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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5

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The Adams Papers

Adams Family Correspondence
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Adams Family Correspondence

Volume 5 • October 1782 – November 1784
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This edition of The Adams Papers
is sponsored by the massachusetts historical society
to which the adams manuscript trust
by a deed of gift dated 4 April 1956
gave ultimate custody of the personal and public papers
written, accumulated, and preserved over a span of three centuries
by the Adams family of Massachusetts
These two volumes are dedicated
to the memory of
Adams Papers Editor Marc Friedlaender (1905–1992)
His fellow editors will miss the wisdom,
scholarship, and ever-present good humor,
which he generously shared with us
for twenty-seven years
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The Adams Papers


  • Thomas Boylston Adams
  • James Barr Ames
  • Emily Morison Beck
  • Theodore Chase
  • F. Douglas Cochrane
  • Marc Friedlaender
  • Lilian Handlin
  • Edward C. Johnson 3d
  • Henry Lee
  • Stephen T. Riley
  • Hiller B. Zobel


  • Joyce O. Appleby
  • Bernard Bailyn
  • Joan R. Challinor
  • David Herbert Donald
  • William M. Fowler Jr.
  • Linda K. Kerber
  • Thomas K. McCraw
  • Ernest Samuels
  • Robert J. Taylor
  • Gordon S. Wood
The acorn and oakleaf device on the preceding page is redrawn from a seal cut for John Quincy Adams after 1830. The motto is from Caecilius Statius as quoted by Cicero in the First Tusculan Disputation: Serit arbores quae alteri seculo prosint (“He plants trees for the benefit of later generations”).
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  • Descriptive List of Illustrations ix
  • Introduction xxi
    • 1. The Family Becomes International xxi
    • 2. Abigail Adams in Europe xxx
    • 3. The Second Generation xli
    • 4. Earlier Publication li
    • 5. Notes on Editorial Method lviii
  • Acknowledgments lxv
  • Guide to Editorial Apparatus lxviii
    • 1. Textual Devices lxviii
    • 2. Adams Family Code Names lxviii
    • 3. Descriptive Symbols lxix
    • 4. Location Symbols lxx
    • 5. Other Abbreviations and Conventional Terms lxxi
    • 6. Short Titles of Works Frequently Cited lxxii
  • Family Correspondence, October 1782 – November 1784 1
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Descriptive List of Illustrations
Descriptive List of Illustrations

Descriptive List of Illustrations

[Note: for permissions reasons, not all illustrations from the letterpress volumes are available in this digital edition.]

Descriptive List of Illustrations


Charles Storer 18

This miniature, shown to members of the Massachusetts Historical Society by Dr. Malcolm Storer in March 1922 (MHS, Procs., 55:233, illustration facing p. 232), is the only known likeness of Charles Storer (1761–1829). The artist and date of execution are unknown. Judging by Storer's relatively mature appearance, the portrait probably dates from after his return to America in 1785.
Charles Storer was the second surviving son of Deacon Ebenezer Storer of Boston (1730–1807), a merchant and longtime treasurer of Harvard College (1777–1807), and Elizabeth Green. As a nephew of Abigail Adams' aunt by marriage, Elizabeth Storer Smith, and after 1777, a stepson of Abigail's cousin, Hannah Quincy Lincoln Storer, Charles was almost a relation of the Adams family. Graduating from Harvard in 1779 as first scholar in his class, he sailed for Europe in June 1781, with glowing endorsements from both Abigail Adams and Abigail Adams 2d, and joined John Adams and John Thaxter at The Hague in August 1782. In October he accepted John Adams' offer to accompany him to France as his second secretary, filling this office until July 1783. He extended his clerical services to Adams again in England, in August-September 1785, just before returning to America.
Charles Storer remained one of the closest friends of the Adamses through 1786, but thereafter his contact with them was infrequent. Although John and Abigail Adams regarded Storer as a young man of considerable promise and regarded him warmly into the 1790s, his fortunes were clouded by his father's financial decline after the War for Independence, and he apparently did not prosper after his return to Boston. In 1786 he announced his intention to take up farming in eastern Maine, but if he did move there, he did not stay long. In 1790, writing from Troy, New York, where whatever business he was engaged in evidently had not gone well, he sought John Adams' assistance in becoming official secretary to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, but Adams replied that the position must go to another. In 1793–94, he served as secretary to the federal Indian commissioners, and in 1796 he visited the Adamses in Quincy. In 1797 he asked Abigail to intercede with John for a federal office for his father, and in 1798, after Ebenezer Storer had been appointed a federal excise inspector, he asked John Adams to grant his father a more convenient position. Of the last thirty years of Charles Storer's life almost nothing is known.
Most of Storer's surviving correspondence is in the Adams Papers, { x } primarily in the years 1783–1786. John and Abigail were his principal correspondents, but there are several letters exchanged with John Quincy Adams, and a few written to Abigail Adams 2d survive in print. Several letters to his cousins, Isaac Smith Jr. and William Smith, and to Indian commissioner Timothy Pickering, are in the Smith-Carter, Smith-Townsend, and Pickering Papers collections at the Massachusetts Historical Society. (Adams Papers Editorial Files; see also vol. 4; Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, vol 3; and Sibley's Harvard Graduates, 12:208–214 [Ebenezer Storer].)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

John Thaxter Jr., ca. 1782 25

This small pastel portrait of John Thaxter Jr. (1755–1791), which he sent from Holland to America with Benjamin Guild in the late summer of 1782, was probably executed by a Dutch artist earlier in that year. It is about the same size (10¼″ х 7¼″.) and rendered in the same materials, as Isaak Schmidt's portrait of John Quincy Adams, done in Holland sometime in the following spring or early summer (see illustration no. 8), but nothing else is known to suggest the artist's identity.
John Thaxter Jr. was the son of John Thaxter and Anna Quincy Thaxter of Hingham; his mother was a sister of Abigail Adams' mother, Elizabeth Quincy Smith. Graduating from Harvard in 1774, Thaxter immediately became a clerk in John Adams' law office, roomed in Adams' house, and after Adams' departure for the First Continental Congress, began tutoring young John Quincy Adams. Thaxter continued his legal studies in Massachusetts until December 1777, when, with John Adams' endorsement, he journeyed to Congress to seek the post of secretary to the president. In January 1778 he accepted a clerkship in the office of the secretary to Congress, which he held until September. He then returned to Massachusetts, again boarded with Abigail and her family over the winter, and tutored Charles and Thomas Boylston Adams for the next year.
In November 1779, John Thaxter accepted John Adams' offer to be his private secretary during Adams' second diplomatic mission. After their departure for Europe with John Quincy and Charles Adams, Abigail wrote: “Mr. Thaxter too, who has lived in the Family near 6 years and was like a Brother in kindness and Friendship, makes one of the absent Family” (vol. 3:236–237). Thaxter served John Adams in France and the Netherlands, to Adams' great satisfaction, and offered occasional assistance in the education of John Quincy and Charles Adams, until his return to America with the completed treaty of peace with Great Britain, which he delivered to Congress in November 1783.
In May 1784 John Thaxter moved to Haverhill to set up a law practice. There he married Elizabeth Duncan in 1787, and passed the last seven years of his life. He continued his close friendship with John Quincy, Charles, and Thomas Boylston Adams, who were all studying with their uncle, the Reverend John Shaw, in Haverhill { xi } in the mid-1780s, but his correspondence with John and Abigail Adams became infrequent after his return to America. He died in 1791, less than a year after the death of his infant son, John Adams Thaxter, leaving his wife and infant daughter, Anna Quincy Thaxter.
John Thaxter was not one of the Adams' more gifted or concise correspondents, but he wrote frequently and reported on many events involving the Adamses that other correspondents ignored. In their voluminous correspondence, Abigail treated Thaxter almost like another son. He returned a filial affection, and regarded her as his closest confidant. For the entire period from 1774 through 1783, he was on the most intimate terms with each member of the Adams family.
Two likenesses of Thaxter are known to have been made. The first, a miniature that he considered no likeness, was executed in Paris in 1780 (to Abigail Adams, 19 September 1780, vol. 3:418). With some misgivings, Thaxter sent it to his sister Celia in Hingham in 1781, but he enjoined her never to wear it or show it to any one (to Celia Thaxter, 21 December 1780, 24 May 1781, Thaxter Papers, MHi). Whether through a delay in receiving Thaxter's May letter, or deliberate disregard of his request, Celia or another Thaxter did show this miniature to friends, and Abigail Adams thought it a poor likeness indeed (John Thaxter to Celia Thaxter, 9 October 1782, same; vol. 4:348–349). This miniature has not been found.
The second likeness is the pastel portrait reproduced here, which Thaxter liked better and sent to Celia, in care of Abigail Adams in the late summer of 1782, saying that anyone who chose could wear this portrait, but that “they will be soon tired, for Glass, Frame &ca, would be a little weighty: and besides, . . . it would not be borne by a silk Ribband” (9 October 1782, Thaxter Papers, MHi). Abigail, however, liked the portrait no better than the miniature (to Thaxter, 26 October 1782, below).
Thaxter's extensive correspondence with the Adamses, from 1775 to 1788, is in the Adams Papers and in small collections of Thaxter papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Boston Public Library. The Thaxter Papers at the Society also contains over fifty letters written between 1778 and 1791 to his father, his sister Celia, and other family members.
From a Private Collection, photograph courtesy of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Rhode Island Portrait Index.

“I Cannot O! I Cannot Be Reconcild to Living as I Have Done for 3 Years Past”

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 8 October 1782 108

The fall of 1782 marked three unbroken years of separation for Abigail and John Adams, the longest of their lives, and it would continue for nearly two years more. Beginning with John Adams' departure for Europe on his second diplomatic mission on 13 November 1779, accompanied by his and Abigail's two elder sons, John Quincy Adams and Charles Adams (vol. 3:224, 233–235), this separation would last until 7 August 1784, when they were reunited in { xii } London (see John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 6 August 1784, below). The anxiety of these years was heightened for both parties, first by the war, then by John's serious fevers in Amsterdam and Paris, and the delays and mishaps that interrupted transatlantic mail nearly as effectively in the first years of peace as they had during the War for Independence.
Abigail Adams' letter of 8 October 1782 to John Adams, the first page of which is reproduced here, eloquently expresses these frustrations, and just as effectively conveys the balance in Abigail's mind between her desire to be reunited with John, her feeling that she ought to come to Europe to “try to soften, if I cannot wholy releave you, from your Burden of Cares,” and her own dedication to John Adams' mission in Europe: “I feel loth you should quit your station untill an Honorable peace is Established. . . . Tis no small satisfaction to me that my country is like to profit so largely by my sacrifices.”
From the original in the Adams Papers.

“No Swiss Ever Longed for Home More Than I Do. I Shall Forever be A Dull Man in Europe”

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 28 March 1783 109

In the nearly twenty years since their marriage, John and Abigail Adams had come to think remarkably alike on so many issues, both personal and public. John Adams' letter of 28 March 1783 to Abigail, the first page of which is reproduced here, nicely mirrors Abigail's letter of 8 October 1782, reproduced immediately above (illustration no. 3).
John begins as Abigail does, with the frustration of separation and poor communication: “On the 30 Nov. our Peace was Signed. On the 28. March We dont know that you have Yet heard of it.” He proceeds to his determination to return to her: “If I receive the Acceptance of my Resignation, I shall embark in the first ship, the first good ship I mean, for I love you too well, to venture my self in a bad one.” Then, again like Abigail accepting the paramount requirement of duty to country, John considers the possibility that he might have to stay longer in Europe, perhaps on an assignment in London, and in the passage used as a subscription to this illustration, he reacts to a continued separation much as Abigail had. Finally, he shares Abigail's preference (see Abigail Adams to John Adams, 19 October and 20 November 1783, both below) that their reunification be in America: “I cannot bear the Thought of transporting my Family to Europe. It would be the Ruin of my Children forever.”
From the original in the Adams Papers.

“Glorious Intelligence!” 1 April 1783 117

“Thus drops the Curtain upon this mighty Trajedy,” wrote John Adams to his wife on 22 January 1783 (below). Peace would not be official until the definitive treaties were concluded and ratified, but { xiii } on 20 January representatives of Great Britain, France, and Spain met at Versailles to sign preliminary peace treaties and exchange declarations of an armistice. The arrival of this news signaled, for all intents and purposes, that the war of the American Revolution had ended. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin witnessed the occasion and, at the same time, signed an armistice agreement with the British representative, Alleyne Fitzherbert (Miller, ed., Treaties, 2:108–110). These agreements brought the preliminary Anglo-American peace treaty of 30 November 1782 into effect. Its implementation had been conditioned upon the conclusion of a general peace in order to keep the United States within at least technical compliance with Article 8 of the Franco-American Alliance of 1778, which prohibited the conclusion of a separate peace (same, 2:38–39).
The broadside announcing the event was the work of John Gill, noted Boston printer and publisher of the Continental Journal and Weekly Advertiser. Its appearance on the morning of 1 April was received with rejoicing and relief: the war was over. Abigail Adams wrote: “I now most sincerely rejoice in the great and important event which sheaths the Hostile Sword and, gives a pleasing presage that our spears may become prunning hooks” (to John Adams, 7 April 1783, below). Samuel Phillips Savage's note written on the reverse of the broadside was perhaps even more expressive. “This is kept for future Generations, tho it cannot by any means convey to them, the Joy so happy an Event gave us, who heard the first guns fired at Lexington and Concord and saw Charlestown in Flames, and who have endured and supported a Struggle of near 20 years and an actual, cruel and bloody war from 19 April 1775 until the arrival of a French Cutter called the Triumph, commanded by the Chavelier Duquesne on the 25 March 1783 at Chester in the River Delawar from Cadiz—for which happy Event may America be properly thankfull. Sam Phps Savage then 65 years Old.”
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Promenade A Longchamp 128

In the spring of 1783, John Thaxter wrote Abigail Adams a vivid description of the annual parade to Longchamp. Two years later, Abigail herself wrote a description of the event, to her niece Elizabeth Cranch. Both of these are printed below at 18 April 1783 and 8 May 1785 (vol. 6).
Longchamp was a Franciscan abbey founded in the mid-thirteenth century by Isabelle, sister of Louis IX (Saint Louis) in the Bois de Boulogne. By the first half of the eighteenth century, austerity had disappeared from the nunnery, and it was at this time that the parade of the Parisian beau monde to attend concerts during Holy Week began. The public concerts were stopped by Archbishop of Paris Beaumont, but the tradition of the parade continued.
At its height from about 1750 until it was suppressed in 1789, the parade attracted the gamut of society: servants of the royal household, chorus girls from l'Opéra, the wealthy and the penurious. { xiv } Those with means competed in ostentatious displays of carriages and costumes, those without gawked. After describing this concentration of pomp and grandeur, Thaxter defers judgment to Abigail Adams. “Your own Reflections will be infinitely more judicious than any I can make, and therefore I will be silent as to the Impressions this Entertainment has made on my mind” (to Abigail Adams, 18 April 1783, below).
Adams' conclusion, from her own observations, is censorious. “It was a Ceremony that one must study Some time to find out either utility or pleasure in it. I own tho I made one in the procession I could not help feeling foolish as I was parading first up one side of a very wide road, for a mile and half and then turning, and following down a vast number of Carriages upon the other as slow as if you was attending a funeral. . . . it is a senseless foolish parade, at which I believe I shall never again assist” (to John Thaxter, 8 May 1785, vol. 6).
The engraving is by Dambrun, from Etrennes galantes des Promenades et Amusemens de Paris et de ses environs, Paris, 1781. See Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale; Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel; under both Longchamp and Boulogne.
Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

The Continental Congress' Earnest Recommendations Regarding Loyalist Property, 14 January 1784 142

Adopted at the same time that the definitive peace treaty was ratified and proclaimed in force, this resolution brought the United States into compliance with Article 5 of the definitive peace treaty (Journals of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1928, vol. 26, p. 23–31; Miller, ed., Treaties, 2:154). That article sought to resolve what was easily the most divisive issue during the negotiations, the fate of the loyalists and their confiscated property. The Shelburne Ministry was under intense pressure to require restitution in any Anglo-American peace settlement. The American negotiators opposed such a provision as contrary to their instructions, but more important because Congress had no power to coerce the states and thus to require restitution would both block ratification and be meaningless. To settle the issue the negotiators agreed to a compromise that was an exercise in Anglo-American cynicism, for in agreeing to recommend rather than require restitution, both sides knew that there was little likelihood of the loyalists receiving satisfaction.
Although the article's effect depended wholly on the states' willingness to observe its provisions, that did not prevent controversy. Referring to the article's appearance in the preliminary treaty, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband on 28 April 1783 that “it would be at the risk of their lives” for loyalists to return to seek the restitution, and on 7 May she added that he could hardly imagine “the spirit which arises here against the return of the Refugees” (both below). John Adams thought that it would have been better if no articles regarding the loyalists had been included, but he refused requests to interpret their meaning and hoped that their spirit would be { xv } observed (to Cotton Tufts, 10 September 1783, below). Adams' ambivalence concerning the loyalist compromise resulted from his fear that Britain would use the states' refusal to comply with the spirit of the article to justify its own violation of the treaty, a fear that was realized, particularly in Britain's refusal to evacuate forts in the Northwest (to Cotton Tufts, 24 April 1785, vol. 6).
This broadside, docketed on the reverse “Recommendation of Congress Respecting Restoring Lands” and “Jany. 14. 1784,” was one of the copies of the resolution ordered by Congress to be sent to the states (JCC, 26:31).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

