusetts House and Senate and the U.S. House and Senate; after the turn of the century he was a leading developer of real estate on Beacon Hill in Boston (DAB; Chamberlain, Beacon Hill, p. 85 ff. and passim). From Mason's correspondence with both JA and AA surviving among the Adams Papers, there appears to have been a strong and reciprocal attachment between him and them.
2. Published as a handbill (see Warren-Adams Letters, 1:88, note), but no copy has been found. In her letter to JA of 22 Oct., below, AA gave the title as “a pharaphrase upon the Second Epistle of John the round Head to James the prolocutor of the Rump parliment.”
3. An Address, Petition, and Remonstrance in favor of the Americans presented by the City of London to the King on 5 July, printed in Mass. Spy, 13 Sept. 1775.
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/