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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0150

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1779-03-15

Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Adams

If anything would awake the sleeping Muses or Call Back the Wandering Deities the Imagery of this Delightful Morn (when the hand of Nature has Decorated Every twig with spangles of peculiar Brilioncy) joined with the Repeated Request of my friend would not fail to do it. The subject you point out1 Requires Heroics. But Alas, Clio is Deaf, perhaps irrecoverably stunned till the Noise of War shall Cease. The Harmony of Calliope suffers by the jaring of patriots, and Melpomene is starved amidst the General Cry for Bread.
In short, I believe the sacred Nine sickened by the unpromissing aspect of this Decayed Village (once the Asylum of piety) And Grown weary of their old friend, sensible they had heretofore made a Lodgment in an unthrifty soil, have bid an Everlasting Adieu. And as their Ladyships have taken Wing (probably in pursuit of some more happy Clime,) I hope they will not Rest till they light on the Head of some Votive Genius whose productions will do honour to the Admired Train, as well as to the Cold Regions of the North.
{ 190 }
But if they should ever Condescend again to make a Temporary Visit to one almost secluded from society (Which Brightens the Ideas and Gives a polish to Expression) you may depend upon it your abscent partner will not be forgot. But at present you must be Content to Let me tell you in plain prose that I think him Honest, that if by Living among the Refinements of politions and Courtiers his Integrity should be undermined, or his taste perverted, my Motto to Every Character in Future shall be, That Man is all a Lye.
I Return you a Letter with thanks for the perusal. Wish if proper you would forward some others when you send for your Daughter who I Really Love, and Love her the more the Longer she Resides with me.2
In future I shall Call her my Naby and Back my Claim with the promiss of her papah to whom I shall appeal if you Monopolize too much.
You do not tell me why you was so Confident I had a Letter from France. Depend upon it you shall see it when I have. I think I might Expect two or three in a Year if it was only a Complementary Return for the Many Visits made A Lady, by a Gentleman with Regard to whom were it in my power, I should Discover perhaps too much of the spirit of the times, by Engrosing his hours wholly to myself, and to a Number of amiable youth, but he is impeled by a Coincidence of Circumstance to a style of Life not agreable to his taste. Call me Miserly if you please, Yet I am sensible you Can you May3 feelingly join with me and the Bonny Scotch Lass, and Warble the Mournful Chorus from Morn to Eve.

Theres Little pleasure in the Rooms

When my Good Mans awaw.

I shall Return a Number of Letters with a Manuscript Volum by Miss N[abb]y.4 It has been an agreable Entertainment to me, and when you Come to Plimouth which I hope Will be within a few weeks I shall Endeavour to make all the Retaliation in my power.
You ask what I think of the Late Dispute among the higher powers of America. I know Little of it Except what is in the public papers, where I think may be Discovered the precipitation and timidity of Guilt in a Certain Indiscreet writer.5 Yet I Like not the Expression of Englifyed Americans which I saw droped from a pen I View in a very different Light.6
I shall only Gentley Remind you that your promiss is not yet Com• { 191 } pleated of writing much and frequently through the Course of the Winter to her who subscribe your affectionate Friend,
[signed] M Warren
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. Adams Braintre.” Tr (MHi:Mercy Warren Letterbook;) in an unidentified hand and doubtless copied from Mrs. Warren's (missing) draft. RC and Tr frequently differ in phrasing, but only two conspicuous differences in actual substance have been recorded here; see notes 2 and 5. Enclosed letter may have been JA to AA, 6 Nov. 1778, printed above; see note 6 below.
1. See AA to Mrs. Warren, post 22 Jan., above.
2. The three paragraphs that follow in the text (not counting the poetical quotation) do not appear in Tr and so must have been added after Mrs. Warren's draft was completed.
3. Thus in MS. Probably “you Can” was meant to be struck out.
4. None of these items is identifiable.
5. Silas Deane. From this point, Tr continues—and concludes—as follows:
“But it is not unusual in the infancy of states, for some of the most unworthy characters to justle themselves by fortunate accidents into the most capital departments of office:—and when by their atrocious conduct, they have thrown every thing into confusion, they make efforts to escape punishment and often impeach the most worthy, and cast an odium on the best concerted plans. I think time must unravel some misteries which authority at present thinks best should be hushed in silence.
“To your second question I answer, there is no calculating on the termination of military rencountres, yet, I do not fear much from the sword of Britain. I believe her to be more haughty than powerful, and more malevolent than politic, and that she will endeavour to do much by intrigue.
“Heaven will restrain the arms and defeat the councels of a corrupt Court, but not for our sakes. The Lord of the universe will disappoint the projects of our foe, to carry on the system of his own government: and while he protects, will chastise us if necessary, and will punish an ungrateful people, in ways more analegous to the usual doings of providence, than to suffer a new formed nation to be trodden down e'er it arrives to maturity.
“America is a theatre just erected—the drama is here but begun, while the actors of the old world have run through every species of pride, luxury, venality, and vice—their characters will become less interesting, and the western wilds which for ages have been little known, may exhibit those striking traits of wisdom, and grandeur and magnificence, which the Divine oeconomist may have reserved to crown the closing scene. Yet, [here a long ellipsis is indicated by the copyist]

