Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 6 October 1785 JQA AA


John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 6 October 1785 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abigail
John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams
Dear Madam Haverhill Octr. 6th. 1785

I am afraid my dear Mamma, will accuse me again of neglect for not having written to her, since I left her, before now; several Circumstances have concurred to prevent me; and among the rest, the want of an opportunity to convey any Letters; the stagnation of commerce, has of late been so great; that no vessel since my arrival, at Boston has sailed from thence to any port in Great Britain, and that by which I hope you will receive this, was advertised to sail by the 10th, of last month. It has been waiting ever since that time, without freight; nor do I think it probable she will sail less than ten days or a fort'night.

I now have the Satisfaction of informing you that I am at length settled here, for some months, and shall be able to pursue my studies with more steadiness, than I ever could before. I hope to be able by the next spring to enter College, in the class where my Cousin Cranch is. I have been advised to enter then, rather than wait till 409Commencement, in order to have the benefit of two Courses of lectures on natural Philosophy, which are delivered by Professor Williams.1 If I do not mistake, it is the same Course repeated annually, but upon so important a subject, it is certainly advantageous to hear the same things twice. I feel very happy, that I have now nothing to draw my attention from my studies: and I could not have found a more agreeable place to follow them in. I shall at present particularly attend to the greek Language, the point in which I am the most deficient: though I hope, by the time I enter the University to be able to stand the test also, on that score: of the rest I am not so anxious.

I arrived here this day week, and last Monday, My uncle, and aunt, left us for about a fortnight, to pay a visit to their friends in Boston, Braintree and so on. Your house too they would wish to visit; but it is now deprived of all its attractions. While I was at Braintree, I went there two or three times, and at the first time, I felt the strangest sensations, of pleasure and pain mingled together, that I ever knew of. The first sight of it, brought to my mind the years I had past in it, and many little circumstances which I had entirely forgot but which then were peculiarly pleasing. When I entered in it, my feelings were very different. Bereft of its former inhabitants, it appeared to me, in a gloomy, unpleasant light. Every time I go into it, the involuntary sigh, rises in my breast, and ever must untill the return of those, who will renew its attractions. I believe I have heard you say, you don't want Sentiment in your Letters from America, but surely on this occasion it is excusable in me. And I know not that I am apt to be over-Sentimental.

We receiv'd about 3 weeks ago, your favours by Captn. Dashwood;2 and the account of your presentation,3 you will find acknowledged in My aunt Cranch's Letters. My Sister will receive my thanks for hers by this or the next vessel. I have not as yet had reason to complain of her punctuality; nor she I hope of mine.

Braintree has lately lost another of its Belles. Last Saturday Se'ennight, Miss Lucy Apthorp, was married in the Chapel at Boston, to Mr. Nash, the 1st. or 2d. Lieutenant on board the Mercury, whose Captain4 wrote some very impudent Letters to the governor of this State. The vessel arrived if I mistake not, sometime in last July. While the frigate was in Boston Harbour; Mr. Nash became acquainted with Mr. Apthorp's family. And was so expiditious that he proposed himself before, he sailed: he had a conditional promise of the parents Consent: and return'd to Hallifax, proposing to be at Boston, next Winter; but having obtained from Charles Apthorp,5 who had served several 410years in the same ship with him, a proper Letter of recommendation, he immediately came back, and is in a few days going with his bride again to Hallifax. It was observed that the father was much better pleased with the present match, than with a former one:6 I am sure in that case his opinion is different from that of all the rest of the world; for this young Gentleman, has neither a fortune nor a prospect for one; as I am inform'd. His father is purser on board one of the king of G.B.'s ships. So that not even the favourite idea of family, could be much gratified. This family pride is surely much more ridiculous here than in any part of Europe. I heard an anecdote the other day, which made me laugh; Miss B. de Blois, has refused several very handsome offers, because the gentlemen were not of families sufficiently respectable; to mix with hers. But when her brother sometime since, paid his addresses to another Miss Apthorp, grand Daughter to Sheriff Greenleaf, and his consent was requested, for the marriage, he said, “he knew nothing against the gentleman personally; but he could not think of a connection, between that family and his own:” so that we have our ladder from the mud, to the skies, as well as all the European Nations.7

I do not know of any news to tell you. The Papers, which you probably see frequently in London; will give you every thing of a public Nature. Of the private kind, your Letters from your other friends, and mine to my Sister, will I hope give you sufficient accounts. I have not yet form'd many acquaintances in this place. I do not feel inclined to go much into Company, and my studies will take up so much of my time that I shall have but little to spare. Judge Serjeant, is riding the Circuits, so that I have not seen him yet. I have been several times to Mr. White's House: Mrs. White enquired much about you: Miss Peggy is perfectly recovered from her illness, and is as gay, as any young Lady I have seen here (and this is saying a great deal.)