John Quincy Adams by Isaak Schmidt, 1783 215

Isaak Schmidt, an Amsterdam artist, painted this portrait of John Quincy Adams during his stay at The Hague from April to August 1783. It is a small pastel on vellum, measuring 10¼ by 7¾ inches. Though Adams was only sixteen years old that summer, he just had returned from Russia after spending more than a year as private secretary to the American representative, Francis Dana. It is a picture of a boy, but a boy moving in an international world, developing into a poised, intelligent, and mature young adult.
Naturally, as a concerned parent, John Adams solicited reports on his son's whereabouts during his long journey back to the Netherlands. Even discounting the desire of his correspondents to flatter the important American, it is apparent that John Quincy impressed those he met (see John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 April 1783 and note 6, below). It is also apparent that he greatly enjoyed himself at the same time. Twenty-eight years later Adams, then U.S. minister to Russia, recalled that the Swedish were “the kindest hearted, friendliest and most hospitable people in Europe.” “I entered Sweden in November and left it in February. The beauties of the Country therefore, whatever they may be, were hidden from my eyes,” but “the beauties of the women . . . were not, and indeed could not be concealed. . . . [T]he Swedish women of that time were as modest, as they were amiable and beautiful. But to me, it was truly the 'land of lovely dames,' and to this hour I have not forgotten the palpitations of heart which some of them cost me, and of which they never knew” (to Alexander H. Everett, 19 August 1811, Everett-Peabody Papers, MHi).
After Adams returned to America in 1785 to continue his formal education, his sister, Abigail, hung the picture in her room. “I would not mortify you by saying I think it a likeness nor Pay so Poor a compliment to my own judgment. However as it was intended for you I shall look upon it for you, and derive some satisfaction from it, and at the same time wish it were better” (Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 4 July 1785, vol. 6). When he was sixty-four years old Adams remarked about himself and the early likeness that “they who look at the bald head, the watery eye, and the wrinkled brow of this day, would search in vain for the strong likeness which it was said to exhibit when it was taken” (to Caroline Amelia de { xvi } Windt, 20 August 1831, de Windt Coll., MHi). The portrait descended through Abigail Adams 2d's family; it is now owned by the National Portrait Gallery.
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

The Reverend William Smith (Abigail Adams' Father) 246

The illustration of the Reverend William Smith that appeared in volume 1 (p. xii, facing p. 81) was reproduced from a small photograph of a painting in Daniel Munro Wilson's The “Chappel of Ease” and Church of Statesmen: . . . the First Church of Christ in Quincy, Quincy, 1890, facing p. 81. Since that time the original portrait has turned up, and it is this that is illustrated here. The painting once was misattributed to John Singleton Copley, but the real artist and date of execution are unknown.
The Reverend William Smith died in September 1783 at the age of seventy-six, leaving his estate divided among his son and three daughters and in trust for his daughter-in-law. (For the division of property see his will, 12 September 1783, below.) He had served as the minister of the First Parish of Weymouth since 1734 and after the death in 1775 of his wife, Elizabeth Quincy Smith, continued to live in the Weymouth parsonage where Abigail Adams and her siblings were born (see vol 1:ix, and illustration facing p. 80).
The death of her father gave Abigail Adams greater freedom to think about joining her husband in Europe. She wrote John: “My dearest Friend—Dearer if possible than ever; for all the parental props which once sustaind and supported me are fallen!” (20 September 1783, below; see also Abigail Adams to John Adams, 19 October, below). Abigail later arranged for her father's slave Phoebe, who was offered her freedom in his will, and her husband to move into and care for Abigail's home in her absence. Although Abigail's inheritance was more modest than that left to her sisters and sister-in-law, her father specifically bequeathed his silver tankard to her. It was the only item singled out among the family possessions for such a personal gesture. It survives to this day among the furnishings of the Adams National Historic Site.
Reverend Smith is buried in Weymouth, the site marked by a monument inscribed by Cotton Tufts: “As a Divine he was eminent, As a Preacher of the Gospel Eloquent . . .” (New England Historic and Genealogical Register, 23 [October 1869]:425). Some of Smith's line-a-day diaries and the official records he kept as pastor of the First Church, Weymouth, are in the Massachusetts Historical Society. (See Sibley's Harvard Graduates, 7:588–591.)
Courtesy of Mrs. Lewis Greenleaf.

John Adams by John Singleton Copley 375

During his curtailed tour of England in the fall and winter of 1783, John Adams had fellow American and friend John Singleton Copley paint this grand portrait representing Adams as a dignified diplomat. Though Copley moved to England from Boston in 1774, followed by his wife and young children a year later, he was not a loyalist. { xvii } His portrait of Adams celebrates the signing of the definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain.
When Abigail Adams arrived in London, she saw the portrait prior to meeting her husband. “I went yesterday accompanied by Mr. Storer and Smith to Mr. Copleys to see Mr. Adams picture. This I am told was taken at the request of Mr. Copely and belongs to him. It is a full Length picture very large; and very good likeness. Before him stands the Globe: in his hand a Map of Europe, at a small distance 2 female figures representing peace and Innocence. It is a most Beautiful painting” (Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 July 1784, below).
Abigail Adams, perhaps focusing more on the image of her husband, whom she had not seen for four years, than on the details in the painting, inaccurately described the portrait and its commission. John Adams paid Copley 100 guineas for the portrait on 10 Dec. 1783 (receipt in the Adams Papers). He is depicted holding a scroll, presumably the treaty with Britain, and a map of America lays on a table. A single figure is in the background.
John Adams instructed his son, sent to meet both Abigails in London: “Desire Mr. Copeley to get a Frame made for my Picture and do you give him the Money. He will tell you how much and give you a Receipt. The Frame should be made, to take to Pieces, so that it may be removed to the Hague or to Boston, in time. Thus this Piece of Vanity will be finished. May it be the last” ([post 6 June 1784], below).
Copley retained the portrait for over twenty years, ostensibly for engraving. Two engravers worked from the painting itself, first Noble, for the February 1786 issue of The New London Magazine, and later Hall, for the frontispiece to John Stockdale's 1794 edition of John Adams' Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United State of America. The second of these, a considerably better likeness, was the model for numerous later renditions. In 1796, Copley exhibited the portrait at the Royal Academy.
John Quincy Adams had the painting shipped from England in 1817, two years after Copley's death. Cousin Ward Nicholas Boylston kept it carefully for many years, in part because there was no suitable place in the Adams home in Quincy. With the family's agreement, he left it to Harvard College in his will.
See Andrew Oliver, Portraits of John and Abigail Adams, Cambridge, 1967, p. 23–38; Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley, Cambridge, 1966, vol. 2, p. 300; DAB; DNB.
Courtesy of The Harvard University Portrait Collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bequest of Ward Nicholas Boylston to Harvard College, 1828.

“I Will Not Attempt to Describe My Feelings at Meeting Two Persons so Dear to Me . . . I Will Only Say I was Completely Happy”

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 30 July 1784 413

It would only be a week more before the Adamses were finally { xviii } reunited in London when John Quincy Adams wrote these heartfelt words to his father at The Hague. John Adams, confident in and proud of young John Quincy, wrote to Abigail soon after her arrival, “I Send you a son who is the greatest Traveller, of his Age, and without Partiality, I think as promising and manly a youth as is in the World. He will purchase a Coach, in which We four must travel to Paris” (26 July 1784, below).
The letter illustrated here is one of the last in a remarkable exchange between John and John Quincy from mid-May 1784 through July 1784. These letters, printed below, comprise the first fully mature correspondence between the Adams men. Until this time, John Quincy's letters were mainly reports to his father concerning his or his brother Charles' studies; in these later letters young Adams' style and manner becomes decidedly uninhibited and confident. After being admitted to the gallery of the House of Commons, John Quincy wrote: “I [have] given you my opinion of the eloquence of several great Orators. If it is erroneous my judgment is in fault, for I have followed in this matter the Ideas of no one” (6 June 1784, below). John Adams, quite pleased by John Quincy's attendance at Parliament and his vivid descriptions of the debates, was yet ever mindful of his son's studies: “You have had a Taste of the Eloquence of the Bar and of Parliament: but you will find Livy and Tacitus, more elegant, more profound and Sublime Instructors” (21 June 1784, below).
From the original in the Adams Papers.

Anne-Catherine, Comtesse De Ligniville D'Autricourt, Madame Helvétius, by Louis Michel Vanloo 347

Host of the famous salon “L'Académie d'Auteuil,” intimate friend of Benjamin Franklin, and near neighbor of the Adamses, Mme. Helvétius (1719–1800) was among the first French women Abigail Adams and her daughter met. Their shocked reactions are recorded in early letters from France.
One of twenty-two children, Anne-Catherine Helvétius was born into the ancient Ligniville family. After spending much of her youth in a convent with rather dim prospects, she was brought to Paris by her aunt, the author Françoise Grafigny. There she met and married, in 1751, the hedonistic philosopher and farmer-general Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715–1771), author of the controversial De l'esprit. Inheriting her husband's significant fortune, Mme. Helvétius settled in Auteuil, enjoying her garden, her menagerie, and the company of many of the great thinkers of her era.
Benjamin Franklin called Mme. Helvétius “Notre Dame d'Auteuil” and sometime between 1778 and 1780 proposed to her. Upon being rejected, he wrote a letter to her containing a parable in which he meets the late M. Helvétius and Deborah Franklin, who have married in the afterlife, prompting Franklin to renew his proposition. (“The Elysian Fields, M. Franklin to Madame Helvétius,” printed in Benjamin Franklin: Writings, ed. J. A. Leo Lemay, { xix } N.Y., 1987, p. 924–925. It is thought to be dated [January 1780]by the editors of the Franklin Papers.)
Following a dinner hosted by Mme. Helvétius, Abigail Adams 2d wrote to Lucy Cranch (4 September 1784, below): “I wish it were possible to give you a just idea of her. I know not in America any person of any class that would serve as a description, or comparison, unless it is Mrs. Hunt when she is crazy. I could not judge of her conversation as I could not understand a word, but if it was in unison with her dress, and manners, I assure you that I consider myself fortunate that I did not.”
Concluding a vivid description of Mme. Helvétius' behavior, Abigail Adams wrote, also to Lucy Cranch (5 September 1784, below): “I should have been greatly astonished at [her] conduct, if the good Doctor [Franklin] had not told me that in this Lady I should see a genuine French Woman, wholy free from affectation or stifness of behaviour and one of the best women in the world. For this I must take the Drs. word, but I should have set her down for a very bad one altho Sixty years of age and a widow. I own I was highly disgusted and never wish for an acquaintance with any Ladies of this cast. . . . Thus my dear you see that Manners differ exceedingly in different Countries. I hope however to find amongst the French Ladies manners more consistant with my Ideas of decency, or I shall be a mere recluse.”
See Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale; Claude-Anne Lopez, Mon Cher Papa, Franklin and the Ladies of Paris, New Haven, 1966, p. 244–301.
Courtesy of the Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques, Paris (Copyright 1991 ARS, N.Y./SPADEM).
{ xx } { xxi }




