Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 16 October 1774 AA JA


Abigail Adams to John Adams, 16 October 1774 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
My Much Loved Friend Braintree October 16 1774

I dare not express to you at 300 hundred miles distance how ardently I long for your return. I have some very miserly Wishes; and cannot consent to your spending one hour in Town till at least I have had you 12. The Idea plays about my Heart, unnerves my hand whilst I write, awakens all the tender sentiments that years have encreased and matured, and which when with me were every day dispensing to you.1 The whole collected stock of nine ten weeks absence knows not how to brook any longer restraint, but will break forth and flow thro my pen. May the like sensations enter thy breast, and (in spite of all the weighty cares of State) Mingle themselves with those I wish to communicate, for in giving them utterance I have felt more sincere pleasure than I have known since the 10 of August.—Many have been the anxious hours I have spent since that day—the threatning aspect of our publick affairs, the complicated distress of this province, the Arduous and perplexed Buisness in which you are engaged, have all conspired to agitate my bosom, with fears and apprehensions to which I have heretofore been a stranger, and far from thinking the Scene closed, it looks as tho the curtain was but just drawn and only the first Scene of the infernal plot disclosed and whether the end will be tragical Heaven alone knows. You cannot be, I know, nor do I wish to see you an inactive Spectator, but if the Sword be drawn I bid adieu to all domestick felicity, and look forward to that Country where there is neither wars nor rumors of War in a firm belief that thro the mercy of its King we shall both rejoice there together.


I greatly fear that the arm of treachery and voilence is lifted over us as a Scourge and heavy punishment from heaven for our numerous offences, and for the misimprovement of our great advantages. If we expect to inherit the blessings of our Fathers, we should return a little more to their primitive Simplicity of Manners, and not sink into inglorious ease. We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them. I have spent one Sabbeth in Town since you left me. I saw no difference in respect to ornaments, &c. &c. but in the Country you must look for that virtue, of which you find but small Glimerings in the Metropolis. Indeed they have not the advantages, nor the resolution to encourage our own Manufactories which people in the country have. To the Mercantile part, tis considerd as throwing away their own Bread; but they must retrench their expenses and be content with a small share of gain for they will find but few who will wear their Livery. As for me I will seek wool and flax and work willingly with my Hands, and indeed their is occasion for all our industry and economy.

You mention the removal of our Books &c. from Boston. I believe they are safe there, and it would incommode the Gentlemen to remove them, as they would not then have a place to repair to for study. I suppose they would not chuse to be at the expence of bording out. Mr. Williams I believe keeps pretty much with his mother. Mr. Hills father had some thoughts of removing up to Braintree provided he could be accommodated with a house, which he finds very difficult.

Mr. Cranch's last determination was to tarry in Town unless any thing new takes place. His Friends in Town oppose his Removal so much that he is determind to stay. The opinion you have entertaind of General Gage is I believe just, indeed he professes to act only upon the Defensive. The People in the Country begin to be very anxious for the congress to rise. They have no Idea of the Weighty Buisness you have to transact, and their Blood boils with indignation at the Hostile prepairations they are constant Witnesses of. Mr. Quincys so secret departure is Matter of various Specculation—some say he is deputed by the congress, others that he is gone to Holland, and the Tories says he is gone to be hanged.2

I rejoice at the favourable account you give me of your Health; May it be continued to you. My Health is much better than it was last fall. Some folks say I grow very fat.—I venture to write most any thing in this Letter, because I know the care of the Bearer. He will be most sadly dissapointed if you should be broke up before he arrives, as he is very desirous of being introduced by you to a Number of Gentlemen 174of respectable characters. I almost envy him, that he should see you, before I can.

Mr. Thaxter and Rice present their Regards to you. Unkle Quincy too sends his Love to you, he is very good to call and see me, and so have many other of my Friends been. Coll. Warren and Lady were here a monday, and send their Love to you. The Coll. promiss'd to write. Mrs. Warren will spend a Day or two on her return with me. I told Betsy to write to you. She says she would if you were her Husband.

Your Mother sends her Love to you, and all your family too numerous to name desire to be rememberd. You will receive Letters from two, who are as earnest to write to Pappa as if the welfare of a kingdom depended upon it.3 If you can give any guess within a month let me know when you think of returning to Your most Affectionate

Abigail Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed in an unidentified hand: “To John Adams Esqr. in Philadelphia Pr. Favour Mr. Tudor”; docketed in an unidentified hand: “October 16 1774 AA.” Originally enclosed in AA to William Tudor, 15 Oct., above.


