Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 26 November 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith AA Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 26 November 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
My dear sister Braintree November 26th 1786

Come home my Sister, that Braintree may have some of its old inhabitants residing in it. Could you look in upon it, you would sigh over some of its desirted mansions. General Palmers Family mov'd last week to charlestown. They came here in a violent Snow-Storm; they had sent away all their Provision and had nothing to eat. The 397next day they Set off in much better Spirits than I expected. The salt Works is his Hobby Horse yet. I hope something will be found at for him to do that may support the Family.1 Cousins Polly and Betsy are greatly oblig'd for their Gowns. You desir'd me to give them skirts but as they had skirts, and no Gowns I knew you would had you been here added two yards more to have made them what would have been so much more necessary for them. I hope I have not done wrong.

Mr Alleyn has been gone ever since the spring to the West Indies. Able is not yet married. Mrs Quincy and Miss Nancy are gone out of Town the greatest part of their time and uncle Quincy has not been off his Farm since December. Betsy was at Haverhill all last Fall and winter and Lucy all the summer. She return'd in october vacancy. It is in the vacancys only that we have any gallants in Braintree, except for married Ladies and not for all those your sister is an exception.2 The Double Sleigh begins to run.3 Its owner has not shewn his Face in our House nor meeting House since May. Matters remain just as they did in Boston. He continues to Board in the Family and all the Town to fix the —— upon him, and, laugh att the tame Husband. Not one of the Generals Family but himself and he only when business obliges him to; will go to the House.

A mr woodard has mov'd into the House which mr T. bought for him of mr Glover. I hear they are a pritty Family I design to visit them. I Shall stand a chance to meet mr T. there. I find he has domesticated himself already.

I Sent you a Short Letter by capt Barnard I had not time to do more. I find he has Sail'd.4 I wrote you that I had been making a visit to Sister Smith a wedding visit at Medford, and spent a night or two at cambridge. I went into cousin Toms chamber for the first time, it is a very good one and look'd very nice. He loves to have every thing in its place, and takes very good care of his cloaths and conducts well in every respect, So far as I can learn. Cousin JQA is chosen one of the Theses collectors which does him honour. The Governeurs of the College speak well of them all. There is like to be a great disturbance in cambridge at, the seting of the court of common Pleas this week. There is an express come to the Governour to inform him that one Shays one of the Heads of the Incindiarys, (It is a many headed Beast) is determin'd to come with eighteen hundred men to stop the court. There will be force Sent to oppose them I suppose, and I wish there may not be Blood shed. Are we not hastning fast to monarchy? to Anarchy I am sure we are, unless the 398People discover a better Spirit soon. We are concern'd for our children I assure you. The college company are wishing to be allow'd to march out in defence of Government but they will not be permited.5 Mr cranch will go tomorrow and take care of them of our children I mean.

Teusday 28th

And a colder day I never knew in January. I hope it will cool the courage of the Insurgants. I am anxious to hear Mr Cranch went to cambridge yesterday he is too aprehensive to be happy.

wednesday 29th

Tis extreem cold yet and no news from cambridge. I have just heard that our Braintree captains have been round to order all the Militia to be ready to march at a minutes warning. How hostile the appearence! I hope'd to have seen peace in my day for the future, but from the present cloud which hangs over our affairs nothing can be expected but Storms and Tempests.

Six o'clock. About a quarter after four this afternoon We had a very sensible Shock of an earthquake.6 I was in my chamber standing at a trunk, when my Chest of draws began to shake and the Brasses to rattle violently. It lasted but a few seconds and was not attended with any noise that I can learn. I was not a little alarm'd being almost alone made me feel more So.

thursday 30th

I have just receiv'd a Letter from mr cranch informing me that the Insurgents came no further than concord from thence, they Sent a Man to Bristol county to collect all the discontented there and to ingage them to meet those at concord. Chaise Shays was to come with his Gang from another Quarter, but the man from concord meeting with no success in Bristol county and upon his return not finding chaise arriv'd advis'd the Party to return. “That the Govr had call'd a counsel of war,” at which he was invited. There were present Genls Lincoln and Prescott, Coll Hitchbourn 4 Counsilors and several other Gentlemen. That measurs were propounded and discuss'd with great prudence and wisdom, but that he was not at Liberty to mention the result. The Insurgents at concord were about Sixty. They expected chaise would have brought three Thousand.

