Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 26 February 1786 AA Cranch, Mary Smith Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 26 February 1786 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
My dear sister London Grosvenor Square Febry 26 1786

To you I am largely indebted for domestick intelligence and many valuable Letters. I have not found a single opportunity of writing to you since captain Callihan saild, except by way of Newyork which I have improved but once least I should put you to expence. Col Smith wrote a few lines in my Name to Mr Cranch with a bundle of Newspapers which he said should go by a private hand. I did not know of the opportunity till he was making up dispatches, and then I lamented that I had not time to write, he said he would counterfeit a letter for me, and afterwards told me that he had written.1 Your Letters by Young will indeed be old, for I have not yet received them, his ship was much injured and he put into Plimouth to refit and has not yet got up to London. But your Letters by mr Jenks I received in one month from their date which seemd to shorten the distance between us.2

From the account you give as well as others of my Friends of the conduct of a certain Gentleman, I am rejoiced that it can no longer give me the uneasiness it has done in time past. I am not very apprehensive of his taking a voyage.3 I am sure he will not, when he learns that the Lady is already engaged to a Gentleman much Worthyer of her than himself, a Gentleman whom you will be proud to take by the Hand, and own as a Nephew. I cannot pass a higher encomium upon him, than to Say that there is something in his manners; which often reminds me of my dear Brother Cranch. With regard to his person, he is tall Slender and a good figure, a complextion naturally dark, but made still more so, by seven or 8 years service in the Field, where he reaped laurels more durable than the tincture of a skin.

He appears a Gentleman in every thought, word and action, domestick in his attachments, fond in his affections, quick as lightning in his feelings, but softned in an instant. His Character is that of a dutifull son and a most affectionate Brother. If you wish to 78know more of him Major Rice and mr Tudor are both acquainted with him as well as mr Gerry, and a parson Evans who I hear is courting miss Kent. With him he trod the uncultivated wilds through the Indian Country and commanded a Regiment under General Sullivan.4 As an officer his Character is highly meritorious, as a citizen he appears all that a Man ought to be, who loves his Country, and is willing to devote his talants to the Service of it.

“Her voice in Counsel, in the fight her sword.”5

Let not the world say, that Pecuniary motives have prompted to this connection. I do not know that the prospects of the one are superiour to the others, only that Col S. has repeatedly been honourd with the confidence of his Country and stands fair for future promotion, and that he is an honourable Man. I have been more explicit upon this Subject, because I do not know but a speedier connection may be thought proper, than I could wish for, on account of the political situation of affairs. Things appear in such a state upon this Side the Water and we receive such accounts from your Side, that I cannot say what will be the result. Col S. is now gone to Paris upon buisness of great concequence, Mr J—n is to return here with him. The mutual conference may produce measures which may perhaps bring you and I together sooner than we are at present aware of. This is communicated in confidence. Let it not pass any further than to Mr C— and Dr T. Should that be the case Col S. will be left here, and I know he will not consent to be left alone. The concequence is easily foreseen. The Book of futurity is wisely closed from our Eyes. If our prospects are built upon a virtuous foundation, it is all we can do towards ensureing their success. My own lot in Life has been attended with so many circumstances, that at my first Sitting out, I could have formd no Idea of, that I did not think it worth my while to object to the present connection of your Neice, because it was probable that She would be seperated from me, and that I could not see what her future destination in life might be. It will feel very hard however to me to part with her, but then, I have not an anxiety with respect to the Man.

Braintree is much alterd from what it was a few years ago. The circumstances of our Friends and acquaintance are so much changed for the worse that I feel a degree of melancholy when I reflect upon them. Weymouth is lost to me, and I can only think of it as the Tomb of my Ancestors. Whilst there dust sleeps there, I shall feel a respect and veneration for the spot, but the pleasureable 79Ideas that used once to dilate my Heart when I thought of the Parental smile, and joy which always welcomed me to the Hospitable mansion—are fled—whither are they fled? With my Friends to that Mansion where I humbly hope to join them in some future period without the painfull alloy of a Seperation.

I cannot thank you enough my dear sister for all your kind care and attention to my Children. Having Friends; who I know tenderly Love me and who take pleasure in manifesting their regard to my Children, I have no anxiety in my absence, but the fear of being troublesome to them. As to your care of my things I know and am fully satisfied with it, do what ever you think best. I did not know I had left an oz of sugar in the House, the Spice I remember. There is an old great coat I wish you would give it to abdee and as to my other Cloaths do with them as you think best. I shall send a trunk by Lyde with some Cloaths which are useless here, but which may serve the children. I shall execute your order, but I felt sorry it did not reach you before I read it in the letter,6 as I had determined upon it before I heard from you. I wish you would be so good as to give each of my Neices B and L Gauze the best I have, enough for Aprons, and to Miss Polly and B Palmer7 Tammy enough for skirts, if you think it will be acceptable.

