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Mary Smith Gray Otis to Abigail Adams, 11 April 1799

Mary Smith Gray Otis to Abigail Adams

Philadelphia April 11th. 99

Dear Mrs Adams

It was with much pleasure I yesterday received yours of 1st instant, as it was an assurence of your better health, I hope the return of Spring will bring to you renewed health & strength, but it is needful for your friends to caution you, as you partake too much of the spirit of Martha & are apt to be too careful & encumbared about many things.1 The Presidents being at home, will bring more company to your house, & of course you will exert yourself too much I fear: I congratulate you on his return & doubt not he enjoys more peace & tranquility of mind than he has for some months past, he must have suffered much, having left you in so weak a state. The illnatured ones are not willing to allow that even a sick wife should have carried him of so suddenly from this city.2

In answer to your request, I can only say, nothing would give Mr Otis & myself more pleasure, than rendering you or Mr Adams any gratification in our power, but, as we never contemplated staying in town after the warm weather, we have made arrangments for leaving the city early in the season. Even if no new alarm takes place, keeping ourselves ready to move off at short warning: under these circumstances we shall be happy in Mr Adams company so long as we tarry in town. Tho there is no present appearence of pestilence the season is so cold, yet the fears & apprehensions of every one, are so alive, lest when the hot weather setts in, the same calamity should return, that I suppose their is not a family who have it in their power to secure a retreat, but what have done it.— I think it would be most adviseable for Mr A— to get lodgings, somewhere out of town, & come in every day if his business required it.— It is probable we shall move eastward but have not determined where to fix our quarters.

The public movements you have better information of than I can give, but an extraordinary thing took place the last night, nothing less, than Miss Binghams elopement with Count Tilly, exprese’s are sent in all directions after them, I have not herd any perticulars of this extraordinary affair. The french seem determined to introduce all their fashions amongst us.—

Mr Otis joins in respects to you & the President. Harriet & Mary thank you, for your kind remembranc of them, with love to Louisa from / Your Affect Friend

M Otis

Miss B— was found this [morng] with the Count, at Mrs Jones the [. . . .] the corner of 7 Street they say, they were marrie[d by Mr Jon]es3

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs Adams / Quincy”; endorsed: “Mrs otis / April 11 / 1799.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.

1Luke, 10:38–42.

2The Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 27 March, criticized JA’s departure for Quincy amid “alarms, insurrections, military movements &c.”

3Maria Matilda Bingham (1783–1852), the daughter of William and Anne Willing Bingham, eloped with Comte Jacques Pierre Alexandre de Tilly (1764–1816). The couple were married by Rev. Thomas Jones (ca. 1763–1846), who resided on South Fifth Street in Philadelphia with his wife, Sophia Newell Jones (ca. 1766–1850). On 17 Jan. 1800 William Bingham secured an annulment of the marriage after paying Tilly £5,000 with an annuity of £500 to leave the United States, prompting TBA to remark, “So much—for abargain in a Wife.” Maria Bingham twice remarried and eventually settled in France (ANB description begins John A. Garraty, Mark C. Carnes, and Paul Betz, eds., American National Biography, New York, 1999–2002; 24 vols. plus supplement; rev. edn., description ends , entry on Anne Willing Bingham; Charles P. Keith, The Provincial Councillors of Pennsylvania, Phila., 1883, p. 96; Margaret L. Brown, “Mr. and Mrs. William Bingham of Philadelphia: Rulers of the Republican Court,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. description ends , 61:319–320 [July 1937]; Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale; New York Evening Post, 24 Aug. 1846; Philadelphia Directory description begins Philadelphia Directory [title varies], issued annually with varying imprints. description ends , 1798, p. 80, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–1959; 14 vols.; rev. edn., description ends No. 34593; John J. Babson, History of the Town of Gloucester, Cape Ann, Gloucester, Mass., 1860, p. 483 ; Papers of William Thornton, ed. C. M. Harris and Daniel Preston, Charlottesville, Va., 1995, p. 499; TBA, Diary, 1798–1799, 14 June 1799).

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