399 Satturday Decem. 2d

The Secreet is out, at least part of it. A Party of Light Horse all vollentiers went from Boston on wednesday morning in pursuit of the Insurgents. They had warrants to take up a number of their leaders and a sad company they were. The Light Horse consisted of Lawyers Physicians and merchants and were Joind by a number of Gentleman from the country as they pass'd thro it. They were commanded by Colln. Hitchbourn and were in number about three Hundred. They went as far as Groton and return'd a Friday morning with three of the Leaders of the mob, Shaddock Parker and Page. Shaddock defended himself with his sword till he had like to have kill'd a mr Reed who Seiz'd him first and who was himself Tar'd and Feather'd in former times but is now for Submiting to the Powers that Be. As Shaddocks arm was lifted to give a wound that might have been fatal to Reed, Doctor Rand Struck him upon the knee with his Broad Sword, and brought him to the ground.7 The others were taken without Sheding Blood. Cousin Willm. Smith was of the Party who went out. Another Party went out after another Set of them, but return without doing any thing. They did not think themselves strong enough to oppose such numbers as were collecting.

December 3d

I was very sorry I could not get a Letter aboard Davis, but I could not get one into Town Soon enough. Mr Cranch and the Doctor will write I hope. They can give you a better account of Publick matters than I. You may remember that in one of my Letters I mentiond our receiving Letters from mr Perkins who was at Kentucky. We receiv'd another Pacquit Last June in which he inform'd us that he was in very good Business but must stay a few years Longer, before he could think of returning, he must make a fortune. He went for that purpose and altho the hope of Settling among his Friends was almost the only thing that made Life desirable to him yet without sufficient to Set him above want he never would return. We had just sent answers away when mr cranch receiv'd a Letter from a Friend of his with an account of his Death. You my Sister who knew his worth: the goodness of his Heart, and how dear he had render'd himself to us, by his kindness and attention to this Family will easily judge how much we must be shock'd. The tender heart of my Eliza receiv'd a deeper wound than you would have supposed from what I told you before you went away. Tis no easey matter to withhold our 400affections from those who tenderly Love us. Mr Perkin's dy'd the 22d of August of a dessorder upon his Lungs. His Illness was thought to be but slight till the evening before he dy'd. He was then taken with violent nervous complaints which depriv'd him of his senses till he expir'd.

I think I told you in a former Letter of the Death of Prentis Cushing. His Parents are full of grief, they were very fond of him. He sustain'd an exellent character. We have this to comfort us, under our affliction in the loss of both. Mr Perkinss' Friend writes that he was universally belov'd and esteem'd while living and that his Death was greatly lamented. In almost every Letter I send I have to acquaint you with the Death of some of our Friends or acquaintance. I know you must rejoice with trembling whenever you receive a Letter from any of us till you have read it. It is thus that I am affected whenever I hear a vessel is arriv'd from England.

Your mother Hall Still lives as injoys a comfortable Share of health. She desires to be remember'd to all her children. Your Brothers Family are well he spent sunday evening with us. Your Neighbours are well but most Sincerely wish for your return they often come to inquire about you. Abdy and Phebe do very well and live very comfortably. She has her health better than She use'd to do. She washes for some of the Neighbours. She does So for me. She complains that she cannot get work enough to do. “He is always Puddering about but does not bring much to pass.” Mrs H. Hunt sends her love and says if it was not for your kindness she could not afford herself a piece of meat all winter. She has taken Becca Field to live with her for company and the poor Girl has had a very bad sore on her neck which has been open'd. She has been confin'd with it above a month. The neighbours have been kind to her or she must have suffer'd greatly. She could not lay in her Bed. I went to see her and carry them a few comforts, but was surpriz'd to see how the poor creature was fallen away: She has not been able to swallow a bit of Bread for three Weeks.


This is the Seventh Snow Storm we have had and a dreadful one it is. The Banks are already even with the Fences, neither man nor Beast can turn out. The cold is also Severe—how many poor creatures may be in distress upon our coast. The Season has been so dry that I expect we Shall be loaded with Snow this winter. You never 401knew such distress for water as there is in this town, almost all the wells are dry, and the Brooks very low.8


I have just heard of a Ships being cast upon point Shirley and that all the crew but one Perish'd. I fear I shall hear of more.9 Much damage has been done in Boston by the high Tide.

Mrs Russel has a fine Boy I hear, and is very well. The affairs of our milton Freinds are I fear greatly imbarrass'd. Winslow is confin'd in Hartford.—He was oblig'd to find Bondsman when mr Codman took him, as he could not discharge the debt, he deliverd himself up. I am griev'd for the General and his Lady. I have not taken up your debt from them. I could never find any thing, that it would do to take it in.

If the vessel does not sail soon you Shall hear again from your affectionate Sister Mary Cranch

Cushing is not yet arriv'd by him I hope to hear from you.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Novbr. 26 1786 Mrs Cranch” and “Mrs. Cranch december 3. 1786.”


