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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0129

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1779-02-09

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

It is now a Year within a Day or two of my Departure from home. It is in vain for me to think of writing of what is passed.
The Character and Situation in which I am here, and the Situation of public Affairs absolutely forbid my Writing, freely.
I must be excused.—So many Vessells are taken, and there are so many Persons indiscreet, and so many others inquisitive, that I may not write. God knows how much I suffer for Want of Writing to you. It used to be a cordial to my Spirits.
Thus much I can say with perfect sincerity, that I have found nothing to disgust me, discontent me, or in any manner disturb me, in the French Nation. My Evils here arise altogether from Americans.
{ 161 }
If I would have inlisted myself under the Banners of Either Party, I might have filled America I doubt not with Panegyricks of me, from one Party and Curses and Slanders from another. I have endeavoured to be hitherto impartial, to search for nothing but the Truth and to love nobody and nothing but the public Good, at least not more than the public Good. I have hoped that Animosities might be softened, and the still small Voice of Reason heard more, and the boisterous Roar of Passions and Prejudices less.—But the Publication of a certain Address to the People, has destroyed all such Hopes.
Nothing remains now but the fearfull Looking for of the fiery Indignation of the Monster Party, here.
My Consolation is, that the Partisans are no more than Bubbles on the Sea of Matter born—they rise—they break and to that Sea return.
The People of America, I know stand like Mount Atlass, but these Altercations occasion a great deal of Unhappiness for the present, and they prolong the War.
Those must answer for it who are guilty. I am not.1
1. This letter should be read in the context of JA's diary entries of 8–12 Feb. 1779, including his draft letter to Vergennes of 10–11 Feb., which he reduced by about three-quarters before actually sending it (Diary and Autobiography, 2:345–353). JA first read Deane's publication as reprinted in English and French newspapers, and it put his mind, he said, “in such a State . . . as it never was before. I confess it appeared to me like a Dissolution of the Constitution” (i.e. the union of States in Congress); it might lead, he thought, to “a civil War in America” (same, p. 353).

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0130

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Date: 1779-02-11

Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams 2d

[salute] My Dear Daughter

It is with inexpressible pleasure that I enclose to you a letter from your brother, and that I can tell you, that I last night received four letters of various dates from your papa, and one so late as the 6th of November.1 I would send forward the letters, but know not how to part with them. Your papa writes that he has enjoyed uncommon health for him, since his arrival in France; that your brother is well, and, what is still more grateful to a parent's ears, that he conducts with a becoming prudence and discretion; that he assiduously applies himself to his books. And your papa is pleased to say, “that the lessons of his mamma are a constant law to him, and that they are so to his sister and brothers, is a never failing consolation to him, at times when he feels more tenderness for them than words can express.” Let { 162 } this pathetic expression of your papa's, my dear, have a due influence upon your mind.
Upon politics, your papa writes thus: “Whatever syren songs of peace may be sung in your ears, you may depend upon it, from me, (who unhappily have been seldom mistaken in my guesses of the intention of the British government for fourteen years,) that every malevolent passion, and every insidious art, will predominate in the British cabinet against us. Their threats of Prussians2 and of great reinforcements, are false and impracticable, and they know them to be so; but their threats of doing mischief with the forces they have, will be verified as far as their power.”
This we see, in their descent upon Georgia, verified this very hour.
Almost all Europe, the Dutch especially, are at this day talking of Great Britain in the style of American sons of liberty. He hopes the unfortunate event at Rhode Island will not produce any heart-burnings between Americans and the Count D'Estaing, who is allowed by all Europe to be a great and worthy officer, and by all that know him to be a zealous friend of America.
After speaking of some embarrassments in his public business, from half anglified Americans, he adds, “But from this court, this city and nation, I have experienced nothing but uninterrupted politeness.”
I have a letter from a French lady, Madam la Grand, in French—a polite letter, and wrote in consequence of your papa's saying that, in some cases, it was the duty of a good citizen to sacrifice his all for the good of his country.3 She tells him that the sentiment is worthy of a Roman and a member of Congress, but cannot believe he would sacrifice his wife and children. In reply, he tells her that I possessed the same sentiment. She questions the truth of his assertion; and says nature would operate more powerfully than the love of one's country, and whatever other sacrifices he might make, it would be impossible for him to resign those very dear connections, especially as he had so often given her the warmest assurances of his attachment to them; and she will not be satisfied till she has related the conversation, and appealed to me for my sentiments upon the subject. She is an elderly lady, and wife to the banker, expresses great regard for your brother, of whom she is very fond, says he inherits the spirit of his father, and bids fair to be a Roman like him.
When I have fully translated the letter I will send it forward. I would have written to Mrs. Warren, but have much writing to do, and you may communicate this letter to her, if she can read it; but 'tis badly written, and I have not time to copy.
{ 163 }

[salute] Let me hear from you soon, who am, at all times, your affectionate mamma,

[signed] A. A.
MS (not found). Printed from Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, . . . Edited by Her Daughter, New York, 1841–1842, 2:15–17. The enclosed “letter from your brother” was presumably JQA to AA2, 27 Sept. 1778, printed above.
1. See a faulty listing of these letters in AA's reply to JA of 13 Feb., below, and an editorial note there which corrects her list. The letters had come by Capt. Daniel McNeill in the General Mifflin privateer, which reached Boston on 9 Feb. according to the Boston Gazette of the 15th.
2. JA's letter (of 6 Nov. 1778) said “Russians.” The mistake may have been AA's or that of a copyist or printer when AA2's letters were published in 1842.
3. Concerning Madame Ferdinand Grand's letter and AA's reply to it, neither of which has been found, see JA to AA, 23 Sept. 1778, above; AA to JA, 13 Feb., below; with notes and references under both letters.
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, 2018.