Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams
Paris Dec. 21. 1786
An unfortunate dislocation of my right wrist has for three months deprived me of the honor of writing to you. I begin now to use my pen a little, but it is in great pain, and I have no other use of my hand. The swelling has remained obstinately the same for two months past, and the joint, tho I beleive well set, does not become more flexible. I am strongly advised to go to some mineral waters at Aix in Provence, and I have it in contemplation.1 I was not alarmed at the humor shewn by your countrymen. On the contrary I like to see the people awake and alert. But I received a letter which represented it as more serious than I had thought. Mr Adams however restores my spirits; I believe him and I thank him for it. The good sense of the people will soon lead them back, if they have erred in a moment of surprize.2 My friends write me that they will send my little daughter to me by a Vessel which sails in May for England. I have taken the liberty to tell them that you will be so good as to take her under your wing till I can have notice to send for her, which I shall do express in the moment of my knowing she is arrived. She is about 8. years old, and will be in the care of her nurse, a black woman, to whom she is confided with safety. I knew your goodness too well to scruple the giving this direction before I had asked your permission.3 I beg you to accept assurances of the constant esteem with which I have the honor to be Dear Madam your most obedient & most humble servt.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Jeffersons Letter december 21 1787.”
1. Jefferson hurt his wrist on 18 Sept., and his ability to write was hindered by the injury for several months thereafter. He visited Aixen-Provence during an extended tour of southern France in spring 1787 but did not find the mineral waters helpful (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950– . description ends , 10:394; 11:31, 338, 426–427).
2. John Jay wrote to Jefferson about the uprising in Massachusetts on 27 Oct., describing it as “more formidable than some at first apprehended. . . . If Faction should long bear down Law and Government, Tyranny may raise its Head, or the more sober part of the People may even think of a King. In short, my Dr. Sir; we are in a very unpleasant Situation.” By contrast, JA’s letter of 30 Nov. instructed Jefferson, “Dont be allarmed. . . . [A]ll will be well” (same, 10:488–489, 557).
3. Mary (Polly) Jefferson arrived in London on 26 June 1787. The nurse Jefferson had intended to accompany her was unable to make the trip, so she came in the care of Sally Hemings. They remained with the Adamses in London for just over two weeks, after which they departed for Paris (same, 11:501–502, 592).