The Family Becomes International

These volumes record a remarkable expansion of the corresponding Adams family in several dimensions—geographical, cultural, and generational—in just three years. In October 1782, the family's letter-writing is dominated entirely by Abigail and John Adams, as it had been since the 1760s. Their two older children and Abigail's sisters and uncles are seldom heard from; their two younger children are silent. And while both John and John Quincy Adams had become seasoned diplomats and traveled all over northern Europe in the preceding four years, Abigail and her daughter, Abigail Adams 2d (often called Nabby or Amelia by her parents and friends), were still living a largely rural life in Braintree, with brief excursions to adjacent communities and to Boston.
By the close of these volumes, in December 1785, the family's life had changed dramatically. In 1784 Abigail and Abigail 2d, who had never ventured more than fifty miles from Braintree, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to England to join John and John Quincy, and all four crossed the Channel to France. In 1785 the women returned with John to London, while John Quincy returned to America. In eighteen months both Abigail and her daughter became acute observers and accomplished, if somewhat reluctant, participants in the cosmopolitan diplomatic communities of Paris and London.
The Adams men kept moving, and busy. Young John Quincy, returning in the winter of 1782–1783 from fourteen months in Russia, extended his already considerable travels to include Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and northern Germany. John Adams augmented his diplomatic triumphs, begun in Holland in 1780–1782, with the successful negotiation of peace with Great Britain in 1782–1783 in Paris and his reception by George III in 1785 as America's first minister to Britain. Finally, John Quincy Adams' return to Massachusetts in 1785 to complete his education occasioned a great enrichment of the Adams' transatlantic correspondence, begun by his parents in 1778. This { xxii } exchange of observations and ideas across the ocean would remain a prominent feature of the Adams family through four generations.
As the family grew and its travels increased, so did its important correspondences. In the war years the rich conjugal exchange between Abigail and John Adams, begun in the 1760s, grew larger, and Abigail developed important new correspondents, notably her cousin John Thaxter and congressman James Lovell. With the coming of peace and the reuniting of the family in Europe, the range of correspondents expanded again.
Following their reunion in August 1784, the correspondence between Abigail and John ceased, not to resume until 1789. In the year before joining Abigail and Abigail 2d, however, John and John Quincy, who had exchanged occasional letters for years, began to develop a correspondence that takes on the character of an exchange between two adults, if not quite between two equals. Abigail Adams 2d, a shy and reserved writer in her early teens, began to assert her personality, first through a more frequent correspondence with her cousin Elizabeth Cranch, then in letters from France to several relatives in Massachusetts, and finally from London, in an exchange of long, informative journal-style letters with her brother John Quincy. Abigail Adams, far from relinquishing her central role in the Adams family correspondence, greatly enlarged it by maintaining her lively exchange with John Thaxter, increasing that with her younger sister Elizabeth Shaw, and establishing new and highly interesting exchanges with her elder sister Mary Cranch and Mary's daughters Elizabeth and Lucy, with her uncle Cotton Tufts, and with Thomas Jefferson.
In the fall of 1782, however, neither the mood of Congress nor the hopes of any Adams pointed toward so expansive a future for the family. Congress was beginning to appreciate John Adams' recent financial and diplomatic achievements in the Netherlands, and several of its members were becoming critical of Adams' rival Benjamin Franklin as they became concerned about French influence over America's negotiations with Great Britain. But Congress' primary objective in 1782–1783 was to conclude peace as quickly as possible and reduce its presence abroad. Whatever reservations he had about this restrictive plan for American foreign policy in principle, John Adams eagerly anticipated his own release from service in Europe.
Both Abigail and John accepted the necessity of spending another winter apart to secure a good peace with Great Britain, though Abigail occasionally rebelled. In October, repeating an offer made the { xxiii } month before, she considered crossing the dreaded Atlantic Ocean: “I cannot O! I cannot be reconcild to living as I have done for 3 years past. . . . Will you let me try to soften, if I cannot wholy releave you, from your Burden of Cares and perplexities?”1 John for the moment stood firm, willing to endure an even longer separation: “If We make Peace, you will see me next summer. But I have very little faith as yet. I am most inclind to think there will be another Campaign.” Abigail's proposal to join him, he explained, was impractical. He was going to have to leave his comfortable residence in the American legation at The Hague, where he had just concluded America's first treaty of amity and commerce with the Netherlands, and live in rented quarters in Paris while negotiating the peace; he might even have to travel to Vienna.2 Soon he became unsure whether Congress would retain his services even for another year in the face of pro-French, pro-Franklin forces; at the same time he began thinking that it might be better for his wife and daughter to join him in Europe.3
This was but the first of several changes in John Adams' thoughts about how best to reunite his family. In December 1782 he wrote Abigail that, “upon the whole, I think it will be most for the Happiness of my Family, and most for the Honour of our Country that I should come home” with John Quincy.4 Now, after negotiating a satisfactory preliminary peace, he asked Congress to relieve him from his duties immediately. He stuck to this resolve through the following September, remaining in Paris to sign the definitive treaty only because the British Parliament, caught up in a change in ministries and bitter recriminations over its failure to retain its North American colonies, could not resolve to conclude it earlier, while Congress, riven by factions, could not decide whether to retire John Adams or to assign him to further diplomatic labors. Moreover, John promised Abigail that his retirement from public life would be permanent: “you may depend upon a good domestic husband, for the remainder of my Life, if it is the Will of Heaven that I should once more meet you.”5
In these months of political and diplomatic stalemate, trying for both John and Abigail Adams, the thoughts of both parents turned { xxiv } to their children. John, from December 1782 to March 1783, was deeply concerned over the safety and whereabouts of John Quincy, who was making his way slowly, though quite happily, through a cold winter in Sweden, Denmark, and northern Germany.6 Abigail was equally distracted by the opening of one of the more obscure chapters in the family's history: the courtship of young Abigail by a lawyer recently moved to Braintree, Royall Tyler.
The Adamses involvement with Royall Tyler—for it was very much a family affair—threatened to create the first serious conflict between the first and second generations, and even more between the parents themselves. But this courtship, informal engagement, and dissolution, potentially most revealing of the family's inner dynamics, is partly obscured by the loss or destruction of the letters exchanged between Abigail Adams 2d and Royall Tyler, and by young Abigail's apparent decision not to make the slightest mention of Tyler in her correspondence with any other person. Everything that is known about the affair appears in the correspondence in these volumes, and in a few letters of early 1786, which are projected for inclusion in the next volume in this series.
The courtship's most visible and dramatic effect on the family came at its outset, as Abigail felt compelled to write to John about Tyler's suit and their daughter's gradually awakening response. Because she was even more charmed by Tyler than was her daughter, whom she described as being quite discreet, and “happy in not possessing all her Mothers sensibility,” Abigail sang the young man's praises to John. Because she was honest, and knew her husband's honesty, she felt obligated to admit that Tyler had been “rather negligent in persueing his buisness in the way of his profession; and dissipated two or 3 years of his Life and too much of his fortune for to reflect upon with pleasure.” He had since reformed, she assured John, and was on his way to success: “he cannot fail making a distinguished figure in his profession if he steadily persues it.”7
John Adams' response, by chance an unusually prompt one in a period of slow transatlantic mail, was explosive. In the middle of a January 1783 letter to Abigail, begun on other matters, he received her December letter, read it, and penned the angriest lines that he had ever written to Abigail:
{ xxv }
I confess I dont like the Subject at all. . . . My Child is a Model, as you represent her and as I know her, and is not to be the Prize, I hope of any, even reformed Rake. . . .
In the Name of all that is tender dont criticise Your Daughter for those qualities which are her greatest Glory her Reserve, and her Prudence which I am amazed to hear you call Want of Sensibility. The more Silent She is in Company, the better for me in exact Proportion and I would have this observed as a Rule by the Mother as well as the Daughter.8
After this inauspicious beginning Abigail Adams retreated, while retaining her affection and admiration for Royall Tyler. The young lovers agreed to cool their relationship, although it is not known what Abigail told them about John's reaction to Tyler. John Adams gradually calmed down, and by the fall of 1783 he began signaling a willingness to consider Tyler's suit. And Royall Tyler was persistent. By the spring of 1784 he had fully engaged young Abigail's affections, retained her mother's approval, and won over her father. This happened too late for a formal engagement before mother and daughter sailed for England, but Abigail Adams 2d and Royall Tyler had an understanding, and the family expected that they would marry.
Abigail, meanwhile, had other family concerns. Her younger sons, Charles and Thomas Boylston, needed a more formal education than she could arrange for them in Braintree. During the winter she attempted to enroll the boys with a schoolmaster in Hingham, and she inquired about the new Phillips Academy in Andover, but she found both places full. In April 1783 she sent them to Haverhill to live with her younger sister, Elizabeth Smith Shaw, and prepare for college with her brother-in-law, the Reverend John Shaw. Abigail's elder sister, Mary Smith Cranch, sent her son William to study with Shaw at the same time.9 In 1785–1786, John Quincy Adams would also prepare for college with Shaw. This arrangement helped bond the larger Adams-Smith family closer together at a time when its Adams members were physically separated by the Atlantic Ocean.
The great work of the winter, spring, and summer of 1783, for both John and Abigail Adams, was waiting: waiting for Britain to conclude a definitive peace; waiting for Congress to decide John Adams' fate; and Abigail's waiting for John to decide whether to return to America or to ask her to join him in Europe. In these long months Abigail Adams found solace in her children and in her circle of local friends and relatives. As she had in the war years, she managed the family { xxvi } farm with skill and paid Massachusetts' increasing war-debt taxes. On her own initiative (with John Adams' approval), she acquired small pieces of adjacent land to build up the family estate and made other small investments. She found her greatest pleasure in her correspondence with John Adams, and with his two young secretaries. Abigail's letters to John Thaxter and Charles Storer, mixing flirtatious teasing with a maternal affection, afforded her more of the light humor she had earlier shared with James Lovell.10
John Adams, feeling more isolated, received some relief from his tedium with John Quincy's return to Holland in late April. Father and son exchanged over a dozen letters in the next three months, and in July, John traveled there on business, and brought John Quincy back to Paris to be his personal secretary, replacing Storer, who had just moved to England, and Thaxter, who was soon to depart for America. For the next year John Quincy Adams would be his father's closest companion.
In September 1783, John Adams' long wait ended. On 3 September, the United States and Great Britain signed the definitive peace treaty in Paris. On 7 September, John received word that Congress had resolved to appoint him to head a three-man delegation, with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain. The news somewhat surprised and highly gratified Adams. He had felt throughout 1782–1783 that the only condition under which he would stay on in Europe was the full restoration of his honor, lost in the ascendancy of Franklin and the pro-French policy of 1781, through the renewal of his old commission to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain. This condition now appeared to have been met.11
Although the news that Congress intended to reappoint him, received in September 1783, preceded by nearly a year his receiving word that Congress actually had reappointed him, John Adams promptly accepted the challenge and wrote to Abigail, asking her to come to Europe as soon as possible in the spring of 1784.12 John's { xxvii } determination that Abigail and Abigail 2d join him was now unwavering. He repeated his request in every letter written in October and November, and only in January 1784 did he even concede the wisdom of Abigail's waiting to see exactly what Congress would do for him before she sailed from Boston.13
Abigail saw things differently. Throughout 1783 she hoped for John's return, and at no time before late November did she consider crossing the ocean herself. One strong bond holding her to Massachusetts had recently dissolved. Writing to John on 20 September, she poured out her grief:
My dearest Friend
Dearer if possible than ever; for all the parental props which once sustaind and supported me are fallen! My Father, my Father, where is he? With Humble confidence I can say; he is with the spirits of just Men made perfect, become an inhabitant of that Country, from whose Bourn no traveller returns.14
But even after the death of the Reverend William Smith, on 17 September, Abigail's attitude toward joining John in Europe was unchanged: John must reject any new appointment if Congress offered one; his children needed him in America; and although she had, the previous winter, steeled her will to make the hazardous ocean crossing if necessary, “the train of my Ideas for six months past has run wholy upon your return; . . . nothing short of an assurence from you, that your happiness depended upon it, would induce me to alter my oppinion.”15
The arrival in late November of John's 10 September letter forced Abigail to confront the journey directly, but still she resisted. A winter's crossing, she declared, “I cannot possibly think of encountering.” Moreover, despite the assurances that John Adams would be given a new commission, Congress “have not yet made any appointment to the Court of Britain,” and many Americans were seeking the post, with “many more thousands to claim it with.” Finally, Abigail Adams did not wish to see John Adams appointed to another diplomatic post, especially to Britain:
. . . to think of going to England in a publick Character, and resideing there; engageing at my time of life in Scenes quite New, attended with dissipation parade and Nonsence; I am sure I should make an awkward figure. The { xxviii } retired Domestick circle “the feast of reason and the flow of soul” are my Ideas of happiness, and my most ardent wish is, to have you return and become Master of the Feast.16
In December, Abigail thought no better of going to England or Europe. The return in the middle of that month of John Adams' secretary John Thaxter, from Paris, and of Adams' friend and diplomatic colleague Francis Dana, from Russia, only intensified her longing that John, too, should return. But in January 1784 the receipt of John's fall letters so alarmed Abigail with news of his recent illness and raised such fears for his health at The Hague, to which he now proposed to post himself, that she began making plans to sail to Europe in the spring.17 She made it clear to John, however, that her departure was contingent upon hearing that Congress had finally decided to appoint him to a secure and honorable position.18 In May, Elbridge Gerry informed Abigail that Congress had appointed John Adams to head a three-man commission, with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, to negotiate commercial treaties, not only with Great Britain, but with virtually every European power that might be interested.19 The last external obstacle to Abigail's joining her husband had been cleared.
John Adams' life, so tedious and frustrating from January through August 1783, now became by turns perilous and exciting. In mid-September, less than two weeks after signing the treaty with Great Britain, he fell ill and suffered an intense fever for nearly a month, recovering only by moving from Paris to the quiet suburb of Auteuil. Upon his recovery, a combination of unaccustomed leisure, natural curiosity, and a desire to strengthen his exhausted body with the salubrious waters at Bath prompted him, with John Quincy, to make his first visit to England, from late October to early January.20 Father and son finally had time to be simple tourists and enjoy the sights of London. And although John knew that he might soon return to London in an official capacity, his contacts with British political leaders were few, perfunctory, and private.21
This pleasant interlude ended suddenly when John received word that he must proceed to Holland immediately to attempt to save { xxix } America's failing credit by negotiating a second Dutch loan. Crossing the North Sea in winter, both by boat and on foot across the ice along the Dutch coast, John and John Quincy Adams reached The Hague in mid-January, and resided there, with short trips to Amsterdam, until the summer. John pursued the Dutch loan, waited for Congress to grant him the commission he considered his due, and waited for his wife and daughter to arrive in England. John Quincy resumed his studies, particularly of the Latin classics. Both were rewarded with success, in an unusually relaxed and productive winter and spring.22
Abigail Adams' spring was more anxious. From early January until her departure in June she heard nothing from John, who so firmly believed that she would soon depart from Boston that he wrote no letters to her from late January until July. Still hoping for a letter and reluctant to face the early spring storms, Abigail delayed her departure from April to May, and then to June. She had two better reasons for her delay: a prospect of traveling with friends; and her desire to hear that Congress had in fact reappointed John Adams to a substantial term of diplomatic work. By May her friends had decided not to go to England; by early June she learned that John had been appointed to head the commission to negotiate new commercial treaties, and that the commission's work would take at least two years.23
While Abigail was waiting for news and making preparations to depart, John Adams, for reasons that are obscure, became so convinced that she had sailed with Captain Callahan in April that he sent his son to London in mid-May to welcome her. John Quincy Adams turned his five weeks in the metropolis to advantage by attending debates in the House of Commons and pleadings at the Court of Chancery, and his journey resulted in an exchange of over a dozen fine letters between father and son, their first really adult correspondence.24 But in early June, Callahan arrived without Abigail, and toward the end of the month John Quincy returned to The Hague, with no word of when she would arrive.
On 20 June, Abigail Adams, with her daughter and two young servants freshly recruited from Braintree, sailed from Boston for London on the merchant ship Active. This was a courageous voyage for Abigail. At age thirty-nine she had never been south of Plymouth, { xxx } north of Haverhill, west of Worcester, or east of Massachusetts Bay. She was uneasy about traveling without a male relation or close friend; she remembered with dread John saying that a lady at sea, suffering from seasickness, was a most odious creature; and she was terrified of the sea. But, as she observed in her last letter to John before her departure, “let no person say what they would or would not do, since we are not judges for ourselves untill circumstances call us to act.”25

