Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 20 December 1785

Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson

Grosvenor Square Decemr. 20th. 1785

Dear Sir

Your favours by Colln. Smith and by the Baron Polintz1 came safe to hand. As you have justly estimated the Worth and merit of the former, you will easily suppose we were very glad to see him, and equally so to wellcome Colln. Humphryes upon English Ground. I hope his reception here will be as agreeable to him as he expected. He will inform you I dare say that he has seen both the Lions, and His Majesty.2

You will find by the publick Papers what favourites we are at Court. The Prince of Wales supping with us, Mr. Adams holding frequent conferences with His Majesty, and yesterday going to Windsor for the same purpose.3 It is said by some that these are Ministerial manvoeures to keep up the stocks. A Paragraph of this kind has certainly been attended with that effect. Others say it is to feel out the minds of the People with respect to a Treaty with America, of which if I dared to give my opinion; I should say that some simptoms have lately appeard tending to that point. But this is said in confidence Sir, as I must not betray secrets.

The affair of Capt. Stanhope has been officially taken up and his Conduct much disapproved of by the Lords of the Admirality, as Congress are informed by an official reply to them. Mr. A has also received an answer to his Demand of the Citizens of the United States sent to the East Indies, “that orders were immediately issued for their discharge.” It is not probable that any thing very material will take place till the meeting of Parliament.4

The Pacquet arrived last week from New York, in which came Passenger Monsieur Houdon. He returns to Paris the latter End of this week. There were no official Dispatches, and only a private Letter or two to the second of November. But as Mr. A writes you I will leave Politicks with which I really have no business, and talk of that which more properly belongs to me.

The Commission you honourd me with will be compleated to send by the return of Colln. Humphryes. I received my Plateau safe about ten days since. It is a very Good one and I am much obliged by your kind attention to it. The Deities however showed that they were subject to Humane frailty and got a few Limbs dislocated in their Tour.5

If Mr. Barclay will be so good as to settle with Mr. Bonfeild, Mr. Adams will be obliged to him. Coll. Smith delivered me the Louis’s you sent by him, and when Colln. Humphryes returns I will forward you the account of my stewardship.

Compliments to Mr. Short. We are sorry to hear of his indisposition. I once found Great benefit in the Dissorder which he complains of by taking an oz. of Castile soap and a pint of Bristol Beer, dividing it into three portions; and takeing it three Mornings, fasting.6

I wish you could make it convenient to let Miss Jefferson come and pass a few Months with us here.7 I do not yet dispair of seeing you in England and in that Case you will certainly bring her with you.

I am Sir your most obedient servt.

A Adams

RC (in AA2’s hand DLC: Jefferson Papers); addressed: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America to the Court of France Paris.” Dft (Adams Papers). Major variations between the recipient’s copy and the draft are noted below.

1William Stephens Smith brought Jefferson’s letter of 20 Nov.; Baron Pöllnitz brought that of 11 Dec. (both above).

2Col. David Humphreys and William Stephens Smith arrived at Grosvenor Square from Paris on the evening of 5 Dec. (AA2 to JQA, 5 Dec., above). After “English Ground,” in the draft, AA wrote and then struck out: “and to assure him as descendents from a people once celebrated for Hospitality we possesst a sufficient Share of it to rejoice at the sight of our Friends.” And in the draft AA began a new paragraph at “I hope . . .” rather than at “You will find . . .” JA presented Col. Humphreys at Court on 14 Dec. (AA2, Jour. and Corr. description begins Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, Daughter of John Adams, . . . edited by Her Daughter [Caroline Amelia (Smith) de Windt], New York and London, 1841–[1849]; 3 vols.Note: Vol. [1], unnumbered, has title and date: Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, 1841; vol. 2 has title, volume number, and date: Correspondence of Miss Adams . . . Vol. II, 1842; vol. [3] has title, volume number, and date: Correspondence of Miss Adams . . ., Vol. II, 1842[!], i.e. same as vol. 2, but preface is signed “April 3d, 1849”[!], and the volume contains as “Part II” a complete reprinting from same type, and with same pagination, of vol. 2 (i.e. “Vol. II”), above, originally issued in 1842. description ends , 1:83).

3In a letter of 23 Dec., to Rufus King (NHi: King Papers), JA makes clear AA’s irony. The reports published in the London Chronicle of 6–8 Dec. were false; neither the Prince of Wales’ “supping” with the Adamses on 6 Dec. nor JA’s visit to George III at Windsor on 19 Dec. actually occurred.

4The first two sentences of this paragraph explicitly summarize the first paragraph of a letter by JA to John Jay, 9 Dec. (PCC, No. 84, VI, f. 13–16, printed in Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789 description begins [William A. Weaver, ed.,] The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States of America, from . . . 1783, to . . . 1789, Washington, 1837 [actually 1855]; 3 vols. description ends , 2:543–544), in which JA reports on his 8 Dec. meeting with Lord Carmarthen. In that meeting, Carmarthen informed JA of the Admiralty’s decision to reprimand Capt. Stanhope for his behavior in Boston in August, and to order the release of American seamen seized by the British in the East Indies; both actions were in response to formal protests and supporting materials that JA had presented to Carmarthen. The last sentence refers to the lack of any progress in the larger disputes between the two nations—Britain’s retention of forts on the American shores of the Great Lakes; America’s resistance to paying debts owed to British merchants; and America’s desire for a commercial treaty—to which JA made brief reference in the second and third paragraphs of his letter to Jay. See also Carmarthen to JA, 9 Dec.; and JA to John Jay, 12 Dec. (PCC, No. 84, VI, f. 27 and 17–18; printed in Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789 description begins [William A. Weaver, ed.,] The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States of America, from . . . 1783, to . . . 1789, Washington, 1837 [actually 1855]; 3 vols. description ends , 2:545, 544–545). For the importance which Jefferson attached to AA’s brief summaries of diplomatic news in London, see Jefferson to AA, 27 Dec., and note 1, below.

5The commission that AA intended to send with Col. Humphreys was probably the set of shirts that Jefferson had requested AA to have made for him (Jefferson to AA, 11 Oct., above). The “Deities” were the four ceramic figurines that AA requested Jefferson to buy for her (AA to Jefferson, 12 Aug., Jefferson to AA, 25 Sept., both above).

6William Short was “indisposed with the jaundice” (Jefferson to Francis Eppes, 11 Dec., Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen (from vol. 21), John Catanzariti (from vol. 24), and others, Princeton, 1950-. description ends , 9:91–92).

7At this point in her draft, AA canceled the sentence: “If you will trust her in my care I should be happy in having her with us.”

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