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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0156-0001

Author: Lovell, James
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1779-06-05

James Lovell to Abigail Adams

If at any Time heretofore I have seemed to infringe upon your Prerogatives, I ask your Pardon. It was rash in me to censure you for what Sovereigns do in all Parts of the World. Charging me with being a Flatterer you only exercised the Power of misinterpreting some of my most sincere Sentiments: And I, forsooth, ran into the antiquated Notion of a Distinction between Right and Power.
I smile, however, with myself in a Sort of revengeful Humour, while I consider how You also, like some others born to hold Dominion have been hurried into an Exertion which only tends to discover the Impotence of Might when operating against Integrity. Have you by the Artillery of Misnomer made me resign my affectionate Regard? Have you even deterred me from using Terms suited to my Opinions? No, for I will this Instant stile you “Very amiable Portia.” And having done that Act of Justice to my own Feelings, and furnished You with a { 198 } Hint for a moralizing Meditation upon the nature of Empire, I proceed to the Business for which I catched up my Pen at first, haunted with the Thought that the booted Bearer would return to me in five Minutes after leaving my Window.
The Box, which Mr. Adams left 20 months ago to the Care of Mr. Sprout's [Sproat's] Family, on the Morning of Sept. 19th., the Era of our Flight to York Town, came Yesterday to my Hand. I found it almost empty, but I imagine just as he parted with it tho contrary to my Expectation. Perhaps he left with you some Memorandum.1
I had determined to keep the Box here, and send the Things by Parts, at easy Opportunities, even if they had been more in Number. I have sealed up all the Papers into neat Packets, and forward a Part by the Bearer of this who goes with a Guard. Mr. S. Adams will be on his Way home next Week and a Waggon in Company. You will find the Papers regularly put together which for the most part was easy to be performed, as they were, for the most part, endorsed. The others I so far looked into as would enable me to finish the Arrangement. I might innocently have gone further, with two Packages, I mean those endorsed P.2 which accompany my Letter. But it happened that I had no Curiosity to satisfy there; and with the others, tho Curiosity at times prompted me, I could not without Guilt indulge it.—Am I right in my Notions of Letter-Peeping? In those Cases where Improprieties of Stile or Sentiment or Secrets intended only for the Eyes of the Correspondent are supposed to be penned, it is cri[mi]nal to venture. But where there is undoubted Right to expect only the Product of a Pen directed by the Fingers of a virtuous elegant discrete Writer, I hold it lawful, comparatively, to peep; if a man is quite at Leisure, and in danger moreover of running into notorious mischief unless he so employs himself, Curiosity also having at the same Time its stimulating Goads at work upon him.—These six last Lines narrow my System plaguily; I am sure they were not in my Imagination when I was putting together the Letters of Portia, who had more than thrice kindly shown me how she could write, and another Friend shows me weekly what a virtuous Wife will naturally write to her absent Husband. Thus was I without Curiosity in Regard to the two Packages which grounded my Descant upon Letter-Peeping.
If I do not get Opportunity to write somewhat at large to you on the Politics of Europe and the Great House in Chesnut-Street Philadelphia,3 yet you will not have Reason to regret my Occupations; as Mr. S.A. will in a more pleasing Manner communicate to you more than would be proper for the Pen.
{ 199 }
I shall convey under Seal and other Security Mr. Adams's Letter Book and Accounts.—If he did not settle with the State before he went you had better see how Mr. Dana gave in his Demand, and not descend to Minutenesses such as I remember to have heard my absent Friend say it was unbecoming to be subjected to, and such as you will find by Mr. Avery have not been practiced. Though I am prepared for such a Thing I will not chuse to submit to it.
I will now close my Letter and take a list of the Contents of the Box4 tho I will not miss sending the one if the other is not ready before the Gentleman calls on me.

[salute] Your affectionate humble Servant,

[signed] James Lovell
RC (Adams Papers). For a (presumed) enclosure see note 4.
1. See JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:262–264; Lovell to AA, 9 July and 14 Nov. 1778, both above; and AA to Lovell, 18–26 June, below.
2. For “Portia.”
3. The Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall), where Congress held its sessions.
4. This “list,” on a separate scrap, was not identified until after the present volume was in page proof. See addendum at p. 426 below.

