Abigail Adams to John Adams
November 13. 1782
My dearest Friend
I have lived to see the close of the third year of our seperation. This is a Melancholy Anniversary to me; and many tender Scenes arise in my Mind upon the recollecttion. I feel unable to sustain even the Idea, that it will be half that period e’er we meet again.
Life is too short to have the dearest of its enjoyments curtaild. The Social feelings grow Callous by disuse and lose that pliancy of affection which Sweetens the cup of Life as we drink it. The Rational pleasures of Friendship and Society, and the still more refined sensations to which delicate minds only are susceptable like the tender Blosom when the rude Nothern Blasts assail them shrink within collect themselves together, deprived of the all chearing and Beamy influence of the Sun. The Blosom falls, and the fruit withers and decays—but here the similitude fails—for tho lost for the present—the Season returns; the Tree vegetates anew; and the Blossom again puts forth.
But alass with me; those days which are past, are gone forever: and time is hastning on that period, when I must fall, to rise no more; untill Mortality shall put on immortality, and we shall meet again, pure and unimbodied Spirits. Could we live to the age of the Antediluvians we might better support this seperation, but when three score Years and ten circumscribe the Life of Man, how painfull is the Idea, that of that short space only a few years of social happiness are our allotted portion.
Perhaps I make you unhappy. No you will enter with a soothing tenderness into my feelings; I see in your Eyes the Emotions of your Heart, and hear the sigh that is wafted across the Atlantick to the Bosom of Portia. But the philosopher and the statesman stiffels these Emotions, and regains a firmness which arrests my pen from my Hand.
I last evening received a line from Boston,1 to hasten my Letter down or I should again lose an opportunity of conveyance. I was most unfortunate by the Fire Brands sailing and leaving all my Letters behind. A storm prevented my sending the day appointed, and she saild by sun rise the Next morning. Tho my Letters were in town by nine o clock they missd. I know if she arrives how dissapointed you will feel. I received from France per the Al[e]xander yours bearing no date,2 but by the contents written about the same time, with those I received per Mr. Guild. Shall I return the compliment, and tell you in a poeticall Stile—
“Should at my feet the worlds great Master fall
Himself, his world his Throne, I’d Scorn them all.”
No give me the Man I love.
You are neither of an age or temper to be allured with the Splendour of a Court—or the Smiles of princessess. I never sufferd an uneasy sensation on that account. I know I have a Right to your whole Heart, because my own never knew an other Lord—and such is my confidence in you that if you was not withheld by the strongest of all obligations those of a moral Nature, your Honour would not suffer you to abuse my confidence.
But whither am I rambling?
We have not any thing in the political way worth noticeing. The Fleet of our Allies still remains with us.
Our Friend Generall W—n is chosen Member of C—s. I should be loth he should for the 3d time refuse as it leaves impression upon the minds of our good Citizens no ways to his advantage. But this good Man is some how or other embitterd. His Lady opposes if not by words, by that which has as strong an influence.3
Who is there left that will sacrifice as others have done? Portia I think stands alone, alone alass! in more senses than one. This vessel will convey to you the packets designd for the Fire Brand. I hope unimportant as they are, they will not be lost.
Shall I close here without a word of my voyage? I believe it is best to wait a reply before I say any thing further. Our Friends desire me to remember them to you. Your daughter your Image your Superscription desires to be affectionately rememberd to you. O! how many of the sweet domestick joys do you lose by this Seperation from your Family. I have the satisfaction of seeing my children thus far in life behaveing with credit and honour. God grant the pleasing prospect may never meet with an alloy and return to me the dear partner of my early years Rewarded for his past sacrifices by the consciousness of having been extensively usefull, not having lived to himself alone, and may the approveing voice of his Country crown his later days in peacefull retirement in the affectionate Bosom of
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Portia Nov. 13. Ansd. Jan. 29 1783.”
1. This letter or note has not been identified; either Isaac Smith Sr., Richard Cranch, or Cotton Tufts is its most likely author. CFA omitted the text, from this sentence to “how dissapointed you will feel,” from AA, Letters, 1840 description begins Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams. With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1840. description ends , but not from subsequent editions.
3. See Cotton Tufts to JA, 10 Oct., note 12, above. James Warren had rejected or resigned from one public responsibility after another—paymaster general of the Continental Army and justice of the superior court in Massachusetts, both in 1776, major general of the state militia in 1777, member of Congress in 1779, lieutenant governor in 1780, and member of the Continental Navy Board in May 1782. One reason for Warren’s increasing alienation from public service, beginning in the late 1770s, was his growing hostility to John Hancock, the dominant figure in Massachusetts politics. But Warren’s distaste for holding office seems to have had its origins in a complex personality that is still not well understood. See vol. 3:208; vol. 4:16, 20; JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint (from vol. 6), and others, Cambridge, 1977-. description ends , 4:14, 408; 5:269–272; 6:188–189; 7:111–114, 141–142, 144; 8:93;DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873–. description ends , 11:590–600.
CFA omitted this paragraph from AA, Letters, 1840 description begins Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams. With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1840. description ends , and from JA-AA, Familiar Letters description begins Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams, during the Revolution. With a Memoir of Mrs. Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams, New York, 1876. description ends .