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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0218

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-11-27

Abigail Adams to John Adams

Tis a fortnight to Night since I wrote you a line during which, I have been confined with the Jaundice, Rhumatism and a most voilent { 329 } cold; I yesterday took a puke which has releived me, and I feel much better to day. Many, very many people who have had the dysentery, are now afflicted both with the Jaundice and Rhumatisim, some it has left in Hecticks, some in dropsies.
The great and incessant rains we have had this fall, (the like cannot be recollected) may have occasiond some of the present disorders. The Jaundice is very prevelant in the Camp. We have lately had a week of very cold weather, as cold as January, and a flight of snow, which I hope will purify the air of some of the noxious vapours. It has spoild many hundreds of Bushels of Apples, which were designd for cider, and which the great rains had prevented people from making up. Suppose we have lost 5 Barrels by it.
Col. Warren returnd last week to Plymouth, so that I shall not hear any thing from you till he goes back again which will not be till the last of <next> this month.
He Damp'd my Spirits greatly by telling me that the Court had prolonged your Stay an other month.1 I was pleasing myself with the thoughts that you would soon be upon your return. Tis in vain to repine. I hope the publick will reap what I sacrifice.
I wish I knew what mighty things were fabricating. If a form of Goverment is to be established here what one will be assumed? Will it be left to our assemblies to chuse one? and will not many men have many minds? and shall we not run into Dissentions among ourselves?
I am more and more convinced that Man is a dangerous creature, and that power whether vested in many or a few is ever grasping, and like the grave cries give, give. The great fish swallow up the small, and he who is most strenuous for the Rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the perogatives of Goverment. You tell me of degrees of perfection to which Humane Nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances.
The Building up a Great Empire, which was only hinted at by my correspondent may now I suppose be realized even by the unbelievers. Yet will not ten thousand Difficulties arise in the formation of it? The Reigns of Goverment have been so long slakned, that I fear the people will not quietly submit to those restraints which are necessary for the peace, and security, of the community; if we seperate from Brittain, what Code of Laws will be established. How shall we be governd so as to retain our Liberties? Can any goverment be free which is not adminstred by general stated Laws? Who shall frame these Laws? Who will give them force and energy? Tis true your Resolution[s] as a { 330 } Body have heithertoo had the force of Laws. But will they continue to have?
When I consider these things and the prejudices of people in favour of Ancient customs and Regulations, I feel anxious for the fate of our Monarchy or Democracy or what ever is to take place. I soon get lost in a Labyrinth of perplexities, but whatever occurs, may justice and righteousness be the Stability of our times, and order arise out of confusion. Great difficulties may be surmounted, by patience and perseverance.
I believe I have tired you with politicks. As to news we have not any at all. I shudder at the approach of winter when I think I am to remain desolate. Suppose your weather is warm yet. Mr. Mason and Thaxter live with me, and render some part of my time less disconsolate. Mr. Mason is a youth who will please you, he has Spirit, taste and Sense. His application to his Studies is constant and I am much mistaken if he does not make a very good figure in his profession.
I have with me now, the only Daughter of your Brother; I feel a tenderer affection for her as she has lost a kind parent. Though too young to be sensible of her own loss, I can pitty her. She appears to be a child of a very good Disposition—only wants to be a little used to company.2
Our Little ones send Duty to pappa and want much to see him. Tom says he wont come home till the Battle is over—some strange notion he has got into his head. He has got a political cread to say to him when he returns.
I must bid you good night. Tis late for one who am much of an invalide. I was dissapointed last week in receiving a packet by the post, and upon unsealing it found only four news papers. I think you are more cautious than you need be. All Letters I believe have come safe to hand. I have Sixteen from you, and wish I had as many more. Adieu. Yours.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed in John Thaxter's hand: “To The Honble: John Adams Esq. at Philadelphia”; docketed in AA's hand: “Portia Novr. 27 1775.”
1. On 11 Nov. the House of Representatives resolved that because “the important Business of the Colony” had hitherto prevented that body “from proceeding to a Choice of Delegates” for 1776, the commissions of the current delegates were to be extended from the end of December to the end of January (Mass., House Jour., 1775–1776, 2d sess., p. 269–270). These noncommittal words conceal the intense struggle then going on between radicals and moderates in the House over who should represent Massachusetts in Congress during the critical year 1776. In January the radicals won a partial victory. Thomas Cush• { 331 } ing was displaced by Elbridge Gerry. Robert Treat Paine's place was threatened but in the end retained. Hancock and the two Adamses were reelected. See Mass., House Jour., 1775–1776, 3d sess., p. 165, and the instructions to the delegates there, 18 Jan. 1776.
2. This must have been Susanna (1766–1826), daughter of Elihu and Thankful (White) Adams; in 1785 she married Aaron Hobart Jr. See Adams Genealogy.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0219

