Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

37 Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 10 June 1778 AA JQA Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 10 June 1778 Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy
Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams
My Dear Son June 10 17781

Tis almost four Months since you left your Native land and Embarked upon the Mighty waters in quest of a Foreign Country. Altho I have not perticuliarly wrote to you since yet you may be assured you have constantly been upon my Heart and mind.

It is a very dificult task my dear son for a tender parent to bring their mind to part with a child of your years into a distant Land, nor could I have acquiesced in such a seperation under any other care than that of the most Excellent parent and Guardian who accompanied you. You have arrived at years capable of improving under the advantages you will be like to have if you do but properly attend to them. They are talents put into your Hands of which an account will be required of you hereafter, and being possessd of one, two, or four, see to it that you double your numbers.

The most amiable and most usefull disposition in a young mind is diffidence of itself, and this should lead you to seek advise and instruction from him who is your natural Guardian, and will always counsel and direct you in the best manner both for your present and future happiness. You are in possession of a natural good understanding and of spirits unbroken by adversity, and untamed with care. Improve your understanding for2 acquiring usefull knowledge and virtue, such as will render you an ornament to society, an Honour to your Country, and a Blessing to your parents. Great Learning and superior abilities, should you ever possess them, will be of little value and small Estimation, unless Virtue, Honour, Truth and integrety are added to them. Adhere to those religious Sentiments and principals which were early instilled into your mind and remember that you are accountable to your Maker for all your words and actions. Let me injoin it upon you to attend constantly and steadfastly to the precepts and instructions of your Father as you value the happiness of your Mother and your own welfare. His care and attention to you render many things unnecessary for me to write which I might otherways do, but the inadvertency and Heedlessness of youth, requires line upon line and precept upon precept, and when inforced by the joint efforts of both parents will I hope have a due influence upon your Conduct, for dear as you are to me, I had much rather you should have found your Grave in the ocean you have crossd, or any untimely death crop you in your Infant years, rather than see you an immoral profligate or a Graceless child.


You have enterd early in life upon the great Theater of the world which is full of temptations and vice of every kind. You are not wholy unacquainted with History, in which you have read of crimes which your unexperienced mind could scarcly believe credible. You have been taught to think of them with Horrour and to view vice as

a Monster of so frightfull Mein That to be hated, needs but to be seen.

Yet you must keep a strict guard upon yourself, or the odious monster will soon loose its terror, by becomeing familiar to you. The Modern History of our own times furnishes as Black a list of crimes as can be paralleld in ancient time, even if we go back to Nero, Caligula or Ceasar Borgia. Young as you are, the cruel war into which we have been compelld by the Haughty Tyrant of Britain and the Bloody Emissarys of his vengance may stamp upon your mind this certain Truth, that the welfare and prosperity of all countries, communities and I may add individuals depend upon their Morals. That Nation to which we were once united as it has departed from justice, eluded and subverted the wise Laws which formerly governd it, sufferd the worst of crimes to go unpunished, has lost its valour, wisdom and Humanity, and from being the dread and terror of Europe, has sunk into derision and infamy.

But to quit political subjects, I have been greatly anxious for your safety having never heard of the Frigate since she saild, till about a week ago, a New York paper inform'd that she was taken and carried into Plimouth. I did not fully credit this report, tho it gave me much uneasiness. I yesterday heard that a French vessel was arrived at Portsmouth which brought News of the safe arrival of the Boston, but this wants confirmation. I hope it will not be long before I shall be assertaind of your safety. You must write me an account of your voyage, of your situation and of every thing entertaining you can recollect. Your Sister and Brothers are well. The last desire I would write for them, but I have not time by this opportunity. Your Sister I chide for her neglegence in this way. I have wrote several times to your papa, hope the Letters will not Miscarry. Let Stevens know his Mother and Friends are well.

Be assurd I am most affectionately yours.

Mr. Hardwick desires if such a thing as stocking weavers needles are to be had that Stevens or you would procure 2 thousand No. 6 and convey with any thing your pappa may have to send to me.


RC (Adams Papers.)


AA left a space for the day of the month but did not fill it in. From coincidences in language, this, the first extant letter from a famous mother to a famous son, must almost certainly have been written on or about the same day as AA's letter to JA of 10 June, preceding. Both letters were acknowledged by JA in his reply of 26 July, below; and both were thus, presumably, carried to France by Captain Barnes in the Dispatch.


