John Adams to Abigail Adams
Passi September 23 1778
My dearest Friend
A very idle, vain Conversation, at a Dinner, has produced you this Letter from a venerable old Lady, in this Neighbourhood, the Wife of Monsr. Grand the Banker.1
As the Subject was introduced, and according to the turn that the Conversation really took, there was not so much Vanity and Ostentation on my Part, as you will suspect from her Account of it. But as I speak french very imperfectly and she understands not a syllable of English I suppose she did not fully understand me.—All that I maintained was that it was the Duty of a good Citizen to sacrifice all to his Country, in some Circumstances. God Grant I may never be called to do this again so often as I have done already: for I have hazarded all very often and done as much as sacrifice all sometimes.
You will have a delicate Task to answer her. Write to her in English —she has a son about five and twenty who is a Master of English and will interpret.2
It is a virtuous Family, and very civil to me and my dear Johnny of whom the whole Family is very fond.3
We are in deep Concern for America, the last Accounts having left D’Estaing going to Rhode Island and Ld. Howe after him.
It is high Time for me to write to my Children but hitherto I have not had time. I hope you have received twenty Letters from me, in which I have desired you to draw up[on] me for what Money you want. Yours,
RC (Adams Papers). Concerning the (missing) enclosure see note 3.
1. The writer was Marie (Silvestre) Grand, wife of Ferdinand Grand (1726–1794), whose banking house in the Rue des Capucins handled financial transactions between the French government and the new United States (Lüthy, La banque protestante en France description begins Herbert Lüthy, La banque protestante en France de la révocation de I’édit de Nantes à la Révolution, Paris, 1959–1961; 2 vols. description ends , 2:339 and passim). The Grands had a suburban villa in Passy near the residence of the American Commissioners; see JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:303.
2. Jean François Paul Grand (afterward Grand-Labhard) (d. 1829), who married his cousin Marie Labhard and became a partner in his father’s banking firm (Lüthy, La banque protestante en France description begins Herbert Lüthy, La banque protestante en France de la révocation de I’édit de Nantes à la Révolution, Paris, 1959–1961; 2 vols. description ends , 2:341, 820).
3. Although Mme. Grand’s letter has been lost, its tenor is clear from these comments by JA and a summary of it in AA’s letter to AA2, ca. 11 Feb. 1779, below. It reached AA with the present letter early in February, and she followed JA’s instructions in answering it. This answer, which must have been among AA’s most interesting efforts of the kind, was enclosed in her reply to JA of 13 Feb. 1779, below. This, however, did not reach JA before he left Paris on 8 March, and the enclosure was ultimately delivered by hand to Mme. Grand after JA’s return to Paris almost a year later; see JA to AA, 27 Feb. 1780, below. Despite its circulation in French as well as English, no version has so far been found. “Your Letter to Madam G[rand],” John Thaxter wrote AA, “is rendered into French and admired by every one that reads it, for its excellent Sentiments” (16–27 Feb. 1780, below). Four months later it was still circulating in France and producing “Encomiums and Tears” (Thaxter to AA, 18 June 1780, below).