Adams Family Correspondence, volume 4

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 3 September 1782 AA JA Abigail Adams to John Adams, 3 September 1782 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
My Dearest Friend Sepbr. 3. 1782

If my Letters have been as successfull as I wish them, you must have heard many times from me since I received a single line from your Hand. This is the sixth time I have written to you; since I received your last Letters, which were dated in March.1 From that time up to this 3d of September not a syllable has come to Hand. A few vague english News paper Reports, respecting a negotiation for a peace. I find your Name mentiond so late as June. Not a vessel has arrived from Holland since Capt. Deshon. We cannot account for so long a space of times elapsing: since it is said the United provinces acknowledged the Independance of America, without receiving any official account of it.

The enlargement of the prisoners from Mill prison, together with the intelligence they brought of the proposed acknowledgment of our independance, coincideing with the general wish for peace, the specious Letters sent out of New York by Carleton and Digby about the same time,2 so facinated all Ranks of people that a General Joy pervaded every class; I hardly dared to oppose, to the congratulatory addresses I received upon the occasion, the obstinate persuasion I had; that it was only a tub to the Whale.3

I ventured to say in some companies, where my unbelief appeared very singular, that altho I ardently wished for peace, I could not conceive that an object, of so great Magnitude, could be the Work of a few weeks, or Months; and altho the acknowledgment of our Independence, was an indispensable preliminary, yet there were many other important articles to be adjusted by the contending powers. I thought it would be better to suspend those warm expressions of joy; which could only be warranted by an assureance that an honorable peace had taken place. If any real foundation existed for such reports, a week or two would give us official assureances of it, and I must beg to suspend my belief untill that period.

It really pained me to see the sanguine hopes of my Country perish like the baseless fabrick of a vision. Yet in less than ten days they reflected, and doubted, the elated joy subsided, and they spurned the Idea of a seperate peace.

The Marquis de Vaudreuil arrived in Boston harbour about a fortnight ago with 13 ships of the Line. His intention is to repair the damaged ships.4

The two Armies have past an inactive Summer. When when shall 372I receive any Letters from my dear Friend? Instead of being more and more reconciled to this seperation, every day makes it more painfull to me. Can I with any degree of calmness look Back and reflect that it is near 3 years since we parted, and look forward without seeing, or being in the least able to form an Idea of the period which is still to take place.

In my last Letter I made you a serious proposal. I will not repeat it at present. If it is accepted one Letter will be sufficient. If it is rejected, one Letter will be too many.5

We have had a most uncommon Season. Cold and dry—not one rainy day since the begining of June, and very few showers. The drought has been very extensive, and our corn is near all cut of.— Scarcly a spire of green Grass is to be seen. The Boston prisoners have all reachd home except the 3 who were exchanged. There have been 3 of the Number to see me—to thank me for writing to you, and to acknowledge your kind attention to them. Beals and the two Clarks have offerd to repay the money you advanced to them; which they say was four pounds sterling a peice, but as I never received a line from you respecting them, or what you had done for them I am at a loss what to do.6 Some of them are able enough, others are not.

I have the very great pleasure to acquaint you that our dear and worthy Brother Cranch is raised in a manner from the dead. His dropsical Symptoms have left him and he has for a month past surprizingly mended. His Cough still continues, but we have great hopes now of his recovery. He is not able to attend to any buisness nor will he be for many months, even tho he should get no relapse.

Let me beg you my dear Friend to be particularly attentive to your Health. Do not practise so indiscriminately lieing with your windows open, it certainly is a bad practise in a country so damp as Holland. My Notice of this opportunity is so short that I cannot write to Mr. Thaxter or my Son from whom I long to hear.

Mrs. Dana was well when I last heard from her. She has been at Newport ever since July. Our Friends are all well and desire to be rememberd. They make great complaints that you do not write to them, and will in Spight of all I can say, think themselves neglected.

I feel in my Heart a disposition to complain that when you write, you are so very concise. I am sorry I cannot prevail with you to write by way of Spain or France, but you must have reasons to which I am a Stranger.

Adieu my dearest Friend and be assured of the Strongest attachment and warmest affection of your Portia 373

Our two dear Boys are very studious and attentive to their Books and our daughter thinks of nothing else but making a voyage to her pappa.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Portia 5 Septr. ansd. 16 Oct. 1782.JA's date in the endorsement was probably not a misreading of AA's date but intended to cover her letters of both 3 and 5 Sept. (below), which came by the same conveyance.


JA to AA, 22, 29 March, above. Later letters from him to AA surviving in the Adams Papers are dated 1 April, 14 May, 16 June, 1, 25 July, and 15, first and second 17, and 31 four more in August that she could hardly have received by 3 September.


The Carleton-Digby letter to Washington of 2 Aug. (text in Washington, Writings, ed. Sparks, 8:540–541), forwarded by Washington to Congress on 5 Aug., was not fraudulent, but it was misleading because it greatly overstated the concessions the British government was prepared to make for peace with America. On the ground that no word of this kind had been received from its own ministers in Europe, Congress took a properly wary attitude toward it. See Cotton Tufts to JA, 26 Sept., below; Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 24:466, 468–469, 471–472; JCC , 23:462–463; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 6:438, 440, 442, 443.


To “throw a tub to the whale” was to “bamboozle or mislead an enemy” when in danger, as whalemen did when a boat was threatened by a whale or school of whales (E. Cobham Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, London, n.d., under Tub).


Louis Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil (1724–1802), French admiral (Ludovic de Contenson, La Société de Cincinnati de France..., Paris, n.d., p. 276).


See above, AA to JA, 5 Aug., a letter it is believed JA did not receive. However, see also below, AA to JA, 5 September.


