Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

Descriptive List of Illustrations Descriptive List of Illustrations

[Note: for permissions reasons, not all illustrations from the letterpress volumes are available in this digital edition.]

Descriptive List of Illustrations
Abigail Adams' Birthplace in Weymouth facing 80[unavailable]

This unsigned ink and water-color drawing of the parsonage of Rev. William Smith, who settled in the First or North Parish of Weymouth in 1734, is mounted in a scrapbook kept by Elizabeth Hall Smith (1843–1911), a great-granddaughter of Isaac Smith, Abigail Adams' uncle, and was deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1925. “The Revd. William Smiths house Weymouth” is written in an unidentified hand on the reverse of the view (reproduced in the actual size of the original), with “1765” penciled in a later hand, although the drawing more likely dates from about 1800. In this house Abigail Adams was born in 1744, and here John Adams came to court her when he was a young lawyer beginning practice in neighboring Braintree. See a note on her letter to Adams, 12 September 1763 (p. 9 in the present volume).

The larger forward section of this house was built about 1685 by one of Smith's predecessors, Rev. Samuel Torrey; after Smith was settled, the Parish negotiated with him for several years on the terms of his use of the parsonage house and wood lot. In 1738, after a committee had been appointed “to vew the House on said Pasonage to know what may be Proper to be acted with said House Betwen the Revd. Mr. William Smith and The Parish,” it was agreed to sell the house to him, and he bought it for £45 in May 1738 (MS Records of the North Parish of Weymouth [microfilm in Massachusetts Historical Society], 27 March and 3 April 1738; “Diaries of Rev. William Smith and Dr. Cotton Tufts, 1738–1784,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 42 [1908–1909]:446). Almost at once Smith found himself in legal difficulties with Rev. James Bayley, minister of Weymouth's South Parish, over the rights to the Parish lands and house. The disputed claims were bitterly contested in the courts as the “Weymouth Case” for decades; as late as 1761 John Adams, then a fledgling lawyer, expressed his opinion that “it cant be thought that Either Party to that deed entertained a Thought of dividing that House and Land among 50 ministers, that shall happen to settle within the Borders of that Town” (Diary and Autobiography, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961, 1:202).

After Parson Smith's four children were born, between 1741 and 1750, the demands for space forced him to contract in 1761 with housewrights and suppliers of building materials at a cost exceeding one hundred pounds for wages, “Clab-boards,” “Painting,” “Glass,” “window Frames,” and “Spouts,” presumably to build the ell, visible in the drawing, behind the house. In August 1762 he xspent another £31 for materials and labor and “Repaired my house” by “Shingling The fore part of my house” (Rev. William Smith, MS Diaries in Massachusetts Historical Society, 1761 and 1762; the published diaries cited above are abridgments).

On his death in 1783 Smith left the house to his oldest daughter, Mary Cranch; the Cranches never occupied it but rented out the house and ell separately for several years to various people, including the English nonconformist minister William Hazlitt (father of the essayist of that name) for a time. The Cranches finally sold the old parsonage in 1788 to the new minister of the North Parish, Rev. Jacob Norton, who the following year became their son-in-law by his marriage to Elizabeth Cranch (Norton, MS Diary in Massachusetts Historical Society, under date of 12 March 1788). Norton continued to live in the house, after the death of his wife in 1811 and his second marriage in 1813, until 1824, when, much against his will, he was forced to resign because of his inclination to preach and practice Baptist theology. Upon his resignation he promptly sold the house to Ansiel (or Ansel) Burrell.

Controversy soon erupted between Burrell and the Parish over the boundaries of his property, the Parish charging that Norton during his occupancy had moved the fences and encroached on the burying ground. After continual harassment, Burrell sold the old parsonage back to the Parish in 1826 for occupancy by their new minister, Rev. Josiah Bent. But after contending for the next dozen years with weakened chimneys in the house, the North Parish appointed a committee in 1838 “to take into consideration the subject of building a parsonage house so far as it relates to building on the Old Site” (MS Records of the North Parish of Weymouth, 15 January 1838). After the demolition of the oldest and largest section of the Smith parsonage had been completed and a new structure built on its site, Rev. Joshua Emery, minister of the North Parish at that time, entered the following information in the church records under the date of October 1838: “The old Parsonage House, belonging to the 1st Parish in Weymouth, was taken down in the month of March 1838. Some parts of it has been standing over 150 years. The frame for a new Parsonage was raised May 17th 1838 on the old site.”

