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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0063

Author: Rush, Benjamin
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1778-08-15

Benjamin Rush to Abigail Adams

[salute] Madam

I set down with great pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of a letter from Mr. Adams dated February 8th, with a poscript from you, which through a Mistake, or neglect in the post Offices did not reach me 'till the 10th. of this instant.1 I hope it is not too late to thank you for them both. The remedies you have demanded to releive the anguish of your mind occasioned by parting with your dear Mr. Adams have now become unnecessary from my hand. You have drawn comfort from a hundred resources since he left his native shores. You have heard of his safe arrival in France, of the marks of respect with which he was introduced into that kingdom, and of his zeal and industry in promoting the liberties, and adding to the Stability of the independance of his country. To greive at the Absence of a husband thus honoured, and thus employed, would partake of the weakness of those people who bewail the premature translation of a friend from the humble pursuits of earth to the beneficent employments of heaven.
I am led by the many amiable traits I have received of your Character from Mr. Adams, to call upon you to rejoice in the happy changes that have taken place in the Appearance of our Affairs since my correspondence commenced with Mr. Adams.—An Alliance has been formed with the first Monarchy in Europe. The haughty Court of Britain has been forced to sue to her once insulted colonies for peace—the capital of Pennsylvania the Object of the expenses and blood of a whole campaign has been evacuated—the flower of the british army { 75 } has been disgraced—and above all, a french fleet now hovers over our coasts, and adds its Strength to the Arms of the united States. These madam are great and unexpected events, and call for the gratitude of our country to the great Arbiter of human Affairs. When the Duke D'Avignon,2 After having witnessed the destruction of a whole Army by Sickness, the war before last, at Hallifax, saw his last Ship perish in a storm, he cried out “God is resolved to have all the honor of conquering us to himself.” In like manner it seems as if heaven was resolved to have all the honor of our deliverance to itself. The wisdom of our counsels was often foolishness, and the strength of our Arms was too often weakness. Even the capture of Burgoyne which produced this wonderful revolution in our Affairs was the effect of a Mistake in Congress. By recalling General Gates from Ticonderoga they gave the enemy a post which led him into the heart of our country. The restoring of General Gates to his command was not the effect of the wisdom of Congress, but the result of the spirit and clamors of the people.
Soon after my last letter to Mr. Adams I was forced to resign my commission of physician General to the military hospitals having no prospect of being supported in doing my duty by the Congress, or the Army. This prepared the way for my returning to Philadelphia as soon as the enemy left it, where I am now setled with my family in the business of my profession, and wholly taken up in the duties of private life. Our city has undergone some purification, but it still too much resembles the Ark which preserved not only the clean, but the unclean beasts from the effects of the deluge.3

[salute] My dear Mrs. Rush joins in best compts: to you, and your little family with Madam your most Obedient humble servt.,

[signed] Benja. Rush
RC (Adams Papers). LbC (PPL); dated “Septr: 3. 1778”; printed in Benjamin Rush, Letters, 1:217–218. There is no discernible explanation of the discrepancy between the date of LbC (which is essentially a draft) and that of RC; see note 1. Among numerous textual differences between the two MSS, only one is recorded here; see note 3.
1. JA's letter to Rush of 8 Feb. 1778, with a postscript by AA saying she stood “in need of [Rush's] prescriptions of Condolance,” is now in MB; LbC (Adams Papers) is printed in JA, Works, 9:472–473, without the postscript. Rush's statement that he had received this letter on “the 10th. of this instant” (i.e. August), found also in LbC, makes the date he attached to LbC altogether unaccountable.
2. A mistake for the Due d'Anville (or Enville); see JA to AA, 30 Dec., below, and note 3 there.
3. LbC has a paragraph at this point which is not in RC: “I beg you would present Miss Adams with the little book which accompanies this letter. It was written by Dr. Gregory, one of my masters, a worthy and eminent physician in { 76 } the city of Edinburgh.” The volume in question was John Gregory, A Father's Legacy to His Daughters, first published in 1774 and frequently reprinted (DNB).

