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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0306

Author: Thaxter, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1780-09-20

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams

[salute] Madam

I had the honor yesterday of a most excellent letter under the signature of Portia dated 21st. July; and altho' I wrote You largely but yesterday, yet it would be unpardonable to omit the earliest opportunity of most gratefully acknowledging the receipt of a letter, which from its Morality, its refined Sentiments and its Patriotism does infinite honour to the Writer.
I have read with the highest satisfaction your ingenious observations on the works of my Lord Chesterfield.1 Your known Impartiality and the justice of your remarks have confirmed me in an Opinion I had before entertained of this Writer. I confess with Candour, that { 422 } I have not read all the Works of his Lordship; but have however read enough to convince me of his Object, and of the difficulties with which he was embarrassed in the execution of it. His Object was the education and instruction of his Son, in the Arts, Intrigues and Chicane of Policy, in the use of the Weapons of Gallantry, and in the fashionable and polite Vices of the Age. But his Son, if not belied, was a Clown and Blockhead, a promising Pupil for such excellent Doctrines. To form a Statesman and Gallant from such materials was a Task full equal to the Talents of the Father. What progress his own Son made I know not. That of his adopted Sons is no Mystery. There is a great difference of Sentiment in respect to the merit of this Work. Some say it was written to preserve Morality, others that it tends to poison it. I mean not to set up an Opinion of my own, but if the most scandalous deviations from the principles of Morality are to be justified upon the principles of Chesterfield, as is often the Case, the natural Inference seems to be, that Morality has found but a weak Advocate in his Lordship. Happy would it be, if Burgh was more read,2 and Chesterfield less admired. It must be allowed that his Lordship has wrote many excellent letters and that he was a Man of Talents, Experience and Observations. Unfortunately for Posterity, he hath left more proofs of the great, than the good Man.—These are my Sentiments, for which I shall be called, fool, blockhead, Pedant, &c. &c.—be it so. I wish I had more Wisdom and more Morality.
I am to thank You for your kind distribution of my very sincere affection to the young Ladies, and for your polite and flattering Communication of their reception of it. They have laid me under an Obligation of renewing my request to you to tender the same to them again. I am very happy in their Esteem. I will not say I should be particularly happy in the Esteem of one out of the Number, nor one word about partiality. You acquitted me of any before my departure. Here I must stand my own Voucher.
Your three letters to your dearest friend are forwarded to him at Amsterdam. Captain Sampson delivered me a large budget for Mr. A. and D. with yours. I was almost tempted to break open one of Mrs. D. to her dear friend, but was afraid She would take me to Task for it, as well as Mr. D. I had liberty to read all Letters to Mr. A. in his Absence. Yours to him I did not. Perhaps You would not have given me liberty. I ought not then to have taken it. I did in one instance but apologized for it.
Captn. Sampson informed me that Mr. Pearse Palmer told him just before his departure, that they had had news of the Death of Josey Palmer in England.3 It was unexpected and shocking to me. I { 423 } loved him for his amiable Virtues, his good Heart and engaging manners. The World had a prospect of an useful Citizen in him. I scarcely knew a more promising young Gentleman, but he is cropt in the Bloom of Life, in the Morning of his days and in the beginning of Usefulness. I sympathize most sincerely with his friends.
I cannot close without assuring You, that I think myself extremely happy in having a Share in your Esteem, and without thanking You for your charitable Opinion of me. To continue to be more deserving of both will [be] the ambition of him, who has the Honor to be with the most perfect Respect, Madam, your most obedient and very humble Servant,
[signed] J T
1. In her letter of 21 July, above. For more on the Adams-Warren circle's views respecting Chesterfield's Letters to His Son, see AA to Mrs. Warren, 28 Feb., above, and references there.
2. James Burgh (1714–1775) was a Scottish miscellaneous writer who taught in a dissenting academy at Newington Green near London. His Political Disquisitions: or, an Enquiry into Public Errors, Defects, and Abuses, 3 vols., London, 1774–1775, was a popular work among American patriots for the very reasons that they repudiated Chesterfield's worldly morals. Burgh denounced the corruptions of British society and politics from a puritanical point of view that appealed particularly to New Englanders. See the very perceptive study by Oscar and Mary Handlin, “James Burgh and American Revolutionary Theory,” MHS, Procs., 73 (1961):38–57. JA owned two presentation sets of Burgh's Political Disquisitions (both in Boston Public Library) and wrote the author a letter glowing with praise (Catalogue of JA's Library; JA to Burgh, 28 Dec. 1774, incomplete Dft in Adams Papers, printed in JA, Works, 9:350–352).
3. On the death of “Josey,” i.e. Joseph Palmer, see AA to CA and JQA, 22 July, above. “Pearse Palmer” was Josey's cousin, Joseph Pearse Palmer (1750–1797), son of Deacon (and Brig. Gen.) Joseph Palmer; see vol. 1:18, and Adams Genealogy.

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0307

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Thaxter, John
Date: 1780-09-23

John Adams to John Thaxter

[salute] Dear Sir

Last Night I had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 17th. After reflecting a little upon matters I think upon the whole it will be necessary, that you wait on Dr. Franklin and ask the Favour of him to take the Charge of my Books, at his house, and also of my cloaths. If he declines permitting them to be left there, ask the same favour of Mr. Grand. You may leave the Books open for their use or purchase trunks and lock them up leaving the keys with them.
All my Letters, Letter Books, Account books and papers must be brought here by you, with the utmost care, especially the most valuable Papers, which you will easily distinguish.
The Wine I know not what to do with. If the Landlady will keep { 424 } it in the Cellar it may remain, taking an Account of the number of Bottles and a Receipt for them. Otherwise consult Mr. Grand, or Dr. Franklin. Perhaps they would buy it, or procure a Store for it, which I should chuse. If Mr. Grand Could procure a Cellar for it, to lye untill I should call for it, which may soon happen, I should prefer that.1
Apply to Mr. Grand for all the Money you want to pay off Scores and to bear your Expences here, keeping an Account.
Above all Things take Care of my Papers. Get Mr. Harry Grand2 to assist you in purchasing an Handsome Porte Feuille with a Lock and Key. Lock up in this the most prescious Papers, and lock up the Port Feuille in your Chest.
My Linnen and Stockings I wish you to bring with you.

[salute] Affectionately your's,

[signed] John Adams3
LbC in JQA's hand (Adams Papers). This may have been the first occasion on which JQA, now thirteen, served as his father's amanuensis.
1. This paragraph has been slightly repunctuated in the interest of clarity.
2. Henry Grand (more properly and fully Henri Maximilien Grand), second son of Ferdinand Grand, the banker for Congress in Paris (Lüthy, La banque protestante en France, 2:618, 820).
3. This letter superseded another, immediately preceding it in JA's letterbook, dated 23 Sept. but corrected to the 21st by overwriting and with its text entirely canceled, containing somewhat different and less detailed instructions to Thaxter regarding JA's books, clothing, wines, and papers in Paris. On 8 Oct. Franklin wrote from Passy to JA: “Your Books and Trunks have been lodged here by Mr. Thaxter, and will be taken care of. They are of no Inconvenience to me” (Adams Papers).
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/