The Adamses had begun to express fears concerning Gen. Joseph Palmer's economic well-being as early as three years before (vol. 5:139, 140). For more on his salt works, see vol. 6:13.


Possibly a reference to Richard Cranch's now living full-time in Braintree; in the past he had frequently traveled on business.


For Royall Tyler's earlier difficulties with a sleigh, see vol. 6:94 .


Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 28 Sept., above. Barnard sailed for London around 17 Nov. (Boston Gazette, 20 Nov.).


The first military company of Harvard students, the Marti-Mercurian Band, had been formed in 1769 or 1770, overturning a seventeenth-century ban on students' participation in military companies. While the company drilled occasionally (usually followed by liberal consumption of rum), it never saw service and was disbanded around 1787 (Samuel Eliot Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard 1636–1936, Cambridge, 1936, p. 28, 141). For JQA's description of and reactions to the possible attack, see his Diary , 2:133–136 (entry for 27 Nov. and subsequent).


On 2 Dec., the Massachusetts Centinel reported, “Wednesday afternoon 29 Nov., about four o'clock, a small shock of an Earthquake was sensibly felt in this town.” A later report indicated that the quake was strongest in the area of Oliver's dock, and west from there to Newton (Massachusetts Centinel, 6 Dec.).


Sampson Reed of Boston led a company of twelve men in arresting Capt. Job Shattuck. Shattuck was wounded by a sword in the process, but Reed was apparently unharmed (Jacob Whittemore Reed, History of the Reed Family in Europe and America, Boston, 1861, p. 182; Lemuel Shattuck, Memorials of the Descendants of William Shattuck, Boston, 1855, p. 126).


The Boston newspapers reported that the snowstorm of 4–5 Dec. was

“as severe a snow-storm as has been experienced here for several years past.—The wind, at east, and north-east, blew exceeding heavy, and drove in the tide with such violence on Tuesday, as over-flowed the pier several inches, which entering the stores on the lower part thereof, did much damage to the Sugars, salt, &c. therein. . . . The shipping in the harbour, we are happy to find, received but little injury: yet our apprehensions for the vessels which were daily expected to arrive, and which 402were supposed to have been on the coast when the storm began, are great.”

On 9 Dec., another snowstorm hit the Boston area, adding to the accumulated totals, “so that with what fell the preceeding part of the Week, makes it nearly 4 Feet deep upon a Level; consequently travelling is very precarious” (Boston Independent Chronicle, 7 Dec.; Boston Gazette, 11 Dec.). See also JQA, Diary , 2:136–139 (entry for 4 Dec. and subsequent), and JQA to AA2, 14 Jan. 1787 , below.


Due to the storm, the brig Lucretia, Capt. Powell, ran up on Point Shirley on the morning of 5 Dec. while trying to reach Boston Harbor. Of the eleven people on the boat, five made it to shore but could not reach shelter from the storm and thus died. Powell and five others stayed on board and subsequently reached safety (Boston Gazette, 11 Dec.).

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams Smith, 27 November 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw AA2 Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams Smith, 27 November 1786 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams Smith
Haverhill November 27th. 1786

I must frankly acknowledge to my Dear Niece that I could not but wonder at her long Silence. I feared that my Letters had not reached her, or that I had inadvertenly written something that had wounded her feelings, and so had, in her estimation, forfeited that Love, and generous confidence which she had so kindly placed in me.1 But when I recieved a Letter from your Mother last April, which announced to me her Daughters being upon the point of Marriage with a Gentleman whose Name she did not mention, and the next week to hear you were really married, you cannot wonder if my Mind felt inquisitive—hurried—and struck with amazement. By this I found that my Niece had been employed in adjusting matters of the utmost importance; and as she knew not how much she was beloved, nor how deeply I was interested in her happiness, I could not so much blame her for not sparing one Moment to acquaint, a most affectionate Aunt of her pleasing Prospects.

As you my Neice have given me a new Nephew, permit me to congratulate you both upon the Celebration of your Nuptials. May he who has so worthyly defended the Liberties of his Country, now dwell in Peace, and Harmony, and enjoy the delights of Friendship, and all the Sweets of domestic Life, and never have occasion again to reassume any Weapons of War. You my Niece who have so happily escaped the dangers, the whirlpools, and the quicksands of the single Life, and have safely arrived at the Haven of Matrimony, will find a new Scene open to your view. And that there are two very principal Characters in which you must become the Actressthat of Wife and Mistress—and before a much more interested Audience than you have yet ever beheld in a publick Theatre. I need not tell you, I mean your Husband, and your Family,—and perhaps e'er long, you may be called to act in a third, not less important, arduous 403and tender. That each have their several incumbent Duties, and that there are certain Traits requisite, without which a Lady of your Judgment, well knows a female Character must be exceedingly imperfect. A proper reverence of yourself—a dignity of Manners—joined with Meekness, and Condescention—gentleness, and sweetness of Temper—have most attractive Charms, and are the richest, and most valuable Ornaments, you can adorn yourself with. They with will render you lovely in Youth, and (I may venture to say,) forever ensure you the attention, the Love, and the best Affections of that Man, who is truly worthy of you.

