Abigail Adams to Lucy Ludwell Paradise
[6 September 1790]1
By mr Knox our old accquaintance who is appointed consul to dublin I embrace the opportunity of writing to you and acknowledging the Recept of your obliging Letters by col Trumble2 whom we were all very happy to welcome to his Native Land and who has acquired to Himself and his Country an immortal Fame by his great Genius and talants in painting the Mayor and corporation of this city have employd him to take two full Length portraits one of the President of the united States the other of their Govenour at a hundred Guineys each. the first he has finished to the intire Satisfaction of every Spectator.3 the Respectable Family from which mr Trumble is descended, his own most amiable Character and his intention of painting the great and important Scenes and principal Actors from the Life, in the late Revolution ought to ensure to him publick Patronage and I fatter myself he will meet with it before he returns to Europe. mr Jefferson whom you were so desirious of seeing return, is you know long e’er this time, our Secretary of State. he took leave of me last week to visit his Family in Virgina. the President and his Lady and Family sat of this day week for their seat at Mount Vernon. under the present administration our Government daily acquires strength and stability. the union is compleat by the late Adoption of the constitution by RhoadIsland. nothing hinders our being a very happy and prosperous people provided we have wisdom rightly to estimate our Blessings, and Hearts to improve them. I thought to have found you in America upon my return to this country and am sorry you could not make it convenient to you. I know very well by experience the strong attractions which England possesses, and Should prefer it to any other country that I have seen America excepted. Alass poor France how many direfull scenes has she yet to pass through before order will be Reestablishd. however great the Blessings to be derived from a Revolution in government, the Scenes of Anarchy cruelty and Blood which usually preceed it and the difficulty of uniting a Majority in favour of any System, are sufficent to make every person who has been an Eye witness to the demolition of one government Recoil at the prospect of over turning Empires and kingdoms4 I hope my dear Madam that you receive agreeable accounts from the Countess your daughter and that she has increased the Family Happiness by further additions to the Family.5 present me kindly to her when you write and to our Friend Mrs Church remember me affectionatly She is a Charming woman, we regreet her loss here, and wish she would return with her Family to her Native Land.6 I do not know any gentleman who would be more agreeable to all those who have the pleasure of an acquaintance with him, than mr Freire in the Character you mention him, and I am satisfied from the knowledge I have of him his manners and Character would be particularly adapted to the Genius & disposition of Americans, and if his Court should appoint him, he would be received with all that Attention and Respect which is due to the Friendly conduct which the Queen of Portugal has manifested towards the Americans—7
Remember to mr Paradice for whom I have a real esteem & to dr Bancroft and any other of our old Friends and acquaintanc who may inquire after Your Humble Servant
Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Mrs Paradise. 1791.” Filmed at .
1. The letter is dated based on the Washingtons’ departure from New York; see AA to Abigail Bromfield Rogers, [5 Sept. 1790], note 4, above.
2. John Trumbull delivered a letter of 7 Oct. 1789 (Adams Papers) in which Paradise congratulated JA on his election as vice president and expressed her esteem for Thomas Jefferson, who recently had come to the aid of her family. She also wrote to AA on 3 June, but AA did not reply (vol. 8:367–368).
3. Richard Varick (1753–1831), mayor of New York City, approached George Washington on 20 July 1790 about sitting for a portrait to be placed on display at City Hall. Trumbull, who had just completed a smaller full-length portrait of the president intended for Martha Washington, reported to Benjamin West in late August that he was nearly finished with the city council’s commission. Trumbull described the painting as “near seven feet high compos’d with a Horse, & the background the evacuation of this Place by the British at the Peace.” The artist completed a similar full-length portrait of George Clinton, governor of New York, the following year (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 , 6:102–103; Theodore Sizer, The Works of Colonel John Trumbull, Artist of the American Revolution, rev. edn., New Haven, Conn., 1967, p. 26, 82).
4. In 1789, France abandoned absolute monarchy and formed a National Assembly, which adopted a constitution on 26 August. This new constitutional monarchy, overseen by the moderate National Assembly and sanctioned by Louis XVI, proceeded to pass a series of measures in late 1789 and 1790 that sought to reorganize and reform French society—but simultaneously rendered it increasingly unstable. During this time, there were occasional episodes of mob action, rioting, and violence both in Paris and in more rural areas throughout the country.
American newspapers reported regularly on the sittings of the National Assembly and other events in France. The New York Daily Advertiser, 28 Aug., published a report from France noting “the people incline to the most cruel executions. On Monday two men accused of theft were hung without any form of law.” According to the New York Gazette of the United States, 14 Aug., “Paris has lately been troubled by some insurrections; happily a few only, who deserved it, became victims to them. In twenty-four hours peace was restored to this town.”
5. Lucy Paradise Barziza gave birth to a second son, Filippo Ignacio, in 1796 at Venice (Archibald Bolling Shepperson, John Paradise and Lucy Ludwell of London and Williamsburg, Richmond, Va., 1942, p. 456).
6. For Angelica Schuyler Church, see vol. 6:10.
7. For the appointment of Ciprião Ribeiro, Chevalier de Freire, see vol. 8:368.