Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

150 John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 September 1774 JA AA


John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 September 1774 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My Dear Phyladelphia Septr. 8. 1774

When or where this Letter will find you, I know not. In what Scenes of Distress and Terror, I cannot foresee.—We have received a confused Account from Boston, of a dreadfull Catastrophy. The Particulars, We have not heard. We are waiting with the Utmost Anxiety and Impatience, for further Intelligence.1

The Effect of the News We have both upon the Congress and the Inhabitants of this City, was very great—great indeed! Every Gentleman seems to consider the Bombardment of Boston, as the Bombardment, of the Capital of his own Province. Our Deliberations are grave and serious indeed.

It is a great Affliction to me that I cannot write to you oftener than I do. But there are so many Hindrances, that I cannot.

It would fill Volumes, to give you an Idea of the scenes I behold and the Characters I converse with.

We have so much Business, so much Ceremony, so much Company, so many Visits to recive and return, that I have not Time to write. And the Times are such, as render it imprudent to write freely.

We cannot depart from this Place, untill the Business of the Congress is compleated, and it is the general Disposition to proceed slowly. When I shall be at home I cant say. If there is Distress and Danger in Boston, pray invite our Friends, as many as possible, to take an Assylum with you. Mrs. Cushing and Mrs. Adams if you can.

There is in the Congress a Collection of the greatest Men upon this Continent, in Point of Abilities, Virtues and Fortunes. The Magnanimity, and public Spirit, which I see here, makes me blush for the sordid venal Herd, which I have seen in my own Province. The Addressers, and the new Councillors, are held in universal Contempt and Abhorrence, from one End of the Continent to the other.

Be not under any Concern for me. There is little Danger from any Thing We shall do, at the Congress. There is such a Spirit, thro the Colonies, and the Members of the Congress are such Characters, that no Danger can happen to Us, which will not involve the whole Continent, in Universal Desolation, and in that Case who would wish to live?

Make my Compliments to Mr. Thaxter and Mr. Rice—and to every other of my Friends. My Love to all my dear Children—tell them to be good, and to mind their Books. I shall come home and see them, I hope, the latter End of next Month.

Adieu. John Adams 151

P.S. You will judge how Things are like to be in Boston, and whether it will not be best to remove the Office entirely to Braintree. Mr. Hill and Williams, may come up, if they choose, paying for their Board.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For Mrs. Abigail Adams att Braintree Massachusetts Bay”; endorsed: “C 1 No 2.”


The exaggerated reports of bloodshed and bombardment in connection with Gage's removal on 1 Sept. of the powder and weapons from the Quarry Hill arsenal and nearby points reached Philadelphia on 6 Sept.; see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:124, 127.

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 14 September 1774 AA JA


Abigail Adams to John Adams, 14 September 1774 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
Dearest Friend Braintree Sepbr. 14 1774

Five Weeks have past and not one line have I received. I had rather give a dollar for a letter by the post, tho the consequence should be that I Eat but one meal a day for these 3 weeks to come. Every one I see is inquiring after you and when did I hear. All my intelligance is collected from the news paper and I can only reply that I saw by that, that you arrived such a day. I know your fondness for writing and your inclination to let me hear from you by the first safe conveyance which makes me suspect that some Letter or other has miscaried, but I hope now you have arrived at Philidelphia you will find means to convey me some inteligance.

We are all well here. I think I enjoy better Health than I have done these 2 years. I have not been to Town since I parted with you there. The Govenor is making all kinds of warlike preperations such as mounting cannon upon Beacon Hill, diging entrenchments upon the Neck, placeing cannon there, encamping a regiment there, throwing up Brest Works &c. &c. The people are much allarmed, and the Selectmen have waited upon him in concequence of it. The county congress have also sent a committee—all which proceedings you will have a more particuliar account of than I am able to give you from the publick papers. But as to the Movements of this Town perhaps you may not hear them from any other person. In consequence of the powders being taken from Charlstown, a general alarm spread thro many Towns and was caught pretty soon here. The report took here a fryday, and a Sunday a Soldier was seen lurking about the common. Supposed to be a Spy, but most likely a Deserter. However inteligence of it was communicated to the other parishes, and about 8 o clock a Sunday Evening there passed by here about 200 Men, preceeded by a horse 152cart, and marched down to the powder house from whence they took the powder and carried it into the other parish and there secreeted it. I opened the window upon there return. They pass'd without any Noise, not a word among them till they came against this house, when some of them perceiveing me, askd me if I wanted any powder. I replied not since it was in so good hands. The reason they gave for taking it, was that we had so many Tories here they dare not trust us with it. They had taken Vinton in their Train, and upon their return they stoped between Cleverlys and Etters, and calld upon him to deliver two Warrents. Upon his producing them, they put it to vote whether they should burn them and it pass'd in the affirmitive. They then made a circle and burnt them, they then call'd a vote whether they should huzza, but it being Sunday evening it passd in the negative. They call'd upon Vinton to swear that he would never be instrumental in carrying into execution any of these new atcts. They were not satisfied with his answers however they let him rest. A few Days after upon his making some foolish speaches, they assembled to the amount of 2 and 3 hundred, swore vengance upon him unless he took a solemn oath. Accordingly, they chose a committee and sent them with him to Major Miller to see that he complied, and they waited his return, which proving satisfactory they disperced. This Town appear as high as you can well immagine, and if necessary would soon be in arms. Not a Tory but hides his head. The church parson thought they were comeing after him, and run up garret they say, an other jumpt out of his window and hid among the corn whilst a third crept under his bord fence, and told his Beads.1

