Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 26 October 1782 AA Thaxter, John


Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 26 October 1782 Adams, Abigail Thaxter, John
Abigail Adams to John Thaxter
October 26 1782

No, the Fire Brand shall not sail again without a Letter to my Friend. Why what a Hurry. I meant to have written him a long Letter—but here before a Body could think twice she is loaded and ready to sail. I could not write by Capt. Grinnel for reasons which I gave you.1 This vessel will sail before I can advertize your Friends. I have the pleasure however to assure you that they were well last week; when your Mamma and sister Celia made me a visit. They took from hence a stiff dutch figure. Why if that is your present likeness

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I do not wonder you wish to come to America to be New formed. There are some Traits tis true but is it the fashion to have such prominent cheek Bones? I felt affronted with any who supposed a likeness, tho all agreed that it was an ugly one.2 You cannot conceive how it struck the Fair American.3 She protests against going to Holland. No Flatterers there she thinks. She is certain they know nothing of the graces, or they could not so have deformed the countanance of the Handsome Charles.4 The features of both the portraitures are hard and cours. Tell him his Friends do not like it—and do him an other message if you please. If you return, and he succeeds You, I expect him to supply your place in every respect—one of which is to become my correspondent. I meant to have written him a few lines by way of requests, but fear I shall not have time.

His good Pappa obliged me by reading some of his Letters. I like his Manner of Letter writing, he pleases me exactly—he writes to the Moment—and has the happy art of giving even trivial matters an agreable air and dress, he is Sentimental without a too formal gravity, and his observations upon Men and Manners do honour to his judgment. If I had no other test of his worth, the affectionate regard he expresses for his Sister would prove his merrit.

Do you not want to give a look at our Fire side. I will tell you how it is occupied—rather different from what it commonly is, for there is a Card table before it, and A Mr. Robbins5 (the present preceptor of my Sons) is holding a hand at whist with Miss A. Miss Betsy Otis, the daughter of Mr. Allen Otis6 and Master Billy Cranch are partners—a sweet delicate Lovely Lilly and rose Beauty is this amiable Girl.

What do you think of my crosing the Atlantick? I have serious thoughts of it. If my best Friend asks it, I certainly shall but I rather wish for peace that he may return to me. I love the peacefull Rural Retirement and the pleasures of domestick Life. You know sir that ever since you made a part of our Family I have lived in one continued sacrifice of private happiness. I have felt anxious some times least the long seperation should Estrange the affections of my Children from their parent, and this was a powerfull inducement with me; for my two sons to accompany their Father. Charles was a carefull observer of his Fathers sentiments many of which he has treasurd up. He is calld here the Man in minature. His manners are pleasing and agreable. My Elder son I very seldom hear from, he is with a Gentleman of whom I have a high opinion. I hope he will be attentive to his precepts and instructions. You know his disposition, he is not 27so manageable as either of the others. Great activity and vivacity run away with him. Yet properly guided they promise great things. But our highest expectations are sometimes cut of, and that in a mortifying manner.

Mr. Laurence, poor old Gentleman his Grey hairs will come with sorrow to the Grave. Will he support the loss of his son with the fortitude of Cato when Marcius fell coverd with wounds in defence of his Country? Thus fell the Brave Col. Laurence, Lamented by all who knew him.7 Freedom mourns over his urn, and Honour decks the sod which covers his ashes with unfadeing Laurels.

I think there is nothing New in the political world. Our Eyes seem to be turned towards Europe as the Theater of great actions. We are tierd of the war, and wish for an honorable peace. Taxation is exceeding heavy, and those who will pay them may, but those who will not—are not always made to do it. Tis said by Pope that that goverment which is best administerd, is best.8 I mean not to discuss this point, but this we feel, that a good goverment ill administerd is injurious to every member of the community. I have been informd that some counties have paid no tax for two years.

This I know I have been obliged to pay every thing I could get. I cannot see how the Merchants who have met with exceeding heavy losses this year by Captures and the Farmer whose produce has been cut of in a most uncommon manner, Can answer the publick demands. But enough of this, you would hear it from all Quarters if you was here.

