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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0248

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-04-15

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

By Mr. Guile who is bound to Amsterdam and from thence to France, I embrace this opportunity of writing to you; and inquiring after your welfare. Mr. Guile was the Bearer from Mrs. Dana who received them, of the first Letters I received from you. I wish he may be the safe conveyer of mine to you.1
I have written to you various times since your absence, but have never had one direct conveyance to France, and I am apprehensive I shall hear but very seldom from you, unless you convey your Letters by way of Spain and Holland. Be sure not more than once a year, which is a situation I deprecate.2 Experience has however taught me more patience, tho it has not lessend my anxiety, or my affection. I wish to know your situation, and to hear of your welfare and happiness, I have philosophized so long upon my own that I have brought my mind to a patient acquiescence in it. The social and tender affections have been { 321 } sacrificed to it, yet the agitation of my mind and spirits, has debilitated my faculties and impaired my Health but I find myself at the same time less attached to the world and the enjoyments of it, whether I am better fitted for an other is a matter I am not resolved in.
I have been very fortunate in receiving all your Letters from Spain. I have traced and followed you upon the Maps through all your peregrinations. It has been a pilgrimage indeed, and the care of the children must have added greatly to your anxiety. I cannot wish to have shared with you as it would have been an additional Burden to you.
I have received by Capt. Babson the articles you orderd for me. Mr. Guardoqui has given in his commissions and Mr. Tracy & Co. the freight, which I esteem very kind in them as I find 15 per cent freight was paid out of articles imported in the same vessel by others.
All the articles you were so kind as to send me were very acceptable. The tumblers came safe. They were all of one size. I should have rather had a part in wine Glasses, but nothing comes amiss. The Linnens tho rather coars were an article I stood in great need of, and they are in great demand here. The Tea proves of the best kind, the Hankerchiefs will turn to good account sold for hard Money, the only currency that can be delt in without immense loss. I do not wish to tell you the state of our currency, you may learn it by word of mouth from others.
I am about purchaseing an article which you directed me to, and for which you gave me Liberty to draw upon you for payment.3 I shall only do it in part. The remittance lately made me in hankerchiefs only would make the purchase, but as the person would gladly take Bills for the whole, I thought I would give one for a part as the risk would be his, and pay the remainder here.
I would not have drawn even for that, but I have some prospect of making a purchase of the House and land, belonging formerly to Natell. Belcher who died this winter.4 I have been trying to agree with the Heir, he asked the moderate price of 20 thousand Dollors when exchange was at 30, it is now 60 and he doubles his demand. There are several persons very eager to purchase it, which has determined the owner to put it up to vendue, if he does shall endeavour to buy it. People here tell me that it was formerly valued at a hundred pounds Lawfull money. It is not so good now as then, yet I should have ventured to have exceeded that price as it would accommodate this place so well, if I could have done any thing with him, but he was more distracted in his hard money price than in his paper. If he puts it up to vendue, believe that will be the best chance for obtaining it.
{ 322 }
Mr. C. Tufts has left with me a list of a Number of articles which I enclose, which he wants for his own use, and 7 Louis D'ors, but asked it as a favour that I would keep the money and let his risk be but once. I ventured to do it, as I enclose a set of Bills of a much larger amount from which I knew you could deduct the sum if you pleased. I should be obliged if you will order me 12 Ells of Led coulourd Lutestring and 12 of black and white changeable with half a peice of black ribbon and a peice of Narrow about 4 sols per yard with 3 yards of plain black Gauze and 3 of figured.