Abigail Adams in Europe

From the time of her departure for Europe in June 1784 until the Adamses moved to London in May 1785, Abigail Adams' correspondence exhibited a different style from that which had characterized it during the preceding six years. Abigail's earlier letters were dominated by the concerns of John Adams, who relied upon her, above all his other correspondents, to supply him with news from Congress as well as periodic bulletins on Massachusetts politics. Her faithful performance of this duty, one for which she had a strong natural interest and great ability, gave her letters a more public tone, with less personal and domestic information, than one would expect from an eighteenth-century wife and mother.
Following his commission to negotiate commercial treaties in May 1784, however, John Adams' diplomatic position had little of the uncertainty that had characterized the previous three years. His additional appointment, in February 1785, as minister to Great Britain, was a deeply satisfying capstone to his diplomatic career. Moreover, whereas in Massachusetts, Abigail had felt free to write of American politics to John in Europe, as a diplomat's wife she did not feel quite so free to write about European politics back to America. Besides, several of her American correspondents were less interested in politics than John Adams had been. Finally, since the American commissioners in Paris made relatively modest progress in negotiating important commercial treaties in 1784–1785, Abigail had less crucial political information to convey. In eight months in France, until late April when the Adamses learned of John's appointment to the Court of St. James's, Abigail only rarely speculated about the { xxxi } family's possible move to England, and she made relatively few observations about current political issues.26
In her own domestic world before her departure, the minutiae of Abigail's daily life in Braintree were well known to her friends and relations; and with the exception of reporting on the impact of the wartime economy on her village and farm, she had largely ignored such details in her letters to John. From July 1784, however, Abigail was writing to her sisters and close friends from places where neither she nor they had ever been. Her move to Europe caused Abigail to shift her primary focus from the formal public world to her own daily life and that of her family, and to the social and cultural world of the largely public figures among whom she was living.
The change is immediately apparent in the first letter Abigail wrote after her departure from America. Begun at sea and completed in London, her thirty-page journal-style letter is the longest in these two volumes, and one of the richest in content.27 Expressions of virtually every facet of Abigail's personality and vivid portraits of a dozen persons around her mingle with colorful accounts of an ocean crossing, travel through the English countryside, and daily life in London, with its plays and shows, its formal manners and its custom of rising, taking meals, entertaining guests, and retiring for the night so much later than any Massachusetts Yankee was accustomed to doing. A prominent feature of the narrative is the eagerness with which Bostonians in London, including several loyalist refugees, sought out Abigail Adams, and the pleasure she took in receiving and returning their visits. Along with half a dozen shorter but still substantial letters by both Abigail and Abigail 2d, written in July and August, this journal-letter gives the fullest view of London life in the Adams correspondence before John Adams began his duties as United States minister to Great Britain the following June.
The Adams women's first stay in England was brief. John and John Quincy, at The Hague, received word of their impending arrival just one day before Abigail and her daughter landed at Deal, England, on 20 July. From a letter carried by Abigail, John Adams learned that Thomas Jefferson had been appointed to the three-man diplomatic commission in place of John Jay, who was returning to America, and that Jefferson was going to Paris. This made Adams' plan to live with { xxxii } his family at The Hague, apart from the second commissioner, Benjamin Franklin, impractical, and he immediately resolved to go to France. Following Abigail's reunion in London with John Quincy on 30 July, and with John on 7 August, the family traveled to Paris. On 17 August they took up residence in Auteuil, in the same house where John Adams had recovered from his fever the previous fall.28 There, Abigail and her daughter continued to write as they had done at sea and in London, composing long, minutely informative letters to their Cranch, Shaw, and Tufts relations, and to Mercy Warren and other friends.
If Abigail Adams' first response to polite London society was one of amazement, her first reaction to polite Paris society was one of shock. She and Abigail 2d spent their nine months in France trying to understand a culture that they at first thought they could never accept. Yet before their departure for England in May 1785, their keen powers of observation, their enjoyment in comparing different societies, and their belief in the value of toleration had effected a remarkable transformation. Their last letters from Auteuil show genuine regret at leaving France and, on Abigail's part, uncertainty that England would be pleasanter. After a few months in London, both women felt more affection and admiration for the French than they would have imagined possible a year earlier.
Abigail Adams vividly expressed her dismay at French manners in one of her first letters written at Auteuil. Visiting Benjamin Franklin at Passy with her family, Abigail met Anne-Catherine, Comtesse de Ligniville d'Autricourt, Madame Helvétius, the widow of the eminent philosophe, hostess of one of Paris' best-known literary salons, and Doctor Franklin's most intimate friend. Madame Helvétius, the first woman of high social standing Abigail met in France, was not what she had expected:
[She wore] a dressing chimise made of tiffanny which She had on over a blew Lutestring, and which looked as much upon the decay as her Beauty, for she was once a handsome woman. Her Hair was fangled, over it she had a small straw hat with a dirty half gauze hankerchief round it, and a bit of dirtyer gauze than ever my maids wore was sewed on behind. . . . When we went into the room to dine she was placed between the Dr. and Mr. Adams. She carried on the chief of the conversation at dinner, frequently locking her hand into the Drs. and sometimes spreading her Arms { xxxiii } upon the Backs of both the Gentlemans Chairs, then throwing her Arm carelessly upon the Drs. Neck. . . . I own I was highly disgusted and never wish for an acquaintance with any Ladies of this cast.29
But in the fall Abigail and Abigail 2d, who had been just as appalled by Madame Helvétius,30 met a Frenchwoman whom they liked wholeheartedly: Adrienne Noailles, the Marquise de Lafayette. Abigail's first impression of the Marquise was highly favorable, and by the end of her stay in France she regarded the young noblewoman as a paragon among the women of her nation: “I should always take pleasure in [Madame Lafayette's] company. She is a good and amiable Lady, exceedingly fond of her Children and attentive to their education, passionatly attached to her Husband!!! A French Lady and fond of her Husband!!!”31
The Adams' circle of Parisian friends does not seem to have widened much beyond Madame Helvétius and the Lafayettes. In part because neither Abigail nor her daughter acquired a fluent command of French, the family's other friends and dinner guests at Auteuil were Americans in Paris, diplomats from northern Europe, an occasional foreign nobleman, and a few cosmopolitan French clerics. But by May 1785 both Abigail and her daughter had developed an affection for their few French acquaintances, even for Madame Helvétius.32
An acceptance of French city life, of social and cultural institutions, was another matter. Like John Adams before her, Abigail Adams admired the grand gardens and open squares of Paris, with their impressive plantings and statuary, and she was deeply impressed with certain of the city's larger and newer public buildings, particularly its theaters. To her surprise, she soon came to love the dance and drama of the theater as well.33 But most of Paris seemed a mere tangle of narrow, dirty streets, eternally shaded by tall residential buildings and gloomy stone churches. Most dismaying was a large foundling home that she visited in January 1785. She admired its cleanliness and { xxxiv } efficiency, and the love shown the abandoned children by the charity sisters, but its cause deeply distressed her: “Whilst we approve the Charatible disposition, [can we] refrain from comparing a Country grown old in Debauchery and lewdeness with the wise Laws and institutions of one wherein Mariage is considered as holy and honourable, wherein industry and sobriety; enables parents to rear a numerous ofspring[?]”34
Abigail Adams gratefully spent most of her time in France far from the cold streets of Paris, with her family in her large house and fine garden at Auteuil. Her letters written that fall and winter give one of the fullest portraits of the family setting found in the Adams Papers. Reports back to Braintree ranged from detailed descriptions of the large Hôtel de Rouault and its grounds, with particular attention to her private chamber and a few other rooms occupied by the family, to a full narration of an average day, supplying each person's routine of work, social obligations, and study—Plato for John Adams; Lord Bolingbroke's letters or French plays for Abigail; Horace, Tacitus, and mathematics for John Quincy; and French plays and didactic stories for Abigail Adams 2d—often ending with a game of whist for the whole family before retiring.35
Although she missed her sisters, relatives, and friends in Massachusetts, Abigail found the time at Auteuil increasingly pleasurable. Residing outside of Paris, in the shadow of the cosmopolitan diplomatic world, she could enjoy her family's company as she had not been able to do in a decade. These were not months of leisure for Abigail, but of an active engagement with every aspect of her family's life. She now had not one or two servants, but nine to superintend, two grown children whose continuing education still vitally concerned her, and another responsibility that grew larger with her move to Europe.
Abigail Adams' role as manager of the family's business, developed of necessity in the long years of John Adams' absence from Braintree, continued in Europe. John, now habituated to the extensive correspondence and negotiation attendant on his public role, and in his free time engaged in a major study of political thought, left the { xxxv } direction of the family's financial affairs largely to his wife.36 Witness to Abigail Adams' role in major investment decisions is the parallel correspondence of John and Abigail with their business agent in Massachusetts, Abigail's uncle Cotton Tufts. In September 1784, Abigail overruled one land purchase that John had desired: “To the two first [plots of land] I do not object, but Veseys place is poverty, and I think we have enough of that already.” In the winter of 1785, she argued for a much larger purchase, which John finally decided he could not afford.37 Abigail's nine months in Auteuil were a time of new responsibilities, pleasing to her in their importance to her family, and enjoyable in the private setting in which she could meet them.
From December 1784, a move to a more public venue appeared imminent, and in late April it became unavoidable when John Adams learned that he had been appointed the first minister from the United States to the Court of St. James's.38 The principal objective of Adams' mission—to negotiate a commercial treaty with Great Britain—appeared most difficult to achieve, and so it proved. In other respects, however, Adams' diplomatic position was never stronger than in 1785. His appointment was striking testimony of his countrymen's respect. Congress, now guided in diplomacy by its new secretary for foreign affairs, John Adams' old friend John Jay, was more favorable to Adams than at any time since 1780. His old rival Benjamin Franklin, grown mellow and congenial toward the Adamses in 1784–1785, had finally secured permission to retire and return to America. This left just Thomas Jefferson, who succeeded Franklin as America's minister to France, in commission with Adams in negotiating commercial treaties, and Adams and Jefferson had been close friends and allies since their first acquaintance in 1775. All this pleased Abigail Adams, and she also looked forward to living again in an English-speaking nation.39
In other respects the spring move saddened Abigail. She had come to love her new home, her garden, now approaching full bloom, and France itself. She dreaded being the wife of a resident minister to a { xxxvi } royal court, where she would be obliged to make regular appearances under the critical gaze of thousands of eyes.40 Worst of all, she had to say farewell to John Quincy Adams, whom she had just come to know again in their first year together since he was ten. Now he was eighteen, high time, his parents felt, for him to complete his education and begin a career among his countrymen. Feeling keen regret himself, John Quincy Adams left Auteuil on 12 May, bound for New York, Boston, and Harvard. Eight days later his parents and Abigail 2d left the Hôtel de Rouault for London.41
London proved to be everything Abigail Adams hoped for: more familiar, accessible, and convenient than Paris. And it proved to be everything she feared: rude and xenophobic, and particularly hostile to the first diplomatic minister from the former rebels. On balance the move was advantageous to Abigail because it gave her what she always welcomed: more important duties and a larger role in supporting her husband's public career. She also undertook a major share in an important task in which she had apparently not been involved in France: choosing the family residence. In this case, moreover, the Adams' residence would also be America's first legation in Britain.
In England, Abigail Adams soon resumed the more active political role, as John Adams' most trusted adviser, that she had played in America. John's new mission closely engaged Abigail's attention, and her new residence gave her the means to comprehend it. Living again in a country whose language and culture she could understand, Abigail immediately began, discreetly and succinctly, to convey that view of Britain's interests and America's objectives which she shared with her husband to relatives and close friends in America and France. Two new correspondents, Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, received the largest share of her political reporting, but she did not forget Cotton Tufts. So effective was her summary of vital political news that Jefferson urged her to include it in every letter, especially because she was sometimes more forthcoming than John Adams.42
{ xxxvii }
Arriving in London on 26 May 1785, the Adamses took lodgings at the Bath Hotel in Piccadilly for just over a month. On 2 July, the family moved into a three-story brick structure at the northeast corner of Grosvenor Square in affluent Mayfair, just a mile northwest of the Court at St. James's Palace. John Adams was presented to the King on 1 June, receiving an unexpectedly gracious reception and a private conference with the sovereign. He was next presented to the Queen, on 9 June. This prepared the way for Abigail and her daughter, who joined some two hundred others on 23 June for a formal presentation to George III, Queen Charlotte, and the two eldest royal princesses.43
Forced to stand through four hours of Court etiquette, and to endure her own long-dreaded sense of awkwardness in such a new scene, Abigail still found the royal family reasonably personable, particularly the two princesses. She was less impressed with the appearance of the King and Queen and even more critical of the appearance of their subjects:
As [to] the Ladies of the Court, Rank and title may compensate for want of personal Charms, but they are in general very plain ill shaped and ugly, but dont you tell any body that I say so. . . . I saw many who were vastly richer drest than your Friends, but I will venture to say that I saw none neater or more elegant.44
With rare exceptions, such as attending Court or giving formal dinners, Abigail Adams did not describe her activities in London to her American relatives and friends in nearly the detail that she had done in Auteuil. Perhaps she assumed that they were less curious about English life than they were about the France's exotic culture. Moreover, she apparently found less time to write. Living in the heart of London and speaking the language, she could go out freely, with Abigail 2d or alone, for walks, rides, and social visits to Americans living in England, a few friendly Boston loyalist refugee families, and English families that welcomed Americans. Evenings she and Abigail 2d went often to the theater or other shows, accompanied by Col. William Stephens Smith, secretary of the American legation, by old friends like Charles Storer, or occasionally by John Adams.
{ xxxviii }
Duties at Grosvenor Square consumed Abigail's day. Her new home, although smaller than the grand residence at Auteuil, had several servants that needed her attention, and a steady stream of visitors, mostly Americans, came to see John Adams and his family, or just Abigail. She and her daughter described this home in nearly as exact detail as they had the Hôtel de Rouault in Auteuil, itemizing the duties of each servant, and the uses of each room.45 Although Abigail's correspondence from London became relatively light, her activities were amply chronicled by Abigail 2d, a minor correspondent in extant letters from France, who began to write unusually full letters recording the family's daily life.
The congruent nature of Abigail's and Abigail 2d's correspondence in London is hardly accidental. Abigail 2d, who in adolescence seemed a bit distant from her mother,46 now became her closest companion. In mid-summer Abigail, with John's assistance, helped her daughter reach an important decision: to sever her relationship with Royall Tyler. Young Abigail's awareness of her mother's early enthusiasm for Tyler, and her determination to appear to her parents as faithful to commitments that she herself had made, kept her for some months from even mentioning her “fear, suspicion, doubt, dread and apprehension” as ship after ship arrived, without letters from Tyler. In August she could bear the strain no longer. Her mother supplies this rare view of an intimate domestic conference in the Adams household:
A few days since, something arose which led her in conversation to ask me, if I did not think a Gentleman of her acquaintance a Man of Honour? I replied yes a Man of strict honour, and I wisht I could say that of all her acquaintance. As she could not mistake my meaning, instead of being affected as I apprehended she said, a breach of honour in one party would not justify a want of it in the other. I thought this the very time to speak. I said if she was conscious of any want of honour on the part of the Gentleman, I and every Friend she had in the world, would rejoice if she could liberate herself.47
Abigail then enlisted John, who told his daughter that to end her relationship with Tyler “was a serious matter,” but, “if she had reason { xxxix } to question the strictest honour of the Gentleman, or supposed him capable of telling her that he had written Letters when he had not, he had rather follow her to her Grave, than see her united with him.” Young Abigail promptly decided to end the affair. She told her mother that she wished that “neither the Name or subject may ever be mentiond to her.” Abigail conveyed her daughter's request to Mary Cranch, adding, “I hope none of her Friends will be so unwise as to solicit for him.”48
As Abigail saw her daughter through this crisis, her role was complicated by another suitor waiting in the wings. The Adamses had met Col. William Stephens Smith, who was appointed secretary to the American legation by Congress without John Adams' advice or knowledge, for the first time when they arrived in London. Within two months Col. Smith was taken with young Abigail and confided his feelings to her mother. Abigail replied that her daughter had an understanding with Royall Tyler; she may also have conveyed the impression that the understanding was not unshakable. Smith responded by asking John Adams for a leave of several weeks to attend Frederick II's last major military review in Prussia. In the week that Smith departed for Berlin, Abigail 2d made her decision and sent Tyler his dismissal.49
The months that followed were busy and anxious ones for both mother and daughter. They were concerned about John Adams' persistent eyestrain, which had been brought on by extended writing. This was alleviated only by the volunteer efforts of Charles Storer as secretary, until his departure for America in mid-September, and Abigail Adams 2d's own efforts, both as secretary and as decoder of Thomas Jefferson's official letters. They were also anxious for Col. Smith, who unaccountably spent nearly four months on the Continent, thereby extending young Abigail's clerical duties.50 Finally, there was the constant irritation of journalists who delighted in attacking John Adams in the London press.
Yet the summer and fall of 1785 were deeply enjoyable to mother and daughter, who partook fully of London's rich cultural offerings { xl } and gathered around them a circle of friends. For Abigail Adams there was another pleasure, a new correspondent with whom she could discuss anything without restraint, especially politics, and for whom she felt the deepest admiration and friendship: Thomas Jefferson.
Abigail wrote her first letter to Jefferson on 6 June 1785. During the next seven months they would exchange seventeen letters, and by the time she departed from England, in 1788, they had written over twenty more.51 From the beginning of their acquaintance Abigail's feelings for Jefferson were exceptionally strong; as she prepared to depart from Auteuil for England, she told her sister: “I shall realy regreet to leave Mr. Jefferson, he is one of the choice ones of the Earth.”52 Jefferson reciprocated completely, and in September 1785, he paid both Abigail Adams and her daughter one of his more clever tributes. Commenting upon the figurines of ancient deities that he was sending Abigail at her request, he wrote:
I could only find three of those you named. . . Minerva, Diana, and Apollo. I was obliged to add a fourth, unguided by your choice. They offered me a fine Venus; but I thought it out of taste to have two at table at the same time. [In Venus' place, Jefferson chose Mars.] The groupe then was closed, and your party formed. Envy and malice will never be quiet. I hear it already whispered to you that in admitting Minerva to your table I have departed from the principle which made me reject Venus: in plain English that I have paid a just respect to the daughter but failed to the mother. No Madam, my respect to both is sincere. Wisdom, I know, is social. She seeks her fellows. But Beauty is jealous, and illy bears the presence of a rival.53
As 1785 came to a close, Abigail Adams looked with satisfaction upon her comfortable, well-run home, the respect John Adams enjoyed among other diplomats, her good friends in London, and her two eldest children, who were now promising young adults. By October, John Quincy Adams was settled with his uncle, the Reverend John Shaw, in his final preparation for college. In December, Col. Smith returned from the Continent and began courting young Abigail in earnest.54 As John Quincy Adams and Abigail Adams 2d approached adulthood, they began to find their own voices in the typically Adams way, as correspondents.
{ xli }

