Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

Benjamin Waterhouse to Abigail Adams, 7 January 1783 Waterhouse, Benjamin AA Benjamin Waterhouse to Abigail Adams, 7 January 1783 Waterhouse, Benjamin Adams, Abigail
Benjamin Waterhouse to Abigail Adams
Madam Boston Janry. 7th. 1783

For above a fortnight past I have been meditating a visit to Braintree but some unlucky occurrence or other turned up and disappointed me, and now I am certain I shall not be able within a fortnight, owing to some matters in agitation which will not be finished before that time, and are of such a nature that made me wish to see you at this time more particularly. I must explain myself by saying that about ten Days ago the Corporation of Harvard elected me Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic in that University1 which must be confirmed you know by the Overseers before I can give public Lectures. They met last week and chose to postpone the confirmation of it for a fortnight that they might by enquiry be satisfied of my political sentiments, saying that they ought first to know whether I was a friend of the Revolution. Sufficient was said on that subject to induce them to think so and they would have even then have confirmed me But my friends themselves chose to postpone it. It was said that I was when in Europe on a very friendly footing with His Excllency Mr. Adams and that I was for many months part of his family. This was thought a sufficient proof of my sentiments. However some of the Corporation advised me to write to you and desire you to be so good as to address a line to any of them as Mr. President Willard, Mr. Lathrop and Mr. Howard, or Dr. Gordon2 who is one of the Overseers expressing how I stood in regard to Mr. Adams and he to me, and this would do every thing required. They do not suppose or even imagine that the Corporation of the College would have unanimously elected a person who they were in any doubt of respecting his politics yet as the Overseers comprehends the civil gentleman as well as the Clergy,3 many of whom I am not personally acquainted with, two or three of them expressed a wish to be satisfied in the above mentioned particular.

Excuse this trouble, but I thought it would be much more pleasing to Mr. Adams than to show any of his Letters to me. Neither the one nor the other will I am pretty certain be called for or even mentioned again, yet if they should my friends think it best to be provided and that Mrs. Adams's would supersede all other testimonies.

My respectfull Compliments to Miss Adams, and my friend Charles and tell him the South-Carolina is carried into New-York by a 64 and two frigates.4


I congratulate you and every body else on the additional and corroborating circumstances of a speedy peace which it is said came this day from Philadelphia to Genl. Lincoln.5

I am, Madam, with every sentiment of respect Your humble servant. B. Waterhouse

RC (Private owner, Boston, 1957); addressed: “Mrs. Adams Braintree.”


Waterhouse was appointed to the first Hersey Professorship of the Theory and Practice of Physic, and was the second professor named to the Harvard Medical School, which was established in 1782. The inquiry into his loyalty arose from the university's resolve that each appointee promise to “demean himself 'as a good citizen of the United States of America,' to support their union and promote their happiness,” as well as to support and obey the Massachusetts constitution. At the medical school inauguration in Oct. 1783, Waterhouse and his colleagues each made this declaration (Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard, p.169–170).


Joseph Willard was president of the college, John Lathrop and Simeon Howard were fellows of the Corporation, and Howard, minister of Boston's West Church, was also secretary of the Board of Overseers ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. , p. 7, 10; Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 14:286). Rev. William Gordon, pastor of the Third Congregational Church in Roxbury, was an overseer by virtue of his pastorate (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:175, note 2).


Under the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, chap. V, sec. 1 (see JA, Papers , 8:259), the overseers were the governor, lieutenant-governor, council, and senate of the Commonwealth, and the ministers of the Congregational churches of Boston, Cambridge, Charlestown, Dorchester, Roxbury, and Watertown.


CA began his journey back to America with Waterhouse on board the South Carolina in Aug. 1781, but they changed to another vessel in September. The ship was captured by the British in Dec. 1782 (vol. 4:170, note 2; D. E. Huger Smith, “Commodore Alexander Gillon and the Frigate South Carolina,” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 9:216 [Oct. 1908]).


Waterhouse apparently refers to the news contained in letters by Franklin and Jay to the secretary for foreign affairs, dated 26 and 28 Sept. (and perhaps those of 13 and 14 Oct.) 1782 (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:763–764, 771, 809, 811–812), that the British had finally empowered Richard Oswald to negotiate with “the Commissioners of the thirteen United States of America” (Daniel Carroll to William Paca, 21 Dec.; P.S. 24 Dec. 1782, in Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 6:567). Several congressmen relayed this news to correspondents on 24 and 25 Dec. 1782, and it appeared in the Independent Chronicle, 9 January. Waterhouse's letter may have been the first communication—vague as it is—of this diplomatic development to reach AA.