Tommy, is very well. I have been endeavouring to perswade him to write you, but cannot prevail on him. He says he knows not what to write, except that he is well, and that I can as well do for him. Cousin Betsey Smith,8 and the Children, are also pretty well.

Your Dutiful Son.

J. Q. Adams

P.S.9 Will you please to present my Duty to my dear father. I will write to him if I can by this opportunity. I have already put into the bag two Letters to my Sister.10


RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “J Q Adams oc 12 1786.” The reason for AA's docketing error is not known.


JQA describes Prof. Samuel Williams and his lectures in frequent detail in his Diary after his admission to Harvard in March 1786 ( Diary , 2:1–232 passim).


AA2 to Mary Cranch, 22 June, and to Lucy Cranch, 23 June; AA to Mary Cranch, 24 June; AA to JQA, 26 June; JA to JQA, 26 June; and probably AA to Isaac Smith Sr., 30 June, all above.


At Court, on 24 June; see AA to Mary Cranch, 24 June, above.


Capt. Henry Edwin Stanhope. On his troubles with a Boston mob and his subsequent angry exchange of letters with Gov. James Bowdoin, see AA to Thomas Jefferson, 19 Oct., and note 5, below.


Charles Ward Apthorp, Lucy Apthorp Nash's brother, was a captain in the British Navy (John Wentworth, The Wentworth Genealogy, 2 vols., Boston, 1870, 1:300, 305, 306).


See JQA to AA2, 19 Sept., and note 12, above.


Miss De Blois was probably Elizabeth (Betsey) De Blois, daughter of the loyalist merchant Gilbert De Blois and Ann Coffin De Blois. She was briefly courted by Gen. Benedict Arnold in 1777, and her mother prevented her from marrying Martin Brimmer in the same year. She never married. Elizabeth had several brothers, both older and younger, who could have courted a Miss Apthorp, who was almost certainly Hannah, age seventeen, the eldest daughter of John Apthorp and Hannah Greenleaf Apthorp. Orphaned at an early age, Hannah lived with her aged grandfather, Stephen Greenleaf of Boston, the last sheriff of Suffolk County under the British Crown. Greenleaf, like both the Apthorps and most of the De Bloises, was a loyalist. Hannah Apthorp married her cousin, the architect Charles Bulfinch, in 1788. Her sister Frances, too young to fit this anecdote, married Charles Vaughan a few years later. See NEHGR , 67:11 (Jan. 1913); Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 7:182–190; James E. Greenleaf, Genealogy of the Greenleaf Family, Boston, 1896, p. 209; Ellen S. Bulfinch, The Life and Letters of Charles Bulfinch, Boston, 1896, p. 69–72, 80.


This was Elizabeth Smith, eldest daughter of AA's brother, William; JQA's other cousin Betsy Smith, the youngest daughter of AA's uncle, Isaac Smith Sr., lived in Boston (Elizabeth Shaw to AA, 25 April, note 2, above). Elizabeth Shaw's young children were William Smith Shaw and Elizabeth Quincy Shaw.


Here JQA struck out an entire sentence so thoroughly that it cannot be read.


The next extant letter from JQA to JA is that of 2 April 1786 (Adams Papers). His two letters to AA2 were those of 8 and 19 Sept., both above.

Cotton Tufts to John Adams, 6 October 1785 Tufts, Cotton JA


Cotton Tufts to John Adams, 6 October 1785 Tufts, Cotton Adams, John
Cotton Tufts to John Adams
No. 1 My Dear Sr Weymouth Octobr. 6. 1785

On the 6th. Ultimo I drew on You for £100 sterling in Favour of Mr. Samuel Eliot, payable at 30 Days Sight of whom I received 5 Per Cent above Par. The Exchange has been somewhat higher, up to 7 Per Cent, but has fallen, and it is thought will be still lower. Part of the Money received I have let out for a few Months on private Security that I may if Occasion should call, have wherewith to answer any particular Demands that may arise. The Remainder I have vested in Government Securities to the amount of £300 Nominal Value.


Yours of March the 5th. and April 17.1 I have received, the latter by your Son, who is now with Mr. Shaw. The President2 advised Him to pursue his Studies especially in Latin and Greek untill April next and then to offer himself. We thought it would be best for your Son to be well skilled in the Languages, previous to his Admission (in other Respects he is fully qualified) and We have taken our Measures accordingly. I am exceedingly pleased with his Modest Behaviour, not less with his Judgment and Learning which I think are such as to afford You a most pleasing Prospect. The Trust You have committed to me I feel the Weight and Importance of, it shall however be my Endeavour to execute it with Fidelity.

Master Charles is now at the University, and conducts with Propriety. On his Entrance, I informed him of the Necessity of Diligence, a wise Choice of Company and of Oeconomy—that with respect to his running Expences, He must from Time to Time advise with his Uncle Cranch as to the Sum wanted, that I should in general make it a Rule not to advance Money without his first approving of the Quantum &c. As Mr. Cranch has a Son now at College and is more immediately acquainted with the necessary Charges, I conceived that he must be a better Judge than myself, that such a Rule might be useful, and hope it will meet with your Approbation.

I wrote to You June 4th.3 and Aug. 10, in the Latter I enclosed my Accountt to July the 21. last and some News Papers. Since then We are assured of Your appearing at the Court of Gt. Britain. I know not the present Temper of that Court but I cannot conceive that the British Ministry can long persue any System, apprehending that the Nation is become a Prey to Parties and Party Men and that this in some Degree unavoidable while a System of Venality and Corruption prevails and a continued Load of Debt subsists, giving Occasion to all to complain and being such as to leave no Ray of Hope for the Discharge of it. Such a Scituation will afford ample Matter for Fermentation and there will not be wanting active Spirits to set it in motion. Their Passion for Commerce is great. They may feel the Effects of their injudicious Restrictions on American Produce and Commerce. As soon as these are felt, the Tide will turn, and I flatter myself that You will succeed. But a want of Vigor, Union, and a fained Adherence to National Faith on our Side will perhaps embarrass You. I much disrelish our meddling with sundry some matters and our Negligence in taking up some others. But I have not Time to dwell on this Subject now; and shall only add that the Sentiments disclosed in your last with respect to the 4th. Article of Treaty4 will remain with 413me as all others that You may communicate that You would not be willing should be known. The same Caution I wish some others had observed. A Letter You wrote to Dr. G——n5 a Year or two past, was communicated to one and another at a Time, when a popular Rage against the Tories prevailed and Your Authority quoted in favour of Indulgence to them, about the same Time yours and Dr. Franklins to Congress on the same Subject were published. Congress refuted this and I presume have taken Care to prevent the like for the future. The Bona fide Debts I think ought to be punctually paid. I have no Idea of severing the Interest from the Principal, and if the Treaty made the Debt valid and demandable, it must make the Interest also unless specially excepted. I forgot whether I informed You that by an Act or Resolve of the General Court Judgment may be recovered for the Principal, and Execution go out accordingly, but not for the Interest untill Congress shall have signified their Explan Sense of the 4th. Article (for which Application has been made to them). Our General Court will meet again the 6 of this Month and will be chiefly taken up in settling the Valuation. I expect not to attend but a small part of the Sessions. The low state in which Mrs. Tufts has lain for some Months past has detained me much at home and will at least for some Time to come. Brother Cranch will inform You of what goes on at Court. Adieu My Dear Friend my best Wishes attend You & Mrs. Adams & Daughter to whom I beg to be remembered and Am Yours

Cotton Tufts

RC (Adams Papers).


Evidently an error for JA to Tufts, 24 April, above, which JQA delivered to Tufts in August.


Of Harvard, Joseph Willard.


Not found.


See JA to Tufts, 24 April, above.


This is the letter containing quite candid criticisms of Benjamin Franklin that JA wrote to Dr. William Gordon, 10 Sept. 1783. No Letterbook copy exists and the recipient's copy has not been found, but the text survives, evidently quoted in full, in Gordon to Elbridge Gerry, 24 Dec. 1783 (MHS, Procs. , 63 [1929–1930]:501–502). “Yours and Dr. Franklins [letter] to Congress,” below, is JA, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay to the president of Congress, 10 Sept. 1783 (in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 6:687–691). In an 8 April 1785 letter to JA (Adams Papers; printed in MHS, Procs. , 63:512–514), Dr. Gordon, commenting on the long period in which he had not heard from JA, wrote: “You best know, whether there is any truth in my suspicion, that the free use I made of your liberal sentiments respecting the Tories to counteract the narrow and pernicious politics of some individuals, has induced them to caution you against corresponding with me, especially in that free and open manner.”


Left blank in MS. The Massachusetts legislature reconvened on 19 October (Mass., Acts and Laws , 1784–1785, p. 725).