Adams Family Correspondence, volume 8

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 10 February 1788 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
London Febry 10th 1788

Since I have had any opportunity of conveyence to my dear Sister, I have received from her Letters of the following dates August 19 225Sepbr 23. & 30th october 21 & Novbr 14th. the contents of which have variously affected me—1 The Scripture tells us that it is better to go to the House of mourning than the House of Feasting.2 to that I think I have oftener been calld through the progress of your several Letters, and I may say with dr young

“my dyeing Friend's come o'er me like a cloud”3

our Second parents House is become desolate, disconsolate & mourns, but the dear inhabitants have exchanged it for a more permanant inheritance, yet we have reason to bewail their loss, for they were ornaments to Society, and their exemplary Lives adornd the Religion they profess'd. very few persons have closed the last Scenes of Life with So pure and unblemishd Characters as the worthy pair whose memory's deserve these tributary Tears. long may their virtues Survive in our memories and be transplanted into the lives of all their connections. They do Survive them we see in their amiable Children the Fruits of seeds sown by their parents, Nursd with uncommon care, and matured by long & undeviating Labour. I rejoice most sincerely that mr Smith so happily connected himself during the Life of his worthy Father, as it must have afforded him consolation in the close of Life to leave a Friend and companion to his orphan Daughter— my dear Friend mrs otis, I have often thought of her with the tenderest Sympathy. how many Severe trials has She been calld to encounter in the Space of a few years? [“]God suits the wind to the shorne Lamb, Says yorick”4 and she is blessd with a happy equinimity of temper Supported by those Sentiments of Religion which teach a patient Submission to the dispensations of providence

“Why should we grieve, when griveing we must bear? And take with Guilt, what Guiltless we might share”

When I reflect upon the Death of an other Relative, I can only say, the judge of all will do right. I cannot however upon a Retrospect of His Education refrain from thinking that some very capital mistakes were very undesignedly made. the experience which you and I have since had with regard to the different dispositions & tempers of children would lead us to a very different conduct. I say this to you who will not consider it, as any reflection upon the memory of our dear parents, but only as a proof how much the best & worthyest may err, & as some mitigation for the conduct of our deceast Relative.


And now my dear sister the period is very near when I am to quit this country. I wrote Dr Tufts that we had taken our passage in Captain Callihans Ship, and that he would sail the latter end of march, or begining of April, so that I hope God willing, to see you & the rest of my dear Friends in May. I have much to do as you will naturally suppose by way of arrangment, and my Health, not what I wish it was. There is a natural tendency in our family to one particular Disorder, Father Aunts & uncle have more or less shared it, and I am not without Similar complants, which like the centinal at the door of King philip, warn me of what frail materials I am compose'd.5 that was a part of my complant last year and has afflicted me still more greviously this. at present I am relieved & hope that I shall have no return of it through the fatigue which I have to pass through in packing & getting ready for my voyage. I almost wish I had nothing to remove but myself & Baggage, but to part with our furniture would be such a loss, & to take it is such a trouble that I am almost like the Animal between the two Bundles of Hay

I want to write to you all, yet feel as if I had not a moments time. mr & mrs Smith take private Lodgings next week. in the course of which we have to go to Court & take Leave, to visit all the Foreign ministers & their Ladies & to take leave of all our acquaintance, pack all our Furniture Give up our House discharge all our Bills make and all other arrangments for our departure.

added to all this, I have the greatest anxiety upon Esthers account, if I bring her Home alive I bring her Home a marri'd woman & perhaps a Mother which I fear will take place at sea.6 this as yet is known only to myself & mrs Smith. Brisler as good a servant as ever Bore the Name, and for whom I have the greatest regard is married to her, but Sitting asside her Situation, which I did not know untill a few days ago, her general state of Health is very bad. I have not made it worse, I hope by what has been done for her, but her Life has been put in Jeopardy, as many others have before her, ignorantly done, for however foolish it may appear to us, I must believe that she had no Idea of being with child, untill the day before she came in the utmost distress to beg me to forgive her, and tho I knew that it was their intention to marry when they should return to America Yet so totally blinded was I, & my physician too, that we never once suspected her any more than she did herself, but this was oweing to her former ill state of Health.

