Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 18 December 1780 JA AA


John Adams to Abigail Adams, 18 December 1780 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Portia Amsterdam Decr. 18. 1780

I have this morning sent Mr. Thaxter, with my two Sons to Leyden, there to take up their Residence for some time, and there to pursue their Studies of Latin and Greek under the excellent Masters, 35and there to attend Lectures of the celebrated Professors in that University. It is much cheaper there than here: the Air is infinitely purer; and the Company and Conversation is better.

It is perhaps as learned an University as any in Europe.

I should not wish to have Children, educated in the common Schools in this Country, where a littleness of Soul is notorious. The Masters are mean Spirited Writches, pinching, kicking, and boxing the Children, upon every Turn.1

Their is besides a general Littleness arising from the incessant Contemplation of Stivers and Doits, which pervades the whole People.

Frugality and Industry are virtues every where, but Avarice, and Stingyness are not Frugality.

The Dutch say that without an habit of thinking of every doit, before you spend it, no Man can be a good Merchant, or conduct Trade with Success. This I believe is a just Maxim in general. But I would never wish to see a Son of Mine govern himself by it. It is the sure and certain Way for an industrious Man to be rich. It is the only possible Way for a Merchant to become the first Merchant, or the richest Man in the Place. But this is an Object that I hope none of my Children will ever aim at.

It is indeed true, every where, that those who attend to small Expences are always rich.

I would have my Children attend to Doits and Farthings as devoutly as the meerest Dutchman upon Earth, if such Attention was necessary to support their Independence.

A Man who discovers a Disposition and a design to be independent seldom succeeds—a Jealousy arises against him. The Tyrants are alarmed on one side least he should oppose them. The slaves are allarmed on the other least he should expose their Servility. The Cry from all Quarters is, “He is the proudest Man in the World. He cant bear to be under Obligation.”

I never in my Life observed any one endeavouring to lay me under particular Obligations to him, but I suspected he had a design to make me his dependant, and to have claims upon my Gratitude. This I should have no objection to—Because Gratitude is always in ones Power. But the Danger is that Men will expect and require more of Us, than Honour and Innocence and Rectitude will permit Us to perform.

In our Country however any Man with common Industry and Prudence may be independant.

But to put an End to this stuff Adieu, most affectionately Adieu.


RC (Adams Papers).


This is apparently as close as JA came to informing AA at this time of the circumstances attending the withdrawal of JQA and CA from the Latin School in Amsterdam. See JA to the Rector and Preceptor, 18 Oct., “not sent,” and the exchange between Rector Verheyk and JA, 10 Nov., all above.

James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 19 December 1780 Lovell, James AA


James Lovell to Abigail Adams, 19 December 1780 Lovell, James Adams, Abigail
James Lovell to Abigail Adams
Decr. 19th 1780

As you are entitled to a Wife's Portion of Mr. A's Honors and Satisfactions I inclose for your Reading some Papers to be afterwards forwarded to Holland.1 I do not intend to have any of my future Letters to Mr. A. thrown overboard unless they are specially so directed on the Cover. I chalenge any body to tell the Contents truly. The Letters of Mr. Luzerne are never sunk.—I am told the Enemy have another Mail of ours or yours, this prevents my giving you such Explanations of my private Letter to Mr. A as I at first intended. I will only say that he has most ably and with becoming Dignity supported our Plan of March 18. without much piquing any great Minister. If you had not bantered me so more than once about my generally-enigmatic manner, and appeared so averse to cyphers I would have long ago enabled you to tell Mr. A some Things which you have most probably omitted, as well as to satisfy your Eve on the present Occasion. I will a little enlarge by Mr. Penny in a few days and send you a Key to use upon such Occasions as you may have from Mr. A or to him.—I am told Letters from Holland have been thrown from Vessels now arrived at Boston when only chased. Those losses at least might be avoided.

It is positively said to be a Post from hence Novr. 21 that has been robbed. In that Case I suppose you have lost a Letter from Mr. Adams covered by a few Lines from me.2 We did on the 20th receive a Packet from Mr. A. and I see by my Almanack that on the 20th. and 21st. I wrote to many.

20th. Clarke & Nightingale, Isaac Smith, Mrs. Lovell, Jemmy Jnr., Jos. Thomas, Doctr. Holten, Mr. Gerry.

21. Mrs. Lovell, Doctr. Whitwell, Mrs. Adams, Govr. Hancock, Mr. S. Gridley.

I hope I gave the Letter for you to the Gentleman who must have carried those for Clarke & Nightingale and Mr. Smith but I really cannot recollect. I forwarded another to you on the 30th.3

The long Letter in the Advertizer is one of Mr. A's among the many that do him great honor. But I really think the Essence would have 37been the printing of it in a London Paper at the Time it was written.4

I am my dear Madam yours respectfully, JL

RC (Adams Papers). For the enclosures see notes 1 and 4.


Presumably these included the following, all in Adams Papers: (1) a “public” letter to JA from Lovell, “for the Committee of foreign Affairs,” 12 Dec., covering (2) Congress' resolution of the same date (printed in JCC , 18: 1147), acknowledging JA's letter of 26 June, and expressing “the Satisfaction which Congress receives from his Industrious Attentions to the Interest and honor of these United States, abroad, especially in the Transactions communicated to them by that Letter,” which related to JA's correspondence with Vergennes on Congress' currency measures (see note 5 on Thaxter to JA, 7 Aug., vol. 3, above), and (3) a “private” letter from Lovell to JA, 14 Dec., which is partly in cipher and which among other things tells how this commendatory resolution came to be passed; also, possibly, (4) Samuel Huntington to JA, 18 Dec., expressing his pleasure and satisfaction in the dispatches received from JA during the past year and announcing that a secretary for foreign affairs is soon to be designated to conduct business with American representatives abroad (Adams Papers; JA, Works , 7:343).


No letter from Lovell to AA of 21 Nov. 1780 has been found, and the letter from JA, to whomever addressed, has not been identified.


Lovell to AA, 30 Nov., in Adams Papers but omitted here; it commends JA for the “very masterly and independent manner” in which he defended Congress' financial policy “against the Sentiments of the Ct. de Vergennes.”

4. “The long Letter” from JA was that of 2 June to Huntington commenting on Germain's speech of 6 5 May in Parliament (PCC, No. 84, II, printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:752–758; LbC, Adams Papers, printed in JA, Works , 7:180–186). According to Edmund Jenings, it had already been published in the London General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer; see Jenings to JA, 9 July, JA, Papers of John Adams, 9:504, 506. It appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet, 19 Dec., and AA arranged to have it reprinted in the Boston papers; see her letter to Nathaniel Willis?, ante 4 Jan. 1781, below. Which “Advertizer” this was is not certain, but it was evidently a Philadelphia newspaper. “The long Letter” from JA was that of 2 June to Huntington commenting on Germain's speech of 6 5 May in Parliament (PCC, No. 84, II, printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:752–758; LbC, Adams Papers, printed in JA, Works , 7:180–186). AA promptly caused it to be reprinted in the Boston papers; see her letter to Nathaniel Willis?, ante 4 Jan. 1781, below.