Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 15 March 1784

Abigail Adams to John Adams

March 15 1784

My Dearest Friend

I have not received a Line from you, nor heard a Syllable Since yours of November 18th, which I have allready acknowledged.1

I am impatient now, to receive further intelligence from you; and to learn where you are. Captn. Love in the Ship Rossamond, bound to England, must have arrived before this time, by him I trust you have received many Letters from me.2 I have had but one opportunity of writing since which was by a Vessel bound to Amsterdam. In that Letter I was particular with regard to the manner in which I had adjusted our affairs so as to leave them.3 Mr. Jones designs to have his vessel ready to sail the latter end of May, and from present prospects I think it most probable that I shall accompany Mr. Jones and his Lady.

We have intelligence here, of the fluctuating State of the British Ministry.4 Whether it bodes well or ill for America time must determine, it is not a matter of so much Concequence to us, as it has been in times past.

The Court of this commonwealth is now sitting. They have taken up the recommendation of Congress Respecting the Reffugees and there has been, as you may well suppose, much debateing upon it. And it is generally thought, that the Court will rise, without any thing final taking place.5 Dr. Gorden, it seems has been making use of a private Letter, of yours, to him upon this subject,6 the contents of which are variously reported. The Committe I am informed who have this matter under consideration, have sent for the Letter, which will speak for itself: I do not feel very anxious with regard to it, Since I think I know your prudence so well, that you would not communicate, to that Gentleman; any private sentiments, which you would be loth should be made publick.

One Gentleman sends me word, Mr. A. has written to judge, such a one7—“pray desire him to be cautious, he is not his Friend.” And an other tells me Mr. A. has written a Letter to Mr. Speaker8—“he is not to be confided in, he has no discretion, he communicates the contents of his Letter to persons who are not to be trusted, he is in a certain Box without knowing it.” “And pray,” I ask these persons, “why do you not make use of your own pens to give these cautions, and your reasons for so doing. Why do you not give Mr. A. information respecting those matters which are of importance for him to know?” “O I am so perplext and worried with buisness, that I have not time.” “Very well sir, these Gentlemen of whom you speak, I suppose have found time to write to Mr. A. One of them I know has. I know Mr. A. has always had a Friendship for that Gentleman, a Friendship of an early date, contracted when they were at Colledge—and I believe the regard he professes for Mr. A. is Sincere.” “I dont pretend to say that it is not, but he wants prudence.”

I have not heard any thing from Congress since my last to you; nor can I learn a single step they have taken since. I am now going to write to Mr. Gerry for information.9

Our family is well. Of whom does it consist? Myself and Neice, and two domesticks, Nabby is at Milton. Genll Warren is like to lose his Son Charles, whom they apprehend far gone in a Hectick.10 Col. Quincy died last week with the disorder which I mentiond to you, he made a donation in his will of a hundred pounds to the Society of Arts and Sciences.11 The Land you wish to purchase12 he has given to his Grandsons Samll and Tommas, to be appropriated for the benifit of their education. Mr. Storer is their Gaurdian. They are not yet of age, but I Suppose it will be sold. Dr. Tufts is executor to the Col. and he will take care to procure it when ever it is to be sold.

I send this Letter by way of Lisbon,13 and beg you to write me by every Opportunity. Yours most tenderly and affectionately


RC (Adams Papers).

1See AA to JA, 3 Jan., and note 2, above.

2JA received Richard Cranch’s letter of 20 Jan., above, which also went by Capt. Love, on 2 April, but he did not receive AA’s letters until May (see JA to Cranch, 3 April, and JQA to JA, 18 May, both below).

3See AA’s letter of 11 Feb., above.

4William Pitt the younger, who became prime minister in Dec. 1783, met repeated reverses in the House of Commons in early 1784. Following the dissolution of Parliament on 25 March, however, Pitt won a great majority in the general election and dominated the new Parliament, which convened on 18 May (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1900; 63 vols. plus supplements. description ends ; Namier and Brooke, House of Commons description begins The House of Commons, 1754–1790, ed. Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke, London, 1964; 3 vols. description ends , 1:87–96, 536).

5Congress passed this resolution on 14 Jan., immediately after ratifying the definitive peace treaty. In keeping with the treaty, Congress recommended that the states return confiscated property to British subjects and to others who were resident in areas controlled by the British between 30 Nov. 1782 and 14 Jan. 1784, and who had not borne arms against the United States. All other persons were to be permitted to return to America for up to twelve months to seek restitution of their property through the courts, and the states were asked not to put obstacles in their way (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 26:30–31). As AA expected, the legislature took no action on this recommendation in the Jan.–March session.

6JA to William Gordon, 10 Sept. 1783, which Gordon copied and sent to Elbridge Gerry in a letter of 24 Dec. 1783; Gordon also circulated extracts among Massachusetts political leaders (Samuel Adams to JA, 16 April, Adams Papers). In his letter, JA urged moderation in dealing with the loyalists and said in part: “The Stipulations [in the peace treaty] should be sacred, and the Recommendations at least treated with decency and seriously considered. I cannot help saying I wish they could be complied with. We could not obtain the Peace without them. When I agreed, that Congress should recommend, I was sincere” (MHS, Procs. description begins Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings. description ends , 63:500–502 [June 1930]).

Although AA here expresses her confidence that JA had not written to Gordon any sentiments that he would withhold from the public, the end of his letter contains a quite negative appraisal of Benjamin Franklin’s diplomatic skills. Despite JA’s candor, Gordon asked Gerry to “clear my way to the records of Congress to which others besides members may be admitted, without sacrificing congressional Honour” (same, p. 502), presumably so that all congressmen might read JA’s words to Gordon.

7Possibly James Sullivan, who resigned from the Supreme Judicial Court in 1782, but who was still called “Judge.” Sullivan wrote to JA on 24 July 1782 and 21 Dec. 1783; according to his Letterbook, JA wrote to Sullivan on 6 Sept. 1782 (all Adams Papers). Other letters may have been lost at sea or have disappeared in later years. No letters for 1782–1783 between JA and the four supreme court justices have been found. The editors have added all of the quotation marks in this paragraph except those around the last sentence.

8Tristram Dalton, speaker of the House of Representatives, who was JA’s Harvard classmate, as AA mentions toward the end of this paragraph (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 , 13:569–578). For 1782–1783 the editors have record of seven letters sent by Dalton to JA, but of none in the other direction except for Dalton’s acknowledgment of a letter from JA of 18 Aug. 1782 (Dalton to JA, 26 Oct. 1782, Adams Papers).

9AA wrote Gerry on 19 March, below.

10That is, consumption (OED description begins The Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, 1888–1972; 12 vols. and supplements. description ends ).

11That is, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; AA had referred to Col. Quincy’s disorder, urinary obstruction (strangury), in her letter of 11 Feb., at note 7, above. CFA omitted the text from this point to the end of the paragraph from AA, Letters, 1841 description begins Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams. With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, 3d edn., Boston, 1841; 2 vols. description ends and 1848 description begins Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams. With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, 4th edn., rev. and enl., Boston, 1848. description ends . The letter did not appear in AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 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 .

12JA to AA, 14 Oct. 1783, and note 5, above.

13On 13 March, Isaac Smith Sr. wrote to JA (Adams Papers), that “The Ship, Dutche’s, of Kingston, in which Mr. Dana came in is now bound to Lisbon, from whence this will be forwarded, as probably itt may reach you allmost as soon as any Other way.”

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