Abigail Adams to John Adams
April 21 1776
I have to acknowledg the Recept of a very few lines dated the 12 of April. You make no mention of the whole sheets I have wrote to you, by which I judge you either never Received them, or that they were so lengthy as to be troublesome; and in return you have set me an example of being very concise. I believe I shall not take the Hint, but give as I love to Receive; Mr. Church talk’d a week ago of setting of for Philadelphia. I wrote by him; but suppose it is not yet gone; you have perhaps heard that the Bench is fill’d by Mr. Foster and Sullivan,1 so that a certain person2 is now excluded. I own I am not of so forgiveing a disposition as to wish to see him holding a place which he refused merely from a spirit of envy.
I give up my Request for Chesterfields Letters submitting intirely to your judgment, as I have ever found you ready to oblige me in this way whenever you thought it would contribute either to my entertainment or improvement. I was led to the request from reading the following character of him in my favorite Thomson and from some spiritted and patriotick speaches of his in the Reign of Gorge 2.
O Thou, whose wisdom, solid yet refin’d
Whose patriot-virtues, and consumate skill
So struck the finer springs that move the world
joind to what’er the Graces can bestow,
And all Apollo’s animating fire
Give the[e] with pleasing dignity to shine
At once the Guardian, ornament and joy
Of polish’d life, permit the Rural Muse
O Chesterfield, to grace thee with her Song!
e’er to the shades again she Humbly flies
Indulge her fond ambition in thy Train,
(For every Muse has in thy train a place)
To Mark thy various full accomplish’d mind
To mark that Spirit which, with British scorn
Rejects th Allurements of corrupted power;
That elegant politeness which excels,
Even in the judgment of presumptuous France
The boasted manners of her shining court
That wit, the vivid energy of Sense
The truth of Nature, which with Attic point
And kind well-temperd Satire, smoothly keen
Steals through the Soul and without pain corrects.
I think the Speculations you inclose prove that there is full Liberty of the press. Cato shews he has a bad cause to defend whilst the Forester writes with a spirit peculiar to himself and leads me to think that he has an intimate acquaintance with Common Sense.
We have inteligance of the Arrival of some of the Tory Fleet at Halifax that they are much distresst for want of Houses, obliged to give 6 Dollors per month for one Room, provisions scarce and dear. Some of them with 6 or 8 children round them sitting upon the Rocks crying, not knowing where to lay their heads. Just Heaven has given them to taste of the same cup of Afliction which they one year ago administerd with such Callous Hearts to thousands of their fellow citizen[s], but with this difference that they fly from their injured and enraged Country, whilst, pity and commiseration received the Sufferers whom they inhumanely drove from their Dwellings.
I would fain hope that the time may not be far distant when those things you hint at may be carried into Execution.3
Oh are ye not those patriots, in whose power
That best, that Godlike Luxery is plac’d
Of blessing thousands, thousands yet unborn
Thro’ late posterity? Ye large of Soul
chear up dejected industery, and give
A double Harvest to the pining Swain
Teach thou the Labouring hand the Sweets of Toil
How by the finest Art, the Native robe
To weave; how white as hyperborean Snow
To form the lucid lawn; with venturous oar
How to dash wide the billow; nor look on
Shamefully passive, while Brittania’s Fleets
Defraud us of the glittering finny Swarms
That heave our friths, and swarm upon our Shores
How all-enlivening trade to rouse, and wing
The prosperous Sail, from every growing port
uninjurd, round the sea incircled Globe.
Tis reported here that Admiral Hopkings is blocked up in Newport harbour by a Number of Men of War. If so tis a very unlucky circumstance. As to fortification those who preside in the assembly can give you a much better account than I.
I heard yesterday that a Number of Gentlemen who were together at Cambridge thought it highly proper that a Committee of Ladies should be chosen to examine the Torys Ladies, and proceeded to the choise of 3 Mrs. Winthrope, Mrs. Warren and your Humble Servant.
I could go on and give you a long list of domestick affairs, but they would only serve to embariss you, and noways relieve me. I hope it will not be long before things will be brought into such a train as that you may be spaired to your family.
Your Brother has lost his youngest child with convulsion fits. Your Mother is well and always desires to be rememberd to you. Nabby is sick with the mumps, a very disagreable disorder.—You have not once told me how you do. I judge you are well as you seem to be in Good Spirits.—I bid you good Night, all the Little flock Send Duty; and want to see P——a.
Adieu. Shall I say remember me as you ought.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “ansd. My. 12.”
1. Jedidiah Foster and James Sullivan, commissioned 20 March (Quincy, Reports description begins Josiah Quincy Jr., Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Superior Court of Judicature of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, between 1761 and 1772, ed. Samuel M. Quincy, Boston, 1865. description ends , p. 341).
2. Robert Treat Paine.
3. The following quotation, like that above, is from AA’s “favorite,” James Thomson, whose The Seasons (first published complete in 1730) she seems to have read and reread until she knew it, despite its prodigious length, almost by heart. But it was her habit, whether quoting Thomson, Shakespeare, or any other poet, silently to adapt the texts to her purpose. The present passage is a good example of this habit. It is taken from the “Winter” section of The Seasons, specifically lines 910–926, and anyone interested in such matters may compare her version (or paraphrase) with Thomson’s original in his Complete Poetical Works, ed. J. Logie Robertson, London, 1908, p. 165. Thomson’s first line (in the passage here quoted) is: “Oh! is there not some patriot in whose power...,” which AA pluralizes to apply to the Continental Congress. The 11th–13th lines in the original rouse Britons against Dutch encroachments on their fisheries: “nor look on, / Shamefully passive, while Batavian fleets / Defraud us of the glittering finny swarm.” But AA converts this into perhaps the earliest assertion of American (as opposed to British) rights in the Atlantic fisheries.