Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 14 July 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith AA Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 14 July 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
My dear Sister Braintree July 14th 1786

Capt Folger is slipt a way without one line from me. I did not design it should have been so, but it is vacancy, and I have been very unwell. Miss Nabby Marsh has been so sick that I could not have her but one day just to cut out work for us. I have been oblig'd to put out cousin charles's Red coat to turn and the Blue coat you sent to make for him. He will look quite Parsonish with his Black Frogs and Buttons. The wastcoats Gowns &c, we have made ourselves.1 Betsy and Lucy are become quite expert at the business. They were reckning up this day foreteen wastcoats which they had made this season for the three colleagians, and a proportionable number of small cloaths. They cannot wear wash-cloath with out having five or six a peice of a sort. It makes our washes very large in summer, although we wash once a week. I cannot bear they should go dirty. We have made their silk, and white wascoats, and they look very handsome. Billy sends his Duty and is greatly oblig'd for his. Thomas is here upon a visit and they may now have a chance of drinking your Health altogether. Mr cranch could not help observing last evening as they were all siting in a row before our chimney board in the little Parlour drinking Tea, “What a fine String of young Fellows they were, and how much pleasure you would have taken in beholding them,and us their substituted Parents with our own dear Girls and Betsy Shaw who has been with us ever since her mama made her spring visit. Here was a circle every one of Whome love you tenderly, and are I know belov'd by you. Here you would have felt a pleasure which you never experienc'd in a drawing Room at St James. It is a high feast to mr cranch to have cousin John here. French Dutch and english in their turn is talk'd. To vary our Scene musick is often call'd for—Betsy my dear a Tune upon your Harpsicord, “young Gentleman Join your Flutes.” My Son take yours or 251your violene and sing the Bass and then my sister how do I Wish for you. No one ever injoyd the pleasures of young People more than you use'd too. The Indian Philosopher by Doctor Watts is set to musick, tis a beautiful Tune.2 The children play it. Mr cranch says he feels twenty years younger whenever he hears it.

Cousin Tommy will not enter college I believe till next year. Mr Shaw thinks another years study with him will be of more advantage to him, and he will have in cousin Charles a very sober, well behav'd Brother to guide and guard him if he conduct as well as he has done.

A year seems in this changable world a long time to look forward, but if our children should live till the next commencment, we must think of some little intertainment for them. Bacon and allamode Beef Seems to be the custom of providing for dinner, excepting those who chuse to lay out a thousand dollars for an intertainment which nobody is the better for. Some add a few cold roast chickings Punch wine and cider with it. Tea and cake in the afternoon. If you should not come home before I should wish to know your mind about it. Legs for Bacan must be procur'd in the fall. I have been thinking that as their Friends and acquaintance will be the same, that the same chamber will do for both of them, and we can divide the expence between us. I think if what I have mention'd will be Sufficient for cousin Such a Plan will be less trouble and a less expence.

I have receiv'd the callaco for my self and your Freinds. Most sincerly do I thank you for mine, tis a beautiful figure and colour. Polly Adams returns many thanks for hers. Your Mother Hall is well, and is to dine here this week with her Grand Sons.


Mrs Hall dind with us yesterday. She looks well for such an aged woman. She talk'd much about you, and longs she says for your return, offers you many thanks for your kindness to her, and the children sends her Love to her son and Daughter, and her best wishes for the happiness of her Grandaughter. Your sons are set out this morning upon a visit to thier uncle and Aunt Shaw. Upon cousin Toms coming there has been a counsel of all the Freinds calld, upon the expediency of his entering college this year, and upon the whole it is concluded that he should return immediatly to his uncles and prepair himself to be offer'd at the end of the vacancy. Cousin John says he would have ventur'd to have done it at commencment, but as mr Shaw had givin up the Idea of it this year, he had some fears 252about him. I fear we shall not be able to get him a chamber in college this year. Mr John and charles will live together this. They will want nothing more but a Bed which I shall take for them, there will then be furniture enough for Tom. Whoever liv's with him must find a Bed.

