Adams Family Correspondence, volume 2

Nathan Rice to Abigail Adams

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 12 August 1776 AA JA


Abigail Adams to John Adams, 12 August 1776 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
Boston, ca. 12 August 1776 1

Yours 30 of July reachd me by Saturdays post, and found me with Johnny and Tommy quite Recoverd from the small Pox. When I first came to Town I was made to believe that the small pox was a very light disorder, and one might pass through it with little or no complaints. Some such instances no doubt there are, and Light it is in comparison of the Natural way, or what it formerly was. As I never saw the disease before I have with those much more experienced been deceived in it now.

Nabby was the first person who had complaints of our number, hers came on about the 8th day attended with a voilent pain in a tooth which she had which was defective. She was cold and shivery, then a voilent Heat insued; the doctor supposed it the Symptoms of the disorder, a day or two after she had 3 Eruptions upon one of her Eyes. I thought it did not appear like what I had seen which they calld small pox, however I submitted my judgment to those who knew better. But when I found some who were innoculated at the same time failing, I requested the dr. to innoculate her again. Symptoms she has had very severely and very diffirent from what she had before and small pox in plenty, she can reckon 500 allready. She is cleverly only soar, I am much better satisfied now, and we rejoice when we 87can reckon a hundred. I believe I mentiond to you my Aunts Little Daughter having recoverd of it, but there again we were deceived, the child has been ill these 3 Days and now is broke out with small pox.—Here I have been a month Last fryday, and for ought I see must be for this fortnight to come. I have broke through my resolution of not having Charles innoculated again. I saw I must tarry for Nabby long enough to make an other trial upon him, and have accordingly done it.—We clear of some this week. Sister Betsy and her Neice, Mr. Tufts, Betsy Cranch and Johnny are going tomorrow. My affairs at home which for 3 weeks I laid asleep, wake up now, and make me anxious to get there. I fear they will go to ruin. My Expences here too for so long atime will be much more than I expectd for I thought to be at home in a month at furthest.—Lucy Cranch who I mentiond having taken the Distemper in the Natural Way is cleverly—pretty full and large.—And now about your returning. I am shut up here, and wholly unable to do that for you, which I might endeavour to if I was at home, and then the fate of your poor horse which I must ever lament makes it necessary to procure two Horses and a very great Scarcity there are. I think I should advice you if you could light of a good Horse, to procure one there, as you will stand in need of one when you return.

A prize was brought in here Last Saturday with 400 Hogsheads of Sugar, 300 of rum and 400 Bags of cotton taken by one White in Capt. Darbys Derby's employ and is the 7th taken by him within these ten days.

Mrs. Temple was here to see me a few days past and requested me to make mention of her case to you, and to desire you to render her all the assistance you can. Said she would write to you and state the Situation she was in. She wrote once to the president but had no reply.2

I close to send by the Post rejoiceing in the Prospect I have of soon seeing you. Ever yours.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Portia.”


JA in his reply of 20 Aug., below, supposed this letter was written “about the Twelfth.” He was undoubtedly right because AA says herein that she has been in Boston “a month Last fryday”—meaning Friday, 9 Aug., which was four weeks after she had arrived there, Friday, 12 July.


Mrs. Temple's “case” recurs in both the family and the general correspondence of the Adamses. She was Harriet, daughter of the late Gov. William Shirley and wife of Robert Temple (d. 1784), of Ten Hills Farm, the original estate of the Winthrops on the Mystic River in Charlestown (Thomas B. Wyman, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown, Boston, 1879, 2:938; Mayo, Winthrop Family , p. 144). Her husband's politics were ambiguous; he had left Boston for England in 1775, but was at this moment in New York 88endeavoring to return home, which with the permission of Gen. Howe, Gen. Washington, and the Continental Congress, he soon did. (See JA to AA, 20 Aug., below; Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 5:447; Sabine, Loyalists , 2:349; Rowe, Letters and Diary , p. 319.) In a letter to JA dated at Ten Hills, 10 Aug. 1776, Mrs. Temple described her “distrest Situation,” pointed out that “many Persons in this Province have been paid for thier Trees cut down for the use of the Continental forces as Cord Wood,” and requested a like indulgence to her (Adams Papers). JA promptly presented her case to Congress, 23 Aug. ( JCC , 5:699), and on the 28th Congress “Resolved, That, upon the said Harriot's producing to the quarter master general, an account of the trees which were cut down upon the farm of Robert Temple, Esqr. for the purpose of supplying the continental army with wood for firing, or for the purposes of fortification, so far as from the nature of the circumstances such destruction can be ascertained by her, that the quarter master general of the continental army, shall make her a just compensation for the same, in such manner as other persons have been paid, who have supplied the army with wood for these purposes; and that the quarter master general, in his accounts, shall be allowed for the same by this Congress” (same, p. 713).

But long delays followed. On 23 April 1778 James Bowdoin (whose daughter Elizabeth was the wife of Robert Temple's brother John) addressed to his friend Washington a strong plea for action on this claim because Ten Hills was “in so ruined a state, that it will require a great length of time, and great expence upon it to put it in a condition to answer the purpose of supporting Temple's family” (MHS, Colls. , 6th ser., 9 [1897]: 415). On 27 Feb. 1779 Temple himself submitted a memorial to Congress saying that the conditions in Congress' resolve of 1776 had been met on his part but the claim had not been paid (PCC, No. 41, X). Action now followed speedily. The memorial was committed on the same day, and on 6 March, in a most interestingly itemized report, which Congress adopted, Temple was allowed, and the quartermaster general ordered to pay him, £6702 for the destruction of his fruit and timber trees, fences, and farm and wharf buildings, less £2500 already paid him by Massachusetts, or £4202, equal to $14,006 ⅔ ( JCC , 13:260, 288–289). This was, however, in inflated currency, and Temple in the following year gave up the struggle, sold Ten Hills, and sailed with his family to England. “The Day before yesterday Mr. Robert Temple with all his family, even to the Cat, arrived here in 32 Days from Boston; he had disposed of all his property, real and personal, in that Country, and is come, as he says, to lay his bones in England or Ireland” (Jonathan Sewall to Isaac Smith Jr., Bristol, 25 Aug. 1780, MHi: Smith-Carter Papers). He died in Dublin, leaving his wife and three daughters (Robert C. Winthrop Jr., “Account of the Family of Robert Temple,” MHi: Fenton Papers, under date of 8 Jan. 1894).