James Lovell to Abigail Adams
Mar. 9. 1779
It is hardly necessary that I should tell the amiable Portia of my having within 4 days received a letter from her worthy Husband, as the date is no later than Sepr. 26, and Capt. Bradford mentions having received others, doubtless later and inclosing some for you. We have this Morning also received one from him (Mr. A.) dated Sepr. 7th. At the Time I received the first mentioned Congress had from him one of Decr. 6th or 7th so that he was then well.1
He has seen an intercepted Letter of Simeon Deane to Silas which contained some indecent hints respecting the Adamses but he comments upon it with his usual Superiority and properly despises the Writing and the Writer. He pays us, great Folks, off, as he used to do when here, for not seeing that Taxation is the only Remedy against Depreciation, in our Circumstances.2
I would close here by telling you how affectionately I esteem you, if I was not sure that it would rather mortify than please you while your mind is anxious to know how this indecisive Assembly intend to dispose of your best Friend. There is a strange Delay and something of Mystery in the Propositions that have been lately made here respecting our foreign Affairs. But, be assured, I have not yet perceived any Thing which probably will affect Mr. A—— in a disagreable Manner. I am not entitled to write so confidentially to you about the mighty Congress as Mr. A. used to. For though I think I may venture, yet I do not know how far. We are talking here about War or Peace. Would to God we were vigorously acting for one or the other. Look round you and guess which of the two we ought to talk least about. I hope that we shall not gape so eagerly after a desirable Object as to break our Necks in the Pursuit. We had better keep our Eye upon the Ditch and the Cheveaux de Frize though our Fancy will be roving.
But, I had better quit this Topic, or I shall destroy all the Credit of your Sagacity, and bring you down to a par with the Wiseacre who was called upon to tell whether his Wife had brought him a Girl or a Boy, and who guessed right at the second Tryal. I will give your Wit and Judgment fairer Play, that I may have if possible some new Cause to admire you.
What signifies putting above those Initials the particular Truth which I hope is graven among the Articles of your Belief.
RC (Adams Papers).
1. The letters referred to by Lovell are as follows: (1) JA to Lovell, 26 Sept. 1778 (LbC, Adams Papers), summarized by Lovell in the following paragraph and printed, in part, in Edward E. Hale and Edward E. Hale Jr., Franklin in France, Boston, 1887–1888, 1:232–233. (2) JA to President Laurens, 7 Sept. 1778 (PCC, No. 84, I; printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 2:703–704); it was received and read in Congress on the day Lovell wrote the present letter (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 13:296). (3) Presumably JA to Laurens, 6 Dec. 1778 (PCC, No. 84, I; printed in Wharton description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , vol. 2:851); it had been read in Congress on 25 Feb. 1779 (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 13:251). (4) A letter from John Bradford at Boston to Congress, 13 Feb., which was read and referred to the Committee on Commerce on 5 March (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 13:275) but has not been found.
2. JA’s comments on both the intercepted letter and American tax policy are in his letter to Lovell of 26 Sept. 1778 (see preceding note). Silas Deane’s brother Simeon had returned from France early in 1778 bringing the Franco-American treaties for ratification, and had then set vigorously about extending the Deanes’ commercial enterprises in America, for which they had great expectations because of their close official and mercantile ties in France. Simeon’s letter to Silas here discussed was captured by the British and printed, without date or place (though quite evidently the writer was in Virginia), in Lloyd’s Morning Post (London), 26 Aug. 1778. For the most part it reported on the ships and cargoes in which the Deanes had an interest and on Simeon’s own plans and prospects as a trader in goods from France. But before finishing, Simeon added a revealing passage in which he first spoke indignantly of the rising complaints in Congress over Silas Deane’s rumored commercial activities and then ingenuously substantiated the rumors:
“The two Adams’s from N[ew] E[ngland] are both strongly against [John Hancock] and yourself. God knows what lengths they intend by their factions; yet depend they are indefatigable. I can with great truth assure you, that, notwithstanding their treatment of you, . . . they have not yet dared to attack your character, further than to say you were in trade, &c. This has been amply blazed by the imprudence of Mr. Bromfield, who has told it everywhere, in Virginia and the Carolinas, that you and M. M——owned a quarter or half of the ship commanded by Capt. Roche. The effects of that cargo, I believe, are here (or a part of them), in his possession at James River, and in case they have been laid out into tobacco, last June, at 30 to 36, may turn amazingly advantageous—but whether this has been fully done or not, I am not informed.” (Deane Papers description begins Papers of Silas Deane, 1774–1790, in New-York Historical Society, Collections, Publication Fund Series, vols. 19–23, New York, 1887–1891; 5 vols. description ends , 2:467–468.)