Adams Family Correspondence, volume 6

Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 7 October 1785 AA Jefferson, Thomas


Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 7 October 1785 Adams, Abigail Jefferson, Thomas
Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson
Dear sir London October 7th. 1785

Your very polite favour1 was handed me by Col. Franks. I am much obliged to you for the execution of the several commissions I troubled you with. Be assured sir that I felt myself Honourd by your commands, tho I have only in part executed them, for I could not find at any store table Cloths of the dimensions you directed. The width is as you wisht, but they assure me that four yds and three quarters are the largest size ever used here, which will cover a table for 18 persons. To these Cloths there are only 18 Napkins, and to the smaller size only twelve. I was the more ready to credit what they said, knowing that I had been obliged to have a set of tables made on purpose for me, in order to dine 16 or 18 persons. These rooms in general are not calculated to hold more and it is only upon extraordinary occasions that you meet with that number at the tables here. The Marquis of Carmarthan who occasionally dines the Foreign Ministers, and has a House found him by his Majesty, cannot entertain more than 15 at once, and upon their Majesties Birth days, he is obliged to dine his company at his Fathers the Duke of Leeds. The person where I bought the Cloth offerd to have any size made, that I wisht for, and agreed to take eight pounds ten shillings for 20 Napkins and a cloth 5 yds long. I gave seven for this which I send, and shall wait your further directions. I took the precaution of having them made and marked to secure them against the custom House, and hope they will meet your approbation. I think them finer than the pattern, but it is difficult judging by so small a scrap.2 I have also bought you two pair of Nut crackers for which I gave four shillings, we find them so convenient that I thought they would be equally so to you. There is the article of Irish linen3 which is much superiour here to any that is to be had in France, and cheeper I think. If you have occasion for any you will be so good as to let me know. It cannot easily pass without being made, but that could be easily done, only by sending a measure. At the rate of 3 shilling & six pence pr yd by the peice, the best is to be had. As we are still in your debt, the remainder of the money shall be remitted you or expended here as you direct. Mr. Adams supposed there might be something of a balance due to him in the settlement of a private account with Mr. Barclay, which he has orderd paid to you. He will also pay the money here for the insurence 415of Mr. Hudons Life,4 by which means what ever remains due to you can be easily settled.

Haveing finishd the article of Buisness, I am totally foild at that of Compliment. Sure the air of France, conspired with the Native politeness and Complasance of the writer to usher into the World such an assemblage of fine things. I shall value the warrior Deity the more for having been your choise, and he cannot fail being in taste in a Nation which has given us such proofs of their Hostility; forgiveness of injuries is no part of their Character, and scarcly a day passes without a Boxing match; even in this square which is calld the polite and Court end of the city. My feeling have been repeatedly shock'd to see Lads not more than ten years old striped and fighting untill the Blood flow'd from every part, enclosed by a circle who were claping and applauding the conquerer, stimulating them to continue the fight, and forceing every person from the circle who attempted to prevent it. Bred up with such tempers and principals, who can wonder at the licentiousness of their Manners, and the abuse of their pens. Their arrows do not wound, they rebound and fall harmless to the ground. But amidst their boasted freedom of the press, one must bribe Newspapers to get a paragraph inserted in favour of America, or her Friends. Our Country has no money to spair for such purposes; and must rest upon her own virtue and magninimity. So we may too late convince this Nation that the treasure which they knew not how to value, has irrecoverably past into the possession of those who were possesst of more policy and wisdom.

I wish I might flatter myself with the hope of seeing you here this winter. You would find a most cordial welcome from your American Friends, as well as from some very distinguished literary Characters of this Nation.

My best regards to Miss Jefferson to Col. Humphries to Mr. Short, or any other Friends or acquaintance who may inquire after Your Friend and humble servant

A Adams

My daughter presents her respectfull regards to you and compliments to the rest of the Gentleman.

RC (DLC: Jefferson Papers); addressed in an unknown hand: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esquire Paris.” The upper right corners of both leaves are torn off, resulting in the loss of several words, and a worn fold and worn edge have destroyed a few characters.


Of 25 Sept., above.


The sample that Jefferson enclosed in his letter of 25 Sept., above. AA2 records AA's purchase for Jefferson on 4 Oct., as “a table-416cloth five yards long, two and a half wide, with eighteen napkins, seven pounds sterling” ( Jour. and Corr. , [3]:189).


That is, shirt linen; see Jefferson to AA, 11 Oct., below.


In July, Jefferson had asked JA to arrange for a life insurance policy on Jean Antoine Houdon, who was about to depart for Virginia to execute a statue of George Washington. After several inquiries in England and frequent correspondence with Jefferson on the subject, JA finally arranged this policy for £670, paying a premium of £32 11s. on 12 Oct., a few days after Houdon actually arrived at Mt. Vernon. See AA to Jefferson, 19 Oct., below, and Jefferson, Papers , 8:illustration facing 87, 283, 302, 340, 577, 663–664.

