Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

John Thaxter to John Adams

Abigail Adams to Nathaniel Willis?

Abigail Adams to James Lovell, 3 January 1781 AA Lovell, James Abigail Adams to James Lovell, 3 January 1781 Adams, Abigail Lovell, James
Abigail Adams to James Lovell
My dear sir Braintree, 3 January 1781 1

Your favour of december 19 was deliverd me this day. I would not omit by this post to thank you for it, and for your confidential communications. I cannot however comprehend your Letter to my best Friend for want of the promised key. I am more reconciled to ambiguity and ciphers, than formerly, and not a little thankfull, that the Robberies have been committed now rather than twelve Months ago.2

You judged rightly when you thought you should communicate happiness by the Honorable testimony of Congress in favour of my absent Friend. My little Barke attendant sails, persues the triumph and partakes the Gale.

Nor will it be considerd presumtious if I Graft my Love, immortal on his fame. The first of Gratifications arise from his deserving and the next in the approving voice of his country.

If you wrote me the 20 of November the Letter was among those which went to the Enemy.3 You will see by a Letter written you last post,4 that I had not received a Letter from you for a very long time, but having renewed all your former kindness every dissagreable Idea vanishes. I wish you not to mention the Supposition of my having 58lost a Letter by the robbery of the Mail to Mr. Adams. It will make him still more reserved and cautious, he is enough so now to freze one.

You will greatly oblige me by a continuation of your favours to your—I will not Scruple to say—affectionate


Dft (Adams Papers); without date or indication of addressee; at head of text in CFA's hand: “Mr. Lovell 1781.”


Dated from Lovell's acknowledgment on 30 Jan. (in Adams Papers but omitted here).


Among the “confidential communications” enclosed by Lovell in his letter of 19 Dec. was a letter to JA (14 Dec., Adams Papers) which included passages in cipher without reference to a key. In his acknowledgment, Lovell welcomed AA's indication here that she had modified an earlier hostility “to ambiguity and ciphers,” and he enclosed an “Alphabet” i.e. key for her use. The problem of Lovell's cipher in his letters to the Adamses is recurrent in the years 1780–1782 and has been fully dealt with, in relation to other uses of the cipher, in an appendix to this volume: The Lovell Cipher and Its Derivatives.


Lovell's letter to AA of 21 (not 20) Nov. 1780 had indeed been intercepted by the British somewhere above New York City, and was to occasion AA much anguish. See Lovell to AA, 19 Dec. 1780, above, and 8 Jan. 1781, below; also AA to Lovell, 17 March, below, esp. note 4 there.


Letter not found.