Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

328 Abigail Adams Smith to John Quincy Adams, 1 September 1786 AA2 JQA


Abigail Adams Smith to John Quincy Adams, 1 September 1786 Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA) Adams, John Quincy
Abigail Adams Smith to John Quincy Adams
No 17.1 London September 1st 86

At length after long expectation your No 162 has arrived. Capt Cushing Called yesterday upon us, and delivered the Letters for Pappa, and amongst them I found one from yourself which was the only Letter I received except 2 from Dr Welsh.3 I have been rather unfortunate respecting Letters, mine being so long delayd by being under Cover to Mr Storer that my friends one and all have taken up a resolution to write me no more. However, “tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” I have not the trouble to answer their Letters. I am determined to find some Consolation. Mr Austin4 Called upon us, a few days since he says that he Saw you at Commencement, and that you told him you had not time to write, by him. I will not Complain, because I know you will never omit an opportunity of writing with out some sufficient reason. Your Letters afford us all so much pleasure that it is a real disappointment when a ship arrives without any from you. Where is your Brothers Letters? is the question from Pappa, Mamma, my friend, and your Brother, I had rather read his than any of the rest follows—and to me my Dear Brother they are inestimable—every Letter strengthens that friendship which has subsisted ever since we have known each other and which I hope can never cease.

It gives me great pleasure to find that you Continue your attention to your Studies and that your Conduct is not marked with any of those youthfull follies, which would subject you to the observation of even the rigidly Wise. It might be Politick in you not to prejudice, the Heads of the University against you, by being satricical upon their foibles, and I could even wish for your own sake, that you could by an attention gain their esteem. But I know how Dificult it is to pay a proper attention to People, whom we can neither respect nor esteem the Mind revolts at the idea. I have often been impolitick myself upon this Subject, but I could never bring my Countenance or my actions, to oppose, the Sentiments which I possessd. I have allmost envyd some persons, that innocent and necessessary art which could conceal under the veil of politeness, the oppinions they possessd. I am inclined to beleive that it is in some implanted by the hand of Nature and that it is not to be acquired. 329At least your disposition nor mine, are not of that accomodating kind, to spend much time in the Study.

But I really think that from your own account you stand a great chance to read a Syllogism at your exit from Colledge, and I dont know a Person in the World who would be more mortified at it than yourself. Therefore my advice is for you to take care, and if possible to get the blind side of the—so the saying is.

Sept 3d. sunday.

Pappa and Mamma have not yet returnd from Holland but we expect them to morrow or a Tuesday.5 Mamma writes me word that she is not pleased with the Country, there is such a want of her Dear Variety. She however says that if politeness and attention could render any place agreeable She should certainly be more pleased with Holland than any Country She has yet visitted. And after She has Crossed the Channell again she shall be very glad that She has made the Excursion. She will have a fine feast of Letters on her return which will I hope give her pleasure.

I have nothing important or interesting to tell you of at Present and yet I would not appear to be less attentive to my friends, and to you in particular than formerly. I believe you never travelled, much in this Country, except upon the roads from Dover and Hardwich, to London. There are certainly some of the finest scenes, and situations which appear to be formed for the Cultivation of the Muses. We lately made a little excursion of about 20 miles, to Salt Hill and Stainss, a few miles from Windsor.6 The Houses at which we put up, were finely situated upon the Borders of the Thames. They were beautifull by Nature, and there was very little appearance of Art. We sailed upon the river about 2 or 3 miles, and had the Prospect of some of the most rural romantick Scenes, that I ever beheld. The Gentlemen amused themselvs with fishing, and sometimes caught before ten oclock in the Morning 16 Dozen, of small Fish. Mr and Mrs Rucker Miss Ramsey Mr S. and myself were the party.

We went out on Fryday and returnd on Monday last, much pleased with our excursion at Stains. The river runs so near the House that we fishd from the Windows, the prospects arround them are perfectly romantick. Had you been with us, you might have indulged your passion for ryming. I am sure you would have been delighted with the visit—and we wishd much for a Gallant for Miss R—.

