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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0059

Author: Thaxter, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1785-06-04

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams

[salute] Madam

I had a few days since the pleasure of your favor of the 20th. of March last. Your reproofs are always accompanied with so much { 166 } delicacy, that the reproved forget the Censor in the Friend. I confess I have been strangely inattentive to my friends on your Side of the Atlantic, and that I am entitled to a large Share of their Remembrance. 'Tis but an indifferent Apology to say, that I seldom write unless upon business—yet it is nevertheless true. My Aversion to Letter writing has become almost invincible. My long Silence must be imputed to that Cause, not to premeditated design. My friends have the same Share of my Remembrance and affectionate Regards as ever, altho' they have had but few epistolary Testimonies of the same on my part for a long time.
Your Picture of the old World is an exact Resemblance, and just such an one as I expected from you, who must have seen and most sensibly felt the Difference between the two Countries in contrasting them. When a Nation has reduced to Cultivation the last Inch of its Soil, it has passed the Zenith of its Virtue. I contemplate with pleasure the vast Extent of our back Territory, and view it not only as a Mine of Wealth but a future Nursery of hardy and virtuous Citizens. Agriculture must be one of our Bulwarks. The more we cultivate our Lands, the more free and independent will be our Country. 'Tis an honorable Profession, and to him who reaps in peace the fruit of his Labor, an independent one, more exempt from dangerous Temptations and those fascinating Vices, which hold up in appearance a substantial good but in reality leave us a substantial Evil to combat with.
You tell me not to expect a detail of politicks from your Pen. I was very sorry to find that Clause in your Letter, as I expected much useful Information with a few Cabinet Secrets accompanied with your ingenious Observations upon them. Let me intreat you, Madam, not to deprive me of such a Source of Happiness. I am much obliged however by the short detail you sent me. Mr. A. has a knotty perplexed Negotiation to go through before a Commercial Treaty is formed with England. I can hope every thing from his diplomatic Talents and Experience in Negotiation, but from my knowledge of his past sufferings and difficulties, from a consideration of the present temper of the English Nation; <from> the false friends and disguised Enemies that he must detect and will detect in every stage of his progress, I say, from a consideration of these matters, I cannot but feel for him most sensibly. It must be a work of time. The golden opportunity for this business is past. The Year 1783 opened the best prospect of a liberal Treaty. The English are now possessed of an Idea that we cannot do without them, and I confess our own Conduct has too { 167 } much favoured and confirm'd such a Sentiment. We have verified their predictions, that all the Trade of America would return to its antient Channel after the peace. Indeed they courted it back by their large and long Credits, and some of them will find that the poverty of their Debtors will last much longer than the Credit of their Creditors, and of Course meet with disappointments, that they did not expect from what they supposed to be a masterpiece of policy. But they have done with Credits to this Country. For one I rejoice, and believe it will produce the best effects eventually. It will be a long time before our Merchants pay day comes. Their present Debts will remain for a very considerable time unpaid, not from a want of disposition, but from inability. We have swallowed their Bait and left the Hook bare. They have sent us their Luxuries, and we can remit nothing but ardent wishes for more with complaints of poverty and inability to pay for what we have already recieved. Our Importations have been a peaceable kind of privateering upon them, and will prove so in the end, if they don't alter their System. They may laugh at and deride what they call our Miserable situation since our Seperation from them—but let them laugh that win. Time will shew whose Calamity is to be laughed at, and who are to mock when fear cometh.1
Whenever your Son returns, you may be assured, Madam, that Inclination and Duty will equally induce me to render him all that Assistance, and to furnish him with such Advice and Council, as may be in my power. His Genius and Application will ever secure the Attention and Advice of his Friends, and enable him to make a distinguished figure in whatever profession he engages in. I am persuaded, it is Mr. A.s Ambition, that he should study the Law, after spending some time at our University. It is natural for Parents to wish to see their Children distinguishing themselves in a profession in which they have shone with a peculiar Lustre. Children become more endeared to their Parents. It <often> reminds me of what Thomson says of the smiling Offspring of the happy pair—“and every day Soft as it rolls along, shews some new charm, The Father's Lustre, and the Mother's Bloom,” whenever I see a promising Youth.2 Parents renew their Age, and go through life as it were a second time in that of their Children.
