Adams Family Correspondence, volume 11

Abigail Adams to Martha Washington, [9 February 1797] Adams, Abigail Washington, Martha
Abigail Adams to Martha Washington
my Dear Madam [9 February 1797]1

Your retirement from publick Life excite in my mind many Sensations, Some of them of a nature very different from those which I have ever before experienced.

The universal satisfaction Love esteem and Respect which you have ensured from all Ranks of persons, Since you have been in publick Life and more particularly for these 8 years past when your Situation has made you more universally know “so that the Tongue of Slander the pen of Calumny,[”] nor the bitteness of envy have never once to my knowledge assailed any part of your conduct a pattern so exemplary a Character so irreproachable whilst it cannot fail to excite an Emulation in the Bosom of your Successor, must at the Same time fill her mind with an anxious Solicitude least she should fall far short of her most amiable predecessor to have seen You Still Sustaining your part in publick would have given much more pleasure to me my Dear Madam, than I can possibly receive from succeeding you as it has fallen to Me. I will endeavour to follow Your steps and by that means hope I Shall not essentially fall Short of my most amiable exemplaer in the discharge of My Duties with this view I Shall be obliged to you Madam to communicate to Me those Rules which you prescribed & practised upon as it respected receiving & returning visits, both to strangers and citizens as it respected invitations of a publick or private nature

Your experience and knowledge of persons and Characters must render your advise particularly acceptable to me who inquires not from motives of an Idle curiosity but from a desire to do right, and to give occasion of offence to no one. if you have any Domesticks whose fidelity and attachment to you have merrited your particular confidence, I will thank you to Name them to me.


I cannot close this Letter without presenting my gratefull acknowledgments to the President for the Honorable notice he has taken of My Family and particularly for the appointments with which he has honourd my Son the Satisfaction which he has repeatedly exprest of his publick conduct. whilst it gives to the Maternal Heart the highest reward cannot fail as a stimulous in exciting him to the utmost dilligence and fidelity towards his Country, and Respect and attachment to the President who has thus honourd him with his Confidence.

I join in the General the Universal Voice in beseaching Heaven to bestow its choicest Blessings upon You in Your retirement, to private Life, and will hope for Your Friendship and affection Regard to your obliged Friend

A Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notations by CFA: “Copy. Mrs Washington.” and “Quincy 1797.”


For the dating of this letter, see Martha Washington’s reply of 20 Feb., below.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 9 February 1797 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Phila. Feb. 9. 1797

The Die is cast, and you must prepare yourself for honourable Tryals.

I must wait to know whether Congress will do any Thing or not to furnish my House— if they do not I will have no House before next Fall. and then a very moderate one, with very moderate Furniture.

The Prisoners from Algiers arrived Yesterday in this City, in good health and looking very well. Captn. stevens is among them. one Women rushed into the Crowd & picked out her Husband, whom she had not Seen for 14 years.1 I am and ever shall / be yours and no others

J. A2

Mr Sullivan and young Johnson are to breakfast with me.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs A.”


Isaac Stephens was captain of the Maria of Boston, the first American vessel taken by Algiers. His ship and crew of five were captured off Cape St. Vincent, Portugal, on 25 July 1785. In 1793 Algerian corsairs captured twelve other American vessels and seized over 100 Americans. The captives, both before and after the 1793 seizures, petitioned Congress for their release, but a successful attempt by the United States was not effected until 1795, when Joseph Donaldson Jr. was appointed as a deputy to Algiers. Donaldson arrived in Algiers on 3 Sept. and two days later signed a treaty with the Algerian dey Hassan Bashaw Algerian dey Ali Hassan Bashaw , who agreed to release the Americans in exchange for $180,000. The house of Bacry, a Jewish brokerage firm in Algiers, loaned the United States the funds necessary to redeem the 554 American captives. On 12 July 1796 the men left Algiers, arriving on 20 July in Marseilles, where they were quarantined for eighty days due to a shipboard outbreak of the plague. On 12 Nov. they sailed for America, arriving on 7 Feb. 1797 at Marcus Hook, Penn., and in Philadelphia the following day (Gary E. Wilson, “American Hostages in Moslem Nations, 1784–1796: The Public Response,” Journal of the Early Republic, 2:126–130, 138–140 [Summer 1982]; Boston Gazette, 20 Feb.).


On the same day AA wrote to JA enclosing JQA’s letter to her of 14 Nov. 1796, above, and summarizing a letter she received from TBA, which has not been found; she also noted the receipt of several letters from JA and commented on JA’s salary as president. JA wrote to AA on 11 Feb. telling her to bring all the female servants she desired to Philadelphia but cautioning her that as yet he had no furnishings for the presidential residence (both Adams Papers).