A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 10

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I wish, most ardently, that every arm extended against that unhappy country might be withdrawn, and they left to themselves, to form whatever constitution they choose; and whether it is republican or monarchical is not of any consequence to us, provided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.

Docno: ADMS-04-10-02-0030

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1794-02-04

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

The Mail of Yesterday brought me, a rich Treasure in your kind Letters of the 18. 24 and 25th of January— Ice in the Rivers or Snow or some other Obstructions on the Roads have delay’d the Conveyance of some of them and occasioned their Arrival all together.
{ 66 } { 67 }
Columbus and Barneveld were both written with Elegance and Spirit and the poor Wretches who so justly fell under their Lashes were never before nor Since so exemplarily and so justly punished.
I hope my old Friend, will never meet the Fate of another Preacher of Egalite, who was I fear almost as sincere as himself. By The Law of Nature, all Men are Men and not Angells—Men and not Lyons—Men and not Whales Men and not Eagles—That is they are all of the same Species. And this is the most that the Equality of Nature amounts to But Man differs by Nature from Man, almost as much as Man from Beast. The Equality of Nature is Moral and Political only and means that all Men are independent. But a Physical Inequality, an Intellectual Inequality of the most serious kind is established unchangeably by the Author of Nature—1 And Society has a Right to establish any other Inequalities it may judge necessary for its good.
The Precept however Do as you would be done by implys an Equality which is the real Equality of Nature and Christianity, and has been known and understood in all Ages before the Lt. G. of Massachusetts made the discovery in January 1784.2
I am pleased to hear that the Court appointed again their late state Attorney.— Mr Dalton called on me a few Weeks ago to communicate to me a great Secret. The President had the Evening before took him aside and enquired of him very particularly concerning the Vice Presidents Son at Boston: his Age, his Practice, his Character &c &c &c at the Same time making great Inquiries concerning Mr Parsons of Newbury Port— From all which Mr D. conjectured that Mr Gore was to be appointed Attorney Gen. of U. S. and J. Q. Adams Attorney for the District.—3 I was somewhat allarmed and was determined to Advize my son to refuse it, if it should be so, though I did not beleive it.— I would not advize Mr J. Q. A. to play at small Games in the Executive of U. S.— I had much rather he should be State Attorney for Suffolk. Let him read Cicero & Demosthenes, much more eloquent than Madison & smith.
The rascally Lie about the Duke of York in a Cage at Paris and Toulon and all the English Fleet in the Hands of the Republick was fabricated on purpose to gull the Gudgeons and it completely Succeeded to my infinite mortifications. An Attempt was made to get me to read the red hot Lie in Senate in order to throw them into as foolish a Confusion as that below them: but I was too Old to be { 68 } taken in, at least by so gross an Artifice, the falshood of which was to me palpable.
You Apologize for the length of your Letters and I ought to excuse the shortness and Emptiness of mine. Yours give me more entertainment than all the speeches I hear. There is more good Thoughts, fine strokes and Mother Wit in them than I hear in the whole Week. An Ounce of Mother Wit is worth a Pound of Clergy— and I rejoice that one of my Children at least has an Abundance of not only Mother Wit, but his Mothers Wit— It is one of the most amiable and striking Traits in his Compositions— It appeared in all its Glory & severity in Barneveld.
If the Rogue has any Family Pride, it is all derived from the Same source. His Pa renounces and abjures every Trace of it. He has Curosity to know his descent and Comfort in the Knowledge that his Ancestors on both sides for several Generations have been innocent— But no Pride in this— Pomp Splendor, Office Title, Power, Riches are the sources of Pride, but even these are not excuse for Pride— The Virtues & Talents of Ancestors, should be considered as Examples and solem Trusts and Produce Meekness Modesty and Humity, least they should not be imitated & equelled. Mortification & Humiliation can be the only legitimate feelings of a Mind conscious that it falls short of its Ancestors in Merit.
I must Stop. / yours affectionately
[signed] John Adams
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs. A.”; endorsed: “Febry / 4 1794.”
1. For a nearly identical statement, see VI. JA to CA, 24 Feb., in John Adams on Natural Equality and the Law of Nations, 6 Jan. - 8 May, above.
2. That is, 1794; for Samuel Adams’ speech on equality, see AA to JA, 18 Jan., and note 1, above.
3. These appointments did not occur; Christopher Gore remained U.S. attorney for the district of Massachusetts until 1796 (Biog. Dir. Cong.).
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.