Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 20 March 1787

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

London March th 20th 1787

My dear Son

I have procured the Books for you, and Captain Folger not sailing quite so soon as I expected, I have sent them to mr Boylstones Store requesting him to send them for me.1 I think it would be worth while to inquire at the post office in Boston with regard to the other Books which were put into the Bag with the Letters, & must have gone to the post office, or have been taking out, before they went from the NewEngland coffe House. I cannot think they were, because I allways carry or send what ever Letters or packages are going by any of the captains to that House; & leave them in the care of the Waiter, & I never lost any thing before. if you should find them give one Set to your cousin Cranch— your sister has not received any Letter from you, tho in yours to me, you mention writing her.2 the Younger captain Folger is just arrived & with him mr Gill, whom I have not yet seen.3 he was asked to dine with us yesterday, but being prengaged could not come. Cushing Barnard & Scot who have all sailed; had letters for you; I hope you got one which I wrote you by way of Nwyork during the winter.4 Col Smith by order of congress is going to Pourtugal upon Buisness as soon as your sister gets to Bed which I expect she will the begining of April.5

Callihan will sail in April by whom I hope to write you agreeable intelligence with respect to her—

I have written to your Brothers by mr Martin who sails with captain Folger.6 I quite long to return to America. pray how does my old friend mrs dana? give my Love to her when you see her & my respects to Madam Winthrope. I fear you will grew too Indolent. I very Seldom hear of you at Boston or any where out of colledge your Blood will grew thick & you will be sick. your Pappa is sure of it. he is always preaching up excercise to me and it would be a very usefull doctrine if I sufficiently attended to it. I was afflicted last fall with a slew nervous fever attended with Rhumatick complaints, and I am now labouring under the same disorder for several days past, except that it is not attended with the Rhumatism. as soon as I can get the better of it I am determined to be very punctual in daily walking— your pappa enjoys better Health than I believe he has for many years, reads & writes every Evening; which you know he could not do in France before this reaches you, his Book will have arrived. I should like to know its reception.7 I tell him they will think in America that he is for sitting up a King. he says no, but he is for giving to the Governours of every state the same Authority which the British King has, under the true British constitution, balancing his power by the two other Branches—

I only intended you a line, but how I have spun—adieu your affectionately


RC (Adams Papers); addressed by AA2: “To / Mr John Quincy Adams / student at Cambridge / Near Boston”; endorsed: “My Mother 20. March 1787” and “Mrs: Adams March 20th: 1787”; notation: “pr captain / Folger.”

1Thomas Boylston, a merchant and sugar refiner, operated out of Paul’s Wharf, 25 Upper Thames Street, London (MHi:Boylston Family Papers, Box 18, letters of 20, 27 March).

2In JQA’s letter to AA of 30 Dec. 1786, he expressed an intention to write to AA2. He wrote the letter on 14 Jan. 1787, but AA2 did not acknowledge it until 10 June (vol. 7:417–420, 433–440; AA2 to JQA, 10 June, below).

3There were two Captain Folgers plying the waters between Boston and London in 1787, George Sr. of the brig Diana and George Jr. of the ship Rebecca. Possibly they were George Folger Sr. (1730–1813) and his son George Jr. (1756–1809) of Nantucket and Dartmouth. George Sr. left Boston for London in the Diana on 10 Feb.; George Jr. returned to Boston from England in the Rebecca on 21 May (Vital Records of Nantucket, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850, 5 vols., Boston, 1925–1928, 1:480, 5:263; Vital Records of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850, 3 vols., Boston, 1929–1930, 2:184–185; Massachusetts Centinel, 10 Feb.; Boston Gazette, 21 May).

Moses Gill (1762–1832), Harvard 1784, was a son of Boston printer John Gill. He had come to London to study law at the Middle Temple (vol. 7:459; AA2 to JQA, 10 June, below; Francis Everett Blake, History of the Town of Princeton, Massachusetts, 2 vols., Princeton, 1915, 1:272, 2:116; Harvard Quinquennial Cat. description begins Harvard University, Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1930, Cambridge, 1930. description ends ; Mayflower Families through Five Generations, 16 vols., Plymouth, 1975–2004, 16.3:39–41).

4AA to JQA, 28 Nov. 1786, vol. 7:405–406.

5The primary purpose of WSS’s mission to Portugal was to deliver a letter from the Continental Congress to the queen of Portugal thanking her for her protection of American vessels in the Straits of Gibraltar against the Barbary pirates. Congress passed the resolution confirming his mission on 3 Feb. 1787, and he was formally notified of his diplomatic commission on 11 April (JA to WSS, 11 April, LbC, APM Reel 113; Rufus King to JA, 9 Feb., Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Paul H. Smith and others, Washington, 1976–2000; 26 vols. description ends , 24:84–85). See also AA to Lucy Cranch, 26 April, and WSS to AA2, 26 April, both below.

6Only AA to TBA, 15 March, above, has been found.

7On 20 April the Massachusetts Gazette carried an advertisement for the sale of JA’s Defence of the Const description begins John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, London, 1787–1788; repr. New York, 1971; 3 vols. description ends . The same issue carried the first of many positive reviews, calling the work “a very valuable book . . . well worthy the attention of every American at this important crisis of our publick affairs.” The Defence also received negative press, beginning on 31 May when the Gazette of the State of Georgia reprinted a London review that attacked JA for advocating “any check upon the voice of the people.” While the work was widely quoted in the press, it was never mentioned during the debates of the Constitutional Convention and ultimately had little effect on the framing of the U.S. Constitution (Doc. Hist. