Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 20 March 1785 AA Thaxter, John Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, 20 March 1785 Adams, Abigail Thaxter, John
Abigail Adams to John Thaxter
My Dear Sir Auteuil March 20. 1785

To what cause shall I attribute your silence, that not a line has reachd me since I arrived in Europe? Altho I have not written to you since my arrival, yet as a Friend and former correspondent I feel myself entitled to your remembrance. I have heard from others of your welfare and pleasing prospects, in which be assured no one more sincerely rejoices than your Friend.

My son too complains that altho he has repeatedly written to you, and other Friends, he has not received a line in reply. He hopes soon however to refresh the memory of them, by his return to America, 79where he flatters himself he shall be kindly and cordially received notwithstanding their failure in literary testimonies of remembrance.

It is with no small regret that I see the day speedily hastning, which is again to seperate me from this Branch of my family, but I do not consult my own pleasure or satisfaction which must necessaryly suffer a diminution; but the future benifit and prospects of a Youth just Launching into the world. An American breize will be more likely to set him forward on his Voyage with less danger to his passage than the European gales, which too often wreck the adventurous Passenger, and always hazard his safety.

But to quit Allegory, it is in complience with his own requests, that both his Parents have consented to his return. A Year spent at Harvard with diligent application may qualify him to commence the study of the Law, and prepare him for a usefull Citizen in his native Country. You and the rest of our Friends I hope will aid him, by your advice and counsel, and from his present disposition and inclinations, I think he will not willingly give them any cause of displeasure.

You may posibly think it much out of season, if I should now congratulate you upon your return to your native Country, but I never before could do it, with such a firm persuasion of the utility of it, or paint to myself the amaizing difference which subsists between those Countries which have passt the Zenith of their glory, saped by Luxury, and undermined by the rage for pleasure, and a Young a flourishing a free, and I may add, a virtuous Country uncontrouled by a Royal Mandate, unshackled by a military police, unfearfull of the thundring anathamas of Ecclesiastic power, where every individual possest of industery and probity, has a sure reward for his Labour, uninfested with thousands of useless virmin, whom Luxery supports upon the Bread of Idleness, a Country where Virtue is still revered; and modesty still Cloaths itself in crimson. But you have lived too long in Europe to require any description from my pen, and I dare say have too often contrasted the difference not to wish a long long youth to America.

Do you expect from my pen a detail of politicks? I can only tell you, that neither England or Spain will enter into any treaty here; Prussia is the only power with whom a final treaty is closed. Other Courts move so slowly that no buisness is yet concluded with them. We hear daily and bitter complaints of the British temper and disposition towards America, but it is not the Mercantile Clamour of a people which designates the sense of the Cabinet. We suffer for want of a Minister there. You know it is the policy of ....1 to prevent an 80exchange of ministers with the British Court, but the invitation from St. James to Congress to send a minister and the late appointment of Mr. Temple as consul General,2 are proofs that they are not so indifferent with regard to a connection with America as Refugees and others pretend. You are too well acquainted with Courts not to know, that you must look behind the scenes to discover the real Characters of the actors, and their naturel appearence, whilst the World see no further than the Stage, without once conceiving that all Courts are James'es.

The ministers have received Authentic accounts that an American vessel has been Captured by one of the Emperor of Morocas Corssairs. He has not sufferd the Men to be enslaved, as those which are taken from other Nations are, but has informed the Ministers that he will release them as soon as Congress will send a person to treat with him, and that he is ready to enter into an alliance with America upon the same footing with other Nations, which you know is with Cash in hand, but as the Ministers here have no Authority upon that score, they are much perplexed what course to take.3 Some are for making war upon these people as pirates, but England France and Holland treat and pay, would it not be folly and madness in America to Wage War? Mr. A's dutch loan has succeeded so well that there is cash enough to treat with, provided Congress think proper. The words which were once represented as so reprehensible, viz. “I will go to Holland and see if I cannot make America less dependant upon France,” have been literally accomplishd, in more instances than one, for not a single stiver is to be had any where but in Holland, even the interest due to this Court is drawn from thence.4 But what does our Country design. Interest is a canker worm which will knaw to the vitals, and to borrow abroad even for the payment of interest they will find very bad policy.

On Monday last I dined with the Dr. Franklin 5 who has always been vastly social and civil to me. He looks in good Health, but is much afflicted with his disorder which prevents his riding or walking. He tells me that he is fully determined to go out to America in the spring, but I think whatever his inclination may be, his infirmities will prevent him. Mr. Jefferson too has been sick these four months. Mr. A is very happy in him. As to Col. Humphries he looks Built for duration.

Pray make my affectionate Regards to all your family and tell me how they do. I cannot in future suffer either Courts or Writs to Rival me in your Regards, nor will I give place to any female but a wife. 81Be not alarmed at the word, Since you will find the reality a very necessary ingredient in your future portion of happiness. At least that is the opinion of one who has had twenty Years experience in the Connubial State. A greater felicity than a happy union cannot therefore be wished you by your affectionate Friend

Abigail Adams

Be so good as to present my Respects to Judge Sergent and family. Emelia joins in affectionate Remembrance to you.

RC (MB); endorsed: “Mrs. Adams March 20th. 1785.” Dft (Adams Papers); notation in JQA's hand: “To J. Thaxter. May 1785”; originally filmed under May 1785, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 364.


AA probably intended Vergennes, the French foreign minister. Many French and British merchants were also cool toward Britain exchanging ministers with the United States.


John Temple was appointed the first British consul general in the United States on 5 Feb., presented his commission to John Jay on 24 Nov., and was formally accepted by Congress on 2 Dec. 1785 ( JCC , 29:886, 897–898).


JA discusses this issue at length in his Diary for 19 and 20 March ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:173–175).


JA had negotiated the most recent Dutch loan on 9 March 1784 (same, 3:168, note 1). For the quotation, see AA to Cotton Tufts, 3 Jan., note 8, above.


Both AA2 and JQA place the most recent Adams visit to Franklin's for dinner on Thursday, 17 March, and give details of that occasion. The Adamses had entertained several guests on Monday, 14 March, but the ailing Franklin probably did not attend (AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 1:56–57; JQA, Diary , 1:235–237).

Cotton Tufts to Abigail Adams, 11 April 1785 Tufts, Cotton AA Cotton Tufts to Abigail Adams, 11 April 1785 Tufts, Cotton Adams, Abigail
Cotton Tufts to Abigail Adams
Dear Cousin 11 April 1785 1

I have not received any Letter either from Mr. Adams or from you since Yours, just after your Arrival at Passy.2 We are solicitous to hear, from You—and I flatter myself that We shall for the future have more regular Intelligence. We have had much to do in the Electioneering Way. So far as we can judge from Accounts from different Parts of the Country, Mr. Bowdoin will be elected Governor. Am doubtful whether the Lt. Governor is elected by the People. Had Your nearest Friend been here, No Struggle would have arisen who should have been the first Magistrate. I think there would have been a Unanimity. Mr. Hancock and his Adherents struggled hard to introduce Mr. Cushing.3

Bror. Cranch and Sister, Betsey and Lucy are all well. Mr. Palmer is reduced to a deplorable Scituation as to Estate. German Town is advertised for sale 4 and he still possesses his State for planning. His Daughter Betsy is I fear in a Hectic State.5 I had no expectation of writing a Line to you, But Mr. Smith presenting to me this Letter6 82and informing me that Col. Norton who will probably be the Bearer of this, will not go on Board untill half an hour hence I could not resist the Impuls of writing. Love to Cousins. More hereafter. Your Affectionate Frd. & Kinsman

Cotton Tufts

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. Adams at the Honble. John Adams Esqr. Boston favd. by Capt. Grant with A Box”; marked: “Postage 12d”; endorsed: “Mrs Fitchs Letter.”

Tufts wrote this letter on the blank third sheet of Mary Fitch's brief letter to AA, dated “Kingston Jamaica Jan. 11th. 1785” (Adams Papers). Fitch sent her letter with “a small Box, which contains three Potts of our Country preserves and two Bottles of Cayan Pepper,” to AA in Massachusetts as a token of her appreciation for the “polite Attention” which JA and JQA had paid to her and her husband, Eliphalet Fitch, one of JA's Boylston relations, in Europe in 1783 (see JA to JQA, 12 June 1783, above; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:134; JQA, Diary , 1:175, 204). Isaac Smith Sr. gave the letter and box to Cotton Tufts, who wrote the following postscript to Fitch's text: “April 11. 1785. I have broke open this Letter and finding that it communicates sweet Things, which as You cannot reep the Advantage of them, personally, consulting Your Disposition I shall take the Liberty to give Your Friends a Taste of them.” Then, after adding the text printed here, Tufts entrusted the letter to Col. Beriah Norton. See Tufts to AA, 19 April, below.


Dated from Tuft's postscript to Mary Fitch's letter of 11 Jan. to AA; see the descriptive note.


Of 8 Sept. 1784, above.


John Hancock abruptly resigned the governorship on 29 Jan., in a winter of increasing economic distress, political controversy, and social discord. He was succeeded by his protégé, Lt. Gov. Thomas Cushing, but Cushing was defeated by James Bowdoin in the spring, and the Hancock forces were out of office until the spring of 1787. See Tufts to JA, 11 March (Adams Papers); William M. Fowler Jr., The Baron of Beacon Hill, A Biography of John Hancock, Boston, 1980, p. 255–261.


The bracketed text here and below was lost by the cutting away of the seal; for the inserted text, see Mary Cranch to AA, 25 April, below.


Whatever medical problem she had in 1785, Elizabeth Palmer, daughter of Gen. Joseph Palmer, survived it to marry Joseph Cranch in 1790.


Mary Fitch to AA, 11 Jan. (Adams Papers); see the descriptive note.