Abigail and John Adams to Isaac Smith Jr.
Boston Janry. 4 1770
I Congratulate you upon the fine weather we have had since your absence; if it has been as favourable to you, as it has been here, you will long Ere this reaches you be safely arrived in Carolina.1 When you left us, you did not tell me, nor did I know till a few days agone, that you designd a visit to our (cruel) Mother Country, shall I say. I highly approve your design. Now is the best Season of Life for you to travel; Ere you have formed connections which would bind you to your own little Spot.
Your Parents and Friends have placed great confidence in you; at so Early an age to commit you to yourself, with no Guardian but your own Honour, and no Monitor but your own Conscience. And with pleasure I say it. Still suffer them, in spite of every temptation to the Contrary, to maintain the same power over you, which they have had from your Early infancy. Still keep them faithful to you; and you will not need any other.
The Stage you are entering upon is large and Capacious. You will have temptation of various kinds to encounter, but you will we hope, we expect it from you, be superiour to them all. Vice and imprudence are no necessary attendants upon Youth, tho too frequently its inseperable Companions. If your Gay acquaintance assault you with ridicule for persisting in any Laudable practice, dispise their contempt, and be only fearful of encurring your own. If you would be secure from the arrows of Calumny, be careful never to part with the Shield of Innocence. Tis Expected from you who have a prudence far surpassing your years, that you will make improvements Eaquel to your prudence. From you I expect not the mere common place observation and remarks, but those that will not only please but instruct. What ever occurs curious or remarkable in the Course of your travels remit to your Friends. Here might I be permitted to give my advice, it would be to keep a dayly journal. You will find it both useful and pleasent. Permit me also to call to your remembrance those lines of Shakespears, that Excellent advice of Polonius to his Son Laertes
“Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act
Be thou familiar; but by no means vulgar.
The Friends thou hast and their addoption try’d
Grapple them to thy Soul with hooks of Steel
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of Each new hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade
Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee
Give every Man thine Ear but few thy voice
Take Each man[’s] censure; but reserve thy judgment
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not Express’d in fancy; rich not Gaudy
For the apparell oft proclaims the man
Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For loan oft looses oft itself and Friend
And borrowing dulls the Edge of husbandry
This above all, to thine own self be true
And it must follow as the Night the Day
Thou canst not then be fake to any man.”
I have written a great deal. Receive it in the Spirit of real Friendship. Thus it is designed by Your affectionate Cousin and Friend,
PS Your Friends here are in as good health as when you left us and desire to be remember’d to you. Mr. and Mrs. Cranch send their Love, regard also from me to all my kindred in Carolina. Forget not a token of remembrance when you have opportunity to yours,
My good Friend
I have been reading the foregoing Instructions and Exhortations of Dame Adams, and have no Doubt at all of their Orthodoxy, the only Question with me is, what occasion, a Gentleman of your Character, has for them.—Am very glad to hear You intend a Voyage to Fog land.—There you will find every Object that [can]2 inform or delight.—Pray if among all your Pleasures, Studies, Business &c. you can find a few vacant Moments to write, let me hear from you. Write a great deal about Politicks, for by the News we hear to day We shall have need. Our General Court by special order from his Majesty, as Punishment of their Behaviour last summer And that of our Merchants is prorogued to the 11th. March.3
I am yr friend,
RC (MB); addressed in JA’s hand: “For Mr. Isaac Smith So. Carolina These.”
1. Isaac was visiting his Kinsmen in Charleston. AA’s first American forebear in the paternal line, Thomas Smith, a butcher of Charlestown, Mass., had a son Thomas, a sea-captain, who married in South Carolina and whose grandsons, Benjamin and Thomas Smith, became very prominent in business and colonial affairs there. (One of Benjamin’s sons, William Loughton Smith [1758–1812], was to become a Federalist representative in Congress, U.S. minister to Portugal, and a well-known pamphleteer; see DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends .) Among the Smith-Carter Papers (MHi) are numerous letters from these “Loving Cousins” throughout most of the 18th century. For the full genealogical details see George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of a Federalist: William Loughton Smith of Charleston (1758–1812), Columbia, S.C., 1962.
2. A word is missing in the MS.
3. For the events alluded to, see Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo description begins Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts-Bay, ed. Lawrence Shaw Mayo, Cambridge, 1936; 3 vols. description ends , 3:171 ff.; Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution, 1763–1776, New York, 1918, ch. 4.