Abigail Adams to John Adams
May 9 1776
I this day Received yours of the 20 of April1 accompanied with a Letter upon Goverment. Upon reading it I some how or other felt an uncommon affection for it; I could not help thinking it was a near relation of a very intimate Friend of mine. If I am mistaken in its descent, I know it has a near affinity to the Sentiments of that person, and tho I cannot pretend to be an adept in the art of Goverment; yet it looks rational that a Goverment of Good Laws well administerd should carry with them the fairest prospect of happiness to a community, as well as to individuals. But as this is a perogative to which your Sex lay almost an exclusive claim I shall quit the subject after having quoted a passage in favour of a Republic from an anonymous author intittled Essays on the Genius and Writings of Pope.2 “The fine arts, in short are naturally attendant upon power and luxury, but the Sciences require unlimited freedom to raise them to their full Vigour and Growth. In a Monarchy there may be poets, painters and Musicians, but orators, Historians and phylosophers can exist in a Republic alone. The Roman Nation by their unjust attempt upon the Liberty of the World, justly lost their own, and with their Liberty they lost not only their force of Eloquence, but even their Stile and Language itself.”
This province is not in the most agreable situation at present, it wants a poize, a stability which it does not possess. The Counsel have recommended it to the Superior Court to sit at Ipswich the next Term. Judge Cushing call[ed] upon me yesterday with his Lady and made me a very Friendly visit. Said he wish’d earnestly for the presence of the Chief Justice, he had many things he wished to say to him. I requested him to write, and he has promised to.3
The Spirit of fortification has just awaked, and we are now persuing with vigour what ought before this time to have been compleated. Fort Hill, the Castle, Dorchester point, Nodles Island are allmost compleated, a committe are sent down to Nantasket, and orders are given to fortify the Moon, Gorges Island &c. I believe Nodles Island has been done by Subscription. 6 hundred meet every morning, inhabitants of the Town of Boston, in the Town house from whence they March with fife and drum with Mr. Gorden, Mr. Skilman and Mr. Lothtrope4 at their head to the long Wharf where they embark for the Island, and it comes to the Subscribers turn to work 2 days in a week.
You have no doubt heard of the appointment of your Friend as judge. He seems loth to accept, and his Lady I think loth that he should; surely it does not look well to have those offices banded about from hand to hand. If they could not obtain one from the bar, that Gentleman will fill the place with honour to himself and his Breatheren. But Mr. L[owel]l ought to have come in, instead of some others, but there are some in C[ounci]l who require more than Heaven, that demands only repentance and amendmant.5
Let me hear from you often. Yours unfeignedly.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed in John Thaxter’s hand: “To The Honble: John Adams Esq. at Philadelphia”; endorsed: “answd. May 27. 1776”; to this JA added “Portia” in the handwriting of his very old age; docketed in an unidentified hand.
1. Not found.
2. [Joseph Warton,] An Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, published in its earliest form in 1756.
3. Judge William Cushing wrote JA on 20 May, congratulating him on his appointment to the chief justiceship and expressing cordial wishes for his return to take his place on the bench (Adams Papers). JA’s reply, written from Philadelphia, 9 June, reflects his uncertainty about undertaking the service, especially in view of Cushing’s superior qualifications (RC in MHi: William Cushing Papers; printed in JA, Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , 9:390, from LbC, Adams Papers).
4. Rev. William Gordon of Roxbury; Rev. Isaac Skillman, College of New Jersey 1766, of the 2d Baptist Church in Boston; and Rev. John Lathrop, College of New Jersey 1763, of the 2d Congregational Church in Boston (Weis, Colonial Clergy of N.E. description begins Frederick Lewis Weis, comp., The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England, Lancaster, Mass., 1936. description ends ).
5. John Lowell (1743–1802), Harvard 1760, a lawyer of Newburyport and afterward a leading Federalist politician, had in May 1774 signed a friendly farewell address to Governor Hutchinson from the loyalist lawyers of the Province. His public recantation some months later did not appease all the patriot leaders, though from this point on he was firmly on the American side of the question. 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 ; Stark, Loyalists of Mass. description begins James H. Stark, The Loyalists of Massachusetts and the Other Side of the American Revolution, Boston, 1910. description ends , p. 125–126.