Adams Family Correspondence, volume 9

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 20 August 1790 Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy
Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams
Dear Son Richmond Hill 20 August 1790

I congratulate you upon your having setled yourself thus far, and am pleasd to find you so well accommodated. you have a good office, a Good Library, and an agreable Family to reside in. be patient and persevering. you will get Buisness in time, and when you feel disposed to find fault with your stars, bethink yourself how preferable your situation to that of many others, and tho a state of dependance must ever be urksome to a generous mind, when that dependance is not the effect of Idleness or dissapation, there is no kind parent [bu]t what would freely contribute to the Support and assistance of a child in proportion to their ability. I have been daily in expectation of seeing your Brother Thomas here. he must be expeditious in his movements or he will be calld to an account for visiting a most heinious offence you know in the view of those, who think there is more merrit in staying at Home. Your Father talks of taking a Tour to the eastward. it would be peculiarly agreeable to me to accompany him, but there are reasons, not of state, but of purse which must prevent it; and yet I think I could plan the matter so as that it would be no great object, to pass a couple of Months with our Friend's. Lady Temple & mrs Atkinson will set out tomorrow by way of RhoadIsland. they have offerd to take Letters to my Friends, but I have been rather neglegent in writing the weather has been so extreeme Hot. I have the two Boys with me Billy & John, and it is employment enough to look after them. your sister has a third Son. heaven grant that she may add no more to the stock untill her prospects brighten. a Marshells office will poorly feed a Family and I see no prospect of any other at present.1 I will give you 93one peice of advise, never form connextions untill you see a prospect of supporting a Family, never take a woman from an Eligible situation and place her below it. remember that as some one says in a play [“]Marriage is chargeable”2 and as you never wish to owe a fortune to a wife, never let her owe Poverty to you. Misfortunes may Surround even the fairest prospects. if so Humbly kiss the Rod in silence, but rush not upon distress and anxiety with your Eyes open— I approve your spirit. I should be ashamed to own him for a son who could be so devoted to avarice as to marry a woman for her fortune. Pride and insolence too often accompany wealth and very little happiness is to be expected from sordid souls of earthy mould.3 I always loved Nancy Quincy from a native good humour and honesty of heart which she appeard to possess—but I never was in earnest in ralying you about it. (if you should perceive that the spelling of this Letter is different from what you have been accustomed too, you must Set it down for Websters New) plan.4 I write in haste, as I must dress for the drawing Room this Evening, and take my Letter to Town—

We have had our Friends the Creeks very near us for a Month and very constant visiters to us some of them have been— I have been amused with them and their manners. tho they could not converse but by signs they appeard Friendly, manly, generous gratefull and Honest. I was at Federal Hall when the Ceremony of Ratifying the Treaty took place it was truly a curious scene, but my pen is so very bad that however inclined I might be to describe it to you, I cannot write with pleasure. I inclose you some papers that I believe were mislaid before5

Remember me to the dr and mrs Welch and all other Friends— you must go to mr Thatchers meeting and get a seat in the old pew—



RC (Adams Papers); addressed by CA: “Mr: John Quincy Adams. / Boston.”; endorsed: “My Mother: 20. Augt: 1790.” and “Mrs: Adams. Augt: 20th: 1790.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


On 25 Sept. 1789, the Senate approved George Washington's nomination of WSS as marshal for the district of New York, a position he held until his appointment as supervisor of revenue for the same district in March 1791 ( First Fed. Cong. , 2:49, 130). See also AA2 to Elizabeth Cranch Norton, 7 Feb. 1791, note 2, below.


Thomas Otway, Venice Preserv'd; or, A Plot Discovered, Act II, scene ii, line 42.


Isaac Watts, “Few Happy Matches,” line 13.


Noah Webster (1758–1843) introduced a spelling book in 1782 for American schoolchildren that sought to standardize English spelling and pronunciation. Later known as The American Spelling Book, the text proved extremely popular and launched Webster's 94career as a writer and lexicographer. Webster went on to advocate for reforms in English spelling, publishing in 1789 Dissertations on the English Language, a book based on his popular lectures and supplemented by an appendix titled “Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling.” AA probably refers here to a 1790 publication, A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings, in which Webster employed his ideas about spelling reform and, in doing so, subjected himself to widespread ridicule ( DAB ; Emily Ellsworth Fowler Ford, comp., and Emily Ellsworth Ford Skeel, ed., Notes on the Life of Noah Webster, 2 vols., N.Y., 1912, 1:295).