The light colour'd cloth coat which cousin Charles had when you went away, Tom has now, and the old Silkish coat you sent last. The next he has must be mix'd Blue and white, or dark Blue with Black Frogs.

We had bought a peice of Linnen for Tom before that which you sent him ariv'd, as it is not so fine as yours we Shall make it up for winter shirts for him and Charles. You know our hard frosts cuts out fine linnen quick. You must not send any more silk cloathing for your children at college. They will not be allow'd to wear them. Some Strong cotton Stocking would be very useful and what they want more than any thing. Mending Stockings is my steady imployment. They are all fine hands for wearing holes in them. If when you are purchasing stocking for your sons you would be so kind as to add six pair more for a Freind of mine3 who is very tall and not very slight, you will oblige both him and me. Send the price the suppos'd one will be immediatly accounted for with Doctor Tufts. Cousin Johns purple coat has no cape and he does not chuse to wear it without one. I think I have hunted every store and shop almost in Boston to get a piece any way near the colour, but have not been able to get it. He will put a Black one on for the present. I will send a scrap for a pattern and peice of the lead colour'd coat also, that coat wants a cape.

Mr Standfast Smith is come from the west Indias with a Power to Sell the Estate we live upon so that we must either buy this House or leave it.4 He has not yet set the price I hope it will not be higher than we shall be able to give. I am very loth to leave it. Mr Evans will hire our House at weymouth, he does not chuse to buy at present. I had rather it should be sold. It sinks in Value every day Such an old House is forever out of repair.5 Mr Evans has been gone a Journey ever since he was married and is not yet return'd. I shall deliver Colln. Smiths Respects whenever I see him.

Mr James Brackit has lost his Wife. She dy'd of a consumction about a fortnight since.6

I must now bid you adieue and begin another sheet.

It has been my luck to receive almost all your latest Letters first. Sometimes you refer to things in your former Letter, which Letter 253not having receiv'd I cannot possibly understand what you mean. This was the case with yours of the 24 of May. You there refer'd to a Letter by mr Jenks, and I did not recieve that till three weeks after I had reciev'd the others. I did not recieve your second Letter by the Way of newyork, till After I had reciev'd your Letters by Lyde and Cushing, and had sent away answers to them.

What a mistake your card from Mr and Mrs William Smith led us into. The writing was so exactly like my Nieces that we thought it must be hers. We got several of her Letters and compair'd it with them, and could almost have Sworn it was hers, and yet, we wonder'd that you should not have mention'd her being married to any of us, but we had such proof by that cards being her hand, that we could not doubt it. All her acquaintance suppos'd she was really so. Cousin Nabbys Letters to Betsy and Lucy by mrs Hay did not reach them, till last week.7 They were inclos'd to charles Storer and he being gone to settle at Parsemiquodde, I believe. I am sure I donot know how to spell it, his Pacquit was Sent to him unopen'd. He is now return'd upon a visit and has brought them with him. He will himself write you an account of his adventures and prospects. There is no chance for a young Fellow in Boston. They must all turn adventerers, better do so than make a great show for a time upon other peoples property and then break all to peices. Billy Foster fail'd last week and tis a wonder if many other falurs are not involved in his.8 Mr otis is still keept shut up. It is very foolish in his creditors. He is now living upon them as he cannot do any business in his present situation. He has offer'd to deliver up every thing. He looks very much worried. She bears her troubles with patience and fortitude. Mrs Welsh is well, nurses Billy yet. Mrs Allen is well, I hear of no prospect of increase.

Our Hingham Freinds are very melancholy, I have been to see them. The child is living and a very fine Girl she is. Quincy is to be married this Fall he is building an end to his Fathers House. Nancy will be married also this fall.9 Mrs Quincy and Nancy are well and send a great deal of Love. Uncle Quincy has turn'd Hermit, he cannot be got out. I go as often as I can to see him. Your Nieghbours are all well. Esters Sister Fenno is at her mothers.10 She has got into a poor nervous way but the Doctor Says will get better he thinks soon.