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0064

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Lovell, James
Date: 1778-08-19

Abigail Adams to James Lovell

[salute] My dear Sir

This Moment your favour of August the 62 is come to hand. My Heart reproaches me that I have not before this time told you that according to the Scotch Song “I had banishd all my Grief for I was sure the News was true and I was sure he's well.”—Indeed Sir I have been so much absorbed in my own happiness and so selfish that I have scarcly thought of communicating it.
But a debt of gratitude is due to you who not with standing the weight of publick cares which must engrose all your hours, have frequently devoted those which Nature requires for repose, to the Benevolent purpose of giving ease and dissapating the fears and anxieties of your greatly obliged Friend. No additional proof was wanting to convin[c]e me that the Native Sensibility, tenderness and Benevolence of Mr. L[ovel]l could suffer no alteration or dimunation, by any buisness or employment in which he could be engaged—that it is an innate principal and displays itself in every action of his life and of this he may be assured if it will give him any satisfaction that the happy talent he possesses in the Manifestation of those virtues will ever attach the fair Sex to him and in a perticuliar manner.
[signed] Portia
Dft (Adams Papers); docketed by CFA: “To James Lovell.”
1. Since AA is here acknowledging a letter from Lovell dated 6 Aug., and since Lovell acknowledged on 1 Sept. (see under that date below) a letter from her dated 19 Aug. (RC not found), the present draft can be assigned the latter date with some confidence.
2. Not found.

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0065

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Thaxter, John
Date: 1778-08-19

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter

[salute] Dear Sir

I really began to feel very uneasy at your long Silence and feared Sickness or some disaster had befallen you. I have been a journey, and absent about a fortnight as far as Haverhill,1 and upon my return I expected to have found Letters in Town, for so long a Space has not intervened since your absence, but to my no small dissapointment I could not hear any thing from you, but I will not complain since Last nights Express brought me so ample a compensation, for which accept my thanks and for the publick papers enclosed which beguile some { 77 } of my lonely Hours. Six months have elapsed, in the whole of which time I have received only two short Letters from abroad. You may judge how painfull to me this long interval appears when I compare my present Situation with my former indulgence. Tho I could not expect such frequent intercourse yet I had flatterd myself with a much freer communication. I cannot help exclaming sometimes, O! that I had the wings of a Dove.2
I was in hopes that I should have had some very agreable intelligence to have communicated to you before this time from Rhode Island;3 the Spirit I assure you is greater here than you ever saw it. Gentleman of rank and fortune have joind that Army in the capacity of volunteers, the spirit caught from Town to Town surprizeingly. Portsmouth, Newburyport,4 Salem, Boston, all their chosen Sons, have marched with a spirit and vigor that does Honour to America. Hitchbourn, Welsh, Mason, Smith, Bradford, Codman are those you know of the independent company5 and all of them are gone to earn Lawrels I hope, and wear the victors Crown.6

“Honour rewards the Brave and bold alone

She spurns the Timirous, Indolent and base

Danger and Toil stand stern before her Throne

And guard, so Jove commands the sacred place

Who seeks her must the mighty cost sustain

And pay the price of Fame, Labour, care and pain.”

We are very anxious for the French Fleet, which saild after How, the day before the severest North East Storm ever known at this season of the year.7 Nothing has been heard of them since and to day is 9 days since they went out.
The commissioners of Britain make not only a small but an ignominious figure. I cannot help considering them in the Light of the Fallen Angles in Milton who meditating upon their own miserable State and lost Liberties are desirous of involving this New world, this paridice of Freedom in the same chains and thraldom with their own and thus consulting,