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Colonel Josiah Quincy's House in 1822, by Eliza Susan Quincy facing 80[unavailable]

Water color in the first volume of a manuscript by Eliza Susan Quincy (1798–1884) entitled “Memoir,” now among the Quincy Family Collection in the Massachusetts Historical Society. Col. Josiah Quincy (1710–1784) built this house in 1770 to replace his former house in what is now Quincy Square, burned down in 1759; see John Adams' Diary and Autobiography , 1:102, 111–113. The house depicted here was built on the shore of Quincy Bay and commanded a splendid view of Boston Harbor, but is now hemmed in by other houses on Muirhead Street in the Wollaston section of xiQuincy. From here its first owner reported to his friends John Adams and Gen. George Washington, among others, movements of British naval forces and troops in the harbor, and more than once during the siege of Boston took temporary refuge with his family at the Adams farm farther inland; see Abigail Adams to Mercy (Otis) Warren, 2 May 1775 and note (p. 190–191, below). Here in October 1775; Mrs. Adams dined with an assemblage of notables that included Benjamin Franklin, James Bowdoin, and Rev. Samuel Cooper; see p. 313, 320–321. Ex-President Adams paid his last visit here shortly before his death on the Fourth of July in 1826. The Adamses were in fact familiar with the house over several generations, for three successive Josiah Quincys—the Colonel, his son the Patriot, and his son the President of Harvard—resided in it, and one son and several daughters of President Josiah recorded in their diaries and reminiscences the comings and goings between the two most prominent families of the town until well into the 19th century. See Josiah Quincy (1802–1882), Figures of the Past, from the Leaves of Old Journals, ed. M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Boston, 1926, and The Articulate Sisters, ed. M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Cambridge, 1946.

From the Quincy family this superb example of New England domestic architecture passed to Mr. and Mrs. Edward R. Hall, who deeded it in 1937 to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities; see “The Colonel Josiah Quincy Homestead, Wollaston, Quincy, Mass.,” in Old-Time New England, 28:85–89 (January 1938).

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

List of Addressers “To The Late Governor Hutchinson,” Broadside, June 1774 following 80[unavailable]

In the spring of 1774 Thomas Hutchinson, governor since 1771 of His Majesty's more or less loyal Province of Massachusetts Bay, was superseded by Lt. Gen. Thomas Gage at the head of four regiments of British troops and a powerful fleet under orders to enforce the Boston Port Act and other punitive measures. On the first day of June, Hutchinson sailed for England on what he thought would be a temporary leave from his native province, but he never returned. Just before his departure he received testimonials from his friends and other supporters of royal government in various Massachusetts towns, including an Address from the “Merchants and Traders of the town of Boston, and others,” dated 28 May, which ventured to declare that “Had your success been equal to your endeavours, and to the warmest wishes of your heart, we cannot doubt that many of the evils under which we now suffer, would have been averted, and that tranquillity would have been restored to this long divided Province” (Peter Force, ed., American Archives, Washington, 1837–1853, 4th series, 1:361–363).

The approximately 125 signers of the Boston Address formed a beadroll of persons most objectionable to the patriotic party. Within a few weeks two broadside listings, both probably produced by Edes xii& Gill, printers of the Boston Gazette, were circulated (Charles Evans and others, comps., American Bibliography, Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959, Nos. 13279 and 13767; Worthington C. Ford, comp., Broadsides, Ballads &c. Printed in Massachusetts, 1639–1800, Boston, 1922, Nos. 1699 and 1700), in which not only the names but the residences or shops of the “Addressers” were given, together with contemptuous characterizations of many of them. John Adams heard about the broadsides while he was traveling what proved to be his last Superior Court circuit in the District of Maine early in July; see his letter to his wife, 7 July 1774, and a note there (p. 130–132, below). Quite a few of the Addressers turn up in Adams' Diary and in the family correspondence now being printed, in roles obnoxious to the Adamses and their circle. Note, for example, the Winslows, Benjamin Davis, Harrison Gray, Ezekiel Goldthwait, William Jackson, Byfield Lyde (“Powder-Monkey”), and Sheriff David Phips. On the other hand, “John S. Copley... Portrait Painter,” was, with his tory wife, to be present at the private wedding of the younger Abigail Adams at the United States Legation in London, June 1786.

