Abigail Adams to James Lovell
Do you love the Natural sentiments of the Heart[ ?] Take them then as they flow from the pen of Portia. Having been to take a ride this afternoon upon my return stopt at my Brother Cranchs when one of the family came to the chaise and told me a Gentleman from Boston had left a large packet for me in the House. My Heart bounded for joy—I besought him to deliver them Instantly to me. The Bulk of the packet insured them a pressure to my Bosom. My spirits danced. It was dark, I could not see the hand writing but was in no doubt from whence they came. The Space between my Brothers and my own house was a dozen mile and it seemd like an age to get to it. I sprang from the chaise, calld for a light before I got into the house, but when I came to the light it was Mr. L[ovel]l[’s] hand writing. O the Letters had arrived at Philadelphia, and he ever attentive to the calls of Friendship had coverd them to me. I broke the Seal and the dear delusion vanished like the “baseless fabrick of a vision.” An involuntary tear (it could not be helpd) found its way and for the first time I did not feel that pleasure which always before accompanied a Letter from Mr. Lovell. Six Months and not one line. Expectations so raised and so damped must plead my excuse for so unpolite a reception to my much valued correspondent, to whom for the future I shall give leave to make use of what ever expressions he pleases in order to prove that my Benevolence is eaquel to my power, having from a further acquaintance with him discoverd that the talent for which I formerly censured him is natural to him and that far from being a slothfull servant he has improved it tenfold. Nor would I rob him of the pleasure he takes in thus indulgeing the too pleasing art, since it must be acknowledged that he is an accomplished proficient in it.
I will not disclaim the Epethet of amiable since it is a character which if I do not already possess [it] I would wish to obtain even to the value of her whose price was far above rubies.
Your dissertation upon Letter peaping diverted me. I am glad however that you had no curiosity to gratify, or held yourself otherways restrained from inspecting the Letters of P[ortia]. For having flatterd me with a <
first> place in your Esteem I should have been loth to have forfeited it, since I have no right to expect nor a wish to obtain from any other than the person to whom they were addressd that which an Antient Sage has told us covereth a multitude of faults. The Manuscript you mention did not come by the hand which brought the Letters. I am happy sir if any of the contents of the Trunk were serviceable to you and you will oblige both my absent Friend for whom I know I can answer as well as the present writer in retaining both the Jacket and Stockings and in never mentioning them again.2
I stand indebted to you sir for a Letter dated March 9th. as well as June 5th in the former of which you say there is a strange delay and some thing of Mystery in the propositions which have been lately made here respecting our foreign affairs, but be assured that I have not yet perceived any thing which will probably affect Mr. A in a dissagreable Manner.
I wish you had explaind yourself more fully or was it out of tenderness to me that you would not tell me that I might have reason to daily expect his return, knowing the anxiety I must suffer in the interval.
If he has not been recalld I know not how to account for a passage in a Letter which has come to hand since I took my pen to you. It is from Dr. Winship belonging to the Alliance, to his wife and dated Brest harbour 7 of April. “It is now determined that we return to Boston as soon as may be, and what convinces me that we shall make all possible speed is that Mr. Adams is to return in the ship.”3 97 prisoners had been sent from England [with] which the ship would be well man’d. I have since heard some resolves of congress4 which I think makes it probable that he would return either with or without leave, since if he was not in a situation to serve his country, he would be unhappy absent from his family. God grant him a safe return, and that in future he may retire from publick life.
There has been 3 several appointments here of gentlemen for members of congress, all of whom have declined. This state will find it something difficult to supply the places of the present indefatagable Labourers there.5 It begins to be considerd as rather burdensome and no loaves and fishes to be caught.—But if virtue says my absent Friend on a similar occasion, was to be rewarded with wealth it would not be virtue, if virtue was to be rewarded with fame it would not be virtue of the sublimist kind. Who would not rather be Fabricus than Ceasar, who would not rather be Aristedes than even W[illiam] the 3d. Who? Nobody would be of this mind but Aristedes and Fabricius.
I fancy I had better close this Letter without any further addition least you should discover that I am not in a very good humour, possibly from wrong information. I will therefore endeavour to suppress every dissagreable Idea of publick Slight and indignity till assertained of the Truth or falcity by Mr. S. A[dams] whose daily arrival is expected, and in the mean time I shall anxiously wait for the return of the Alliance, perplexd with a thousand fears and apprehension which I do not owe the publick and for which—but hush, did I not say I would close but not till I have assured you that I am with sentiments of Esteem your Friend & humble Servant,
Dft (Adams Papers); at head of text in JQA’s hand: “To James Lovell Philadelphia 1779,” to which CFA added: “June <
3. Amos Windship (1745–1813), a Boston physician and apothecary, was at this time serving as surgeon aboard the Alliance and thus knew something of JA’s movements and plans from encounters with him at Brest and Lorient; 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 , 2:337, 353, 360, 368, 376. In an earlier note on Windship in this series, the editors did not know how to account for AA’s reference to him as “the famous Dr. W[ind]ship” (vol. 2:187–188). That this was sarcasm becomes clear from a long and curious biographical sketch of Windship by Ephraim Eliot, a contemporary and fellow apothecary, contributed by S. E. Morison to Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. description begins Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Publications. description ends , 25 (1922–1924): 141–171, hitherto overlooked by the Adams editors. Eliot’s sketch is entitled “Biography of a Rascal,” and from the details it furnishes Windship clearly was one. During his single year in Harvard College he entered on a career of casual but engaging knavery that continued with only occasional deviations into respectability until his death.
4. This reference is too vague to permit identification.
5. This observation is borne out by the proceedings of the General Court. In Oct. 1778, seven delegates had been elected (or reelected) to serve for the year 1779 in the Continental Congress: Samuel Adams, Francis Dana, Timothy Edwards, Elbridge Gerry, John Hancock, Samuel Holten, and James Lovell. But three of these did not attend at all in 1779, namely Dana, Edwards, and Hancock, leaving four delegates to represent the state in Philadelphia through the first half of the year. On 2 June, Edwards resigned from a delegation in which he had never served, and in mid-June Samuel Adams took leave for a visit home.
Much of June was therefore spent by the General Court in trying to strengthen its delegation during a period when its interests were very much at stake. On the 4th, Artemas Ward was elected in the place of Edwards, resigned; but ten days later Ward declined to serve. Meanwhile, on the 10th, the House passed a resolve “directing one of the gentlemen who are members of Congress for this State, and now within the same, to repair to Congress without delay; and empowering two delegates to represent the State therein.” On the 16th it elected James Warren in Ward’s place, but he declined next day, whereupon George Partridge was chosen. After much hesitation and reconsideration, Partridge finally accepted on 29 June. All this did relatively little to strengthen the Massachusetts delegation. See Mass., House Jour. description begins Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1715–, Boston, reprinted by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1919– . (For the years for which reprints are not yet available, the original printings are cited, by year and session.) description ends , May–Oct. 1779, p. 21, 23, 28, 37–38, 48, 50, 56, 72–73; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1921–1936; 8 vols. description ends , 4:liii–liv.