If you can get linen at Milton take it. I am very sorry you did not before, you know it is an article which will not injure, and is always wanted. Mrs Quincy has written to me for a black Padusoy.8 I cannot find such a silk as we used to call such, I believe they have quite done making them. I find what we used to call ducapes very good 3 quarters wide at 10 shilling sterling and half a Guiney, but I am totally at a loss to know what to do. You know there is a drawback upon the exportation of Silk by whole sale, which enables the Merchant to sell them as low in America as they can be purchased here. If mrs Quincy could send me word in a baloon I would execute her orders with pleasure. As it is I believe I Shall venture upon sending out the Silk. Yet I should be greatly mortified if it did not Suit. All I can say is that I will do my best, my best respects to her. I shall write you again by Lyde and to the rest of my Friends, to whom you will present my Love and affection. Mr Adams sends his regards—he is much perplexed and much to do—to no purpose—he says, which is not very pleasent you know to one who always wishes to be doing good. But if he cannot make a treaty with this country, I hope he will be able to Effect what our country may find of more importance to them.

80 Adieu my Dear sister and believe me as ever your affectionate Sister A A

You will keep this letter much to yourself.9

RC (MWA: Abigail Adams Corr.).


AA to Richard Cranch, 23 Dec. 1785, not found. Cranch acknowledges its receipt in his letter to AA of 13 April, below.


Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 18 and 23 Dec. 1785 (vol. 6:493–495, 499–502).


Mary Smith Cranch mentioned Tyler's intention to visit England in her letter of 23 Dec. 1785 (vol. 6:501). He never made the trip.


For Nathan Rice (1754–1834) and William Tudor (1750–1819), both of whom studied law with JA, see vol. 1:142, 146. Rice and WSS were both encamped at Valley Forge in early 1778 (William Walton, ed., The Army and the Navy of the United States, 2 vols., Boston, 1889, 2, suppl.:15–17). Elbridge Gerry had originally put WSS's name forward in the Continental Congress for the position of secretary to the London legation and recommended him highly to JA (Gerry to JA, 5 March 1785, Smith, Letters of Delegates , 22:246–247). WSS served with Rev. Israel Evans in Maj. Gen. John Sullivan's Indian campaign of May–Nov. 1779 (Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779, ed. Frederick Cook, Auburn, N.Y., 1887, p. 318, 321). For Evans' marriage to Huldah Kent, see Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 7 May, below.


Prodicus of Ceos, The Judgment of Hercules, a Poem, transl. Robert Lowth, Glasgow, 1743, line 128. See also AA2 to JQA, 22 Jan., note 5, above.


Mary Cranch had requested that AA purchase lustring (a plain, strong, lustrous silk) and muslin for her (vol. 6:494–495).


Mary (Polly) and Elizabeth Palmer, daughters of Gen. Joseph and Mary Palmer, were nieces of the Cranches.


No letter from Ann Marsh Quincy, the third wife of Col. Josiah Quincy, has been found. Mary Cranch previously mentioned the request for paduasoy, a rich, heavy silk with a corded effect (vol. 6:494, 495).


Written in right-hand margin of the last page of the letter.

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 4 March 1786 AA Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 4 March 1786 Adams, Abigail Shaw, Elizabeth Smith Peabody, Elizabeth Smith Shaw
Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Smith Shaw
My Dear Sister London March 4 1786

I seldom feel a sufficient stimulous for writing untill I hear that a vessel is just about to sail, and then I find my self so deep in debt, that I know not where to begin to discharge the account. But it is time for me to be a little more provident for upon looking into my list I find I have no less than 18 correspondents who have demands upon me. One need to have a more fruitfull fund than I am possessed of, to pay half these in Sterling Bullion. I fear many will find too great a Quantity of alloy to be pleased with the traffic.