September 16 1774

I Dined to Day at Coll. Quincys. They were so kind as to send me, and Nabby and Betsy an invitation to spend the Day with them, and as I had not been to see them since I removed to Braintree, I accepted the invitation. After I got there, came Mr. Samll. Quincys wife2 and Mr. Sumner,3 Mr. Josiah and Wife.4 A little clashing of parties you may be sure. Mr. Sam's Wife said she thought it high time for her Husband to turn about, he had not done half so clever since he left her advice. Said they both greatly admired the most excellent and much admired Speach of the Bishop of St. Asaph which suppose you have seen. It meets, and most certainly merrits the greatest encomiums.5

Upon my return at night Mr. Thaxter met me at the door with your Letter dated from Prince town New Jersy. It really gave me such a flow of Spirits that I was not composed eno to sleep till one oclock. 153You make no mention of one I wrote you previous to that you received by Mr. Breck and sent by Mr. Cunningham. I am rejoiced to hear you are well; I want to know many more perticuliars than you wrote me, and hope soon to hear from you again. I dare not trust myself with the thought of how long you may perhaps be absent. I only count the weeks already past, and they amount to 5. I am not so lonely as I should have been, without my two Neighbours. We make a table full at meal times, all the rest of their time they spend in the office. Never were two persons who gave a family less trouble than they do. It is at last determined that Mr. Rice keep the School here. Indeed he has kept ever since he has been here, but not with any expectation that He should be continued, but the people finding no small difference between him and his predecessor chose he should be continued. I have not sent Johnny. He goes very steadily to Mr. Thaxter who I believe takes very good care of him, and as they seem to have a likeing to each other believe it will be best to continue him with him. However when you return we can then consult what will be best. I am certain that if he does not get so much good, he gets less harm, and I have always thought it of very great importance that children should in the early part of life be unaccustomed to such examples as would tend to corrupt the purity of their words and actions that they may chill with horrour at the sound of an oath, and blush with indignation at an obscene expression. These first principals which grow with their growth and strengthen with their strength neither time nor custom can totally eradicate.—You will perhaps be tired. No let it serve by way of relaxation from the more important concerns of the Day, and be such an amusement as your little hermitage used to afford you here. You have before you to express myself in the words of the Bishop the greatest National concerns that ever came before any people, and if the prayers and petitions assend unto Heaven which are daily offerd for you, wisdom will flow down as a streem and Rithousness as the mighty waters, and your deliberations will make glad the cities of our God.

I was very sorry I did not know of Mr. Cary's going. It would have been so good an opportunity to have sent this as I lament the loss of. You have heard no doubt of the peoples preventing the court from setting in various counties, and last week in Taunton, Anger Angier urged the courts opening, and calling out the action, but could not effect it.

I saw a Letter from Miss Eunice6 wherein she gives an account of it, and says there were 2000 men assembled round the court house and by a committee of nine presented a petition requesting that they 154would not set, and with the uttmost order waited 2 hours for there answer, when they disperced.

Your family all desire to be remember'd to you, as well as unkle Quincy who often visits me, to have an hour of sweet communion upon politicks with me. Coll. Quincy desires his complements to you. Dr. Tufts sends his Love and your Mother and Brothers also. I have lived a very recluse life since your absence, seldom going any where except to my Fathers who with My Mother and Sister desire to be rememberd to you. My Mother has been exceeding low, but is a little better.—How warm your climate may be I know not, but I have had my bed warmed these two nights.—I must request you to procure me some watermellon seads and Muskmellon, as I determine to be well stocked with them an other year. We have had some fine rains, but as soon as the corn is gatherd you must release me of my promise. The Drougth has renderd cutting a second crop impracticable, feeding a little cannot hurt it. However I hope you will be at home to be convinced of the utility of the measure.—You will burn all these Letters least they should fall from your pocket and thus expose your most affectionate Friend,

Abigail Adams

RC (Adams Papers); docketed in an unidentified hand: “September 14 1774 AA.”


The Cleverlys, Etters, and Millers were Church of England families and accordingly inclined to toryism. The “church parson” was Edward Winslow, Harvard 1741, who had settled at Braintree in 1763 but was obliged early in 1777 to leave as a person “Inimical to the United States” (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 11:97–107; see AA to JA, 2 April 1777, below). On 3 Oct. 1774 a town meeting voted that a report circulating in Boston and elsewhere to the effect that Braintree Anglicans were being disturbed was “malicious, false & injurious & calculated to defame the Town” ( Braintree Town Records , p. 451).


Hannah (Hill) Quincy (d. 1782). See Adams Genealogy. She disagreed with her husband's politics and did not accompany him to England the next year.


Increase Sumner (1746–1799), of Roxbury, who had prepared for the law in Samuel Quincy's office; he was later a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court and from 1797 to 1799 governor of Massachusetts. Sumner's mother was a first cousin of JA's mother. ( NEHGR , 8 [1854]:105–128; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:257; DAB .)


Abigail (Phillips) Quincy (1745–1798), wife of Josiah “the Patriot.” See Adams Genealogy.


Jonathan Shipley (1714–1788), Bishop of St. Asaph, was an intimate friend of Benjamin Franklin and, later, on cordial terms with the Adamses in London ( DNB ; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:181–182, 193). Already known as markedly sympathetic with the American cause, he voted in the House of Lords against the bill to alter the Massachusetts Charter in 1774 and soon afterward published A Speech Intended to Have Been Spoken on the Bill for Altering the Charters of the Colony of Massachusett's Bay. In it he declared that he looked “upon North-America as the only great nursery of freemen now left upon the face of the earth.” No fewer than five editions of the Speech were issued in London in 1774, and one or 155more reprints were published in Boston, Salem, Newport, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Williamsburg during the same year. See Sabin 80511–80526; Evans 13615–13625; T. R. Adams, “American Independence,” Nos. 141a–p.


Eunice, sister of Robert Treat Paine; her letter has not been traced.