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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 7

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The Adams Papers

Adams Family Correspondence
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Adams Family Correspondence

Volume 7 • January 1786 – February 1787
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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
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The Adams Papers


  • John Adams
  • Margery Adams
  • Levin H. Campbell
  • Joseph J. Ellis
  • Lilian Handlin
  • Edward C. Johnson 3d
  • Randall Kennedy
  • Henry Lee
  • Pauline Maier
  • Zick Rubin
  • Hiller B. Zobel


  • Joyce O. Appleby
  • Bernard Bailyn
  • Joan R. Challinor
  • David Herbert Donald
  • Linda K. Kerber
  • Thomas K. McCraw
  • 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 xix
    • 1. The Adamses in London xx
    • 2. The Adamses in Massachusetts xxv
    • 3. Unrest in America xxvii
    • 4. Notes on Editorial Method xxix
  • Acknowledgments xxxi
  • Guide to Editorial Apparatus xxxiii
    • 1. Textual Devices xxxiii
    • 2. Adams Family Code Names xxxiii
    • 3. Descriptive Symbols xxxiv
    • 4. Location Symbols xxxv
    • 5. Other Abbreviations and Conventional Terms xxxv
    • 6. Short Titles of Works Frequently Cited xxxvii
  • Family Correspondence, January 1786 – February 1787 1
  • Appendix: List of Omitted Documents 479
  • Chronology 483
  • Index 489
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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


“The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, 17 June 1775,” by John Trumbull, 1786 19

John Adams first met Dr. Joseph Warren (1741–1775) in April 1764 when Warren inoculated him against smallpox. The two became friends as they worked together for independence, though Warren took a more radical stand than Adams. Warren made his mark with orations on the 1772 and 1775 anniversaries of the Boston Massacre and was responsible for dispatching Paul Revere and William Dawes on their nighttime rides of 18 April 1775. As a general in the Continental Army, Warren dodged enemy fire on 17 June 1775 to join American troops in the Battle of Bunker Hill. During the conflict he was killed by a musket ball to the head. British soldiers buried his body on the battlefield, but it was later exhumed and interred under King's Chapel (John Adams to Abigail Smith, [13 April 1764], and note 2, vol. 1:28, 29; Sibley's Harvard Graduates, 14:513, 515–516, 519–520, 525–526).
John Trumbull (1756–1843), the son of Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, was a nineteen-year-old adjutant in the First Regiment of the Connecticut militia when he witnessed the battle from a post five miles away on the Roxbury Heights. A few miles to the southeast on Penn's Hill in Braintree, Abigail Adams and seven-year-old John Quincy Adams also watched the Charlestown engagement. The next day, Abigail wrote to her husband in Philadelphia to lament the death of Warren on “perhaps the decisive Day . . . on which the fate of America depends” (Abigail Adams to John Adams, 18 June 1775, and note 3, vol. 1:222, 223–224; Sibley's Harvard Graduates, 18:331, 334; Theodore Sizer, ed., The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull: Patriot-Artist, 1756–1843, N.Y., 1970, p. 17–19).
The young officer on Roxbury duty would pursue a postwar career as an artist, apprenticed to Benjamin West. Trumbull completed his Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill in early 1786 in London. Upon seeing it, Abigail wrote that “my Blood Shiverd,” while Abigail 2d told her brother that “it is enough to make ones hair to stand on End” (Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 4 March 1786; Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 22 Jan. 1786, both below).
English artisans refused to engrave Death of General Warren because it glorified an American victory, so Trumbull, with the help of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, produced an engraving on the Continent. Probably because the work's theme offended English sensibilities, the engraving was a commercial failure. Two copies of { x } the print now hang in the Adams family “Old House” at the Adams National Historical Park, gifts from the artist to John Quincy in 1826 (Theodore Sizer, The Works of Colonel John Trumbull: Artist of the American Revolution, rev. edn., New Haven, Conn., 1967, fig. 145; Jefferson, Papers, 10:250).
Courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery Trumbull Collection

Playbill for Gen. John Burgoyne's The Heiress 23

John Burgoyne (1722–1792) was a 62-year-old retired general of the British Army seven years removed from his defeat at Saratoga when he began writing The Heiress on a Lancashire retreat in 1784. The play debuted as an anonymous work on 14 January 1786 at the Drury Lane Theatre, though as Abigail Adams 2d suggested a week later, the London press was already reporting that it was “said to be written by Genl Burgoine” (to John Quincy Adams, 22 Jan. 1786, below). After the drama made an impressive debut, Burgoyne revealed his authorship despite the risk that—as he told a friend—“the change of my design will be imputed to vanity” (quoted in James Lunt, John Burgoyne of Saratoga, N.Y., 1975, p. 323–324).
While two earlier dramas by Burgoyne had enjoyed modest success, The Heiress played an outstanding initial run of 31 nights and returned to the stage the following season. Based in part on Denis Diderot's Le Père de Famille, Burgoyne's comedy of manners contrasts the conceited and wealthy Miss Alscrip with the graceful and poor Miss Alton. Miss Alscrip is set to inherit a fortune, but through a series of comedic turns Miss Alton is revealed as the true heiress. The revelation allows the refined Lord Gayville to marry his true love, Miss Alton, rather than the coarse Miss Alscrip to whom he was formerly engaged. An element of the play's initial success was the presence of popular actors Thomas King and Elizabeth Farren in leading roles. At his death in 1792, Burgoyne's obituary gave equal billing to his career as a playwright and his military accomplishments, noting especially his “much celebrated comedy,” The Heiress (Lunt, Burgoyne of Saratoga, p. 324–325, 327; Gerald Howson, Burgoyne of Saratoga: A Biography, N.Y., 1979, p. 282–284; E. Cobham Brewer, The Reader's Handbook, rev. edn., London, 1902, p. 409).
Courtesy of the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, England.

Abigail Bromfield Rogers, by John Singleton Copley, 1786 38

When Abigail Adams 2d visited the London studio of artist John Singleton Copley in February 1786, she found Abigail Bromfield Rogers (1753–1791) sitting for a portrait (Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 9 Feb. 1786, below). A stunning image was taking form on Copley's canvas, where the 32-year-old Rogers was depicted against a dramatic landscape and sky as a lady promenading in a flowing satin dress trimmed with lace, complemented by an oversized hat bedecked with ribbons and ostrich plumes. (Frank W. Bayley, A Sketch of the Life and a List of Some of the Works of John Singleton Copley, Boston, 1910, p. 84).
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Abigail Bromfield Rogers was the daughter of Henry Bromfield, a merchant of Boston and London. Abigail's mother, Margaret Fayerweather Bromfield, died of smallpox when her daughter was eight years old, and a year later Abigail's father married Hannah Clarke of Boston. In 1769 Hannah Clarke's sister married John Singleton Copley. Thus, the painter of the London portrait was the step-uncle of his subject (Daniel Denison Slade, “The Bromfield Family,” NEHGR, 26[1872]:38–39; John B. Carney, “In Search of Fayerweather: The Fayerweather Family of Boston,” NEHGR, 145[1991]:66–67; Martha Babcock Amory, The Domestic and Artistic Life of John Singleton Copley, Boston, 1882, p. 20).
Abigail Bromfield married Boston merchant Daniel Denison Rogers on 15 October 1781. John and Abigail Adams and the Rogerses were acquainted with each other before the Rogers family moved from Boston to Europe in 1782. During their time together in London, the couples became intimate friends. The Copleys moved in the same circle and became especially close to Abigail Bromfield Rogers during a 1785 scarlet-fever epidemic when Rogers took care of three of the Copleys' children while the parents nursed two others, both of whom eventually died (“Genealogical Memoir of the Family of Rev. Nathaniel Rogers,” NEHGR, 5[1851]:330; NEHGR, 145[1991]:67; Abigail Adams to John Adams, 17 July 1782, and note 1, vol. 4:343, 348; Amory, Domestic and Artistic Life, p. 106–107; Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 22 Jan. 1786, and note 47, below).
The Adamses were saddened by the Rogerses' departure for America shortly after Abigail Bromfield Rogers sat for her portrait. “He is a worthy Man, and she one of the best and most amiable of women,” Abigail Adams wrote to Mary Smith Cranch. “There is not an other family who could have left London that I should have so much mist, go and See her my sister when she arrives. You will find her one of those gentle Spirits in whom very little alteration is necessary to fit for the world of Spirits, and her Husband seems to be made on purpose for her” (21 March 1786, below).
Courtesy of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums. Gift of Paul C. Cabot, Treasurer of Harvard University, 1948–1965, and Mrs. Cabot.

