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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 10


Docno: ADMS-04-10-02-0045

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1794-02-26

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] my Dearest Friend

Not receiveing any Letters on saturday evening I was so impatient that I sent James to Town on sunday afternoon, and he brought me home your kind favours of the 8th 9th & 10th of this Month;1 I do not omit writing to you once a week, and sometimes twice
The late King of Prussia Said that every age must commit its own follies, and that the experience of others was but of little benifit to them.2 “National corruption must be purged by National { 90 } Calamities. A real reformation is not to be accomplish’d by ordinary means; it requires those extraordinary means which become punishments as well as lesson’s,” were the observations of a great Politician:3 whether France will ever emerge from the horrids Scenes, that deluge her with carnage, havock, and Blood, “is in the dark Gloom and abyss of Time”4 there present situation is well pictured in the following line

“The Sacred arts of rule

Turn’d to flagitious leagues against mankind

And arts of plunder more & more avow’d

Devotion turn’d to a Solemn farce

To holy dotage virtue; even to guile,

To Murder, and a mockery of oaths;

Dishonour’d courage to the Bravo’s trade

To civil Broil; and Glory to romance

Alass poor Gallia! What a bitter cup

of vengeance hast thou drain’d?

How many a ruffian form hast thou beheld?

What horrid jargons heard, where rage alone

Was all thy frighted ear could comprehend?

How frequent by the red inhumane hand

yet warm with Brother’s husbands, Fathers Blood,

Hast thou thy Matrons and thy virgins seen

To voilation dragg’d, and mingled death”5

you ask me what mr Wibird says now to the French. he says that he believes that they will all go to the Devil and that they deserve to, but still insists that they never would have gone to such dreadfull lengths if they had not been invaded and driven to Desperation by foreign powers, and that future generations will be benifitted by their calamity. The abuse upon the President which you mention, but which I do not see, proves that the most virtuous and unblemishd Characters are liable to the Malice and venom of unprincipald Wretches. Such virtue such disinterested Patriotism when thus requited, has frequently become Tyranical, and unlesss mankind were universally enlightned, which never can be. they are unfit for freedom, nor do I belive that our Creator designd it for them if such a Boon had been designd for them, all Ages and Nations from Adam to the present day would not have been one standing continued and universal proof to the contrary. Some were made for Rule others for submission, and even amongst my own Sex this doctrine holds { 91 } good. History informs us that of the few Queens who have reigned for any length of Time as absolute Sovereigns the greatest part of them have been celebrated for excellent Governours. Pliny, tells us that in Meroe, Women reigned for many Successive ages— among the Lacedemonians, the women had a great share in the political government; and that it was agreeable to the Laws given them by Licurgns in Borneo, the women Reign alone, and their Husbands enjoy no other privilege than that of being their most dignified Subjects;6 but as Reigning and Ruling is so much out of fashion at the present day, my ambition will extend no further than Reigning in the Heart of my Husband. that is my Throne and there I aspire to be absolute.
you will see in the Centinal a very vapid answer to a very vapid speach, and the estimation in which it was held, by the committe appointed to carry it.7 I have read with pleasure two very judicious papers in the Centinal taken from a Phyladelphia paper under the signature of Americanus.8 such writers are wise and salutary;