The Second Generation

The Adams children were introduced to good letter-writing at an early age, as first John and then Abigail wrote frequently to each absent child. John was so devoted a paternal correspondent that he first wrote from Congress to Abigail 2d when she was nine, to John Quincy when he was eight, to Charles when he was six, and to Thomas Boylston when he was only three! Neither Charles nor Thomas Boylston appear to have responded with any regularity to either parent, or to their brother John Quincy or any other correspondent, before entering college. Abigail 2d did write several letters to her father when he was in Congress, and during his service in France and the Netherlands, and she corresponded frequently with her favorite cousin, who lived right in Braintree. John Quincy Adams became an eager correspondent in his earliest years. Beginning when he was only six or seven, he had written over sixty extant family letters, and received another forty, before his fifteenth birthday. Two exchanges involving the young Adamses became extensive before the opening of the present volumes: that between John and John Quincy Adams, and between Abigail Adams 2d and Elizabeth Cranch.55 The years 1783 to 1785 would see a rapid expansion in the family correspondence of both John Quincy and Abigail 2d, culminating in the letters they wrote to each other in the latter year.
John Quincy Adams began addressing letters to close relatives almost as soon as he could write. What appears to be his first extant letter, probably dating from his seventh year, is to his ten-year-old cousin Elizabeth Cranch.56 But his letters to cousins Elizabeth, William, and Lucy Cranch, and to Abigail 2d, Charles, and Thomas Boylston Adams, were not numerous; some have been lost, and few replies have been found. This leaves three real exchanges in John Quincy's early years, with his cousin John Thaxter and with his father and his mother. Thaxter had taught John Quincy Adams in the mid-1770s, and in the years of their correspondence, 1780–1782, John Quincy was still a student, but also, from mid-1781, an unofficial member of America's diplomatic corps, assisting Francis Dana in St. Petersburg as John Thaxter was aiding John Adams at The Hague and in Paris. This experience shaped John Quincy's brief correspondence { xlii } with his cousin, which was remarkably formal and serious for a youth in his early teens.
John Quincy Adams' early correspondence with his parents is a study in contrasts. He first wrote his father, then in Congress, in 1774, when he was seven; he received his first extant reply in early 1776; and the two exchanged several letters in 1777. From 1778 to mid-1780 father and son were nearly always together, and they exchanged just a few letters, concerning John Quincy's and his brother Charles' studies in Paris, in March 1780. After they moved to Holland in August 1780, thirteen-year-old John Quincy, studying at Leyden with Charles, conducted his first extensive correspondence with his father, who was in Amsterdam. Again the subject was John Quincy's and Charles' course of study.
Once John Quincy Adams agreed to his father's request that he accompany Francis Dana to St. Petersburg to assist in seeking some form of recognition or support for America from the court of Catherine II, his correspondence took on a new tone. In a half-dozen letters written to his father from Russia, John Quincy moved beyond reports of his studies to recount his travels and describe the new country in which he lived. John Adams gradually responded by addressing him more as an adult, although he still included regular paternal exhortations to hard work and moral behavior. By 1782, the exchange between father and son was approaching its mature state, a communication of steadily increasing frequency and complexity between two men with similar attitudes and interests, about those matters that most concerned them: ancient and modern learning, current geography and culture, economic conditions and politics.
John Quincy Adams' early correspondence with his mother was less impressive or satisfying for either writer. John Quincy began writing to Abigail in 1778, his first year abroad; his initial letters were short but frequent, and one was in French.57 Abigail replied infrequently, but at much greater length. During his second journey to Europe, in 1779–1780, John Quincy wrote Abigail a few letters, but when he reached Paris he virtually ceased writing, perhaps because he now felt at home in France, or because he had the company of his brother Charles and his cousin John Thaxter. Abigail at first wrote to John Quincy fairly regularly, but not often, and later less often. John Quincy wrote less, the longer and farther he was away, sending Abigail only one letter during his ten months in Holland, and one { xliii } more near the beginning of his fourteen-month stay in Russia. Then he was silent for nearly twenty-one months, until well after his return to Holland in April 1783.
When John Quincy Adams did write to his mother in the years 1781–1783, it was clearly out of a sense of obligation. His April 1781 letter from Holland began with the disclaimer: “I have been wanting to write to you this sometime but there has been nothing worth writing, and even now I know not what to write.”58 The text that followed was at first personal, but soon moved to an extended summary of a guidebook description of Leyden. His next letter, written from Russia in October 1781, opened with an excuse for not writing in the summer, summarized his long journey from Holland in just a few lines, and then quoted at length Voltaire's description of St. Petersburg.59 Upon his return to Holland in April 1783, after a journey during which he had written his father three interesting letters from Sweden, Denmark, and Germany,60 John Quincy wrote nothing to his mother until the day after John Adams' arrival at The Hague from Paris—the first meeting of father and son in over two years.
If John Adams encouraged his son to write to Abigail, as seems likely, the letter of 23 July 1783 is one of young John Quincy Adams' better efforts: a personal account of his journey from Russia to Holland, with only brief passages that might have been derived from published sources. His next letter to Abigail is briefer, consisting entirely of a response to her most recent letter to him—perhaps brought from Paris to The Hague by John Adams—in which she asked whether “the cold Nothen Regions [had] frozen up that Quick and Lively immagination which used to give pleasure to your Friends,” and lamented that it was hard “to be forgotton by my Son.”61 John Quincy replied that it had been difficult to write from Russia, that everything he would write would be opened by government agents before it left the country. And he asked her pardon for striking out her words, “to be forgotten by my Son,” which he could not bear to look at.
John Quincy Adams wrote only two more letters to his mother before their reunion in the next year. The first was a brief report of the diplomatic news of early September, with a mention that John Thaxter and Francis Dana were returning to America. His second { xliv } September letter was explicitly obligatory, an essay written “as you have ordered me” (in Abigail's letter of 13 November 1782), containing his observations on Russia. Here John Quincy reverted to his earlier practice, constructing his text largely from published materials.62
In reply to her son's July letters, Abigail Adams began by expressing her happiness in hearing from him, then devoted the rest of her letter to a didactic essay on the necessity of guarding his moral character.63 Her last letters to John Quincy before her departure for England were friendlier and more relaxed, but when mother and son were reunited in July 1784, they had to rediscover each other after a separation of six almost unbroken years, a separation that neither had effectively bridged by correspondence.
The success of their nine-month reunion in Europe is apparent in their correspondence after John Quincy Adams departed for America in May 1785. In the half-dozen letters that Abigail wrote John Quincy from London between June and October, she ceased treating her son as a child in need of moral instruction and addressed him as an adult, confident that he would lead a moral and productive life, fulfilling her highest expectations. And John Quincy, although he wrote less often than Abigail, replied with warm personal letters in October and December, full of that mix of public events and family news that Abigail so prized.64 What had begun as a most unsatisfactory exchange of letters between an anxious mother and an adolescent son seeking independence became, in 1785, a deeply satisfying correspondence between close and equal family members.
With his father, to whom he had never hesitated to write, John Quincy Adams established an extensive correspondence immediately upon his return to Holland; between April and July 1783 they exchanged fourteen letters. Most were brief, and John Quincy's course of study was again the dominant subject, but the younger Adams' letters have a consistently confident, independent tone, and John Adams, while offering advice in every letter, assumed that his son would think for himself. From July 1783 to May 1784, the two were always together, but when John Quincy went to London, hoping to receive his mother and sister, he exchanged thirteen letters with his father in just five weeks.
{ xlv }
Soon after his arrival in London, John Quincy Adams confessed discouragement in attaining one of his major objectives: securing admission to the gallery of the House of Commons. John Adams replied that “a young Gentleman of 17, must not talk of low Spirits for Small disappointments. He must reconcile his Mind to them. He will meet with many.”65 Before John had even penned this wise counsel, however, John Quincy had been admitted to the gallery. He then wrote three letters that show a thoroughly mature youth taking delight in hearing some of the most brilliant orators and statesmen of his day: Edmund Burke, Lord North, Charles James Fox, and—most impressive of all to young Adams—William Pitt the younger. In each letter he succinctly evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of each speaker, as his father had recommended, and he closed one account with the assertion that if his opinion was in error, “my judgment is in fault, for I have followed in this matter the Ideas of no one.”66 From this time forth, John Quincy Adams expressed his opinions confidently, both within and outside the family circle.
Abigail Adams 2d developed more slowly as a letter-writer, and in the years before she went to Europe, too few of her exchanges with family members have survived to allow a full picture of her personality. She had almost no correspondence with her mother, from whom she was seldom separated for more than a week during occasional visits to relatives and friends in neighboring towns or in Boston. She wrote her father fairly often, both when he served in Congress and in his early years in Europe. But only his replies to her before 1783 have survived. Starting in 1781, Abigail 2d wrote a few letters to her brother John Quincy and to her cousin John Thaxter. Her first efforts were stiff and reserved, and her letters to her brother have the preachy tone of several of her mother's early letters to him, but in 1783 she wrote all three men warmer, more personal and lively letters within one month.67 Her only important early correspondent was her first cousin Elizabeth Cranch, two years her senior, who lived less than a mile away. Nearly forty of young Abigail's letters to Elizabeth survive, most written when one or the other cousin was visiting friends a few miles from Braintree, but occasionally when both were in town. Several more of Abigail 2d's letters to Elizabeth have evidently been lost, and not one of Elizabeth's replies has been found.68
{ xlvi }
The character that emerges from Abigail Adams 2d's early letters to her father and brother is rather shy and unsure of her intellectual abilities. When writing to her cousin Elizabeth, she showed more confidence, and a total lack of interest in most intellectual matters and public affairs. In every letter, young Abigail was most interested in the personal lives of all her relatives and friends. Yet even with Elizabeth Cranch, she was discreet about her own life to the point of secretiveness. Fond of teasing her cousin about possible beaus, Abigail wrote nothing about her own affairs of the heart. Some twenty letters written to Elizabeth during the nearly three years of Abigail's relationship with Royall Tyler contain not even the most oblique reference to him.
Abigail 2d was more open with Elizabeth about other feelings, at times even confessional. At the very time when Tyler was ardently pursuing her, seventeen-year-old Abigail recommended to Elizabeth cool discretion over the dangerous “romantick sentiments of Love.” She declared herself: “the same cold indifferent Girl she ever was, she knows not the person on earth that she could talk or write <about> so romantickly upon. . . . I have sometimes been at a loss to know whether I have a heart or not, but at last have made this conclusion, that in the days of my very youth I was deprived of it.”69
For the next twenty months Abigail Adams 2d's correspondence with Elizabeth Cranch shows little development, yet it is of considerable historical interest. In letters written from 1782 through early 1784, especially those penned in Boston and Cambridge, she is the only chronicler of the social circle in which the Adams family moved in Massachusetts.70 Her entire body of letters to Elizabeth Cranch from 1779 through 1784 offers something quite rare, a view of late-eighteenth-century American life through the eyes of a teenager.
Upon her departure for Europe, young Abigail's letters soon acquired a new style. While continuing to respond more deeply to close friends than to books and ideas or to public issues and public figures, she began to resemble her mother as a correspondent in two respects. { xlvii } She started to describe both the physical scenes and the social world around her, and she began to portray the men whom she met with the same care that she had given, and continued to give, to the women she knew. Abigail Adams 2d developed these talents in several long letters to Elizabeth, Lucy, and Mary Cranch, and to Mercy Warren.71 Yet for solid information, these letters add only modestly to her mother's longer and finer letters to the same persons.
After the family returned to London in 1785, Abigail Adams 2d took on a new role. Between July and December 1785, she wrote six long journal-letters to John Quincy Adams, detailing almost every aspect of life in the British metropolis. John Quincy wrote eleven somewhat shorter letters, also in journal style, to Abigail 2d, beginning on the road to the French packet, continuing at sea, from New York City, and on the road in Connecticut, and concluding from the homes of relatives in Braintree, Boston, and Haverhill. So extensive does this correspondence become that in its sheer bulk and unique factual information it even overshadows Abigail Adams' correspondence with her sister Mary Cranch and with Thomas Jefferson.
This remarkable exchange grew out of a pact between sister and brother, “never to let a day pass without adding something to the Letter which we were to be continually writing.”72 After nine months of daily conversations and family entertainments at home, and several outings spent together around Paris or at the theater, often without their parents, Abigail Adams 2d and John Quincy Adams parted with great reluctance. Their letters were an attempt to convey something of every day that they were apart, and for several months they succeeded remarkably well. Between July and December 1785, Abigail Adams 2d recorded events or thoughts that occurred on at least 57 out of 184 days. John Quincy Adams wrote near the outset of this exchange that the weeks of his ocean crossing should be deducted from his obligation because there was so little to write about at sea;73 yet in the first several months of their separation he wrote even more regularly than his sister. From his departure from Auteuil on 12 May until the end of October, he wrote on 107 out of 173 days. He then suspended his correspondence for several months, saying that arduous preparation for college would make letter-writing nearly impossi• { xlviii } ble. He promised to resume writing once he had been admitted to Harvard in March.74
John Quincy Adams' side of the exchange is the more polished in every respect; his text is clearly organized, consistently grammatical, and in a fine hand. His letters often go beyond corroborating his full Diary for these months, providing further information about his return voyage to America, reunion with his brothers and other relatives, and activities with his friends in Haverhill. But Abigail Adams 2d's letters to John Quincy, most surviving only in rough drafts that are grammatically uneven, rambling and disorganized, and full of irregular spelling, are at least as valuable to any study of the Adams family. With the apparent loss of her own diary for this period,75 and the lack of many long letters from her mother to Massachusetts friends, young Abigail is often the sole source for what the Adamses were thinking and doing in London in the summer and fall of 1785. The loss of her first four letters to John Quincy, which evidently narrated the Adams' last days in Auteuil, their journey to England, and their first weeks in London, form one of the three largest identifiable gaps in the epistolary record of the family in the early 1780s.76
In her more casual way, Abigail Adams 2d recorded the Adams' first months in London nearly as thoroughly as her mother had done for earlier episodes in the family's history. She devoted considerable space to politics and diplomacy, especially the news from France conveyed by Thomas Jefferson and the American ministers' plans to negotiate with the Barbary States. She often preserved her mother's, and occasionally her father's, reactions to individuals and the social scene as well as her own. Only her letters give a detailed view of what the Adamses thought of the theater and the spectacles of London and of their many new acquaintances.
Young Abigail liked much of what she saw, and many of those whom she met, but her life in London, perhaps even more than her time in France, strongly reinforced her American patriotism. She longed for her brother and her friends in Braintree, and she was distressed by the contempt which several Londoners showed for her country. When a visitor to Grosvenor Square asserted that young { xlix } Abigail must surely prefer England to America, she replied: “Indeed Miss . . . I do not.” Her guest persisted: “You must think this the finest Country, the Cultivation is greater and every thing superior.” Abigail responded: “That may be, but I have friends and Connections in America that will ever make it dear to me. Tis not merely the place which I regard, tis what friends and acquaintancees I find.”77
Abigail Adams 2d, like her parents and her brother, found foreign lands fascinating; she wrote to John Quincy that she would like to travel with him and a small party of friends quite “round the World.” Yet at heart she was, like her mother and father, a proud, skeptical New Englander. Travel satisfied one's curiosity and offered real wisdom, but it did not supply values. The most exotic voyages, she assured her brother, would not harm those “possessed of proper Principles, . . . but make them Wiser and better and happier.” Moreover, she remarked playfully, it made an American more respectable at home,
. . . for the People of our Country have a Wonderfull liking to those who can say, “I have been in St. Paul's Church. I have seen the Lions, Tigers, &c. in the Tower. I have seen the King, and what is more have had the extreme honour of being saluted by him. What the King? Yes by George the Third King of Great Britain France and Ireland, defender of the Faith &c. And I have seen the Dancing Dogs, Singing Duck, and little Hare which beats the Drum, . . . but not yet the Learned Pig.”78
By 1785 the two elder Adams children had matured as correspondents and were fully engaged in bonding the affections of their scattered family closer together, as its members moved through new physical separations. Adams family letters of the 1770s had linked writers and generations in Braintree, Philadelphia, and Paris. Those of the 1780s connected correspondents in several eastern Massachusetts towns with others in Paris, The Hague, St. Petersburg, and London. Those of the 1790s would tie the family homestead in Braintree (Quincy after 1792) with New York, Philadelphia, The Hague, London, and Berlin. The first decade of the nineteenth century would find Adamses writing from a new city, Washington, and again from St. Petersburg.
So large and long a correspondence, carried on by several men and women of different temperaments and experiences, cannot be reduced { l } to one principal theme, or even to a few. Yet one aspect of so many of the letters in the present volumes, and of many others from the preceding years, is striking: the tension between the Adams' cultural attitudes and beliefs, born of their New England upbringing, and the increasingly cosmopolitan reality of their existence, from their first arrival in Europe in the late 1770s.
Each of Abigail and John Adams' remarkable family, men and women alike, aspired to that celebrated vision of expanding knowledge and experience, of education and travel, which John Adams had expressed in the spring of 1780 in Paris: “I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, . . . Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.”79
Yet every Adams, even the cosmopolitan John Quincy, believed that the Yankee world they had left behind was morally superior to the grand metropolitan centers of western Europe. Abigail was sure that none of the grand ladies at the Court of St. James's were more elegant than her daughter or herself.80 Abigail 2d loved travel and enjoyed the theater in Paris and London, yet could not forget that much of London's celebrity consisted of stifling Court etiquette, lions in the Tower, and an indiscriminate feast of high and low culture. John Quincy Adams, returning to Massachusetts after seven years in Europe, saw his countrymen aping the pompous class consciousness of the Old World. At once astonished and amused by local pronouncements on the social unsuitability of plausible suitors, he wrote to his mother: “we have our ladder from the mud, to the skies, as well as all the European Nations.”81
This tension between a deep attachment to the social and cultural world of eastern Massachusetts, a steady devotion to the larger American nation, and a thirst to acquire the high culture of all nations and of all ages would become a marked characteristic of the Adamses through four generations. Nowhere in their writings is this clearer than in their family correspondence, where each family member expressed so much of his or her sense of public duties and aspirations, and of private desires and misgivings, in the same concise documents. This remarkable fusion of expression of the public and { li } private worlds has been a large part of the attraction of the Adams family correspondence for American readers in the century and a half since the first publication of a sizable sample of these letters.

