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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5


Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0153

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1783-12-07

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My Dearest Friend

Will you honour a Bill of mine, drawn in favour of Uncle Smith1 for 60 pounds, to pay for 9 acres of wood land which I have purchased of William Adams being part of the estate of Benjamin Ruggles, which fell to Mr. Adams in right of his wife. You will think I have given a large price for it, but it is not so much as your Brother2 has given him for a 6 acre Lot adjoining to his. The Lot I have purchased is much nearer home, and much easier getting the wood of than any which you owned before of so large a Growth. I am informd that it is very well wooded, and if I was inclined to have a part cut of, for the market, I might at the price wood bears now; raise the money with a third of the wood; it fetches 7 dollors a cord, in Boston, oweing to the few vessels which remained to us after the peace, and these all imployed in carrying Lumber, so that no wood comparitively speaking has been brought from [the?] eastward this fall. I gave 6 pounds pr acre and have trusted to my [cr]edit with you to reimburse me the money I have paid for it, it being what I had collected for the payment of my present taxes and my Quarters Board and Schooling for my children. The land cost a hundred and eighty dollors.3 I have drawn for 200 being an even Sum.
I have not heard any thing further from you since your Letters of Sepbr,4 which I replied to immediately and hope you received the answers to them. Mr. Thaxter it is said arrived at New York the 20 of November and proceeded on to Congress immediately.
Capt. Callihan in the Peace and Plenty, is not yet arrived, and we { 277 } are anxious for him as he saild the 7 of october. I hope to receive Letters by him. We have had most terrible weather upon this coast.
I have considerd your invitation to me, the arguments for and against it, with all the deliberation I am mistress of. I have arranged before me all your former objections, I have added to them the state of your Health as you have discribed it, and upon the whole, your return here, is the object my Heart pants for. A relaxation from the fatigues and vexations of publick Life appears necessary for your Health, from these you cannot be exempted whilst you continue abroad. The envyed embassy to a certain Island5 is surrounded with so many thorns, that the Beauty and fragrance of the Rose, would be but a small compensation for the wounds which might be felt in the gatheiring and wearing it.
If you felt yourself under obligations during the dangers and perilous of war, to sacrifice, your Health your ease and safety, to the independance and freedom of your Country, those obligations cannot now be equally binding. The Golden Fleese is won. If you have no female wiles to contend with, the dragon may secure it to us; but I believe it is as necessary that he should <reside> watch in America as Europe.6
Letters from our sons last nig[ht] from Haverhill7 inform me of their Health, and of their intention of writing to their Pappa and Brother by the next opportunity.
Dr. Cooper lies very dangerously ill of a Lethargy.8 I shall write you again very soon, for the present adieu. I know not whether I shall believe myself how well you Love me, unless I can prevail upon you to return in the Spring to your ever affectionate
[signed] Portia
I have learnt that the vessel which carried Letters from me10 answers to your last from Amsterdam and letters to Johnny in reply to his and Letters in reply to your of Sepbr. this vessel is dismasted and returnd into port Cape Cod after having been out 3 weeks so that what fate the Letters will meet with I know not. Mr. Dana, arrived in Boston yesterday from Petersburgh. I have not time to Say what my Sensations were. A flood of tears unbidden flowed from my Eyes. Yet I am sure I sincerely rejoiced in his return. Mr. Thaxter has not yet reached Braintree. I received a letter from him [ . . . ] dated New York, December 3.11 He had been to Philadelphia and was upon his return. I shall in a few days write you again.
{ 278 }
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by JQA: “Portia. Braintree Decr. 7. 1783.” Some damage to the text where the seal was removed.
1. AA filled in “Uncle Smith” in the same ink used for the text under “December 13,” below. This textual completion, the current news under “December 13,” and AA's attendance at sermons in Boston on 14 Dec. (see AA to JA, 15 Dec. and note 1, below), suggest that AA finished the letter in Boston, and that she was not certain from whom she could obtain the loan of £60 when she began it.
2. Peter Boylston Adams, also of Braintree.
3. A deed for the land, dated 15 Dec. and signed by William and Ruth Adams of Hopkinton, Mass., is in the Adams Papers. As AA writes here (9 acres at £6 per acre), the price is given as £54 lawful money.
4. Of 10 Sept. (one above; the other, Adams Papers); see JA to AA, 7 Sept., note 3, above.
5. Great Britain.
6. AA's intention in her use of certain details of the Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts is a bit uncertain here. The “Golden Fleese” is the Definitive Treaty of Peace, and the “female wiles” (of European high society?) play the role of Medea. JA is presumably Jason, who can now return home, although he might be the Dragon who can guard the “Fleese” in America. The Dragon might also be Franklin, who can stay in Europe to protect America's interests, provided he does not succumb to “female wiles.”
7. Not found.
8. Rev. Samuel Cooper of Boston's Brattle Square Church had been ill since mid-November, and would die on 29 Dec.; see AA to JA, 27 Dec., note 13, below.
9. This text begins on a separate sheet, and is written in lighter ink, but the docket on the back and the fold marks establish its inclusion with the previous text. See note 1.
10. AA to JA, and AA to JQA, both 20 Nov., above.
11. Not found.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0154