I think in one of my letters to you last fall I promised to give you some account of the celebrated actress Mrs Siddons, who I was then going to see;1 you may well suppose my expectations were very high, but her circumstances were such then as prevented her from exerting that force of passion, and that energy of action, which have renderd her so justly celebrated. She was in the of her 81pregnancy. You will suppose that she ought not to have appeard at upon appeard at all upon the stage; I should have thought so too if I had not seen her. contrived her dress in such a manner as wholy to disguise her situation and have only those tragedies where little exertion was necessary. 2 The first peice I saw her in was Shakspears Othelo. She was interesting beyond any actress I had ever seen: but I lost much of the pleasure of the play, from the Sooty appearence of the Moor. Perhaps it may be early prejudice, but I could not Seperate the affrican coulour from the man, nor prevent that disgust and horrour which filld my mind every time I saw him touch the Gentle Desdemona, nor did I wonder that Brabantio thought some Love portion or some witchcraft had been practised, to make his Daughter “fall in Love with what she scarcly dared to look upon.”3 I have been more pleasd with her since in several other characters particularly in Matilda in the Carmilite, a play which I send you for your amusement.4 Much of Shakspears language is so uncooth that it sounds very harsh. He has beauties which are not equald, but I should suppose they might be renderd much more agreeable for the Stage by alterations. I saw Mrs Siddons a few Evenings ago, in Macbeth a play you recollect, full of horrour. She supported her part with great propriety, but She is too great to be put in so detestable a Character. I have not yet seen her in her most pathetick Characters, which are Jane Shore, Belvedera in venice preservd and Isabela in the fatal marriage,5 for you must make as much interest here, to get a Box when she plays, as to get a place at Court, and they are usually obtaind in the same Way. It would be very difficult to find the thing in this Country which money will not purchase, provided you can bribe high enough.

What adds much to the merit of Mrs Siddons, is her virtuous Character, Slander itself never having slurd it. She is married to a Man who bears a good character, but his Name and importance is wholy swallowd up in her Fame. She is the Mother of five children, but from her looks you would not imagine her more than 25 years old. She is happy in having a Brother who is one of the best tragick actors upon the Stage, and always plays the capital parts with her, so that both her Husband, and the virtuous part of the audience can see them in the tenderest scenes without once fearing for their reputation.6 I scrible to you upon these subjects, yet fear they do not give you the pleasure I wish to communicate for it is with the Stage, as with Yoricks Sentimental journey, no person can have an 82equal realish for it, with those who have been in the very place described. I can however inform you of something which will be more interesting to you because it is the work of one of our own Countrymen, and of one of the most important events of the late War. Mr Trumble has made a painting of the battle at Charstown and the Death of Generall Warren. To speak of its merit, I can only say; that in looking at it, my whole frame contracted, my Blood Shiverd and I felt a faintness at my Heart. He is the first painter who has undertaking to immortalize by his Pencil those great actions; that gave Birth to our Nation. By this means he will not only secure his own fame, but transmit to Posterity Characters and actions which will command the admiration of future ages and prevent the period which gave birth to them from ever passing away into the dark abiss of time whilst he teaches, mankind, that it is not rank, or titles, but Character alone which interest Posterity. Yet notwithstanding the Pencil of a Trumble, and the Historick Pen of a Gorden and others, many of the componant parts of the great whole, will finally be lost. Instances of Patience perseverence fortitude magninimity courage humanity and tenderness, which would have graced the Roman Character, are known only to those who were themselves the actors, and whose modesty will not suffer them to blazon abroad their own fame. These however will be engraven by Yoricks recording Angle7 upon unfadeing tablets; in that repositary where a just estimate will be made both of principals and actions.

Your Letters of Sepbr 7 and Jan'ry,8 I have received with much pleasure and am happy to find that the partiality of a Parent, with regard to a very dear son, had not lessned him in the Eyes of his Friends, for praises are often so many inquisitors and always a tax where they are lavishd. I think I may with justice say, that a due sense of moral obligation integrity and Honour are the predominant traits of his Character, and these are good foundations upon which one may reasonably build hopes of future usefullness. The longer I live in the world, and the more I see of mankind, the more deeply I am impressd with the importance and necessity of good principals and virtuous examples being placed before youth; in the most amiable and engageing manner whilst the mind is uncontaminated and open to impressions. Yet precept without example is of little avail, for habits of the mind are produced by the exertion of inward practical principals. “The Souls calm Sunshine”9 can result only from the practise of virtue, which is conjenial to our natures. If happiness is not the immediate concequence of virtue, as some devotees to 83pleasure affirm, Yet they will find that virtue is the indispensible condition of happiness, and as the Poet expresses it,

“Peace o virtue! Peace is all thy own.”10

But I will quit this Subject least my good Brother should think I have invaded his province.

