Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 December 1786 JQA AA John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 December 1786 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abigail
John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams
My dear Madam Cambridge December: 30th: 1786

Three months have now elapsed, since, I have received, one line from Europe; and the only information I have had in all that time, were a couple of paragraphs in the newspapers, the one mentioning your departure from London, and the other your return there;1 I feel very impatient and anxious for letters, a vessel arrived a few days since; but, I do not hear, that she brought any: if I have been negligent in writing, I have surely had an excuse, and I hope my friends will not punish me, for an involuntary fault. For two complete months, I have not been two miles distant from the spot, where I now write; confined within the walls of a college; having day after day the same scene before my eyes, surrounded by the same objects, and pursuing the same course of studies, what matter 418could I find to fill up, a sheet of paper? As for public affairs, I have a great aversion, even to thinking of them, and near as we are to Boston, I should know nothing concerning them, if riots, insurrections, and anarchy, were not at this time the only topics of conversation. The people in four or five Counties of this State are distracted, and several hundreds of men, have repeatedly taken arms, and prevented the setting of the court of common pleas. In Worcester, Berkshire, and Hampshire, the people in general are said to be discontented, and to complain of taxation, of the court of common pleas, of the Senate, of the salaries of public officers, and of debts, public and private; all these are, they think, intolerable grievances, and they wish to abolish them. In the other Counties however the people, are quiet, and in general firmly attached to their constitution. Among the rioters that have appeared several times in opposition to the Courts of justice, there has not been one man, of any reputation in the State; and there have been consequently, a number of leaders; three of them, have lately been taken, and, it is probable the others, will soon share the same fate; the insurrections are not immediately dangerous, but our government, has not sufficient vigour and energy, to suppress them at once. There has appeared in the counsel, a degree of timidity and irresolution, which, does no honour to the executive power of a commonwealth. It is said to have arisen chiefly, from the second citizen in the State, who is now distinguished by the ludicrous nick name of the old Lady.2 I am however in hopes that in two or three months the public tranquillity, will be perfectly restored: I suspect that the present form of government will not continue long; for while the idle, and extravagant, and consequently the poor, complain of its being oppressive, the men of property, and consideration, think the constitution, gives too much liberty to the unprincipled citizen, to the prejudice of the honest, and industrious; the opinion that a pure democracy, appears to much greater advantage, in speculation, than when reduced to practice, gains ground, and bids fair for popularity; I feared that by having received so large a share of my education in Europe, my attachment, to a republican government, would not be sufficient, for pleasing my Countrymen; but I find on the contrary, that I am the best republican here, and with my classmates if I ever have any disputes on the subject, I am always obliged to defend that side of the question.—But, you will have so much political news from other quarters, that I will say no more on that head.

I received about two months since, a box of books, for which I 419return, my most grateful acknowledgments: I have not as yet perused them all, but many of them, have been quite serviceable: among the rest were two volumes of a history of the late revolution, in French. I received much pleasure from them, as the author, appears to aim at impartiality, notwithstanding the dedication was to lord Percy: probably there will be a continuation of it, in which case I shall request to have the continuation; the manuscript marginal notes are peculiarly precious to me, and I hope they will not be discontinued in the future Volumes.3 I have already wrote to beg a set of Blair's lectures upon rhetoric, and belles lettres; and have nothing further at present to ask, for myself. The government of the university intend to introduce, as a classical book, Enfield's institutes of natural philosophy;4 they are contained in a small quarto volume, and they will be necessary for my brother Charles, about nine months hence, and afterwards for Thomas. I suppose Charles will write for them, himself.

My Brothers, and all the other students, except two or three of my classmates, are absent from college, as we are now in vacation time: the reasons which determined me to remain, here, and several other particulars concerning myself, you will find, in a letter which I am going to write to my Sister; for I address almost all my egotism, to her; and indeed seldom make mention to her of any thing or anybody besides myself. Charles, and Tom, behave, with prudence, and in such a manner as has acquired them the friendship of their classmates, and the approbation of our college government. They are economical in their expences, and attentive to their studies. I was in some fears lest Tom's youth and inexperience, should lead him into an idle, dissipated way, which is the case, with many of the younger students; but his conduct, ever since his admission, has been so uniformly steady, that I am convinced he will do honour to himself, and merit the applause of his friends, in his academical course.

