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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0255

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1780-05-05

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dear Portia

By your Uncles Letter of 26 feb., he could not hear of any Letters from me by Trash. I certainly wrote by him from Corunna, so did the Children. I wrote to Congress, as well as to you. I wrote also by Babson, who carried some Things for you, from Bilbao. I hope the letters are not lost.
I went a few days ago to Biçetre, to see the Curiosities of that Place.1 It is a Bedlam for the Mad, a Prison for Felons, an hospital for the Poor, and particularly for the most abandoned and decayed Women of the Town.—What a Collection of Insanity, Criminality, and Misery!—It is impossible for me to find time to describe in detail the Things that I saw there. The Objects of Horrour, which are there in such Numbers and such Variety of sorts, would be too painfull to describe.
There are 4600 Persons, in this Castle and its Appendages, including the distracted, the Culprits, the Poor, and the Tradesmen who reside there, and whose labours are necessary, for the subsistance and Accommodations of the Inhabitants of the Place. It is about 3 miles out of the City. In a beautifull and airy situation—it has a large fine Garden—a spacious Court Yard: but the most remarkable thing is a Well, 45 feet in Circumference and of a vast depth out of which they { 338 } draw all the Water for the Place. It is poured into a vast Reservoir, Square, and 9 feet deep, from whence it is taken for the supply of the People.
I went next Day to see the Guarde Meubles of the King, which is at the Place of L[ouis] 14. Here were riches and Magnificence without End—Gold, silver and prescious stones. But I cannot enter into Descriptions of particulars.2 After which We all went to see the Hospital of Invalids.

[salute] Adieu.

1. Under 1 May 1780 JA's account of personal expenditures has the following entry: “Gave at Biçetre, the bedlam of Paris 9 [livres]” (Diary and Autobiography, 2:439). This famous hospital, asylum, and house of correction, founded in the 1630's, took its name from a château in the countryside, just south of the then limits of Paris, which was the earliest building devoted to hospital use. For a description of the buildings and grounds of the Bicêtre at the time of JA's visit, see Dict. historique de la ville de Paris, 1:606–610.
2. The Garde-Meuble de la Couronne was the private art collection or “précieux dépot” of the King. See a detailed contemporary description in Dict. historique de la ville de Paris, 3:111–116. It was housed in 1780 in a building in the Rue Royale, Place de Louis XV (not XIV).

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0256

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1780-05-12

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dear Portia

Mr. Austin has at last arrived—he dined with me, Yesterday and today. He has been taken, and been to London [and] from thence to Amsterdam. All his Letters to me from Congress, the Council and my friends, he cast into the Sea.—What a Loss!—Oh how I regret it!1
But he brought from Amsterdam, yours of 26 Feb.—but how was I mortified, to find that you had not received my Letters from Ferrol and Corunna. It was only to day that I went out to carry My sons Letter from his Cousin, that I learnt by a Postscript the 29 of Feb. that he had just received a Letter from him dated Ferrol Decr. 12.2 From this I conclude, you had mine.
I have this day a Letter from Mr. Moylan, that he has delivered to Dr. Winship in the Alliance a Chest with the Things you desired and others.3 But after all I fear she will go to a wrong Place. It is the only Opportunity I could get. Pray write me by every Vessell to Holland and Spain—I find they are the best Opportunities.
You cant imagine how C[harle]s was pleased with the Welfare of his Bird &c. I have given him a beautiful pair, which pleases him much.4 He speaks french like an Hero.—My dear daughter dont write { 339 } me. I wish I could write to her, but I cant get time.—Tom too, how fares my favourite boy? He's best off. We all envy him.
As to Taxes, the more they tax me, provided they tax others in Proportion, the happier I am. It is our best Policy and I fear our only Resource.
The fleet and Army are sailed from Brest, and another I suppose from Spain—Cadiz. We hope Clinton wont get Charlestown but We are afraid. If he does he wont keep it long I fancy.
There are many Letters from me on board the french fleet, wherever it is gone—many others with the Marquis de la Fayette—many more in the Alliance which have been there I know not how long.
I never wrote so much in my Life, yet it seems as if none of it would ever get to America. You had Letters by Babson and Knives and Forks—and Tumblers.
Peace is my dear delight, but when shall I see it? They have not attacked me very furiously, in the English Papers, as yet. They have called me once Rebel Chieftain and once Rebel Plenipotentiary, no more yet. I expect they will have at me, by and by. True conscious Honour is to know no sin.
I wish you had told me what Gellee's Report was—I cant hear a Syllable of it, nor guess what it is.5 He is gone from hence. Mr. L.6 goes in the Alliance. Remember me to all friends.

[salute] Adieu.

1. On Jonathan Loring Austin and his current mission and capture, see AA to JA, 18 Jan., above.
2. This exchange between JQA and his cousin William Cranch has not been found.
3. The letter from James Moylan, a merchant at Lorient, was dated 8 May but has not been found. JA acknowledged it on 14 May and instructed Moylan:
“I have received your Favour of the 8th. inclosing Invoice, of sundry goods shipped on board the Alliance to the Amount of Liv. 2187: 3s: 0d. . . . I am much obliged to Dr. Winship, for undertaking the Care of the Caisse. If he should go to Philadelphia and not return soon from thence to Boston, I should be glad he would deliver it, to Mr. Gerry or some of the Mass. Delegates and ask them to convey it by the first Waggon” (LbC, Adams Papers).
4. In JA's record of personal expenditures there is an entry of 28 April 1780: “Paid for Singing Birds and Cages 35 [livres]: 10: 0” (Diary and Autobiography, 2:439).
5. See AA to JA, 26 Feb., and AA to Mrs. Warren, 28 Feb., both above.
6. Arthur Lee.
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/