Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 April 1781 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Cranch, Mary Smith Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 April 1781 Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Cranch, Mary Smith
Elizabeth Smith Shaw to Mary Smith Cranch
My dear Sister Haverhill April 6th. 1781

When I received your last kind, and daily Remembrance of me,1 I felt doubly obliged, for I knew I was in the arrears, and had not deserved it, and my gratitude rose in proportion. You have greatly the advantage of me in the enjoyment of quiet Life, in thinking over Letters while you at work, and in the possession of your own thoughts. For if Ideas present themselves to my Mind, it is too much like the good seed sown among Thorns, they are soon erased, and swallowed up by the Cares of the World, the wants, and noise of my Family, and Children.

My little Creatures are well now, though they have been often indisposed this winter. Betcy Quincy2 sleeps but little, wants to be waited upon every moment, and if she can have present necessities supplied, cares nothing about the future, or whether her mamma works, thinks, or plays. I have no patience with the saucy Girl.

I have been uneasy that I could not send my Letter, but I find by yours that Brothers Conduct with regard to the Rates has determined my Father not to let him take the Farm into his own hands.3 I am sorry for the misfortune and loss, but believe it may be a means of preventing much greater evils.—I shall long to hear how things are. I hope you will continue your kind Informations.

What is the matter that I cannot be favoured with some of my dear Sister Adams's Letters. Does publick speculations, and an absent Husband and Children engross all her attention, and leave not one crevice for a sister who tenderly loves her.


We had a report here that Brother Adams was returned last week with proffers of Peace &c., but I did not believe he had stolen a march again.

I wish I knew what our situation was, with foreign Powers. Can Holland, and the States of Germany see the mart of the world destroyed, and preserve their Neutrality? It has greivously affected our merchants, Capt. Cordis particularly—he is a very great sufferer.

I am very sorry for your loss and dissappointment in Your Goods. I hope you have got them and find them not so bad as you feared. For it costs almost an estate to procure any article either foreign or domestic.—I have been trying to get some spining done, and have hired a Girl into the house for that purpose, but it keeps the house in confusion. I hate it.

I am sorry to hear my Aunt Thaxter has been so unwell.4 Are any more of my Cousins married. Is my Aunt a Grandmama? Give my Love to them all. I wish they were useful heads of Families in this town. If it was not so great a distance, and such chargeble travelling, I flatter myself I should see them scattered here and there. I want to see them.

I think it strange you cannot any of you find out who Mr. Thaxters favorite is. I think if I had seen him as often as you I should have known who the happy Girl was, for I suppose she will think herself so, when he returns with so much good-sense embelished by the advantages of travelling, and the Graces of the polite World.

I am glad to hear you are like to have such an agreeable addition to your neighbourhood, as Col. Warren's Family. Family Friendships are often-times exceedingly beneficial. They have Sons and you have Daughters.

I should be glad if sister Smith would see about the making Betcy Smith5 a pair of black draw-boy Shoes.6 I sent a piece by Sister Adams last Summer—the measure of her foot I send—she wants them directly. She is well and send duty, and Love.

Mr. Shaw presents his regards—he is sick with a Cold. I hope it will be nothing worse. He says you must be very ignorant of his Disposition if you fear he's making any unkind criticisms upon so good a Sister.

Billy is come. Mamma—Mamma.

Bea wants a peice of breaden—peas—mamm—hold your tongue Child—till I subscribe myself your dear Aunt Cranch's most affectionate Sister,

Eliza. Shaw 100

I received the handkercheif.

RC (DLC:Shaw Family Papers); docketed on face in Richard Cranch's hand: “Letter from Mrs. E. Shaw Apl. 6th. 1781.”


Letter not round.


Elizabeth Quincy Shaw (1780–1798), on whom see Adams Genealogy.


Presumably the farm in Lincoln where the numerous family of William Smith Jr. (1746–1787) lived. This property was left in trust by Rev. William Smith in 1783 for the support of his errant son's family. See Rev. William Smith's will, Sept. 1783 (attested copy in MHi:Cranch Papers). On William Jr., frequently mentioned in vols. 1–2 above, see also Adams Genealogy.


Anna (Quincy) Thaxter (1719–1799), wife of John Thaxter Sr.; see Adams Genealogy.


Sister Smith” must be the former Catharine Louisa Salmon (1749–1824), wife of William Smith Jr., mentioned above (see note 3). “Betcy” is presumably another niece of the writer, Elizabeth (1770–1849), daughter of Isaac Smith Sr., the Boston merchant; she married John Patton Hall in 1813. See Adams Genealogy under both names.