“Wife & No Wife —— or —— A Trip to the Continent,” by James Gillray, 1786 69

On a 1784 ramble in the park, a 21-year-old Prince of Wales sighted a 27-year-old Maria Anne Smythe Weld Fitzherbert riding in her carriage. The prince was immediately infatuated and initiated a pursuit of Fitzherbert, which in the coming years would rock the monarchy and supply ample fodder for newspaper printers and caricaturists alike.
The daughter of Royalist Roman Catholic parents, Fitzherbert (1756–1837) had already been twice widowed by the age of 24. When she arrived on the London scene in March 1784, she immediately drew the attention of the city's elite bachelors—among them { xii } the future George IV of England. Fitzherbert was unmoved by the ardent pursuit of the prince. In desperation he stabbed himself, prompting her to flee to the Continent. He pursued her there and successfully pressed his case. In December 1785 the couple signed a letter of marriage in a secret ceremony in the bride's drawing room. The prince then shocked the royal family and the public by beginning to treat Fitzherbert as his wife, violating protocol by not seeking the king's permission and possibly forfeiting his crown, as specified in the Act of Settlement, by marrying a Roman Catholic.
Caricaturists soon joined the fray, and James Gillray's “Wife & No Wife” appeared on 27 March. In addition to depicting a cartoonish prince and his bride, Gillray drew in Lord Frederick North asleep in the guise of a coachman and Edmund Burke marrying the couple in the robes of a Jesuit. Charles James Fox is shown giving away the bride, holding her wrist as the prince places a ring on her finger. Fox became deeply embroiled in the “Fitzherbert follies” in April 1787 when he announced in the House of Commons, after a false assurance by the prince, that no marriage ceremony had ever taken place. Fitzherbert remained at court living openly with the prince even after his marriage to Caroline of Brunswick in 1795, only retiring to Brighton after a final falling-out with the prince in 1803 (Shane Leslie, Mrs. Fitzherbert: A Life Chiefly from Unpublished Sources, London, 1939, p. 1, 3, 12, 15, 16–17, 19–20, 64; Mary Dorothy George, Catalogue of the Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, 11 vols. in 12, London, 1938, 6:293; Stanley Ayling, George the Third, N.Y., 1972, p. 317, 341; DNB).
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Col. William Stephens Smith, by Mather Brown, 1786 219

When Col. William Stephens Smith (1755–1816) introduced himself to Abigail Adams in May 1785 as the secretary to the American legation in London, she thought him “a Modest worthy Man.” The 29-year-old decorated veteran of the Revolution took an immediate interest in her daughter, Abigail Adams 2d, who at the age of nineteen was nearing the end of a troubled engagement to Royall Tyler. By the middle of the summer, the senior Abigail hinted to Smith that her daughter's engagement might be broken, and Smith withdrew for a tour of Prussia. Abigail 2d dismissed Tyler in August, and in December Smith returned to initiate a courtship. To the great happiness of all the Adamses, the couple wed on 11 June 1786 (Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 6 June 1785, vol. 6:170; vol. 5:xxxviii–xxxix; Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 13 June 1786, and note 4, below).
Smith was the son of a wealthy New York merchant and graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1774. During the Revolution, he rose through the ranks, serving with distinction at Harlem Heights, Throgs Neck, and Trenton. As an aide to George Washington, he supervised the 1783 British evacuation of New York. In the spring of 1785, Congress appointed him to the { xiii } London diplomatic post, and he arrived in the city one day before the Adamses arrived from Auteuil on 26 May (DAB; vol. 5:xxxix; vol. 6:172–173).
In the summer of 1785 the Adamses sat for portraits by artist Mather Brown, an American studying in the London studio of Benjamin West. Abigail 2d was particularly pleased with the one of herself, describing it to John Quincy as “a very tasty picture.” After Abigail 2d and Smith married, Smith sat for a companion portrait to that of his wife. Both paintings now belong to the Adams National Historical Park (Dorinda Evans, Mather Brown: Early American Artist in England, Middletown, Conn., 1982, p. 195, 228–229; Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 4 July 1785, and note 29, vol. 6:216, 222).
Courtesy of the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Massachusetts.

“View of the Bridge over Charles River,” 1789 226

As early as 1713 Bostonians had mulled the construction of a bridge between Boston and Charlestown to replace the ferry that had operated since 1630. The opposition of Harvard College (which owned the ferry) and the difficulty of building a span strong enough to withstand tidal currents and ice floes thwarted plans until 1785 when the legislature approved a charter for the Charles River Bridge Company. The company consisted of 87 shareholders, including John Hancock, Thomas Russell, and Nathaniel Gorham. The shareholders agreed to assume the costs and risks of construction in exchange for the right to collect tolls for forty years (a term later extended to seventy years).
Construction was begun in the spring of 1785 and completed in thirteen months. The bridge was a marvel of eighteenth-century engineering. Seventy-five oak columns supported a span 1,503 feet long and 42 feet wide. A thirty-foot-wide drawbridge in the middle could be raised by two men, and lamps illuminated walkways along each rail. The bridge eliminated what had been an eight-mile detour to Brookline and was put into immediate use by pedestrians, coaches, wagons, and cattle-drivers. In the first four days alone, 500 vehicles and horses passed through the gates, paying tolls ranging from three pence to a shilling. Interest in the bridge was still strong in September 1789 when the illustration reproduced here appeared in Massachusetts Magazine (1:533).
The opening of the new bridge was timed to coincide with the eleventh anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1786 and was a grand event. Dignitaries paraded with artisans who had built the span and attended a banquet on the site of the battle. “I never saw such a vast crowd of people in my life, they poured in from every part of the country,” Lucy Cranch wrote her aunt Abigail Adams in London. “The Bridge looks beautifully in the evening, there are 40 lamps on it.” John Quincy Adams took a different view of the celebrations, refusing to attend what he considered { xiv } an affront to the memory of the fallen. “I do not think this was a proper place for revelling and feasting,” he wrote his sister. “The idea of being seated upon the bones of a friend, I should think would have disgusted many” (Lucy Cranch to Abigail Adams, 24 June 1786; John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 18 May 1786, both below).
Shareholders of the Charles River Bridge Company realized enormous returns. At the end of four decades, initial investments of £100 (about $333) returned profits of $7,000. The company enjoyed a monopoly until 1828 when the legislature voted to build another bridge despite the promise of exclusivity in the 1785 charter. The company litigated the matter in federal court, and a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state's right to disregard the previous decree due to an overriding public interest (Stanley I. Kutler, Privilege and Creative Destruction: The Charles River Bridge Case, N.Y., 1971, 1–3, 6–13; Boston Gazette, 26 June 1786; Boston Independent Chronicle, 22 June 1786).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