The Woman who is really possessed of superior Qualities, or affects a Superiority over her Husband, betrays a pride which degrades herself, and places her in the most disadvantatious point of view.

She who values domestick Happiness will carefully gaurd against, and avoid any little Contentions—the Beginnings of Evil—as she would a pestilential Dissease, that would poison her sweetest comforts, and infect her every Joy. There is but one kind of Strife in the nuptial State that I can behold without horror, and that is who shall excell and who shall oblige the most. Since marriage is one of the most important Transactions of our Lives, you will excuse my suggesting to you several Things which I deem so Essential towards the preserving an happy Union, and imputing what I have said, to my Love, and solicitude for your Happiness and not to a fear, that you should be found wanting in any requisite. For she who has been a dutiful Child, seldom fails of becoming a most discreet, and obliging Wife. Sure I am Anything of the preceptive kind would be unnecessary to you who have a living, and a bright Example of the conjugal Virtues in your excellent Mother. There they shine with distinguished Lustre. She who in some measure overcame the ties of Nature, and crossed the wide Atlantic to sooth, and to relieve him whose labouring Mind was vexed, and oppressed with the mighty Cares of a rising Empire, must be possessed of Qualities, and Graces that would endear her, not only to her Husband, but to all who can properly estimate real Worth.

The sensations you experienced upon quitting your Fathers Family were such, as I can easily conceive. What I suffered myself upon the like occasion, Time can never efface. Even blessed with the kindest, and most assiduous Partner, and with the most flattering Prospects, it is at best, as you have well expressed it,

“But a solemn Scene of Joy.” 404

To bid adieu to our former Habitation, and to give up the kind Gaurdians of our youth, and place ourselves under quite a new kind of Protection, cannot but strike a reflecting Mind with awe, and the most fearful Apprehensions—as it is the important Crisis, upon which our Fate depends.

“Happy the Youth that finds his Bride Whose birth is to his own ally'd The sweetest Joy of Life.”2

Our News Paper has announced to us the Nuptials of Revd Mr Osgood, and Miss Breed. Dr Archelaus Putnam and Miss Bishop. Cupid I fancy got fast asleep in his Mothers Lap, and old Plutus, has yoked the Dove.3 Not so with the amiable Peggy White. She is now happily connected with a Gentleman, who, I believe was her first, and her last attachment. Last Week I visited her. She was dressed elegantly, and in all the splendor of Bridal Innocence. She, and her worthy Partner Mr Bayley Bartlet4 looked so happy, and complacent, as must have given pleasure to every beholder. There was always a sweetness, and a dignity in her Manners that I admired; but upon this occasion every Feature appeared more animated, and every Grace had received an additional Charm.

Mr Duncan has married, and brought home his third Wife. She appears to be a very discreet worthy Woman, and agreeable to all the Children. Miss Duncan has greatly recovered her health. When Mr T—— and Miss B will enter the List, Or when Hymen will twist Blessings with their Bands, I cannot say. But I hope the Time is not far distant.

I have thought of you often, since I heard your Father and Mother were gone to the Haugue. I have longed to look in upon you. But all we can do at present, is to write to each other, which I hope you will never omit doing by every Opportunity, as it will exceedingly gratify her who wishes you every possibly degree of felicity, and though I am distant from you, am at all times, your truly affectionate Aunt

E Shaw

Dft (DLC: Shaw Family Papers); addressed: “To Mrs Abigail Smith London Wimpole Street.”


No letters from AA2 to Shaw have been found.


Isaac Watts, “The Indian Philosopher,” lines 43–45.


Rev. David Osgood (1748–1822), Harvard 1771, pastor of the First Church of Medford, married Hannah Breed on 1 November. Osgood also himself performed the marriage of Dr. Archelaus Putnam and Abigail Bishop on 12 Nov. ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 17:570–571, 579; Massachusetts Gazette, 14 Nov.).


Bailey Bartlett (1750–1830), a member of 405the Massachusetts state legislature and later a member of Congress, married Peggy White (1766–1831) on 21 November. They ultimately had thirteen children, nine daughters and four sons (Levi Bartlett, Genealogical and Biographical Sketches of the Bartlett Family in England and America, Lawrence, Mass., 1876, p. 22–24).