Royall Tyler to Abigail Adams, 7 October 1785 Tyler, Royall AA


Royall Tyler to Abigail Adams, 7 October 1785 Tyler, Royall Adams, Abigail
Royall Tyler to Abigail Adams
Madam post 7 Oct. 1785 1

I am equally pleased with your Letter of the Ninth of May2 and the very Delicate Friendly Motives which Induced you to Write it. Whilst I Continue to regard your Amiable Daughter, the Esteem of her Parents, independent of their Merit, will be ever dear to me: and whilst the human Mind is ever most Anxious for what it holds most Dear, I shall have my “Apprehensions” and feel gratefull toward those who are kind enou to quiet them.

You Prophecied truly respecting the British Newspaper Scurrilities: I do not know how they may affect you, whether you either Despair or Disregard them. But for myself I think I should be but little moved by the Aspersions of a People, whose Characteristick, is, the most Billinsgate Latitude with the most Respectable Characters: whose National Representatives, in the same Publications, are Peculators, whose Ministers are Boys or Knaves, and whose King is an obstinate Numskull—Oh! Faugh—it is a very Vile Bird.

You mention some where in your Letters, that you prefer News to Sentiment, and that when you recieve Packets from America you always hury over the Sentimental and hasten to the Narrative.3 Now this is very Unfortunate For me, who am very apt to obtrude my Sentiments upon my Friends, who write unpremeditately and with the same unreserve as I Talk to those who share my highest Confidence. I will Confine myself to mere News in this Letter, and I Assure you that it is the only Restraint I ever Subjected myself to when writing to a Lady I so highly Respect and Esteem.

The Praises of your Son you Undoubtedly hear bruited from all your Correspondents. I have not been long enough Acquainted with him to Delineate his Character, and can only say, that the First impressions he made upon me were much in his Favour. He was present with me at the opening of the Supreme Judicial Court at Boston. As he was the only person, who set within the Bar, beside 417the Gentlemen of the Profession; he was naturally conspicuous. I dined in Company the same day with the Bench and Bar and was Inquired of by most of the Older Gentleman, whether the Young Person who was with me at Court was not a Son of Mr. Adams? as those Gentleman who had practiced with his Father declard they immediately concluded from his Countenance.

Mr. Pearsen, Precepter of Philipses Academy, is married to Miss Sally Bromfield; and was a few days since chosen by the Corporation of Harvard College, “Hollisian Professor of the Oriental Languages &c.”4 He will accordingly be presented to the Overseers, who will doubtless Confirm the Election. This appointment is Acceptable to the People at large, very pleasing to the Bromfield Family, and peculiarly so to Mrs. Pearson, as she very much Disliked Andover.

The Salary will be two hundred pounds pr: An: with some Perquisites.

I am but very Superficially acquainted with Commerce or Financiering, But from the little Insight I can obtain, I scarce think it prudent to Communicate the particular State of either in this Country, to you in Europe.

The Land Tax &c. is Collected with great Difficulty, whilst the Impost has driven many Vessels, with the most valuable Cargoes; from the Entrance of our Ports, to the other States. The Failure of the Merchants Traders &c. is so common at Boston that it has Ceased in great Measure to be Disreputable. Scarce a Week passes without one or more persons shutting their Doors against their Creditors; and no man will venture to Scandalize that Situation, which may be his own or his most Intimate Friends on the morrow. I could add to these assertions and observations, and prove them just by the most Incontestable Examples. But I may have err'd in Writing even thus generally upon Subjects of this Nature.

I shall however particularize Two persons of your Acquaintance who have lately faild.

The one is Mr. S: Barret commonly called Bishop B——. This happen'd upon the Seventh of this month. I have not obtained the particulars, only that his principal Creditors are English Merchants.

The other is Mr. S: A: Otis Father to Harry O: who studies the Law under Mr. Lowell. He failed about Six Weeks past to the great suprize of his Friends and the Publick. His Debts are owed chiefly in England, and it is said amount to Forty Thousand pounds Sterling. I have seen a List which may be depended upon that carries them, to Thirty Thousand pounds Lawfull money. This List only included 418the Large Demands. It is said, however, that he has charged upon his Books to the amount of Ten Thousand pounds Lawfull money more than sufficient to Discharge his Debts. He will, I dare say, think that he does well if he can Ballance his Accompts even with the World and begin anew. The United States are Indebted to him Eight Thousand Pounds being the Ballance of his C——s Accompts. Your Uncle has not sufferd by him as I can learn. His Brother at B[arnsta]ble, has Failed in Consequence of his Failure. But his Sister has secured herself, by attaching His Property in her possession. Her Patrimony was in his hands and it was by great good Fortune that she was not Involved in his Ruin. She shut her Shop for a few Weeks, But by a legal transfer of the Property attached, she is enabled to prosecute her Bussiness as Usual.5

Mr. Nash, who the Newspaper will Announce to you, is married to Miss Lucy Apthorp, is the same Gentleman who was the Bearer of Capt. Stanhopes Letters to his Excellency, our Govenour. The Young Couple sailed on the third of this month for Shelburn where they Intend spending the Winter.

