Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson
London june 26 1787
I have to congratulate you upon the safe arrival of your Little daughter, whom I have only a few moments ago received.1 She is in fine Health and a Lovely little girl I am sure from her countanance, but at present every thing is strange to her, & She was very loth to try New Friends for old. She was so much attachd to the Captain & he to her, that it was with no Small regreet that I Seperated her from him, but I dare say I shall reconcile her in a day or two.2 I tell her that I did not see her sister cry once.3 she replies that her sister was older & ought to do better, besides she had her pappa with her. I Shew her your picture.4 She says she cannot know it, how should she when she should not know you. a few hours acquaintance and we shall be quite Friends I dare say. I hope we may expect the pleasure of an other visit from you now I have so strong an inducement to tempt you. if you could bring miss Jefferson with you, it would reconcile her little Sister to the thoughts of taking a journey. it would be proper that some person should be accustomed to her. the old Nurse whom you expected to have attended her, was sick & unable to come5 She has a Girl of about 15 or 16 with her, the sister of the servant you have with you—6 as I presume you have but just returnd from your late excursion, you will not put yourself to any inconvenience or Hurry in comeing or Sending for her:7 you may rely upon every attention towards her & every care in my power. I have just endeavourd to amuse her by telling her that I would carry her to sadlers wells, after describing the amusement to her with an honest simplicity. I had rather Says She See captain Ramsey one moment, than all the fun in the world.
I have only time before the post goes, to present my compliments to mr Short. mr Adams & Mrs Smith desire to be rememberd to you. Captain Ramsey has brought a Number of Letters. as they may be of importance to you to receive them we have forwarded them by the post— miss Polly sends her duty to you & Love to her Sister & says she will try to be good & not cry. so she has wiped her Eyes & layd down to sleep—
believe me dear sir / affectionately yours &C &c
RC (DLC:Jefferson Papers); endorsed: “Adams mrs̃.”
1. Thomas Jefferson’s youngest surviving daughter Mary (Maria) “Polly” Jefferson (1778–1804) had remained in Virginia when her father sailed for Europe. After receiving a convent education in France, she returned to Virginia in late 1789 with her father. Mary’s death at the age of 25 prompted AA to write a letter of condolence to Jefferson, a gesture that temporarily ended the rift between the families caused by growing political differences in the early republic. While only a brief exchange of letters followed, it presaged the eventual resumption of correspondence between JA and Jefferson beginning in 1812 (Gordon Langley Hall, Mr. Jefferson’s Ladies, Boston, 1966, p. 61; DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; Edith B. Gelles, Portia: The World of Abigail Adams, Bloomington, Ind., 1992, p. 86).
2. Mary Jefferson sailed to London aboard the ship Arundel under the care of the vessel’s captain, Andrew Ramsay (Hall, Jefferson’s Ladies, p. 82; Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, 1950–. description ends , 11:351, 524, 556).
3. AA and AA2 had spent time with Mary’s sister Martha in 1784 and 1785 during the Adamses’ stay in Auteuil, France (vol. 6:75; Hall, Jefferson’s Ladies, p. 65–66, 73–77).
4. A Mather Brown portrait of Jefferson, for which see vol. 7:287, 288–289.
5. Jefferson had asked that “A careful negro woman” slave named Isabel be sent to accompany Mary to Europe, but Isabel had given birth in April and thus could not make the trip (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, 1950–. description ends , 8:451; Byron W. Woodson Sr., A President in the Family: Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and Thomas Woodson, Westport, Conn., 2001, p. 9).
6. Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s fourteen-year-old slave, accompanied his daughter on this voyage. In 1784 Sally’s brother James had come with Jefferson to Paris, where he was trained as his cook (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, 1950–. description ends , 7:364, 10:296, 11:502).
7. Thomas Jefferson had just returned to Paris on 10 June after a fifteen-week tour of southern France and northern Italy. The purpose of Jefferson’s trip was to seek out the curative properties of the mineral water at Aix-en-Provence as a remedy for his crippled wrist, but he also used it as an opportunity to tour the ports of France where the United States traded and, more importantly, to document the canal system at Languedoc (Noble E. Cunningham Jr., In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson, Baton Rouge, La., 1987, p. 107–108; Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, 1950–. description ends , 11:96).