Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Sarah Sever to Abigail Adams

Cotton Tufts to John Adams

Alice Lee Shippen to Elizabeth Welles Adams, 17 June 1781 Shippen, Alice Lee Adams, Elizabeth Welles


Alice Lee Shippen to Elizabeth Welles Adams, 17 June 1781 Shippen, Alice Lee Adams, Elizabeth Welles
Alice Lee Shippen to Elizabeth Welles Adams
Philadelphia 17. June 1781

I have long promis'd my self the Honor of a Correspondence with you Madam, and now I cannot in person enquire of your Health and Welfare from Mr. A— your good Spouse, I can no longer deny my self the satisfaction of doing so in this way; and if I can be of the least Service to you here, either by communicating or otherwise, you cannot oblige me more than by commanding me.1 My Brother A. L— is with us, and with Mr. S— desires to be remember'd in the most respectfull manner to yourself and Mr. A—, on whose safe arrival at Boston I congratulate you Madam, and it gives me great pleasure to hear that the People have Virtue and Discernment enough still to respect and love him: may they long continue to do so; and may he live long, very long, to serve them and enjoy their Gratitude.2

The British are making sad Havock in Virginia, they have taken six Members of their Assembly: I am much distress'd lest a Brother I have in that Body should be one of their number. I am sure none of my Brothers will find any Mercy with them. A French Fleet in Virginia now might do every thing we wish, but I despair of such assistance while a certain person is our Minister. He has sent his resignation to Congress; this is probably no more than a State Trick to fix him more firm in the Saddle. He says perhaps he is too Old, but he does not perceive any thing like it himself; and then gives a strong Proof of it by recommending his Grandson as the Person who will, in a Year or two, be most fit for our Plenepotentiary.3 From this recommendation one or the other of these two things is clear, either Mr. F—'s faculties are impair'd, or he thinks ours are. This same Gentleman is now blackening the Character of Mr. J:A. to Congress more than he did Mr. L—'s, and he has got the french Minister to join him.4—I fear I shall quite tire you; I will only beg leave to add that I am with the highest Esteem, Madam, your very humble Servt.,


Early Tr (Adams Papers); in the hand of Richard Cranch; at foot of text: “(A. Shippen).” The (missing) RC, “addressed to Mrs. A. but without any christian Name or place of abode,” was erroneously delivered to AA in Braintree rather than to its intended recipient, Mrs. Samuel Adams, in Boston. After having had a copy made by her brother-in-law Cranch, AA forwarded the original, with “a proper excuse,” to Mrs. Samuel Adams. See letters of AA to James Lovell and to Mrs. Shippen printed below under 30 June.


The writer, Alice (Lee) Shippen (1736–1817), wife of Dr. William Shippen Jr. (1736–1808) of Philadelphia, was the sister of four Lee brother of 155Virginia (Richard Henry, Francis Lightfoot, William, and Arthur), all of whom made their mark on Revolutionary history and appear with more or less prominence in The Adams Papers . The Lees' political ties were especially close with Samuel Adams, and only slightly less so with JA; there is a witty saying without a known author to the effect that the American Revolution was the result of a temporary alliance between the Adamses and the Lees.


Samuel Adams, who had recently left Congress, was now serving as president of the Massachusetts Senate (Boston Gazette, 4 June 1781, p. 2, col. 2).


See Benjamin Franklin to Pres. Samuel Huntington, 12 March 1781, in Franklin's Writings, ed. Smyth, 8:220–223. It hardly needs to be added that Mrs. Shippen's summary at second hand of Franklin's letter offering his resignation and recommending his grandson, William Temple Franklin, to the further favor of Congress, is not unprejudiced. Congress' reply to Franklin, declining his offer, 19 June, is in JCC , 20:675–676.


The reference is to Franklin's role in the dispute in the summer of 1780 between JA and Vergennes and its aftereffects now current in Congress, whereby, through La Luzerne's influence, JA's powers to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain were revoked. Mrs. Shippen's term “the french Minister” is ambiguous; it could mean either Vergennes or La Luzerne. See editorial note in vol. 3:390–395, above; Lovell to AA, 26 June, 13 July 10 Aug.; AA to Lovell, 14 July; all below.