Abdy and Pheby do very well Live very comfortably. They were a little distress'd for wood last winter but it was because People who ow'd them would not pay them as the ought to have done. You 254would Smile to see her rig'd out in her French night cap. It is Gauze I assure you. She has bought that larg'd figure'd callaco Gown of mrs Hannah Hunt, and was most gaily dressd in it last sunday.

You mention cousin Isaac Smith. I think I told you he was fix'd at present at the castle as Chaplain. He will stand a very good Chance for Hingham as soon as mr Gay is remov'd. They admire him there uncle Thaxter thinks he will be the first person, they will invite.11

As to mr Tufts he is not yet married, but I am told Stays with Girls sometimes. Billy says he introduce'd Cousin JQA to him on Commencment day for the first time since he arriv'd. Oh how unlike his Father, or his dear Mother. I wish he was married. I know he would be more agreable.12

The windmill goes, but not so well as the Builder expected. He would take nobodys advise and must reap the conseiquencs. He does not come here. We have sent him an invitation twice to dine, and drink Tea but he takes not the least notice of any. I shall not court him, if he does not chuse to come. It is very foolish of him, he might have been upon visiting terms with us, if he was not connected in the Family. Not a single paper, or account-Book, or a coppar of money has The Doctor get yet been able to get from him. He speaks him fair but gives him nothing but words. What he has done with the Pictures I cannot think. The wearing the mineture can no longer decieve any body. The Letters are I suppose here, the Cabinett and Trunk are, but have not been deliver'd up, and I shall have notright to detain them if he should send for them. He certainly has no right to the Letters of her correspondenc whatever he may have to those Cousin has sent him. While he liv'd here, he would often bring the Trunk into the Parlour, and spread the Letters upon the Table and divert himself with reading them. I have seen Betsy so angry that if she could have got at her own Bundle she would have put them all in the fire. Had they been left in the hands of a man of strict honour he would not have turnd the Key upon them. How the Doctor will ever get them from him I cannot think. He has dancd attendence upon him and written to him above twenty times.

I fear my dear sister you will think the Cloathing and other expences for your sons have been greater than you expected. The Doctor thinks I need not indulge them in so many wash cloaths, but how can they be clean without as light as they are? They spend not a copper extravagantly that I can find out, and Sometimes I really think they do not have what they ought to.


Charles says Sometimes, “Aunt what shall I do uncle Tufts has not given me any money, and I do not love to ask him again. “Here my dear take what I have, I Will see that you have more. Your uncle is not unwilling you should have it, he may have forgot it, or finds a difficulty in collecting it. But he does not think how Small a young Fellow feels without any money in his Pocket.” The Doctor never had such a parcel of young Fellows to provide for before, one only Son and no Daughters. The difference is very great, and aunt us'd to Say that his Father never knew all she did for him more than he allow'd him.13 If I could have possible now had all the work for them done in the House I should, but miss Nabbys indisposition has oblig'd me to put out some of it. I think they will want but little more done for them in the Tailoring way till next spring.

Lucy is at haverhill upon a visit till the Fall. Both Betsy and she will write soon to their cousin.

You say I must not read your observations upon the debts due from this country to england to any one who may feel hurt by it, but really my sister you know better than we who those may be. No one ceases to role in Luxery, because he is in debt, and we seldom suspect it till they shut up. It has taught me not to feel small although I cannot make such a shew of riches as many others. I hope by our manner of Life not to injure any one. I have taken a few yards of Linnin for linings &c of mrs Warren and that is all. We never could get at any Irish Linnin and what was fine was too high for the goodness of it.

Has mr Tufts been to make any excuse for himself for abuseing mr Adams character. I know he was in a sad nettle when it was made publick. His poor Father is just gone in a consumtion. His grandmother will never dye of any thing but old age.14 Yours affectionatly

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs Cranch july 14th 1786.”


