John Adams to Abigail Adams
Paris March 28. 1783
My dearest Friend
On the 30 Nov. our Peace was Signed. On the 28. March We dont know that you have Yet heard of it.1 A Packet Should have been Sent off. I have not yet received the Ratification of <
the> my Dutch Treaty.2 I know not when I Shall be able to embark for home. If I receive the Acceptance of my Resignation, I Shall embark in the first ship, the first good ship I mean, for I love you too well, to venture my self in a bad one, and I love my own Ease to well to go in a very Small one.
I am Sometimes half afraid, that those Persons who procured the
Revocation of my Commission3 to King George, may be afraid I shall do them more harm in America, than in England, and therefore of two Evils to choose the least and manoeuvre to get <
my> me sent to London. By several Coaxing hints of that Kind, which have been written to me and given me in Conversation, from Persons who I know are employed to do it, I fancy that Something of that is in Contemplation. There is another Motive too—they begin to dread the Appointment of some others whom they like less than me. I tremble when I think of such a Thing as going to London. If I were to receive orders of that sort, it would be a dull day to me. No Swiss ever longed for home more than I do. I Shall forever be a dull Man in Europe. I cannot bear the Thought of transporting my Family to Europe. It would be the Ruin of my Children forever. And I cannot bear the Thought of living longer Seperate from them. Our foreign Affairs, are like to be in future as they have been in times past an eternal Scaene of Faction. The fluctuation of Councils at Philadelphia have encouraged it, and even good Men Seem to be Seized with the Spirit of it.
The definitive Treaty is yet delayed, and will be for any Thing I can see till Mid Summer. It may however be signed in a few Weeks. If it should be signed I could go home with the Dutch Ambassador,4 in a Frigate which will sail from the Texel in June. But So many Points are uncertain, that I cannot determine on any thing. Dont think of coming to Europe however, unless you should receive a further desire from me, which is not at all probable. My present Expectations are to pay my Respects to you, at Braintree, before Midsummer.
My dear Daughters happiness employs my Thoughts night and Day. Dont let her form any Connections with any one, who is not devoted entirely to study and to Business. To honour and Virtue. If there is a Trait of Frivolity and Dissipation left, I pray that She may renounce it, forever. I ask not Fortune nor Favour for mine, but Prudence, Talents and Labour. She may go with my Consent whenever she can find enough of these.5
My Son, has been another Source of Distress to me. The terrible Weather has made his Journey from Petersbourg very long. But I have a Letter from him at Hamborough the 14th.6 and hope he is at the Hague by this day. I am much relieved on his Account. My Charles and Thomas how are they? Fine Boys I dare Say? Let them take Care how they behave if they desire their Fathers Approbation. My Mother and your Father enjoy I hope a good Share of Health and Spirits. Mr. Cranch’s Health is perfectly restored I hope, and Uncle Quincy7 and Dr. Tufts as good and as happy as ever. Why should not my Lot in Life be as easy as theirs? So it would have been if I had been as wise as they and staid at home as they do. But where would have been our Cod and Haddock, our Bever skins Deer skins and Pine Trees?8 Alass all lost, perhaps. Indeed I firmly believe so, in a good Conscience. I cannot therefore repent of all my fatigues, Cares, Losses, Escapes, anxious Days and Sleepless nights.
Nothing in Life ever cost me so much Sleep, or made me so many grey Hairs, as the Anxiety, I have Suffered for these Three Years on the Score of these Objects. No body knows of it: Nobody cares for it. But I shall be rewarded for it, in Heaven I hope. Where Mayhew, and Thatcher and Warren9 are rewarded I hope, none of whom however were permitted to suffer so much. They were taken away from the Evil to come.
I have one favour for you to ask of Mr. Adams the President of the senate. It is that he would make a compleat Collection of his Writings and publish them in Volumes. I know of no greater service that could be rendered to the Rights of Mankind. At least that he would give you a List of them. They comprize a Period of forty Years.10 And although they would not find so many Rakes for Purchasers, as the Writings of Voltaire, they would do infinitely more good to mankind especially in our rising Empire. There Posterity will find a Mass of Principles, and Reasonings, Suitable for them and for all good Men. The Copy, I fancy would Sell to Advantage in Europe.
Yours most affectiatly and eternally.
RC (Adams Papers).
1. On 22 Feb. the Boston Evening Post had printed George III’s speech of 5 Dec. 1782 opening Parliament, which “admitt[ed America’s] separation from the crown of these kingdoms,” and mentioned “provisional articles agreed upon.” The newspaper also included a separate report that the articles of peace were signed. Capt. Joshua Barney of the packet Washington, who left Lorient on 17 Jan. arrived in America with the preliminary articles on 12 March (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 , 7:71). Definite news of the completion of the preliminary treaty, though without the text of the articles, arrived in Boston within a few days (Boston Evening Post, 15 March). Finally, on 1 April, “by a gentleman immediately from the Southward,” Bostonians learned of the contents of the treaty (MHi Broadside Coll.).
2. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the Netherlands, negotiated and signed by JA on 8 Oct. 1782, was ratified by Congress on 23 Jan., but JA did not learn of its ratification until late May. See vol. 4:381; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 24:64–82; JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:135–136, note 1; and JA to AA, 4 Feb., and note 2, above.
4. Pieter Johan van Berckel, who sailed for America on 23 June (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:17, note 2). JA had written to van Berckel on 11 March (JA, Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , 8:46–47), congratulating him on his appointment as minister to the United States, and advising him to sail to Boston and travel overland to Philadelphia to familiarize himself with the country.
7. Norton Quincy.
9. Rev. Jonathan Mayhew (1720–1766), Boston’s fiery Whig preacher, Oxenbridge Thacher (1719–1765), an ally of James Otis in the early 1760s, and Dr. Joseph Warren, twice Massacre Day orator, who died at Bunker Hill. JA had been a good friend of Thacher, and of Warren, who was the Adams’ family doctor when they lived in Boston. See AA’s moving letter to JA on the occasion of Warren’s death (vol. 1:222–223, and note 3).
10. Samuel Adams, chosen president of the Massachusetts senate in 1781, could be said to have begun his political writings in 1743, “a Period of forty Years” prior to this letter, by arguing the affirmative in his M.A. thesis, “Whether it be lawful to resist the Supreme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot be otherwise preserved.” In 1748 he began contributing political pieces to the short-lived Public Advertiser. But these early works either did not survive or cannot be positively identified, and his extant political writings begin in 1764.
The genesis for this first expression of interest by JA in seeing his second cousin’s work published is not certain, but he proposed this project to Samuel directly in a letter of 5 April (NN: George Bancroft Coll.), stating, more briefly, the same reasons given in this letter. JA’s weariness with Europe, his longing for retirement from public life, and perhaps a belief that his sixty-year-old cousin would soon leave the public scene, may all have contributed to a desire to see Samuel’s public achievement preserved. On 10 April, in a letter to William Lee (LbC, Adams Papers), JA reiterated this desire, and gave the additional reason that the publication of Samuel Adams’ works would show how important a role he had played in the Revolution. Such an edition, JA implied to Lee, would also help place the inflated reputation of Benjamin Franklin in perspective.
Samuel Adams did not respond to JA’s suggestion, however, and he made no attempt to publish an edition of his writings. The only editions of his work appeared much later, the first by his grandson William V. Wells, in The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams, Boston, 1866, 3 vols.; the fullest by Harry Alonzo Cushing, ed., The Writings of Samuel Adams, N.Y., 1904–1908, 4 vols.