Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

1 Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 2 January 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw AA


Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 2 January 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Adams, Abigail
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams
Haverhill Janry. 2d 1786

Yes! My Dear Sister, Mr. and Mrs Allen are just gone from here, and carried away my Betsy Smith to tarry a few Days with them.1

After sleeping four years, he rose up like a Lion. He kept the Carpenters to work upon his House, till nine Clock at Night, and before the new painted and papered Rooms were really fit to go into, he harnessed two Horses, put them into a Sleigh, and set out on Friday the 9th. of December for Boston.—A Friday you will say was an unlucky Day in our American Calendar.2 And so it proved to Mr Allen, for by that time he had got to Woburn the Snow had left him, and to her Friends he appeared almost as ridiculous as old Trunian, when he set out upon a like Expedition,3 for they had no Idea of there being any Snow with us.

But small Things will never discourage those who are acting wisely, and are performing what they esteem their Duty in the fullfilling of their Engagments—And it did not dishearten Mr Allen—for upon Sabbath Evening 11th instant, between the Hours of 7. and 8 their marriage Vows were plighted.—The Ceremony was performed by our Friend Mr J. Eliot, at her Brother Austins. Dr Welsh and Lady, Uncle Smiths Family, and some of Mr Austins Relations formed a Circle of about twenty.4 Mrs Austin made forty weight of excellant Plumb-Cake, and which I was favoured with a nice Piece. But I have distributed it about in so many Parcels for the young Folks to sleep upon, that they might have a sweet peep into Futurity, that I have not even a Crum left to enrich my Letter with, but I dare say the News will be a sweet Morsel to you, who have felt so interested for the Honour, and the Happiness of our Cousin.

A Monday Mr Allen hired a Chaise at Charlestown, tied on the superfluous Horse at the side of the other, and arrived safe at their 2own House in Bradford eleven Clock in the Evening. I sent for them to keep Thansgiving with me, but it was cold and difficult geting over the River, and Mr Peabody5 was there and preached for him, so they both chose to keep Thansgiving at Home. And a joyful one it was to her.

Mr Shaw, and I, went over to pay our Respects to them the 16th, and found them quite in the Family Way. Her Furniture was decent and very pretty. Mr Allen appeared very good and kind, and much more tranquil, and easy than I had seen him for some time past. Mrs Allen full of Joy, and Gratitude—And can we my Sister wonder at it.—To be bereaved of our Parents, and to have the place of our nativity laid in Ashes—and to be wholly dependant upon our Sisters, though they may be ever so kind, is not a Situation to be desired.6 Now she is blessed with a Friend—with a Protector. One who can rejoice with her in Prosperity—and one to whom she can look up, and claim Assistance—“the Temple of his Arms,”7 even in the most distressing Scenes of Life.

You will excuse my giving you so circumstantial an Account of this Affair, as I know she is a Person you have a great regard for, and have always enquired particularly about her.

Jan. 8th

I have to acknowledge the Receipt of a kind Letter from you dated .8 By that, I find that your Station is not in every respect agreeable to you. There is hardly anything more humiliating, and mortifying than to be placed in an Office, knowing, and feeling the importance of it, and not be furnished with the Means to maintain its Honour, and Dignity.9

As to the News Paper Squibs, I know you rise above them—and stand collected in a consciousness of your own Integrity, though Malice, Pride, and Envy throw these envenomed Darts. Exalted Stations are a Mark for the publick Eye to shoot at—and Addison says, that Censure is a Tax, which a man pays the Publick for being eminent.10

I am both grieved, and disappointed that my Cousin Charles cannot spend the Vacation here. I wrote to him to come home in the Sleigh, with White and Walker11 if it was possible and told him he could not be more welcome at Grosvenor Square, than he would be to our House, though I will allow your feelings might be somewhat keener, were you really to see him there.

I do not doubt but he can be happy at Braintree, yet while his 3Brothers are here, he has not got that feeling Heart I have thought him possessed of, if he does not find himself drawn hither, by the bands of Relationship, and the still stronger Cords of Love.

It has been suggested, that he might probably hinder his Brother JQA from pursuing his Studies. They need not have feared that, for he is too much engaged to suffer any thing but Sickness or Death to impede his Course.

I intend to write to the Doctor,12 and I hope Mr Shaw, and I shall have the pleasure of seeing the three dear Brothers together again. They are all well—Mr JQA is not quite so fleshy13 as when he first arrived, he can afford to spare a little Flesh. Mr Shaw received the Treatise upon Education,14 and desires his most respectful regards may be accepted by Dr Adams for his kind remembrance. My Letter must go tonight, Lyde sails in a Day or two. May this Letter find you, and Yours in the enjoyment of Health—and may every revolving Year be crowned with Blessings, ever prays your affectionate Sister

Eliza Shaw

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs: A. Adams. Grosvenor Square. London.”; endorsed by AA2: “Mrs Shaw jany 2d 1786”; text lost where the seal was removed has been supplied from the Dft (DLC: Shaw Family Papers).


Elizabeth (Betsy) Smith (1771–1854), daughter of AA's brother William Smith Jr., had been staying with her aunt Elizabeth Shaw.


The editors have not determined the meaning of this reference.


Como. Hawser Trunnion, a character in Tobias Smollett's The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, who, though retired, maintained a nautical lifestyle while living on land and navigated the route to his wedding by consulting a compass (E. Cobham Brewer, The Reader's Handbook, rev. edn., London, 1902).