I was much gratified by the account you gave me of the marriage of my Loved Friend and companion of many of my solatary hours.11 What ever can increase her happiness will augment mine, for I loved her as my Friend as well as Relation. I always found her Sincere in her professions, constant in her attachments, benevolent in her disposition, and disposed to do all the Good in her power. Such Characters deserve well of mankind tho they may be deficient in less essential qualifications. I hope she will meet with every attention and tenderness in her connection which I know her to be deserving of. I think She is calculated for the station and relation in which she is placed, and I dare say it will not be her fault if she does not fill it, with reputation to herself and Friends. My Love to her and my best wishes attend her. I know she will rejoice with me in the dissolution of a Connextion the circumstances of which She has been more acquainted with, than any other of my Friends. Her sentiments and opinions were well founded, and she never kept from me a truth however dissagreeable that she thought it of importance to communicate, tho she knew and experienced the displeasure of one, whom time and her own experience; has taught, who were her disinterested Friends. Your Neice has always been more communicative to you, than to any other of her Friends. Your gentle soul taught her confidence. She will perhaps inform you that she has partialities better founded than those she has escaped from: may she have occasion to bless the day, that a sense of duty and fillial affection, overpowerd every other consideration; Sanctiond now by the voice of reason judgment and her Parents. She can look forward with happier prospects.

I must hasten to a close, as the watch which ticks upon the table points to two oclock, and I am not yet drest. I will however first inquire whether you ever received a peice of calico which I sent my little neice by mr Gardner for a slip, or whether he kept it as mr Remington did the shoes two months after he got home.12 People are sometimes very ready to offer their service, but think no more of the matter afterwards.


I have purchased of the best Italian lutestring I could find, sufficient for a Gown for my sister which I request her acceptance of. The coulour is quite new and perfectly the mode but it does not follow from thence that it is very handsome; I think however it will look well when made up.

We have had for this fortnight past, the severest weather we have known for the whole winter, and the most snow. It frezes hard in the House, the wind constant at east, many vessels for Newyork that were to have gone out 15 days ago, are yet detaind. I frown on account of it because I wrote by them to Dr Tufts my son John and mrs Cranch. Cushing will be ready to sail as soon as any of them. The Young Man by the Name of Wilson13 I sent to inquire for and should have askd him to have dined with us, when captain Cushing did but he staid only one day in London.

You will be so good as to remember me to good old Madam Marsh and family, to judge Sergants and to mr Whites. Tell mrs White I have a gratefull sense of her kindness to all my sons, they express to me her maternal regard to them. I am rejoiced to hear of miss Pegys recovery.14

Mr Adams desires his Love to mr Shaw to you and yours. Adieu my dear sister and believe me at all times Your affectionate Sister,


I hope my youngest son has out grown the Rheumatisim. This cold weather has stird up mine, but I am better now than I have been.

RC (DLC: Shaw Family Papers).


AA to Elizabeth Smith Shaw, 15 Sept. 1785 (vol. 6:361–363).


AA crossed out over five lines of text.


Act I, scene iii, line 98: “ . . . to fall in love with what she fear'd to look on!”


The Carmelite, a tragedy by Richard Cumberland, 1784 ( Biographia Dramatica , 2:85).


The three tragedies are Jane Shore by Nicholas Rowe, 1713; Venice Preserved; or, A Plot Discovered by Thomas Otway, 1682; and Isabella; or, The Fatal Marriage by David Garrick, 1758, reworked from Thomas Southerne's The Fatal Marriage; or, The Innocent Adultery, 1694 (same, 2:229–230, 340; 3:377).


Sarah and William Siddons, also an actor, married in 1773. Her brother, John Philip Kemble, joined the Drury Lane company in 1783 ( DNB ).


“The accusing spirit, which flew up to heaven's chancery with the oath, blush'd as he gave it in;—and the recording angel as he wrote it down dropp'd a tear upon the word and blotted it out for ever” (Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, Book 6, ch. 8).


7 Sept. 1785 (vol. 6:347–350) and 2 Jan., above.


“The soul's calm sunshine and the heartfelt joy,” Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, Epistle IV, line 168.


Same, Epistle IV, line 82.


Elizabeth Kent Allen. See Elizabeth Smith Shaw to AA, 2 Jan., above.


Shaw acknowledged receipt of the cloth on 6 Nov. 1785 (vol. 6:453), but see also Elizabeth Smith Shaw to AA, 18 June 1786, below. Mr. Gardner was probably either 85Samuel or William Gardiner, both of whom arrived in Boston on the Boston Packet, Capt. Lyde, in Oct. 1785 (Massachusetts Centinel, 22 Oct.). John Remington was a retail trader who had served several terms as a town selectman for Watertown (Henry Bond, Genealogies of the Familes and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, 2 vols. in 1, Boston, 1855, p. 410, 912; vol. 6:207).


James Wilson carried letters to AA for Elizabeth Smith Shaw (vol. 6: 349, 421, 422).


Peggy White, daughter of John and Sarah White, had suffered from “melancholy” during the winter of 1784–1785 (vol. 5:469; JQA, Diary , 1:377). For Haverhill residents Mary Marsh and Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant, see vol. 3:319, 5:408.