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 10 January 1783 AA JA Abigail Adams to John Adams, 10 January 1783 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
My dearest Friend Janry 10th 1783

The young Gentleman who is the Bearer of this has acted for about 7 months in the capacity of preceptor to our children; I have mentiond him to you in former Letters, he is the son of the Revd Mr. Robbins of Plimouth, a Modest worthy Youth; under whose care our children improved greatly, which makes us very loth to part with him; but an opportunity presenting greatly to his advantage we could not press his tarrying longer with us. A Mr. Mitchel and family are going 67to Bordeaux to Establish an American House there; and have taken this Gentleman into their family, his Mamma being a near relation to Mr. Mitchels Lady; if you should chance to see this young Gentleman, or it should any way be in your power to serve and assist him, you would particularly oblige me by doing it, his merit will entitle him to your notice; and the particular attention he paid to our children whilst he acted as their preceptor, calls for my acknowledgment.

I am impatient for intelligence from you; by a Letter which Mr. Storer received from his son dated at Paris, which came in the Julius Ceasar,1 I had the pleasure of hearing that you were well, and at Paris; I need not say how greatly this pleasure would have been enhanced if I had received this intelligence from your own hand; I would fain flatter myself from your going there; that Some Ideas of a negotiation were taking place; but whether they will produce the desired object Time only can determine. Could I look forward to any given period, when I might hope again to embrace my dearest Friend in his Native Land, it would serve to mitigate the painfull absence. I have submitted to it with a meritorious patience, and hope the reward in safety and happiness to my country. With Sophonisba I can say,

“My Passions too can Sometimes Soar above, The Houshold task assign'd me, can extend Beyond the Narrow Sphere of families, And take great States into th' expanded Heart As well as yours,”2

can rejoice to behold you in the character of citizen and patriot, sacrificeing your private affections to the Publick Benifit. I will not examine how much of enthusiasm there is in this flight.

It is the 10 of Janry a most voilent snow storm—our family in Health, seated at this moment round a cheerfull fire side, illumined by the presence of a daughter who is the portrait of her dear Father, two sprightly Sons and a pretty Neice3 compose the present circle. In addition to these our winter Evenings are enlivened by the company and conversation of a gentlman who is a very frequent visiter here; and whom I have mentiond largely to you in two late Letters—a Gentleman who has resided in Town about nine Months, who Boards in Mr. Cranchs family, and is a practitioner of Law; his Name is Tyler, his Father you knew. But what does all this mean, you will naturally ask, if you have not received my other Letters?4 It means that I see, what I scarcly believe in my power to prevent without doing voilence 68to Hearts which I hope are honest and good. It means that I wish for your advise and counsel. I will say no more at present, but trust that you have received my other Letters.

Adieu my Dearest Friend, heaven grant me good and speedy News from you; this terible Storm I fear has cast away vessels which we hourly look for. My dear John, my heart aches when I think how seldom I hear from him; pray direct him to write to me, he is either very neglegent or I very unfortunate. I hope his conduct is such as his patron approves, and will ever be good and virtuous.

The little social circle around me, who are all variously employed, Sewing, reading; Studying grammer &c. jointly and severally present their duty and affection. Pappa is often very often the subject of conversation, and Mamma is never so highly delighted, as when she can lay down to them Some excellent precept, and example, which she recollects from his writings, or his Lips. But she cannot make them enter into the Idea of his quitting his Native Land, and relinquishing all his domestick pleasures for the publick Service, yet relinquished as they are for a time, may they never Suffer any diminution by absence; but may they ever rise to your view as the objects of all others the dearest to you, and for which no foreign pleasure or amusement can compensate. Heaven Grant the day may not be far distant when you may realize all your Heart wishes, in the fond embraces of your children, and in the Reciprocal endearments of your ever Ever affectionate


RC (Adams Papers); addressed by Royall Tyler: “His Excellency John Adams—Minister Plenpotenty. from the United States—Residing at the Hague.”


The Julius Caesar, Capt. Harriden, arrived at Salem on 31 Dec. 1782 (Independent Chronicle, 2 Jan.).


Quoted from James Thomson's Sophonisba, A Tragedy, IV, ii, first produced in 1730. AA substituted “My” for “Our” and “me” for “us.”


Louisa Catharine Smith, who was ten in 1783, was the daughter of AA's brother William Smith. She had been living with AA for five years and would live much of her long life with various members of the Adams family. See vol. 2:47–48, note 1.


Of 23 and 30 Dec. 1782, above.