This is certainly the best Country for our own Youth to be educated in. I have no very exalted Opinion of foreign Schools, Acadamies, or Universities or whatever other name they are called, for the Education of American Youth. They advertise with great Pomposity, and promise to teach every thing, while few of their Scholars learn any { 168 } thing of Consequence. Fidling, Dancing, Fencing and Horsemanship are the Accomplishments of a fine Gentleman, but are not the substantial benefits for which our Youth ought to be sent to Schools and Universities. They engross too much time, are too captivating and too consonant to the Volatility of Youth and the Warmth and Activity of that <age> period to be so much indulged in this Country as in the old World.
The Words, “I will go to Holland and see if I cannot make America less dependent upon France,” I very well remember, as you suppose.3 It is sound Doctrine, and has stood the Test in more Instances than one. It was founded in a most laudable Ambition and supported with as much Ability as Integrity. It was genuine Policy, as it is increased our Reputation at the same time that it divided a Dependence that one Power wished to engross. It demonstrated to all Europe, that altho' America might boast of one Philosopher who could guide the Thunder bolts and disarm the winged Lightning of their fatal shafts,4 yet could She exult in another, who atchieved more noble exploits still, one who had softened and conquered the prejudices and guided the temper of a whole Nation, and counteracted the plots of <a second> two more. You will readily perceive, that I allude to the Treaty with Holland, and to the Opposition of two great Nations.5 I shall ever reflect with pleasure upon the progress and close of that Negotiation, and that all the plots, difficulties, Objections, dissuasives and even threats that were conjured up by open and disguised enemies to thwart and obstruct it, were eventually counteracted in the formation of a liberal Treaty. I saw and felt so much, that I could not but rejoice at the disappointment of some Enemies.6 And tho' we are forbid to rejoice when our Enemy falleth, yet there is no Law against it when his devices are confounded, or at least in acquiesing in the determinations of Providence.
You have forbid Courts, Writs and females to rival me in your Regards. You except a Wife—a solemn Exception. As it does not apply to me, nor never will I believe, there will be no necessity for that Exception. You tell me not to be alarmed at the Word, “Wife.” The Idea makes me shudder. Courtship in this place is systematic. It begins with Attentions, then follows Addresses which is succeeded by Courtship and Matrimony. I am only in the first stage of this Labyrinth, and if all Accounts are true, I have made a rapid progress—but common fame is a common Liar. I am slow of belief in these matters. Confidence is of slow growth in a Batchelors bosom. I die daily unto the Sin of Courtship, and am more and more alive unto { 169 } the righteousness of a single life. But still I am no Enemy to the fair Sex. I cannot live without a female friend—there however I must stop. I dare not “soothe the Ear with more than friendship.” To mention “Love's suspected name” would “startle” me, if not one of the fair. I am so ignorant of the mode of proceeding in these matters, that I am persuaded I should faulter, stammer, stutter and never give Utterance to that dreadful Word Love. I don't think I am faint hearted, and yet there is something in the popping of the question so called, that strikes me with more terror, than addressing a large Assembly. What is the Reason of it? I wish I knew of a good Receipt to fortify the Heart. If I was sufficiently bold, I cannot say what would take place shortly. You will think by all this, that I would be serious if I could. Be not decieved. I am at a great remove from Matrimony, I assure you. But of this enough.
You will please to remember me very affectionately to Amelia. I esteem her sincerely, tho' She thinks I have forgotten her. She judges me too hard.
With unfeigned Respect, I am, Madam, your most humble Servt.
[signed] JT
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Thaxter june 4 1785.”
1. Proverbs 1:26.
2. James Thomson, The Seasons: Spring, lines 1145–1147.
3. See AA to Thaxter, 20 March, and note 4, and AA to Cotton Tufts, 3 Jan., and note 8, both above.
4. For this image of Benjamin Franklin, see JA, Papers, 6:173, 174 and note 5; and Franklin, Papers, 27:frontispiece and p. xl.
5. That is, Great Britain and France.
6. Proverbs 24:17.