Present my Regards to your Friend: and Master Charles'es to Madam Chabinal9 and Daughters whom he often speaks of with great affection. Miss A. desires you would write to her. She thinks you a Letter in her debt. Be assurd you are at all times affectionately Rememberd by Your Friend


RC (MB); addressed in an unidentified hand: “Mr. John Thaxter at the Hague”; endorsed: “Mrs. Adams 26th. Octr. 1782. R. 29th Jany. 1783. A. 30th.”


AA is probably referring to her admission, in her letter to JA of 8 Oct., above, sent by Capt. Grinnell, of writing in haste. Her remark, above, about not letting the Fire Brand sail “again” without a letter to Thaxter may refer to her letter of 17 June to Thaxter by that vessel (vol. 4:329–331).


This portrait of Thaxter was probably done earlier in the year (see Descriptive List of Illustrations, above). For AA's criticism of an earlier miniature of Thaxter, see vol. 4:348–349.


AA had teased Thaxter since Dec. 1780 about this unidentified, and perhaps imaginary girl, to whom she fancied he was particularly attracted. AA at one point thought that her name was Eliza, and that she did not live in Braintree, but Thaxter denied being especially interested in any Eliza (vol. 4:28, 123 and note 2). AA's present reference would fit her own daughter, but other references make AA2 an unlikely choice. Thaxter, in replying 28to this letter on 30 Jan. 1783, below, professed to be thoroughly mystified about the “Fair American's” identity. In letters written in 1781, however, he expressed no doubt or concern about this (vol. 4:97, 140, 187). Thaxter would marry Elizabeth Duncan of Haverhill in 1787, but the editors have found no evidence that he knew her before going to Europe in 1779 (see JQA, Diary , vols. 1 and 2).


This likeness of Charles Storer, to which Thaxter refers in his 30 Jan. 1783 letter to AA, below, has not been positively identified. It might be the painting that appears after p. 232 of MHS, Procs. , 55 (1921–1922), and is described on p. 233, but that miniature could be later (1789?), and the likeness appears to be of a man older than twenty-one (see Descriptive List of Illustrations, above).


Chandler Robbins Jr.; see vol. 4:390, note 1.


Samuel Allyne Otis, younger brother of James Otis Jr., and of Mercy Otis Warren.


Henry Laurens' son John was killed in a late, minor battle of the War for Independence in South Carolina on 27 August. AA's allusion is probably to Joseph Addison's play Cato (1713), in which Marcus, one of the sons of Cato the Younger, dies while resisting his father's traitorous ally, Syphax. In act IV, scene iv of Addison's play, Cato views his son Marcus's body, and says:

Welcome, my Son! Here lay him down my Friends, Full in my Sight, that I may view at Leisure The bloody Corse, and count those glorious Wounds. —How beautiful is Death, when earn'd by Virtue! Who would not be that Youth? What a Pity is it That we can die but once to serve our Country!

Young Marcus's death before that of his father is a post-classical invention. Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger, the Stoic defender of the Roman republic who committed suicide at Utica in Africa in 46 b.c., rather than submit to the dictator Julius Caesar, did have two sons, but neither is recorded as dying before his father. Cato's eldest son, Marcus, did die heroically four years later at Philippi, while resisting the forces of Caesar's successor, Mark Antony. By the mid-eighteenth century, however, the dominant image of Cato in the English-speaking world was no longer based on the more authoritative accounts of Plutarch and other classical authors, but on Addison's celebrated play, which occupied a central place in the thinking of both English Whigs and American patriots. Plutarch, Cato the Younger; Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Cambridge, 1967, p. 43–44.


Essay on Man, epistle 3, lines 303–304: “For forms of government let fools contest;/Whate'er is best administer'd is best.”


