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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0048

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1790-08-14

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dear Madam.

I received on Commencement day, your obliging favour of the 11th: of last month, and should have replied to it before this time, had I not been constantly employ'd in making and executing my arrangements for my removal to this place. For kind wishes which you are pleased to express for my welfare and happiness, I can only return the sincerest assurances of gratitude; Thanks, are called the exchequer of the poor,1 but there are favours, (and such must be those from Parents to their children) which can admit of compensation from no other fund. To improve for my own benefit the advantages which I owe to the goodness of my Parents, is all they require of me; and I can only lament, that so great a length of time must necessarily elapse before I can demonstrate by the Event that their labours have not been in vain.
I have this week opened an Office, in the front Room of your house in Court Street, from which place I now write. I have but little expectations at present from business, and I am sometimes tempted to regret, that I came to a place where the profession is so much crowded, and where my expences must be considerable. The only thing that keeps me here is that I know not of a more advantageous Situation; and if Fortune should be disposed to befriend me, she will have a larger scope here, than she could have in the woods. { 90 } My anxiety will be very great, untill I shall stand upon my own ground. At my time of life it is a grievous mortification to be dependant for a subsistence even though it be upon a Parent.
With respect to the horse, I have ventured to keep him here notwithstanding your direction upon a proposal of Doctor Welsh, and shall keep him untill I have your further commands. The Doctor has a very good Stable, and a boy who can take care of the horse. He has offered to stable the horse, and to be at one half the expence of keeping him for the occasional use of him, as he does not keep an horse at present himself. This will I think render it less expensive than it would be to keep him at Braintree; and it is very probable to me that the necessary occasions upon which I shall want an horse, would in the course of a year, amount to a greater sum in the hire of horses, than the keeping of this one, upon these terms. If however you should be of a different opinion, I will send him to Braintree immediately upon receiving your instructions so to do.
You will have heard before this that Miss Nancy Quincy is married, to Mr Packard, and thus you will perceive your darling project for the advancement of your Son blasted even before the bud.—2
Indeed Madam I hope you will not think the worse of your Son, if he assures you that he never will be indebted to his wife for his property. I once seriously thought that I should easily be enabled to make matrimony an instrument of my Avarice or my Ambition. But really it is not so, and I am fully perswaded like Sancho, that if it should rain mitres in this way, there would be never an one to fit my head.3
I know not of any news. The principal topic of conversation this week has been the arrival of the Columbia from an expedition which has carried her round the world. The adventurers after having their expectations raised to the highest pitch, were utterly disappointed; and instead of the immense profits upon which they had calculated, will scarcely have their outsets refunded to them. This failure has given universal astonishment, and is wholly attributed to the Captain, whose reputation now remains suspended between the qualifications of egregious knavery and of unpardonable stupidity.4 Mr. Barrell, I am informed is not discouraged, but, intends to make the experiment once more, and if he should not meet with any body disposed to second him they say he will undertake it at his single risk and expence.—5 The people of this vessel have brought home a number of curiosities similar to those which you have seen at Sir Ashton Lever's Museum.6 They have likewise brought a native of { 91 } the Sandwich Islands, who bound himself as a servant to one of the passengers. He was paraded, up and down our Streets yesterday, in the dress of his Country; and as he speaks our Language has been conversed with by many Gentlemen in this Town.—7 One of the passengers it is said, has kept a very accurate Journal of the Voyage, and proposes to extract from it a relation for publication.8 It will probably be curious; though among uncivilized and barbarous Nations it appears to me the observations of travellers, must generally consist chiefly in a repetition of what was noticed by the first adventurer who discovered them. The situation of a Country, and whatever relates to inanimate matter continues the same. The peculiarities of the animal Creation when once remarked, seldom afford any further field for information.— It is from Man that we must always derive our principal source of entertainment and instruction. And although the knowledge of the human heart may perhaps be promoted by inferences drawn from the manners and customs of a people newly discovered, yet the savage Inhabitants of a petty Island, cannot have many customs or opinions which may not be discoverable to the first Man who becomes acquainted with them;
I wish to be remembered affectionately to all my friends with you. I shall write to my brother Charles as soon as I have the courage; which will be when I shall be able to inform him that I have one Client.
I am your affectionate Son.
[signed] J. Q. Adams.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs: A. Adams. / Richmond-Hill.”; docketed: “J Q Adams / to / his Mother / Boston August 14th / 1790.”
1. Shakespeare, Richard II, Act II, scene iii, line 65.
2. JQA had long been teased about a potential marriage to Nancy Quincy, who was almost four years his senior (vol. 6:52; vol. 7:169).
3. JQA paraphrases from Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Vol. I, chap. 12, in which Yorick reveals his swollen head and says, “I might say with Sancho Pança, that should I recover, and ‘Mitres thereupon be suffer'd to rain down from heaven as thick as hail, not one of ’em would fit it.’” Sterne, in turn, is borrowing from Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, book 1, ch. vii.
4. On 9 Aug., the Columbia arrived in Boston Harbor following a three-year voyage. Departing from Boston in Sept. 1787 along with a sloop, Washington, the ship had traveled nearly 50,000 miles as it circled the globe, trading along the Northwest coast and unloading furs in China before returning to Massachusetts. The expedition was originally commanded by Capt. John Kendrick (b. ca. 1740) of Wareham, Mass., but he elected to remain with the Washington in the Northwest rather than return to New England. Widely regarded as incompetent and dishonest, Kendrick continued to use the sloop for trading voyages to China, pocketing the profits, until his death in 1794. It was Capt. Robert Gray (1755–1806) of Tiverton, R.I., original master of the Washington, who commanded the Columbia on its voyage back to Boston. The Boston Columbian Centinel, 11 Aug. 1790, reported that the ship, upon “coming to her moorings in the harbour fired a federal salute—which a great concourse of citizens assembled on the several wharfs, { 92 } returned with three huzzas, and a hearty welcome” (Voyages of the “Columbia” to the Northwest Coast, 1787–1790 and 1790–1793, ed. Frederic W. Howay, MHS, Colls., 79:vi, viii, xi–xiv [1941]).
5. Joseph Barrell (1739–1804), a wealthy Boston merchant, was one of six men who financed the first expedition of the Columbia. Although the ship's maiden voyage was a financial failure, Barrell and a slightly different group of owners invested additional resources to launch a more successful second expedition, commanded by Capt. Robert Gray, in September (Thwing Catalogue, MHi; Voyages, p. vi, viii–x).
6. For Sir Ashton Lever's museum, see vol. 5:323, 324.
7. This man apparently returned to the Sandwich Islands in Nov. 1792 during the second voyage of the Columbia (Voyages, p. 417–418).
8. Two men kept journals during the first expedition of the Columbia. That of Joseph Ingraham, the first mate, has not survived. A log kept by Robert Haswell (b. 1768), who began the voyage as third mate and ended it as second officer, is extant but was not published until the late nineteenth century (same, p. xv–xviii).

