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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0257

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Warren, Mercy Otis
Date: 1776-04-27

Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren

I set myself down to comply with my Friends request, who I think seem's rather low spiritted.
I did write last week, but not meeting with an early conveyance I thought the Letter of But little importance and tos'd it away. I acknowledg my Thanks due to my Friend for the entertainment she so kindly afforded me in the Characters drawn in her Last Letter, and if coveting my Neighbours Goods was not prohibited by the Sacred Law, I should be most certainly tempted to envy her the happy talant she { 397 } possesses above the rest of her Sex, by adorning with her pen even trivial occurances, as well as dignifying the most important. Cannot you communicate some of those Graces to your Friend and suffer her to pass them upon the World for her own that she may feel a little more upon an Eaquality with you?—Tis true I often receive large packages from P[hiladelphi]a. They contain as I said before more News papers than Letters, tho they are not forgotton. It would be hard indeed if absence had not some alleviations.
I dare say he writes to no one unless to Portia oftner than to your Friend, because I know there is no one besides in whom he has an eaquel confidence. His Letters to me have been generally short, but he pleads in Excuse the critical state of affairs and the Multiplicity of avocations and says further that he has been very Busy, and writ near ten Sheets of paper, about some affairs which he does not chuse to Mention for fear of accident.
He is very sausy to me in return for a List of Female Grievances which I transmitted to him. I think I will get you to join me in a petition to Congress. I thought it was very probable our wise Statesmen would erect a New Goverment and form a new code of Laws. I ventured to speak a word in behalf of our Sex, who are rather hardly dealt with by the Laws of England which gives such unlimitted power to the Husband to use his wife Ill.
I requested that our Legislators would consider our case and as all Men of Delicacy and Sentiment are averse to Excercising the power they possess, yet as there is a natural propensity in Humane Nature to domination, I thought the most generous plan was to put it out of the power of the Arbitary and tyranick to injure us with impunity by Establishing some Laws in our favour upon just and Liberal principals.
I believe I even threatned fomenting a Rebellion in case we were not considerd, and assured him we would not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we had neither a voice, nor representation.
In return he tells me he cannot but Laugh at My Extrodonary Code of Laws. That he had heard their Struggle had loosned the bands of Goverment, that children and apprentices were dissabedient, that Schools and Colledges were grown turbulant, that Indians slighted their Guardians, and Negroes grew insolent to their Masters. But my Letter was the first intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerfull than all the rest were grown discontented. This is rather too coarse a complement, he adds, but that I am so sausy he wont blot it out.
So I have help'd the Sex abundantly, but I will tell him I have only { 398 } been making trial of the Disintresstedness of his Virtue, and when weigh'd in the balance have found it wanting.
It would be bad policy to grant us greater power say they since under all the disadvantages we Labour we have the assendancy over their Hearts

And charm by accepting, by submitting sway.

I wonder Apollo and the Muses could not have indulged me with a poetical Genious. I have always been a votary to her charms but never could assend Parnassus myself.
I am very sorry to hear of the indisposition of your Friend. I am affraid it will hasten his return, and I do not think he can be spaired.

“Though certain pains attend the cares of State

A Good Man owes his Country to be great

Should act abroad the high distinguishd part

or shew at least the purpose of his heart.”

Good Night my Friend. You will be so good as to remember me to our worthy Friend Mrs. W——e1 when you see her and write soon to your
[signed] Portia
RC (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.); docketed in two later hands: “Mrs. Adams April 1776 No 6.” Dft (Adams Papers); undated and without indication of addressee, but at head of text JQA wrote “To Mrs. Warren,” and CFA added the tentative date “May 1776?”; text of Dft slightly shorter than that of RC.
1. Mrs. John Winthrop. Last paragraph of Dft reads, instead: “I congratulate my Friend upon her Honorable apointment; I was told a few days ago, that a committee of 3 Ladies was chosen to Examine the Tory Ladies, your Ladyship, our Friend Mrs. W——e and your correspondent were the persons.”