These were some of the requirements of Harvard's new dress code. See Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 22 May, note 7, above.


A 1705 poem by Isaac Watts. It appears in various American songbooks, the earliest dated ca. 1785 (The American Musical Miscellany, Northampton, Mass., 1798, p. 241–244, Evans, No. 33294; Sally Pickman, musical copybook, MSaE: Early Music Collection, Box 1, item A-1).


Undoubtedly her son, William Cranch.


Prior to the revolution James George Verchild of St. Kitts owned the house in which the Cranches lived. In 1784, Richard Cranch had attempted to locate Verchild's heirs in England to negotiate a purchase price. The Cranches apparently never purchased the land, however, but continued to rent until their deaths in 1811 (William Cranch to Richard Cranch, 26 April 1806, MHi: Cranch Family Papers; vol. 5:356–357; Pattee, Old Braintree , p. 491). Standfast Smith was a Boston merchant operating out of Green's Wharf (Massachusetts Centinel, 9 July 1785).


For the history of the Weymouth par-256sonage, which Mary Cranch inherited from her father in 1783, see vol. 1:ix–x.


Mary Brackett, wife of Braintree tavern operator James Brackett, died 10 July (Pattee, Old Braintree , p. 123, 168–169).


Probably AA2 to Elizabeth Cranch, 14 Feb., above, and AA2 to Lucy Cranch, 20 Feb. (MWA).


Possibly Boston merchant William Foster, brother and partner of Joseph Foster, a fellow passenger with AA and AA2 on their voyage to Europe in 1784 (JA, D&A , 3:156, note 2; JQA, Diary , 1:318). Contrary to what is stated in vol. 6:275, note 28, and JQA, Diary , 1:318, note 2, Richard Cranch lodged with James, not William, Foster on Cornhill Street when he was in Boston, and this is where the Cranches arranged for the Adams boys to dine whenever necessary when they were in town (Richard Cranch to Jacob Davis, 12 May, MHi: C. P. Cranch Papers).


For the marriages of AA's cousins, Anna (Nancy) and Quincy Thaxter, children of John Sr. and Anna Quincy Thaxter of Hingham, see Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 28 Sept., and note 5, below.


Esther Field was the daughter of Abigail Newcomb and Joseph Field. Esther's sister is probably Elizabeth, who posted an intention to marry William Fenno on 29 Oct. 1778 (Waldo Chamberlain Sprague, comp., Genealogies of the Families of Braintree, Massachusetts, 1640–1850, Boston, 1983, p. 829, 1661; Boston, 30th Report, p. 442).


Ebenezer Gay, Harvard 1714, was pastor of the First Parish Church in Hingham from 1718 until his death in 1787. He was succeeded by Henry Ware ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 6:59–66; JQA, Diary , 2:viii).


Cotton Tufts Jr. married Mercy Brooks in 1788.


That is, Lucy Quincy Tufts discussing her husband and son, Cotton Tufts Sr. and Jr.


On the problem with Simon Tufts Jr., see AA to Cotton Tufts, 22 July, below. His grandmother, Abigail Smith Tufts, was AA's aunt.

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, 18 July 1786 AA Cranch, Elizabeth Norton, Elizabeth Cranch Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch, 18 July 1786 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Elizabeth Norton, Elizabeth Cranch
Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cranch
London july 18th 1786

I thank you my dear Neice for your last kind Letter. There are no days in the whole year so agreable to me nor any amusements this Country can boast so gratifying to my Heart and mind as those days which bring me Letters from my Dear Friends. In them I always find the law of kindness written, and they solace my mind in the seperation.