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

The Reverend William Smith, Father of Abigail Adams facing 81[unavailable]

William Smith (1707–1783), the father of Abigail Adams and for half a century the minister of the First or North Parish of Weymouth, as illustrated in Daniel Munro Wilson's The “Chappel of Ease” and Church of Statesmen: Commemorative Services at... the First Church of Christ in Quincy, Quincy, 1890, facing p. 81. Wilson, who was for years the minister of the First Church of Quincy and an able local historian, illustrated his books profusely but failed to provide information about his sources that later historians would like to have. Charles Francis Adams 2d (1835–1915) was a collaborator in historical undertakings with Wilson from time to time, prophetically sensed the importance of Wilson's illustrations, and in a letter to him of 24 January 1903 said: “In the case of your book the illustrations will ripen with time, and become, doubtless, even more curious and valuable than your text. That could be replaced by another. Meanwhile, the pictures are unique, and must remain so” (Daniel Munro Wilson Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society). A search by the editors of Mr. Wilson's papers still in the possession of his daughter, Miss Marjorie Wilson of Newport, R.I., and inquiries elsewhere, have regrettably failed to turn up a location, attribution, or date for the original of this only known likeness of Smith. There is reason to believe that it may have been owned in the 19th century by some of the numerous descendants of Richard and Mary Cranch, the latter being Smith's daughter and the elder sister of Abigail Adams.

Richard Cranch, Abigail Adams' Brother-in-Law facing 81[unavailable]

This profile sketch of Richard Cranch (1726–1811), husband of Abigail Adams' sister Mary, the only likeness known to exist of xiiihim, is also reproduced in Wilson's “Chappel of Ease,” facing p. 81, without source, attribution, or date; see the note on the portrait of Rev. William Smith, preceding. The illustration confirms Abigail Adams' description of Cranch as “leaner than ever” with a “Grave, Yet chearful countenance” (to Mrs. Cranch, 6 October 1766 and 12 January 1767, p. 56–57, below). John Adams and Richard Cranch courted the Smith girls at Weymouth together, and through-out the rest of their lives commonly addressed each other as “Dear Brother.” Innumerable letters in the Adams Family Correspondence attest the strong and unvarying affection that subsisted between the statesman and his watchmaker-farmer-postmaster relative by marriage.

Mrs. Catharine Macaulay, the Historian facing 240[unavailable]

Mrs. Catharine (Sawbridge) Macaulay, later Mrs. William Graham (1731–1791), correspondent of the Adamses and Warrens, political pamphleteer, feminist, and author of a multivolume History of England, from the Accession of James I to That of the Brunswick Line, London, 1763–1783, from an engraving by Williams, after a painting by Catherine Read, in the London Magazine, July 1770. The crusading zeal of this “historian in petticoats” made her the darling of political radicals in both England and America; her literary achievements won for her the unlimited admiration of emancipated and literate women like Mercy Warren and Abigail Adams. See a remarkable letter printed in the present volume (p. 177–179), in which Mrs. Adams undertook to give Mrs. Macaulay a view of American affairs in 1774, and an exchange in 1778 between Mrs. Adams and John Thaxter on a marble statue of her as Clio recently commissioned by one of Mrs. Macaulay's English admirers (vol. 2:391–393, 400–401). John Adams went so far as to call her “one of the brightest ornaments not only of her Sex but of her Age and Country” ( Diary and Autobiography , 1:360)—a judgment that many Americans accepted then, though few today remember her name or have read her History. For an illustrated account of her and her writings, including her sensational tour of America in 1784–1785, see Lucy M. Donnelly, “The Celebrated Mrs. Macaulay,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d series, 6:173–207 (April 1949).

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Mrs. Mercy Otis Warren, about 1765, by John Singleton Copley facing 240[unavailable]

This portrait of Mercy (Otis) Warren by John Singleton Copley, and its companion piece of her husband James Warren (both dated conjecturally between 1763 and 1767), descended in the Warren family; they were bequeathed to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, by Winslow Warren of Dedham in 1931 (Barbara N. Parker and Anne B. Wheeler, John Singleton Copley: American Portraits, Boston, 1938, p. 199–201).


