Abigail Adams to John Adams
Quincy. Jan’ry 15th 1796
my Dearest Friend
Thursday post did not bring me one Single Letter from you; tis true I had no reason to complain on the Score of inattention, as the week before I had four Letters but I suppose that I had Letters, and that the blundering Blockhead of a post, either left them in Town, or has carried them to Barnestable as he Did once before; We have got a new Post, one of your under bidders, who can not read the direction upon his papers: Such kind of people as want the Reigns of government. I had a Letter last week from Mrs smith informing me that her Children were sick with the Measels I hope to hear soon from her again. tis a very bad disorder—1
so poor Tom Paine is gone to See Whether there is any state besides the present. Heaven be praisd that he is gone there, instead of comeing to America.2
“If plagues and Earthquakes break not heavens design
Why then a Paine or Jacobine?”3
he was an instrument of much Mischief. the Virginians are a very mad people. they will neither believe in the experience of those States which have been obliged to Change from a single Assembly, to a Balanced goverment, nor in the Host of departed Spirits who cry alloud to them from the Golgotha of their Allies. in every state they will find some as discontented and as Mischievous as themselves. I was told last week, that the reputed Cato of plimouth openly declares his dislike to the constitution, and Wants to have a Single assembly. when such Men as he, Men of experience, Men Who have borne a part in one revolution and Who call themselves Lovers of Liberty, profess pure and disinterested Principles, come forward & hold Such Sentiments what are we to think? can we suppose that they were ever Sincere? or shall we say with the Tenth Muse Guillotina
“These are the Men who fiercely burn
Your constitution to overturn
To blast the Sages of Your Choice
They weild the pen, and Ply the voice”4
The lines which describe the Plimouth Boys will never be forgiven. if their Malice was not impotent, they would raise a Rebellion. I feel both pity and contempt for them.5 as to Jonathan Pindars Dada Vice, I had a hearty laugh at it. The poor wretch, was at a misirable Shift, when he could find nothing to Ridicule but a poor cast Wig, which was a singularity in no other place than the Contracted Span of a few states whose climate is too Hot for the Heads of its inhabitants.6 I pray you would give Judge Cushing a Hint, for in the Minds of some of the Southern Gentry, his Wig will be a greater objection to his perferment, than all the Madness & folly, to say no worse, of a Rutledge7
we have had an other ship Wreck, in the last week. Captain Barns in the ship Industery from London was cast away upon cape Ann & every soul on Board perish’d.8 the captain chest & the Log Book was Wash’d on shore by which the loss was discoverd. the Gale of wind blew only a few hours. we have not had one severe Snow Storm, yet more losses upon our coast than usual. I believe Captains grow more ventersome & dairing. if there were any Letters from our Sons they are all gone. I know not where to write to them. I long to hear of & from them.
Is the Treaty arrived as report says?9
our Govenour makes his speach on twesday next so that I cannot send by this post.10 I have not got any Letters from you this week. I do not Doubt you have written, but the post office, or post has not Done its Duty. I write once a week, but have so little to entertain you with, that I feel sick of my Letter when I have written it. your Mother was here yesterday and is well for her. she sends her Love to you My Health has been better than the last winter. I Saw Mrs Brisler yesterday She went to Boston. she and Family were well. poor Arnold has been sick of a Plurisy fever & his Life despaired of for near a week. Polly watchd with him last night. he is rather better. We have not had any meeting for two sabbeths. Baxter Who is one of the Comittee says we have no occasion for preaching in the Winter. I hope he Does not imbibe the sentiment from his Minister.11 Remember to all inquiring Friends your affectionate
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. Jan. 15. Ansd 29 / 1796.”
1. Not found.
2. A report that Thomas Paine had died “at the house of the American minister in Paris, of an abscess in his right side” was widely reprinted in newspapers throughout the United States, including in the Boston Federal Orrery, 11 January. By 4 Feb. the Orrery had retracted the information, noting, “The English account of his death … must therefore be premature.” Paine lived until 1809.
3. “If plagues or earthquakes break not Heav’n’s design, / Why then a Borgia or a Catiline?” (Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistle I, lines 155–156).
4. “Guillotina; or, The Annual Song of the Tenth Muse,” Connecticut Courant, 4 Jan. 1796, lines 229–232. The author was likely Lemuel Hopkins.
5. “At Plymouth too, a string of boys, / About the Treaty made a noise, / Headed by master Henry Warren, / Like crows around some new-found carrion” (“Guillotina,” lines 197–200). For the debate over the Jay Treaty in Plymouth, see AA to JA, 3 Jan., and note 7, above.
6. Jonathan Pindar, a pseudonym for St. George Tucker, published a “Salutatory Ode” in the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 30 Dec. 1795, that included a comment on JA’s wig: “Or, cou’d my love so far be turn’d to hate, / As to attack our Daddy-vice, so big, / His brain my shafts could never penetrate, / Lost in the bushy bulwark of his wig.” The piece also noted, “Whether the venerable figure here alluded to is so well convinced of the strength of his pericranium, as to dispense with that bulwark at present; or whether he is at length so far convinced of the absurdity of singularity, as to relinquish that favourite ornament, it is certain he has lately laid aside his wig.” JA sent the piece to AA in his letter of 30 Dec. (Adams Papers).
7. Southerners might have been expected to object to William Cushing’s nomination to become chief justice of the Supreme Court on account of his staunch Federalist views, but the Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment on 27 Jan. 1796. He declined the position on account of poor health.
Some years before, when first nominated to the Supreme Court, Cushing’s choice of wig apparently caused a stir on the streets of New York City. Cushing arrived wearing the great wig customary to royal judges in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts, which sparked a procession of young boys to follow him, wondering who this great personage might be. It was not until a sailor commented, “My eyes, what a wig!” that Cushing understood the problem. He thereafter wore a smaller peruke, though he insisted on retaining a tricornered hat (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, description begins John Langdon Sibley, Clifford K. Shipton, Conrad Edick Wright, Edward W. Hanson, and others, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– . description ends 13:33–34, 35–36).
8. The ship Industry, Capt. Miles Barnes, owned by Thomas Lewis of Boston, wrecked on 11 Jan. off of Cape Ann, having sailed from Portsmouth, England, on 4 Nov. 1795. The eleven crew members, including the captain, were all lost (Massachusetts Mercury, 15 Jan. 1796; Newburyport, Mass., Political Gazette, 19 Jan.).
9. The Boston Columbian Centinel, 13 Jan., reported that a packet believed to be carrying the ratified Jay Treaty had arrived in New York. In fact, the treaty was carried on the ship General Pinckney, which reached Charleston, S.C., in late January. The formal proclamation of the treaty by George Washington was published on 1 March, the same day the treaty was laid before the House of Representatives (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 17 Feb., 2 March).
11. Possibly Thompson Baxter (1779–1837), with whom Rev. Anthony Wibird boarded. Wibird remained the minister at the First Church of Quincy until his death in June 1800, but he was unable to preach regularly for several years before that owing to ill health. The committee was likely one formed to seek out a permanent assistant for Wibird. While different men were offered the church, none consented until Rev. Peter Whitney accepted a call in early 1800 (Pattee, Old Braintree, description begins William S. Pattee, A History of Old Braintree and Quincy, with a Sketch of Randolph and Holbrook, Quincy, 1878. description ends p. 223–224; Sprague, Braintree Families description begins Waldo Chamberlain Sprague, comp., Genealogies of the Families of Braintree, Mass., 1640–1850, Boston, 1983; repr. CD-ROM, Boston, 2001. description ends ).