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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 11


Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0062

Author: Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1796-01-09

Elizabeth Smith Shaw Peabody to Abigail Adams

[salute] My Dear Sister—

It is indeed several weeks since I have written to you—an eventful term to me—multiplied with cares, which have prevented me from { 132 } presenting my most cordial Thanks to my dear Sisters, for their kindness, & the maternal affection they have shewn my Daughter— I think I Justly estimated her genius & temper—& my expectations were raised, that, when under your fostering hand she would greatly improve; & I am happy to find that she does honour to herself, & I hope no dishonour to you—
You ask, why my marriage was not announced in the Paper? were this question asked of any one else but myself, I could say many things in the figurative way, but now shall only tell you, that my little Bark though built by a skillful hand, yet in its constituent parts, was very unfit for the rough billows upon which it was to be tossed in the voyage of Life, & had been so enfeebled, & battered by unforeseen, & sudden Storms as to be of too little consequence to be noticed by the world; which perhaps knew, that I had long ago, for many reasons, adopted the language of Mr Pope; & with much more sincerity (I believe) wished that I could “live, & die unseen, unknown, steal from the world, & not a stone tell where I lie—”1
It is a month my Sister since I quitted one State, I hope for a far better— Agreeable as Haverhill had been to me, yet as I had no part, nor inheritance there, I tarried till I really longed to be gone, that I might be at rest, & freed from a multiplicity of vexatious, unprofitable Cares— The events, & occurences which impeded my course, interupted that sweet serenity which I wished to maintain upon this solemn occasion, are too many for me to particularize Suffice it therefore to say, that everything took a contrary turn, all my plans were deranged—& that had I lived in ancient days, I should have stood agast, & believed that all the Gods & Goddess had conspired against me, & had engaged the elements upon their side—raging with more violence than that which dispersed the Grecian Fleet— What, or whether old Juno had any thing against me, I could not say— Whether she thought I had not asserted my rights in former times, or feared I should be now, more condescending than the dignity of her Sex, would admit, is hard for me to determine—
I believe I told you, poor Cousin Betsy had been languishing for several weeks with a distressing pain in her side, & stomach, which the medicine could not reach, & was increasing upon her every day— The evening before our appointed marriage she was taken with fainting fits, & I really feared she would die before morning— She rested some, was not faint, but appeared with all the symptoms of a fever, unable to set up but a little while at a time— my Neighbour’s Children sick with the Canker all round me, some really dead, { 133 } others dying— you know what a tender part a feeling heart takes upon such occasions— & my Abby I feared every day would share the fate of others— Mr Peabody had agreed to arange his affairs so as to come to Haverhill upon Tuesday—desired a Team to be ready at the house wednesday for the Furniture, & Thursday a number of respectable Gentlemen were to wait upon us to Atkinson whose wives had beged the favour of Mr Peabody to roast a few Turkeys at his house, for our comfortable reception— so nothing could be done, but proceed—
Perhaps you may remember the eighth of December was a dreadful stormy day— It was one of those Eras, which I hope I shall not wish to be blotted from my remembrance— The Storm increased with so much voilence that, circumstanced as I was, I really hoped Mr Peabody would be too superstitious to come, & be married in a Storm— It was late in the afternoon before he came— I told him I had been approbating his conduct, & supposed he had been too wise, or too whimsical to think of being married in a storm— I confess it was rather too cavalier treatment, cold, & wet as he was, but he looked up with so much good-humour & said “Is it posible you can be in earnest, what if it does storm, is it not often a prelude to a calm sunshine?—[] I was silent though at that moment, I thought I would have given the world not to have been the cheif actor, in this gloomy solemn scene— Betsy sick—house wet—neighbours disappointed, every thing wrong, & wearing a sad aspect— add to all this, just as we were standing up, a fire was cried, which proved to be our chimney— Good Lord (thought I,) what next?— this was not a vain ejaculation, I assure you—but as some minds always rise in proportion to their exegencies, I thought it best, to call up all the magnanimity of which I was capable, & attend with proper composure to the duties, & solemn Obligations in which I was engaging— I cannot say, what passes in the mind of Others, but few have a more quick succession of Ideas than I had, or a greater weight (I hope) upon their minds.
My own affairs as administratrix unsettled, notwithstanding my repeated solicitations to the Parish for the purpose, conduced not a little to depress my spirits; & the accumalating expences occasioned by the necessity of my families being devided & leaving my dear sick Neice, rendered me almost one of the most pitiable Objects in nature, & very unfit for the duties before me.— How I bid farewell to my worthy Friends—& to a place where I had very strong local attachments—to a house endeared to me by the birth of my { 134 } Children—& with what grace I received my new Parishoners, I must leave for others to say— But this I must acknowledge, that if I had not had one of the kindest of Friends, to have supported, & encouraged me, I must have sunk— And in Justice to his daughter, I must tell you, that she met me at the door with so much sweetness benevolence, & affectionate respect, as has left an indeliable impression upon my heart, that has bound me to her forever—
When I left cousin Betsy I feared she would never be able to reach Atkinson, her symtoms were so consumtive, but the Dr said not fixed, that was some encouragment to me that she might recover, if she would but take proper care— I left Lydia, & Nancy Harrod with her, Mr Tucker lodged in the house, & Betsy Quincy, & myself took turns to stay with her till she got well enough for Mr Tucker to bring her here, which he did in a fortnight after I first came— She is far from being well now—but here we all are, & my Friend looks supremely blest, in the power of making others happy—
I thank you my dear Sister, for your kind, invitation to my Children to spend some time with you— I believe William will accept it, & go to Boston, before the vacation is out, if you can get him from your house to Cambridge— I know not where they can be better instructed than by your example, & your Library— Sometimes I think I will send Betsy to you, till the spring, & then I wish to have her go into this accademy— I think it will be for her advantage—
I rejoice to hear that Mrs Tufts is on the recovery, I was destressed for her— I am sorry my Sister Cranchs family has been so sick, I would write if I had2 time—moving &cc, has been fatiguing— you will be kind enough to let her see this Letter, she will want to hear from Me, & be assured my dear Sisters, that no place, time, or change will ever obliterate from my heart, the Love & Gratitude I feel for you, which glows in the breast of your affectionate Sister
[signed] Elizabeth Peabo[dy]
RC (Adams Papers). Some loss of text due to a torn manuscript.
1. “Thus let me live, unseen, unknown, / Thus unlamented let me die; / Steal from the world, and not a stone, / Tell where I lie” (Alexander Pope, “Ode on Solitude,” lines 17–20).
2. The remainder of the letter is written vertically in the left margin.