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1783-12-15

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] My Dearest Friend

I returned last Evening from Boston, where I went at the kind invitation of my uncle and Aunt, to celebrate our Anual festival. Doctor Cooper being dangerously Sick, I went to hear Mr. Clark; who is Setled with Dr. Chauncey;1 this Gentleman gave us an animated elegant and sensible discourse, from Isaah 55 chapter and 12th verse—“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with Peace; the Mountains and the Hill Shall break forth before you into singing, and all the Trees of the Field shall clap their Hands.”
Whilst he asscribed Glory and praise unto the most high, he considerd the Worthy disinterested, and undaunted Patriots as the instruments in the hand of providence for accomplishing what was marvelous in our Eyes; he recapitulated the dangers they had past through, and the hazards they had run; the firmness which had in a particular manner distinguished Some Characters, not only early to engage in so dangerous a contest, but in spight of our gloomy prospects they persevered even unto the end; untill they had obtained a Peace Safe and Honorable; large as our designs, Capacious as our wishes, and much beyond our expectations.
How did my heart dilate with pleasure when as each event was particularized; I could trace my Friend as a Principal in them; could { 279 } say, it was he, who was one of the first in joinning the Band of Patriots; who formed our first National Counsel. It was he; who tho happy in his domestick attachments; left his wife, his Children; then but Infants; even surrounded with the Horrours of war; terified and distresst, the Week after the memorable 17th. of April,2 Left them, to the protection of that providence which has never forsaken them, and joined himself undismayed, to that Respectable Body, of which he was a member. Trace his conduct through every period, you will find him the same undaunted Character: encountering the dangers of the ocean; risking Captivity, and a dungeon; contending with wickedness in high places; jeoparding his Life, endangerd by the intrigues, revenge, and malice, of a potent; tho defeated Nation.
These are not the mere eulogiums of conjugal affection; but certain facts, and solid truths. My anxieties, my distresses, at every period; bear witness to them; tho now by a series of prosperous events; the recollection, is more sweet than painfull.
Whilst I was in Town, Mr. Dana arrived very unexpectedly, for I had not received your Letter by Mr. Thaxter.3 My uncle fortunately discoverd him, as he come up into State Street, and instantly engaged him to dine with him, acquainting him that I was in Town, and at his House. The news soon reached my Ears. Mr. Dana arrived, Mr. Dana arrived—from every person you saw, but how was I affected? The Tears involuntary flowed from my eyes, tho God is my witness, I envyed not the felicity of others. Yet my Heart swelled with Grief, and the Idea that I, I only, was left alone, recall'd all the tender Scenes of seperation, and overcame all my fortitude. I retired and reasoned myself into composure sufficient; to see him without a childish emotion.
He tarried but a short time, anxious as you may well imagine, to reach Cambridge. He promised me a visit with his Lady, in a few days, to which I look forward with pleasure.4
I reach'd home last evening, having left Nabby in Town, to make her winter visit. I found Mr. Thaxter just arrived before me. It was a joyfull meeting to both of us, tho I could not prevail with him only for half an hour; his solicitude to see his Parents was great, and tho I wished his continuance with me, yet I checked not the fillial flow of affection. Happy youth! who had parents still alive to visit, Parents who can rejoice in a Son returned to them after a long absence; untainted in his morals, improved in his understanding; with a Character fair and unblemished.
But O my dearest Friend what shall I say to You in reply to your { 280 } pressing invitation; I have already written to you in answer to your Letters which were dated Sepbr. 10th and reachd me a month before those by Mr. Thaxter. I related to you all my fears respecting a winters voyage. My Friends are all against it, and Mr. Gerry as you will see, by the Coppy of his Letter inclosed,5 has given his opinion upon well grounded reasons. If I should leave my affairs in the Hands of my Friends, there would be much to think of, and much to do, to place them in that method and order I would wish to leave them in.
Theory and practise are two very different things; and the object magnifies, as I approach nearer to it. I think if you were abroad in a private Character, and necessitated to continue there; I should not hesitate so much at comeing to you. But a mere American as I am, unacquainted with the Etiquette of courts, taught to say the thing I mean, and to wear my Heart in my countantance, I am sure I should make an awkward figure. And then it would mortify my pride if I should be thought to disgrace you. Yet strip Royalty of its pomp, and power, and what are its votaries more than their fellow worms? I have so little of the Ape about me; that I have refused every publick invitation to figure in the Gay World, and sequestered myself in this Humble cottage, content with rural Life and my domestick employments in the midst of which; I have sometimes Smiled, upon recollecting that I had the Honour of being allied to an Ambassador.6 Yet I have for an example the chaste Lucretia who was found spinning in the midst of her maidens, when the Brutal Tarquin plotted her distruction.7