January 11th. 1787.

I am informed that Callahan proposes to sail in a few days, and will therefore close this letter; I have nothing of any consequence to add, except acknowledging the receipt of your favour of Septr: 27th and Octr. 14. but I am still more anxious to hear again, than I was before these letters arrived, as both your letter and my Sister's, mention that you had been ill since your return from Holland. Another vessel is daily expected from London, and I am extremely impatient 420to hear that your health is perfectly restored: absence from my friends, I am so much inured to, that I can bear it; but when, a state of suspense with respect to their health is added, it becomes almost intolerable.

The account of your tour to Mr Hollis's seat, afforded me much entertainment: and I am very desirous to see that of your journey to Holland; but I know not when, I shall see Mrs Cranch: most probably not within two or three months. Mr: and Mrs: Dumas, I supposed, even before I received your letter, to entertain a more favourable opinion of me, than I am conscious of deserving:—and Miss, you say, look'd kind. Kindness and benevolence, are indeed her characteristics. I never concealed from you the esteem and friendship, which I had, and which I still retain for her; but, (notwithstanding, some shrewd hints, contained in several of my Sisters letters, in which she appears to suspect my independence,) a more tender sentiment than friendship, has not yet gained admision into my breast, and I trust my Reason will for at least seven years to come, preserve my heart as free, as it ever has been.

Will you present my duty to my Father, to whom I will write soon.5 To Coll: Smith I wish to be remembered; I have attempted to write to him, but a certain awkwardness, in addressing a person whom I never saw, (though I condemn myself for it) has prevented. My Sister I intend, shall hear directly from me by this opportunity.

Your dutiful, and affectionate Son. J. Q. Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “J Q Adams Janry 11 1787.”


The Boston newspapers regularly reprinted items from London detailing the activities of the Adamses in England. For the reports on their trip to the Netherlands and their return to London, see the Massachusetts Centinel, 28 Oct., and Boston Independent Chronicle, 30 November.


Lt. Gov. Thomas Cushing.


For François Soulés, Histoire des troubles de l'Amérique anglaise, see AA to JQA, 22 May, note 2, above. He dedicated the volume to Hugh Percy, 2d duke of Northumberland (1742–1817), who had commanded British troops at Boston from 1774 to 1776 despite his personal opposition to the war ( DNB ). When Soulés published a second edition of the work in Paris in 1787, he expanded it to four volumes; a copy of this later edition, with JQA's bookplate, is at MQA.


William Enfield, Institutes of Natural Philosophy, Theoretical and Experimental, London, 1785.


JQA may not have written to JA until 30 June 1787, which is the next extant letter from him to his father. In it, he apologizes for not writing for so long (Adams Papers).

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 31 December 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith AA Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 31 December 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
My dear Sister Braintree December 31d 1786

I reciev'd a few days since your Letter of Sepr. 12th and yesterday that of october the 12th and thank you most sincerly for them both. 421Your account of Holland entertaind me much. You must have improv'd your time well to have visited so many places and notic'd so much. The fatigue was too great for you. It was this that made you sick. I was rejoic'd to find your dissorder whatever it was for you did not tell me what had left before I heard of it. I feel a sad pertubation of spirit whenever a vessel arrives till I can see your hand writing and read that all are living and well. Your Family have been preserv'd thro many dangers, and for valuable purposes I dare say, but I most sincerly wish you all Safe at home. I shall comply with your wishes relaiting to a particular subject. The Person would not have been So often mention'd if some circumstances had not taken place which had no reference to your Family.

Our dear uncle Smith has recover'd his Spirits much better than I expected he would, but a heavey Sigh often escapes him yet. He is So much alter'd in his Family and in his attention to his Friends that you would scarcly suppose him the same man he once was. He left those little matters to our Aunt which now he attend too himself. Cousin Betsy behaves with the utmost prudence and discretion. She has a most exellent disposition. I am Sure you would Love her more than ever was you here.