I have related this to you in confidence that you may send for her Mother & let her know her situation. as in a former Letter to dr 227Tufts, I expressd my apprehensions with regard to her, & tho the chief difficulty is now accounted for I look upon her situation as a very dangerous one. I have engaged an Elderly woman to go out with me, who formerly belonged to Boston,7 and I hear there is an other woman going as a stearige passenger, and I shall hurry Callihan to get away as soon as possible, for I think I dread a norester on Board ship, more than an Equinox we have but about ten days longer before we shall leave London—and in addition to every thing else, I have to prepare for her what is necessary for her situation, but tis in vain to complain, & then poor Brisler looks so humble and is so attentive, so faithfull & so trust worthy, that I am willing to do all I can for them. do not let any thing of what I have written be known to any body but her mother. I hope captain Folger arrived Safe with my Letters. adieu my dear sister, do not let my Friends think unkindly of me if I do not write to them. I would had I time my Love / to them all from your ever affectionate / sister


RC (MWA:Abigail Adams Letters).


The letter of 14 Nov. 1787 has not been found.


Ecclesiastes, 7:2.


Young, Night Thoughts , Night III, line 278.


Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, ch. 65, “Maria.”


A number of family members, including AA, TBA, Norton Quincy, and Mary Smith Cranch, suffered from rheumatism (vol. 3:42; 5:267; 6:2, 231).


Esther Field and John Briesler married on 15 Feb. 1788 at St. Mary le Bone church in London. Their daughter Elizabeth was born at sea in May (W. Bruce Bannerman and R. R. Bruce Bannerman, The Registers of Marriages of St. Mary le Bone, Middlesex, 9 vols., London, 1917–1927, 4:80; Sprague, Braintree Families , p. 829; AA to AA2, 29 May, below). Interestingly, in later years, the family apparently “revised” the Brieslers' marriage date back to Sept. 1787; see JQA's Diary entry for 14 Aug. 1838, D/JQA/33, APM Reel 36.


AA later refers to this woman, who is not further identified, as “old nurse Comis” (to AA2, 29 May 1788, below).

Abigail Adams Smith to John Quincy Adams, 10 February 1788 Smith, Abigail Adams Adams, John Quincy
Abigail Adams Smith to John Quincy Adams
London Feby 10th 1788

I have now before me your Letter of the 3d of August1—which I intend to answer fully—and then 2dly to proceed to some points of information—and 3dly to some observations and reflection of my own—

in the 1st place I must acknowledge that your complaints against me for not writing are justly founded— I must Confess myself in fault—& this you know is the surest and most effectual way to disarm you of resentment—but who is the American Pope!—


your hopes respecting our Parents returning to America are I think in a fair way to be accomplished— preparations are daily making—for this Event, they have engaged to have their furniture all on Board Callihams Ship—in the Month of Febuary— they Intend Leaving London—after the 24th. and to go to Falmouth there they are to be on the 20th of March— Callihan is to take them on Board at Falmouth after the Equinoxial Storm has blown over and from thence they proceed in a line direct, to the Harbour of Boston

Congress not resolving to keep any Person in a Public Character at this Court—and as usual have not taken any resolutions respecting the destination of my friend—it is Concluded that they mean he should return also—at the expiration of his Commission—for which Event we are likewise prepareing and with a very Sincere desire that no impediment may intervene to frustrate our present intention of embarking for America in the April Packett which sails from Falmouth to New York—from which Place I hope my next Letter to you will be dated—and where I Shall Hope to see you—at some Leisure period—perhaps during the next Winter vacation—when our Brothers will accompany you but this is looking a great way forward— we will defer further particulars till the period approaches—

respecting your desire that your father Should determine to Spend the remainder of his days in retirement— I cannot agree with you in this wish— it is in his Power to do His Country Essential Service—by assisting in Her Councills—by His opinions, advice, & recommendations,—he has it I beleive in his Power to do as much perhaps the most towards establishing her Character as a respectable Nation—of any Man in America—and Shall he retire from the World and bury himself amongst his Books—and Live only for himself!— No—I wish it not— I have no desire that he should be chosen Governor of the State—let those Possess that station who are ambitiously grasping—at a Shadow—which I Consider the Honour attendant upon that office to be— but I do hope—upon the establishment of a New Constitution—to see Him in some respectable and usefull Office under it— the Americans in Europe—say he will be Elected Vice President— besides my Brother independant of other important Considerations—he would not I am well Convinced be Happy in Private Life— you will before he arrives in America—have seen two other Vollumes of His Book—and perhaps you will hear from him a system of Government which you may not expect— he is of opinion that some new form of Government for our Country is neccasary— he does not wholy approve of the one which has been offered—but 229he thinks that the People had better adopt it as it is—and then appoint a new Convention to make such alterations as may prove necessary— He wishes they Had Entitled the Chief Magistrate to a greater degree of independance, that they had given him the Sole appointment of all Offices—that they had made provision for a Privy Councill—either of His own appointment or chosen by the Senate—and some others which you will hear from himself— if the system at present under Consideration is not addopted I am of opinion that he will assist at a future Convention and have a principle Hand in the framing One which may be adopted— most of the Americans now in Europe are in favour of it—being well Convinced that a Change is absolutely necessary to the respectable Establishment of our Country in the Eyes of Europe—and her importance as a Nation—