Earlier Publication

In 1963, in the Introduction to Volume 1 of the Adams Family Correspondence, the editors traced prior publications of the family letters, from 1840 to 1947, to which the reader is referred.82 Several letters in the present volumes, however, first appeared in two works that were not included in that summary. Sixteen are included in volumes 8 and 9 of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, published in 1953 and 1954. Another twenty-three appear in The Book of Abigail and John (1975), a highly selective, unannotated edition of letters prepared for a popular market by the editors of the Adams Papers.83
In all, some 117 of the 416 letters included in the present volumes have been previously published, either whole or, in over three dozen cases, abridged.84 Charles Francis Adams' edition of the Letters of Mrs. Adams, The Wife of John Adams (Boston, 1840), was the first substantial publication of Adams letters. For the period covered here, Adams published 27 letters in 1840, added just one to the 1841 edition, but 8 more to his 1848 edition, and published another 11 in Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife (1841).85 Early in the same decade, Caroline Smith de Windt published 12 letters from this period, mostly by her mother, Abigail Adams 2d, in the Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, Daughter of John Adams, in two volumes (1841, 1842); in 1849 she brought out a third volume that contained 11 more letters, written by John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d in 1785.86 No further significant publication of Adams family letters for these years appeared until Worthington C. Ford brought out the first volume of The Writings of John Quincy Adams in 1913, which included another 5 { lii } letters, 2 of which were abridged.87 This was the last important appearance of Adams family correspondence for this period before the 1950s.
Until the appearance of the first volumes of Adams Family Correspondence in 1963, Charles Francis Adams' editions of his grandparents' letters effectively defined the family of Abigail and John Adams in the public mind.88 In the context of nineteenth-century editing, this was most fortunate. Young Adams was a dedicated editor with an exceptionally high regard for the integrity of original texts. He gave his readers a fuller view of his ancestors than they could obtain of any other early American family; and he published his forbears' observations at sufficient length to show them as mortals with human flaws, and with certain opinions, especially regarding various nationalities and religions, that could have offended some readers.89 Moreover, Charles Francis Adams' careful arranging and preservation of all the Adams papers, and his editing of over twenty-five volumes of the writings of Abigail, John, and John Quincy Adams between 1840 and 1877, forged the link between his family's engagement with America and the ongoing presentation of that relationship, down to the present day.
Because of their frequent abridgment and certain small but important editorial alterations, however, the letters printed in C. F. Adams' editions afford a somewhat incomplete view of the social and cultural world of Abigail Adams and her family. The first editors of the Adams Family Correspondence highlighted several distinctive features of Charles Francis' texts, which require only a brief summary. The Adamses in these letters appear to have had few concerns about money, to have been largely immune to disease and the fear of illness, and to have enjoyed no passionate conjugal emotions. They thought and spoke in a refined, grammatically perfect tone, they seldom expressed strong anger against individuals, and they seemed remote from the daily concerns of the largely rural, agricultural world of Braintree, in which they passed so much of their lives.90
{ liii }
The full texts of the letters in the Adams Family Correspondence present different Adamses. The entire family shows a more practical, more passionate, and more anxious cast of mind, and each of its members is intimately engaged in the daily concerns of the several social environments, from the most rural and obscure to the most cosmopolitan, in which they lived. Abigail Adams, in particular, appears in a different light, willing if not eager to discuss farm management, the local economy, town gossip, disease, pregnancy, and stillbirth. Among the characteristic features of the nineteenth-century editions are small editorial alterations in Abigail's daily speech that obscure where she lived in cultural time and social space. Two examples demonstrate this. In C. F. Adams' texts, Abigail Adams writes “Ay” to indicate assent or agreement; in her manuscripts she wrote the Yankee “aya.” Abigail Adams 2d, who always appears as “Abby” in C. F. Adams' editions, is usually called “Nabby” by both her parents in the original texts (and never called “Abby”).91
The first editors of the Adams Family Correspondence prized Abigail Adams' colloquialisms, her “phonetic spelling and informal grammar,” for preserving “many local pronunciations and constructions that were the very essence of 18th-century Yankee speech.” Charles Francis Adams critically altered this speech when, “like virtually all 19thcentury editors, [he] corrected the spelling, grammar, and punctuation of the texts he printed according to the standards of his own time.”92 His changes in Abigail's language also obscured an important change in the family's history. Several words and phrases that C. F. Adams altered—from “Canady” to “Canada,” “Frankling” to “Franklin,” and “a Monday” to “on Monday”—were becoming archaic by the early nineteenth century, but they did not suddenly disappear everywhere. The Yankee assent “aya” has survived in various forms into the late twentieth century in several of New England's more rural communities. Such language did not survive in the Adams family's written communication after the second and third generation left the rural world of Braintree behind them.
{ liv }
This transformation began when John Adams entered college in 1751 at age sixteen; it occurred at a younger age and more completely in John Quincy Adams, who left Massachusetts for France with his father at age ten. It happened later, and worked a less thorough change, in the lives of both Abigail Adams and her daughter. The Nabby Adams of the early 1780s was still a country girl, and the Adams family of the 1840s had culturally left the country, even though they continued to spend each summer in Quincy. For them Abby, not Nabby, was the proper diminutive for a nineteenth-century Abigail of social standing.93
Charles Francis Adams, again like nearly all nineteenth-century editors, also shaped the image of his principal subject by deleting portions of her letters. With rare exceptions, he felt too deep a respect for his grandmother to substitute his own words for hers.94 His cuts in Abigail Adams' texts, however, were substantial: of the twenty-seven letters, running from late 1782 through 1785, that appear in his first edition of her letters (1840), he abridged twenty to some degree. His deletions ranged from one line to over one hundred; from 1 percent to nearly 70 percent of the text. Most letters lost between 10 and 40 percent of their length. Of the eleven items for this period that appear in his 1841 edition of his grandfather's letters, however, he abridged only one, cutting out one-eighth of its text.95
Yet C. F. Adams was not eager to abridge any text, and in his 1841 edition of Abigail's letters he restored passages that he had removed from five letters in his first edition. In his 1848 edition, he added eight more letters, cutting just four lines from one, suppressing a name in another, and leaving the rest unaltered.96 He does not appear to have shortened any letter, no matter how long, simply in the interest of brevity; he had a reason for removing each passage.
{ lv }
The first editors of the Adams Family Correspondence noted that Charles Francis Adams' abridgments of Abigail Adams' letters of the 1770s involved passages on business and farm management, illness and pregnancy, or indelicate language and the critical assessments of certain individuals.97 As the character and location of the family's activities changed with the coming of peace, C. F. Adams' deletions show a somewhat different pattern. In the 1780s Abigail was less concerned about farm management or illness, and evidently not at all about pregnancy. When she did write about her conduct of business, Charles Francis usually printed it. Two routine subjects were shortened. Statements about the difficulty of correspondence and the frustrating delays of transatlantic communication were cut out. Second, and somewhat more puzzling, Charles Francis removed several passages in which Abigail was arranging for either Mary Cranch or Elizabeth Shaw to watch over or do something for her sons in Braintree or Haverhill, or at Harvard College.98 These passages, and others concerning Braintree or Vermont land transactions,99 are longer and more numerous than the instances in which Charles Francis occasionally edited out his grandmother's descriptions of what she regarded as the uncouth customs or the moral decay of French society.100
Charles Francis Adams was most sensitive to any subject that might adversely affect his family's reputation. Here he cut extensively and thoroughly, from his first edition of Abigail's letters through the Familiar Letters of 1876. On one occasion Abigail was mildly critical of the Adams' close friend James Warren; in another letter she briefly discussed Benjamin Franklin's hostility toward John Adams. C. F. Adams removed both passages.101 By far the largest deletions, however, involved Royall Tyler's courtship of Abigail Adams 2d. In C. F. Adams' editions, this interesting chapter in the family's history is simply omitted.
In 1785, when Abigail Adams 2d decided to dismiss Royal Tyler, { lvi } Abigail asked her relatives to act as if the family had never known him.102 Charles Francis Adams honored this request as faithfully as any of Abigail's contemporaries. He may have decided not to print certain letters at all because they dealt too directly with Tyler.103 In the letters that he did print, he made both the smallest alterations—once changing “Mr. Tyler” to “Mr. T.”—and the largest deletions to insure that no hint of Tyler remained in his printed texts.104 His single abridgment of a John Adams letter also involved Tyler.105 Finally, perhaps because he wished to support Abigail's argument that her daughter dismissed Tyler only for his failings and not because of any competing romantic interest, he removed a substantial passage in which Abigail praised Col. William Stephens Smith, who would soon court and marry Abigail Adams 2d.106
The cumulative impact of Charles Francis Adams' emendations and deletions, particularly in the 1780s, has been to make Abigail Adams' letters less those of a mother, center of her family in its emotional and its economic dimensions, than of an acute observer of her surroundings in Massachusetts, France, and England who happened also to be a mother. The letters in his editions present a rather isolated nuclear family, removed from its country speech and customs, and distanced from its close relatives in Braintree, Haverhill, and Boston. From these texts, the image of Abigail and John's family as a people apart, cosmopolitan and self-consciously public wherever they were living, became fixed in the public mind of over a century.
The first prominent generation of the Adams family, however, was neither predominantly cosmopolitan in its experience nor exclusively public in its concerns. The nuclear Adams family was part of an extensive, tightly connected upper-middle-class family group with { lvii } deep roots in several eastern Massachusetts towns, most of which were still largely rural and agricultural. European sophistication did not come naturally to this eighteenth-century family, not even to its most cosmopolitan member, John Quincy Adams. A large measure of the importance of the correspondence in the present volumes, above all the letters written by Abigail Adams, is its capacity to place the Adams family at one and the same time in the provincial world of eastern Massachusetts and the cosmopolitan world of western Europe.
The Adams family's second nineteenth-century editor, Caroline Amelia Smith de Windt, in bringing out three volumes of the correspondence of her mother, Abigail Adams 2d, published fewer letters, twenty-three dating from late 1782 through 1785, than did her first cousin Charles Francis Adams. At first glance this might appear fortunate, for she partook deeply of the early nineteenth-century's cavalier attitude toward historical texts that C. F. Adams worked so hard to overcome. In the ten letters from this period written by John Quincy Adams that she printed, which survive in recipient's copies, her texts show frequent misreadings and alterations of words, misreadings and suppressions of proper names, the dropping of internal datelines, the occasional moving of text from one part of a letter to another, and extensive cuts, large and small, for every reason—including the slightest references to Royall Tyler—and for no apparent reason.107
Yet Caroline Smith de Windt is an important Adams editor for one simple reason: her editions preserve other texts, presumably also defective, whose manuscript sources have been lost. For the period covered in the present volumes, she provides texts of twelve letters that lack manuscript sources, and of one more that appears superior to a surviving draft. Fortunately, given Caroline de Windt's zeal for abridgment, most of these letters were written to Abigail Adams 2d by John Adams or Charles Storer who were both relatively concise correspondents, and it is likely that most of their original text reached print. Imperfect as this source is, one must regret that Caroline Smith de Windt did not publish more letters, both to and by her mother, and more of her mother's journal, since the originals—recipients' copies, and drafts, and the manuscript diary—were probably destroyed { lviii } by the fire that consumed the home of Mrs. de Windt's family a decade after her death.
For a century after 1849 a mere handful of additional Adams family letters from the 1780s appeared in print, with little important change in editorial method. But between 1952 and 1956, the publication of the first volumes of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson and the launching of editorial projects devoted to the Adamses, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison radically transformed historical documentary editing in the United States. The last three decades have seen the publication by the Adams Papers project of more than five thousand letters by and to various Adamses, as well as fifteen volumes of Adams diaries and three volumes of legal documents. Some fifteen hundred of these letters appear in the six volumes of Adams Family Correspondence.