“The Bosom Friends,” 1786 260

“This is the Season of the Year in which London is a desert, even fashion languishes,” Abigail Adams wrote to Elizabeth Cranch on 18 July. “I however inclose you a Print of the Bosom Friends. When an object is to be ridiculed, tis generally exagerated. The print however does not greatly exceed some of the most fashionable Dames.”
The caricature Abigail enclosed was published by Samuel W. Fores on 28 May and depicted a trio of London women with the exaggerated profiles that marked the silhouette of the day. The “pouter pigeon” look was a short-lived trend of a fashion era known for its constantly changing designs. Also depicted are oversized hairdressings, a longer-lived and more frequently lampooned fashion element of the era (Mary Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, London, 1938, 6:380–381; Diana Donald, The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Reign of George III, New Haven, Conn., 1996, p. 87, 90).
The reign of George III is rightly called the Age of Caricature, and fashion and culture were popular subjects. In addition to providing entertainment and warning women on what looks to avoid, caricatures were moral statements about the excesses of fashion. An underlying theme of condemnation was not lost on Abigail Adams, who told Elizabeth Cranch that Americans should not emulate the women of London. “Pray does the fashion of Merry thoughts, Bustles and protuberances prevail with you,” Abigail wrote. “I really think the English more ridiculous than the French in this respect. They import their fashions from them; but in order to give them the mode Anglois, they divest them both of taste and Elegance. Our fair Country women would do well to establish fashions of their own; let Modesty be the first, ingredient, neatness the { xv } second and Economy the third. Then they cannot fail of being Lovely without the aid of olympian dew, or Parissian Rouge” (Donald, The Age of Caricature, p. 85–86, 89, 93; Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, 18 July 1786, below).
Courtesy of the Trustees of the Baker Baker Estate and Durham University Library, England.

“Margaret Nicholson Attempting to Assassinate His Majesty King George III,” 1786 301

Margaret Nicholson, a delusional 36-year-old daughter of a Durham barber, approached George III as he stepped down from his carriage at St. James' Palace on 2 August. She carried a rolled document that appeared to be a petition, but when she was within reach she attempted to stab the king with an ivory-handled dessert knife. The knife broke on her second thrust, and the king escaped with only slight damage to his waistcoat (DNB).
“She was immediately taken,” Abigail Adams 2d reported in a letter to John Quincy Adams later that day. “His Majesty tis said desired she might not be Hurt as he was not injurd. This request prevented her being torn in peices by the Guards and she was taken into Custody and is said to be Insane. . . . She has since been examined, and is to be tried in a few days. It is Supposd She will be Confind in a priests Mad House for Life.” Nicholson was examined by the Privy Council, declared insane, and committed to Bethlehem (Bedlam) Hospital, where she resided until her death in 1828. William Stephens Smith reported to the Adamses on 8 August that “Margaret Nicholson is still in confinement and furnishes Paragraphs and Prints,” one of which, published by Carington Bowles, is reproduced here (DNB; Abigail Adams Smith to John Quincy Adams, 27 July 1786; William Stephens Smith to John and Abigail Adams, 8 Aug. 1786, both below).
While the king was unruffled by the attack, Queen Charlotte and the couple's children were overcome. “It was an evening of grief and horror to his family,” a contemporary observer wrote. “Nothing was listened to, scarce a word was spoken; the Princesses wept continually; the Queen, still more deeply struck, could only, from time to time, hold out her hand to the King, and say, 'I have you yet!'” The public was equally moved and crowded the royal family's carriage shouting huzzas when the king and queen toured Kew Gardens on 8 August. “I shall always love little Kew for this,” Queen Charlotte reportedly told her husband (Christopher Hibbert, George III: A Personal History, N.Y., 1998, p. 227; John Brooke, King George III, N.Y., 1972, p. 315).
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

The Amsterdam Exchange, by Hermanus Petrus Schouten, 1783 337

“The exchange is a large Square surrounded with piazza,” Abigail Adams wrote to Mary Smith Cranch after she was taken by a friend { xvi } to see the financial center of Amsterdam. “Here from 12 till two oclock, all and every person who has buisness of any kind to transact meet here, sure of finding the person he wants, and it is not unusal to see ten thousand persons collected at once. I was in a Chamber above the exchange, the Buz from below was like the Swarming of Bees” (12 Sept. 1786, below).
When Abigail visited the Exchange, or Bourse, in August 1786 it was almost two centuries old and a hub of the commerce of the city, region, and continent. Amsterdam commissioned architect Hendrick de Keyser to construct the building in 1608, sending him first to London to study the design of the stock exchange there. De Keyser built an open-air courtyard surrounded by a Mannerist Flemish colonnade and accented with a clock tower that chimed the opening and closing of trading. Shops filled the second level. The Amstel River flowed beneath the building through five stone arches high enough to permit the passage of boats.
By 1835 the crowding that Abigail described had overwhelmed the De Keyser building, and it was replaced with a structure designed by Jan David Zocher. That too proved inadequate and was replaced in 1903 by the present exchange of Hendrik Petrus Berlage. The Berlage building, now a concert hall, featured brick, iron, stained glass, and ornamental scuplture and exerted a strong influence on architectural design in Amsterdam in the early twentieth century (Knopf Guides, Amsterdam, N.Y., 1993, p. 132–133; Geert Mak, Amsterdam, translated by Philipp Blom, Cambridge, Mass., 2000, p. 102).
Hermanus Petrus Schouten (1747–1822) sketched the De Keyser exchange three years before Abigail's visit. Schouten, a Dutch draftsman of German ancestry, was a leading producer of topographical drawings of Amsterdam during the 1780s and 1790s. His detailed and precise drawings of the city's buildings and streets reflected his esteem for the seventeenth-century painter Jan van der Heyden (Ton Geerts, “Hermanus Petrus Schouten,” The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner, N.Y., 1996, 28:166–167).
Courtesy of the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The Royal Crescent, Bath, by Thomas Malton Jr., 1777 449

