Adams Papers

From John Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, 29 January 1783

To Mercy Otis Warren

Paris January 29. 1783.


Your Favour of the 25 of October never reached me till to day, but it has given me great Pleasure as your Letters always do.— I was disappointed however in finding no Line from Mr Warren except the Superscription of yours.1

I assure you, Madam, what I Said about certain Annals was no Sarcasm. I have the Utmost Veneration for them, although I never was honoured with a Sight of any of them.2

Let me intreat you not to reserve any Place in them for the Dutch Negotiation, if you intend to celebrate my Patience, of all Virtues or Qualities I hate Most to be praised for my Patience. I had rather you Should immortalize my Impudence, for I rather think it was this quality, than the other which produced the Effect in Holland.— I entered into the Seven United Provinces with as much Impudence, as I should have appeared in the 13 United States of America. As Johnny Morehead Said to Mr Bollan. “Mr Such an one used, Sir, to come into my House with as much Impudence, as you would come into your own.[”]3 If the Word Shocks you Madam call it modest Assurance, or honest Boldness, or almost what you will except Patience.

The Times, Madam have made a Strange Being of me. I shall appear a Domestic Animal, never at home, a bashfull Creature, braving the Fronts of the greatest ones of the Earth.—a timid Man, venturing on a long Series of the greatest dangers.—an irritable fiery Mortal, enduring every Provocation and Disgust—a delicate Valeludinarian4 bearing the greatest Hardships.—an humble Farmer, despising Pomp, shew Power and Weath, as profuse as a Prodigal and as Proud as Cæsar— But an honest Man in all and to the Death.—

Alass! who would wish for Such a Character? Who would wish to live in Times and Circumstances when to be an honest Man, one must be all the rest.? Not I.— it can never be the Duty of one Man to be concerned in more than one Revolution. And therefore I will never have any Thing to do with another.

But to be more to the Purpose—I Sincerely hope my Friend Mr Warren will go to Congress. I am astonished to learn that at a Time when a large Portion of the Massachusetts was at Stake and in question, and all their Fisheries there should be, but one Member attending the Great Wheel from that State.

I have never had an Opportunity, Madam, to see your Son since he has been in Europe, but once or twice at Amsterdam, and that before I had an House there. He has been travelling from Place to Place; and altho’ I have often enquired after him, I have seldom been able to hear of him. I have heard nothing to his disadvantage; except a Shyness and Secrecy, which, as it is uncommon in young Gentlemen of his Age and Education is the more remarked, and a general Reputation which he brought with him from Boston of loving Play. But I have not been able to learn, that he has indulged it improperly in Europe. But my Advice to him and every young American is and uniformly will be, to stay in Europe but a little while.5

The Reflection, Mrs Warren, that We are now at Peace after the Contest of one and twenty years, which you and I have been witnesses of, is Sweet indeed.— Those Qualities which through the Course of that Period have attracted the Attention and Confidence of the People, will now be little regarded, content, They have answered their End, and may now be laid aside.— Yet it is too Soon for Mr Warren or me to retire— Stability and Dignity must be given to the Laws, or our Labours have all been in vain and the old Hands must do this or it will not be done.

I hope to have the Pleasure of renewing old Acquaintances e’er long, and of being no stranger at the Blue Hills.

There is but one Case in which it is possible that I should Stay in Europe another year, and that is that Congress should renew the Commission with which I came out to make a Treaty of Commerce with Great Britain, in that Case I should hope my Dr Mrs Adams would come to me. But there is not I think the least Probability of that, nor indeed do I desire it.6 The first and strongest Wish of my Heart is to go home to my Family.— But in all Events The Mountain shall come to Mahomet or Mahomet shall go to the Mountain. My Family shall come to me or I will go to them.

With the greatest Esteem and Respect, Madam, / I have the Honour to be, your Fred, & sert

John Adams—

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); internal address: “Mrs Warren.” endorsed: “J Adams Esqr. / Jany 29th 1783 / Paris—” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 108.

1For Mercy Otis Warren’s letter, see vol. 13:541–544. James Warren wrote on 1 Nov., above, but the dispatch of his letter was delayed and it apparently did not reach JA until early April. For the letter’s arrival and its effect, see note 1 to Warren’s 1 Nov. letter and JA’s reply of 9 April, and note 2, below.

2This reference is to Mercy Warren’s comment regarding JA’s letter to James Warren of 17 June 1782 (vol. 13:127–128). There JA speculates about how his negotiations in the Netherlands would be treated in her proposed history of the Revolution, but see note 2 to her letter of 25 October (same, p. 543).

3This exchange was probably between Rev. John Moorehead, minister of the Presbyterian Church in Long Lane, Boston, who was noted for his irascibility, and William Bollan, one-time Massachusetts agent in London and former owner of the Brattle Square house that JA purchased in 1768 (Warren-Adams Letters description begins Warren-Adams Letters: Being Chiefly a Correspondence among John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Warren (Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, vols. 72–73), Boston, 1917–1925; 2 vols. description ends , 2:188; JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:286–287). The origin of this anecdote is unknown, but for another concerning Moorehead, see JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:65.

4JA likely meant “valetudinarian,” and John Thaxter changed it to such in the Letterbook. The word refers to a person in ill health, particularly one who is preoccupied with his complaints (OED description begins The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d edn., Oxford, 1989; 20 vols. description ends ).

5When Winslow Warren visited JA at Amsterdam in April 1781, JA had recommended him to Edmund Jenings (vol. 11:296). For Warren’s adventures since his departure from America in the summer of 1780, including his capture on his voyage to Europe and 1781 arrest in London in the aftermath of John André’s execution, see vols. 9:289; 11:75–76; AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 3:359–360.

In the recipient’s copy, this paragraph is heavily canceled and for the most part unreadable. The text here is provided from the Letterbook, where the corresponding paragraph is not canceled. The cancellation of the text in the recipient’s copy was most likely done by Mercy Warren, as it is very unlikely that JA would send a letter with a heavily canceled passage to anyone, much less a friend. Mercy Warren’s motive in canceling the passage may have been to remove the perceived criticism in JA’s references to her son’s “Shyness and Secrecy” and reputation for “loving Play.”

6Compare JA’s comment here on the possibility that he would remain in Europe with that in his letter to AA of this date (AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 5:82–83).

Index Entries