Thus in MS and, though awkward, probably not in need of the kind of emendation ingeniously (and silently) made by CFA; see JA–AA, Familiar Letters , p. 47. In the 18th century the present participle was often used in constructions that now require a passive verb. “The books are now printing” was standard, or at least good idiomatic usage, for “The books are now being printed.” AA's final clauses may therefore be read as follows: “... and which tender sentiments, when you were with me, were every day dispensing i.e. being dispensed to you.” Compare JA to AA, 30 April 1775 (2d letter), below: “Every Thing is doing i.e. being done by this Colony, that can be done by Men.”


Josiah Quincy Jr. had sailed from Salem aboard the Boston Packet for England on 28 September. Only a few of his closest friends, one of whom was JA, knew of his purpose, which was to present the views of American patriot leaders to both the administration and the friends of America in England. See Josiah Quincy, Josiah Quincy, Jr. , ch. 9. Quincy's journal and letters during the several months he was in England are printed in the following chapters of that memoir, but the journal is much more reliably printed in MHS, Procs. , 50 (1916–1917): 433–471. Since he died just before reaching port on his return voyage, late in April 1775, Quincy never communicated to his friends what he learned in England; see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:161–162.


Only JQA's letter, dated 13 Oct., has been found. The missing letter was doubtless written by AA2.

Isaac Smith Jr. to Mary Smith Cranch, 20 October 1774 Smith, Isaac Jr. Cranch, Mary Smith


Isaac Smith Jr. to Mary Smith Cranch, 20 October 1774 Smith, Isaac Jr. Cranch, Mary Smith
Isaac Smith Jr. to Mary Smith Cranch
Cambridge, Octr. 20. 1774

If it was possible to tell you, my dear Mrs. Cranch, how much I think myself obliged to you, for your kind, sensible and polite letter 175of the last week I would do it with the sincerest pleasure. As it is not easy to me, to express the sense I have of your own, and the benevolent intentions and wishes of other of my good friends with regard to me, I must only beg you, to accept my thanks in return.

“Orthodoxy in politics is,” I am sensible, “full as necessary a qualification for the ministry at this day as ever was orthodoxy in divinity.” If I am reputed an heretic in either, I cannot help it. It is my misfortune; it may be my fault. I hate enthusiasm and bigotry, in whatever form they appear, but am willing to submit to censure. The greatest friends of their country and of mankind, that ever lived, have frequently met with the same hard fate. I am not indifferent to the good opinion of those around me, but I cannot, in complaisance to others, even to those for whose understanding I have a much higher veneration, than for my own—I cannot give up the independance of my own mind.

“You fear, I have been imprudent.” I do not mean entirely to deny the charge. It is very possible, this may have been the case with me, in particular instances. But not so much so, perhaps, as you imagine. Into what times are we fallen, when the least degree of moderation, the least inclination to peace and order, the remotest apprehension for the public welfare and security is accounted a crime? Or what sort of cause is that, which dreads the smallest inquisition?

“Our cause,” you tell me, “is in very good hands.” I do not at all dispute it. But is it not also in bad ones? Has not the conduct of a few bad men already done infinite mischief to our cause? Have not bad men wantonly bro't us to a state of the greatest extremity and hazard? And may not the violence and temerity of such men precipitate us into measures, which the united efforts of the good cannot prevent?

Whatever others may think or say, let me intreat of you, my dear Mrs. Cranch, not to conceive of me, as in the least wanting in affection for my country. Heav'n knows the continual anxiety, I feel for its welfare. Nor do I merit the charge of being unfriendly to its constitution. It is true, I have not exclaimed so loudly against the cruelty, the injustice, the arbitrary nature of the late acts of Parliament, as others have done. My age, my particular profession in life, my connection with this seminary of learning, the seat of liberal enquiry, would have forbidden me to do so, had I even looked upon them, in a more odious light, than the people of the province in general. No one, however, wishes less, to see them established. At the same time I must freely own, that I had rather calmly acquiesce in these, and an hundred other acts, proceeding from a British Legislature, (tho' we need not 176even do this,) than be subject to the capricious, unlimited despotism of a few of my own countrymen, or behold the soil, which gave me birth, made a scene of mutual carnage and desolation.

I had intended to have said more. But as your friendly admonition appears to me to be founded on some misinformation, I had rather converse with you on the subject. I thank you, for every favourable sentiment you have been pleased to entertain of me, and wish I was in any measure worthy of the esteem you have so kindly express'd.

I am, your's, Mrs. Cranch, with the warmest regard, I. Smith

P.S. If you wish to see an exact picture of my thoughts, please to read the third of the Farmer's first Letters, which I always admired.1

RC (MHi: Richard Cranch Papers); addressed: “Mrs Cranch, Hanover street Boston”; docketed in an unidentified hand: “To Mrs. Cranch from Rev. I. Smith Oct. 20.—probably 1774.”


John Dickinson's Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania ..., Phila., 1768.