You have now, but a little time before you quit the University, at Least the time will soon fly. You are I Suppose fixed in your own 330mind what path to pursue, when you make your exit from thence. Mr Honestus will not frighten you from the Study you have allways appeard attachd to, I suppose. But have you formd any decissions with whom to Study. Is it not allmost time to propose the matter to your Father and to Communicate to your Sister the result of your determinations. I am greatly interested in every step which you may take, and I look forward, to that Period, when you shall have gone through the Couse of Study which is Customary to pursue and have in some degre established a Character as a Man of Business and knowledge. I have no fears respecting your Prudence, yet perhaps the most critical period has not yet arrived. But I hope from Natureall Disposition and long Habits you will be in no danger from the Dissipation of those who will allways indeavour to influence a young Mans Conduct and bring every one to their own Levell.

I fear that you do not pay attention enough to your Health. Remember if you once Loose this inestimable Good you may spend your future days in an indeavour to retreive it withing without affecting it. Exercise and some relaxation is absolutely, necessary. And tho you have no taste to see Strange sights, Yet as they may unbend the mind for a proper time from Study and, promote your Health I think it would be best to enter into some of those scence, which some embrace with avidity. However I must Commend your Taste in avoiding such unmeaning Crouded scenes as the one you mention. Where Pearsons can enjoy them they had better enter into them. I never had a taste for them myself and can easily account for your want Disposition to enjoy them.

With respect to myself it is not yet in my Power to decide my future destination whether I am to return to my own home or live in N Y—is not determined. As I have never seen that Country I dont know that I shall not like it Better than my own and my friend not haveing veiwed the Massachusetts with any prospect of Settling there can not determine, till we return to America and visit them together. I beleive it would be in my Power to determine him in favour of the Latter but I have my doubts whether it would be right. I think a Man who quits his own State for another, Should be only a Man of Leasure and pleasure, that any Business or employment shold not be thought of, for if a Gentlemans Character is ever so well esteemd by those who know him there will allways exist certain prejudices and objections in the minds of those to whom he is a Stranger, which it must take time to remove and perhaps they can never be intirely oblitered. There will exist littl jealoussies, that he 331may be sill more attached to the part of the Country or place which he has left than the one he now inhabits. Rather than Subject a friend to any Such inconveniences, I prefer giving up, what ever pleasure I migh derive from renewing the acquaintanc and friendships of those, with whom my earliest attachments were formd. I know that I can be happy in any part of america, and I am Sure I shall find a family of friends, in his relations. At Present I am for Living at N Y,—and then you see it would be so cleaver to return and Settle there and have you one of these Days come as a Member from the Massachusetts to Congress. We should be quite at home again. But alas this is looking too far forward, yet why shd we not indulge in, such a fancy if it can afford us Pleasure. There is a Gentleman here, Mr B, who is pleasing himself with the hope, of our going to my home.7

Sunday September 24th.

Since I wrote you on the first our Parents have returnd from Holland. After a terible Passage of 4 days they Landed. Such a storm has not been known a long time 2 Vessells, that were nearer the Shore than the Packet were lost and but 2 persons saved from them. Mamma, is quite Sattisfied with this excursion and never wishes to see Holland again. She has been much sattisfied at the attention and politeness she has received from those Persons who were acquainted with Pappa. Madame and Mademoisell Dumas arrived only the evening before they left the Hague, which was a great Loss, you know. Madame D. was also in great affliction for the Loss of her Daughter in Law,8 who died a few weeks ago.

Since the return of our Friends we have been with them every day and much amused with Mammas account of Holland. I suppose she will give you an accout of her excursion.

Fletcher has arrived, but we have not yet received any Letters by him. I hope to find one.

October 12.

I hear of an opportunity for Boston on Saturday, and have taken my pen to Conclude my Letter, which has laid by so long. Altho I have not heard from you since the Month of june, I will not hesitate in writing. The day before yesterday being Tuesday the 10th, we dined at G S, in Company with, Mrs and Miss Smith from S—— C——a9 and Mr G S, who has but lately returnd from France. Mr Harrison who has been in some public Character from America to 332Spain,10 and who has arrived here with in a few days he brought Mamma a Letter from C Warren, written about a forghtnight before he died,11 in which he express his hopes of recovering his Health, and that mentiones the attention and kindness this Mr Harrison has Shewn to him, with gratitude. I have heard that he has left an excellent Character in Spain, he appears to be near forty years old, and a sedate Man. I was prejudiced in his favour from Mr W—— Letter.

