James Lovell to Abigail Adams
Philada. Jan. 8th. 1781
Yes I will try it. To one of the most sensible, virtuous and consequently most lovely of the Loveliest Sex, it will drop its Ink in Paragraphs of calmer Stile than for the last fifteen minutes. My Penknife formed it at first for the Purposes of Friendship; whence then such a Flow of Bitterness and Execration? All this too to the Husband of Portia! Will he become a Distributor of such Evil? No. He is more philosophic, more benevolent and wise. He can exquisitely feel an Injustice done to his Country, but he will not suffer himself to be transported beyond the Language of grave Censure. It must however, be acknowledged that the Provocation was great. Let an Appeal be made to the Throne of Complacency.—Listen then, Portia. I had according to your Wish superscribed your Letter to Mr. Adams1 to go by the Brig Duke of Leinster that will sail for Europe probably Tomorrow. To wish him every Happiness myself while I conveyed a real Portion of it from you was the main Intent of my adding a new Cover.2 Fresh Ideas sprang. Facts came forward on my memory. The Pensylvania Line are mutinous; yet, have they given up two Spies of Clinton’s who were tempting them with most seductive Promises. Should such virtuous Soldiers be barebacked and barefooted Subjects of Temptation? By a Vessel which left France late in November I yesterday received Copies of Letters dated in March and April last year, telling of Cloathes going from Nantes to Brest, to Rochelle, here there, to and fro to be shipped for America, Satan knows when. Tis plain not before January 1781. This Thought was too much for my Pen; away it flew over the Paper Gall here, Gall there, Gall and Bitterness every where. I doubted whether it would again ever become fit for civil Purposes. I took it therefore a second Time in Hand just now, with Hesitancy, to acknowledge the Receipt of your Favor of Decr. 25th.3
Why did you strive to make me vile in my own Eyes? I “renounce all Connexion with your Sex”!!! Then should I be vile indeed. I entreat you, charming Lady, to consider that the Letter of Recommendation which you say I had not noticed is the very one in which you ask “Can he suffer Letters repeatedly to reach him and not deign a Line in Reply”? And was also the identical one of September 3d. to which I had Reference in mine of November 27th, and which I had also acknowledged on the 21st. as Jemmy Rivington well knows, tho he does not tell it in print. I cannot say when I inclosed the Bills of Exchange but I do not find my memoranda in my Almanack cancelled by the mark of your Acknowledgement, June 13, July 17 and 21 and Sept. 26.4 Perhaps those were only a few Lines of Cover to news papers.
It was only last Week that I had the Pleasure of seeing Mr. Brown whom I acquainted with your kind Mention of his name and Person to me, as I had before done in regard to Doctor Lee. I am out with both those Gentlemen, for tho they expressed their Admiration of you yet they did it not with that extraordinary fervor which accords with my own Sentiments, and which I think an Hour’s Conversation with you demands.
Col. Palfrey sailed some time ago. J. P. Jones was at L’Orient Novr. 17th. Should he arrive here, depend upon my Attention to what he may bring for you.—Mr. Dana is appointed to proceed as Minister to Russia; but I am almost decided in Mind that he will not incline to accept the Mission.5 Col. J. Laurens will be in Boston by the Time this reaches you,6 and, if he does not ride to Braintree, you can not fail to hear of him by Gen. Warren.
This Evening four Years I passed with you at your Brother Cranche’s.7 Did I imagine on the Noon of that day I was thus long to be seperated from a most amiable Wife? No indeed; nor can I boast of the Patriotism that would have mounted me then on Horseback under such Ideas, with a chearful Resolution. Yrs. affectly.,
RC (Adams Papers).
3. In Adams Papers but mistakenly filed and microfilmed under 25 Dec. ; omitted here.
4. Lovell’s letter of 13 June 1780 is printed in vol. 3 above; that of 21 July is in the Adams Papers but not printed here. That of 27 Nov. is above in the present volume. No letters from Lovell to AA dated 17 July, 26 Sept., or 21 Nov. 1780 have been found; the last is known to have been intercepted by the British; see AA to Lovell, 17 March 1781, below. Her letter to Lovell of 3 Sept. 1780 is in vol. 3 above.
5. Congress elected Francis Dana minister to Russia on 19 Dec. 1780 and issued his commission and instructions on the same day (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 18:1166–1173). A recent and very illuminating study of the Dana mission to Russia, which was to involve both JA and JQA in vital ways, is by David M. Griffiths, “American Commercial Diplomacy in Russia, 1780 to 1783,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 3d ser., 27:379–410 (July 1970).
6. John Laurens (1754–1782), son of Henry Laurens, lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army, was elected by Congress on 11 Dec. 1780 a special envoy to the French court to obtain further funds and stores and to plead in particular for increased French naval assistance so that a “superiority” over the British could be maintained along the coast. Laurens sailed from Boston in the Alliance early in February, carrying, among other things, a long letter from AA to JA (28 Jan., below). He arrived in France in March and embarked to return at the end of May. Correspondence and other documents relative to this mission, which under the circumstances was remarkably successful, have been printed in “The Mission of Col. John Laurens to Europe in 1781,” So. Car. Hist. & Geneal. Mag., 1(1900)–2(1901), running through six consecutive issues. These must be supplemented with his instructions of 23 Dec. 1780 and his final report of 2 Sept. 1781, 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 , 4:205–206, 685–692.
7. This paragraph may have been added by Lovell to enable AA to read the occasional ciphered passages in his letters. As he kept hinting, without ever actually saying, in other letters to AA and JA, the key to his cipher was the name of the family where he and the Adamses had spent their last evening together in Braintree (i.e. Cranch). Here he mentions the name of the family but not the cipher. She was expected by this hint to make the connection. See Appendix to this volume.