Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 28 April 1783 AA JA


Abigail Adams to John Adams, 28 April 1783 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
My dearest Friend April 28th 1783

At length an opportunity offers after a space of near five Months, of again writing to You. Not a vessel1 from any port in this state has sailed since Jan'ry, by which I could directly convey you a line. I have written twice by way of Virgina,1 but fear they will never reach you: from you I have lately received several Letters containing the most pleasing intelligence.2

“Peace o'er the world her olive Branch extends.”3 “Hail! Goddess heavenly bright profuse of joy, and pregnant with delight.”4 The Garb5 of this favorite of America, is woven of an admirable texture and proves the great skill, wisdom, and abilities, of the Master workmen. It was not fabricated in the Loom of France, nor are the materials english, but they are the product of our own American soil, raised and Nurtured, not by the gentle showers of Heaven, but by the hard Labour and indefatigable industery and firmness of her Sons, and water'd by the Blood of many of them. May its duration be in proportion to its value, and like the Mantle of the prophet descend with blessings to generations yet to come.

And may you my dearest Friend, return to your much loved solitude with the pleasing reflextion of having contributed to the happiness of Millions.

We have not yet received any account of the signing6 the definitive Treaty, so that no publick rejoiceings have taken place as yet. The 5th article in the Treaty has raised the old spirit against the Tories to such a height that it would be at the risk of their lives should they venture here; it may subside after a while, but I Question whether any state in the union will admit them even for 12 Months.7 What then would have been the concequence if compensation had been granted them?8

Your journal has afforded me and your Friends much pleasure and amusement. You will learn, perhaps from Congress that the journal, you meant for Mr. Jackson; was by some mistake enclosed to the

142 143

Minister for foreign affairs; and concequently came before Congress with other publick papers. The Massachussets delegates applied for it, but were refused it. Mr. Jackson was kind enough to wait upon me, and shew me your Letter to him, and the other papers inclosed, and I communicated the journal to him.9 Mr. Higginson writes that it was moved in congress by Hamilton of Virgina and Wilson of Pensilvana10 to censure their ministers, for departing from their duty in not adhering to their instructions, and for giving offence to the Court of France, by distrusting their Friendship; they however could not carry their point; it was said the instruction alluded was founded upon Reciprocity, and that the C.V. Comte de Vergennes had not acted upon that principal. When these gentry found that it would not be considerd in the Light in which they wished, they gave out that if no more was said upon that subject, the other would drop. This is all I have been able to collect—my intelligence is very imperfect since Mr. Lovell left congress. Mr. Gerry I believe is determined to go again. I shall then have a Friend and correspondent who will keep me informed.11 Upon receiving a Letter from you in which you desire me to come to you should you be longer detained abroad, I took the Liberty of writing to Dr. Lee, requesting him to give me the earliest intelligence respecting the acceptance of your resignation. I do not think it will be accepted, by what I have already learnt;12 if it should not; I shall still feel undetermined what to do. From many of your Letters I was led to suppose you would not return without permission; yet I do not imagine the bare renewal of a former commission would induce you to tarry. I shall not run the risk unless you are appointed minister at the Court of Britain.13 Mr. Smith is waiting for me to hear from congress. He means to go whether I do or not, but if I do he will take charge of every thing respecting my voyage. Our two sons together with Mr. Cranch's, are placed in the family of Mr. Shaw. He had one young gentleman before whom he offers this year for Colledg.14 I doubt not he will contribute every thing in his power towards their instruction and improvement. I last evening received Letters from them,15 and they appear to be very contented and happy.

With Regard to some domestick affairs which I wrote you about last winter, certain reasons have prevented their proceeding any further—and perhaps it will never again be renewed. I wished to have told you so sooner, but it has not been in my power.16 Our Friends are all well and desire to be affectionately rememberd to you. Where is our son, I hear no more of him than if he was out of the world. 144You wrote me in yours of December 4th that he was upon his journey to you, but I have never heard of his arrival.17

Need I add how earnestly I long for the day when Heaven will again bless us in the Society of each other. Whether upon European of American ground is yet in the Book of uncertainty, but to feel intirely happy and easy, I believe it must be in our own Republican cottage; with the Simplicity which has ever distinguished it—and your ever affectionate

My dearest Friend 29 April18

I last Evening received yours of Febry 18th19 in which you are explicit with Regard to your return. I shall therefore let Congress renew or create what commission they please, at least wait your further direction tho you should be induced to tarry abroad. I have taken no step as yet with regard to comeing out, except writing to Dr. Lee as mentiond before. Heaven send you safe to your ever affectionate Portia

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To His Excellency John Adams minister plenipotentiary from the united States of America—Paris”; endorsed: “Portia. April 29 1783.” Slight damage to the text where the seal was torn away. Dft (Adams Papers), on half of a large sheet of paper that had served as a cover for a letter from JA, addressed in JA's hand: “Mrs John Adams Braintree near Boston Massachusetts”; and marked: “Triplicate,” and “To be sunk in case of Capture.” This part of the sheet also has the remnants of JA's Boylston seal. Significant differences from the RC are noted below. AA used the other half of this cover sheet for the Dft of her letter to John Thaxter, 29 April, below.


Probably those of 10 Jan. and 7 April, both above. AA apparently sent both letters by Benjamin Guild's vessel, which sailed to Virginia before heading for Europe. See AA to JA, 7 April, note 5, above.


AA probably refers to JA's letters of 4 Dec. 1782 and 29 Jan., both above, referred to in her letter of 7 April, above, and to that of 28 Dec. 1782, above, which accompanied JA's “Peace Journal,” to which she refers below. By this date, AA may also have received JA's 22 Jan. letter, and his 8 Nov. 1782 letter, both above; the latter had arrived in Pennsylvania on 12 March. The postscript below marks her receipt of one or more of JA's three brief 18 Feb. letters (one above). She had not yet received JA's 4 Feb. letter (see AA to JA, 7 May, below), and probably had received no letters written after 18 February.


Alexander Pope, Messiah, line 19; AA substitutes “Branch” for “wand.”


The editors have supplied the quotation marks before “Hail,” but have not identified this passage.


In the draft, AA first wrote “The terms,” and then deleted it in favor of “The Garb.”


The draft reads: “any official account of the ratification.”


Art. 5 provided that Congress would “earnestly recommend” to the states the return of confiscated property to “real British Subjects” and to loyalists “resident in Districts in the Possession of his Majesty's Arms,” who had not borne arms against the United States; and that others would be allowed to return for twelve months to seek restitution, provided those who had purchased their property received compensation. No persons who had “any Interest in confiscated Lands” were to be subjected to any “lawful Impediment” in pursuing their “just Rights” to such property (Miller, ed., Treaties , 2:98–99).

145 8.

The final sentence of this paragraph does not appear in the draft.


JA's “Peace Journal” accompanied his 28 Dec. 1782 letter to AA, above. His enclosing of a copy of the “Journal” to the secretary for foreign affairs, R. R. Livingston, was no mistake. AA's “communication” of the journal to Jackson may explain its absence from the Adams Papers, but see JA's letter of 28 Dec., note 1, and references there.


No letter from Stephen Higginson to AA has been found. AA's draft does not mention Higginson, a delegate from Massachusetts, at this point, but begins this sentence with: “There were 3 members in C—s who moved for censure upon their ministers.” AA then identifies them as Madison, Hamilton, and Wilson, adding that “they could not carry their point so withdrew their motion.” She then added one detail about the attitude of several delegates towards Vergennes which she omitted from the finished letter: “instead of the Count V—acting with the American ministers he had opposed them at least by his intrigues with England respecting the Fishery and had acted in direct violation of the Spirit of their treaty.

