Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 8 February 1787 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw AA Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams, 8 February 1787 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Adams, Abigail
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Abigail Adams
My Ever Dear Sister Haverhill February 8th. 1787

My Uncle Smith has been so kind as to send me word this Morning, that a Nephew of Mr Gill's was to sail for London, in a Vessel 460from Boston next Saturday. Though I fear I shall not get a Letter into Town soon enough, yet I will write, a few Lines (though I have nothing very particular to communicate,) hoping I may meet with some favourable Conveyance.

The State of our publick Affairs engrosses attention of all Ranks, and Classes of Men. In every private Circle of Gentlemen, and Ladies I hear their several Opinions, dictated by Fear, Ignorance, Malice, Envy, and self-Interest the most powerful of all.

We all feel a Weight, which we could not but reasonably expect, and which the wise and Judicious say, may soon be lightened by Prudence, Industry, and good Oeconemy in our Families. But such is the Pride—the Idleness—the vanity, and extravagance which pervades every Order, that I am perswaded nothing but distress, and necessity will induce them to comply with this method, though I presume it is the only one, by which there is the least probability of obtaining Releif.

No One is willing to believe themselves the Cause of any Evil they feel, but attribute it, to the weakness, or the perfidy of Government—to the great Sallaries given to those in Office, or to the injustice of those vile Wretches the Lawyers.

Our excellent Govenor need not be envied, I am sure. He has enough upon his head, and his Heart to distract him. He will now try the Strength of Government, and I hope it will be found to have such a Basis, as the Collected Force of Capt Shays cannot overthrow.

Though I am situated far distant (at present) from the Seat of War, Yet I tenderly feel for those who are enduring the hardships of a winters Campaign, in this very cold Season. The ground has bean cheifly covered with three, or four foot of Snow ever since the beginning of November—So that it has rendered General Lincoln's March extremely difficult—and we hear that 5 hundred of his Men were touched with the frost.

Yesterday Orders came here for more men to be draughted—to day there are counter Orders.1 The news is, Shays is fled, and that a general Pardon is all they sue for. He is gone to the State of new Hampshire.

But I will quit Politicks, and leave them to the Gentlemen, who I presume, give you a much more particular account.

I fancy sometimes to myself how these matters, will operate upon the Mind of your Friend. We think sometimes, he may do us more 461service here, than he can in his present Situation. We want his Wise Counsels, to direct our puclick Weal.

But He who has the Hearts of all in his hands, will I hope inspire our Counsellors with that Wisdom which is from above, may Vigor, Courage, Unanimity, and Discision mark their Steps.

I received Your Letter of the 15th of October. Mr Shaw, and my little Ones thank you, for all your Tokens of Affection both Ideal, and material. Mr Shaw wishes, to draw upon your Friend for the like expression of Regard. He presumes, his Bill will not be protested.

Your two Children Charles, and Thomas spent a part of the long Vacation here. Mr Shaw would have bean quite displeased if they had not have come, we were very sorry Mr JQA did not accompany them.

Cousin Thomas could not help thinking it was home here yet, and no wonder—for it was almost three years, and half that he lived with us. He says he has a good Chamber at Cambridge, and the People of the House are very kind, and he can go to their Closet, with as much freedom as he used to here. I told him my Pyes were almost dried up, a waiting for him, for I expected they would have been here a fortnight sooner. Mr Shaw, and I have the pleasure of assuring you they behave well. We have taken particular Care to enquire of their Preceptors—for your Children do indeed, possess a very great share of our tenderest Love. Mr and Mrs Allen, and Cousin Sally Austin spent monday Evening here. I assure you we live in the most perfect amity, and good Neighbourhood. She has lately spent a fortnight in Boston, thinking she could not so conveniently again leave home. Mr Allen has now, I believe a prospect of additional Happiness in the domestic way,2 and I can see, that he is not a little gratified. Our good Cousin William Smith will be married to Miss Hannah Carter the 1st of June. It is imposible for any thing to be more agreeable to all Parties. And it appears very strange, that what now gives so much satisfaction, could not have been thought of before. But this is the Year for happy Matches. I verrily believe some unusual lucky Star presides over the Hymeneal Torch. For I never knew half so many agreeable Connections formed as has been, within these twelve Months. I have written to my two Neices, telling them, I wish its benign Influences may be protracted, and the ensuing Months sweetly roll on, and smile as propitious upon them, as it has upon my other Friends.

Miss Carter is a Lady of real merit, and well deserving of the good 462Husband (I presume) our Cousin will make. She is a Daughter in whom my Aunt Smith would have greatly delighted, had she still been living. This Lady is distinguished from the gay Trifflers of the age, not by Beauty, but by the more lasting Qualities of the Mind, for Virtue good Sense, Prudence Oeconimy, and an affable, modest Deportment mark her Character.

It gives me the greatest pleasure, that you appear to be so satisfied with your own Daughters Connection. It must be the Solace, and the Joy of your Mind. Long may they live, and be a Blessing to you.

Mr Thaxter may be married in the Course of the year,3 but at present all Courts are stoped, and little or no buisiness can be done.

