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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-04-10-02-0028

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1794-02-02

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] my dearest Friend

I last Evening received your kind Letters of Jan’ry 18, 21 & 22d accompanied with the Negotiation’s I have read the two pamphlets { 61 } you sent me before. if the American pamphlet is the production of the person to whom report asscribes it, I think very little honour is due to his Head, and none to his Heart. I am sorry he is calld to fill so important an office, as the one to which he is lately appointed.1 his Ideas are many of them derived from the Gambling table and his allusions from a Brothel which he coarsly distributes without respect to his readers.2 he might not imagine that his subject would draw the attention of a Female reader yet he who respects himself would have been more delicate, if the Ideas had not been too Familiar to him, and his uncloathd Negroes had blackned his mind. I cannot give full credit to his representations respecting the Banks and funding system, nor can I asscribe such dreadfull plots to those who have the management of them as this modern Argus sees. that multiplied Banks are productive of many of those evil concequences which he enumerates I both see and feel. that many persons are making fortunes from them I believe, that they are an indirect tax upon the comunity I fully credit, but his proposed remedy would be worse than the disease. his attempt at wit and his affected ridicule upon the balance of power, proves his grose ignorance of a subject, upon which his Ideas, are all bewilderd, and incoherent. it is plain however that this pamphlet is the continuation of the system adopted last winter & Breaths the same spirit with Giles & his veterans.3 the Letter addrest to mr Pitt, is well written, and contains matter of weighty concequence, and serious consideration. the writer accounts in the most rational Manner for that Spirit of Frenzy & Madness which continues to Swallow up reason, reflection and all the social affections and manly virtues, in the French Nation.4 Shakspear has well described these scenes too applicable to the present.

“The gates of Mercy are all shut up;

And the fleshd soldier, rough and hard of Heart.

In liberty of Bloody-hand, doth range

With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass

The fresh fair virgins, and the flowering Infants

Fathers are taken by their Silver Beards

And their most reverend heads dashd to the walls

or spitted upon pikes, whilst their enraged wives

With their loud howls, do break the clouds

What rein can hold licentious wickedness

When down the Hill he holds his fierce career”5

{ 62 }
The warning to Great Britain I have not read. our son brought it up one Saturday Evening but not having read it himself and being obliged to return it on Monday prevented my reading it. I wish it might be a sufficient warning to us to continue our Neutrality unimpared.
The dull and gloomy weather I perceive had influenced your spirits, and the politicks of the day had made you sick. you wanted the repose of your Family and the Bosom of your Friend. I know how it was by your Letter Pupil of woolsoncroft confess the Truth, and own that when you are sick of the Ambition the intrigues the duplicity and the Treachery of the aspiring part of your own sex, it is a comfort and a consolation to retire to the simplicity the Gentleness and tenderness of the Female Character. those qualities, says a candid writer are more benificial to the humane race than the prudence of all its individuals, and when conducted with good Sense, approach to perfection.6
You can do much service to your sons by your Letters, and advise. you will not teach them what to think, but how to think, and they will then know how to act. I am glad you have read Barnevelt, and do not think him too roughly handled. his Age only intitled him to any respect. he evidently felt himself in the back ground, and sunk out of sight, but Secretly from the dark shoots a poisond Arrow.
I shall attend to your wishes with respect to every thing which can be done. the winter has been unfavourable for buisness. the pond is hard enough frozen, if we had but sufficient snow to cover those parts of the Ground which are bare. the wood we get when practacable, but I have made an important discovery viz that an old Man is not a young one. Belcher however is in many respects preferable but cannot be so active as when young7 he is not devoted to the Rum bottle. I informd you that I had received the Bills, and have dischargd the accounts of Phipps Savil & bought an other load of Hay—paid to mrs Brisler ten Dollors which she had occasion for, which you may mention to him.
I have been to visit our Parent who is low and weak I do not however see any imediate danger— I hope the Phylidelphians will keep a viligent look out, and if the dreaded fever should break out—remove the inhabitants. the Rain of three days which I mentiond to you was warm & relaxing to an allarming degree. it affected me so much that I was several days sick, and all the servants were debilitated in one way or other. it brought on your Mothers illness and in many instances in Town a Lung fever. mrs Field now lies sick with it, mrs { 63 } Brislers Mother. Your Letters was the first intelligence I had of the return of Cheeseman. I shall make inquiry into the Matter.
adieu my Dearest Friend and be / ever assured of the affectionate Regard / of your
[signed] A Adams
I received a letter last Evening for mrs Brisler which I sent to her she was finely to day the Boy is stout & strong8
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. Feb. 2 / 1792.”
1. John Taylor of Caroline had been rumored to be the new attorney general; see AA to JA, 12 Jan., and note 4, above.
2. Taylor’s pamphlet An Enquiry into the Principles and Tendency of Certain Public Measures makes repeated references to both gambling and prostitution. For instance, in one section on the potential tyranny of the rich, Taylor opines, “A whore will administer provocatives to lust, by the rule of her own insatiable appetite, and not the ability of her paramour; and when his strength and health are exhausted, will desert him with contempt. Did labour intend to plant itself under the whip of an avaricious, insatiable, and luxurious aristocracy?” Likewise, he compares the proposed banking system to a gambling establishment that can never lose: “The table bets with its gamblers upon every revolution 100 to 102 1/2, so that in forty revolutions, the adventurers bet two to one. Yet a chance for winning exists. But in that respect the comparison fails. The bank is perpetually betting 100 to 106, the wager is always drawn, and the bank receives the six in every hundred, by way of forfeit” (Phila., 1794, p. 8, 30–31, Evans, No. 27782).
3. For William Branch Giles and his resolutions in opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s funding plans, see vol. 9:385, note 2.
4. Jasper Wilson, A Letter, Commercial and Political, Addressed to the Rt. Honble. William Pitt: In Which the Real Interests of Britain, in the Present Crisis Are Considered, and Some Observations Are Offered on the General State of Europe, London, 1793. Jasper Wilson was a pseudonym for Dr. James Currie, who sought to persuade William Pitt not to go to war with France (DNB).
5. Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 3, scene iii, lines 10–14, 22–23, 36–40. AA transposes several lines and misquotes slightly lines 36–40: “Your fathers taken by the silver beards, / And their most reverend heads dash’d to the walls; / Your naked infants spitted upon pikes, / Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confus’d / Do break the clouds.”
6. “The prudence of the men, may be balanced by the simplicity or gentleness of the women; and I was even about to say more than balanced, for, in reality, simplicity or gentleness, is more beneficial to the human race, than the prudence of all its individuals; for nobody has ever described the golden age as composed of prudent, but of candid men” (Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro, “A Defence or Vindication of the Women,” Essays, or Discourses, Selected from the Works of Feyjoo, transl. John Brett, 4 vols., London, 1780, 2:206).
7. Moses Belcher Jr., an Adams tenant, was at this time nearly seventy years old (Sprague, Braintree Families).
8. The Brieslers’ third child and first son, John, was born on 30 Jan. at the John Quincy Adams Birthplace (same).