He was accompanied by a Coll. Eustace12 of whom I can only say, that he is a very handsome Man, a few marks of dissipation excepted. Mesrs Shippin Cutting and your friend Murry compleated the Company. I am sorry to say that Mr M—— appears to me to have irretreavibly injured his Health by, dissipation you would Scarcely know him. He is thin, and instd of that degree of vivacity which used to animate him. There is a kind of Langour taken its place. He talks of going to America soon and I beleive nothing else will save him nor even that unless temperance and regularity are persued by him. Mr Cutting and himself made themselvs very agreeable. The former you know, is called Witty, and your friend is not deficient in Smartness, so that we were quite entertained with thier repartees. Mr Cutting is too sensible of his own tallents and takes too often opportunitys to discover them to be perfectly pleasing. He talks too much and to Loud. The observation General Lee made upon him was I think perfectly just—that he was the Happiest Man in the World—for he was perfecty in Love with himself and had not a rival in the World. Mr Shippin you do not know, he is Modest Sensible and agreeable, and I think appears to more advantage from being in some degree a Contrast to his Companion. They dine at G S, every Sunday.

We are going this Eve, to Covent Garden Thatre to see an old Man of Ninty years-old play the part of the Jew in the Merchant of Venice.13 Mrs Siddons plays also this Eveng Isobela but we have engaged a Box, at Covent Garden, and so are obliged to go.

My paper scarce leaves me room to desire you to send me a lock of your Hair, by the first opportunity. Yours affectionately

A Smith

Dft (Adams Papers,) written on sixteen small folded and numbered sheets.


AA2 first wrote “16,” perhaps because she was responding to JQA's No. 16, and then altered it to read “17.” AA2's No. 16, presumably written in late August, has not been found.


Of 18 May, above.


Not found.


Boston merchant Benjamin Austin Jr. (Samuel Adams to JA, 21 July, Adams Papers).

333 5.

The travelers arrived in London on Wednesday, 6 Sept. (Jefferson, Papers , 10:348).


Salt Hill, Buckinghamshire, one mile west of Slough, was known for its views of Eton College and Windsor Castle. Staines, Middlesex, is about seven miles southeast, on the Thames (Samuel Leigh, Leigh's New Pocket Road-Book of England, Wales, and Part of Scotland, 2d edn., London, 1826, p. 37, 73, 74).


Perhaps Charles Bulfinch of Boston, recently returned to London after a tour of the Continent, who brought with him a letter and goods from Thomas Jefferson for WSS and AA2 (vol. 6:163; Jefferson, Papers , 10:211, 393).


Probably the wife of one of Maria Dumas' two sons by her first marriage to a Mr. Loder (Jan Willem Schulte Nordholt, The Dutch Republic and American Independence, Chapel Hill, N.C., and London, 1979, p. 48).


Mary Rutledge Smith and, probably, her eldest daughter Sarah Rutledge Smith (vol. 6:385, 389; N. Louise Bailey, Mary L. Morgan, and Carolyn R. Taylor, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985, 3 vols., 1986).


Richard Harrison (1750–1841) of Maryland, a merchant at Cadiz, acted as U.S. consul at that port, 1780–1786, but was never formally appointed by Congress. He later served as first auditor of the U.S. Treasury, 1791–1836 (Smith, Letters of Delegates , 4:130).


Not found.


John Skey Eustace (1760–1805) of New York, William and Mary 1776, served as aide to Gens. Charles Lee, John Sullivan, and George Washington during the Revolution. After the war, he spent time in Venezuela, Spain, England, and France, where he served in the French Revolutionary Army. He was possibly in Spain in 1786 to register a complaint regarding his treatment by colonial officials while previously in Venezuela ( Appletons' Cyclo. Amer. Biog. ; John Skey Eustace, Official and Private Correspondence of Major-General J.S. Eustace, Paris, 1796; The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, ed. W. W. Abbott et al., 9 vols., Charlottesville, Va., 1983–1985, 3:67).