“What I think the beauty of Bath; is the Cressent,” Abigail Adams wrote her sister after visiting the city in early 1787. “The front consists of a range of Ionic Colums on a rustick basement. The Ground falls gradually before it, down to the River Avon about half a miles distance, and the rising Country on the other side of the River holds up to it a most delightfull prospect. The Cressent takes its name from the form in which the houses Stand; all of which join. There is a parade and street before them a hundred foot wide and nothing in front to obstruct this Beautifull prospect” (Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 20 Jan. 1787, below).
The majestic 500-foot curved Royal Crescent is considered one of the great pieces of eighteenth-century architecture. Built between 1766 and 1774 by John Wood the Younger, the thirty attached { xvii } private houses stand fifty feet high and are faced with 114 columns. The houses were built one at a time and sweep in a near-perfect arc. While the nearby Circus of John Wood the Elder was the crowning achievement of a period of architectural development that preceded the Seven Years' War, his son's Royal Crescent represents the pinnacle of a second period of expansion during the 1760s and 1770s. The buildings became the centerpieces of Bath's Upper Town, a new city center to the north of the original city. The architectural renaissance of the eighteenth century paralleled a cultural rebirth that saw Bath transformed from a traditional walled town to a fashionable resort for wealthy nobles and heads of state (James Crathorne, The Royal Crescent Book of Bath, London, 1998, p. 74, 75, 77; Barry Cunliffe, The City of Bath, New Haven, Conn., 1986, p. 134; David Gadd, Georgian Summer: Bath in the Eighteenth Century, Bath, 1971, p. 83–85, 104).
The Royal Crescent appears frequently in English fiction. Baroness Emmuska Orczy had her fictional Scarlet Pimpernel reside in the Royal Crescent no. 16, and Charles Dickens had Mr. Pickwick stay in a Royal Crescent townhouse in The Pickwick Papers. The building also appears in the works of Jane Austen and Henry Fielding (Crathorne, Royal Crescent Book of Bath, p. 81).
Courtesy of the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Bath, England, and Bridgeman Art Library.
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Continuing the saga of the Adams family, volume 7 of the Adams Family Correspondence covers the period between January 1786 and February 1787, during which time John, Abigail, and their daughter Abigail 2d (Nabby) resided in London, while John Quincy, Charles, and Thomas Boylston pursued studies at Harvard College in Massachusetts. The ongoing separation of the family was becoming increasingly difficult for all of them but led to a particularly rich correspondence revealing the Adamses' perspectives on both intimate family matters and major national and world events. In nearly 200 letters sent back and forth over a mere fourteen months, the Adamses discussed births and deaths, marriages and schooling, literature and theater, the intricacies of international politics in Europe and the complexities of domestic life in Braintree—whatever was on the mind of various immediate and extended family members.
As in previous volumes, Abigail Adams remains the central figure in this set of correspondence. Nearly three-quarters of the letters are either to or from Abigail—68 from her and another 67 to her. A substantial portion of those were between Abigail and her sisters, Mary Smith Cranch and Elizabeth Smith Shaw, to whom she conveyed her most intimate and unguarded thoughts, believing, as she wrote to her son, that “never was there a stronger affection than that which binds in a threefold cord your Mamma and her dear sisters. Heaven preserve us to each other for many Years to come.”1 The sisters, having shared experiences as wives and mothers, could write to one another in ways they could not to children or spouses. During this period when John and Abigail were only rarely separated and consequently not writing letters to one another, the relationships among the three sisters provide the central core of the family correspondence.
Abigail maintained copious communications with numerous other friends and family beyond her sisters, a labor she sometimes found burdensome: “I dare not reckon the Number I have to write; least I should feel discouraged in the attempt.” Although maintain• { xx } ing such a large correspondence was time consuming, she still took care to revise her letters substantially in both content and style, as extant drafts demonstrate. Abigail even used her insomnia to advantage in pursuing such an active letter-writing life: two nights after her daughter's wedding, unable to sleep, she sat up at “four oclock morg” to write her sister news of the event.2
But Abigail is by no means the only family correspondent represented in these pages. Abigail 2d and John Quincy continued to write their “journal-letters” to one another, adding paragraphs day by day in diary fashion as they chronicled their activities in London and Cambridge, respectively. John Adams also participated in the family correspondence, of course, but his public letter-writing, along with work on his three-volume A Defence of the Constitutions toward the end of 1786, distracted him from family matters and significantly reduced the total number of letters he wrote to the family in this period. Still, he managed to find time to write occasionally to his children, to his brother-in-law Richard Cranch, to Abigail's uncle Cotton Tufts, and, of course, to Abigail during the brief periods when travel separated them.