Docno: ADMS-04-09-02-0049

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1790-08-20

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

[salute] Dear Son

I congratulate you upon your having setled yourself thus far, and am pleasd to find you so well accommodated. you have a good office, a Good Library, and an agreable Family to reside in. be patient and persevering. you will get Buisness in time, and when you feel disposed to find fault with your stars, bethink yourself how preferable your situation to that of many others, and tho a state of dependance must ever be urksome to a generous mind, when that dependance is not the effect of Idleness or dissapation, there is no kind parent [bu]t what would freely contribute to the Support and assistance of a child in proportion to their ability. I have been daily in expectation of seeing your Brother Thomas here. he must be expeditious in his movements or he will be calld to an account for visiting a most heinious offence you know in the view of those, who think there is more merrit in staying at Home. Your Father talks of taking a Tour to the eastward. it would be peculiarly agreeable to me to accompany him, but there are reasons, not of state, but of purse which must prevent it; and yet I think I could plan the matter so as that it would be no great object, to pass a couple of Months with our Friend's. Lady Temple & mrs Atkinson will set out tomorrow by way of RhoadIsland. they have offerd to take Letters to my Friends, but I have been rather neglegent in writing the weather has been so extreeme Hot. I have the two Boys with me Billy & John, and it is employment enough to look after them. your sister has a third Son. heaven grant that she may add no more to the stock untill her prospects brighten. a Marshells office will poorly feed a Family and I see no prospect of any other at present.1 I will give you { 93 } one peice of advise, never form connextions untill you see a prospect of supporting a Family, never take a woman from an Eligible situation and place her below it. remember that as some one says in a play [“]Marriage is chargeable”2 and as you never wish to owe a fortune to a wife, never let her owe Poverty to you. Misfortunes may Surround even the fairest prospects. if so Humbly kiss the Rod in silence, but rush not upon distress and anxiety with your Eyes open— I approve your spirit. I should be ashamed to own him for a son who could be so devoted to avarice as to marry a woman for her fortune. Pride and insolence too often accompany wealth and very little happiness is to be expected from sordid souls of earthy mould.3 I always loved Nancy Quincy from a native good humour and honesty of heart which she appeard to possess—but I never was in earnest in ralying you about it. (if you should perceive that the spelling of this Letter is different from what you have been accustomed too, you must Set it down for Websters New) plan.4 I write in haste, as I must dress for the drawing Room this Evening, and take my Letter to Town—
We have had our Friends the Creeks very near us for a Month and very constant visiters to us some of them have been— I have been amused with them and their manners. tho they could not converse but by signs they appeard Friendly, manly, generous gratefull and Honest. I was at Federal Hall when the Ceremony of Ratifying the Treaty took place it was truly a curious scene, but my pen is so very bad that however inclined I might be to describe it to you, I cannot write with pleasure. I inclose you some papers that I believe were mislaid before5
Remember me to the dr and mrs Welch and all other Friends— you must go to mr Thatchers meeting and get a seat in the old pew—
[signed] A A
RC (Adams Papers); addressed by CA: “Mr: John Quincy Adams. / Boston.”; endorsed: “My Mother: 20. Augt: 1790.” and “Mrs: Adams. Augt: 20th: 1790.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.
1. On 25 Sept. 1789, the Senate approved George Washington's nomination of WSS as marshal for the district of New York, a position he held until his appointment as supervisor of revenue for the same district in March 1791 (First Fed. Cong., 2:49, 130). See also AA2 to Elizabeth Cranch Norton, 7 Feb. 1791, note 2, below.
2. Thomas Otway, Venice Preserv'd; or, A Plot Discovered, Act II, scene ii, line 42.
3. Isaac Watts, “Few Happy Matches,” line 13.
4. Noah Webster (1758–1843) introduced a spelling book in 1782 for American schoolchildren that sought to standardize English spelling and pronunciation. Later known as The American Spelling Book, the text proved extremely popular and launched Webster's { 94 } career as a writer and lexicographer. Webster went on to advocate for reforms in English spelling, publishing in 1789 Dissertations on the English Language, a book based on his popular lectures and supplemented by an appendix titled “Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling.” AA probably refers here to a 1790 publication, A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings, in which Webster employed his ideas about spelling reform and, in doing so, subjected himself to widespread ridicule (DAB; Emily Ellsworth Fowler Ford, comp., and Emily Ellsworth Ford Skeel, ed., Notes on the Life of Noah Webster, 2 vols., N.Y., 1912, 1:295).
5. Not found.
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.