We have had another Snow Storm Since I wrote last. Such an one has not been Seen for seventy years. Many People were oblig'd to get out of their chamber window, upon the Banks. The roads have been impassable in many places for a fortnight, and yet the Fields and some of the Streets in this town are bare. The college was oblig'd to be deserted Several weeks before the vacancy usually begins, wood could not be got.1 Your eldest Son chose to Stay and ran his chance for wood as he thought he could Study there better than at home, and he will take this time to collect his part of the theses for commencment. The class have petition'd for a private one and have Set forth their reasons in a long preamble to their Petition. The Scarcity of money and the difficulty many of them find to pay even thier quarter Bills, are among the number.2

January 5th

Letters have been falling in to one and another ever since Folger ariv'd but not one for mr Cranch is come to hand yet: “he wonders at it as he has written so largly both to Brother and Sister.” Did you receive one from him? you have not mention'd it. He hopes it was not lost.3 The Trunk you Sent is Salve in uncle Smiths Store it was got out without any difficulty or paying any Duty that I can hear off. 422The Shirts for JQA came Safe last Fall as did the Linnin for your other Sons. The Shirts went immediately to Cambridge. I Supposed Cousin would have mention'd them or I Should. It was a long time before I could find Who had the Peice of Linning, which was the reason I did not say any thing about it at that time. When we Shall be able to get the Trunk which is just arriv'd I know not. There has been a great thaw within a few days which has render'd it almost impossible for a carriage to pass. A thousand thanks my dear Sister is all I can offer you for these renewed Instances of your kindness to me and my dear Girls, but I cannot bear you should let them be So expencive to you. Half worn Gowns Such as might not be proper for you to wear in your Situation, would have been receiv'd with the utmost gratitude by them and Would have been priz'd more for having been wore by an Aunt they So dearly Love. The Silk you have Sent I heard them say they should lay up till they were married, but you must come home and find them Husbands! there are but few with whom they could be happy. They have had an education which calls for Tast Learning and virtue and they could not be happy in partners destitute of these qualifications. They go but little into the World, and into the Gay part of it not at all. There are Some Ladies of whom one may know every thing that is to be known in one afternoon. The diffidence of others renders it not so easey to discover their characters.

Our cousin William Smith has at last found a Lady Sensible enough of his merit to accept him for a Partner for Life. Miss Hannah Carter is the Lucky girl. The matter is Settled I hear. They will soon be married.4 I think you know her she is very Sensible, and has a much more improv'd mind than is commonly to be found among the gay world. Doctor Simon Tufts dy'd last Sunday. The calmness with which he left the world does honour to the Religion he profess'd and practic'd. He call'd all his Family round him and pray'd with them and in that Prayer expir'd. His Daughters Grief is excessive, you know the Strength of her Passions.5

I heard from Sister Shaw last week She and the Family were well. Whether she will be able to get a Letter to town Soon enough to Send is uncertain as the roads are so bad.

Your two younger Sons have been writing to you and will do so to their Sister if the vessell does not Sail So Soon as we hear it is too.6 Betsy and Lucy will write also if they can. It is a busy season with us. Our young Gentlemen always come home tatter'd and torn. We 423have met with a great Loss in mrs Betsy Nash. She is married and is to leave the Town soon.7

RC (Adams Papers); the text appears to be incomplete.


Officials at Harvard decided on 12 Dec. that they would close the school if more than half of the students lacked sufficient firewood. On 13 Dec., following morning prayer, they formally adjourned the school for an eight-week vacation (JQA, Diary , 2:139).


See JQA to AA2, 14 Jan., note 12, below.


Richard Cranch had written to JA on 20 May and 3 Oct. (both Adams Papers). JA replied to Cranch's May letter on 4 July (MWA; LbC, Adams Papers), which Cranch acknowledged receiving at the end of his 3 Oct. letter. Cranch had also written to AA on 13 April and 5 July, both above, but no letters from AA to Richard Cranch have been found for 1786.


AA's cousin William Smith, son of Isaac Smith Sr. and Elizabeth Storer Smith, would marry his cousin Hannah Carter of Newburyport on 13 June 1787 (Vital Records of Newburyport, Massachusetts, 2 vols., Salem, 1911, 2:78).


Either Lucy Tufts (1752–1811), who married Benjamin Hall in 1777, or Catharine Tufts (b. 1754), who married Nathan Wyman of Woburn in 1772 (Vital Records of Medford, Massachusetts, Boston, 1907, p. 147, 150, 308, 310, 385).


No letter from either CA or TBA to JA, AA, or AA2 has been found for 1786 or 1787.


Elizabeth Nash of Braintree married Ralph Pope of Dorchester on 25 Dec. ( Braintree Town Records , p. 869).