The Adamses in London

Since 1785, John, Abigail, and Abigail 2d had lived in London while John served as the United States' minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain. At the same time, John, along with Thomas Jefferson, had been commissioned to negotiate commercial treaties for the United States with a number of different countries, including Portugal, Prussia, and the Barbary States, not to mention Britain itself. The job of negotiating a commercial treaty with the British was thankless. John received little support from the moribund Continental Congress and had few indications that any progress was likely, particularly given the United States' own reluctance to live up to the terms of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolution. America's failure to pay its debts and respond to loyalist land claims as required by the peace treaty gave Britain ample opportunity to refuse to negotiate until the United States addressed such issues. Furthermore, lingering resentments in the wake of Britain's defeat made John's position uncomfortable in London society. Abigail noted in one letter home that “the Laws of Nations require civility { xxi } towards Publick Ministers. This we receive, but our Country is vilifye'd by every hireling scribler.” She went on to describe the snubbing John received from the Royal Academy, which refused to invite him to their annual dinner, contrary to the custom of inviting all foreign ministers. Worse yet, in the wake of Margaret Nicholson's attempted stabbing of George III, Abigail 2d reported to her brother that “it has been observed in the Papers, that Mr Adams left the Kingdom [for the Netherlands] the very day after the attempt was made up on his Majestys Life. These people are below contempt.”3
Beyond such obvious slights, both Abigail and her daughter found London society superficial and tiring. The endless cycle of visiting and the evening parties of card games and meaningless conversation—an almost ritualized routine—bored them. Even visits with royalty failed to interest them. Describing their attendance at the celebration of the queen's birthday, Abigail 2d mocked her meeting with George III, commenting that she and Abigail “at last got into the room, and situated ourselvs, so that the King spoke to us very soon. He has askd me one question for these three Months—(do you get out much this weather) instructive, improving, indeed.” Apart from the danger of being “squeezed to death between the post of the door, and half a dozen great Hoops” from ladies' dresses at these social affairs, Nabby found little about them entertaining. The insipid quality of such activities, combined with the social snubs, left Abigail to lament, “Do not laugh at us my dear sister, may you never know what it is to be in the midst of the World, and yet feel alone. Here are we four, and no more. Do you know that company is widely different from Society?”4
Still, despite the professional difficulties and the personal distaste for London society, the Adamses made the most of their time in Great Britain, continuing to enjoy the London theater; attending parties and dinners, particularly with other expatriate Americans; and visiting many of Britain's famed estates. They particularly favored travel and used the opportunities caused by lulls in diplomatic activity to see more of Great Britain, both together and separately. In April, John went off with Thomas Jefferson, who was visiting from Paris, to tour English gardens. John's departure marked a milestone for the couple: as Abigail wrote to her sister, “This is the first Tour he has made since I first came abroad, during which time we have lived longer unseperated, than we have ever done before { xxii } since we were married.”5 Other trips included visits to Windsor Castle and to Thomas Brand Hollis' estate, The Hyde, in Essex.
In August, Abigail and John ventured even further abroad. John had to travel to The Hague to sign the Prussian-American Treaty, and Abigail decided to accompany him. This was Abigail's first and only trip to the Netherlands, the scene of some of John's greatest diplomatic successes. Abigail, as always, had much to say about the entire nation, from its “singular appearance” and bad roads to the monotony of its countryside: “There is a silence and a dead calm which attends travelling through this Country, the objects which present themselves are meadows, Trees, and Canals, Canals Trees, and meadows, such a want of my dear variety, that I really believe an English Robber would have animated me.” But she also found much to admire, including clean cities and the “politeness and attention” of its people, which she believed exceeded that of all the other places she had visited. Moreover, Abigail used the opportunity of her visit to comment on the United States' relative neglect of its relationship with the Dutch, a particular affront to Abigail given John's central role in creating that friendship.6
Besides travel, one major family event did much to break the Adamses' routine in London and dominate the family's correspondence for a time: Nabby's marriage to William Stephens Smith in June. The first child to marry, Abigail 2d had met Smith the previous summer when he became secretary to her father upon their move to London. While Smith apparently quickly developed an affection for Nabby, she was still formally engaged to Royall Tyler at the time. At Abigail's urging, Smith left for Prussia in the summer of 1785 to give Nabby an opportunity to resolve the situation with Tyler, whom she subsequently dismissed because of what the family perceived as his ongoing neglect of Nabby and their relationship. When Smith returned to London in late 1785, the relationship with Nabby blossomed and they became formally engaged.7
Despite Abigail 2d's dismissal of Royall Tyler, he remained an important and frequent topic in family letters, especially since he continued to board at the home of Mary and Richard Cranch in Braintree. The lingering insult of his alleged mistreatment of Nabby, { xxiii } combined with the widespread rumors of his fathering an illegitimate child with Elizabeth Hunt Palmer, made him the source of numerous attacks, especially from Mary Cranch, who had always opposed his relationship with Nabby. Even as Cranch claimed to be indifferent to Tyler and glad to have the family rid of him, she continued to write about him at great length, attacking both his unfaithfulness to Nabby and his overall character.8
Abigail too criticized Tyler, though she clearly felt more ambivalence about him than Mary Cranch did, generally condemning his behavior but not necessarily his whole character. She wrote to Charles Storer (another would-be suitor of Nabby's) about Tyler: “I wish the Gentleman well. He has good qualities, indeed he has, but he ever was his own Enemy.” Abigail was more concerned with Nabby's character and with assuring her family that Nabby had acted with the utmost propriety in becoming engaged again so quickly after her dismissal of Tyler. Relieved by John Quincy's indication that Nabby's “conduct meets the approbation of her Friends” back in Massachusetts, Abigail turned her focus to praising Nabby's new beau, who she believed “possesst all those qualifications necessary to make a faithfull and agreeable companion.”9
Abigail found her daughter's marriage a mixed blessing: She was pleased with Nabby's choice for a husband, describing him as “a Gentleman esteemed by all who know him, and equally beloved by his Friends and acquaintance,” but distressed by the Smiths' decision to move out of Grosvenor Square and set up house on their own. Lonely in a foreign country, with few intimate friends, Abigail found it hard to be separated from her only daughter, even if by only a few blocks. She noted that “tho they dine with us every day, it feels very Lonesome I assure you.” John too struggled with this transition; as Abigail reported, “The morning after they went to housekeeping Mr Adams went into his Libriary after Breakfast, and I into my chamber where I usually spend my forenoons. Mr A commonly takes his daily walk about one oclock, but by eleven he came into my room with his Hat and cane, 'and a Well I have been to See them: what said I could not you stay till your usual Hour, no I could { xxiv } not he replied, I wanted to go before Breakfast.'”10 Equally distressing to Abigail and John was the prospect of a more distant, permanent separation when both the Adamses and the Smiths returned to the United States. In all likelihood, the Smiths would go back to William's home state of New York, while John and Abigail planned to return to their native Massachusetts.
Abigail 2d herself is relatively silent on her engagement, hinting at it only obliquely in letters to her brother, though the crucial letter in which she announced her engagement to John Quincy has apparently been lost. Always more circumspect than her mother in writing about herself, Nabby characteristically gives only brief comments on her new status, though she does describe herself as “perfectly Contented.” By fall, Nabby was pregnant with the Adamses' first grandchild, born in early April 1787, and Abigail was deeply engrossed in preparations for the event. She informed her sister that “we have advised col Smith to give up his House and return here again, as it will be vastly inconvenient to me to have her out of the family, no sister no cousin no Aunt who could be at all with her.”11 Her regret that her sisters and nieces were unavailable to help with preparations speaks to the communal nature of childbirth at the time and further highlights the isolation and lack of close female companionship Abigail felt in London.
By early 1787, the Adamses spoke frequently of returning to the United States within the year. The lengthy silences from the Continental Congress had grated for many months, and in January, John sent formal notice to that body of his intentions to come home. At the same time, Abigail openly speculated to her sisters about the timing of her return.12 After three years in Europe, whatever excitement or novelty she had found from travel abroad had clearly ended. She had been given ample opportunity to compare Europe and America—a subject she took to heart and frequently dwelled on in her letters—and she found Europe wanting. Abigail longed for home, even as she dreaded a possible separation from daughter Nabby, especially with the birth of her first grandchild impending. What would make that separation bearable for John and Abigail, however, was their reunion with John Quincy, Charles, and Thomas Boylston.
{ xxv }

The Adamses in Massachusetts

Back in Massachusetts, the three Adams sons focused on their education. John Quincy had returned from Europe in May 1785, enduring his own separation from his parents and sister in order that he might attend Harvard. While his years of travel in Europe—including a stint as secretary to Francis Dana, then U.S. minister plenipotentiary in Russia—had amply prepared him for college, John Quincy still felt compelled to devote considerable energy to studying for his entrance examinations to his father's alma mater. Harvard required examination on a set list of books; any other knowledge was irrelevant for admission, so John Quincy threw himself into mastering the appropriate material. His aunt Elizabeth Shaw, with whom he stayed during this period, noted that he would allow nothing “but Sickness or Death to impede his Course” of study. He routinely stayed up until one in the morning working, causing Shaw to worry that he might damage his health from excessive reading. Fortunately, he passed his examinations without incident in March 1786, moved to Cambridge, and began his Harvard career, joining his brother Charles, who was already attending the school.13
Once accepted at Harvard, John Quincy found the school something of a disappointment. His busy schedule included a mix of lectures by professors and recitations to tutors by the students in an array of traditional liberal arts subjects, interspersed with studying and preparation for the next round of classes. The “sameness” of his routine frustrated him: “like a horse in a mill, I am going continually the same round.” He also complained about the quality of his professors, many of whom he deemed pompous, ignorant, or both. Even the president of the college, Joseph Willard, did not emerge unscathed from John Quincy's sharp pen: “The reputation of the President is that of a man of great learning, without partiality in favor of any scholars in particular . . . but he has very little knowledge of mankind, and is consequently exceedingly stiff and pedantic, and has made himself ridiculous at times.” Many of the tutors, usually young bachelors and themselves recent graduates from Harvard, had the difficult task of teaching material they had learned only recently. Nonetheless, despite his misgivings and complaints, John Quincy found that “all in all, I am strongly confirmed, in your Opin• { xxvi } ion, that this University is upon a much better plan, than any I have seen in Europe.”14
As in previous volumes of the Family Correspondence, the two younger Adams sons play only a limited role. No extant letters from either Charles or Thomas Boylston exist for this period, though references in Abigail's and John's letters clearly indicate that they were writing to their parents in London, at least occasionally. The editors can only speculate as to why those letters have been lost, when the family preserved most other correspondence from these years. It seems unlikely that Abigail or John would have separated Charles' and Thomas' letters from the others they kept; the letters of the two younger brothers were more likely lost or destroyed later on, perhaps by Charles Francis Adams in his work editing the family papers in the nineteenth century, or even by John himself after his falling-out with his son Charles in the 1790s.
Furthermore, only five letters to either Charles or Thomas for this time frame still exist, all printed below. Here, the possibility of accidental loss is more plausible; neither Thomas nor Charles seems to have held on to his correspondence with the same care as their older brother or parents. Given the lengthy period of separation between parents and children, it is also likely that John and Abigail simply continued to view their two youngest children as just that—children—and consequently were less inclined to confide in them or write to them in the great detail they did to their eldest son and to Abigail's sisters and other adult relatives.
Charles and Thomas do appear somewhat more frequently as the subject of correspondence, particularly in letters from Abigail's sisters, with whom both brothers stayed on various occasions. Elizabeth Shaw and her husband Rev. John Shaw had served as surrogate parents to Thomas since before Abigail's departure for Europe and spoke of him with great warmth and affection, encouraging Abigail and John to feel the same. John Shaw was also Thomas' tutor, preparing him for the admissions examinations, which Thomas successfully completed in the summer of 1786, thus joining his two elder brothers at Harvard. Likewise, the Cranches played host to all three Adams brothers during the various university vacations. Mary Cranch wrote feelingly of her joy at their presence in her home, even if it was only for short periods of time: “I long for their vacancys to commence as much, and I believe more than they do. We { xxvii } have a bustling time tis true and have work enough to do to repair the damages of their late session and prepare them for the next, but the chearfulness they infuse is a full compensation for all that is done for them.” Between arranging their housing at school and sewing their clothes during the vacations, worrying over their health and chiding them to better behavior, the Cranches and Shaws saw to it that all of the Adams brothers were well cared for within a loving extended family.15