On 19 March, Alexander Hamilton of New York (whom AA assigned to Virginia), Hugh Williamson of North Carolina, and Richard Peters of Pennsylvania each offered motions expressing regret that the American ministers had negotiated an additional article, affecting West Florida, which they intended to keep secret from France. Each of the three congressmen asked that the ministers be directed to communicate the secret article to Vergennes immediately. None of the motions, however, used the term “censure,” and Hamilton made a point of praising the commissioners' work ( JCC , 24:193–194). James Madison introduced no motion concerning the preliminary articles of peace, but he was much concerned over the ministers' violation of their instructions. See Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 7:89–90, and Madison's full recounting of Congress' debate over the preliminary articles in JCC , 25:924–926, 928–936. James Wilson of Pennsylvania took part in the debate of 19 March, and then chaired the committee which considered the three petitions and reported on them on 21 Oct. ( JCC , 25:714–715).


The draft makes no mention of Elbridge Gerry.


The draft gives AA's source: “by what I can learn from Mr. Higisons Letter and others, you will still be requested to tarry abroad.”


In the draft AA is less certain: “I know not whether you would be prevaild upon to tarry.” She says nothing about staying home unless JA is named minister to Britain. CFA omitted the text following this sentence to “Our friends are all well. . . .” from AA, Letters, 1840.


The draft reads: “and an other young gentleman.” This second youth may have been Samuel Walker, later CA's close friend.


The draft reads: “received Letter from them.” No letter from CA or TBA has been found.


This sentence is not in the draft. The draft continues: “I wish exceedingly to come to you if you continue abroad, and should congress as is expected give you a commission to the British court, unqualified as I feel myself for a publick Station in life, I believe I shall venture as I have a reason for wishing to come with our daughter to you.” In her letter to Charles Storer, 28 April, below, AA is more positive that AA2's relationship with Royall Tyler would go no further.


The draft contains no mention of JQA.


The continuation of the letter on 29 April is not in the draft.


AA2 to John Thaxter, 27 April, above, also reports AA's receipt of an 18 Feb. letter from JA. The letters may not have been the same; JA wrote three to AA on that date.

Abigail Adams to Charles Storer, 28 April 1783 AA Storer, Charles


Abigail Adams to Charles Storer, 28 April 1783 Adams, Abigail Storer, Charles
Abigail Adams to Charles Storer
Braintree April 28 1783

May I address you by the Epithet of my dear Charles? for I realy feel towards you a Maternal Regard. I enjoyed a Feast upon the receit of your Letters.1 Col. Quincys came to my care, I carried them to 146him, there I found your pappa and Mamma, who had just received a packet from you. After mutual congratulations, we set ourselves down to hear and read, Col. Q—y began, whilst the whole circle attended, but it was not Silent admiration. What a fine young fellow, how charmingly he writes says one, why he is a statesman already says an other. How affectionately and respectfully he speaks of Mr.—.2 How sweetly he varies his stile and manner according to the different subjects upon which he writes. What judgment! What prudence! What Love of his Country! O Sir you are a happy Man says one. You have a jewel of a son, says an other: thus were your praises Reverberated; untill the paternal Eye overflowed; and delight Shone in every feature of his face: the Reflextions which filled my mind upon this occasion were pleasing beyond expression. Heaven grant me that I may thus rejoice in my children, thus see them ornaments to their Country, and blessings to their parents.

Here Let me pause and thank you for your favour Nomber 1.3 I assent to your proposal and commence your correspondent, but you must write to me with that freedom and unreserve which I so much admire in your Letters.

You have given me a proof of the confidence of my best Friend towards you, whilst the words “It becomes not me to speak,”4 express more than a page. Believe me I know your thoughts, the person whom they concerned5 is a different Character from what in very early Life you knew him, at least I presume so. I wish him well, I wish him prosperous and happy, and that every juvenile deviation from the Path of Rectitude, may teach him wisdom and prudence in future, but he will never be in any other character in Life to Emelia, than an acquaintance. I speak not this from any recent misconduct, but from a full conviction that it is right.