Mercy Otis (1728–1814), daughter of Col. James and Mary (Allyne) Otis of Barnstable, and sister of James and Samuel Allyne Otis, married James Warren, who was a power in Massachusetts politics for nearly half a century, in November 1754. They lived for the most part in Plymouth until 1781, when they purchased Gov. Thomas Hutchinson's former house in Milton. By 1788 they found themselves unable to maintain the house, sold it, and returned to Plymouth. Mrs. Warren possessed a flair for literature and politics and published anonymously two antiministerial satires—The Adulateur (1773) and The Group (1775). Both the Adamses admired her labored literary style extravagantly, and found themselves the recipients of a great many of her epistolary and poetical productions; with respect to The Group John Adams acted in the role of Mrs. Warren's literary adviser and agent; see p. 185–188, below. Clifford K. Shipton in his incisive sketch of her husband says of Mrs. Warren: “She was a woman whose strong character and never-quiet pen made her more famous than her husband. Untroubled by logic, reason, or perspective, furious in her prejudices, she poured upon the leading men of the times a confident and assertive correspondence which caused many a pitying glance to be cast toward her husband” (Clifford K. Shipton, Sibley's Harvard Graduates, Boston, 1933– , 11:584).

The Warrens and the Adamses were intimate friends and constant correspondents until the late 1780's, when, for a variety of reasons, they drifted apart socially and politically. Mercy Warren was keenly disappointed when John Adams and the Federalist administration failed to favor her husband and sons with political appointments; in spite of Adams' placatory explanations she sharply criticized his public conduct in her own political testament, the History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, published in three volumes in 1805. Adams answered her in ten long and vehement letters written during July and August 1807; see his letters, with her answers to some of them, in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 5th series, 4 (1878):317–491. James Warren died a year later; it was not until 1812–1813, through the mediation of Elbridge Gerry, that Mercy Warren and the Adamses resumed social correspondence and allowed old wounds to heal (see the “Appendix” in same, p. 493–511). But even in the moment of the revival of their friendship, Adams sternly reminded Gerry that “History is not the Province of the Ladies” (Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 73 [1925]:380).

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Map of Boston and Vicinity during the Siege, 1775–1776 following 240[unavailable]

From the folding frontispiece map, “Boston, with its Environs,” engraved by T. Conder, London, in the second volume of William Gordon, The History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment, of the Independence of the United States of America..., first published in London, 4 vols., 1788. (The present reproduction has been reduced from the original, and the southern portion has been xvtrimmed away to increase the legibility of the remainder.) On the whole this appears to be the most satisfactory single map, among many that were produced at the time, to illustrate the topographical features, encampments, lines, batteries, and operations of the two armies during the eleven-month siege of Boston, May 1775–March 1776. Nearly every feature bearing a legend on the map is mentioned in the letters published in the first two volumes of the Adams Family Correspondence , many of them repeatedly. One may trace the routes of Abigail Adams' visits to the headquarters of the Continental Army in the winter of 1775 and to the Roxbury lines soon after the British evacuation. One may see how Washington's successful action against Dorchester Heights and his fortification of Nook's Hill, so quaintly described by Peter Boylston Adams (who was one of the “hardy hereos” who took part in it), rendered the position of Howe's army in Boston utterly untenable. (See P. B. Adams to John Adams, 4 April 1776, p. 371–372, below.)

An English nonconformist clergyman who had arrived in America not long before the Revolution, William Gordon ministered to a congregation in Roxbury, took a personal part in the fortification of Boston Harbor after the British left Boston, and assiduously collected materials for his History from the beginning of the war. For evidence suggesting that he drew on John Adams' letter files in the preparation of his book, see the descriptive note on Isaac Smith Sr. to John Adams, 24 June 1775, p. 229–230, below.

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Chart of Boston Harbor in 1775 following 240[unavailable]

This “Plan of the Town and Chart of the Harbour of Boston” is reproduced (reduced about one half) from a folding plate in the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 45: facing p. 41 (January 1775). The engraving is not signed, but it is dated at the foot “Feby. 1st. 1775.”

