John Adams to Abigail Adams
Passi June 3 17781
My dearest Friend
On the 13 of Feb. I left you. It is now the 3d. of June, and I have not received a Line, nor heard a Word, directly nor indirectly, concerning you since my departure. This is a Situation of Mind, in which I never was before, and I assure you I feel a great deal of Anxiety at it: yet I do not wonder at it, because I suppose few Vessels have sailed from Boston since ours.
I have shipped for you, the Articles you requested, and the black Cloth for your Father, to whom present my most affectionate and dutiful Respects. C[aptain] Tucker, if he should not be unlucky, will give you an Account of your Things.2
It would be endless to attempt a Description of this Country. It is one great Garden. Nature and Art have conspired to render every Thing here delightful. Religion and Government, you will say ought to be excepted.—With all my Heart.—But these are no Afflictions to me, because I have well fixed it in my Mind as a Principle, that every Nation has a Right to that Religion and Government, which it chooses, and as long as any People please themselves in these great Points, I am determined they shall not displease me.
There is so much danger that my Letter may fall into malicious Hands, that I should not choose to be too free in my Observations upon the Customs and Manners of this People. But thus much I may say with Truth and without offence, that there is no People in the World, who take so much Pains to please, nor any whose Endeavours in this Way, have more success. Their Arts, Manners, Taste and Language are more respected in Europe than those of any other Nation. Luxury, dissipation, and Effeminacy, are pretty nearly at the same degree of Excess here, and in every other Part of Europe. The great Cardinal Virtue of Temperance, however, I believe flourishes here more than in any other Part of Europe.
My dear Country men! how shall I perswade you, to avoid the Plague of Europe? Luxury has as many and as bewitching Charms, on your Side of the Ocean as on this—and Luxury, wherever she goes, effaces from human Nature the Image of the Divinity. If I had Power I would forever banish and exclude from America, all Gold, silver, precious stones, Alabaster, Marble, Silk, Velvet and Lace.
Oh the Tyrant! the American Ladies would say! What!—Ay, my dear Girls, these Passions of yours, which are so easily allarmed, and others of my own sex which are exactly like them, have done and will do the Work of Tyrants in all Ages. Tyrants different from me, whose Power has banished, not Gold indeed, but other Things of greater Value, Wisdom, Virtue3 and Liberty. My Son and Servant4 are well. I am, with an Ardour that Words have not Power to express, yours,
RC and LbC (Adams Papers.) Only one of a number of small variations between the two extant texts has been recorded below.
1. With this letter JA resumed his practice, discontinued a year earlier with his letter to AA of 25 May 1777 (vol. 2, above), of drafting his letters to his wife and retaining the drafts in a letterbook. His retained copy of the present letter is the first entry in Lb/JA/7 (Microfilms, Reel No. 95), a folio volume purchased from the stationer Cabaret, “Au Griffon Rue de Bussy”; see JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:327, 343, and a reproduction of Cabaret’s large and elegant trade card in same, facing p. 291. JA kept up this private letterbook, but quite fitfully, until Feb. 1779. Many years later, in 1809, and more intensively in 1813–1814, he turned it over to his amanuenses, who filled up its blank pages with copies of JA’s outgoing letters.
2. These “Things” for JA’s family had been furnished by John Bondfield, U.S. commercial agent at Bordeaux, and were sent by Capt. Samuel Tucker in the Boston, which sailed a few days later and arrived at Portsmouth, N.H., on 15 October. See JA to Bondfield of the present date (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 4:126); an entry dated 25 May in JA’s Personal Receipts and Expenditures (same, 2:329); JA to Tucker, 29 April (MH:Tucker Papers, printed in Sheppard, Tucker description begins John H. Sheppard, The Life of Samuel Tucker, Commodore in the American Revolution, Boston, 1868. description ends , p. 91–92); AA to JA, printed under the assigned date of 21 Oct., below, acknowledging receipt of the present letter.
3. In LbC the word “Happiness” is added here. Its omission in RC may have been inadvertent.