Docno: ADMS-04-11-02-0063

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1796-01-10

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] my Dearest Friend

I received by the last post Your Letters of the following Dates 21 inclosing the post Note, 24 28 & 30th for all of which accept my { 135 } thanks;1 we have been so unfortunate I presume as to lose Letters by a Melancholy ship wreck the last week. a vessel belonging to mr Lamb on Board of which was a Brother of Mr Lambs by whom I wrote to our sons, in comeing in last week, was in one of our winter gales & snow-storms cast away near salem. the captain Macky a Dutch Gentleman & 2 others were drown’d. mr Lamb & one or two others were wash’d on shore a live, but vessel cargo intirely lost.2 our Neighbours are in great anxiety for their Eldest son Benjamin whom they heard had saild ten week ago from Hamburgh, bound to N York. a vessel which saild with him, has been in more than a Month.3
You observe in one of Your Letters that You wish to hear my observations upon Randolphs pamphlet. there does not appear to me any thing clear about it, or in it, but the Mans Duplicity weakness, Gullability and vanity. he represents the President as in leading strings, and between ourselves, I cannot but think, that he had gaind too great an assendency over the mind of the President, considering how very weak a Man he appears. You know my judgment of him in the very first Letter he wrote to Hammond after he was Secretary of State.4 You know my sintiments of his Predecessor and my Friendship for him, how loth I have been to see him a partizen of politicks I could not but abhor. Yet I think him incapable of betraying the honour interest and Dignity of the Government as this misirable Man has done. the President has been unfortunate in his States Men— I hope the office is more confidentially fill’d now with respect to mr R——s private Life I know nothing, but one general rule will hold good with respect to appointments to office, that a Man destitute of private virtue must want Principle, and the Man who wants principle cannot be actuated by pure Motives, nor can he possess so exalted an affection as a Rational and Disinterested Love of his Country. this has been so recently exemplified in the late Chief Justice, that no other instance need be quoted. the publick papers have mentiond almost every circumstance You related, and his insanity will sheild the Senate from, even Jacobinical censure. for his Friends I am sorry. it is a pitty that he was made so conspicuous in his Fall. As to the Virginians, they appear to be most of them Randolphs, and by their Numbers have too great a weight in the publick scale. I hope all culprits will be brought to punishment, and that our countrymen will know how to value and Appreciate the sterling coin, which has been Seven times tried, from the base Dross which only glitters without, but has no intrinsick value. Randell & { 136 } Wheaton will be throughly sifted I presume.5 I wish Genett Fauchet & his successors were equally ameniable to the same tribunal.
The complexion of the Senate is highly favourable. the House—will have time to shew themselves
The constitution in France appears to be organizing. Seyes wisely declind belonging to the executive why it should be a subject of speculation to the Parissians, must be oweing to their want of penetration. the Executive will soon be crumbld into insignificance. Seyes had rather be one than five—6
I hope they will keep together untill a general Peace takes place, but I am sure they cannot be held by a Rope of sand.
I thank Mrs Washington for her kind invitation as well as for her frequent remembrance of me the high esteem and regard which I entertain for her would render such a visit peculiarly agreable to me, were all other circumstances favourable to it, but I never expect to go further than to Visit my Children;