Docno: ADMS-04-10-02-0029

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Smith, Abigail Adams
Date: 1794-02-03

Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams Smith

[salute] My Dear Mrs. Smith,

I have not written to you since I received yours of January 5th.1 I go from home but very little, yet I do not find my time hang heavy upon my hands. You know that I have no aversion to join in the cheerful circle, or mix in the world, when opportunity offers. I think { 64 } it tends to rub off those austerities which age is apt to contract, and reminds us, as Goldsmith says, “that we once were young.”2 Whilst our presence is easy to youth, it will tend to guide and direct them.

“Be to their faults a little blind,

Be to their virtues ever kind,

And fix the padlock on the mind.”3

To-morrow our theatre is to open. Every precaution has been taken to prevent such unpleasant scenes as you represent are introduced upon yours. I hope the managers will be enabled to govern the mobility, or the whole design of the entertainment will be thwarted.4
Since I wrote you last, a renewal of the horrid tragedies has been acted in France, and the Queen is no more.

“Set is her star of life;—the pouring storm

Turns its black deluge from that aching head;

The fiends of murder quit that bloodless form,

And the last animating hope is fled.

Blest is the hour of peace, though cursed the hand

Which snaps the thread of life’s disastrous loom;

Thrice blest the great, invincible command,

That deals the solace of the slumbering tomb.”5

Not content with loading her with ignominy, whilst living, they blacken her memory by ascribing to her the vilest crimes. Would to Heaven that the destroying angel might put up his sword, and say, “It is enough;” that he would bid hatred, madness, and murder cease.

“Peace o’er the world her olive branch extend,

And white-robed Innocence from Heaven descend.”6

I wish, most ardently, that every arm extended against that unhappy country might be withdrawn, and they left to themselves, to form whatever constitution they choose; and whether it is republican or monarchical is not of any consequence to us, provided it is a regular government of some form or other, which may secure the faith of treaties, and due subordination to the laws, whilst so many governments are tottering to the foundations. Even in one of the freest and happiest in the world, restless spirits will aim at disturbing it. They cry “A lion! a lion!” when no real dangers exist, but from { 65 } their own halloo, which in time may raise other ferocious beasts of prey.
I hope to hear from you soon. I wrote to you by Dr. Appleton.7 Your grandmother has been very sick, and is still in so poor a way that I have very little expectation of her ever going abroad again. She is cheerful and pleasant, and loves to hear from her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She has ever been a woman of exemplary benevolence, a friendly, open, candid mind, with a naturally good understanding, and zealousy anxious for the welfare and prosperity of her family, which she has always promoted by every exertion in her power. Her only anxiety seems to be, lest she should live to be a burden to her friends; but this will not be her hard lot.
Your mother,
[signed] A. Adams.
MS not found. Printed from AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1848, p. 362–364.
1. Not found.
2. A paraphrase of Oliver Goldsmith, The Life of Richard Nash, of Bath, Esq, London, 1762, p. 166.
3. “Be to her virtues very kind; / Be to her faults a little blind; / Let all her ways be unconfin’d; / And clap your Padlock—on her mind” (Matthew Prior, “An English Padlock,” lines 76–79).
4. The Federal Street Theatre in Boston held its first performance on 3 February. After the repeal the previous year of colonial-era anti-theatrical laws, residents of Boston took up a subscription to open the new playhouse, which was designed by Charles Bulfinch. For more on the theater, see Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 2, above. In New York City, the theater was frequently a scene of rowdiness, with hurled fruit and occasional fights in the audience not uncommon (William C. Young, Documents of American Theater History, vol. 1, Famous American Playhouses 1716–1899, Chicago, 1973, p. 33–35; Paul A. Gilje, The Road to Mobocracy: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763–1834, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1987, p. 246–247).
5. AA quotes from a poem appearing in the Boston Columbian Centinel, 25 Jan., entitled “Moral Reflections, on the Death of Maria Antoinetta,” lines 13–16, 25–28. Many years later, Sarah Wentworth Morton published it under the title “Elegy. to the Memory of Marie Antoinette” in her My Mind and Its Thoughts, in Sketches Fragments, and Essays, Boston, 1823, p. 85–87.
6. Alexander Pope, “Messiah,” lines 19–20.
7. For Dr. Nathaniel Walker Appleton of Boston, see vol. 3:118.
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.