On Madame Chabanel, see vol.4:148, note 1, and JQA, Diary , 1:76–89 passim.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 November 1782 JA AA


John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 November 1782 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Paris November 8. 1782

The King of Great Britain, by a Commission under the great Seal of his Kingdom, has constituted Richard Oswald Esqr. his Commissioner to treat with the Ministers Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, and has given him full Powers which have been mutually exchanged. Thus G.B. has Shifted Suddenly about, and from persecuting Us with unrelenting Bowells, has unconditionally and unequivocally acknowledged Us a Sovereign State and independant Nation. It is surprizing that she should be the third Power to make this Acknowledgment. She has been negotiated into it, for Jay and I peremptorily refused to Speak or hear, before We were put upon an equal Foot. Franklin as usual would have taken the Advice of the 29Comte de Vergennes and treated, without, but nobody would join him.1

As to your coming to Europe with Miss Nabby, I know not what to say. I am obliged to differ in Opinion so often from Dr. Franklin and the C. de Vergennes, in Points that essentially affect the Honour Dignity and most prescious Interests of my Country, and these Personages are so little disposed to bear Contradiction, and Congress have gone so near enjoining upon me passive Obedience to them,2 that I do not expect to hold any Place in Europe longer than next Spring. Mr. Jay is in the Same Predicament, and So will every honest Man be, that Congress can Send.3

Write however to Mr. Jackson in Congress4 and desire him candidly to tell you, whether he thinks Congress will continue me in Europe, upon Terms which I can Submitt to with honour, another Year. If he tells you as a Freind that I must Stay another Year, come to me, in the Spring with your Daughter. Leave the Boys in good Hands and a good school. A Trip to Europe, for one Year may do no harm to you or your Daughter. The Artifices of the Devil will be used to get me out of the Commission for Peace. If they succeed I abandon Europe for ever, for the Blue Hills without one Instants Loss of Time or even waiting for Leave to return. For whoever is Horse Jockeyed,5 I will not be.—Congress means well, but is egregiously imposed upon and deceived.

Mrs. Jay and Mrs. Izard will be excellent Companions for you and the Miss Izards for Miss Nabby.6

RC (Adams Papers). Dupl in Charles Storer's hand (Adams Papers). LbC in Storer's hand (Adams Papers). The RC is written on one large sheet folded in half to make four pages. JA's letter takes up three pages and the fourth contains a letter of the same date from Storer to AA (below). It was dispatched on 13 Nov. to Capt. Barney, commander of the packet Washington, which was destined for Philadelphia (note in Thaxter's hand at end of the LbC; Thaxter to AA, 10 Nov., below). The Dupl is contained in a second letter dated 8 Nov. from Storer to AA. Storer prefaces it by explaining that he made the Dupl without instructions from JA, and that to make delivery more certain, he was sending it by another conveyance. He describes the attending circumstances: “Mr. A. has just now laid a letter upon my table—'Here, Messieurs, says he, have you a mind to see love and business united? Read that then.' An agreable assemblage truly, Sir—and indeed Madam so it was—at least as it affected me.”


JA overstates his own role in bringing the British to make this concession. Although Jay offered Oswald compromise language before JA arrived from Holland, and without first consulting Franklin, he did later discuss the new language with Franklin, whose fear was that the American negotiators, by proceeding without the knowledge of France, were violating their instructions. Franklin felt that insistence upon a change in the wording of Oswald's commission (that implicitly, if not in legal form, would recognize American in-30dependence) was not significant enough to delay peace. Jay's success, however, removed Franklin's doubts (see JA to AA, 12 Oct., note 3; JA to AA, 16 Oct., both above).


By altering his 1779 instructions as sole negotiator for peace. See vol. 4:163–164, note 4.


This sentence appears to have been inserted after the text of the letter was complete.


Jonathan Jackson, a Newburyport merchant, served in Congress from July to October, and then resigned his seat ( JCC , 22:371; 23:669 [Jackson's last recorded vote]; Cotton Tufts to JA, 10 Oct., note 12, above; vol. 4:376– 377).


That is, cheated or dealt with fraudulently ( OED , under “Jockey”).


From its appearance, this sentence appears to have been added as an afterthought. When Ralph Izard, formerly commissioner to Tuscany, was recalled and returned to the United States in 1780, his wife, Alice De Lancey, and at least two of their daughters stayed on in France until 1783. The daughters were Margaret, age fourteen in 1782, Charlotte, age twelve, and Elizabeth and Anne, ages five and three. ( DAB ; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:46; South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 2:216–217 [July 1901].)