Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

Isaac Smith Jr. to John Adams, 3 September 1771 Smith, Isaac Jr. JA


Isaac Smith Jr. to John Adams, 3 September 1771 Smith, Isaac Jr. Adams, John
Isaac Smith Jr. to John Adams
Dear sir London, Septr. 3: 1771

I have just returned from an agreable excursion, in the course of which I had the pleasure of receiving your favour of April last, with that of Mrs. Adams, for each of which I beg leave to return my thanks.

I am sorry to find that you have deserted Boston. You plead as an excuse, sir, “the load of public and private care, which oppress'd you.” But you would have pleased me better, if instead of changing the residence of your family; you had only shifted your own for awhile. I trust, sir, that you would both repair the health of your body, and ease the burthen of your mind by using the relaxation of a voyage to Europe, more effectually than by breathing the air of Braintree in preference to that of Boston.

About 3 months past I have spent in a visit to the adjacent Continent, and was 5 weeks in Paris, the capital of a kingdom calculated by nature for one of the finest in the world, but by the joint influence of ambition, avarice and superstition, renderd the object of commiseration to a liberal mind.

The public affairs of France are infinitely more embarrass'd than those of England. The former boasts of having a greater variety of ressources at command than the latter. Poverty however covers the face both of the public, and of individuals. The wretched state of its finances at present is a great security to our tranquillity.

A prime minister exiled—another substituted in his room, the object of public odium—parliaments one after the other dissolved and banished—and the princes of the blood (one only excepted) thrown into disgrace! If an instance of illegal violence adopted against a single member of the british parliament could raise such a clamour here, what would proceedings of such a nature occasion? A rod hung over the heads of the people in that kingdom, tho' it cannot suppress their murmurs, yet is sufficient to prevent them from carrying their complaints into action.

To so sensible a nation as the french, it must be a most mortifying circumstance, that the revolutions of their government are often 79dependent on the amours of their monarch. This is notorious in the late change of their administration. The history of the present Sultana of their Court1 is curious. It seems that she is the natural daughter of a monk, and was a domestic in a family at Paris. A particular nobleman is struck with her beauty. As he had either already formed such a connection, or was afraid of degrading his dignity too far, he persuades his brother to marry her. In course of time, to serve the political purposes of a family, she is recommended to the King, who is particularly fond of bestowing his caresses on a married lady. To make herself appear in the more respectable light at Court, she claims an affinity with an ancient family of Ireland, the present possessor of whose title, Lord Barrymore, a nobleman equally distinguished for his conjugal fidelity in London, as Madame la Comtesse de Barre for her unspotted virtue in Paris, is so very condescending as to own the relation; and she is now treated with as much respect, as if she owed her connection with the monarch to birth instead of fortune. I had not an opportunity, tho I spent a day at the Palace of Versailles, of admiring the charms of this celebrated Lady.

Of the public buildings, the Churches, the libraries, the paintings, the amusements, and the manners of Paris, I shall be able to inform you more fully, when I enjoy the pleasure of seeing you again, which I am willing to indulge the hope of doing, by the middle of November if I can get ready to leave England by the first of October as I am endeavoring to do at present. I have no inclination to breathe the impure air of London if I can avoid it another winter; but I am in doubt whether I can finish a few excursions, which are necessary to make before I embark for Boston so as to accomplish my wishes of returning before winter.

In the mean time, sir, I am, with all the sincerity imaginable, Yr. very affect. & hum servt, I. Smith jr:

P.S. I am sorry to find, that anything new should happen, to renew the want of mutual confidence between the different branches of our legislature. I need not inform you, sir, to whom you are indebted for every new source of dispute. It is not Ld. Hillsborough it is Governor Bernard who has been the dispenser of instructions with regard to America at least with regard to the affairs of Massachusetts, for the year past. It may be some satisfaction to you to know, that Sir Francis is retiring to a distance from the Capital, and proposes to fix his future residence in his native county of Lincoln.

