John Adams to Abigail Adams
April 15. 1776
I send you every News Paper, that comes out, and I send you now and then a few sheets of Paper but this Article is as scarce here, as with you. I would send a Quire, if I could get a Conveyance. I write you, now and then a Line, as often as I can, but I can tell you no News, but what I send in the public Papers.
We are Waiting it is said for Commissioners, a Messiah that will never come.—This Story of Commissioners is as arrant an Illusion as ever was hatched in the Brain of an Enthusiast, a Politician, or a Maniac. I have laugh’d at it—scolded at it—griev’d at it—and I dont know but I may at an unguarded Moment have rip’d1 at it—but it is vain to Reason against such Delusions. I was very sorry to see in a Letter from the General that he had been bubbled with it, and still more to see in a Letter from my sagacious Friend W[arren] at Plymouth, that he was taken in too.
My Opinion is that the Commissioners and the Commission have been here (I mean in America)2 these two Months. The Governors, Mandamus Councillors, Collectors and Comptrollers, and Commanders of the Army and Navy, I conjecture compose the List and their Power is to receive Submissions. But We are not in a very submissive Mood. They will get no Advantage of Us.
We shall go on, to Perfection I believe. I have been very busy for some time—have written about Ten sheets of Paper with my own Hand, about some trifling Affairs, which I may mention some time or other—not now for fear of Accidents.3
What will come of this Labour Time will discover. I shall get nothing by it, I believe, because I never get any Thing by any Thing that I do. I am sure the Public or Posterity ought to get Something. I believe my Children will think I might as well have thought and laboured, a little, night and Day for their Benefit....4 But I will not bear the Reproaches of my Children. I will tell them that I studied and laboured to procure a free Constitution of Government for them to solace themselves under, and if they do not prefer this to ample Fortune, to Ease and Elegance, they are not my Children, and I care not what becomes of them. They shall live upon thin Diet, wear mean Cloaths, and work hard, with Chearfull Hearts and free Spirits or they may be the Children of the Earth or of no one, for me.
John has Genius and so has Charles. Take Care that they dont go astray. Cultivate their Minds, inspire their little Hearts, raise their Wishes. Fix their Attention upon great and glorious Objects, root out every little Thing, weed out every Meanness, make them great and manly. Teach them to scorn Injustice, Ingratitude, Cowardice, and Falshood. Let them revere nothing but Religion, Morality and Liberty.
Nabby and Tommy are not forgotten by me altho I did not mention them before. The first by Reason of her sex, requires a Different Education from the two I have mentioned. Of this you are the only judge. I want to send each of my little pretty flock, some present or other. I have walked over this City twenty Times and gaped at every shop like a Countryman to find something, but could not. Ask every one of them what they would choose to have and write it to me in your next Letter. From this I shall judge of their Taste and Fancy and Discretion.
RC (Adams Papers).
1. JA defines and illustrates this use of the verb rip very clearly in his Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 1:97.
2. Parentheses editorially supplied around words inserted above the line in MS.
3. JA’s anonymous essay entitled Thoughts on Government: Applicable to the Present State of the American Colonies was advertised on 22 April as published by John Dunlap in Philadelphia (T. R. Adams, “American Independence,” description begins Thomas R. Adams, “American Independence: The Growth of an Idea. A Bibliographical Study of the American Political Pamphlets Published between 1764 and 1776 ...,” Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Publications, vol. 43 (in press, 1963). description ends No. 205a–b). JA sent a copy of it to James Warren on 20 April (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 , 1:230–231). It was essentially a reply to Common Sense—not to Paine’s arguments for independence but to his naive “Notions” (as JA considered them) about the new governments that would have to be formed in America; see JA to AA, 19 March, above. Though JA believed that his pamphlet eventually exerted substantial influence on a number of the early state constitutions, no detailed study of the nature and amount of its influence has ever been made. For the complex and still partly obscure history of the composition of Thoughts on Government, see JA’s Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:331–333, and references there. In Oct. 1961 one more of the four different MS versions known to have been written by JA in the weeks preceding the present letter came to light. This is the holograph text he prepared for the North Carolina delegate William Hooper, who had left Congress at the end of March to attend the Provincial Congress at Halifax, which had in contemplation a new constitution. The document was found in the North Carolina State Department of Archives and History (Nc–Ar) in the David L. Swain Papers. Thus there remains to be found only the holograph furnished by JA to Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant for use at Trenton; JA said this one was “larger and more compleat, perhaps more correct,” than the version that was “put ... under Types” (to James Warren, 20 April, cited above).
4. Suspension points in MS. Actually these are curled dashes, a device that JA began to use about this time, evidently to indicate elisions of thought more pronounced than dashes would serve to indicate.