Commerce being the lifeblood of the Province and most Bostonians being connected in one way or another with seafaring, they knew better than their descendants do the maze of islands, rocks, and tidal flats that clutter Boston Harbor and leave only a few well-defined ship channels and “roads” or deep-water anchorages. The present chart shows them all, names most of them, and thus admirably illustrates the letters of the Adams family circle during the Revolution. Abigail Adams' Smith and Tufts family connections lived in the highly exposed town of Weymouth (bottom center of chart), and were driven from their homes by the British raid on Grape Island, May 1775, in the repulse of which both of John Adams' brothers took part as members of the local militia. Just northwest of Weymouth on the chart is a structure marked “Quinzey,” evidently representing the house of Mrs. Adams' uncle, Norton Quincy, on the shore of old Braintree (near present Wollaston Beach). The Adamses' own “cottage” and farm were a mile or two inland from there; and it was at Norton Quincy's house in February 1778 that John Adams met Capt. Samuel Tucker, walked across Hough's Neck (the little peninsula indicated on the chart only by xvi“Hoffs Tombs” north of it), and was rowed with his son John Quincy Adams to the Boston frigate lying in Nantasket Roads (between the bluff designating present Hull, Mass., and George's Island) for their secret embarkation for France. (See Adams' letters to his wife, 13 February 1778, vol. 2:388–389.) The letters of Mrs. Adams and others during and after the siege of Boston allude repeatedly to British forays for hay, cattle, and fuel on many of the islands in the inner and outer harbor, to raids and counterraids to destroy and repair Boston Light at the Brewsters, and to engagements between British naval patrols and American armed vessels, from Chelsea at the north to the “Rocks of Kenchaset” (off modern Cohasset), in the southeast corner of the chart. The chart also makes clear why John Adams and others felt that it was both feasible and imperative, following the British evacuation, to make the harbor impregnable by fortifying all the islands on which there were eminences adjacent to ship channels.

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

John Adams' Copy of Matthew Robinson-Morris' “Considerations,” 1774 facing 241[unavailable]

On 13 January 1775 Edward Dilly, the London bookseller, wrote John Adams: “I have also sent you 4 Copies of Mr. Robinson's Considerations on the Measures carrying on with respect to the British Colonies in America The 2d Edition with considerable Additions” (Adams Papers). Dilly's letter was acknowledged by Abigail Adams on 22 May, since her husband was attending the Continental Congress when it arrived, and with her letter she sent some newspapers containing pieces written “under the signature of Novanglus who has had the happiness of entertaining the same Opinions that Mr. Robinson has” (p. 200–204, below). The copy of Robinson-Morris' Considerations illustrated here is undoubtedly one of the four sent by Dilly early in 1775; Adams' ownership is indicated by the insertion in his hand of the author's name and a marginal comment at the head of the title page (unfortunately cropped in binding) which reads: “... Fortune in the County of Kent—one of the warmest Friends of American Liberty, in Great Britain.”

Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum.

John Adams' Copy of Thomas Paine's “Common Sense,” 1776 facing 241[unavailable]

John Adams apparently first acquired and read Thomas Paine's Common Sense on his return journey to the Continental Congress early in February 1776, for on the 18th he wrote his wife from Philadelphia: “I sent you from New York a Pamphlet intituled Common Sense” (p. 348, below; see also note 1 at p. 349). Even though Adams often acquired duplicates of books and pamphlets over the course of many years, this copy of the second edition of Common Sense from his collection of books in the Boston Public Library could be the one sent to Mrs. Adams, since this edition had xviibeen printed and advertised by late January 1776; see Richard Gimbel, Thomas Paine: A Bibliographical Check List of “Common Sense” with an Account of Its Publication, New Haven, 1956, p. 26, 65–66. The Adamses frequently commented on this influential polemic by Paine, and in the spring of 1776 John Adams wrote his Thoughts on Government expressly to counteract, not Paine's arguments for independence but “a form of Government I considered as flowing from simple Ignorance, and a mere desire to please the democratic Party in Philadelphia” ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:331). Adams conceded that Paine was a more effective stylist than he himself was, but, “this Writer has a better Hand at pulling down than building” (to Mrs. Adams, 19 March 1776, p. 363, below).

This copy of Common Sense has received rough usage and is mutilated at the end of the text. Moreover, when it was cropped for binding the early notation in an unidentified hand at the head of the titlepage, “Adams Library,” was partially cut off.

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library.