I agree with you, sir, absolutely that America suffers to an inexpres-80sible degree for want of proper connections in England. But when you ask me to procure you a friend or an acquaintance here, you put me, sir, to a very difficult task indeed.2 This is the worst place in the world, perhaps, to form connections that are of real service. I have but few friends, I have been able to make but few, except such as are immediately engaged in business; and such to an inquisitive American are not the most useful; and the most valuable I have in L. have such a superiority of years, as deprives me of that freedom and intimacy with them, which I could wish.—There is one Gentleman however, who honours me with his friendship from the recommendation of Dr. Chauncey, a gentleman of sense, of reading, and of leisure, who lives near L. and whose correspondence I intend, sir, to recommend to you on my return, and I may then perhaps, have it in my power to mention to you one or two other also. But with any who move within the sphere of the Court, I neither have, nor expect to have any connection in the least.

Mess. Dilly will enter into a correspondence with you sir, agreable to your desire with pleasure; but would be glad of some particular directions from you, as to the articles you would chuse to have from 'em. They wish to know the quantity and the quality of the paper that you want. Books on law and government are not published, (they say) in such a number in the course of a year, as to amount to the sum you have specified. They tell me of two, that have appear'd within the last 6 months, which they will send you, with any other works of merit as they rise, if you will but authorise them to do so, by writing. The books they mention, are Vezey's reports, 2 Vol. fol., Wilson's do. one V. and Cases in the Kings bench at the time Ld. Hardwicke presided there.—Mess. Dilly have very extensive concerns in their business, and have treated me with so much complaisance, that I cannot but recommend 'em to any friend of mine.

I know little, sir, of the character of Mr. Morris.3 He is said to possess a disposition too sanguine to consist with prudence. I imagine, sir, that he would esteem your correspondence a favour. American good sense is of no small consideration on this side the water.

They tell strange stories here this week, of the fire at Portsmouth; but whatever is said about it, will probably evaporate in smoke.

An ardent desire of visiting the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge the former at least detains me here; and if I should not be able to dispatch these with other objects I have in view very soon, I shall write to you, as occasion offers; and hope I shall receive, sir, repeated instances of your regard in the same way.

[fol. 80] [fol. 80] [fol. 80] [fol. 80] 81 I write to Mrs. Adams, by this opportunity, or very soon; and am, sir, with all the respect possible to her, and to every body at Braintree or Weymouth—Yr. &c., I. Smith jr:

RC (Adams Papers).


Madame du Barry.


This request must have been made in a letter not found.


Robert Morris, a London barrister and political radical, who had addressed “A bold, free, open, elegant Letter” to one of the judges of the King's Bench that JA had read in April ( Diary and Autobiography , 2:7). Presumably JA had inquired about him in a missing letter.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 17 September 1771 JA AA


John Adams to Abigail Adams, 17 September 1771 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dear Septr. 17. 1771.

There is no Business here1—And I presume as little at Braintree. The Pause in the English Trade, has made Husbandmen and Manufacturers, and increased Industry and Frugality, and thereby diminished the Number of Debts and Debtors, and Suits and Suiters.

But the hourly Arrival of Ships from England deeply loaden with dry Goods, and the extravagant Credit that is dayly given to Country Traders, opens a Prospect very melancholly to the public, tho profitable to Us, of a speedy revival of the suing Spirit. At present I feel very easy and comfortable, at Leisure to read, and think. I hope all are well, shall come up tomorrow after noon, if Mr. Austin2 comes down in the Morning.3 Yr.

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For Mrs. Abigail Adams Braintree.”


Probably Boston is meant, though the Superior Court of Judicature began its October term at Worcester this day.


Jonathan Williams Austin (1751–1779), Harvard 1769, JA's first law clerk, 1769–1772; major in the Massachusetts forces and in the Continental infantry, 1775–1776; admitted attorney, 1778 (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:338–339; Heitman, Register Continental Army ; Thwing Catalogue, MHi).