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0258

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1776-04-28

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Yesterday, I received two Letters from you from the 7th. to the 14. of April.1 I believe I have received all your Letters, and I am not certain I wrote one from Framingham. The one I mean contains an Account of my dining with the Indians at Mr. Mifflins.2
It gives me Concern to think of the many Cares you must have upon your Mind. Am glad you have taken [Belcher]3 into Pay, and that Isaac is well before now I hope.
Your Reputation, as a Farmer, or any Thing else you undertake I { 399 } dare answer for....4 Your Partners Character as a Statesman is much more problematical.
As to my Return, I have not a Thought of it. Journeys of such a Length are tedious, and expensive both of Time and Money neither of which are my own. I hope to spend the next Christmas, where I did the last, and after that I hope to be relieved for by that Time I shall have taken a pretty good Trick att Helm whether the Vessell has been well steer'd or not. But if My Countrymen should insist upon my serving them another Year, they must let me bring my whole Family with me. Indeed I could keep House here, with my Partner, four children and two servants, as cheap as I maintain my self here with two Horses and a servant at Lodgings.
Instead of domestic Felicity, I am destined to public Contentions. Instead of rural Felicity, I must reconcile myself to the Smoke and Noise of a city. In the Place of private Peace, I must be distracted with the Vexation of developing the deep Intrigues of Politicians and must assist in conducting the arduous Operations of War. And think myself, well rewarded, if my private Pleasure and Interest are sacrificed as they ever have been and will be, to the Happiness of others.
You tell me, our Jurors refuse to serve, because the Writs are issued in the Kings Name. I am very glad to hear, that they discover so much Sense and Spirit. I learn from another Letter that the General Court have left out of their Bills the Year of his Reign, and that they are making a Law, that the same Name shall be left out of all Writs, Commissions, and all Law Proscesses. This is good News too. The same will be the Case in all the Colonies, very soon.
You ask me how I have done the Winter past. I have not enjoyed so good Health as last Fall. But I have done complaining of any Thing. Of ill Health I have no Right to complain because it is given me by Heaven. Of Meanness, of Envy, of Littleness, of—of—of—of—I have Reason and Right to complain, but I have too much Contempt, to use that Right.
There is such a Mixture of Folly, Littleness, and Knavery in this World that, I am weary of it, and altho I behold it with unutterable Contempt and Indignation, yet the public Good requires that I should take no Notice of it, by Word or by Letter. And to this public Good I will conform.
You will see an Account of the Fleet in some of the Papers I have sent you. Give you Joy of the Admirals Success. I have Vanity enough to take to myself, a share in the Merit of the American Navy. It was always a Measure that my Heart was much engaged in, and I pursued { 400 } it, for a long Time, against the Wind and Tide. But at last obtained it.
Is there no Way for two friendly Souls, to converse together, altho the Bodies are 400 Miles off?—Yes by Letter.—But I want a better Communication. I want to hear you think, or to see your Thoughts.
The Conclusion of your Letter makes my Heart throb, more than a Cannonade would. You bid me burn your Letters. But I must forget you first.
In yours of April 14. you say you miss our Friend in the Conveyance of your Letters. Dont hesitate to write by the Post. Seal well. Dont miss a single Post.
You take it for granted that I have particular Intelligence of every Thing from others. But I have not. If any one wants a Vote for a Commission, he vouchsafes me a Letter, but tells me very little News. I have more particulars from you than any one else. Pray keep me constantly informed, what ships are in the Harbour and what Fortifications are going on.
I am quite impatient to hear of more vigorous Measures for fortifying Boston Harbour. Not a Moment should be neglected. Every Man ought to go down as they did after the Battle of Lexington and work untill it is done. I would willingly pay half a Dozen Hands my self, and subsist them, rather than it should not be done immediately. It is of more importance than to raise Corn.
You say inclosed is a Prologue and a Parody, but neither was inclosed. If you did not forget it, the letter has been opened and the Inclosures taken out.
If the Small Pox spreads, run me in debt. I received a Post or two past a Letter from your Unkle at Salem,5 containing a most friendly and obliging Invitation to you and yours to go, and have the Distemper at his House if it should spread. He has one or two in family to have it.
The Writer of Common Sense, and the Forrester, is the same Person. His Name is Payne, a Gentleman, about two Years ago from England, a Man who G[eneral] Lee says has Genius in his Eyes. The Writer of Cassandra is said to be Mr. James Cannon a Tutor, in the Philadelphia Colledge. Cato is reported here to be Dr. Smith—a Match for Brattle. The oration was an insolent Performance.... A Motion was made to Thank the orator and ask a Copy—But opposed with great Spirit, and Vivacity from every Part of the Room, and at last withdrawn, lest it should be rejected as it certainly would have been with Indignation. The orator then printed it himself, after leaving out or altering some offensive Passages.
{ 401 }
This is one of the many irregular, and extravagant Characters of the Age. I never heard one single person speak well of any Thing about him but his Abilities, which are generally allowed to be good. The Appointment of him to make the oration, was a great oversight, and Mistake.
The late Act of Parliament, has made so deep an Impression upon Peoples Minds throughout the Colonies, it is looked upon as the last Stretch of Oppression, that We are hastening rapidly to great Events.6 Governments will be up every where before Midsummer, and an End to Royal style, Titles and Authority. Such mighty Revolutions make a deep Impression on the Minds of Men and sett many violent Passions at Work. Hope, Fear, Joy, Sorrow, Love, Hatred, Malice, Envy, Revenge, Jealousy, Ambition, Avarice, Resentment, Gratitude, and every other Passion, Feeling, Sentiment, Principle and Imagination, were never in more lively Exercise than they are now, from Florida to Canada inclusively. May God in his Providence overrule the whole, for the good of Mankind. It requires more Serenity of Temper, a deeper Understanding and more Courage than fell to the Lott of Marlborough, to ride in this Whirlwind.
1. 7–11 and 14 April, above.
2. Watertown, 24 Jan., above.
3. Blank in MS, but see AA to JA, 7–11 April, above.
4. Suspension points, here and below, in MS.
5. Dated 6–8 April and printed above.
6. The American Prohibitory Act (16 George III, ch. 5), passed 22 Dec. 1775, declared all American ships and goods subject to seizure and in effect outlawed the colonists (Merrill Jensen, ed., English Historical Documents: American Colonial Documents to 1776, N.Y., 1955, p. 853). “I know not whether you have seen the Act of Parliament call'd the restraining Act, or prohibitory Act, or piratical Act, or plundering Act, or Act of Independency, for by all these Titles is it call'd. I think the most apposite is the Act of Independency, for King, Lords and Commons have united in Sundering this Country and that I think forever. It is a compleat Dismemberment of the British Empire. It throws thirteen Colonies out of the Royal Protection, levels all Distinctions and makes us independent in spight of all our supplications and Entreaties” (JA to Horatio Gates, 23 March 1776, NHi; printed in MHS, Procs., 67 [1941–1944]:138–139).
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/