Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 4 December 1782 JA AA


John Adams to Abigail Adams, 4 December 1782 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Paris December 4. 1782

Your Proposal of coming to Europe, has long and tenderly affected me. The Dangers and Inconveniences are such and an European Life would be so disagreable to you that I have suffered a great deal of Anxiety in reflecting upon it. And upon the whole, I think it will be most for the Happiness of my Family, and most for the Honour of our Country that I should come home. I have therefore this Day written to Congress a Resignation of all my Employments, and as soon as I shall receive their Acceptance of it, I will embark for America, which will be in the Spring or beginning of Summer.1 Our Son is now on his Journey from Petersbourg through Sweeden Denmark and Germany, and if it please God he come safe, he shall come with me, and I pray We may all meet once more, you and I never to Seperate again.2

Yours most tenderly. J. Adams3

RC (Adams Papers). LbC in Charles Storer's hand (Adams Papers).


Blotting shows that the underlining in the previous sentence was done just prior to folding, probably by JA. In this sentence the letterbook copy has “in Europe” after “Employments.” The letterbook copy does not have any underlining.

JA's letter of this date to R. R. Livingston, secretary of foreign affairs, accompanied the preliminary treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States, which had been signed on 30 November. JA resigned both his commission to borrow money in, and his letter of credence to the United Provinces and expressed the hope that Henry Laurens would be given full power to represent the United States in the Netherlands, and then declared: “I should not chuse to stay in Europe, merely for the honor of affixing my Signature to the Definitive Treaty.” In closing, he proposed that if Congress thought someone should take his place as peace negotiator, which he doubted was necessary, it pick Francis Dana (PCC, No. 84, IV, f. 301–302; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:106).

On 1 April 1783, Congress briefly considered the report of a committee that recommended accepting JA's resignation, but deferred its decision, at the request of the “Eastern delegates,” “untill further advices sh[ould] be received” ( JCC , 24:225; 25:952–953 [Madison's notes]; and see JA to AA, 13 July 1783, note 3, below). Congress never did accept JA's resignation, but instead, after long delays, appointed him in May 1784, with Franklin and Jefferson, to negotiate commercial treaties with the European powers.


JQA left St. Petersburg on 30 Oct., destined for Holland. Francis Dana informed JA of JQA's departure and his itinerary in a letter of 30 Oct. (Adams Papers), and predicted his arrival in December; but JQA did not reach The Hague until 21 April 1783, and did not meet his father there until 22 July (JQA, Diary , 1:153, 174, 176).


The present letter is JA's first known to AA after the signing of the preliminary peace 47terms; his failure to mention this event suggests that one or more letters to her may be missing. On 15 Dec., JA reported the treaty to both Richard Cranch, below, and Isaac Smith Sr. (both in MHi: Cranch Family Papers). John Thaxter informed AA of the signing on the same day, below.

John Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 4 December 1782 JA AA2


John Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 4 December 1782 Adams, John Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
John Adams to Abigail Adams 2d
My dear Daughter Paris. 4th. Decemr. 17821

Your Solicitude for your Papa is charming:2 But he is afraid to trust you to the uncertain Elements, and what is infinitely more mischievous, the follies and depravities of the old world, which is quite as bad as that before the Flood. He has therefore determined to come to you, in America, next Summer, if not next Spring. Duty and Affections where due.

I am, Yr: Affectionate Father, J. Adams

RC or Dupl, in Charles Storer's hand (PU: Hugenschmidt Papers, Special Colls., Van Pelt Library).


An undated letterbook copy follows the letterbook copy of JA to AA, 4 Dec. (Adams Papers), and a virtually identical letter dated 4 Nov. is in PHi: Etting Papers. Both are in Storer's hand. Either the November or December date could be an inadvertence, but the placement of the letterbook copy points to 4 Dec. as the correct date. Moreover, JA's certainty in this letter that he will soon return to America agrees with his mood in his 4 Dec. letter to AA, but contrasts with his letter of 8 Nov. to AA, both above.


For AA2's proposal that she keep house for her father, and his initial reply, see vol. 4:344 and notes 5 and 10, and 4:383.

John Adams to Richard Cranch, 15 December 1782 JA Cranch, Richard


John Adams to Richard Cranch, 15 December 1782 Adams, John Cranch, Richard
John Adams to Richard Cranch
My dear Brother Paris. Decr 15. 1782

Since my Arrival here 26 October, untill the 30 of November, We had a constant Scuffle Morning noon and night about Cod and Haddock on the Grand Bank Deer skins on the Ohio and Pine Trees at Penobscat, and what were worse than all the Refugees.1

The Denouement of the Plott has had in it as much of the sublime and Pathetic as any Part of the Piece. It was comical too as you shall one day know in detail.

I look back with Wonder upon the scenes; and with Gratitude. We shall be afflicted with Disputes about the Refugees, and criticks will pick holes and discover flaws and Blemishes, But We have done the best We could.

My affectionate Remembrance to sister & the Children. Yours

RC (MHi: Cranch Family Papers); endorsed: “Letter from his Exy. J. Adams Decr. 15th. 1782.”

48 1.

The cod and the haddock, the deer skins, and the pine trees are symbolic of the most important issues in the peace negotiations with Great Britain. JA was a staunch advocate of freedom to fish and had made inquiries better to understand the nature of the business and its requirements. He refused to yield on access to the Grand Banks and nearby waters for Americans, although he had to make some concessions on the wording of America's access to fishing along the Newfoundland coast. Another major issue was the western boundary of the United States. From the outset, John Jay had insisted upon the Mississippi River, and JA had strongly supported this position. He was outspoken, too, in pushing the northeastern boundary as far northward as possible in opposition to the British desire to retain a good part of Maine as a source of mast trees. “Refugees” referred to the problem of Britain's attempting to obtain amnesty for loyalists and restitution or indemnification for those who suffered losses of property. For an account of the negotiating positions and concessions, see Morris, Peacemakers , ch. xi, and p. 363–364, 373–380.

JA later included images of the fish, the deer, and the pine tree in a seal designed to commemorate the victory that the Americans had won in the negotiations. Fashioned in 1783, it consisted of thirteen stars arranged to enclose the tree and the deer above a swimming fish. After JQA helped to win similar concessions at the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, JA asked him to have a new seal engraved, adding a phrase from Horace (Epistles, I, vi, 57), arranged to enclose the sea: Piscemur, venemur, ut olim; that is: “Let us fish, let us hunt, as in the past” ( Catalogue of JQA's Books , facing p. 135 and p. 140).