Adams Papers

From Mercy Otis Warren to Abigail Smith Adams, May 1798

Plymouth May [  ]1798

Your ready reply my dear Madam to my last forbids a delay on my part to cherish a correspondence that has given reciprocal pleasure. When I see the glow of friendship kept alive in the bosom of the few left of my former associates it is a powerful stimulus to take up the pen. It is to me indeed a pleasing occupation when this can be done unincumbered by ceremony. When the mind feels itself at liberty to express the sentiments that croud upon it from the recollection of what has been,—the extent of present objects, and the astonishing changes that are probably opening before us.

I feel too far advanced on my journey, to suffer much for myself, yet to the last moment of our lives, we ought to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. If we must be involved with distant contending nations, the Lord preserve us from the inundation of moral evil, the usual concomitant of war. But the train of other calamities will have their course. “If her friends have dealt treacherously with her, shall she that was great among the nations and the provinces become tributary?”

This was a solemn question to a once favoured people. May the doom be averted from America: May she set independent of the power, influence, intrigue, or depredations, of all foreign nations; and long maintain that rational freedom for which her sons have bled: The pure principles of republican virtue can never bend to subjugation; they will equally reject unworthy submissions whither imposed by the rod of monarchy, or the strength of power, under any other name or form.

I thank you madam for the enclosures in your last. There is much more satisfaction in perusing those things thus intire, than as they are usually dealt out in scraps in newspapers accompanied by the malignant comments of both parties. The instructions to our envoys have been remarkably satisfactory, and the ebullitions of applause at this period, poured in from every quarter, proves the reliance of his country on the integrity of the President of the United States. A heavy weight of duty indeed lies upon him. Providence has deposited a high trust in his hand. From the confidence, this people have in his abilities & virtue, it is optional to abuse his power, or to continue the objects for which our country has made such costly sacrifices,—to exhibit to the world, one instance of a free and happy republic, or to —— .

I check my pen for its wayward follies towards the verge of politics; it is a theme I do not love. I have seen, and felt, and suffered, too much from them, to dwell long on the subject, or to calculate consequences beyond the ken of the wisest statesman.

We have already adopted too many of the fashions, follies, and vices, of foreign nations;—that America may never be brought into subjection or dependendence on any of them I must devoutly pray.

It is hard is you observe to engage again in a tempest after having weathered one political storm. I hope the tempest will yet be parried from us, the clouds pass over, and only gentle breezes blow, sufficient to keep the political bark on a proper poize.

I am particularly gratified by the assurance in your last, that you write, in the freedom and confidence of long tried friendship. This I always expected from Mrs. Adams—and this is the only stile in which I wish to converse—a style becoming beings who are on the marge of a world where all is reality, instead of the illusions of time, instead of the disguizes,—the deceptions, and the double faced shadows, among which we at present move.

Your observations my dear madam, on the licentiousness of the press, are perfectly just;—but this trait of the character of our countrymen is not new to me;—I have seen it before the present day. Calumny and abuse have deeply touched the fairest characters and the best friends of America, before. To her disgrace, she was divided between the partizans of foreign nations. I have seen the most unblemished integrity, suspected and traduced. I have seen the uniform patriot, the firm christian, the friend to virtue, and virtues friends, suffer the grossest abuse from the press; I have seen him persecuted and hunted out of office by party spirit, his children unemployed—dispersed—destroyed,—his friends standing aloof, and his enemies rioting in their compleat triumph, over probity they could neither feel nor reach. What have I not seen of the duplicity and ingratitude of men? In short I have seen the world,—and that is enough;—at any thing man is capable of doing I am not surprized.

Mr. Warren desires me to return the friendly remembrances of the President; to tell him that he is sensible of the arduous, turbulent, and difficult task, assigned to Mr. Adams, while himself silently treads over the paternal acres left him by a kind Providence. That he most ardently wishes the President may be able to secure that liberty, and independence, for which they strove together through many a painful hour,—and that the arm of heaven may yet preserve to America, those blessings unimpaired, and guarded against the grasp of any despotic power on earth. He bids me tell him, that he may be assured of his aid and countenance to every step that may support this prominant object of his heart, of which he can never loose sight. That the government of the United States has his best wishes, that he respects the constituted authorities; but that he addresses no being below the supreme. To him he daily bows, and implores a benediction on his country, and the upright magistrate who aims to defend its peace, liberty, virtue and happiness.

My son and daughter request that their most respectful and friendly regards may accompany those of their parents to the President and Lady.

I am Madam with the ardours of friendship to the truly virtuous, that can never die in the breast of yours,

M. Warren

MHi: Warren-Adams Papers.

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