John Adams to Abigail Adams
Feb. 20. 1779
In the Margin are the Dates of all the Letters I have received from you. I have written you, several Times that Number—they are allmost all lost, I suppose by yours.1
But you should consider, it is a different Thing to have five hundred Correspondents and but one. It is a different Thing to be under an Absolute Restraint and under none. It would be an easy Thing for me to ruin you and your Children by an indiscreet Letter—and what is more it would be easy, to throw our Country into Convulsions.—For Gods sake never reproach me again with not writing or with Writing Scrips. Your Wounds are too deep.
You know not—you feel not—the dangers that surround me, nor those that may be brought upon our Country.
Millions would not tempt me to write to you as I used. I have no security that every Letter I write you will not be broken open and copied and transmitted to Congress and to English News Papers. They would find no Treason nor Deceipt in them it is true, but they would find Weakness and Indiscretion, which they would make as ill an Use of.
There are Spies upon every Word I utter, and every Syllable I write—Spies planted by the English—Spies planted by Stockjobbers—Spies planted by selfish Merchants—and Spies planted by envious and malicious Politicians.
I have been all along aware of this, more or less, but more so now than ever.
My Life has been often in danger, but I never considered my Reputation and Character so much in danger as now.
I can pass for a Fool, but I will not pass for a dishonest or a mercenary Man.
Be upon your Guard therefore—I must be upon mine—And I will.
RC (Adams Papers).
1. JA reports in the margin of his letter the receipt of eleven letters from AA during his year’s absence. Four of these have not survived in any version known to the editors: 25 March, 10 Oct., 2 Dec. 1778, and 4 Jan. 1779. Three others have been found only as drafts: 21, 25 Oct., and 15 Dec. 1778 (all printed above, but the last under the date of its presumed draft, 13 Dec.). The other four survive as recipients’ copies: 18 May, 10, 18 June 1778, and 2 Jan. 1779 (all printed above). JA failed, however, to list AA’s letter of 29 Sept. 1778, which he had acknowledged in his to her of 2 Dec. and which is printed above from an undated draft under the date he furnished in his acknowledgment. Apparently he had not yet received hers of 27 Dec. 1778, above—a circumstance that is a little puzzling because it seems to have been sent by the same conveyance, the Alliance frigate, which had brought him AA’s letter of 13 (or 15) Dec. 1778. Besides the letters here enumerated, AA had sent to JA during this period four other letters, at the very least, which he had not received but which are printed above (the earliest of them in vol. 2) from her drafts, in some cases with supplied or approximate dates, as follows: 8 March, 30 June, ca. 15 July, and 12–23 Nov. 1778. (A letter printed in JA-AA, Familiar Letters description begins Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams, during the Revolution. With a Memoir of Mrs. Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams, New York, 1876. description ends , p. 340–341, under the incorrect date of 23 Aug. 1778, is printed below under its correct date of 23 Aug. 1780.)