I am Sorry to find by your Letter that your spirits are so low—the return of our Parrents will I hope restore them— I do not think you have any reason to be discouraged—by the time you shall have finished your studies of the Law—that Profession will have risen again into reputation amongst the People—I hope— Learning Abilities and industry will ever meet a good reward—and I dare say you will not repent the Profession you have Chosen nor think the time you have spent in the acquirement misplaced— be not discouraged—your Path through Life will not I hope be planted with thorns— you must not however expect to find the assent perfectly easy—but you will often find a Sattisfaction in haveing encountered difficulties— when the dangers are passed away—bear this beleif in Mind—that you were designed for some high and important Station upon the stage,—qualify yourself to fill your part with reputation—and then aspire to that Station which you esteem desireable—and that you may succeed in the Possession is my earnest wish—and if in my Power to offer you assistance—my pittance shall be at your Command—

I think I have now answered your Letter—and Shall in the next place proceed to give you some information upon General Subjects which brings me to the 2d Head of my discource—

we have had rumours of War—which have passed away—but I cannot add—it is as tho they had not been—for it is yet suspected that this Country is two well Sattisfied in their own strength and importance to keep Peace in Europe—for many succeeding years to at present there appears no oustensible reason for War— they have Lately proved triumphant in the Subjugation of Liberty in Holland—the Patriotick Party in that Country are quite unplaced—if not unpensioned— many have fled to France and others talk of going to 230America— the Baron de Lynden is recalled from this Court— there has been a motion made in the States General—for recalling Mr Van Berckel from America. it has not yet been carried but it is expected to take Place as soon as My father takes his Leave—2 no Person can travell through the Country (to so great an heighth has the Spirit of Party been extended). without wearing some Badge of Orange, it has also become a favourite colour in this Country,—thus small means are sometimes made Subservient to important purposes—

the French Cabinet seem to be in a State of Petrifaction, whilst the People are looking around them and claiming their rights as Men,—the Royal Authority is disregarded and treated with Contempt. Parliaments return from Exile whom the King has Banished,—some Persons. talk of the Nations being better represented than this Nation is at Present,— it is said that the King has given himself up to intoxication and the Queen is Branded with every approbious epithet which Can dishonour Woman,— but I suppose this information and more you have received through the Channel of the News Papers

Monsieur de Callonge who fled from France has been presented Publickly at this Court by the Duke of Queensborougher an Event that has caused much Surprize to Foreigners—3 the Marquis de la Luzern—has arrived here as Ambassador from France, he has lain down the Order of Malta—taken a Wife,—and his own title of Marquis—4

I hear of a Ship to Sail this week—and as I would not omit the opportunity of forwarding this Letter—I must omit many things that I designed to have written— we are now very Busy in Packing up and prepareing for our departure if I can find time I will write again by My Mother to you—

Several Ships have arrived without a line from you— I hope you have received my letter of july Last—5

remember me to all Friends and beleive me / your affectionate Sister and friend—

A Smith—

RC (Adams Papers).


Not found, but see JQA, Diary , 2:269, where JQA states that he wrote to AA2 on 31 July 1787.


Pieter Johan van Berckel, who had been the Dutch minister to the United States since 1783, was recalled by the States General on 8 May 1788 for “Various Reasons conducive to our Interest” ( Repertorium , 3:271; The Emerging Nation: A Documentary History of the Foreign Relations of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, 1780–1789, ed. Mary A. Giunta, 3 vols., Washington, D.C., 1996, 3:773–774).


William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensberry (1724–1810), was best known for his love of horses and betting. He served as a 231lord of the bedchamber to George III from 1760 to 1789 ( DNB ).


Anne César, Chevalier de La Luzerne, had previously served as the French minister to the United States and had known JA and JQA since they sailed from Lorient on the Sensible together in 1779. La Luzerne was named minister to Great Britain in fall 1787 and arrived in London in Jan. 1788. At around the same time, he made public his secret marriage to Angran d'Alleray and gave up his rank of chevalier in the Order of Malta. Shortly thereafter, Louis XVI granted him the title of Marquis. La Luzerne would continue as minister to Great Britain until his death in 1791 (vol. 6:129; JA, Papers , 8:18–19; William Emmett O'Donnell, The Chevalier de La Luzerne: French Minister to the United States 1779–1784, Bruges, 1938, p. 249–250).


AA2 to JQA, 10 June 1787, above, which has a final dateline of 16 July.