Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to a Massachusetts Member of the Continental Congress, January 1779

Abigail Adams to a Massachusetts Member of the Continental Congress

[Braintree, January? 1779]1

Dear Sir

It gives me real pain to see the various arts and machinations of our internal Enemies practised with Effect upon the generality of Mankind. From the various reports which have been too successfully circulated for this month past the people will be brought to entertain suspicions with regard to congress which will tend to weaken their Authority and be greatly detrimental to our cause.

Mr. D[ea]n by his indiscreet appeal to the publick has laid a foundation for more extensive mischief than perhaps he first intended. He has insinuated that the Ears of congress were shut against him when matters of the utmost importance to the United States required an impartial tribunal, thereby reflecting upon their wisdom and justice.

This unhappy contest, not so prudently conducted by his antagonist as it ought to have been, has led people to entertain suspicions and surmizes with regard to the integrety of that Honorable Body and the Enimes of America have caught hold of this very opportunity to propogate falshood, which will among the unreflecting part of mankind keep such surmizes alive. I will name two Instances which have lately come to my knowledg. I was told last week by a Gentleman who received it in Town from two Southern Gentlemen that notwithstanding Mr. D—n character appeard in so unfavourable a light, congress had appointed him minister plenipo to Holland.2

I ventured at random to assure the gentleman their could be no truth in it.

The second report is that some Members of congress in conjunction with G[e]n. A[rnol]d had been counterfeiting the continental currency. I hope their is as little truth in this assertion. For individual Members I cannot answer—their was a judas amongst the Apostles—tho I do not credit the report. In such a Body of Men it would be strange indeed, considering the Depravity of Humane Nature if their were not some less attached to the publick than to their private interest. Yet as a Body they have given every proof in their power that they are seeking the good of their country and disinterestedly act for the benifit of the publick weal and tho no Lover of their country would wish to see a blind obeidence to any body of Men, yet at the same time they must be sensible that it is for the good of the community that every member of it should pay a proper respect and regard to those to whom they have delegated power and Authority, that when once the confidence of the people is weakend by any real or immaginary cause of distrust, their rulers become the object of their Suspicion and jealousy, and their power of serving them decreses, their Authority is weakend, and the cause they wish to support is greatly injured.3

This Sir will certainly be our case unless the real Friends and disinterested patriot[s] will excert themselves and counter work the dangerous designs of our Enemies by discovering to the world their Arts and disigns.

I have taken the freedom Sir to address you upon this subject, as a warm and Zealous Friend to America and to the rights of Mankind. At the same time I intreet your pardon for touching upon a subject more properly belonging to your sex, but whilst I saw a dangerous poison spreading not only in this but the Neighbouring Towns, and judged it must be the case elsewhere, I thought it my duty to apply to those capable of applying a spedy antidote.

The absence of a very near and dear Friend I must plead as a further Excuse for addressing any other gentleman upon a subject which may be considerd as foreign to my sex, added to the critical state of our country which requires the Eyes of Argos to watch for its safety an[d] security, will I hope secure from the imputation of vanity one who begs leave to submit to your Eye only the Sentiments of your Friend and Humble Servant.

Dft (Adams Papers); at head of text in JQA’s hand: “to James Lovell,” to which CFA added: “1779.”

1Neither the intended recipient nor the precise date of this draft letter is determinable. The most likely addressee would seem to be James Lovell, as JQA supposed when he read this letter about 1830. Lovell was AA’s regular correspondent in Congress, and one bit of evidence points directly to him. AA’s phrase in the fourth paragraph, avowing that Congress is mainly composed of men who “disinterestedly act for the benifit of the publick weal,” is echoed more or less unmistakably in Lovell’s letter to her of 19 Jan., printed above: “I am pleased when You speak of my disinterested attachment to the public weal.” But Lovell’s letter here quoted is unquestionably an answer to AA’s of 4 Jan., also above, of which, since only a rough draft has been found, we do not know the language of the recipient’s copy (and therefore the phrase he echoed may have been added to it); and nothing else in his answer suggests that he had received from AA a second letter of nearly the same date—a novelty that he would surely have made the most of if he had had an opportunity to do so. Less conclusive but not negligible in the case against Lovell as addressee is the fact that the tone of AA’s present draft is definitely more formal than that of her known letters to Lovell of this period. The editors believe, therefore, that she was addressing someone she had not often written to before, if at all—perhaps Samuel Adams or Elbridge Gerry. There is no evidence that the draft was copied and sent; AA may well have decided not to send it.

As to the date, while it could not have been earlier than 3 or 4 Jan., when AA read Silas Deane’s controversial address in a Boston newspaper, the rumor of Deane’s possible appointment to the Netherlands suggests late January or even early February; see Samuel Adams’ letter quoted in the following note.


“Mr Deans Friends are in hopes he will be sent to Holland as a Reward for his good Services. . . . Doubtless deep Commercial Connections may be formd there. They are willing Mr J A should go to Spain. The Design of this is to get Mr A L removd from thence. Others are for sending Mr A to Holland leaving Mr. L in Spain, to whose Influence in that Country our Armies are indebted for Supplys of Blanketts Shoes and Stockins. I am sorry to be obligd to think, that a Monopoly of Trade, and not the Liberty of their Country, is the sole Object of some Mens Views. This is the Cake which they hope shortly to slice and share among themselves.” (Samuel Adams to Samuel Cooper, 19 Jan. 1779, Burnett, ed., Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1921–1936; 8 vols. description ends , 4:37.)

3This paragraph is so carelessly written and ill punctuated that for the sake of clarity it has been slightly repunctuated by the editors.

Index Entries