John Adams to Abigail Adams
At sea, not far from the grand Bank of N.F.L. Novr. 29 . 17791
My dearest Friend
A brave fellow from Boston Captn. Carr, gives me an Opportunity of writing one Line, to let you know that We are all very well thus far.2 Charles behaves quite as well as John, and lies in my Bosom a nights. Mr. Dana has been very sea sick but is now pretty well. We are now out of all Danger of the Romulus and Virginia, and I hope have little to fear, from the Ennemy. We have had one storm which made Us all sea sick, but brought Us on well in our Course. I wish I could write to you these two Hours, but Time fails. Ships cannot wait for each other at sea. My Love to Nabby and Thommy. Tell them, to mind their studies.
Tell Nabby, tho she has lost her french Master for some time, I hope she will persevere, and perhaps a french Mistress in her Mamma may do better. Duty to your father, my Mother, Brothers, sisters &c. &c. &c. Dont fail to let me know how [the] Constitution goes on.
God bless you.
I write on my Knees, and the ship rolls so that I write worse than common.
Captaine Chavagne has made me open my Letter, to assure Madam Adams of his best Respects, and Mmselle and Monsr Thomas. I find the same Civility and Kindness from this worthy officer and his subalterns as heretofore, and the Passengers are also agreable.3
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. John Adams Braintree near Boston favd. by Captn. Carr.”
1. JA distinctly wrote “29,” and CFA printed this letter under that date 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. 368–369. But JA was mistaken, for it was on the 20th, off the Grand Bank of Newfoundland (“N.F.L.”), that the Sensible encountered the American privateer that brought back letters to Boston—the only such “Opportunity” that offered during the voyage. See the following note; also Francis Dana’s Journal as quoted in note 3.
2. This and the following letter from JQA were sent back by the Salem privateer General Lincoln, Capt. John Carnes; see JQA, Diary, under the present date; Dana’s Journal as quoted in the following note; MHS, Colls. description begins Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings. description ends , 77:147. In his Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:402, JA mistakenly gave the captain’s name as “Barnes.”
3. Since Francis Dana’s Journal of 1779–1780 (MHi) gives the most succinct and connected account of the voyage, the relevant passage is quoted here in full:
“We had a very good wind till the 18th. when it changed to the N.E. and blowed very hard for about 24 hours. About this time our vessel began to leak considerably, so that we were obliged to keep one pump at work.—Novr. 20th. We spoke with the Genl. Lincoln privateer of Salem commanded by Capt. Carnes then bound for that place, whose Lieut. came on board us, by whom I wrote to Mrs. D.; an event which gave us much satisfaction not only because it was unexpected, but because it afforded an opportunity of notifying our friends of our escaping two British Frigates which had been cruising in the Bay for us, and were seen near Cape Ann the Wednesday before our departure. We were at this time near the Grand Bank where we sounded on the 23d. Novr.—Novr. 25th. The wind began to blow from the N.W. very heavy, and the Sea to run high.—Novr. 26th. During the last 24 hours we run under our Foresail only, 76 leagues; the wind and sea still raging; in the afternoon the Chasse Maree . . . carried away her Foremast. The tempest prevented our affording them any relief as we were driven before it at the same rapid rate I have just mentioned. There were about thirty souls on board the Chasse Maree, one a woman. Heaven protect them from further harm.—Sunday Novr. 28th. The Storm abated, and our leak having encreased, we set two pumps to work. This brought the Capt., Officers and Passengers to them in their turns—we were now not far east of the longitude of the Azores, and nearly 50 Leagues north of their latitude, the wind about south, so that it was impossible to make them. The encrease of our leak, rendering it impracticable to fight our ship well if we shou’d meet with an enemy and our state otherwise dangerous, the Capt. at this time changed our original destination which was Brest, for Ferrol the nearest port. Nothing material occurred, the weather continuing moderate and the winds not adverse, till Tuesday the 7th. Decr. when at about half past 10. o’clock A.M. we made Cape Finisterre, our first land, for which we had shaped our course. The wind was near SW and the weather clear for the most part of the day, so that we distinctly made our [i.e. out?] head Lands, but night coming on, we lay too, to avoid passing our port. The next morning, Decr. 8th. we run before the wind, it being a fine day, directly for Ferrol, and cast anchor in the harbour about noon.”