Abigail Adams to Thomas Brand Hollis
New-York, September 6, 1790.
My Dear Sir,
You ask, in one of your letters to Mr. Adams, what is become of Mrs. Adams that I do not hear from her?1
If my heart had not done you more justice than my pen, I would disown it. I have so long omitted writing to you, that my conscience has been a very severe accuser of me. But be assured, my dear sir, that I never fail to talk of you with pleasure, and think of you with affection. I place the hours spent at the Hyde amongst some of the most pleasurable of my days, and I esteem your friendship as one of the most valuable acquisitions that I made in your country:—a country that I should most sincerely rejoice to visit again, if I could do it without crossing the ocean. I have sometimes been suspected of partiality for the preference which I have given to England, but were I to live out of America, that country would have been my choice.
I have a situation here, which, for natural beauty, may vie with the most delicious spot I ever saw. It is a mile and half distant from the city of New-York. The house is situated upon an eminence; at an agreeable distance, flows the noble Hudson bearing upon her bosom the fruitful productions of the adjacent country. On my right hand are fields beautifully variegated with grass and grain to a great extent, like the valley of Honiton in Devonshire.2 Upon my left, the city opens to view, intercepted here and there, by a rising ground, and an ancient oak. In front, beyond the Hudson, the Jersey shores present an exuberance of a rich well cultivated soil. The venerable oaks, and broken ground, covered with wild shrubs, which surround me, give a natural beauty to the spot which is truly enchanting. A lovely variety of birds serenade me morning and evening, rejoicing in their liberty and security, for I have as much as possible prohibited the grounds from invasion: and sometimes almost wished for game laws, when my orders have not been sufficiently regarded. The partridge, the woodcock, and the pigeon are too great temptations to the sportsmen to withstand. How greatly would it add to my happiness to welcome here my much esteemed friend. Tis true we have a large portion of the blue and gold, of which you used to remind me, when you thought me an Egyptian; but, however I might hanker after the good things of America, I have been sufficiently taught to value and esteem other countries besides my own.
You was pleased to inform us, that your adopted family flourished in your soil,3 mine has received an addition. Mrs. Smith, Mr. Adams’s daughter, and the wife of colonel W. Stephen Smith, respecting the name of the great literary benefactor of her native state, and in grateful remembrance of the friendly attention, and patriotic character of its present possessor, has named her new-born son Thomas-Hollis. She desires me to present you her affectionate remembrance. Mr. Adams is absent upon a journey, or he would have written you a letter of a later date than that which Mr. Knox is the bearer of.4 This gentleman is a brother of our secretary of war, and is appointed consul to Dublin.5 He is intelligent, and can answer you any question respecting our government, and politics, which you may wish to know; but if he should not see you, I know it will give you pleasure to learn that our union is complete by the accession of Rhode island; that our government acquires strength, confidence and stability daily. That peace is in our borders, and plenty in our dwellings; and we earnestly pray that the kindling flames of war, which appear to be bursting out in Europe, may by no means be extended to this rising nation.6 We enjoy freedom in as great a latitude as is consistent with our security, and happiness. God grant that we may rightly estimate our blessings.
Pray remember me, in the most affectionate terms to Dr. Price, and to Mrs. Jebb, and be assured, my dear sir, that I am, with every sentiment of regard and esteem, / yours, &c.
MS not found. Printed from John Disney, ed., Memoirs of Thomas Brand-Hollis, London, 1808, p. 39–40.
1. In a letter to JA of 29 March, Hollis sent his affectionate regards to AA and noted that he “should be gratified with a line from her.” Hollis also wrote to JA on 28 May (both Adams Papers).
2. AA would have seen Honiton, a picturesque town situated in a valley near the Otter River, during the Adamses’ month-long visit to southwestern England in 1787. Roughly fifteen miles east of Exeter, Honiton was renowned as a center of the lace-making trade (Black’s Guide to Devonshire, Edinburgh, 1874, p. 164).
3. Hollis, who named his American plants and trees after friends from the United States, noted in a letter to JA that “Mrs Adams herself & family are in perfect health at the Hide” (28 May 1790, Adams Papers; vol. 8:195).
4. Probably that of 11 June (LbC, APM Reel 115).
5. William Knox sailed for London aboard the brig Rachel on 11 Sept. (Pennsylvania Mercury, 16 Sept.). The London Times reported on 30 Nov. that he had arrived safely in Dublin.
6. In July 1789, a Spanish ensign seized two English vessels in Nootka Sound, an action that jeopardized diplomatic relations between the two countries. Tensions escalated in the spring and early summer of 1790, with both sides preparing for war—a conflict that also could potentially involve France due to its Family Compact with Spain. The United States, too, committed to maintaining neutrality, faced the troubling possibility that Britain might attempt to march soldiers through Canada and American territory to reach Spanish possessions. Despite these concerns, the crisis was resolved without bloodshed. Although Great Britain and Spain reached a preliminary agreement on 24 July, the news did not reach the United States until months later. Discussion of a possible Anglo-Spanish war appeared in the American press throughout the summer; see, for example, New York Daily Advertiser, 3 Aug.; Boston Columbian Centinel, 4 Aug.; and New York Daily Gazette, 9, 17 August. The New York Gazette of the United States, 4 Sept., contained a report from London that began, “The question, ‘are we to have a war?’ has thrust ‘how d’ye do?’ out of place; and as no person can give a proper answer to this question, the quantity of supposes, conjectures and ifs, are really wonderful” (Washington, Papers, Presidential Series description begins The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, ed. Dorothy Twohig, Mark A. Mastromarino, Jack D. Warren, Robert F. Haggard, Christine S. Patrick, John C. Pinheiro, and others, Charlottesville, 1987–. description ends , 6:26, 492–493; 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 , 17:35–37, 92, 93).