If you should think proper not to deduct the 7 Louis from the Bills you will please to order the remainder remitted in common Calico and hankerchiefs which are the most saleable articles here. I request at the same time that you would not straiten yourself for supplies to me, especiall[y] whatever you may esteem a superfluity.
Your Brother I fear will very soon become a widower. It appears to me and to others that his wife is far gone in a consumption.5 Your Mother is in tolerable Health tho much broken I think with the Severity of the winter which has been very unfavourable to people in years. The old gentleman is almost helpless.6
All the rest of our Friends are well. Publick News you will learn from the papers.
Some vessel or other will sail for France soon by which I shall again write. The Spring is advanceing fast, which after the rigour of a Canadian Winter is more particuliarly agreable to those who do not feel that Lassitude from it; which anxiety of mind, confinement, and want of exercise produce in your ever affectionate
[signed] Portia
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Portia”; docketed by CFA: “April 15th. & May 1st. 1780,” to cover this and her letter to JA of the latter date (printed below). Enclosures not found.
1. Benjamin Guild (1749–1792), Harvard 1769, had been serving as a tutor in Harvard College since 1776, “in which Office,” Rev. Samuel Cooper told JA in a letter of introduction dated 11 May (Adams Papers), “he has acquitted himself with Capacity and Honours and is much esteemed by his Acquaintance. He goes abroad to enlarge his Knowledge of the World, to extend his Connections and make useful Observations of which he is very capable.” Guild spent the better part of a year in the Netherlands and France, and then after only a short time in America returned to Europe early in 1782 on an unspecified errand. Returning to Boston in the fall of that year, he married in 1784 Elizabeth, daughter of Col. Josiah and Elizabeth (Waldron) Quincy. It is said that he was “for some time a preacher,” but by 1789 he was conducting a bookstore and circulating library on Cornhill (now Washington Street) in Boston. He was an incorporating member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and became a donor of books to the Massachusetts Historical Society, where his valuable though somewhat irregular MS Diary for 1774–1779 was deposited in 1958. See AA to JA, 1 May, below; Guild to JA, 18 Jan., { 323 } 28 Nov. 1782 (both in Adams Papers); JA to Elbridge Gerry, 19 Aug. 1782 (MHi: Gerry II Papers); Harvard Quinquennial Cat.; Charles Burleigh, The Genealogy and History of the Guild, Guile, and Gile Family, Portland, Maine, 1887, p. 85; MHS, Procs., 1st ser., 1 (1791–1835): 33; New Select Catalogue of Benjamin Guild's Circulating Library . . ., Boston, 1789; Adams Genealogy.
2. The meaning appears to be: I can be sure not to hear more than once a year, &c.
3. This “article,” which it may be significant to note that AA mentioned only allusively, was “a genteel Chaise,” being made for her by Thomas Bumstead of Boston; see Richard Cranch to JA, 26 April, below, and references there.
4. The Belchers were a numerous family in Braintree and owned several of the farms on and about the north side of Penn's Hill, at the foot of which was JA's patrimonial property, in part acquired from one of the Belchers; see Waldo C. Sprague, The President John Adams and President John Quincy Adams Birthplaces, Quincy, Massachusetts, Quincy, Mass., 1959, passim; Pattee, Old Braintree and Quincy, passim. Lt. Nathaniel Belcher (1700–1780) was a neighbor of the Adamses for many years; he had held sundry town offices and militia commissions and died during the preceding winter (NEHGR, 60 [1906] 1248). JA had had his eye since at least 1771 on Nathaniel's and other Belcher properties, which he hoped to acquire in order to improve his own farm; see Diary and Autobiography, 2:16–17, 41, 49. It is not certain whether he and AA succeeded in this object.
5. The former Mary Crosby, wife of JA's only surviving brother, Peter Boylston Adams, died on one of the first days of June, leaving several children, including a newborn daughter, Elizabeth, who lived only a few months. See Richard Cranch to JA, 9–10 June, and AA to JA, 13 June, 16 July, all below; also Adams Genealogy.
6. John Hall, JA's stepfather, who lived with the Peter Boylston Adamses, died on 27 Sept. 1780 (Quincy, First Church, MS Records, fol. 225; see also AA to JA, 8 Oct., below, and Adams Genealogy).