Mrs Marsh is still alive, and enjoys the Fruits of a good old age. The Fruit of good Government in her own Family, for her Children rise, and bless her.

Adieu! thou ever dear, & Much loved Sister—Accept this written in haste, from your E Shaw

RC (Adams Papers).


On 29 Jan., Gov. James Bowdoin issued orders that members of the militia should prepare themselves to serve if the need arose. On 5–6 Feb., the General Court reiterated its support for a call-up of 2,600 men to reinforce the troops under General Lincoln working to put down Shays' Rebellion. Despite that, Bowdoin announced on 7 Feb., after positive reports from Lincoln of the success of his troops in dispersing the rebels, that he was countermanding the draft order (Boston Independent Chronicle, 1, 8 Feb.).


Rev. Jonathan Allen and Elizabeth Kent Allen had a daughter, Betsey, who was baptized on 12 Aug. in Bradford (Vital Records of Bradford Massachusetts, Topsfield, 1907, p. 10).


John Thaxter Jr. would marry Elizabeth Duncan on 13 November.

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 9 February 1787 Cranch, Mary Smith AA Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 9 February 1787 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
Dear Sister Braintree February 9th 1787

If you have reciev'd our Letters by Capn Callahan you will be in Some measure prepair'd for the accounts which Capn Folger will bring you of the Rebellion which exists in this state. It had arisen to such a height that it was necessary to oppose it by force of arms. We are always in this country to do things in an extraordinary many manner. The militia were call'd for, but there was not a copper in the Treasury to pay them or to support them upon their march. Town meetings were call'd in many places and promisses were made them that if the would inlist they would pay them and wait till the money could be collected from the Publick, for thier pay. And for their present Support People contributed as they were able and in 463this manner in less than a week was collected an army of five thousand men Who march'd under the command of General Lincoln to worcester to protect the court. The result you will see in the papers. The season has been stormy and severe our army have suffer'd greatly in some of their marches especially last Saturday night. Many of them were badly froze, they march'd thirty mile without stoping to refresh themselves in order to take Shays and his army by surprize. They took about 150 of them. Shays and a number with him scamper'd of and are got to new hampshire.

Shays and his party are a poor deluded People. They have given much trouble and put us and themselves to much expence and have greatly added to the difficulties they complain off. I think you must have been very uneasy about us. Shays has not a small party in Braintree but not many in this parish. They want paper money to cheat with. They call'd a Town meeting about a week since to forbid colln. Thayers attending the general court but they could not get a vote.1

It is now almost four months since I have heard from you. What is become of capn. Cushing, he has been long expected. This has been the longest winter I ever knew nothing but snow storms. The slaighing is fine and while our Lads were at home we did something at it, but now they are return'd to their studys and we are very lonely. No sister Adams to run too, no Germantown Freinds to visit:2 mrs Quincy and nancy gone to spend the winter in Boston and if I turn my eyes to weymouth, there is not even the Docr. at this time to smile upon me. The Docr. is going to raise the roof of his House immediatly. What a pity that Josiah Quincy should have left his wife in such a manner, that She must quit it all if she marrys again. She is young and very agreable. Abel Willard has left a widow, not quite so young nor so comely but she is sensible amiable and benevolent to a great degree. She is also use'd to a country Life has no child and has a small fortune left her by her Father. Her Husbands went to the publick.3 What think you, will either of these do. He says I must get him a wife he has not time to look about him, and one he must have soon. I want your assistance so please to nominate, and give your reasons but I will not promise that you will not be too late. What think you of our mrs Quincy for uncle Smith. If this should take place we should again feel as if we had an Aunt. I cannot but hope it. It is talk'd of, and that is one way to make it so. I have receiv'd a Letter to day from Sister Shaw. She is well, Billy has a troublesome cough. I was at cambridge sometimes in the vacancy to see 464Cousin JQA. He Was well and quite a gallant among the Ladies. He promis'd to make us a visit but has been so ingag'd that he could not: Cousin Tom is a great favorite at mr Sewalls. He is neat loves order is very careful not to give any unnessary trouble, has scarcly any company and goes but little out. We cannot be thankful enough my dear Sister that our children are such as they are. Cousin charles is a lovely creature. He is so amiable and so attentive that he will be belov'd wherever he sets his Foot. Our children are so happy together that I can scarcly forbear a sigh When I think how soon they must be scatterd and yet it must and ought to be so.

Mrs Hall is well she spent the day with me this week and desir'd me to give her Love to her Son and you and her grandchildren. She charg'd me to thank you for what you had sent her and your Nieces. They look'd much pleas'd and beg'd me to thank their Aunt.

Mrs Allen has made a vissit to her Friends in Boston, but return'd without my seeing her. She is like to increase her Family which has sister Shaws says causd a complacenc in the countenance of her “own good man.”

The newspapers will inform you that Doctor Clark dy'd very suddenly, but they will not tell you that he dy'd without a Will by which means miss Betsy Mayhew and her Brothers will have a fortune of four thousand pounds a piece. This is a great fortune for an american Lady enough certainly to bye her a Husband.4

Mr Evans is preaching where Doctor Gorden was settled, tis suppos'd they will give him a call.5 Mr Norton is still at weymouth.