“oh Peace! thou source and soul of social Life

Blest be the Man divine, who gives us thee”9

I have deliverd your message to your Mother. she bids me tell you that she leaves you her Blessing, that she request your remembranc of her to the Throne of Mercy, that she is hastning to an other and a better Country, where she hopes one day to meet You, but that here she shall never see you more, and of this opinion I am daily more and more, as her decay becomes more and more visible a few weeks if not days must put a period to a long and to a very irreproachable Life. my constant attendance upon her has very much lessned my desire of long life. her fears least she should recover & become useless, her appearing to have out lived every enjoyment, shews that life at best is but a poor play, and the best that can come of it. it is a misirable Benediction.
these Reflections exclude any further addition to my Letter, than the sincerest which / I can make you of being ever / yours
[signed] A Adams
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. Feb 26. Ansd / 8. March. 1794.”
1. JA’s letters to AA of 8 and 10 Feb. and his first letter of 9 Feb. are all above. For JA’s second letter to AA of 9 Feb. (Adams Papers), see JA to AA, 8 Feb., note 4, above.
2. “The follies of the father afford no useful lesson to the son; each generation must have its errors” (Frederick II, Posthumous Works of Frederic II, King of Prussia, transl. Thomas Holcroft, 13 vols., London, 1789, 3:375).
{ 92 }
3. Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, to Jonathan Swift, 17 Jan. 1730/31, The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, D.D., 19 vols., London, 1808, 12:180.
4. Possibly a misquoting of Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I, scene ii, line 50: “In the dark backward and abysm of time.”
5. James Thomson, Liberty, Part IV, “Britain,” lines 88–93, 96–97, 108–109, 111–117.
6. AA’s discussion of female rulers is paraphrased, and in parts directly quoted, from “On the Political Abilities of the Female Sex,” Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, 62:174–175 (April 1778).
7. For the General Court’s response to Samuel Adams’ speech, which appeared in the Boston Columbian Centinel, 22 Feb., see AA to JA, 12 Feb., note 2, above.
8. Americanus originally appeared in the Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser, 31 Jan., 7 Feb., and was reprinted by the Boston Columbian Centinel, 19, 22 February. Americanus assesses how “the cause of Liberty” might be forwarded by U.S. involvement in the general European war, asking, “Whether the degree of service we could render, by participating in the conflict, was likely to compensate by its utility to the cause, the evils which would probably flow from it to ourselves.” The author focuses on the costs of war, the ability of the United States to lend meaningful support to France, and the impact involvement would have on U.S. prosperity, concluding that involvement would not meaningfully assist France and might damage U.S. interests.
9. James Thomson, “Britannia,” lines 122, 126.