Present for the long-awaited marriage of the Rev. Jonathan Allen to Elizabeth Kent, AA's first cousin, were the bride's sisters Anna Kent Austin and Abigail Kent Welsh; their husbands, Nathaniel Austin and Dr. Thomas Welsh; Rev. John Eliot, pastor of the New North Church; and Isaac Smith Sr., the bride's uncle. Smith's family probably included his wife Elizabeth Storer, and their children, William, Elizabeth, and Mary (Mrs. Samuel Alleyne Otis). Isaac Smith Jr., a minister, was in Haverhill, filling in for Rev. John Shaw, who preached for Rev. Allen in Bradford (Thomas Bellows Wyman, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown, 1629–1818, 2 vols., Boston, 1879, 2:571; JQA, Diary , 1:369).


Probably the Rev. Stephen Peabody of Atkinson, N.H. His wife, Mary Haseltine, was originally from Bradford, Mass. ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 17:210).


Ebenezer Kent died in 1776 and his wife Anna Smith died in 1781. The Kents lost their home and other property in the burning of Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill, 17–18 June 1775 (Isaac Smith Sr. to JA, 24 June 1775, vol. 1:227, 230).


Edward Moore, “Fable VIII. The Lawyer, and Justice,” Poems, Fables, and Plays, London, 1756, line 28.


Blank in MS. AA's last two letters to Elizabeth Smith Shaw are dated ca. 15 Aug. and 15 Sept. 1785 (vol. 6:280, 361).


AA had written to JQA about the criticism in the English newspapers of the lack of U.S. monetary support for JA's ministerial position (11, 23 Aug. 1785, vol. 6:261, 296). JQA was living and studying at the Shaw's when he received the letters.


The quotation “Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent” is from Jonathan Swift's Thoughts on Various Subjects, though it was widely quoted by 4others, including Joseph Addison.


Leonard White and Samuel Walker, CA's roommate at Harvard College (JQA, Diary , 1:316).


Cotton Tufts.


“Fat” in Dft.


Not identified, but enclosed in AA to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 15 Sept. 1785 (vol. 6:362).

Elizabeth Storer Smith to Abigail Adams, 3 January 1786 Smith, Elizabeth Storer Storer, Elizabeth AA


Elizabeth Storer Smith to Abigail Adams, 3 January 1786 Smith, Elizabeth Storer Storer, Elizabeth Adams, Abigail
Elizabeth Storer Smith to Abigail Adams
Janury 3d 1786

Notwithstanding the unconquerable aversion I ever had to writing I cannot forbear taking up my Pen, to Congratulate my dear Neice on the new year, and to thank her for her favour by the Welcome hand of my Nephew,1 who is return'd I hope uncorupted, I do not wonder you wisht to keep him with you, I think he is very agreable. Your Journal and Letters to your friends have ever afforded me great Pleasure, and I look on my self under greater Obligation as your Correspondence is so large.

I am glad to find you still retain such an affection to your Native Place, notwithstanding the number of gay Senes which sorounde you, I make no doubt it would be pleasing to you, as well as to all your Conections, to have you with Mr and Miss A return to us again. I have slept but three nights at Brantree since my dear friend absence, it realy looks so Melancholy, I cannot take that pleasure I used to when you was their, I hope you will enliven it again with your Company, the pleasure we feel at seeing our Friends return, in a great measure make up for the pain of separation.

I wish it was in my power to write any thing entertaining, but as I seldom go abroad in Winter, I know but little besides what passes in my one familey, and there is no Matches going on the too Old Bacheldors2 still continue so.

Mrs Gill has latly had a letter from Mrs Hollowell informing her Capt H. and she had been a Journey and there health is much better, I am sorry their is any impedient in the way to your visiting Mrs H. as I know you would both be happy in each others acquaintance.3

Please to remember my love to Miss Hobart, I am much obliged to her for enquiering after me, she is Sister to Mrs Vasal and formaly lived with Madam Steel one of my most agreable Neighbours, I should be glad to see her and Mr Vasal's familey in Boston again.4

So our friend Thomas B.5 begins to think he shall not live here always, as he has so good an opinion of your Uncle I wish he would leave him a handsome legasy, I think he ought to for the care he took of his intrest when he was out of town.


How does my good friend Mrs Rogers has she recovered her health, give my love to her, I sinserely sympathize with her in the death of her amiable Mama:6 O how many kind friends have we been calld to part with since you left us, and whose turn it may be next God only knows, but may we all be prepared for this Change and meet again in the World above to part no more is the sinsere wish of Your Affectonate Aunt

Elizabeth Smith

PS. Mr and Mrs Otis are well and send their love to you and Mr and miss Adams. My love to Cousin Nabby I sinserely wish her happy.

RC (Adams Papers).


AA's letter of 29 Aug. 1785 was one of those carried by Charles Storer, when he returned to America in November (vol. 6:314, 458).


Undoubtedly her two sons, Isaac Jr., 36, and William, 30.


AA thought she should restrict her visits to loyalist refugees to avoid complicating JA's position as minister to Great Britain. Rebecca Boylston Gill and Mary Boylston Hallowell were sisters, and cousins of JA's mother. Capt. Benjamin Hallowell served as the provincial commissioner of the customs before he left Boston in 1776 (Sabine, Loyalists ).


Anne Hubbard (Hobart) was the sister of Margaret Hubbard Vassall, who left Boston for England in 1775 with her husband William. In Boston, Hubbard probably had boarded with Margaret Nelson Steel (Edward Warren Day, comp., One Thousand Years of Hubbard History, 866 to 1895, N.Y., 1895, p. 185; Thwing Catalogue, MHi).


Formerly of Boston, Thomas Boylston, a merchant, was also a cousin of JA's mother and brother of Rebecca and Mary.


Abigail Bromfield Rogers' stepmother, Hannah Clarke Bromfield, of Boston, died in Aug. 1785 (vol. 6:385, 395).