Not found.

Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 29 August 1790 Adams, Abigail Cranch, Mary Smith
Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
my Dear sister Sunday eve Nyork August 29 1790

I last Night received your Letter which I have long expected, dated 9th of August, and thank you for your account of commencment, as well as your care. I have written to you a number of times and wonderd much at not hearing from you. by dr Jeffries I wrote you an account of mrs Smiths getting well to Bed. She is very cleverly and has been once out to see me tho only three weeks last Night since she got to Bed, but the weather being so warm she has got the Air very soon or rather never Shut it out. She was going to dine below stairs to day, and said if she was not asshamed she would go with me to take leave of mrs washington who sets out tomorrow for Mount Vernon. I am [goin]g into Town for that purpose, and shall part with her, tho I hope, only for a short time, with much Regreet. no Lady can be more deservedly beloved & esteemed than she is, and we have lived in habits of intimacy and Friendship. in short the Removal of the principal connections I have here serves to render the place delightfull as it, is much less pleasent than it has been.

I have been almost upon the point of visiting Braintree. I even made several arrangments for that purpose in my own mind, but had it all overthrown by an arrangment for a Removal to Philadelphia this fall mr Adams talks now of going there, to look out a House, as he begins to think he shall be very misirable at Lodgings, but I will hope that I may come next summer, and be a Border with you for some months if we should let our House if the people you mention are responsible and worthy people I should have no objection to letting it to them with the furniture the best carpet & china & Glass tho not much excepted.— I know more injury may be done to furniture in one year than a House can easily sustain in several. a Hundred dollars goes but a little way in good furniture. perhaps they may run away with a fancy that as the house is unoccupied we would readily let it for trifle. the House I should rather let at a low 95Rent than it should stand empty, but not the furniture 200 dollors a year or not much less I should expect to have for it including the Garden stables &c there are three Beds two very good and three carpets besides the best; at Philadelphia we must give four hundred for an empty house and that out of the City, but I shall ha[ve] opportunity to write you more fully if they should have any fancy for taking it and I would consult the dr about it.

we are anxious to get Thomas here and wonder that he does not come on pray hasten him as mr Adams is very anxious desirious to have him here— my dear Sister I never take the ten guineys so pray say no more about them I am under obligations to you for the care and attention to my children which nothing pecuniary can repay & it hurts me that I have it not in my power to do as I wish— I hope our young folks will get into Buisness I am glad mr Cranch will be like to get something for his hard Labour— I hope the remaining part of the debt will be provided for in less than ten years—1 our publick affairs look very auspicious not withstanding the grumbling I have many more things to Say to you but am obliged to close to go into Town, but will write to you soon again— we are all well. you may write by the post they have not Chargd us postage yet and I presume will not as the New act if it had past excepts the President and vice Pressident, and as it is known to be the intention of congress, I suppose they will not tax us with postage under the present act.2

Love to all Friends / ever yours

A Adams

RC (MWA:Abigail Adams Letters); addressed: “To / Mrs Mary Cranch / Braintree”; endorsed by Richard Cranch: “Letter from Mrs / A Adams (NY) / Aug 29th. 1790.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


On 4 Aug., after more than six months of debate, the Funding Act became law. Under the legislation, which consolidated the debts of the individual states, owners of state bonds were to exchange their certificates for three types of federal securities: some paying 6 percent interest immediately, some 3 percent immediately, and some 6 percent in 1801 ( First Fed. Cong. , 5:713–715, 722).


Congress passed on 22 Sept. 1789 an act providing for the temporary establishment of the Post Office under the Constitution. Leaving virtually unchanged an ordinance passed under the Articles of Confederation in Oct. 1782, this legislation was subsequently renewed on 4 Aug. 1790 and 3 March 1791 when the House and Senate were unable to agree on a process for determining postal roads. The initial ordinance exempted members of Congress, the commander in chief, and other government officials from paying postage; a Post Office bill introduced in the House on 7 June 1790 that failed to pass proposed similar franking privileges for the president, vice president, and others. An act reorganizing the postal service under the new government eventually became law on 20 Feb. 1792; it too stipulated that all letters and packets to and from the president and vice president be carried free of charge (Dorothy Ganfield Fowler, Unmailable: Congress and the Post Office, Athens, Ga., 1977, p. 6, 9, 11, 13; JCC , 23:678; First Fed. Cong. , 6:1651–1654, 1684, 1690, 1712–1713, 1716–1718; U.S. Statutes at Large , 1:237).