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0060-0001

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Jefferson, Thomas
Date: 1785-06-06

Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson

[salute] Dear Sir1

Mr. Adams has already written you that we arrived in London upon the 27 of May.3 We journey'd slowly and sometimes silently. I think I have somewhere met with the observation that nobody ever leaves Paris but with a degree of tristeness. I own I was loth to leave my Garden because I did not expect to find its place supplied. I was still more Loth on account of the increasing pleasure, and intimacy which a longer acquaintance with a respected Friend promised, to leave behind me the only person with whom my Companion could associate; with perfect freedom, and unreserve: and whose place he had no reason to expect supplied in the Land to which he is destinied.
{ 170 }
At leaving Auteuil our domesticks surrounded our Carriage and in tears took leave of us, which gave us that painfull kind of pleasure, which arises from a consciousness, that the good will of our dependants is not misplaced.
My little Bird I was obliged, after taking it into the Carriage to resign to my Parissian Chamber Maid, or the poor thing would have flutterd itself to death. I mourn'd its loss, but its place was happily supplied by a present of two others which were given me on Board the Dover pacquet, by a young Gentleman whom we had received on Board with us, and who being excessively sick I admitted into the Cabin, in gratitude for which he insisted upon my accepting a pair of his Birds. As they had been used to travelling, I brought them here in safety, for which they hourly repay me by their melodious Notes. When we arrived we went to our old Lodgings at the Adelphia,4 but could not be received as it was full, and almost every other hotel in the city. From thence we came to the Bath hotel where we at present are, and where Mr. Storer had partly engaged Lodgings for us, tho he thought we should have objections upon account of the Noise, and the Constant assemblage of Carriages round it, but it was no time for choice, as the sitting of parliament, the Birth Day of the King, and the celebration of Handles Musick5 had drawn together such a Number of people as allready to increase the price of Lodgings near double. We did not however6 hesitate at keeping them tho the four rooms which we occupy costs a third more than our House and Garden Stables &c. did at Auteuil. I had lived so quietly in that Calm retreat, that the Noise and bustle of this proud city almost turnd my Brain for the first two or three Days. The figure which this city makes in respect to Equipages is vastly superiour to Paris, and gives one the Idea of superiour wealth and grandeur. I have seen few carriages in Paris and no horses superiour to what are used here for Hackneys. My time has been much taken up since my arrival in looking out for a House. I could find many which would suit in all respects but the price, but none realy fit to occupy under 240 £. 250, besides the taxes, which are serious matters here. At last I found one in Grovenor Square which we have engaged.7
Mr. Adams has written you an account of his reception at Court, which has been as gracious and as agreeable as the reception given to the Ministers of any other foreign powers. Tomorrow he is to be presented to the Queen.8
Mr. Smith appears to be a Modest worthy Man, if I may judge from { 171 } so short an acquaintance. I think we shall have much pleasure in our connection with him.9 All the Foreign Ministers and the Secrataries of Embassies have made their visits here, as well as some English Earls and Lords.10 Nothing as yet11 has discoverd any acrimony. Whilst the Coals are coverd the blaize will not burst, but the first wind which blows them into action will I expect envelop all in flames. If the actors pass the ordeal without being burnt they may be considerd in future of the Asbestos kind. Whilst I am writing the papers of this day are handed me. From the publick Advertiser I extract the following. “Yesterday morning a Messenger was sent from Mr. Pitt to Mr. Adams the American plenipotentiary with notice to suspend for the present their intended interview.” (absolutely false.)12 From the same paper.
“An Ambassador from America! Good heavens what a sound! The Gazette surely never announced anything so extraordinary before, nor once on a day so little expected. This will be such a phenomenon in the Corps Diplomatique that tis hard to say which can excite indignation most, the insolence of those who appoint the Character, or the meanness of those who receive it. Such a thing could never have happened in any former Administration, not even that of Lord North. It was reserved like some other Humiliating circumstances to take place