[salute] “Adieu,

[signed] M Warren”
6. This “Expression” echoes one in JA's letter to AA of 6 Nov. 1778, above, characterizing Dr. James Smith. Thus it seems likely that the letter Mrs. Warren enclosed here was that letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0151

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-03-20

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My Dearest Friend

Your favour of December 9 came to hand this Evening from Philadelphia, by the same post received a Letter from Mr. L[ovel]l transcribing some passages from one of the same date to him,1 and the only one he says which he has received since your absence, and his pocket2 proves that he has written 18teen different times, yet possibly { 192 } you may have received as few from him; the watery world alone can boast of large packets received, a Discourageing thought when I take my pen. Yet I will not be discouraged, I will persist in writing tho but one in ten should reach you. I have been impatient for an opportunity, none having offerd since Janry. when the Alliance saild,3 who my presaging mind assures me will arrive safe in France, and I hope will return as safely.
Accept my thanks for the care you take of me in so kindly providing for me. The articles you mention should they arrive safe, will be a great assistance to me. The safest way you tell me of supplying my wants is by Draughts, but I cannot get hard Money for Bills. You had as good tell me to procure Diamonds for them, and when Bills will fetch but five for one, hard Money will exchange ten—which I think is very provoking and I must give at the rate of ten and sometime 20 for one for every article I purchase. I blush whilst I give you a price current, all Butchers meat from a Dollor to 8 shillings per pound, corn 25 Dollars, Rye 30 per Bushel, flower 50 pounds per hundred, potatoes ten dollors per Bushel, Butter 12 shillings per pound, cheese 8, Sugar 12 shillings per pound, Molasses 12 Dollors per Gallon, Labour 6 and 8 Dollors a Day, a common Cow from 60 to 70 pound, and all English goods in proportion.
This is our present situation. It is a risk to send me any thing across the water I know, yet if one in 3 arrives I should be a gainer. I have and do study every method of oeconomy in my power, otherways a mint of money would not support a family.—I could not board our two sons under 40 dollors per week a peice at a school. I therefore thought it most prudent to request Mr. T[haxte]r to look after them, giving him his board and the use of the office—which he readily accepted and having passd the winter with me, will continue through the summer, as I see no probability of the times speedily growing better.
We have had much talk of peace through the mediation of Spain, and great News from Spain, and a thousand reports as various as the persons who tell them, yet I believe slowly, and rely more upon the information of my Friend, than all the whole Legend [legion] of stories which rise with the sun, and set as soon. Respecting Gorgia other Friends have wrote you, shall add nothing of my own but that I believe it will finally be a fortunate Event to us.
Our Vessels have been fortunate in making prizes, tho many were taken in the fall of the year, we have been greatly distressd for Grain.4 I scarcly know the looks or taste of Bisquit or flower for this four months, yet thousands have been much worse of, having no grain of any sort.
{ 193 }
The great commotion raisd here by Mr. D[ea]n[e] has sunk into contempt for his character, and it would be better for him to leave a country which is now supposed to have been injured by him. His Friends are silent, not knowing how to extricate him. It would be happy for him if he had the art himself—he most certainly had art enough in the begining to blow up a flame and to set the whole continent in agitation.