Docno: ADMS-04-10-02-0046

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1794-02-28

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] my Dearest Friend

I yesterday received your favours of the 17th of this Month. I was attending at the sick Bed of our dear Parent, from whence for six weeks I have been very seldom absent unless a Nights; my Health would not permit me to be with her then. she you will find by a letter received before this Date, had anticipated your wishes, and sent you her blessing. upon me she hourly bestows them, and I never quit her but with her gratefull acknowledgments to me for every little attention I can render her even to giving me pain. she is weaker, her decline is gradual, but thank God she does not suffer severe pain. I have past through this month without being confined as in two former years. I have had a slight attack or two, but by taking an Emetick it went off. I cannot feel sufficiently thankfull as I have been enabled to “Make Langour smile, & smooth the Bed of Death”1
I sent your Lattin to John.2 I should like to puzzel you as much; I have not said a word of the late movements in Boston. as he was upon the spot, I supposed he would give you an accurate statement of them. you will learn before this reaches, you that the Feaderialists carried their points, and by a very great Majority.3 not only this, but I was assured yesterday that they were determind, that Honestus should quit the Senate & Jarvis the House at the next Election, & that Judge Cushing should be placed in the Chair.4 we shall soon see if they have the wisdom and power they claim. this meeting { 93 } originated with the Jacobin Society who have received a check from which they will not soon recover. I was much diverted with the account I received yesterday of a certain weather cock. the General court were sitting upon the Impeachment of Hunt, and this person was obliged to leave the meeting to attend. when he went out of the meeting he was with the Majority who were in favour of some resolves which past at a former meeting during his absence the reasoning & Arguments of the Minority became so convincing that in poling for the vote the Minority had now become the Majority. just as this juncture he returnd, and upon entering the Hall, he limp’d first to one side, & then to the other not knowing in the croud what had happend, and finally fix’d himself in the Minority, upon which an acquaintance, cry’d out “ah Jemmy thou art caught this time” to the utter dismay of the Camelion
you observe that Congress have done little Buisness—except preserve their Country from going to War. that is a service inestimable in my account, and time and disenssion have unfolded to this people the views and designs of Foreign courts and countries towards them, which will ultimately benefit them.
I thank you for the Register which will be very usefull to me. I Received mr Brislers Letter and Bill of layding. you will give directions what ground you would have Sowed and what planted with corn. I am now so full of Buisness that I scarcly know which to do first. I have 5 Hands & two Teams employd in Sliding the stones over the pond. we have had hard frosts, and now a slight snow of a couple of Inches which we are improving whilst it lasts. the Ground has yet kept so hard frozen that I have not heard of a single person who have begun taring. we shall begin with the first we have a large Quantity of posts & Rails brought which as Belcher is so good a hand at making that he will go to it as soon as he can we have not yet got all our wood home. shaw I expect in about a week or ten days at furthest. I shall place him at present upon the upper place. Porter was not satisfyd with the Terms you offerd, and I did not make any new ones to him. I cannot yet say who will go upon the other place. when the land is cleard & sweetned we may increase our stock. Cows and all stock is high 18 & 20 dollors is the price of a good Cow. Faxon has two already calf’d, but I could not prevail with him to raise the calfs. We have one which is raising and 9 Lambs. we have not yet lost any, but we are obliged to feed the sheep with corn. if Belcher thinks we can accommodate more cows here I will buy three as soon as I can. we have Salt Hay in abundance. we { 94 } cannot put any more stock upon the other place to feed with Hay, as the Hay must be divided upon the 20 of May & Faxon is very contrary, tho he does himself as he pleases— I had some trouble to get his Team for the Buisness we are about we must hire the peice of land belonging to the Heirs of Thayers Sister.5 I think he told me that he gave four pounds the last year and that a Major Penniman is Guardian.6 I rather think we shall conclude to take the Man who accompanied shaw and of whom Shaw gives a good Character, as upon dr Tufts inquiry respecting Richards it proved a Family different from the one he supposed it to be. I can have joy if I chuse & upon the same terms with shaw which is that of only finding wood during the Summer. Young Stock must be sent out after. I shall have occasion for the following large Articles, a Load of English Hay some time in March a Barrel of Rum a Barrel of Molasses and a hundred of Brown Sugar which would be best purchased soon, as their is a prospect from the fluctuating state of things that they will be much higher. I have a prospect of 8 Barrels of cider. I should be glad you would let Brisler procure me a couple of Barrels super fine flower and 50 wt of loaf sugar which last will be a years stock for me. you will think whether it is best to send some Porter round.—
Newcombs papers came Safe. Arnold is with me and I shall engage him through the Month of March. there is no want of Buisness.
I hope my Health may be continued and then I shall go through every care with pleasure provided I can give satisfaction. I am now and ever / most affectionatly / Yours,
[signed] A Adams
[signed] March 1.
your Mother is Still Living and no otherways worse than weaker7
RC (Adams Papers); addressed by JQA: “The Vice-President of the United States / Philadelphia.”; endorsed: “Mrs A. March 1. / ansd. 11. 1794.”
1. Alexander Pope, “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, Being the Prologue to the Satires,” line 411.
2. See JA to AA, 17 Feb., 1st letter, and note 6, above.
3. At the Boston town meeting of 24 Feb., attendees discussed resolutions regarding U.S. trade policy prepared by a committee appointed at a meeting on 13 Feb., for which see JQA to TBA, 13 Feb., and note 3, above. The resolutions recommended “discrimination against Britain and Spain, by imposing new duties on their vessels and goods.” After a lengthy and spirited debate spanning two days, “a very large majority” voted to table the resolutions sine die (Boston American Apollo, 27 Feb.). See also JQA to JA, 2 March, below.
4. Both Benjamin Austin Jr. and Charles Jarvis remained in the Mass. senate and house of representatives, respectively. U.S. Supreme Court justice William Cushing received some support for the governorship but lost decisively to Samuel Adams (Mass., Acts and Laws, 1794–1795, p. 141–142; DAB).
5. Mary Wales Thayer (1756–1786), the { 95 } sister of Elkanah Thayer, had inherited lands and buildings owned by her husband James Thayer at his death in March 1786. When she died a few months later, Mary Thayer left her estate to her children Thomas (b. 1780) and Lydia (b. 1784) (Sprague, Braintree Families).
6. Probably Stephen Penniman (1743–1827) of Braintree, who had held a variety of town offices including constable, surveyor of highways, and selectman. He served in the Continental Army during the Revolution and eventually attained the rank of major (same; Braintree Town Records, p. 408, 426, 623; Pattee, Old Braintree, p. 402).
7. The postscript was written at the top of the first page of the manuscript above the dateline and salutation.
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.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/