Sub love, sed love nondum


From the morning post and daily advertiser it is said that “Mr. Adams the Minister plenipotentiary from America is extremly desirious of visiting Lord North whom he Regards as one of the best Friends the Americans ever had.”14 Thus you see sir the begining Squibs.
I went last week to hear the Musick in Westminster Abbey. The Messiah was performd, it was Sublime beyond description. I most sincerely wisht for your presence as your favorite passion would have received the highest gratification. I should have sometimes fancied myself amongst a higher order of Beings; if it had not been for a very troublesome female, who was unfortunately seated behind me; and whose volubility not all the powers of Musick could still.15
I thank you sir for the information respecting my son from whom we received Letters.16 He desires to be remembered to you to Col. Humphries and to Mr. Williamos. My Daughter also joins in the same { 172 } request. We present our Love to Miss Jefferson and compliments to Mr. Short. I suppose Madam de la Fayettee is gone from Paris. If she is not be so good sir as to present my Respects to her. I design writing her very soon. I have to apoligize for thus freely scribling to you. I will not deny that there may be a little vanity in the hope of being honourd with a line from you. Having heard you upon some occasions express a desire to hear from your Friends, even the Minutia respecting their Situation, I have ventured to class myself in that number, and to Subscribe myself, Sir Your Friend and Humble Servant
[signed] A Adams
The enclosure that appeared on page 172 of the print edition appears on page 173 of the digital edition
RC (DLC Jefferson Papers); endorsed on the back of the enclosure: “Adams Mrs”; and, also in Jefferson's hand in list form: “<Sanois>/<Nightingale>/<journal>55/<Pilatre>/Houserent/<Wealth> of Lond./Squib.” This was a list of topics that Jefferson discussed in his reply of 21 June, below (Jefferson, Papers, 8:181). Dft (Adams Papers). Material in the Dft that does not appear in the RC will be noted below.
1. With this letter, AA begins a rich correspondence that extended, with long interruptions, to 1817. She and Jefferson eventually exchanged over fifty letters, over two thirds of which were written from 1785 to 1788.
2. The Adamses resided in the Bath Hotel in Picadilly from 26 May until 2 July; see notes 3 and 7. Both the performance of Handel's Messiah, and JA's conference with Lord George Gordon mentioned in the enclosure to this letter, occurred on 8 June, indicating that part of the letter was written sev• { 173 } eral days subsequent to the dateline; see also note 8.
3. JA wrote two letters to Jefferson on 27 May, both saying that the Adamses reached London on the 26th (Jefferson, Papers, 8:166–167). JA recounts the family's journey from Auteuil to Calais in his letters of 22 and 23 May to Jefferson (same, 8:159–161).
4. AA and AA2 had stayed at Osbourne's Hotel in the Adelphi Buildings in the Strand when they first arrived in London in July 1784 (AA to Mary Cranch, 6 July 1784, and note 24, above).
5. Parliament had been in session since 25 January. George III's birthday was on Saturday, 4 June, and occasioned a massive levee which JA attended, and which he described to Jefferson on 7 June (Jefferson, Papers, 8:183). Handel's Messiah was performed in Westminster Abbey on 8 June, with AA in attendance (see The London Chronicle, 4–7 June and 7–9 June; and AA to Elizabeth Cranch, 2 Sept., below).
6. The draft has “therefore.”
7. On 9 June, JA signed a lease for this house for twenty-one months with its owner, John Byron of Purbright. The late eighteenth-century structure, standing at the northeast corner of Grosvenor Square, became the Adams' home, and the first American legation in Britain, when the family removed to it from the Bath Hotel on 2 July. See JA, Diary and Autobiography, 3:xii–xiii, 180–181 note 1, and illustration facing p. 288. A copy of the lease, dated 9 June, is in the Adams Papers.
8. At this point in the draft AA adds: “after which I suppose I must pass through a similar ceremony.” JA was received by George III on 1 June; he described that moving occasion quite briefly to Jefferson on 3 June (Jefferson, Papers, 8:176), and in detail to John Jay on 2 June (LbC, Adams Papers; PCC, No. 84, V, f. 469–484; Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, 2:367–371; JA, Works, 8:255–259). JA was presented to Queen Charlotte on 9 June, thereby dating this section of the letter at 8 June (see JA to Jefferson, 7 June, Jefferson, Papers, 8:183). JA's remarks to George III, and his reply, are recorded in JA's hand in the Adams Papers (1 June), as are his remarks to Queen Charlotte, and her brief reply (9 June).
9. AA noted the appointment of Col. William Stephens Smith as secretary of the American legation in her letter to Cotton Tufts of [26 April], above. Smith arrived in London on 25 May (JA to Jefferson, 27 May [2d letter], Jefferson, Papers, 8:167).
10. See JA's list of visitors, [June—July? 1785], in his Diary and Autobiography, 3:178–180. This list of about three dozen names is certainly not a complete record of those who called on the new minister, but it does include envoys from Prussia, Sardinia, and Russia, the earls of Abingdon and Effingham, Lord Mahon and Lord Hood, two generals, several other prominent Englishmen who were well disposed to America, and a few of JA's old friends.
11. The draft adds: “in the publick papers.”
12. The draft adds: “for as the forms of presentation are not yet past with her Majesty, no application has yet been made to any minister upon Buisness,” and omits “From the same paper.”
13. “Under Jove, but Jove not yet barbaric.”
14. This exact passage appeared in the Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 7 June 1785. The Morning Post was one of the most anti-American of London papers at this time.
15. The draft adds: “for she had such a general acquaintance throughout the whole abbe that not a person enterd but what she knew and had some observation to make upon their dress or person which she utterd so loud as to disturb every person who sat near her.”
16. Jefferson sent word of JQA's arrival in Lorient in his letter of 25 May to JA (Adams Papers; printed in Jefferson, Papers, 8:163). From Lorient JQA had sent the letters of [12] May and 17 May to AA2, and of 18 May to JA, all above.
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.