Could I, you ask, return to my (Rustick) cottage, and view it with the same pleasure and Satisfaction I once enjoy'd in it? I answer I think I could, provided I have the same kind Friends and dear Relatives to enhance its value to me. It is not the superb and magnificient House nor the rich and Costly furniture that can ensure either pleasure or happiness to the possessor. A convenient abode Suteable to the station of the possessor, is no doubt desirable, and to those who can afford them, Parks, Gardens, or what in this Country is call'd an ornamented Farm, appears to me an Innocent and desirable object. They are Beautifull to the Eye, pleasing to the fancy, and improveing to the Imagination, but then as Pope observes,

“Tis use alone that sanctifies Expence, And Splendor borrows all her rays from Sense.”1 257

I have lately visited several of the celebrated Seats within 20 Miles of this City, Sion place, Tilney House, and park, osterley, and Pains Hill.2 The last place is about 12 Miles distant from London. I must describe it to you in the words of the Poet.

“Here Wealth enthron'd in Natures pride With taste and Beauty by her side And holding plenty's Horn Sends Labour to persue the toil Art to improve the happy soil And beauty to adorn.”

My dear Neice will feel loth to believe that the owner of this Beautifull spot, (a particular account of which she will find in the Book I send her,) neither lives here or scarcly looks upon it; once a Year. The former proprieter enjoyd it as the work of his own hands: 38 years ago he planted out all the Trees which are now one of its chief, and principal ornaments. But dyeing about 3 years ago left it, to a tasteless Heir. The Book I send you is written by a mr Whately, he has treated the Subject of Gardning scientifically.3 I should have overlookd many of the ornaments and Beauties of the places I have seen if I had not first perused this writer. Mr Apthorp I imagine would be pleased in reading this Book, and I wish you may derive as much entertainment from the perusal of it as it afforded me.

I dare say your imagination will present you with many places in Braintree capable of makeing with much less expence than is expended here, ornamented Farms. The late Col Quincys, Uncle Quincys, Germantown,4 all of them, Nature has been more liberal to, than most of the places here: which have cost the labour of successive Generations, and many of them half a Million of Money. Improvement in agriculture is the very science for our Country, and many times ornament and Beauty may be happily made subservient to utility, but then to Quote Pope again,

“Something there is more needfull than Expence And Something previous ev'n to Taste—'tis Sense.”5

When you have read Whateley, read Popes fourth essay addresst to the Earl of Burlington, and I think you will see Beauties in it unobserved before.

You might suspect me of partiality if I was to say that nature shews herself in a stile of greater magnificence and sublimity in America than in any part of Europe which I have yet seen. Every 258thing is upon a Grandeur scale, our Summers heats and Winters colds, form a contrast of great Beauty. Nature arising from a temporary death, and bursting into Life with a sudden vegatation yealding a delicious fragrance and verdure which exhilirates the spirits and exalts the imagination, much more than the gradual and slow advance of Spring in the more temperate climates, and where the whole summer has not heat sufficient to sweeten the fruit, as is the case of this, climate. Even our Storms and tempests our thunder and lightning, are horibly Grand. Here nothing appears to leap the Bounds of Mediocrity. Nothing ferocious but Man.

But to return to your Letter, you have found that you was too early in your conjectures respecting your cousins marriage. She will write you herself, and inform you that she has commenced housekeeper, very soon after her Marriage. It would add greatly to her happiness, judging her by myself, if she could welcome her American friends often within her Mansion. Persons in the early stages of Life may form Friendships; but age grows more Wary, more circumspect and a commerce with the World does not increase ones estimation of its inhabitants. There is no durable basis, for friendship, but Virtue, disinterestedness, Benevolence and Frankness.

This is the Season of the Year in which London is a desert, even fashion languishes. I however inclose you a Print of the Bosom Friends.6 When an object is to be ridiculed, tis generally exagerated. The print however does not greatly exceed some of the most fashionable Dames.

Pray does the fashion of Merry thoughts, Bustles and protuberances prevail with you. I really think the English more ridiculous than the French in this respect. They import their fashions from them; but in order to give them the mode Anglois, they divest them both of taste and Elegance. Our fair Country women would do well to establish fashions of their own; let Modesty be the first, ingredient, neatness the second and Economy the third. Then they cannot fail of being Lovely without the aid of olympian dew, or Parissian Rouge.