“Here perhaps some advantageous act may be achievd

By sudden onset, or with tempting Bribe

To waste this whole creation or possess all as our own

and drive, as we are driven the puny habitants

or if not drive, seduce them to our party,

that their God may prove their foe

And with repenting hand, abolish his own work.”8

{ 78 }
They too like the Grand Deceiver must be making use of the same instruments to effect their diabolical plans by tempting a Modern Eve to taste the forbidden Fruit. But tis with pleasure I find in the General and Statesman a more rigid virtue and incorruptable Heart than our primitive parent discoverd, tho perhaps it may be happy for the Gentleman that his own Eve was not imployd, and she the only Female on Earth, or that unbounded knowledg was not the Bribe, instead of the paltry Gold.
You have heard before this time of the recovery of your worthy parent and mine from the small pox.9 They are both in Health.—I believe I did not mention to you that I have a new Nephew at Haverhill (betterd I hope by the Mothers side).10
You do not tell me how you do, nor how you like the city, the Metropilis as she calls herself of America.
Masters Charles and Tommy present their respects to you. Charly is learning to write and hopes soon to let you know it. Miss N[abb]y is at Boston. I have reminded her of a debt she owes you but she is backward in paying it. G[enera]l Hancock you see is gone to Rhode Island, so is another G[enera]l from this Town as volunteer.11 May they be calld to action and acquit themselves with Honour.
Continue to write by every opportunity. I love to know what is passing in the world tho excluded from it. I asked you several questions in my last, an answer to which is expected by your Friend
[signed] Portia
RC (MB); addressed: “To Mr. John Thaxter Philadelphia”; endorsed: “Mrs. Adams 19th. Augst. 1778.” Dft (Adams Papers); incomplete (see note 9); at head of text in CFA's hand: “August 1778.” Some of the numerous variations between RC and Dft have been recorded in notes below.
1. Dft: “Haverhill and Newburyport.”
2. This sentence is not in Dft, which reads, instead: “I cannot help suspecting that many vessels must have been taken, or I should have heard oftner. Methinks with so respectable a Navy as France has she might keep a clearer coast. If England was not such a dastard she would have declared war, e'er this period. Our communication would be better should that be the case.”
3. The campaign then in progress against the British forces in Rhode Island was under the command of Maj. Gen. John Sullivan. On the point of probable success, it failed when a sudden and heavy storm disabled the Comte d'Estaing's cooperating fleet. For detailed accounts see AA to Thaxter, 2–3 Sept., and Cotton Tufts to JA, 2 Nov., both below.
4. Dft inserts “Marblehead” at this point, which was perhaps unintentionally omitted in RC.
5. Benjamin Hichborn had been captured with JA's indiscreet letters in Aug., 1775 but afterward escaped; see JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:174–175; 3:318–319. Thomas Welsh, serving as a military surgeon, was a relative of AA's by marriage; see Adams Genealogy. Jonathan Mason, a former law clerk of JA's and a correspondent of AA's, has been identified and often alluded to in earlier volumes of this series. John Codman (probably John Codman Jr., on whom { 79 } see William Smith to AA, 1–3 Oct., below) was one of the members of the Independent Company when it was formed in 1776; see AA to JA, 1 Aug. 1776, vol. 2, above; Mass. Soldiers and Sailors, 3:704. Neither Smith nor Bradford can be identified with certainty.
6. Dft varies markedly from RC at this point, but it may be necessary to note only that in DftAA stated that she herself “saw the Boston independant company march. Many joind it who did not really belong to it. They made a Handsome appearence.” According to the newspapers the Company marched on Friday, 7 August. Presumably AA was in Boston at this time, either going to or returning from Haverhill.
7. Dft adds: “The wind blew a mere Hurricane for 24 hours.”
8. From Beelzebub's speech in Paradise Lost, bk. II, lines 362–370, but, as usual in quoting, unquestionably from memory, AA partly paraphrases and pays little heed to the original line arrangement. In Dft her wording and line arrangement are still different.
9. From here to its end Dft reads:
“We have sufferd greatly by a very severe drought and intense Heat. The Indian corn was nearer perishing than ever I knew it before, many Feild[s] have been cut up, and what were left the most severe storm that was ever known here laid level with the Ground. I fear we shall be distressd for Bread, and cider will be scarcer than it has been since my remembrance. There were but very few apples before the storm having sufferd an early blast, and the few there were are distroyd by the storm. We think you deficient in your duty that you never tell us how you do, nor have you said lately whether your disorder has left you. Your Welfare is most earnestly wished by your Friend Portia.”
In a passage not quoted from Dft there is evidence that the entire draft was written a day earlier than the fair copy which was sent. It is possible that the date at head of RC was overwritten from “18” to “19.”
10. William Smith Shaw, son of AA's sister Elizabeth (Smith) and Rev. John Shaw, was born in Haverhill on 12 Aug. 1778 (Vital Records of Haverhill, Massachusetts, Topsfield, Mass., 1910–1911, 1:271). He served as JA's private secretary during the latter's Presidency and became a founder and the first librarian of the Boston Athenaeum. See Adams Genealogy. AA's aversion to her brother-in-law Shaw has been expressed earlier in this correspondence; see above, vols. 1:176 and 2:173, and see Thaxter's answer, 11–12 Sept., below.
11. Possibly but not certainly Brig. Gen. Joseph Palmer.
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, 2018.