CFA emended this word to “by” in AA, Letters, 1840, p. 123, and in later printings. This may well be what AA intended to write.

John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 10 June 1778 Thaxter, John AA John Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 10 June 1778 Thaxter, John Adams, Abigail
John Thaxter to Abigail Adams
Madam York Town June 10th. 1778

Your favor of the 21st. and 26th. of May came to hand yesterday.

I was exceedingly shocked at the first mention of the capture of the Boston, till I had read the latter part of the paragraph, which related the circumstances. From those circumstances, Madam, I must beg leave to observe, no facts can be collected, and they leave it at least a very dubious, if not an improbable event. She sailed the latter end of Feby., better than three months have since elapsed, in which time, the capture, the arrival at Portsmouth, and the news thereof sent to America, must have happened. The passages must have been extraordinary; much better than I can at present believe. Winter passages are not always rapid. An 8 weeks voyage is esteemed very good. They are generally ten. From all circumstances, I am induced to believe that such an Event has not taken place.

Upon supposition that she is captured; our Friend will be treated with respect and humanity, say all his and your friends here. It is a fact that some rays of Humanity have already appeared on their side. They cannot but respect him. They dare not treat him ill.—Sincerely, madam, do I wish, that your present painful suspense may be soon removed by a positive certainty of his arrival at France. From that degree of sensibility you are possessed of, I am persuaded, you are exceedingly affected at the news. I am not so callous as not to sympathize, and feel for your anxiety of mind. The repeated disagreeable accounts you have received since his departure, must have made it additionally painful: And, was it not for that truly Christian and virtuous fortitude you are possess'd of, such a quick succession of disagreeable events, would have borne down one, who has a just claim to the Sympathy and Gratitude of her Country. Your heroism appears in that cheerful vein which runs thro' almost the whole of your Letter. Permit me to admire and imitate it.

Your quotation from Harrington is the truest picture of the English 40nation, that can be portrayed. It is near a Century since a Revolution. Another is necessary to save the Kingdom, which is without the “ballast” of virtue and good morals at present. They want the activity, the Justice and I may add the sword of a Cromwell, displayed among them.

I cannot forbear mentioning the pleasure another of your quotations gave me, respecting the duty of the King, if he is disposed for peace. “Bid him disband his Legions &c.” It is the language of virtue and patriotism, and Justice. They were very judiciously and pertinently introduced.

The two famous Acts are now enacted into Laws. Sir Henry Clinton has sent them to Congress accompanied with an Act to repeal the act for altering the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay. This most daring Rebellion is softened down into a uneasiness.1 Congress have referred Sir Henry, the present commander in chief, to their resolutions of the 22d. of April last for their sentiments upon Acts, which are not essentially different 2 from the ones now sent. They assure him that when the King is seriously disposed to put an End to this cruel war, they will make peace upon terms, consistent with the honor of independant nations, the interest of the States and the sacred regard they mean to pay to Treaties. This is dealing honestly and fairly.

The Commissioners, it is credibly reported, have arrived.3 They are Earl of Carlisle, Govr. Johnson, Eden former Govr. of North Carolina, and Ld. Howe. Cornwallis has arrived and a small party of troops. The Commissioners have open'd the jails and set free the prisoners, report says. They are willing to exchange prisoners. If they will treat us as an independent nation, we are ready to meet them, and upon no other ground.

Accept my thanks for your polite mention of my scrolls, am happy to hear they afford the least entertainment. I will continue to scribble to you by every opportunity.

With the highest esteem I am, Madam, your very Hble. Servt., J.T.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “june 10.”


In the MS the two following sentences have a line drawn beside them in the margin and the word “Private” added there. They are taken, without quotation marks, from Congress' identical replies of 6 June to letters from Lord Howe and Sir Henry Clinton transmitting copies of the British conciliatory acts; see JCC , 11:572–575.


This word was carelessly omitted by Thaxter but has been supplied from the text in JCC as cited in preceding note.


This news came in a letter from Clinton to Washington of 9 June, enclosed by the latter to Congress in a letter of the same date, with other papers relative to the conciliatory commission, all read in Congress on 11 June ( JCC , 4111:585). Thaxter could hardly have been accused of not keeping his correspondent up to date on developments in Congress and in the field.