Miss Betsey Apthorp it is said, is to be married with Mr. Pearse, son to a Mr. Pearse of Cape Ann, a person who has Accumulated a large Estate during the War.

The original of the Letter from Kentucky, in the Boston Magazine for September, is by Mr. Perkins and was wrote to your Cousin Betsey Cranch.

You will perceive in the Newspapers, I send Mr. Adams, an Extract of a Letter from London, giving an Account of Mr. Adams's Private Audience and Introduction to the King of G: Britain. This Extract was communicated by Governour Bowdoin at his Table and declared to be written by Mrs. Temple to himself, or her Mother, I could not determine which as I set at some Distance.

The match it is said is settled between Miss Temple and Mr. Winthrope, the Gentleman who Formerly courted Miss Derby.6

Mr. Adams's private Audience is a matter of much speculation. Congress have not Published an official Account, and the Members are not very Communicative as to this Event. I do not mean that they are peculiarly reserved in this Instance. But it is held Indelicate to Inquire of a member of Congress concerning any official Communications which they do not Chuse to Insert in the Publick Papers.

The People are some what Anxious to have Mr. Adams's Relation as they do not seem to Relish the British Insinuations, That he was 419put into a Deadly Freight by the Awfull Presence of the Royal Personage.

Boston Octr. 13. 1785

I wrote the above a few days since and endeavourd to Imagine myself in your Parlour at the Foot of Pens Hill, and all those questions which in a Cursory Chit Chat I supposed you might ask me I have answerd. I can not say it looks altogether pleasing on paper. I never subject my Correspondents to restrictions, but you will readily concieve what I mean. I Receved a letter from your Son Yesterday.7 He is well-pleased with his Situation and Expects to make Great Progress in his Studies. Your Sister Shaw is now at Bridgwater and will be at Braintree on Sunday next. Mr. Barret's Confinement was only Temporary and his affairs are Retrevable. Congress have made a Requisition for a large Sum of money from the States. The People are daily more Convinced of the Necessity of Extending the Powers of Congress and every day more averse to the measure. The Family at Germantown, are as healthy as Usual, as to pecuniary affairs, Involved and Deploraple. Easters8 Family is well. Fanny Nash, daughter to the Boatman, Dead. Young Mr. Palmer, is upon a Tour of Bussiness at the Eastward. I reside with them when in Boston. Our Family Consist at Present of Mrs. Clark and Son, Mr. Frazier and the Celebrated Dr. Moyes,9 who is now delivering a Course of Lectures upon Natural History. You are Sensible I Trust Madam that notwithstanding haste and Inaccuracy I am with Respect your Friend

R Tyler

RC (Adams Papers); docketed on the first page: “1795 Tyler.” Originally dated and filmed [ante 13 Oct.] (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 366). Some damage on the right-hand margin of the first page, with slight loss of text.


The supplied date is derived from Tyler's mention of the business failure of “S: Barret. . . . upon the Seventh of this month.”


Not found.


AA may have written this in her letter to Tyler of 9 May (not found); she apparently said much the same thing to JQA (see his letter to AA of 6 Oct., above).


Eliphalet Pearson, Harvard 1773, was the master of Phillips Academy in Andover from its founding in 1778. He married his second wife, Sarah Bromfield, on 29 Sept., and succeeded Stephen Sewall to the Hancock (not Hollis) Professorship of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages in 1786. See Claude M. Fuess, Andover: Symbol of New England, The Evolution of a Town, Andover, Mass., 1959, p. 211–219; Vital Records of Andover, Massachusetts, Topsfield, Mass., 1912, vol. 2, p. 265; Harvard Quinquennial Cat. , p. 23, 195.


Harrison Gray Otis read law with John Lowell from 1783 to 1786 (Samuel Eliot Morison, Harrison Gray Otis, 1765–1848, The Urbane Federalist, Boston, 1969, p. 39–42). Samuel Allyne Otis had been appointed a collector of clothing for the Continental Army in 1777 (same, p. 31). “Your uncle who has not sufferd” was AA's uncle Isaac Smith Sr., S. A. Otis' father-in-law. Joseph Otis was 420S. A. Otis' “Brother at Barnstable”; Hannah Otis was his sister (Mary Cranch to AA, 14 Aug., and notes 17 and 18, above; NEHGR , 2:291–292 [July 1848]).


Thomas Lindall Winthrop had probably courted Miss Derby in Salem, where he spent time in 1782–1783. See Lawrence Shaw Mayo, The Winthrop Family in America, Boston, 1948, p. 209, 212.


Not found.


Esther Field.


Dr. Henry Moyes, a blind “philosopher of Natural History” on a lecture tour from Great Britain, announced a course of lectures in Boston, to begin in mid-October. At this same time, Moyes and Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse organized the Massachusetts Humane Society, devoted to saving victims of shipwrecks and other drowning accidents. Mass. Centinel, 3 Sept., 12 Oct.; Brooke Hindle, The Pursuit of Science in Revolutionary America, 1735–1789, Chapel Hill, 1956, p. 284–286.