See above, AA to JA, 9 Dec. 1781, and note 3 there.

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 3 September 1782 Thaxter, John AA John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 3 September 1782 Thaxter, John Adams, Abigail
John Thaxter to Abigail Adams
Madam Hague 3d. Septr. 1782

What pleasing Sensations does a Packet from the other side of the Atlantic produce? Every part of the human frame sympathizes and is in Unison. This Truth I have most sensibly felt this day, in recieving three Letters from America. I was at Peace with myself before I opened them. The Superscriptions, in informing me from whence they came, saved me a Turn of the Fever, which threatened before. In opening that of Portia's of the 18th. July, I read these Words, “Ay, Ay—Eliza—is it thus You honor the bare Resemblance—thus place round your Neck the Ideal Image” &c. Heaven! said I, to my dear Friend Storer, with a deep Blush, (I have not forgot how to blush yet—horrible Misfortune to me) what can all this mean? There is a Mystery wrapt up in these Words. Read on, said he, and perhaps the Riddle will be unravelled. Half frightened I begun to read again, till I came to the Words, “why has the Painter been so deficient—it is 374barely a Likeness of You.” The Mystery was developped—the Word Painter helped me thro' in an instant. I had flattered myself this miserable Portrait had been sent to bottom with the Letters by Dr. Waterhouse. I sent it away merely to get it out of my sight, and wished it at bottom an hundred times, but it was accompanied with Letters to my Sisters containing very particular Charges to be locked up. The Letters are sunk. I wish the Portrait in Holland again. But who this Eliza is, I don't know. I know not any one of the Name in whose good Graces I am so far initiated, as to do me so much honor as to wear my Portrait, except my dear Sister Betsy. Storer says he does not know who the Eliza is, and I have concluded that You are not serious. Upon my honor, Madam, if my Letters by Gillon, had arrived, it would have never been worn by anybody. You say, Madam, that “a manly Gesture, a Dignity of Air and Address should have been the distinguishing lines in the Portraiture.” In thanking You for the Compliment, You will permit me to observe at the same time, that those Traits would have rendered it still less a Resemblance. Unfortunately they are Accomplishments that do not belong to me, and the Painter was cautious not to flatter me in that Respect. That the fair Circle of my female Acquaintance kindly remember me, is a Circumstance not more flattering than pleasing to me. I never expect to be acquainted with a more amiable, virtuous and sensible Circle. I was ever happy in their Company. To have been ambitious of their Esteem was no fault I hope. It was ever an Object of mine, and in no Instance have I carried this Ambition to an undue length. To seek the Partiality or Affection of a young Lady, merely for the sake of it, and without intending to meet that Affection with an unequivocal proof of Sincerity, is an Object unworthy a Man of Honor and Virtue, and is as unjustifiable in itself, as the means which are often employed to attain this point. 'Tis the Ambition of a Knave, who is hostile to that Confidence and pleasing social Intercourse which Nature and Heaven designed should take place between the Sexes.

I am very happy to learn that our dear and worthy Friend, Mr. Cranch is still in being, but sincerely lament that his Health is yet precarious. May kind Heaven restore him, and be better to Us than our Fears. 'Tis hard parting with so invaluable a Character, with one in the midst of Usefulness. Your Letter concerning him in the Enterprize is not yet arrived. 'Tis hardly time to expect her yet.

I have read with extreme satisfaction your Observations occasioned by the Duel between Jackson and Gillon. They are excellent indeed. I have often reflected seriously on this Subject, but I am almost afraid 375to come to a Conclusion or a Resolution upon it. How extremely difficult is it to recieve with Indifference the Sneers, Contempt and Imputations of Cowardice of the World, even of the base and abandoned part of it. It is a Practice most certainly against Reason and Common Sense, and the trivial ridiculous Incidents that often give rise to it, one would think should have exploded it long ago. 'Tis neither a proof of Bravery, nor is its Issue a Criterion of the Justice of the Cause. The greatest part of Mankind perhaps are agreed in the Folly of its Institution, but yet don't condemn the practice of it, or if they do, they consider him who is challenged as a Coward if he declines. Charity obliges me to say, that I believe a dread and fear of Contempt has induced many a well disposed Man to challenge, or accept one. How much stronger oftentimes is the Sense of this than of the Obligations of Religion or Morality? I have much more to say upon this Subject, considered in the Light of an Appeal to Heaven, and the Absurdity of such an Appeal, but I have not time at present. I cannot justify the Measure, yet it is difficult to foresee the part one would act, (who has his doubts) when called upon. Gustavus Adolphus took the most effectual Way to prevent it—cutting off the Head of the Victor is a short Method.

Your dearest Friend is much better in Health here than at Amsterdam. Dines to day with the Spanish Minister, a great friend—sups this Evening at Court, and tomorrow gives an Entertainment to the French Ambassador and some Members of the States General. A bad Example this to Us young Lads. However Storer and I are two sober Lads, and keep to our Business. But, Madam, all this and many things which preceeded are Triumphs over British Folly and Impolicy, the Crowns and Laurels of Patience and Perserverance which he is gathering who most deserves them from his Abilities and Integrity. The Treaty of Commerce will soon be finished I hope—another Triumph. The Resolutions of our States respecting a seperate Peace do them infinite honor in Europe. Oh! perfidious Britain. I would write another Sheet willingly, but should not be in time for the Vessel. Mr. Storer joins me in Respects to You and Family. Remember me as usual if You please. I have the honor to be with an invariable Esteem & Respect, Madam, your M. H. Servant,

J. North

Excuse this Scrall.

RC (Adams Papers).