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0157

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-06-08

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My Dearest Friend

Six Months have already elapsed since I heard a syllable from you or my dear Son, and five since I have had one single opportunity of conveying a line to you. Letters of various dates have lain months at the Navy Board, and a packet and Frigate both ready to sail at an hours warning have been months waiting the orders of Congress. They no doubt have their reasons, or ought to have for detaining them. I must patiently wait their Motions however painfull it is—and that it is so your own feelings will testify. Yet I know not but you are less a sufferer than you would be to hear from us, to know our distresses and yet be unable to relieve them. The universal cry for Bread to a Humane Heart is painfull beyond Discription, and the great price demanded and given for it, verifies that pathetick passage of sacred writ, all that a Man hath will he give for his life. Yet he who Miraculously fed a Multitude with 2 loaves and 5 fishes has graciously interposed in our favour and deliverd many of the Enimies supplies into our hands so that our distresses have been Mitigated. I have been able as yet to supply my own family spairingly but at a price that would astonish you. Corn is sold at 4 dollors hard money per Bushel which is eaquel to 80 at the rate of exchange.
Labour is at 8 dollors per Day and in 3 weeks at 12 tis probable, or { 200 } it will be more stable than any thing else. Goods of all kinds are at such a price that I hardly dare mention it—Linnins at 20 dollors per yard the most ordinary sort calicow at 30 and 40,1 Broad cloths sold at 40 pounds per yard—West India goods full as high, Molasses at 20 dollors per Gallon, sugar 4 dollors per pound, Bohea Tea at 40 dollors and our own produce in proportion, Butchers meat at 6 and 7 and 8 shillings per pound, Board at 50 and 60 dollors per week. Rates2 high, that I suppose you will rejoice at, so would I, did it remedy the Evil. I pay 5 hundred Dollors, and a New continental rate has just appeard, my proportion of which will be 2 hundred more. I have come to this determination to sell no more Bills unless I can procure hard money for them altho I shall be obliged to allow a discount. If I sell for paper I through away more than half, so rapid is the depreciation, nor do I know that it will be received long. I sold a Bill to Blodget at 5 for one which was lookd upon [as] high at that time. The week after I received it, two Emissions were taken out of circulation and the greater part of what I had proved to be of that sort, so that those to whom I was indebted are obliged to wait and before it becomes due or is exchanged, it will be good for—as much as it will fetch, which will be nothing if it goes on as it has done for this 3 Months past, but I will not tire your patience any longer. I have not drawn any further upon you, I mean to wait the return of the Alliance which with longing Eyes I wait for. God grant it may bring me comfortable tidings from my dear dear Friend whose welfare is so essential to my happiness that it is entwined round my Heart, and cannot be impared or seperated from it without rending it assunder.
In contemplation of my situation I am sometimes thrown into an agony of distress. Distance, dangers—and O! I cannot name all the fears which sometimes oppress me and harrow up my soul. Yet must the common Lot of Man one day take place whether we dwell in our own Native Land, or are far distant from it. That we rest under the shadow of the Almighty is the consolation to which I resort, and find that comfort which the World cannot give. If he sees best to give me back my Friend, or to preserve my life to him, it will be so.
Our worthy Friend Dr. Winthrope is numberd with the great congregation to the inexpressible loss of Harvard College.3

Let no weak drop

be shed for him. The Virgin in her bloom

cut off, the joyous youth, and darling child

These are the Tombs, that claim the tender Tear

{ 201 }

And Elegiac Song. But Winthrope calls

For other Notes of Gratulation high

That now he wanders through those endless worlds

He here so well discried, and wandering talks,

And Hymns their Author with his glad compeers.

The Testimony he gave with his dyeing Breath in favour of revealed Religion, does honour to his memory and will endear it to every Lover of Virtue.4
I know not who will be found worthy to succeed him.
Our Brother Cranch is immersd in publick Buisness—and so cumbered with it that he fears He shall not be able to write you a line.5
C[ongre]ss have not yet made any appointment of you to any other court. There appears a dilatoryness, an indisicion in their proceedings. I have in Mr. L[ovel]l an attentive Friend who kindly informs me of every thing which passes relative to you and your situation, gives me extracts of your Letters both to himself and others. I know you will be unhappy whenever it is not in your power to serve your country—and wish yourself at home where at least you might serve your family.—I cannot say that I think our affairs go very well here. Our currency seems to be the source of all our Evils. We cannot fill up our continental Army by means of it, no bounty will prevail with them. What can be done with it, it will sink in less than a year. The advantages the Enemy daily gain over us is oweing to this. Most truly did you prophesy when you said that they would do all the mischief in their power with the forces they had here.
Many Letters lay in Boston for you which have been wrote Months. My good unkle S[mit]h yesterday let me know that a Letter of Mark bound for Nants would sail in a day or two. I eagerly seaze the opportunity and beg you to give my blessing to my son to whom I have not time now to write. I dare not trust myself with the Idea nor can express how ardently I long to see both the parent and son. Our whole family have enjoyed great Health since your absence. Daughter and sons who dayly delight themselves with talking of Pappa and Brother present their Duty and Love. Your Worthy Mamma who is now here request[s] me to add her tenderest affection to you, who next to the writer is anxious to hear from you. Your Brother request[s] me to desire you to procure for him 2 peices of Linnin to the amount of 24 dollors which he will pay to me, and to send them whenever you have an opportunity of sending to me. I shall not write for any thing till the Alliance returns and I find what success she has had.
{ 202 }

[salute] My tenderest regards ever attend you in all places and situations know me to be ever ever yours.6

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by JA: “Portia June 8. 1779,” to which is added in John Thaxter's hand: “Answerd 16th. March 1780”; see note 6.
1. Thus punctuated in MS.
2. Taxes.
3. Professor John Winthrop had died on 3 May. Although his death drew forth a number of printed poetical tributes, the lines that follow in AA's letter have not been found among them. We may guess that AA here adapted to Winthrop a tribute to an astronomer that she remembered from one of her favorite English poems in blank verse.
4. For this “Testimony” see the obituary in the Boston Independent Chronicle, 13 May 1779, p. 2, cols. 2–3.
5. However, see the following letter. Recently reelected a Braintree representative to the Massachusetts House, Cranch was particularly active at this time as a member of a committee conducting the sale of confiscated loyalist estates in Suffolk County. See the Confiscation Acts of 30 April and 1 May as published in the Boston Gazette, 10 May, p. 2, cols. 2–3, and 17 May, p. 1, cols. 1–3; the proceedings of the committee, signed by Cranch and others, same, 24 May, p. 1, col. 1; and, generally, Richard D. Brown, “The Confiscation and Disposition of Loyalists' Estates in Suffolk County, Massachusetts,”WMQ, 3d ser., 21:534–550 (Oct. 1964).
6. Thus punctuated in MS. A full stop would be appropriate after either “you” or “situations.”
This letter of course did not reach JA before he sailed for home on 17 June. It was evidently held for him in France, for on 16 March 1780 he answered it in very affectionate terms from Paris some weeks after his return there; see his letter of that date, below.
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/