Charles Macklin (1697?–1797), an Irish actor, was particularly known for his portrayal of Shylock ( London Stage, 1776–1800 , 2:926; DNB ).

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 12 September 1786 AA Cranch, Mary Smith


Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 12 September 1786 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
My Dear Sister London Sepbr 12th 1786

I am again safe arrived in this city after an absence of five weeks. By the last vessels I wrote Some of my Friends that I was going to visit Holland. That I had a desire to see that Country you will not wonder at, as one of those Theatres upon which my Partner and fellow traveller had exhibited some of his most important actions, and renderd to his country lasting Blessing. It has been the policy of some of our Allies, to keep as much as possible those events out of Sight and of some of our Countrymen to lessen their value in the Eyes of mankind. I have seen two Histories of the American War written in French, and one lately publishd in English by a mr Andrews.1 In one of them no notice is taken, or mention made of our Alliance with Holland, and the two others mention it, as slightly as possible, and our own Countrymen set them the example. France be sure was the first to acknowledge our independance, and to aid us with Men and money, and ought always to be first-rank'd amongst our Friends. But Holland surely ought not to be totally neglected. 334From whence have we drawn our supplies for this five years past, even to pay to France the interest upon her loan, and where else could we now look in case of a pressing emergincy? Yet have I observed in Sermons upon publick occasions in orations &c France is always mentiond with great esteem. Holland totally neglected. This is neither policy or justice. I have been led to a more particular reflection upon this subject from my late visit to that Country. The respect, attention civility and politeness which we received from that people, where ever we went, was a striking proof not only of their personal esteem, but of the Ideas they entertain with respect to the Revolution which gave birth to their connection with us, and laid as they say, the foundation for their Restoration to priviledges which had been wrested from them and which they are now exerting themselves to recover. The Spirit of Liberty appears, to be all alive in them, but whether they will be able to accomplish their views, without a scene of Blood and carnage, is very doubtfull.

As to the Country, I do not wonder that Swift gave it the name of Nick Frog,2 tho I do not carry the Idea so far as some, who insist that the people resemble the frog in the shape of their faces and form of their Bodies. They appear to be a well fed, well Cloathed contented happy people, very few objects of wretchedness present themselves to your view, even amidst the immence Concourse of people in the city of Amsterdam. They have many publick institutions which do honour to Humanity and to the particular directors of them. The Money allotted to benevolent purposes, is applied Solely to the benifit of the Charities, instead of being wasted and expended in publick dinners to the Gaurdians of them which is said to be the case too much in this Country. The civil government or police of that Country must be well Regulated, since rapine Murder nor Robery are but very seldom found amongst them.

The exchange of Amsterdam is a great curiosity, as such they carried me to see it. I was with mr van Staphorst, and tho the croud of people was immence, I met with no difficulty in passing through, every person opening a passage for me. The exchange is a large Square surrounded with piazza. Here from 12 till two oclock, all and every person who has buisness of any kind to transact meet here, sure of finding the person he wants, and it is not unusal to see ten thousand persons collected at once. I was in a Chamber above the exchange, the Buz from below was like the Swarming of Bees.3