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1775-12-03

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My best Friend

Yours of Novr. 12 is before me. I wish I could write you every day, more than once, for although I have a Number of Friends, and many Relations who are very dear to me, yet all the Friendship I have for others is far unequal to that which warms my Heart for you. The most agreable Time that I spend here is in writing to you, and conversing with you when I am alone. But the Calls of Friendship and of private Affection must give Place to those of Duty and Honour, even private Friendship and Affections require it.
I am obliged by the Nature of the service I am in to correspond with many Gentlemen both of the Army and the two Houses of Assembly which takes up much of my Time. How I find Time to write half the Letters I do, I know not, for my whole Time seems engrossed with Business. The whole Congress is taken up, almost in different Committees from seven to Ten in the Morning—from Ten to four or sometimes five, we are in Congress and from six to Ten in Committees again. I dont mention this to make you think me a Man of Importance because it is not I alone, but the whole Congress is thus employed, but to apologise for not writing to you oftener.1
Indeed I know not what to write that is worth your reading. I send you the Papers, which inform you of what is public. As to what passes in Congress I am tied fast by my Honour to communicate Nothing. I hope the Journal of the session will be published soon, and then you will see what We have been about in one View, excepting what ought to be excepted.
If I could visit the Coffee Houses, in the Evening and the Coffee Tables of the Ladies in the Afternoon, I could entertain you with many smart Remarks upon Dress and Air, &c. and give you many sprightly Conversations, but my Fate you know is to be moping over Books and Papers, all the Leisure Time I have when I have any.
I hope I shall be excused from coming to Philadelphia again, at least untill other Gentlemen have taken their Turns. But I never will come here again without you, if I can perswade you to come with me. { 332 } Whom God has joined together ought not to be put asunder so long with their own Consent. <We will get your Father and sister Betcy to keep House for Us.>2 We will bring Master Johnny with Us, you and he shall have the small Pox here, and We will be as happy, as Mr. Hancock and his Lady.—Thank Nabby and John for their Letters,3 and kiss Charles and Tom for me. John writes like an Hero glowing with Ardor for his Country and burning with Indignation against her Enemies. When I return I will get the sulky back to New Haven, and there leave it to be repaired, to be brought home by the first Post after it is done.
As to coming home, I have no Thoughts of it—shall stay here till the Year is out, for what I know. Affairs are in a critical state and important Steps are now taking every day, so that I could not reconcile it to my own Mind to be absent from this Place at present.
Nothing is expected from the Commissioners, yet We are waiting for them, in some Respects.4 The Tories, and Timids pretend to expect great Things from them. But the Generality expect nothing but more Insults and Affronts. Privateering is licensed and the Ports are wide open. As soon as the Resolves are printed, which will be tomorrow, I'le send them.5
I have had a long Conversation with []. He seems to be in a better Temper, and I live on Terms of Decency and Civility with him and he with me. And I am determined to live so. Have lived in more Decency with him and another, since my last Return than ever, at least than since last August when the sin of Precedence was committed. Theres the Rub. But what cant be cured must be endured.6
1. “During his term of service in Congress, [JA] was a member of ninety, and chairman of twenty-five committees” (note by CFA on this passage, in JA–AA, Familiar Letters, p. 127). This may be short of the truth, and at any rate it hardly more than suggests the burden of committee and administrative work that JA carried during his periods of service in the Continental Congress from Sept. 1774 to Nov. 1777. No intensive study of his work in this capacity has yet been made. Materials for it are profuse though not altogether satisfactory.
2. This sentence was heavily inked out, probably immediately after being written, but the editors are fairly confident of the reading here given.
3. Not found.
4. In his speech to Parliament on 26 Oct. George III had said that “certain persons upon the spot” would be authorized to grant pardons to individuals and receive the submission of such provinces in America as “shall be disposed to return to [their] allegiance” (Merrill Jensen, ed., English Historical Documents: American Colonial Documents to 1776, N.Y., 1955, p. 852). The eventual but abortive result was the conciliatory mission of the Howe brothers in 1776.
5. It is not certain just which “Resolves” JA meant, since at this juncture Congress was from day to day adopting resolutions for fitting out armed vessels { 333 } and regulating the embryonic American navy. JA was a prime mover in these measures; see his Diary and Autobiography, 2:198–199, 201–202, 221–222; 3:343–351.
6. The allusions in this paragraph are a little puzzling. The blank in the first sentence can only stand for JA's fellow delegate Robert Treat Paine, though at this time Paine was absent from Congress as a member of the committee to confer with Gen. Philip Schuyler at Ticonderoga (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members, 1:xlviii). If, as the editors believe, the first nameless person is Paine, “another” is undoubtedly Thomas Cushing, who was in growing disfavor because of his politics of moderation.
Notwithstanding JA's assertion above that he had “no Thoughts” of returning home, he asked and obtained from Congress on 8 Dec. “Leave to visit my State and Family” because he was “worn down with long and uninterrupted Labour,” and also because he wished to see whether he should now assume his duties as chief justice or continue in Congress. He left Philadelphia on the 9th and arrived in Braintree on the 21st. See his Diary and Autobiography, 2:223–224; 3:350, 359–360.
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/