My family is lessned so much of late that I feel quite dull, my sons are sent from home to school, Emelia and Louissa,6 a Neice of about 10 years old, with two domesticks compose my family. I was loth to part with my sons, but I found it so difficult to procure a Suitable preceptor, and to keep him, that the frequent changes made them unstedy, and injured their Learning. The former was a matter of more importance in my mind than the latter.

Unstable as water, thou shalt not excell said the good old patriarch to his son7—it is an observation as true as it is ancient; and founded upon a knowledge of humane Nature. Youth are peculiarly liable to this frailty, and if it is not early curbed and restrained both by example and precept, it takes root and saps the foundation, it shoots out into 147unprofitable branches, if the Tree blossoms, they wither and are blown by every change of the wind so that no fruit arrives to maturity.

The Character which a youth acquires in the early part of his Life is of great importance towards his future prosperity—one false step may prove irretrievable to his future usefulness. The World fix their attention upon the behaviour of a person just setting out, more particularly so if they stand in a conspicious light with Regard to family or estate, and according to their discretion, prudence or want of judgement, pronounce too precipately perhaps, upon the whole of their future conduct. Of how great importance is it, that good principals be early, inculcated and steadily persued in the Education of youth?

But whither does my imagination lead me, and why all this to me Madam! methinks I hear you inquire. My thoughts are not difficult to trace, I dare say you will find the thread.

Amidst all the anxieties I have felt for the weight of cares and perplexitys which have devolved upon my absent Friend, I have found a consolation in the knowledge of his being accompanied by a young Gentleman of so much steadiness and probity as Mr. Thaxter, who by his attention and assiduity would render him every relief in his power, nor was I less gratified when I heard that Eugenio, was to become his Successor.

To a young Gentleman who wishes for improvement the situation will afford him ample scope, whilst the Gentlemans character with whom he resides requires not even my partial pen to delineate. With regard to my visiting Europe—upon some accounts I wish it. From my Infancy I have wished to visit England but this unhappy war, or as Mr. S. Adams expresses it, this Glorious Revolution, alienated my affections from her. I think upon the whole that I feel rather averse to a publick Character.

The particular manner in which you wish your Friends to detail every circumstance to you, which relates to their welfare or happiness must plead my excuse for the domestick communications; besides as you are a Member of Mr. A—s family,8 you by concequence become a relation of mine. I must close my letter to wait upon Dr. Gorden and Lady who are just come to spend the Night with me. We Shall not lack conversation. Dr. Gorden as well as any Man I know of, practices upon the maxim of Epictetus or Pythagoras, I forget which, “Reverence thyself.” Accept my best wishes for your happiness and be assured no one is more disposed to contribute to it than Your Friend.

Portia 148

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mr Charles Storer Paris”; endorsed: “Portia to Eugenio. 28th. April. 1783.” This is one of 13 letters given to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1922, all of which were incorporated into the primary collection of Adams manuscripts. Two others are printed here, AA to Storer, 3 Jan. and 18 May 1785 (below).


This is AA's first extant letter to Storer. By this date, AA had probably received Storer's letters of 17 Oct., and 8 Nov. 1782, and of 10 Feb. 1783, all above. That of 8 Nov. was written as a postscript to JA to AA of that date. Storer may also have written, and AA received, other letters now lost (see Storer to AA, 10 Feb., note 1, above), but the letters upon which AA “feasted” here appear to have been those written to Col. Josiah Quincy, and to Storer's father, Ebenezer.


Presumably JA.


Storer's letter of 10 Feb., above, in which he explains why “this may be stiled No. 1” even though he had written before.


Storer to AA, 10 Feb., above.


Royall Tyler.


Louisa Catharine Smith.


Jacob's dying words to his first-born son, Reuben (Genesis 49:4).


See Storer to AA, 17 Oct. 1782, note 8, above.