The most important places which I visited were Roterdam, Delpt the Hague Leyden Harlem Amsterdam and utrech. I was through 335many other villages and Towns, the Names I do not recollect. I was 8 days at the Hague and visited every village round it, amongst which is Scaven, a place famous for the Embarkation of king Charles. From Utrech I visited Zest, a small Town belonging wholy to the Moravians, who mantain the same doctrines with the Moravians at Bethelem in Pensilvana, but which are not the best calculated for fulling the great command of replenishing the earth.4 I visited Gouda and saw the most celebrated paintings upon Glass which are to be found. These were immence window reaching from the Top to the bottom of a very high Church and containd Scripture History. Neither the faces or attitudes, had any thing striking, but the coulours which had stood for near two hundred years were beautiful beyond imagination.5 From Amsterdam we made a party one day to Sardam a few hours Sail only, it was their anual Fair, and I had an opportunity of seeing the people in their Holly day Suits. This place is famous for being the abode of the Czar Peter whose ship Carpenter shop they Still Shew. At every place of Note, I visited the Cabinets of paintings Natural History and all the publick buildings of distinction, as well as the Seats of several private gentlemen, and the Princ of oranges House at the Hague where he holds his Court during the Summer Months, but the difference which subsists between him and the States, occasiond his retreat to Loo,6 concequently I had no opportunity of being presented to that Court. We were invited to dine one Day at Sir James Harris's the British Minister at that Court, who appears a very sensible agreeable Man. Lady Harris who is about 24 years old may be ranked with the first of English Beauties. She was married at seventeen and has four fine Children, but tho very pretty, her Ladyship has no dignity in her manners or solidity in her deportment. She rather Seems of the good humourd gigling class, a mere trifler, at least I saw nothing to the contrary. I supped at the Marquiss de Verac the French Ambassadors with about 50 gentlemen and Ladies. His own Lady is dead, he has a Daughter in Law who usually lives with him, but was now absent in France. Upon the whole I was much gratified with my excursion to a Country which cannot Shew its like again. The whole appearence of it is that of a Medow, what are calld the dykes, are the roads which being raised, Seperate the canals, upon these you ride, through Rows of Willow Trees upon each side, not a Hill to bee seen. It is all a continued plain, so that Trees medows and canals, Canals trees and medows are the unvaried Scene. The Houses are all Brick and their streets are paved with Brick. It is very un-336usual to see a Single Square of glass broken; or a brick out of place even in the meanest House. They paint every peice of wood within, and without their houses, and what I thought not so wholsome, their milk pails are painted within and without, and So are their Horse carts, but it is upon a principal of economy. The Country is exceeding fruitfull and every house has a Garden Spot, plentifully stored with vegetables. The dress of all the Country people is precisely the same that it was two Hundred years ago, and has been handed down from generation to Generation unimpaird. You recollect the Short peticoats and long short Gowns, round ear'd caps7 with Strait borders and large Straw Hats which the german woman wore when they first Setled at Germantown. Such is now the dress of all the lower class of people who do not even attempt to imitate the Gentry. I was pleas'd with the trig neatness of the women, many of them wear black tammy Aprons, thick quilted coats or russel8 Skirts, and Small hoops, but only figure to yourself a child of 3 or four drest in the Same way. They cut a figure I assure you. Gold earrings are universally worn by them and Bracelets upon Holly days. The dress of the Men is full as old fashiond, but the Court and Geenteel people dress part English and part French. They generally Speak both the languages, but French most. Since their intercourse with America, the English Language is considerd as an essential part of education. I would not omit to mention that I visited the Church at Leyden in which our forefathers worshipd when they fled from hierarchical tyranny and percecution.9 I felt a respect and veneration upon entering the Doors, like what the ancients paid to their Druids.

Upon my return home I found that Captain Cushing had arrived in my absence, and a noble packet was handed me by your Neice soon after I arrived, but as we had not seen each other for 5 weeks, we had much to say. And in addition to that I had not closed my Eyes for two days and nights, having had a Stormy Boisterous passage of 3 days attended with no small danger, and as I had rode seventy five miles that day, they all voted against my opening my Letters that Night. Mortifying as it was I submitted, being almost light headed with want of rest, and fatigue. But I rose early the Next morning, and read them all before Breakfast. And here let me thank my dear sister for the entertainment hers afforded me, but like most of the Scenes of Life, the pleasure was mixed with pain. The account of the Death of our Dear and Worthy Aunt, reach'd me in a Letter from Cousin W. Smith10 the week before I went my journey.