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0249

Author: Gerry, Elbridge
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1780-04-17

Elbridge Gerry to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dear Madam

By the last Post I was honored with your Letter of the 13th March, communicating in Confidence your Sentiments on a certain publication in the Philadelphia Paper, which had been too striking to escape the Notice of Mr. A[dams]'s Friends in this Quarter.1
It is not easy to ascertain the Intentions, of the philosophical Society in their Election of Mr. A . . . . s, or how far they were concerned in making such an invidious Distinction, but it is highly probable that the List was sent to the press by some of their Members, and certain it is, they might have corrected the Measure, had they disapproved thereof. Nevertheless Madam, to pursue these Enquiries, I presume, will be no Ways pleasing to You, if “the Honor and Character” of our Friend can be guarded by any Mode that is more agreable, and at the same Time that promises as happy an Effect.
Previous to the Audience of Mr. Gerard, who was the first foreign Minister received by Congress, it was determined, that all Ministers { 324 } plenipotentiary, whether sent to or from Congress, should have the Title of “honorable”; and altho this appeared to many Members unequal to the Dignity of the Office, yet, in all the publick proceedings of Congress, the Rule has been invariably observed to the present Time. Doctor F[rankli]n, Mr. A——s, and Mr. J[a]y, are by their respective Appointments Ministers plenipotentiary, and no one who has seen their Instructions can suppose, that the Powers of Mr. A——s are less, or indeed that they are not more important than what are given to either of the other Gentlemen. Dr. F——n's Commission not being renewed represents him to have been “Deputy from the State of Pennsylvania to the General Congress and president to the Convention of the said State.” Mr. A——'s “late Commissioner of the united States of America at the Court of Versailes, late Delegate in Congress from the State of Massachusetts Bay and chief Justice of the said State” and Mr. J—y's “late president of Congress, and chief Justice of the State of New York,”2 from all which I think it evident, that whether We refer to the Commissions, Instructions, or Appointments of the Gentlemen mentioned, Mr. A——'s Rank is at least equal to either of the others, and by the Resolutions of Congress, he has the same Title.
But the Subject, as You justly consider it Madam, is delecate in it's Nature, and requires Measures that point not directly at the Object. I am therefore of Opinion, that it will be well, for the Information of the Friends and Correspondents of our Ministers plenipotentiary and the Secretaries of the Embassies, to publish such Circumstances as have been mentioned relative to their respective Commissions and Titles, in the same Paper in which the List of the Society was published. It may also be proper to have Mr. A——s appointed a Member of the “American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” for the Institution whereof I have been lately informed a Bill is depending in the Legislature of the State of Massachusetts;3 and should You think it expedient to consult our Friend General Warren on the Occasion, he will undoubtedly promote the Appointment, and see that it is properly communicated to the publick. A third Mode will be attempted, but I am doubtful whether it will succeed, which is to move Congress to grant a more dignified Title than “honorable” to all Ministers plenipotentiary, whether sent to or from Congress; for indeed they will always have it de Facto if not de Jure.
The Attempts mentioned in your Letter to traduce Mr. A——s in France, are convincing Proofs of the Necessity of opposing every Measure of this Kind, however trifling it may at first appear; and I assure You Madam that on every Occasion I shall with the greatest pleasure { 325 } endeavour to support him as a particular Friend, as well as a valuable Statesman.
At Mr. A——s Request in Novr. last I transmitted You the Rate of Exchange of Specie, which is now sold in this City from 60 to 62£ for 1,4 and remain with every Sentiment of Respect your sincere Friend & most hume. Sert.,
[signed] E.G.
RC (Adams Papers); at foot of text: “Portia.” Dft (PPAmP); docketed in margin: “Copy of a Letter to Mrs. Adams 17th. Apr. 1780.” Dft is heavily revised throughout and varies at a number of points from RC; one major variation is recorded in note 2 below.
1. See above, AA to Gerry, 13 March, and notes there; see also Gerry's further reply on the same subject, 16 May, below.
2. From here to the end of this paragraph Gerry first wrote and then crossed out in Dft the following: “and with some Difficulty carried this point, in order to guard them and especially the former [i.e. JA], against the Attacks of disappointed Ambition and Envy, to which notwithstanding his conspicuous Merit, I was apprehensive he would be liable in his elevated Station. I mention this likewise Madam to shew, that not even the [president?] of Congress, the Minister of France, Doctor Franklin, or Mr. Jay have by the Resolution of Congress a higher Title than Mr. Adams, whose Commission is by far the most important.”
3. An Act to establish a Society for the Cultivation and Promotion of Arts and Sciences was passed by the General Court on 4 May and was printed as a broadside (Ford, Mass. Broadsides, No. 2237; Evans 16841; example in Adams Papers). “Hon. John Adams, Esq.” was named therein as one of the sixty-two incorporators of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, but of course without mention of the offices he held.
4. Gerry had sent this information in a letter to AA of 24 Nov. 1779, which is known to the editors only in a printed summary of Gerry's draft, listed for sale by Walter R. Benjamin, Autographs, New York City, The Collector, 70:60 (May–June 1957).
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/