Notes on Editorial Method

The editors of volumes 3 and 4 of this series observed that it had been “a long interval since the first two volumes of Adams Family Correspondence issued from the press” (3:xl), and this is again true. It may be useful after such a hiatus to review the editorial method employed here. The editors will also refer the reader to particular sections of the editorial statements in earlier volumes for further information.
Materials Included
The Adams Family Correspondence is designed to publish letters exchanged by Abigail and John Adams, and those exchanged by their descendants through the next three generations through 1889, which the editors consider important in exploring the thought, revealing the character, and narrating the action of the Adamses in their domestic life. To these are added two other types of letters: those exchanged with close relatives who were part of the Adams' larger family circle, and significant letters exchanged by the women of the Adams family with persons to whom they were not related.
Not included in this series are letters written by Adams men to non-relatives, and other letters, written by them to cousins, brothers-in-law, or other relations, which deal primarily with non-family matters.108 { lix } Included in the present volumes, for example, are seventeen letters exchanged between John Adams and his brother-in-law Richard Cranch, and eight letters exchanged with Abigail's uncle Cotton Tufts, because they deal largely with family issues. Another three letters that he exchanged with Cranch, and eight more with Tufts, have not been included because they focus on more public matters.
These principles of selection have guided the editors of all six volumes of Adams Family Correspondence, but in practice, selection in the present volumes differs slightly from selection in the two that preceded them, just as the selection of letters in those volumes differed from the selection in volumes 1 and 2 (see 3:xxxviii). As in the previous volumes, most of the letters exchanged between the women of the Adams family and their correspondents, both within and outside the family, have been included.109 A much larger portion of the letters exchanged between John Adams and his male relatives and in-laws has been excluded, based on the non-family content of these letters. This extends beyond Adams' correspondence with Richard Cranch and Cotton Tufts to include all the letters that he exchanged with Isaac Smith Sr., John Thaxter, and other Boylston, Cranch, and Smith relations. Letters by and to these correspondents were often included in earlier Adams Family Correspondence volumes solely on the grounds that they were John Adams' relatives. The present editors have decided, however, that their correspondence with John Adams, and occasionally with John Quincy Adams, is so heavily devoted to public issues that it should be considered for inclusion in Series III, General Correspondence and Other Papers of the Adams Statesmen.
The result of these policies is the inclusion of 416 letters and two legal documents, the omission of 43 letters or brief notes written by or to women of the Adams family, and the exclusion of 46 letters exchanged between either John or John Quincy Adams and their male relatives. The ones by or to Adams women have been omitted for their lack of important content; it is not anticipated that they will be published in any Adams Papers edition. Those involving John and { lx } John Quincy's male relations are candidates for inclusion in the ongoing Papers of John Adams or in the projected Papers of John Quincy Adams and will either be printed, or listed as omitted documents, in the relevant volumes of those editions.
A summary census of the 415 single-author letters in these volumes may aid the reader in understanding the general character of this correspondence.110 The four principal family members wrote 284 of these letters—68 percent of the total—as follows: Abigail Adams, 125; John Adams, 77; John Quincy Adams, 46; Abigail Adams 2d, 36. For each correspondent, the following number of their letters, and its proportion of all their letters included here, now appear in print for the first time: Abigail Adams, 68 (54 percent); John Adams, 50 (65 percent); John Quincy Adams, 29 (63 percent), and Abigail Adams 2d, 32 (89 percent). Seven other correspondents—Mary Cranch, Richard Cranch, Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Shaw, Charles Storer, John Thaxter, and Cotton Tufts—each wrote 8 or more letters, for a total of 90, of which 12, all by Jefferson or Storer, have been previously printed. The remaining 41 letters, all appearing in print for the first time, were penned by twenty-one different correspondents. Women wrote 210 of the 415 letters, they received 244, and 117 letters were written by one woman to another.
In these volumes, as in the earlier volumes in this series, the Adams Papers editors have benefitted from a high proportion of ideal manuscript sources for the texts of these 415 letters. The great majority, 371 (89 percent), are based primarily upon recipient's copies. Other primary manuscript sources include 16 drafts, 6 letterbook copies, 5 contemporary copies, and just one later transcript. Sixteen other letters (4 percent of the total) are based solely or primarily on printed sources.
The location of these manuscripts has also been most favorable to the editors' work. The largest share of the 399 letters based on manuscript sources is in the Adams Papers collection at the Massachusetts Historical Society (299 letters, 75 percent of the total). Another 28 manuscripts are in other collections at the Society. Other archives hold 62 documents, including 22 at the Library of Congress and 19 at the American Antiquarian Society. Only 10 are privately owned.
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Textual Policy
The treatment of texts in the Adams Family Correspondence has been set forth in volumes 1 (p. xliii–xlv) and 3 (p.xxxix), expanding upon the project's first statement concerning texts, in the first volume of the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (p. lv–lix). Because so much time has passed since the publication of volumes 3 and 4, we will restate the relevant textual policy for the convenience of our readers:
Punctuation follows that in the manuscript with the following guidelines for intelligibility.
Every sentence begins with a capital and ends with a period. Dashes obviously intended to be terminal marks are converted to periods, and superfluous dashes are removed. Dashes evidently intended to indicate breaks or shifts in thought or used as semi-paragraphing devices are of course retained. Minimum punctuation for intelligibility is supplied in dialogue and quoted matter. If quotation marks appear only at one end or the other of a passage of direct discourse, the matching pair is supplied when its location is clearly determinable, but quotation marks are not systematically inserted according to modern usage. The editors have refrained from altering, suppressing, or supplying punctuation in passages that are truly ambiguous.
Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as found in names of persons and places; in the datelines, salutations, and complimentary closes of letters; endorsements and docketings; in units of money and measurement; and in accounts and other tabular documents. They are also retained elsewhere if they are still in use or are readily recognizable. But in all cases where they are retained, the superscript letters once so commonly used to indicate contractions are brought down to the line. The ampersand (&) is retained in the form &c. (for etc.) and in the names of firms; elsewhere it is rendered as and.
Missing and illegible matter is indicated by square brackets ([ ]) enclosing the editors' conjectural readings (with a question mark appended if the reading is doubtful), or by suspension points (. . .) if no reading can be given. If only a portion of a word is missing, it may be silently supplied when there is no doubt about the reading. When the missing or illegible matter amounts to more than one or two words, a footnote estimating its amount is subjoined.
Canceled matter in the manuscripts (scored-out or erased passages) is included when it is of stylistic, psychological, or historical interest. In our text such passages are italicized and enclosed in angle { lxii } brackets (< >). If a revised equivalent of a canceled passage remains in the text, the canceled matter always precedes it.
Variant readings (variations in text between two or more versions of the same letter or document) are indicated when they are significant enough to warrant recording, and then always in footnotes keyed to the basic text that is printed in full.
Editorial insertions are italicized and enclosed in square brackets.
The formal parts of letters are handled as follows:
The place-and-date-line is printed as literally as possible (that is, without expanding contractions &c.), except that superscript letters are brought down to the normal type line and terminal punctuation is omitted. The place-and-dateline is always printed at the head of the letter, even if in the manuscript it appears elsewhere (commonly at the foot of the text). Undated and misdated letters have their dates editorially supplied or corrected inside square brackets.
The salutation is given as literally as possible, but superscripts are lowered to the line and terminal punctuation is omitted.
The complimentary close is also printed literally, but to save space it is set in run-on style. Contractions are retained, but superscripts are brought down to the line.
The signature is printed literally except for superscripts, which are aligned, and without closing punctuation. If a letter was unsigned (which commonly happened during wartime and even at other times between intimate correspondents), it is so printed without comment, unless for some special reason an explanation is required.
The recipient's name at foot of text (sometimes called a “subscription”) is normally omitted. In letterbook copies this may be the sole or principal means of identifying the recipient, but, if so, it is reflected in the editorially supplied caption.
The annotation in these volumes closely follows the principles set forth in the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (1:lx–lxii), and in earlier volumes in this series (1:xlv–xlvii; 3:xxxix–xl), but we note here a few changes and clarifications in our procedure.
(1) We now include the full manuscript address (or notation of direction), the postal markings, and the endorsements in the descriptive note to every letter (see 1:xlvi).
(2) We follow the earlier practice of omitting the year of a letter in all cross-references where the letter referred to was written in the same year as the letter being annotated. When, however, we refer to { lxiii } a letter in a previous Adams Family Correspondence volume, we now include the page numbers in that volume (see 3:xl).
As in all previous volumes, we routinely leave the full names of better-known persons, of most places, and of the titles of well-known works of scholarship, literature, or art to which the text makes only a passing reference, to the index.
{ lxiv }
1. 8 October 1782, below; repeating her offer of 3 and 5 September 1782 (vol. 4:372, 376). See the Descriptive List of Illustrations, no. “I Cannot O! I Cannot Be Reconcild to Living as I Have Done for 3 Years Past” Abigail Adams to John Adams, 8 October 1782 1083, above.
2. John Adams to Abigail Adams, 12 October (quotation), and 16 October, and John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 9 October 1782, all below.
3. John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 November, Charles Storer to Abigail Adams, 8 November, and John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 10 November 1782, all below (and see John Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 16 October 1782, below).
4. 4 December 1782, below.
6. John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 1 and 20 February, and 12 March, and John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 18 February 1783, all below.
8. 22 January 1783, below.
9. Abigail Adams to John Adams, 7 April 1783, below.
10. Details of Abigail Adams' activities as a farm manager and as an investor are widely scattered through her correspondence with John Adams, below. Abigail's most important letters to Thaxter and Storer are at 26 October 1782, 29 April, 1 and 21 July, and 20 October 1783(to Thaxter); and 28 April 1783 (to Storer), all below; see also their many letters to her, below. The correspondence between Abigail Adams and James Lovell, extending from August 1777 to April 1782, appears in vols. 2–4.
11. See John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 November 1782, 29 January, 4 and 26 February, 28 March, and 4 and 7 September 1783, all below; and the Descriptive List of Illustrations, no. 4, above.
12. John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7, and 10 September 1783, all below.
13. 14 October, 8 November (two letters), and 18 November 1783, and 25 January 1784, all below.
14. Below.
17. John Adams to Abigail Adams, 14 October, 8 November (2 letters) 1783; Abigail Adams to John Adams, 3 January 1784, all below.
18. To John Adams, 15 January, 15 March, and 25 May 1784, all below.
19. 18 May 1784, below.
20. 14 October 1783, below (and see vol. 4:224–225, for Adams' illness in Amsterdam).
21. John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 November (2d letter of that day), and 18 November 1783; and John Quincy Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, 18 April 1784, all below.
22. John Adams to Richard Cranch, 3 April; John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 28 May, and [post 6 June] 1784, all below.
23. Abigail Adams to John Adams, 15 March, 12 April, and 25 May; Abigail Adams to Elbridge Gerry, 19 March; andElbridge Gerry to Abigail Adams, 16 April and 18 May 1784, all below.
24. Letters of 18 May to the end of June 1784, below.
25. 25 May 1784, below; and see Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 6 July 1784, second paragraph, below, for John Adams' remark.
26. See Abigail Adams to Mercy Warren, 5 September, to Elizabeth Cranch, 3 December, to Mary Cranch, 9 December, and to Elizabeth Shaw, 14 December 1784; and to Cotton Tufts, 8 March, and to John Thaxter, 20 March 1785, all below.
27. To Mary Cranch, 6 July 1784, below; the letter was finished on 30 July.
28. Abigail Adams to John Adams, 23 July, John Adams to Abigail Adams, 26 July, John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 30 July, and 6 August 1784, all below.
29. To Lucy Cranch, 5 September 1784, below; and see the Descriptive List of Illustrations, no. Anne-Catherine, Comtesse De Ligniville D'Autricourt, Madame Helvétius, by Louis Michel Vanloo 34712, above.
30. Abigail Adams 2d to Lucy Cranch, 4 September 1784, below.
32. Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 9 December 1784, and to Cotton Tufts, [26 April] 1785, both below; AA2, Jour. and Corr., 1:74.
33. John Adams to Abigail Adams, [post 12 May 1780], vol. 3:341–342; Abigail Adams to Mercy Warren, 5 September, and to Mary Cranch, 9 December 1784, to Elizabeth Cranch, 3 January, and to Mary Cranch, 20 February 1785, all below.
34. Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Shaw, 11 January 1785, below; and see Abigail Adams to John Shaw, 18 January 1785, below.
35. Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, and to Mary Cranch, both 5 September, to Elizabeth Cranch, 3 December, and to Mary Cranch, 9 December, 1784, to Royall Tyler, [4 January], to Lucy Cranch, [5] January, and to Elizabeth Cranch, 8 March 1785, all below. See also Abigail Adams 2d to Elizabeth Cranch, 10 December 1784, below.
36. Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts, 8 March 1785, below.
37. John Adams to Cotton Tufts, 5 September, Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts, 8 September 1784 (quotation); Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts, 3 January, John Adams to Cotton Tufts, 5 March 1785, all below. See also Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts, 18 June 1784, below, which sets out Tufts' initial agenda for managing the Adamses' affairs in Massachusetts.
38. John Adams to Richard Cranch, 27 April 1785, below.
39. Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch [ante 5] May 1785, and to Elizabeth Shaw, 8 May 1785, both below.
40. Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, and to Elizabeth Shaw, both 8 May 1785, both below.
41. Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 9 December, and to Elizabeth Shaw, 14 December 1784, and to John Thaxter, 20 March, to Mary Cranch, 15 April, and to Cotton Tufts, [26 April] 1785, all below; and Diary of John Quincy Adams, 1:256.
42. See particularly Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts, 16 September, and Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 27 December, responding to Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 20 December 1785, all below.
43. Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 6 June, and to Mary Cranch, 24 June 1785, both below. John Adams recorded his remarks to George III, and the King's reply, in a memorandum dated 1 June 1785 (Adams Papers), and in a letter to John Jay, 2 June 1785 (Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, 2:367–371).
44. Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 24 June 1785, below.
45. Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 4 July, Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch?, [ca. July–August], and Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 15 August 1785, all below.
46. See Abigail Adams 2d to Elizabeth Cranch, 13 February 1779, vol. 3:169; and to Abigail Adams, 6 January 1784, below.
47. Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 15 August 1785, below.
48. Same; and see Abigail Adams 2d to Royall Tyler, [ca. 11 August 1785], below.
49. Abigail Adams to William Stephens Smith, 13 August, Smith to Adams, 5 September, Adams to Smith, 18 September, and Smith to Adams, 6 December 1785, and Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 11 August 1785, all below.
50. Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 26 August, Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 11 August, 6 September, and 5 October, and Abigail Adams to William Stephens Smith, 18 September 1785, all below.
51. The entire correspondence between Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1785 appears below. The correspondence for 1785–1788 appears in Jefferson, Papers, vols. 8–12; the correspondence for 1785–1817 appears in Lester J. Cappon, ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters, Chapel Hill, 1959, 2 vols.
52. Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 8 May 1785, below.
53. Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 25 September 1785, below.
54. William Stephens Smith to Abigail Adams, 29 December 1785, below.
55. Nearly all of these letters appear in vol. 1–4; see the indexes in vols. 2 and 4. Letters in these volumes will not be particularly cited in this section unless they are quoted, or discussed in detail.
56. Vol. 1:91.
57. Vol. 3:29.
58. Vol. 4:100.
60. Of 1 February, 20 February, and 12 March 1783, below.
61. Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 13 November 1782, and John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 23 and 30 July 1783, all below.
62. John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 4 and 10 September 1783, both below.
64. See especially Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 26 June and 6 September, and John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 6 October and 28 December 1785, all below.
65. John Adams to John Quincy Adams, [post 6 June], responding to John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 1 June 1784, both below.
66. John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 6 (quotation), 15, and 18 June 1784, all below.
67. To John Thaxter, 27 April, to John Adams, 10 May, and to John Quincy Adams, [ca. 10] May 1783, all below.
68. See Abigail Adams 2d's letters to Elizabeth Cranch of October through December 1782, January, July, and August 1783, and January 1784, all below. Most of these letters passed between adjacent or nearly adjacent Massachusetts towns: Braintree, Weymouth, Hingham, Milton, and Boston. Elizabeth Cranch's replies were probably consumed by the fire that destroyed the home of the family of Caroline Smith de Windt, Abigail Adams 2d's daughter, at Fishkill, N.Y., in 1862.
70. Letters of [ca. 18] and [ca. 27] January, and 17 and [post 20] July 1783, all below.
71. See particularly Abigail Adams 2d to Elizabeth Cranch, 9 July, 4 September, and 10 December 1784, to Mercy Warren, 5 September 1784, and to Lucy Cranch, 6 May and 23 June 1785, all below.
72. John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 25 May 1785, below.
73. Same.
74. To Abigail Adams 2d, 1 October 1785, below.
75. See Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 26 August 1785, note 2, below; and AA2, Jour. and Corr., 1:7–96, especially p. 78–84.
76. The other two major losses are Elizabeth Cranch's letters to Abigail Adams 2d, and Abigail Adams 2d's correspondence with Royall Tyler.
77. To John Quincy Adams, 26 August 1785, below.
78. Letter of 4 July 1785, below.
79. To Abigail Adams, [post 12 May 1780], vol. 3:342.
80. To Mary Cranch, 24 June 1785, below.
81. 6 October 1785, below.
83. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, and Mary-Jo Kline, eds.; published by Harvard University Press. This work included nearly two hundred of the approximately one thousand letters previously published in volumes 1 through 4 of Adams Family Correspondence (Cambridge, 1963; 1973).
84. This census does not include brief extracts from seven letters from this period that Worthington C. Ford included in his annotation to other 1783–1785 letters in the first volume of The Writings of John Quincy Adams (described below).
85. All these editions were published in Boston.
86. These editions were published in New York; volume [3], published in 1849, actually appeared as volume 2, with a date of 1842. See “Short Titles of Works Frequently Cited,” under AA2, Jour. and Corr., below.
87. This edition, running to seven volumes and containing letters written from 1779 to 1823, was published in New York, 1913–1917.
88. Building on his editions of the 1840s, Charles Francis Adams also published Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams, During the Revolution in 1876 (New York). This volume, soon better known than any of its predecessors, concluded with a letter written by John to Abigail on 18 February 1783, and includes just six letters that appear in the present Volume 5. All six first appeared in the editions of the 1840s.
89. See, for example, Abigail Adams to John Shaw, 18 January, and to Elizabeth Shaw, [ca. 15 August] 1785, both below.
90. Adams Family Correspondence, 1:xxxiv–xxxviii.
91. Abigail used “aya” in writing to Mercy Warren, 5 September, and to Elizabeth Shaw, 14 December, 1784, both below (see AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1848, p. 201; AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840, p. 267). In the letter to Mercy Warren, however, John Quincy Adams corrected the “Aya” in Abigail's draft to “Ay” when he prepared the recipient's copy for his mother.
For John Adams' use of “Nabby,” see his letters of 7 and 10 September and 11 November 1783, all below. Abigail Adams uses “Nabby” in her letters to John Adams, 15 December 1783 and 15 March 1784, to Mary Cranch, 6 July, 5 September, and 9 December 1784, to Elizabeth Cranch, 5 September 1784 and 8 March 1785, all below.
92. Vol. 1:xxxvii.
93. “Abby,” perhaps not coincidentally, was also C. F. Adams' familiar name for his own wife, Abigail Brooks Adams (see Diary of Charles Francis Adams, vols. 2–8).
94. The only case of C. F. Adams' deliberate rephrasing noticed by the editors in the letters of this period occurs in Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, 2 September 1785, below, where, probably to correct her grammar, he altered Abigail's “no one can be sufficiently thankfull for the Blessings [of political liberty] they enjoy, unless they know the value of them,” to the inappropriate: “no one can be sufficiently thankful for the blessings he enjoys, unless he knows the value of them” (AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1848, p. 265). The first editors of the Adams Family Correspondence also noticed just one deliberate alteration in Abigail's letters of the 1770s; see vol. 1:xxxvii–xxxviii.
95. To Abigail Adams, 26 July 1784, below. All of the letters discussed here appear below, and each of C. F. Adams' deletions is marked in the annotation.
96. In his 1841 edition C. F. Adams restored deletions in Abigail Adams to John Adams, 13 November and 23 December 1782, and 20 June and 15 December 1783, and in Abigail Adams to Lucy Cranch, 5 September 1784. In his 1848 edition he deleted lines from Abigail Adams to Mercy Warren, 5 September 1784, and suppressed a name in Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, of the same date. All these letters appear below.
97. Vol. 1:xxxvi.
98. To Mary Cranch, [ante 5] May and 1 October 1785; to Elizabeth Shaw, 14 December 1784, 8 May and [ca. 15 August] 1785, all below.
99. Abigail Adams to John Adams, 25 October 1782, 15 March 1784, both below.
100. To Mary Cranch, 5 September 1784, and 20 February 1785; to Lucy Cranch, 5 September 1784; to Mercy Warren, 5 September 1784; and to John Shaw, 18 January 1785, all below.
101. To John Adams, 13 November 1782, and 15 December 1783, both below. C. F. Adams also deleted a passage that alluded to some unnamed person, with whom Abigail was unhappy, in her letter to Mary Cranch of 9 December 1784, below.
102. To Mary Cranch, 15 August 1785, below.
103. Likely examples are several of John Adams' letters to Abigail written in 1783 (C. F. Adams did print eight of thirty-two), and Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 15 August 1785; all these letters are below.
104. The largest deletion was in Abigail Adams to John Adams, 23 December 1782, below. C. F. Adams' alteration of “Mr. Tyler” to “Mr. T.” in Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, 5 September 1784, below, probably misled many readers, since it was reasonable to assume that by “Mr. T.”, Abigail intended her cousin John Thaxter.
105. To Abigail Adams, 26 July 1784, below.
106. The passage characterizing Col. Smith is in Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 6 September 1785, below. Abigail explained that her daughter had no other romantic interest, at the time she dismissed Royall Tyler, first rather obliquely in her letter to Mary Cranch of 26 January 1786 (MWA: Abigail Adams Corr.), and then more explicitly in her letter to John Quincy Adams of 16 February@ 1786 (Adams Papers). C. F. Adams may also have removed Abigail's praise of Smith because the Adamses later experienced bitter disappointment with Smith, whom they saw by 1800 as a hopelessly improvident husband for their daughter.
107. These ten letters were written to Abigail Adams 2d, from May to October 1785; all are below. Of the twelve letters by John Quincy to Abigail 2d for 1785, below, that of [26] October survives only in Caroline de Windt's edition, and she did not print the letter of 8 September.
108. See vol. 1:xli–xliii, for the first and fullest statement of these principles.
109. The editors of volumes 1 and 2 omitted 36 such letters; the editors of volumes 3 and 4 omitted 49. Of the 128 letters by or to Adams women omitted from the six volumes of Adams Family Correspondence, only 8 were written within the nuclear Adams family; all were by John to Abigail. In addition, the editors have found two more letters for the period of vols. 1–2, and another two for the period of vols. 3–4, since those volumes were published. See the List of Omitted Documents, 1761–1785, at the end of Volume 6.
110. These volumes include, in addition to the 415 single-author letters counted in this section, just three other documents: one note of invitation from Abigail and John Adams to Benjamin Franklin, one power of attorney from John Adams to Cotton Tufts, and the Rev. William Smith's will.
{ lxv }



First among the many people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for contributing to these volumes is the project's former editor in chief Robert J. Taylor. In 1982–1983, his last year at the Adams Papers, he made the preliminary selection and annotation of the great majority of the letters that appear in Volume 5. His initial research and his mastery of Massachusetts history in the 1780s have provided a firm foundation for the work that we have done to bring this volume to completion.
The two institutions that brought the Adams Papers into being continue to offer the most valuable support to the current editors. The Massachusetts Historical Society, under the direction of Louis Leonard Tucker, has provided this enterprise with a home, cared for the bulk of its documentary materials, and made available its valuable research services. Of particular help in the preparation of these volumes have been the Society's librarian, Peter Drummey, his colleagues Aimée Bligh and Mary E. Cogswell, Edward W. Hanson and Helen R. Kessler of the Society's publications staff, and the Society's curator of photographs, Chris Steele. The Society's director emeritus, Stephen T. Riley, has performed a decade of dedicated service as a trustee of the Founding Fathers Papers, Inc., the major fund-raising body for this and several other projects. Harvard University Press continues to produce our volumes with care and dedication. We would like to thank production manager John Walsh for his continued efforts in maintaining the high printing standards of our volumes and for his assistance in working with our typesetter, Kevin Krugh of Technologies 'N Typography, who skillfully generated the volumes on computer. We also appreciate the work of Bruce Lehnert of Linotype-Hell, who created special fonts for the Adams Papers. We owe particular thanks to our editor at the Press, Ann Louise Coffin McLaughlin, who, in over thirty years of the most vigilant labor, has guided all thirty-four Adams Papers volumes into print.
The financial support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission since 1975 is formally acknowledged on the { lxvi } copyright page of this volume, but we wish to thank the Commission staff, whose members continue to perform many important services for us, and for several dozen other projects as well, all with remarkable economy and skill.
We have received vital aid in locating or verifying manuscripts and archival information from the staffs of several institutions. The Adams National Historic Site in Quincy and its superintendent, Marianne Peak, have been consistently supportive, carrying on the fine work of one of the Adams Papers' oldest friends, the late superintendent Wilhelmina S. Harris, who died in May 1991 at age ninety-five, as the editing of these volumes was nearing completion. At Harvard University's Houghton Library, Hugh Amory and his staff, particularly Jennie Rathbun, have been most helpful. At Harvard's Fogg Art Museum, Louise Todd Ambler, curator of the University's Portrait Collection, has given us valuable assistance. The staff at the American Antiquarian Society, especially Sidney Berger (now Head, Special Collections, University of California, Riverside) has been most helpful, as have the staffs at the Boston Athenaeum, the Rare Book Room of the Boston Public Library, the Frick Art Reference Library, and the National Portrait Gallery.
Several individuals have helped us with particular research problems: John Catanzariti, editor of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson; Wendell D. Garrett, expert at the American Decorative Arts and Furniture Department, Sotheby's, and editor at large for The Magazine Antiques; Mary-Jo Kline, New York City, former associate editor for the Adams Papers; Claude A. Lopez, consulting editor of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin; A. Bruce MacLeish of the New York State Historical Association; Bernard Nurse, Librarian of the Society of Antiquaries of London; and Jules D. Prown, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University.
We would like to thank three persons who helped us secure and present our illustrations: Martha A. Greig, chair of the historical activities committee of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Rhode Island; Linda J. Pike, formerly a member of the editorial staff of the Lafayette Papers, now managing editor of the Administrative Science Quarterly at Cornell University; and David Bolles, photographer of those items drawn from the Adams Papers and from other Massachusetts Historical Society collections that are reproduced in these volumes.
Finally, we gratefully acknowledge the contribution of two members { lxvii } of the Adams Papers staff who do not appear on the title page. Sarah Hage, editorial assistant at the Adams Papers from 1986 to 1988, began the verification of the annotation, and entered much of the text onto our computer. Adjunct Editor Marc Friedlaender, who was co-editor of volumes 3 and 4 of the Adams Family Correspondence, read the entire manuscript and gave us the benefit of his vast knowledge of the Adams family.
{ lxviii }
Guide to Editorial Apparatus
Guide to Editorial Apparatus

Guide to Editorial Apparatus

Guide to Editorial Apparatus

In the first three sections (1–3) of the six sections of this Guide are listed, respectively, the arbitrary devices used for clarifying the text, the code names for designating prominent members of the Adams family, and the symbols describing the various kinds of MS originals used or referred to, that are employed throughout The Adams Papers in all its series and parts. In the final three sections (4–6) are listed, respectively, only those symbols designating institutions holding original materials, the various abbreviations and conventional terms, and the short titles of books and other works, that occur in volumes 5 and 6 of the Adams Family Correspondence. The editors propose to maintain this pattern for the Guide to Editorial Apparatus in each of the smaller units, published at intervals, of all the series and parts of the edition that are so extensive as to continue through many volumes. On the other hand, in short and specialized series and/or parts of the edition, the Guide to Editorial Apparatus will be given more summary form tailored to its immediate purpose.