To “come up” from Boston to Braintree, and to “come down” from Braintree to Boston were standard expressions in the 18th century; see, for example, JA to AA, 29 Sept. 1774, and AA to JA, 16 Oct. 1774, both printed below.

John Adams to Isaac Smith Jr., 1771 JA Smith, Isaac Jr.


John Adams to Isaac Smith Jr., 1771 Adams, John Smith, Isaac Jr.
John Adams to Isaac Smith Jr.
1771 1

P.S. There is another Gentleman whose History and Character I want to know more of, than I do at present, I mean Dr. Arthur Lee.2 These Things however in Confidence. If you should stay in London this Winter, and have not been introduced to him and Dr. Franklin, and 82have a Desire to be acquainted with those Gentlemen or Either of them, I believe I could procure you Letters to them from Gentlemen here, whose Recommendations they would probably respect.

Am very glad to hear that Governor Bernard has removed to Lincolnshire. Could wish him much farther removed from the Capacity of doing Mischief. The Instructions to Mr. Hutchinson are such as give us no Prospect of Peace and Harmony here.3 Nothing but Resentment and Disaffection can proceed from such Measures. One of them, the Dissallowance of the Grants to our Agents, seems very cruel indeed. The Language of it is, that the People shall have no possible Way of conveying their Complaints or sentiments to the Royal Ear. In Times of oppression, from a Ministry or a Governor, We can have no Man to present a Petition, or Complaint to the Throne, but one, whom the Governor or Minister shall approve. And We may depend, upon it, that none but a Tool of both, one fitted to defeat as far as shall lie in his Power the very Petition that he shall be directed to present, will ever be approved. We know not how Britons, on that side of the Atlantic, may think of such severe Treatment of Americans, but if the Throats of one Million, of good subjects may be gagged, We can conceive of no Reason why the Throats of Eight Millions may not—and, it does not require a surgeon to foresee that a Mortification of a Finger if neglected will soon spread itself, to the Heart and the Lungs.

It gives me, my Friend extream Concern to perceive the Tendency of these unkind Measures. I see that my Countrymen the Americans have not the Virtue, the Fortitude, the Magnanimity, to resist these Encroachments, now in the Beginning of them, to a decisive Effect. I see that there is not Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation in the Mother Country, to desist voluntarily from such Attempts to make inroads upon Us—and therefore a trimming, jealous, invidious system of Conduct will be held by both, untill the Period shall arrive that an entire Allienation of Affection and a total Opposition of Interests shall take Place, And War and Desolation shall close the melancholly Prospect. Out of such Desolations, Glory and Power, and Wonders may arise, to carry on the Designs of Providence.

But I restrain, perhaps a visionary, enthusiastic Pen. You and I shall be saints in Heaven I hope before the Times, We dream of. But our Grandsons may perhaps think this cannonical Prophecy.

What a Pity it is, that the seeds of such Divisions and Jealousies should be sown, only to gratify the Ravenous Cravings of a very few Ravens, Cormorants and Vultures.


But I am writing Politicks to you, who detest them.

If you see my old Friend Mr. John Boylstone, please to make my most respectfull Compliments to him.4

Postscript only (Adams Papers), unsigned, undated, and without direction, of what is quite evidently an autograph letter, or RC, not found, rather than a draft. See note 1.


From the reference to Francis Bernard's moving to Lincolnshire, the present fragment appears clearly to be part of a reply to Smith's letter to JA, 3 Sept. 1771, above. It is possible and in fact very likely that JA omitted the postscript merely by accident when he sent Smith the (now missing) letter to which it was meant to be appended.


Arthur Lee (1740–1792), M.D. Edinburgh 1764, one of the four Lee brothers of Virginia with whom JA during his career in the Continental Congress and in Europe was to become closely associated ( DAB ; JA, Diary and Autobiography , passim).


See Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 3:247–248.


John Boylston (1709–1795), Boston merchant and first cousin of JA's mother; later a loyalist resident at Bath, England, where he was hospitable to JA in 1783. See Adams Genealogy.