Shoes made of figure-woven material; see OED under draw-boy.

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 April 1781 JQA AA John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 April 1781 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abigail
John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams
Honour'd Mamma Leyden April the 8th 1781

I have been wanting to write to you this sometime but there has been nothing worth writing, and even now I know not what to write. We have not long since, heard of the taking of St. Eustatia, it cast a great damp upon the spirits of the dutchmen here; however the latest news from America make up for it for in the English news papers there is paragraph which makes mention that by the latest dispatches from New York they learn that the corps under Col. Tarleton was defeated, but it is not yet confirmed; however if it is true, it is no news to you, but what will be perhaps is the check the English have had in the East Indies, and of the two Colonels Fletcher and Baily one was kill'd and the other taken, they also have lost a great number of men.

Since I begun this letter Pappa is arrived from Amsterdam, he has received two letters from you which came by Col. Laurence, but I was very much disappointed, to find there was none for me; as to Sister, she has not done me the honour of writing me one line since I have been in Europe. The last letter that I recieved was one from you containing some excellent advice1 for which I am very much obliged to you.

I am now at the most celebrated university in Europe which was founded here for the valour of its inhabitants when it was besieg'd, when they were at war with Spain, it was put to it's choice whether to be exempt from all taxes for a certain number of years, or to have 101an University founded here, and they wisely choose the latter. I will give you a short description of this city.

Leyden is fortified as are all the other Towns in the seven Provinces, with a strong Rampart of Earth and a very broad Canal, so that it is able to sustain a seige. The Citizens are able to lay the whole Country about them under water, as was done by the advice of the Prince of Orange during the famous Siege which they sustain'd which was in 1574. They had recourse to the desperate Remedy of cutting the Banks of the Maes and Issel, by which all the neighbouring country was turn'd into a kind of Sea, and 1500 Spaniards were drown'd before they could retire. The besieg'd were reduced to extraordinary straits, they were forced to make paper money, which was afterwards chang'd for Silver. They had these Legends upon them, on one side, Haec libertatis ergo, and Pugno pro patria; “These miseries we suffer for the Sake of our Liberty, and in defending our Country.” And on the other side were these Initials N.O.U.L.S.G.I.P.A.C. that is Nummus obsessae urbis Lugdunensis sub gubernatione Illustrissimi Principis Auriaci cusus. In English The Money of the besieged city of Leyden, coined during the Government of the most illustrious Prince of Orange. The University was founded about a year after the city's deliverance.

Hengest castle or the Berg said to have been built by Hengest The saxon as a Trophy for his conquest of England is situated in the middle of the city in an Angle formed by the Channels of the Old and New Rhine and is planted with Trees. From the Top of it is an Extensive Prospect of the adjacent Country and Villages, of the Haerlem lake and the Sand hills. Some Antiquarians pretend, that it was built by the Romans as a garrison for one of their Legions. There is a Well here out of which it is said the Inhabitants took a Fish alive when the Place was almost famish'd during the siege, Which was shewn to the Enemy over the walls, in order to discourage the besiegers, by making their condition appear better than it was. This well is now dried up.—The plesantest Street in Leyden is the Rapenburg. It has a fine Canal over which are several handsome bridges. Each side of it is adorned with a Row of lofty Trees and the Streets as well as those of all the other cities of Holland have a small Declivity towards the Canals so that they can never be dirty even after the greatest rains.

The Physick Garden is a curiosity here. The inscription on old Clusius's tomb, flatters him a little.2 The Poet in extolling this Professor of Botany who died in 1619 says, wittily enough

102 image “Non potuit plures hie quaerere Clusius herbas Ergo novas campis quaerit Elysiis.” “Since no more herbs the Earth to Clusius yields New ones he seeks in the Elysian fields.”

This is all that is remarkable in this City.3

I am your dutiful Son, John Quincy Adams

RC (Adams Papers).


AA to JQA, 21 Jan., above.


Charles de l'Escluse (1526–1609), generally known as Carolus Clusius, the celebrated botanist, professor at the University of Leyden from 1592 until his death ( Nieuw Ned. Biog. Woordenboek , 9:150–153).


JQA's historical and topographical matter above was undoubtedly derived from a guidebook, perhaps the one JA purchased in Rotterdam when the Adamses first arrived in the Netherlands (see JQA, Diary, 7 Aug. 1780), but it has not been identified.