I am not acquainted with the particular circumstances attending the renewal of your commission; if it is modeled so as to give you satisfaction I am content; and hope you will be able to discharge it, so as to receive the approbation of your Sovereign.
A Friend of yours in Congress some months ago, sent me an extract of a Letter, requesting me to conceal his Name, as he would not chuse to have it known by what means he procured the Coppy. From all your Letters I discoverd that the treatment you had received, and the suspence You was in, was sufficiently irritating without any thing further to add to Your vexation. I therefore surpresst the extract; as I knew the author was fully known to you: but seeing a letter from G[e]n. W[arre]n to you, in which this extract is alluded to;8 and finding by your late Letters, that your situation is less embarrassing, I inclose it;9 least you should think it much worse than it really is: at the same time I cannot help adding an observation which appears pertinant to me; that there is an ingredient necessary in a Mans { 281 } composition towards happiness, which people of feeling would do well to acquire—a certain respect for the follies of Mankind. For there are so many fools whom the opinion of the world entittles to regard; whom accident has placed in heights of which they are unworthy, that he who cannot restrain, his contempt or indignation at the sight, will be too, often Quarrelling with the disposal of things to realish that Share, which is allotted to himself.”10 And here my paper obliges me to close the subject—without room to say adieu.
RC with enclosures (Adams Papers); endorsed: “recd. 5. May 1784.” Enclosures: (1) A copy of Elbridge Gerry to AA, 24 Nov., in Royall Tyler's hand; printed above. (2) An extract, also in Tyler's hand, copied from an extract that was originally enclosed with Gerry to AA, 18 Sept.; printed with that letter, above. The extract is from Benjamin Franklin to R. R. Livingston, 22 July. Following the extract, Tyler added an “Extract from Mr. G[erry']s letter Inclosing the above,” which consisted of the first three sentences of the second paragraph of Gerry's 18 Sept. letter, ending “the Doctor's Craft is apparent.” This second enclosure is endorsed, like the inclosing letter: “recd. 5. May 1784” at the bottom of the text; and docketed on the back, in an unknown hand: “AA 83 19 December.” AA's rather unclear “5” was misread for a “9.”
1. The annual festival was the commemoration of the Boston Tea Party, which had taken place on 16 Dec. 1773; the sermons marking this event in 1783 were preached on Sunday, the 14th. AA probably went to Isaac Smith Sr.'s home on Saturday, if not earlier (see AA to JA, 7 Dec., note 1, above). John Clarke, Harvard 1774, was ordained as assistant to the aged Rev. Charles Chauncy, Harvard 1721, the pastor of Boston's First Church (the “Old Brick”) in 1778, and succeeded him in 1787 (William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, N.Y., 1857–1869, 11 vols., 8:10).
2. That is, the 19th of April 1775, the day of the battles of Lexington and Concord; JA departed for Congress about 26 April (vol. 1:188–189, and note 1).
3. That is, JA's letters of 1, 4, and 7 Sept., all above; that of 1 Sept. gives the fullest information on Dana's departure for America.
4. In AA, Letters, 1840, CFA omitted this and the following paragraph. He included them in AA, Letters, 1841 and 1848.
5. Probably Gerry's letter to AA of 24 Nov., printed above.
6. From this point, CFA omitted the entire text from AA, Letters, 1840. In AA, Letters, 1841 and 1848, he dropped the sentence after “Ambassador,” included the following brief paragraph, and omitted the long concluding paragraph that discussed Franklin's attack on JA.
7. In Roman legend Lucretia, the wife of Tarquinius Collatinus, was famed for her virtue. When her husband and several other Roman nobles each boasted of their wives' decorum, and then returned from a military camp unannounced to test their claims, only Lucretia was found spinning with her handmaidens; the other wives were all dancing and revelling. Lucretia's beauty, however, aroused Sextus, son of Tarquin, king of Rome, who by deception and then violence entered her home and raped her. She made her relatives swear to avenge her and then took her own life. Outraged by Sextus' crime and his father's oppressive rule, the Romans drove the Tarquins from the city and established the republic. The primary ancient sources of this story are Livy and Ovid; the major English literary source is Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece (1594), a long poem of rhymed seven-line stanzas.
8. James Warren to JA, 27 Oct. (Adams Papers). In this long, rather gloomy letter about the enemies of virtue, in and out of Congress, Warren remarked: “the Old Man [Franklin] . . . is, as You might expect Your determin'd Enemy,—You will before this reaches You get a Paragraph of one of his Letters, which if You should by an Interval be in possession of Your right Mind will put the Matter out of Doubt.” JA had probably received this letter by 6 April, when he wrote to Arthur Lee { 282 } (Adams Papers). JA is not known to have received any extract of Franklin's letter prior to 5 May 1784, when he marked the receipt of both the present letter from AA and the extract which accompanied it.
9. Printed at Gerry to AA, 18 Sept., above.
10. AA neglected to provide opening quotation mark. The quotation has not been identified.
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/