Textual Devices

The following devices will be used throughout The Adams Papers to clarify the presentation of the text.
[...], [....]   One or two words missing and not conjecturable.  
[...]1, [....]1   More than two words missing and not conjecturable; subjoined footnote estimates amount of missing matter.  
[ ]   Number or part of a number missing or illegible. Amount of blank space inside brackets approximates the number of missing or illegible digits.  
[roman]   Conjectural reading for missing or illegible matter. A question mark is inserted before the closing bracket if the conjectural reading is seriously doubtful.  
<italic>   Matter canceled in the manuscript but restored in our text.  
[italic]   Editorial insertion in the text.  

Adams Family Code Names

First Generation    
JA   John Adams (1735–1826)  
AA   Abigail Smith (1744–1818), m.JA 1764  
{ lxix }
Second Generation    
JQA   John Quincy Adams (1767–1848), son of JA and AA  
LCA   Louisa Catherine Johnson (1775–1852), m.JQA 1797  
CA   Charles Adams (1770–1800), son of JA and AA  
Mrs. CA   Sarah Smith (1769–1828), sister of WSS, m.CA 1795  
TBA   Thomas Boylston Adams (1772–1832), son of JA and AA  
Mrs. TBA   Ann Harrod (1774–1846), m.TBA 1805  
AA2   Abigail Adams (1765–1813), daughter of JA and AA, m.WSS 1786  
WSS   William Stephens Smith (1755–1816), brother of Mrs. CA  
Third Generation    
GWA   George Washington Adams (1801–1829), son of JQA and LCA  
JA2   John Adams (1803–1834), son of JQA and LCA  
Mrs. JA2   Mary Catherine Hellen (1807–1870), m.JA2 1828  
CFA   Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), son of JQA and LCA  
ABA   Abigail Brown Brooks (1808–1889), m.CFA 1829  
ECA   Elizabeth Coombs Adams (1808–1903), daughter of TBA and Mrs. TBA  
Fourth Generation    
JQA2   John Quincy Adams (1833–1894), son of CFA and ABA  
CFA2   Charles Francis Adams (1835–1915), son of CFA and ABA  
HA   Henry Adams (1838–1918), son of CFA and ABA  
MHA   Marian Hooper (1842–1885), m.HA 1872  
BA   Brooks Adams (1848–1927), son of CFA and ABA  
LCA2   Louisa Catherine Adams (1831–1870), daughter of CFA and ABA, m. Charles Kuhn 1854  
MA   Mary Adams (1845–1928), daughter of CFA and ABA, m. Henry Parker Quincy 1877  
Fifth Generation    
CFA3   Charles Francis Adams (1866–1954), son of JQA2  
HA2   Henry Adams (1875–1951), son of CFA2  
JA3   John Adams (1875–1964), son of CFA2  

Descriptive Symbols

The following symbols will be employed throughout The Adams Papers to describe or identify in brief form the various kinds of manuscript originals.
D   Diary (Used only to designate a diary written by a member of the Adams family and always in combination with the short form of the writer's name and a serial number, as follows: D/JA/23, i.e. the twenty-third fascicle or volume of John Adams' manuscript Diary.)  
Dft   draft  
Dupl   duplicate  
FC   file copy (Ordinarily a copy of a letter retained by a correspondent other than an Adams, for example Jefferson's press copies and polygraph copies, since all three of the Adams statesmen systematically entered copies of their outgoing letters in letter-books.)  
{ lxx }
Lb   Letterbook (Used only to designate Adams letterbooks and always in combination with the short form of the writer's name and a serial number, as follows: Lb/JQA/29, i.e. the twenty-ninth volume of John Quincy Adams' Letterbooks.)  
LbC   letterbook copy (Letterbook copies are normally unsigned, but any such copy is assumed to be in the hand of the person responsible for the text unless it is otherwise described.)  
M   Miscellany (Used only to designate materials in the section of the Adams Papers known as the “Miscellany” and always in combination with the short form of the writer's name and a serial number, as follows: M/CFA/32, i.e. the thirty-second volume of the Charles Francis Adams Miscellany—a ledger volume mainly containing transcripts made by CFA in 1833 of selections from the family papers.)  
MS, MSS   manuscript, manuscripts  
RC   recipient's copy (A recipient's copy is assumed to be in the hand of the signer unless it is otherwise described.)  
Tr   transcript (A copy, handwritten or typewritten, made substantially later than the original or than other copies-such as duplicates, file copies, letterbook copies-that were made contemporaneously.)  
Tripl   triplicate  

Location Symbols

CtY   Yale University  
DLC   Library of Congress  
DNA   The National Archives  
DNDAR   Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington, D.C.  
DSI   Smithsonian Institution  
M-Ar   Massachusetts Archives  
MB   Boston Public Library  
MBAt   Boston Athenaeum  
MBCo   Countway Library of Medicine, Boston  
MBNEH   New England Historic Genealogical Society  
MBU   Boston University  
MBilHi   Billerica Historical Society, Billerica, Mass.  
MH   Harvard University  
MH-Ar   Harvard University Archives  
MH-H   Houghton Library, Harvard University  
MHi   Massachusetts Historical Society  
MQA   Adams National Historic Site, Quincy, Mass.  
MSaE   Essex Institute, Salem, Mass.  
MWA   American Antiquarian Society  
MeHi   Maine Historical Society  
MiU-C   William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan  
NAlI   Albany Institute of Art  
NHi   New-York Historical Society  
NN   New York Public Library  
{ lxxi }
NNPM   Pierpont Morgan Library  
NNS   New York Society Library  
NPV   Vassar College  
NhHi   New Hampshire Historical Society  
NjP   Princeton University  
PHC   Haverford College  
PPAmP   American Philosophical Society  
PU   University of Pennsylvania  
VtHi   Vermont Historical Society  
WyU   University of Wyoming  

Other Abbreviations and Conventional Terms

  • Adams Papers
  • Manuscripts and other materials, 1639–1889, in the Adams Manuscript Trust collection given to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1956 and enlarged by a few additions of family papers since then. Citations in the present edition are simply by date of the original document if the original is in the main chronological series of the Papers and therefore readily found in the microfilm edition of the Adams Papers (see below). The location of materials in the Letterbooks and in the volumes of Miscellany is given more fully and, if the original would be hard to locate, by the microfilm reel number.

  • Adams Papers Editorial Files
  • Other materials in the Adams Papers editorial office, Massachusetts Historical Society. These include photoduplicated documents (normally cited by the location of the originals), photographs, correspondence, and bibliographical and other aids compiled and accumulated by the editorial staff.

  • Adams Papers, Adams Office Files
  • The portion of the Adams manuscripts given to the Massachusetts Historical Society by Thomas Boylston Adams in 1973 and retained in the editorial office of the Adams Papers.

  • Adams Papers, Microfilms
  • The corpus of the Adams Papers, 1639–1889, as published on microfilm by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1954–1959, in 608 reels. Cited in the present work, when necessary, by reel number. Available in research libraries throughout the United States and in a few libraries in Canada, Europe, and New Zealand.

  • The Adams Papers
  • The present edition, published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. References to earlier volumes of any given unit take this form: vol. 2:146. Since there will be no overall volume numbering for the edition, references from one series, or unit of a series, to another will be by title, volume, and page; for example, JA, Diary and Autobiography, 4:205.

  • PCC
  • Papers of the Continental Congress. Originals in the National Archives: { lxxii } Record Group 360. Microfilm edition in 204 reels. Usually cited in the present work from the microfilms, but according to the original series and volume numbering devised in the State Department in the early 19th century; for example, PCC, No. 93, III, i.e. the third volume of series 93.

  • Thwing Catalogue, MHi
  • Annie Haven Thwing, comp., Inhabitants and Estates of the Town of Boston, 1630–1800; typed card catalogue, with supplementary bound typescripts, in the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Short Titles of Works Frequently Cited

  • AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840
  • Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams. With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1840.

  • AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1841
  • Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams. With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, 3d edn., Boston, 1841; 2 vols.

  • AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1848
  • Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams. With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, 4th edn., rev. and enl., Boston, 1848.

  • AA2, Jour. and Corr.
  • Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, Daughter of John Adams, . . . edited by Her Daughter [Caroline Amelia (Smith) de Windt], New York and London, 1841–[1849]; 3 vols.
    Note: Vol. [1], unnumbered, has title and date: Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, 1841; vol. 2 has title, volume number, and date: Correspondence of Miss Adams . . . Vol. II, 1842; vol. [3] has title, volume number, and date: Correspondence of Miss Adams . . ., Vol. II, 1842[!], i.e. same as vol. 2, but preface is signed “April 3d, 1849”[!], and the volume contains as “Part II” a complete reprinting from same type, and with same pagination, of vol. 2 (i.e. “Vol. II”), above, originally issued in 1842.

  • A. N. Adams, Geneal. History of Henry Adams of Braintree
  • Andrew N. Adams, A Genealogical History of Henry Adams, of Braintree, Mass., and His Descendants, Rutland, Vt., 1898; 2 vols.

  • Biog. Dir. Cong.
  • Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774–1949, Washington, 1950.

  • Braintree Town Records
  • Samuel A. Bates, ed., Records of the Town of Braintree, 1640 to 1793, Randolph, Mass., 1886.

  • Burnett, ed., Letters of Members
  • Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1921–1936; 8 vols.

  • Cambridge Modern Hist.
  • The Cambridge Modern History, Cambridge, Eng., 1902–1911; repr. 1969, [New York]; 12 vols.

  • Catalogue of JA's Library
  • Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. { lxxiii }

  • Catalogue of JQA's Books
  • Worthington C. Ford, ed., A Catalogue of the Books of John Quincy Adams Deposited in the Boston Athenaeum. With Notes on Books, Adams Seals and Book–Plates, by Henry Adams, Boston, 1938.

  • Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns.
  • Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Publications.

  • DAB
  • Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements.

  • Dict. of Americanisms
  • Mitford M. Mathews, ed., A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles, Chicago, 1951.

  • Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789
  • [William A. Weaver, ed.,] The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States of America, from . . . 1783, to . . . 1789, Washington, 1837 [actually 1855]; 3 vols.

  • DNB
  • Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1900; 63 vols. plus supplements.

  • Evans
  • Charles Evans and others, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols.

  • Fowler, Baron of Beacon Hill
  • William M. Fowler Jr., The Baron of Beacon Hill: A Biography of John Hancock, Boston, 1980.

  • Franklin, Papers
  • The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, William B. Willcox (from vol. 15), Claude A. Lopez (vol. 27), Barbara B. Oberg (from vol. 28), and others, New Haven, 1959-.

  • Grandmother Tyler's Book
  • Frederick Tupper and Helen Tyler Brown, eds., Grandmother Tyler's Book: The Recollections of Mary Palmer Tyler (Mrs. Royall Tyler), 1775–1866, New York and London, 1925.

  • Harvard Quinquennial Cat.
  • Harvard University, Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1930, Cambridge, 1930.

  • History of Hingham
  • History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, Hingham, 1893; 3 vols. in 4.

  • Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale
  • J. C. F. Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu'à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols.

  • JA, Diary and Autobiography
  • Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols.

  • JA, Earliest Diary
  • The Earliest Diary of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1966. { lxxiv }

  • JA, Legal Papers
  • Legal Papers of John Adams, ed. L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel, Cambridge, 1965; 3 vols.

  • JA, Letters, ed. CFA
  • Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1841; 2 vols.

  • JA, Papers
  • Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint (from vol. 6), and others, Cambridge, 1977-.

  • JA, Works
  • The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols.

  • JA-AA, Familiar Letters
  • Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams, during the Revolution. With a Memoir of Mrs. Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams, New York, 1876.

  • JCC
  • Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols.

  • Jefferson, Papers
  • The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen (from vol. 21), John Catanzariti (from vol. 24), and others, Princeton, 1950-.

  • Jensen, The New Nation
  • Merrill Jensen, The New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation, 1781–1789, New York, 1950.

  • JQA, Diary
  • Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allen, Robert J. Taylor, and others, Cambridge, 1981-.

  • Lafayette in the Age of the Amer. Rev.
  • Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790, ed. Stanley J. Idzerda and others, Ithaca, 1977-.

  • Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel
  • Pierre Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, Paris [1865]; 15 vols. and supplements.

  • Mass., Acts and Laws
  • Acts and Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [1780–1805], Boston, 1890–1898; 13 vols.

  • MHS, Colls., Procs.
  • Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings.

  • Miller, ed., Treaties
  • Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, 1931–1948; 8 vols.

  • Morris, Papers
  • The Papers of Robert Morris 1781–1784, ed. E. James Ferguson, John Catanzariti, and others, Pittsburgh, 1971-. { lxxv }

  • Morris, Peacemakers
  • Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence, New York, 1965.

  • Namier and Brooke, House of Commons
  • The House of Commons, 1754–1790, ed. Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke, London, 1964; 3 vols.

  • New England Historical and Genealogical Register.

  • Notable American Women
  • Edward T. James and Janet Wilson James, eds., Notable American Women, 1607–1950, Cambridge, 1971; 3 vols.

  • Oxford Classical Dictionary
  • The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Scullard, 2d edn., Oxford, 1970.

  • OED
  • The Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, 1888–1972; 12 vols. and supplements.

  • Oliver, Portraits of JA and AA
  • Andrew Oliver, Portraits of John and Abigail Adams, Cambridge, 1967.

  • Parliamentary Hist.
  • The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, London, 1806–1820; 36 vols.

  • Pattee, Old Braintree and Quincy
  • William S. Pattee, A History of Old Braintree and Quincy, with a Sketch of Randolph and Holbrook, Quincy, 1878.

  • Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder
  • Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder seit dem Westfälischen Frieden (1648), ed. Ludwig Bittner and others, Oldenburg, &c., 1936–1965; 3 vols.

  • Rice, Adams Family in Auteuil
  • The Adams Family in Auteuil, 1784–1785, As Told in the Letters of Abigail Adams, ed. Howard C. Rice Jr., Massachusetts Historical Society, Picturebook, Boston, 1956.

  • Rice, Jefferson's Paris
  • Howard C. Rice Jr., Thomas Jefferson's Paris, Princeton, 1976.

  • Sabin
  • Joseph Sabin and others, comps., A Dictionary of Books Relating to America, from Its Discovery to the Present Time, New York, 1868–1936; 29 vols.

  • Sibley's Harvard Graduates
  • John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873-.

  • Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates
  • Paul H. Smith and others, eds., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1976-.

  • Warren-Adams Letters
  • Warren-Adams Letters: Being Chiefiy a Correspondence among John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Warren, (Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, vols. 72–73), Boston, 1917–1925; 2 vols.

  • Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev.
  • Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. { lxxvi }

  • Wheatley, London Past and Present
  • Henry B. Wheatley, London Past and Present, Its History, Associations, and Traditions. Based Upon the Handbook of London by the Late Peter Cunningham, London, 1891; 3 vols.

  • Winsor, Memorial History of Boston
  • Justin Winsor, ed., The Memorial History of Boston, Including Suffolk County, 1630–1880, Boston, 1880–1881; 4 vols.

  • WMQ
  • William and Mary Quarterly.
{ lxxvii }

volume 5

Family Correspodence


{ lxxviii }
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.