Unrest in America

While the Adams brothers worked relatively peacefully toward their degrees at Harvard, events elsewhere in America were causing considerable turmoil—especially in western Massachusetts, where Shays' Rebellion became the most important event of this time period. A rural protest movement that began as early as 1784 but gained significant momentum by the fall of 1786, Shays' Rebellion was a response by farmers in western Massachusetts to the problem of growing debt. A combination of severe economic depression and sharp increases in taxes by the state of Massachusetts had caused financial difficulties for these people, and the state's General Court only exacerbated the situation by demanding that all taxes be paid in hard currency. Among the demands of those participating in the revolt were lower taxes, paper money, an end to debt foreclosures, court reforms, and lower salaries for public officials in order to reduce state expenses. While it began as a peaceful movement, its failure to achieve any of its goals through petitions and legal means eventually led to armed attempts to prevent courts from sitting. Gov. James Bowdoin responded by sending an army under Gen. Benjamin Lincoln to defend the courts and suppress the rebellion. The army successfully crushed the insurgency in late January 1787.16
The Adamses were no supporters of the rebellion and followed the unfolding events with a mix of fear and disgust. Interestingly, of all the Adamses, Abigail reacted the most strongly to Shays' Rebel• { xxviii } lion. She had little patience with a “lawless Banditti” who would oppose Massachusetts' government, arguing that the changes they suggested would “create themselves a Tyrant e'er long.” A loyal wife, she reacted furiously to any challenge to the state constitution her husband had so carefully crafted just a few years before. She blamed the increase of debt in Massachusetts and throughout the United States on too much love of luxury, a fundamental misunderstanding on her part of the very real economic difficulties the rebelling farmers faced but a belief not inconsistent with her overarching concern for excessive American debt. Having lived in Britain, Abigail wrote, “I have very different Ideas of the wealth of my Countrymen, to what I had when I left it. Much of that wealth has proved falacious and their debts exceed their property. Economy and industery may retrive their affairs. I know that the Country is capable of great exertions but in order to this, they must curtail their Ideas of Luxery and refinement.” She even debated this subject with no less a figure than Thomas Jefferson, who held a much more sanguine view of events: “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. . . . I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the Atmosphere.” In the end, Abigail remained unswayed by Jefferson's perspective and strongly endorsed a military solution to the rebellion; as the volume closes, she waited impatiently for word from Massachusetts that the danger had passed.17
In the end, Shays' Rebellion had little immediate impact on the well-being of the Adams family. The insurgents never reached Cambridge, despite fears they might try to prevent the sitting of the court there, and after their military rout, the rebellion petered out as a force in Massachusetts. But it became symbolic of wider problems with the American political system. Abigail, on the frontlines of diplomatic efforts in Europe, foresaw the increasing danger of a weak central government for the United States. “Do the united States wish to become the Scorn of Europe and the laughing Stock of Nations,” she asked, “by withholding from Congress those powers which would enable them to act in concert, and give vigor and strength to their proceedings.”18 She saw firsthand how the ineffectiveness of the Continental Congress limited John's ability to fulfill { xxix } his commissions and experienced routinely the difficulties caused by Congress' lack of money and clarity of policy. Her views, of course, were also underscored by her interpretation of Shays' Rebellion. If the United States had had a more coherent economic plan that discouraged excessive consumption, she felt, such a rebellion would never have occurred in the first place. She was not alone. A consensus was slowly emerging on the need for reform of the government in order to insure its ultimate stability and the United States' ability to compete on the world stage. This set the stage for the Constitutional Convention that was due to open in Philadelphia in just a few months' time.

