Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to William Stephens Smith, 13 August 1785

Abigail Adams to William Stephens Smith

London, Grosvenor Square August 13, 1785

Dear Sir

Your letter from Harwich, dated August 10,1 reached us upon the 11th. We were very glad to hear of your arrival there, and continue to follow you with our good wishes.

When you tendered me your services, and asked my commands, I did not know you had any thoughts of returning by the way of Paris; otherwise I should have charged you with a few. I now write by Mr. Short, requesting your care of an article or two which Mr. Jefferson will be so good as to procure for me.2

Nothing new in the political world has taken place since you left us, but a fresh report by way of Minorca, that the Algerines had, upon the 13th3 of July, declared war against America. This I suppose is circulated now, in order to raise the insurance upon the few American vessels ready to sail. The report says that twelve of their ships are ordered to cruise in the Mediteranean for ours;4 but it will probably be so long before this letter will reach you, that what is news now, will not be so then.

I have taken the liberty, sir, of requesting Mr. Jefferson to introduce you to two gentlemen and ladies; the first of the gentlemen is much esteemed in the world, for his patronage of the sciences, and for his knowledge and skill in music and poetry; and the other for his notable exploits and heroism. One of the ladies is of a very ancient and noble family; she is eminent for her wisdom, and exceedingly fond of all those in whom she discovers a genius, and a taste for knowledge; the other is a single lady, remarkable for her delicacy and modesty.5 As there is some talk of their coming to London, they may possibly accompany you here. There will be no difficulty on account of the language, as they speak one as perfectly as they do the other.

I had some idea of mentioning a young gentleman6 of my acquaintance, whose manners are very insinuating, but as he does not always conduct himself with the prudence I could wish, and is very fond of becoming intimate, his company sometimes proves dangerous; but Mr. Jefferson, who knows them all, I presume, will use his judgment, and upon that you may safely rely.

I hope you will not travel so rapidly as to omit your journal, for I promise myself much entertainment from it upon your return. I presume that the family would join me in their regards to you, if they knew that I was writing; you will, from the knowledge you have of them, believe them your well wishers and friends, as well as your humble servant,7

A. Adams

RC not found. Printed from (AA2, Jour, and Corr. description begins Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, Daughter of John Adams, . . . edited by Her Daughter [Caroline Amelia (Smith) de Windt], New York and London, 1841–[1849]; 3 vols.Note: Vol. [1], unnumbered, has title and date: Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, 1841; vol. 2 has title, volume number, and date: Correspondence of Miss Adams . . . Vol. II, 1842; vol. [3] has title, volume number, and date: Correspondence of Miss Adams . . ., Vol. II, 1842[!], i.e. same as vol. 2, but preface is signed “April 3d, 1849”[!], and the volume contains as “Part II” a complete reprinting from same type, and with same pagination, of vol. 2 (i.e. “Vol. II”), above, originally issued in 1842. description ends , 1:119–121.) Dft (Adams Papers); notation on last page by AA2: “To Co Smith”; and by CFA on the first page: “To Col Smith.” The editors have favored the printed text over the Dft here on the supposition that it is based on the RC, which passed from William Stephens Smith to his and AA2’s daughter, Caroline de Windt, who published it along with various other letters by and to AA2. A few variants in the Dft are noted below.

1Not found. Col. Smith wrote to JA from his lodgings at Leicester Fields on 4 Aug. (Adams Papers), asking permission “to take a small tour on the Continent—a general Review of the Prussian Army takes place the latter end of this or the beginning of the next Month, I should like to see it.” On 5 Aug., JA, imagining that Smith would make a fairly brief tour beginning in a month that was “so dull and so disgusting and unwholesome in London” with the city “so deserted by Men of Business as well as others,” granted his request (PCC, No. 92, I, f. 19).

The colonel departed London on 9 Aug. for the North Sea port of Harwich to catch the boat for Holland, in company with Francisco Miranda, the South American soldier whom he had met in New York during the war (and whose 1806 abortive military expedition to free South America from Spanish rule Col. Smith would be charged with aiding). Smith carried letters of introduction from JA to C. W. F. Dumas at The Hague, and to Messrs. Willinck and Staphorst at Amsterdam (LbCs, Adams Papers).

Smith and Miranda reached the Netherlands on 11 Aug., and traveled through Rotterdam, The Hague, and Amsterdam into northern Germany, stopping at Minden, Hanover, Brunswick, and Potsdam before reaching Berlin on 31 August. They reviewed Prussian troops and visited garrisons and cultural sites in the Berlin-Potsdam area from 5 to 23 Sept., and then continued their tour through Leipzig, Dresden, and Prague to Vienna, staying in the Austrian capital from 14 to 26 Oct., when Col. Smith finally departed for Paris.

The expansion of his “small tour” delayed Smith’s return to London to early December, long after JA expected him, and considerably annoyed the minister, who found himself coping with an extensive correspondence in the fall without a secretary. Col. Smith recorded the better part of his journey, from 11 Aug. to 26 Oct., in great detail; this diary is published, in English, in Archivo Del General Miranda, Viajes Diaros 1750–1785, Caracas, 1929, 1:354–434. See Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins J. C. F. Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends (Miranda); DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends (Smith).

2See AA to Jefferson, 12 Aug., above.

3The draft has: “The Eleventh of july.“

4From this point, the draft reads: “Mr. Short will set out on twesday, <but as> it is not probable that this Letter will reach you untill you arrive in Paris it will then be so old a date that I should not have written but to have askd your care of my things.”

5AA refers to the four “Godships”—Apollo, Hercules, Minerva (Athena), and Diana (Artemis)—mentioned in her letter to Jefferson of 12 Aug., above.

6Cupid; see AA to Jefferson, 12 Aug., above.

7This paragraph is not in the draft, which has in its place: “Callihan is arrived from Boston this day, if any thing worth communicating should come to hand when I get my Letters which I am just going to seek it shall be communicated by Sir Your Friend and humble servant.“

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