More than a Month has past away since writing the above and no opportunity has yet offerd of conveying you a line. Next to the pain of not receiving is that of not being able to send a token of remembrance and affection. (You must excuse my [not]5 coppying as paper is ten dollors per quire.) Last week a packet arrived from Brest with dispatches for Congress but no private Letters. I was dissapointed, but did not complain. You would have wrote I know had you supposed she was comeing to Boston. By her we heard of the safe arrival of the Alliance in France which gave me much pleasure, may she have as safe a return to us again. Last week arrived here the Frigate Warren after a successfull cruize. She had been out about 6 weeks in company with the Queen of France and the Ranger, Capt. Jones.6 They fell in with and captured a Fleet bound from New York to Georgia consisting of Ship Jason 20 Guns 150 Men, Ship Maria 16 Guns 84 Men, having on board 1800 Barrels of flower, privateer schooner Hibernian 8 Guns and 45 Men, Brigs Patriot, Prince Fredirick, Batchelor John and Schooner Chance, all of which are safe arrived to the universal joy and satisfaction of every well wisher of their country. The officers who were captured acknowledge that this loss will be most severely felt by the Enemy, and it is hoped will give General Lincoln important advantages against the enemy in Georgia.
Respecting Domestick affairs I shall do tolerably whilst my credit is well supported abroad and my demands there shall be as small as possible considering the state of things here, but I cannot purchase a Bushel of grain under 3 hard Dollors, tho the scarcity of that article makes it dearer than other things.
Our Friends here all desire to be rememberd to you. I remind your daughter of writing and she promises to, but she does not Love it. Charlly is very busy a gardening, sends his Duty and hopes to write soon.—My pen is very bad, but you are so used to the hand you can pick it out, and if it goes into the sea it will be no matter.
I should be very glad of some wollens by the Alliance for winter Gowns. Nothing will be amiss, unless it is Mens white silk stockings { 194 } | view which I have no occasion for, and suppose the pair sent among the Letters which came in the Miflin an accident.

[salute] My pen is really so bad that I cannot add any further than that I am wholy yours.7

RC (Adams Papers); addressed in John Thaxter's hand: “Honble. John Adams Esqr. Passy near Paris”; endorsed: “Portia. March 20. 1779.”
1. James Lovell's letter to AA of 16 Feb., above, quotes from JA's letter to him of 6 Dec. 1778 (not 9 Dec., as AA here states).
2. That is, Lovell's “pocket book,” or what he actually called his “almanac”; see Lovell to AA, 19 Jan., above.
3. She had apparently forgotten her letter to JA of 13 Feb., above.
4. Sentence thus punctuated in MS.
5. Editorially supplied for sense.
6. A mistake for Lt. Thomas Simpson, then commanding the Ranger. The newspaper accounts from which AA drew the information in this paragraph, though voluminous, were confused and not perfectly accurate.
7. Bound with this letter in the papers as arranged by the family in the 19th century was a notation in AA's hand of tax assessments which may possibly have been enclosed to JA, although since she does not mention it in her letter, this seems unlikely. There is no proof that the assessments even belong to this year. The notation reads as follows:
State Tax real Estate   60   6   4  
  personal   25   17   0  
  half farm   100   3   5  
  186   6   9  
Second Tax   106   9   5  
  half Farm   137   10   7  
  Parish tax   089   5   2  
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/