I went the other day to see our milton Friends. Mrs Warren is anxious for Henry. He went General Lincolns aid.

The musical society at Braintree return their thanks for those Scotch Peices of Musick whih you so kindly Sent them. They talk'd of chusing a committee to draw up a Letter of thanks but as they were not all present they deputed me to do it for them. They luckily came in the vacancy. They have had time to learn to sing and play several of them. You need not be concern'd about their playing upon a Flute they have not time to play enough to hurt them.

Uncle Quincy is as Well as usual. The roads have been so bad that I have not been to see him but onc this winter. Our Hingham Friends are well. Nancy looks quite Stately. Quincy is gone with General Lincoln. Good Doctor Gay lives yet and preaches every Sunday. Doctor Chancy is suppos'd very near his end but he has render'd himself immortal by his writings. Have you read his late publications. If you have not do get them of Doctor Price. They 465were printed under his direction. I scarcly ever read any thing with more pleasure.6

How does my new Nephew and my dear Niece. Well I hope. Does she begin to look Stately too. I wish I could look in upon them. When my Sister oh when will you return. I have had a Letter begun Six months ago for mrs Elworthy but I have not had time to finish it. Do you ever see her. If you do give my Love to her. Tell her sister Bond and Family were well a few days since. Mr Bond was in Boston. We had Letters from cousin Ebbit. Mrs Bond and her Sister are fine Women. I regret their living so far from us. I hope to visit them next Summer.7

Mrs Hay lives at Newbury. I have never seen her but once since she return'd. Why did she return without her Husband?8 It looks strange.

Parson wibird visits us every other day almost. He still lives in that vile house. I told him the other day that nobody but he could live in and retain a moral character, that I was tir'd of vindicating his Character, where he was not known. That the House had become so Scandelous that if it was in Boston the Select men would pull it down and it is true. It is a vile house my sister but all I can say he will live there.

I hope you have not had a return of the dissorder which made you so sick.

Betsy and Lucy send their Duty to you and Love to their Cousins, will write by the next vessel. We did not hear of this till a day or two ago, and they are so busy that they cannot attend to their Pen at present.

Will you present my Love to mr Adams. To mr and Mrs Smith, and accept of the warmest Love & gratitude of your ever affectionate Sister

Mary Cranch

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs Cranch Febry 9th 1787.”


At a 29 Jan. town meeting, some Braintree residents attempted to recall Ebenezer Thayer as their representative to the General Court or to alter his instructions, but the motion was dismissed ( Braintree Town Records , p. 569–570).


Gen. Joseph Palmer's family, who had moved to Charlestown in the fall (Cranch to AA, 26 Nov. 1786, above).


Abel Willard (1731/2–1781) of Lancaster, Mass., had emigrated with his wife, Elizabeth Rogers, to England as a loyalist refugee in 1776. He was subsequently proscribed under the Act of 1778 and his Massachusetts estate was confiscated. Following his death in 1781, his widow returned to Boston ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 13:301–303).


Dr. John Clarke, AA's fellow passenger and good friend on the Active in 1784 (see vol. 5:360–383 passim ), was the uncle of Elizabeth Mayhew, daughter of the late Rev. Jonathan Mayhew and Elizabeth Clarke. Betsy's “brothers” were her half-brothers, John Clarke Howard and Algernon Sidney 466Howard, sons of Elizabeth Clarke and the Rev. Simeon Howard, who had succeeded Mayhew as minister at Boston's West Church. Betsy Mayhew later married Peter Wainwright ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 11:444, 469; 14:288).


Rev. William Gordon, the patriot historian, had long been the minister of the Third Congregational Church in Jamaica Plain (Roxbury), Mass., prior to his return to England in March 1786. The church did not call another minister until 1793, when it chose Rev. Thomas Gray to be its pastor. “Mr Evans” was probably Israel Evans, for whom see Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 9 Feb. 1786, note 8, above (MHS, Procs. , 63 [1929–1930]: 303; Ellen Lunt Frothingham Ernst, The First Congregational Society of Jamaica Plain 1769–1909, n.p., 1909, p. 33–34).


Rev. Charles Chauncy, the venerable Arminian pastor of Boston's First Church since 1727, died on 10 Feb. at age 82. His last important works, published in England, were The Mystery Hid from Ages and Generations, London, 1784, and Five Dissertations on the Scripture Account of the Fall and Its Consequences, London, 1785 ( DAB ).


William and Hannah Cranch Bond lived in Falmouth (now Portland, Maine), as did Hannah's sister brother Ebbett (1750–1789) (“Extract from a Register of the Bond and Cranch Families, drawn up in the year 1852,” MHi: Cranch-Bond Papers). Elizabeth Cranch Elworthy of London, wife of James Elworthy, was Hannah's sister and Richard Cranch's niece.


Katherine Hay decided to return to the United States alone, rather than go with her husband, a ship captain, on a lengthy voyage or remain in England without him (AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 28 April, MWA: Abigail Adams Corr.).