Notes on Editorial Method

The editors of Adams Family Correspondence are guided by the editorial principles outlined in the “Notes on Editorial Method” sections of volumes 1 (p. xli–xlviii), 3 (p. xxxvii–xlii), and 5 (p. lviii–lxiii). A few policy changes have been implemented, however, since the publication of volumes 5 and 6.
The most substantial change is one of form. Beginning with the present volume, Adams Family Correspondence volumes will no longer be published in pairs. This and each future volume will be an independent entity containing an introduction, a guide to editorial apparatus, a list of omitted documents, a chronology, and an index. The editors believe that readers will find fully complemented volumes easier to use.
The editors continue to select letters for the Adams Family Correspondence that explore the thought, reveal the character, and narrate the action of the Adamses in their domestic life. Letters written to and from John and Abigail Adams and their children on domestic matters are generally included. The principle exceptions are letters written to and from John on public matters, even if the correspondents are members of the Adamses' extended family. Those letters are reserved for publication in Series III, Papers of John Adams, and are not included in the List of Omitted Documents.
Letters exchanged between relatives outside of the immediate family (including the spouses of John and Abigail's children) are printed here only if they contribute unusual insight into the domestic lives of the Adams family. Such letters are omitted silently. The List of Omitted Documents in each volume includes only letters written to and from John and Abigail and their children on domestic { xxx } matters that have been omitted because they are routine or repetitive.
The editors continue to rely whenever possible on the recipient's copies of letters as the most reliable source of the texts that actually passed from writer to reader. When recipient's copies are not available, letterbook copies, drafts, transcripts, or published collections are used. Descriptive notes list all forms of each letter considered in collation and describe how each was used in the preparation of the published text.
In some instances, the editors have been fortunate enough to have access both to recipient's copies and to drafts of individual letters. When this has occurred, the two versions have been compared for significant differences in style and content, which are noted in the annotation. More minor differences of style, such as subtle rewording or changes to capitalization, spelling, or punctuation, are not noted. Archival location information for both versions is always provided for readers who wish to examine more closely the differences between them.
Finally, to incorporate a slightly more literal rendering of the text, the following adjustments in editorial policy have been made:
Capitalization of proper names and geographical terms follows that in the manuscript.
Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as found throughout the document unless confusion or misunderstanding may result. The ampersand (&) is retained in the form of &c. (for etc.), in the names of firms, and in polite closings; elsewhere it is rendered as and.
Punctuation following all abbreviations and contractions is rendered as in the manuscript.
Volume 7 of the Adams Family Correspondence contains 189 printed letters and 20 omitted letters chronicling the lives of the Adamses. This material, however, does not stand in isolation. It should be read in conjunction with the comments of John Adams in his Diary and Autobiography, 3:181–203, and with the Diary of John Quincy Adams, 1:381–415 and 2:1–167, which provides particularly vivid discussion of the months John Quincy spent with the Shaws and his school life at Harvard. Future volumes of the Papers of John Adams will also supplement the family correspondence of this period by documenting John Adams' public writings, which highlight his work on various treaty negotiations and his ongoing service as U.S. minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain.
1. AA to JQA, 16 Feb. 1786, below.
2. AA to Lucy Cranch, 20 July 1786; AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 13 June 1786, both below.
3. AA to Charles Storer, 22 May 1786; AA2 to JQA, 27 July 1786, both below.
4. AA2 to JQA, 9 Feb. [1786]; AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 4 July 1786, both below.
5. AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 April 1786, below.
6. For AA's descriptions of the Netherlands, see her letters to AA2 of [11], 15, and 23 Aug. 1786, and to Mary Smith Cranch of 12 Sept. 1786, all below.
7. For an extended discussion of the relationship between AA2 and Royall Tyler, see vol. 5:xxiv–xxv, xxxviii–xxxix.
8. Nearly all of Mary Smith Cranch's letters to AA contain some reference to Tyler with varying degrees of vitriol. See, for example, those of 9 Feb. 1786, 22 March 1786, [21] May 1786, and 2 July 1786, all below. For the charge of an affair between Tyler and Elizabeth Hunt Palmer, see Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 24 Sept. 1786, and 8 and 9 Oct. 1786, all below.
9. AA to Charles Storer, 22 May 1786; AA to JQA, 16 Feb. 1786, both below. For an extended discussion of the development of AA2's relationship with WSS from her mother's perspective, see AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 13 June 1786, below.
10. AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 13 June 1786 and 4 July 1786, both below.
11. AA2 to Elizabeth Cranch, 18 July 1786; AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 20 Jan. 1787, both below.
12. JA wrote to Congress on 24 Jan. 1787 (PCC, No. 84, VI, f. 392-395); see AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 25 Feb. 1787, below.
13. Elizabeth Smith Shaw to AA, 2 Jan. 1786; Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 9 Feb. 1786; and JQA to AA2, 15 March 1786, all below.
14. JQA to AA2, 1 April 1786; JQA to AA2, 15 March 1786; and JQA to JA, 2 April 1786, all below. See also JQA to AA2, [25] April 1786 and 18 May 1786, both below.
15. Mary Smith Cranch to AA, [21] May 1786, below. For examples of Elizabeth Shaw's and Mary Cranch's attitudes toward CA and TBA, see, for instance, Shaw to AA, 18 March 1786 and 23 July 1786, and Cranch to AA, 9 Feb. 1786 and 14 July 1786, all below.
16. Numerous book-length histories of Shays' Rebellion have been written over the years, beginning with George Richards Minot, The History of the Insurrections, in Massachusetts, in the Year MDCCLXXXVI, and the Rebellion Consequent Thereon, Worcester, Mass., 1788 (rpt. N.Y., 1971). For more recent analysis of the rebellion, see David P. Szatmary, Shays' Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian of an Insurrection, Amherst, Mass., 1980, and Leonard L. Richards, Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle, Phila., 2002
17. AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 25 Feb. 1787; AA to JQA, 22 Nov. 1786; AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 21 May 1786; AA to Thomas Jefferson, 29 Jan. 1787; Thomas Jefferson to AA, 22 Feb. 1787, all below.
18. AA to JQA, 20 March 1786, below.
{ xxxi }



This volume of the Adams Papers has been long in production and would never have been completed without the assistance of many more people than those listed on the title page.
Former editors Richard Alan Ryerson and Laura Graham made important contributions to the annotation of the volume, and Jennifer Shea, our former editorial assistant, helped in various ways in the early stages of the book. Assistant editor Jessie M. Rodrique and transcriber Paul Tsimahides, both current members of the Adams Papers staff, provided valuable assistance in the final production of the volume and with indexing. We are also grateful to our intern Emma Hennessey for her work on the project. Ann-Marie Imbornoni copyedited the entire book with grace and precision.
Many people contributed to the research behind this book. We particularly wish to thank Edward B. Doctoroff, Head of Administrative Services Division at Harvard's Widener Library; Stephen Nonack, Head of Reference at the Boston Athenaeum; and the reference staffs at Harvard's Houghton and Lamont libraries, Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library, and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of the Boston Public Library. In Great Britain, Eric Stockdale graciously did last-minute research for us on newspaper references. Closer to home, Patty Smith of the Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Mass., assisted us with the illustrations for the volume.
As with previous volumes, Kevin Krugh, Kenneth Krugh, and Steven Lee of Technologies 'N Typography in Merrimac, Mass., did an admirable job typesetting the volume. At Harvard University Press, we thank John Walsh, Assistant Director for Design and Production; Lisa Roberts, Paperback Manager; and Kathleen McDermott, Editor, History and Social Sciences, for all of their assistance with the publication and marketing of the book.
The Massachusetts Historical Society continues to provide this project with the use of its unparalleled collections and the unstinting support of its knowledgeable staff. In particular, we thank William M. Fowler Jr., Director; Peter Drummey, Stephen T. Riley { xxxii } Librarian; Conrad E. Wright, Worthington C. Ford Editor of Publications; Brenda M. Lawson, Associate Librarian and Curator of Manuscripts; Mary E. Fabiszewski, Senior Cataloger; Kimberly Nusco, Reference Librarian; Megan Milford and Rakashi Khetarpal, Assistant Reference Librarians; Elsa Villanueva, Library Assistant; Jennifer Smith, Photographic Services; Thomas Blake, Digital Projects Production Specialist; Chris Coveney, Information Systems Manager; Christopher A. Carberry, Operations Manager; and James P. Harrison III, Custodian. Finally, we also greatly appreciate the contributions made by the Adams Papers Administrative Committee to the success of this project.
{ xxxiii }
Guide to Editorial Apparatus
Guide to Editorial Apparatus

Guide to Editorial Apparatus

Guide to Editorial Apparatus

The first three sections (1–3) of this Guide list, 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 manuscript originals used or referred to, which are employed throughout The Adams Papers in all its series and parts. The final three sections (4–6) list, 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 volume 7 of the Adams Family Correspondence.

Textual Devices

The following devices will be used throughout The Adams Papers to clarify the presentation of the text.
[...]   One word missing or illegible.  
[....]   Two words missing or illegible.  
[. . . .]1   More than two words missing or illegible; 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>   Canceled matter.  
[italic]   Editorial insertion.  
||roman||   Text editorially decoded.  