I shall go to no expence that I can avoid. I Daily know that expences, I cannot say increase, but the value of Money diminishes— I was presented last week with a Tax Bill of a hundred & 87 Dollors 50 cents for the Small Town of Quincy. I shall however take the Liberty to pay my doctors Bill, and other necessary expences before I attend to what my Neighbours do not discharge in a Year after us.7 last week our people compleated Carting Manure upon Quincys medow 60 Loads that is cart bodys full. the Ground was so soft it would not admit of loading deeper & it is all spread copland says as well as if you had been here. he wants half a dozen more load to cover the whole which he hopes to get by & by—
Mrs Brisler and Family were well yesterday She danced as nimbly as the youngest of them, the night before new year
Yours as ever
[signed] A Adams
P S I believe you have become a favorite at court—you dine so often.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. Jan. 10 / ansd 20. 1796.”
1. For JA’s two letters of 21 Dec. 1795, see JA to AA, 21 Dec., and note 2, above. JA also sent a short note to AA on 30 Dec. enclosing Jonathan Pindar’s “Salutatory Ode,” for which see AA to JA, 15 Jan. 1796, and note 6, below.
2. On 6 Jan. the ship Margaret wrecked off the coast of Salem. Four men—the captain, John Mackay; a Dutch passenger; a seaman; and the cabin boy—drowned. James Lamb (b. 1746), a Boston merchant and part owner of the ship, survived by jumping into the ocean and swimming to shore. The ship was also owned by James’ brother Thomas Lamb (1753–1813); they had established the mercantile firm of James & Thomas Lamb in 1781 (Boston Gazette, 11 Jan. 1796; Thwing Catalogue, MHi; Other Merchants and Sea Captains of Old Boston, Boston, 1919, p. 34–37).
{ 137 }
AA wrote to JA on 3 Feb., below, that the ship had been carrying letters for the Adamses from the Netherlands, but these have not been identified.
3. That is, Benjamin Beale III (1768–1826), Harvard 1787, who was a lawyer. He eventually settled in Normandy, France, following his marriage in 1806 (Sprague, Braintree Families).
4. Edmund Randolph’s letter to George Hammond of 21 Feb. 1794 concerned whether Hammond had yet received instructions from his government that would allow negotiations to resume regarding the final resolution of matters still pending from the Peace of Paris (Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 28 Feb.). But AA may be referring to later letters of Randolph that JA sent her in May 1794; see vol. 10:190, 191.
5. For Robert Randall, Charles Whitney, and the Detroit land speculation affair, see JA to CA, 31 Dec. 1795, and note 1, above.
6. Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès declined an appointment to serve in the new French Directory “on account of his want of sight, and chose to retain the character of deputy, to which he had been called by his fellow citizens.” Sieyès would again be elected in 1799 and would accept the appointment at that time (Boston Federal Orrery, 7 Jan. 1796; Cambridge Modern Hist., 8:667–668).
7. AA was not alone in feeling that the Adamses might have been overtaxed. In September JA noted in his Diary that he felt his assessment was “unjust, more than my Proportion.” Two years later, when the Adamses’ farm was assessed for the 1798 tax valuation, some discussion occurred whether it was acceptable for the home of JA—as president—to be valued at less than those of some of his neighbors. AA wrote to JA, “I sat a silent hearer upon all but one Subject, which was the apprizement of this House. the Major was loth that it should appear that the President had not the best House in Town. I laught at him and told him I should have no objection to owning the best House, but if the fact was otherways did the Law say, that the owner of the House was to be taken into consideration or the House prized according to what it would in his judgment sell for.” In the end, their home was assessed for less than that of Capt. Benjamin Beale Jr., their closest neighbor (JA, D&A, 3:246; AA to JA, 23 Dec. 1798, Adams Papers).
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/