We have sent your cousins Some Books, amongst which is Rosseau upon Botanny,7 if you Borrow it of them, it will entertain you, and the World of flowers of which you are now so fond, will appear to you a world of pleasing knowledge. There is also Dr Preistly upon air and Bishop Watson upon Chimistery8 all of which are well worth the perusal of minds eager for knowledge and scientifik like my Elizas and Lucy's. If they are not the amusements which females in general are fond of: it is because triffels are held up to them in a 259more important light, and no pains taken to initiate them in more rational amusements. Your Pappa who is blesst with a most happy talant of communicating knowledge will find a pleasure in assisting you to comprehend whatever you may wish explaind. A course of experiments would do more, but from thise our sex are almost wholy excluded.

Remember me affectionately to Your Brother and to all my Neighbours. Inclosed is a Book upon Church Musick which be so good as to present to Mr Wibird with my compliments. It was publishd here in concequence of an application of Dr Chancys Church for an organ, of mr Brand Hollis.9

Adieu my Dear Neice and Believe me affectionately Yours A Adams

RC (MSaE: Abigail Adams Letters); notation in the upper left corner of the first page: “Letter from Mrs. A Adams to Miss Eliz Cranch July 18th. 1786 (No: 10.).” Some loss of text due to wear at the fold.


Moral Essays, Epistle IV, lines 179–180.


“Tilney House” was Wanstead House, Essex, a Palladian mansion designed by architect Colen Campbell and built ca. 1715–1720 for Richard Child, 1st earl Tylney (1680–1750). The Tylney estates were inherited by Sir James Long (afterwards Tylney Long) (1737?–1794), 7th baronet, in 1784 (Howard E. Stutchbury, The Architecture of Colen Campbell, Cambridge, 1967, p. 27–30; Namier and Brooke, House of Commons , 3:52–53, 570–571).


Thomas Whately (ca. 1728–1772), best known to Americans in the late 1760s and early 1770s as an architect of George Grenville's American policy, had by the 1780s become celebrated for his Observations on Modern Gardening, Illustrated by Descriptions (London, 1770, with many subsequent editions). Jefferson highly praised this work and carried it with him when he made his tour of English gardens with JA in early April (Namier and Brooke, House of Commons , 3:627–628; DNB ; Jefferson, Papers , 9:369–375; JA to AA, 5 April, above). JA's copy (4th edn., 1777) is at MB ( Catalogue of JA's Library ). The quotation AA cites above, which is otherwise unidentified, appears on the title page of Whately's book; his discussion of Painshill appears on p. 184–194.


The home of the late Col. Josiah Quincy in the northern part of Braintree (whose 1770 house still stands); that of Norton Quincy on Mt. Wollaston; and probably that of Gen. Joseph Palmer in Germantown.


Moral Essays, Epistle IV, lines 41–42.


For the Bosom Friends, a satirical print, see the Descriptive List of Illustrations, No. 7, above.


Jean Jacques Rousseau, Letters on the Elements of Botany, Addressed to a Lady. Translated into English, with Notes, and Twenty-four Additional Letters, Fully Explaining the System of Linnaeus, by Thomas Martyn, London, 1785.


JA's books at MB include Joseph Priestley, Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air, 3 vols., London, 1775–1779, and Richard Watson's Chemical Essays ( Catalogue of JA's Library ). A 1781 edition of Priestley, in six volumes, with JQA's bookplate, is at MQA.


James Peirce, A Tractate on Church Music; Being an Extract from the Reverend and Learned Mr. Peirce's Vindication of the Dissenters, London, 1786. Thomas Brand Hollis refused requests by the First Church in Boston to provide funds for the purchase of an organ and instead arranged for the publication of this tract, dedicated to the ministers and members of the “First Congregational Dissenting Church in Boston in America,” that argued against including instrumental music in church services (Arthur B. Ellis, History of the First Church in Boston, 1630–1880, Boston, 1881, p. 216–217).