Adams Family Code Names

First Generation    
JA   John Adams (1735–1826)  
AA   Abigail Adams (1744–1818), m. JA 1764  
Second Generation    
AA2   Abigail Adams (1765–1813), daughter of JA and AA, m. WSS 1786  
WSS   William Stephens Smith (1755–1816), brother of Mrs. CA  
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  
{ xxxiv }
TBA   Thomas Boylston Adams (1772–1832), son of JA and AA  
Mrs. TBA   Ann Harrod (1774?–1845), m. TBA 1805  
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 (1806?–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    
LCA2   Louisa Catherine Adams (1831–1870), daughter of CFA and ABA, m. Charles Kuhn 1854  
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  
MA   Mary Adams (1845–1928), daughter of CFA and ABA, m. Henry Parker Quincy 1877  
BA   Brooks Adams (1848–1927), son of CFA and ABA  
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 letterbooks.)  
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 { xxxv } 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 other copies such as duplicates, file copies, or letterbook copies that were made contemporaneously.)  
Tripl   triplicate  

Location Symbols

CSmH   Huntington Library  
CtY   Yale University  
DLC   Library of Congress  
DSI   Smithsonian Institution  
ICN   Newberry Library  
InU   Indiana University  
M-Ar   Massachusetts Archives  
MB   Boston Public Library  
MH-H   Houghton Library, Harvard University  
MHi   Massachusetts Historical Society  
MQA   Adams National Historical Park  
MSaE   Peabody Essex Museum  
MWA   American Antiquarian Society  
MiU-C   Clements Library, University of Michigan  
NhD   Dartmouth College  
NhHi   New Hampshire Historical Society  
NjP   Princeton University  
NHi   New-York Historical Society  
NN   New York Public Library  
NNMus   Museum of the City of New York  
PHi   Historical Society of Pennsylvania  
ViU   University of Virginia  

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 { xxxvi } original is in the main chronological series of the Papers and therefore readily found in the microfilm edition of the Adams Papers (see below).

  • 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.

  • 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 in letterpress, 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, D&A, 4:205.

  • PCC
  • Papers of the Continental Congress. Originals in the National Archives: 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 nineteenth century; for example, PCC, No. 93, III, i.e., the third volume of series 93.

  • PRO
  • Public Record Office, London.

  • 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. Published on CD-ROM with Annie Haven Thwing, The Crooked and Narrow Streets of Boston 1630–1822, Massachusetts Historical Society and New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 2001.
{ xxxvii }

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, 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.

  • Adams, Geneal. History of Henry Adams
  • Andrew N. Adams, A Genealogical History of Henry Adams, of Braintree, Mass., and His Descendants, Rutland, Vt., 1898; 1 vol. in 2.

  • AFC
  • Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, and others, Cambridge, 1963– .

  • Amer. Phil. Soc., Procs.
  • American Philosophical Society, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge, Philadelphia, 1838– .

  • Appletons' Cyclo. Amer. Biog.
  • James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds., Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography, New York, 1887–1889; 6 vols.

  • Billias, Elbridge Gerry
  • George Athan Billias, Elbridge Gerry: Founding Father and Republican Statesman, New York, 1976.

  • Biographia Dramatica
  • David Erskine Baker and others, eds., Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse, London, 1764–1812; 3 vols. in 4.

  • Boston Directory, [year]
  • Boston Directory, issued annually with varying imprints.

  • Boston, [vol. no.] Reports
  • City of Boston, Annual Reports of the Record Commissioner of Boston [title varies], Boston, 1876–1909; 39 vols.

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

  • Cambridge Modern Hist.
  • The Cambridge Modern History, Cambridge, Eng., 1902–1911; repr. New York, 1969; 13 vols. { xxxviii }

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

  • CFA, Diary
  • Diary of Charles Francis Adams, ed. Aïda DiPace Donald, David Donald, Marc Friedlaender, L. H. Butterfield, and others, Cambridge, 1964– .

  • DAB
  • Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1964; 20 vols. plus index and supplements.

  • Dict. de la noblesse
  • François Alexandre Aubert de La Chesnaye-Desbois and ——— Badier, Dictionnaire de la noblesse, Paris, 3d edn., 1863–1876; 19 vols.

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

  • DNB
  • Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, repr. ed., London, 1959–1960; 22 vols. plus supplements.

  • Doc. Hist. Ratif. Const.
  • The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, ed. Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, and others, Madison, Wis., 1976– .

  • Essex Inst., Hist. Colls.
  • Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, 1859– .

  • 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, Mass., 1903–1959; 14 vols.

  • Fleet's Pocket Almanack [year]
  • A Pocket Almanack for the Year of Our Lord [1780–1801] . . . Calculated Chiefly for the Use of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts . . . To Which Is Annexed, The Massachusetts Register [title varies], Boston: T. and J. Fleet, 1779–1800; 22 vols.

  • Franklin, Papers
  • The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, William B. Willcox, Claude A. Lopez, Barbara B. Oberg, Ellen R. Cohn, and others, New Haven, Conn., 1959– .

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

  • Greene, Papers
  • The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, ed. Richard K. Showman, Dennis Conrad, and others, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976– .

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

  • Heitman, Register Continental Army
  • Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, new edn., Washington, D.C., 1914.

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

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

  • JA, Defence of the Const.
  • John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, London, 1787–1788; 3 vols.

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

  • JA, Papers
  • Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint, 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.

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

  • Jefferson, Papers
  • The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950– .

  • Jefferson's Memorandum Books
  • Jefferson's Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, ed. James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series), Princeton, N.J., 1997; 2 vols.

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

  • JQA, Memoirs
  • Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Comprising Portions of His Diary from 1795 to 1848, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Philadelphia, 1874–1877; 12 vols.

  • London Encyclopaedia
  • Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, eds., The London Encyclopaedia, 1983; repr., Bethesda, Md., 1986.

  • London Past and Present
  • Henry B. Wheatley, London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions, London, 1891; 3 vols.

  • London Stage, 1776–1800
  • The London Stage, 1660–1800: A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments and Afterpieces Together with Casts, Box-Receipts and Contemporary Comment, Part 5: 1776–1800, ed. Charles Beecher Hogan, Carbondale, Ill., 1968; 3 vols. { xl }

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

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

  • New England Historical and Genealogical Register.

  • OED
  • The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., Oxford, 1989; 20 vols.

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

  • PMHB
  • Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.

  • Princetonians
  • James McLachlan, Richard A. Harrison, Ruth L. Woodward, Wesley Frank Craven, and J. Jefferson Looney, Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, Princeton, N.J., 1976–1991; 5 vols.

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

  • Sabine, Loyalists
  • Lorenzo Sabine, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, ed. Gregory Palmer, rev. edn., Westport, Conn., 1984.

  • Sibley's Harvard Graduates
  • John Langdon Sibley, Clifford K. Shipton, Conrad Edick Wright, Edward W. Hanson, and others, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts [title varies], Cambridge and Boston, 1873– .

  • Smith, Letters of Delegates
  • Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Paul H. Smith and others, Washington, D.C., 1976–2000; 26 vols.

  • Sprague, Annals Amer. Pulpit
  • William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit; or Commemorative Notices of Distinguished American Clergymen of Various Denominations, New York, 1857–1869; 9 vols.

  • Washington, Diaries
  • The Diaries of George Washington, ed. Donald Dean Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, Charlottesville, Va., 1976–1979; 6 vols. { xli }

  • Washington, Papers, Confederation Series
  • The Papers of George Washington: Confederation Series, ed. W. W. Abbot and others, Charlottesville, Va., 1992–1997; 6 vols.

  • Young, Night Thoughts
  • Edward Young, The Complaint; or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality.
{ xlii } { xliii }

volume 7

Family Correspodence

January 1786 – February 1787

{ xliv }
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.