337 338

Altho I took a final leave of her when I quitted America, yet I have been willing to flatter myself with the hope that I might be mistaken, and that her Life would be prolonged beyond my expectations. How often has her Image appeard to me in the Same Form that she addrest me when I left her House. You know how susceptable her Heart was to every tender impression. She saw how much I was distresst, and strove herself for a magninimity that gave to her whole appearence a placid Solemnity which spoke more forcibly than words. There was a Something undecribable, but which to me seemd Angelick in her whole manner and appearence that most powerfully impressd my mind; and I could not refrain when I arrived here mentioning it, to mr Smith who I dare say will recollect it. Like the Angle she then appeard, she now really is, fitted by a Life of piety and benevolence to join her kindred Spirits, she has left us her example and the Memory of her Many virtues to Comfort our afflicted Hearts—Beloved, Regreated and Lamented! She was like a Parent to me, and my full Heart has paid the tributary Tears to her Memory.

Cut of in early Life, and under circumstances peculiarly distressing is the young Branch of a family who never before experienced an affliction of this kind. The Tree fell whilst the Branch survived to keep alive the source from whence their Sorrows Spring.11 When you see the family, remember me affectionately to them. My Heart feels for all their sorrows. Nor am I without a Share of Sympathy for the family distresses of a Gentleman who not withstanding his follies I cannot but feel for. I know there is in his disposition a strange mixture, there is benevolence and kindness without judgment, good Sense without prudence and learning without conduct. Early in Life that man might have been moulded into a valuable vessel, in the hands of a steady and Skilfull Master. Let all remembrance of his connection with this family cease, by a total Silence upon the Subject. I would not, add to his mortification, or be the means of giving him a moments further pain. My Friends will do me a kindness by stricktly adhering to this request. I wish him well and happy.

Adieu my dear Sister I Shall write you soon, more fully upon the subjects of your Letters. Remember me affectionately to my dear and aged Parent for whom I have purchased a tabinet. It is more costly than a silk, but I thought more suteable for her years. I shall send it by the first opportunity. Should any offer sooner than Cushing I shall forward this Letter.

I know not to whom we are indebted for the Chocolate, by cap-339tain cushings prudence in taking it out and getting it on shore a few pounds at a time we Saved it, tho he poor Man has had his vessel seaizd and been put to much difficulty and trouble. The Chocolate came very opportunely. Mr Adams was just mourning over his last pound. You see I have only room to add Yours


RC (MWA: Abigail Adams Corr.). Printed in (AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840, p. 343–350.)


John Andrews, History of the War with America, France, Spain, and Holland, Commencing in 1775 and Ending in 1783, 4 vols., London, 1785–1786.


John Arbuthnot personified the country of Holland as Nicholas Frog in his pamphlet Law Is a Bottomless Pit; or, the History of John Bull, London, 1712. The work also has been attributed to Jonathan Swift.


The Amsterdam Exchange, or Bourse, had become increasingly overcrowded by the late eighteenth century, to the point that scuffles occasionally occurred as traders fought for space, and many transactions had to take place at nearby cafes (Joost Jonker, Merchants, Bankers, Middlemen: The Amsterdam Money Market during the First Half of the 19th Century, Amsterdam, 1996, p. 37, 145–147). See also the Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 9, above.


For JA's comments on the Moravian community at Bethlehem, Penna., including the arranged marriages of its members, see vol. 2:154–156.


The sixteenth-century stained-glass windows of the Sint Janskerk (Church of St. John) were created by Wouter and Dirk Crabeth and their pupils (Nagel's Holland Travel Guide, Paris, 1951, p. 224).


Although the stadholder was required to be in residence wherever the States General and the Council of State met, William V had withdrawn to the palace of Het Loo in Apeldoorn during his power struggle with the governing bodies of the United Provinces (Herbert H. Rowen, The Princes of Orange: The Stadholders in the Dutch Republic, Cambridge, 1988, p. 221–223).


AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840, reads “long short-gowns, round-eared caps.”


“Russet” in AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1840.


AA undoubtedly visited the Pieterskerk (Church of St. Peter's). For the long-standing confusion over where the English Separatists, or Pilgrim Fathers, worshiped while in Leyden, see vol. 4:40–41, note 3.


Of 28 June, not found.


A reference to the death of Lucy Thaxter Cushing in childbirth.