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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0300

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1777-12-15

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dear

I arrived here, last Evening, in good Health. This Morning, General Whipple made me a Visit, at the Tavern, Tiltons, and insists upon my taking a Bed at his House, in so very affectionate, and urgent a Manner, that I believe I shall go to his House.1
The Cause comes on Tomorrow, before my old Friend Dr. Joshua Brackett, as Judge of Admiralty. How it will go I know not. The Captors are a numerous Company, and are said to be very tenacious, and have many Connections; so that We have Prejudice, and Influence to fear: Justice, Policy and Law, are, I am very sure, on our Side.
I have had many Opportunities, in the Course of this Journey, to observe, how deeply rooted, our righteous Cause is in the Minds of the People—and could write you many Anecdotes in Proof of it. But I will reserve them for private Conversation. But on 2d Thoughts why should I?
One Evening, as I satt in one Room, I overheard Company of the Common sort of People in another, conversing upon serious subjects. One of them, whom I afterwards found upon Enquiry to be a reputable, religious Man, was more eloquent than the rest—he was2 upon the Danger of despizing and neglecting serious Things. Said whatever Person or People made light of them would soon find themselves terribly mistaken. At length I heard these Words–“it appears to me the eternal son of God is opperating Powerfully against the British Nation for their treating lightly serious Things.”
One Morning, I asked my Landlady what I had to pay? Nothing she said–“I was welcome, and she hoped I would always make her House my Home, and she should be happy to entertain all those Gentlemen who had been raised up by Providence to be the Saviours of their Country.” This was flattering enough to my vain Heart. But it made a greater Impression on me, as a Proof, how deeply this Cause had sunk into the Minds and Hearts of the People.—In short every Thing I see and hear, indicates the same Thing.3
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. Adams Braintree To be left at Mr. Isaac Smiths Queen Street Boston.”
1. William Whipple (1730–1785), formerly a New Hampshire delegate to the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, had left Congress in June of this year to command state troops in the campaign against Burgoyne (Biog. Dir. Cong.). Ezra Stiles was in Portsmouth at this time and recorded conversations with JA at Whipple's (and elsewhere), in { 375 } which JA spoke very freely of persons and measures; see Stiles' Literary Diary, 2:236–238.
2. A word may be missing here, perhaps “discoursing” or “speaking.”
3. As JA recalled in 1806, it was “while I was speaking” in the Lusanna trial at Portsmouth that “Mr. [John?] Langdon came in from Phyladelphia and leaning over the Bar whispered to me, that Mr. Deane was recalled, and I was appointed to go to France. As I could scarcely believe the News to be true, and suspected Langdon [to] be sporting with me, it did not disconcert me. As I had never solicited such an Appointment, nor intimated to any one, the smallest inclination for it, the News was altogether unexpected.” To be sure, Gerry had mentioned this possibility just as JA was mounting his horse to leave York for home, but “I entreated him that neither [he] nor any one else would think of me” as Deane's successor, “for I was altogether unqualified” for that post, and thereafter, JA added, he quite dismissed the whole matter from his mind. (JA, Diary and Autobiography, 4:2–3.) Stiles in his Literary Diary (2:239) records the news of JA's appointment on 20 December. JA must have left Portsmouth that day or the day before, because he arrived in Boston on the 22d and received “Large Packetts from Congress” which AA had sent from Braintree in order for them to reach JA at the earliest possible moment. Getting home later the same day, JA made his decision at once and during the following two days answered—feelingly but affirmatively—all the official notifications and personal pleas he had received from York. See his letters of 23 Dec. to Henry Laurens, PCC, No. 84, I, printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., 2:458 (LbC, Adams Papers, printed in JA's Works, 7:7–8), and to Elbridge Gerry, LbC, Adams Papers. Also his letters of 24 Dec. to R. H. Lee and James Lovell jointly as members of the Committee for Foreign Affairs (who had sent him his commission in a letter of 3 Dec., Adams Papers), PCC, No. 84, I, printed in Wharton, 2:459–460 (LbC, Adams Papers, printed in Works, 7:8); to Lovell personally, LbC, Adams Papers, printed in Works, 9:471; and to Daniel Roberdeau, LbC, Adams Papers. The letter to Laurens and the letter to Lee and Lovell jointly are formal acceptances. To Gerry, JA said: “You wish for the Concurrence of a certain Lady, in a certain Appointment.—This Concurrence may be had upon one Condition, which is that her Ladyship become a Party in the Voyage, to which she has a great Inclination. She would run the Risque of the Seas and of Enemies, for the Sake of accompanying her humble servant.–But I believe it will not be expedient.” To Lovell JA ruefully observed: “I should have wanted no Motives nor Arguments to induce me to accept of this momentous Trust, if I could be sure that the Public would be benefited by it.—But when I see my Brothers at the Bar, here, so easily making Fortunes for themselves and their Families, and when I recollect that for four Years I have abandoned myself and mine, and when I see my own Children growing up, in something very like real Want, because I have taken no Care of them, it requires as much Philosophy as I am Master of, to determine to persevere in public Life, and engage in a new Scaene, for which I fear I am very ill qualified. [¶] However, by the Innuendoes in your Letter, if I cannot do much good in this new Department, I may possibly do less Harm, than some others.” And to Roberdeau he communicated his doubts about his acquiring a speaking knowledge of French at so late an age: “I shall try the Experiment, however, and if I find any great Inconvenience by which the Public may be likely to suffer I shall ask Leave to return. [¶] I shall devote my Time henceforward, to the Acquisition of a Language, to which I am not a total Stranger, having had some Knowledge of the Grammer and Construction of it, early in Life, and having practised Reading something in [it] all along, but which however, I never before aimed at learning to speak.”
JA's decision to accept his appointment, though difficult, was speedy; indeed there seems never to have been any real question in either his or AA's mind about what that decision would be. Much more difficult to answer were the closely related questions whether AA would accompany him and which, if { 376 } any, of the children would accompany him or them. When John Thaxter left for York, Penna., two or three days after JA had returned from Portsmouth, he had the impression that JA would take not only AA but the two oldest children, AA2 and JQA, as well (Thaxter to AA, “York Town,” 20 Jan. 1778, below). But the very serious possibility of capture by the enemy at sea changed the Adamses' first tentative decision; and in the end only JQA, on his own plea, was permitted to sail with his father. See AA's letters printed under the present date, above, and others to family and friends in Feb.–March 1778, below; also, JA's Diary and Autobiography, 4:4-5, 15–16; and his conversations in old age recorded by Harriet Welsh: “I never would have gone any where without my Wife. Nothing but the deadly fear that I might be in the tower and she not permitted to be there with me prevented my taking her” (transcript in CFA's hand, Adams Papers, M/CFA/31, Microfilms, Reel No. 327).

Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0301

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1778-01-02

Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Adams

[salute] My Dear Friend

Great Advantages are often Attended with Great Inconveniencies, And Great Minds Called to severe tryals. If your Dearest Friend had not Abilities to Render such important services to his Country, he would not be Called to the self Denying task of leaving for a time His Beloved Wife and Little pratling Brood. Therefore while I Weep with my Friend the painful abscence, I Congratulate her that she is so Nearly Connected with a Gentleman Whose Learning, patriotism And prudence qualify Him to Negotiate at Foreign Courts the affairs of America at this Very Critical period.
I think I know your public spirit and Fortitude to be such that you will Throw no Impediment in his way. Why should you. You are yet young and May set Down together many Years in peace after He has finished the Work to his own Honour, to the satisfaction of his Constituants and to the Approbation of his Conscience. You Cannot my Dear avoid Anticipating the Advantages that will probably Redound from this Honorable Embassy to Your self, to your Children and your Country.
But while I wish to say somewhat to support your Resolution and spirits Methinks somthing Wispers me within that you will justly say we are very Ready to Give advice when we but Illy practice upon the principles we lay down. True—but we may profit by the advice Though we despise the Weakness of the Adviser. Yet I have not so Ill an opinion of myself as to think were I just in your situation I shoud not strive for the Exertion of a Little Heroism upon such an Occasion.
I was in hopes we should have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Adams at Plimouth before he left America. I should be very happy to see you together by my fire side if it was but for one day before { 377 } he Crosses the Atlantic, but if that Cannot be my best Wishes await him. Assure him that my Fervant prayer is that he May Experience the peculier protection of providence through Every stage of his useful Life.
But I think before we part I Must desire him to Look into A Letter from Marcia Dated March 1776 (if he has not Destroyed it) which will Remind him of a Certain Bargin which I Expect he will fulfill.1 His Excuse was once that he should Never be Called to the Different Courts of Europe. But I have seen Events so precipitated, and the Wheels of Revolution so Rapidly Move on, that I have Expected it for several Years. And if I am Notwithstanding His Vast Avocations Gratifyed with one Letter from the Court of France, however high I May Esteem the Indulgence, I shall not be More pleased with the Honour done me by the Embassadour of America, than obliged by this Mark of Friendship from Mr. Adams.
One thing More I Must beg you to assure him that if it is possible for me or mine to do any thing to Lessen the Inconvenience or pain of absence that His Portia or Her Children May suffer, He May Depend upon the Ready aid of His And Your Very Affectionate Friend,
[signed] Marcia Warren
RC (Adams Papers'); addressed: “Mrs. Adams.”
1. In a letter to her of 8 Jan. 1776JA praised certain “Characters” Mrs. Warren had drawn, and added: “I think I will make a Bargain with you, to draw the Character of every new Personage I have an Opportunity of knowing, on Condition you will do the same” (MHi: Warren-Adams Coll.; Warren-Adams Letters, 1:201). In replying, 10 March, Mrs. Warren agreed to the bargain but said she would be the gainer by it: “I Expect to be made Acquainted with the Genius, the taste, and Manners, not only of the Most Distinguished Characters in America, but of the Nobility of Britain, And Perhaps before the Conflict is Ended, with some of Those Dignifyed personages who have held the Regalia of Crowns And Scepters, and in the Zenith of power are the Dancing Puppets of other European Courts” (Adams Papers). To the latter part of this prediction JA strongly demurred in a characteristic passage in his reply of 16 April, q.v. in Warren-Adams Letters, 1:223.
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/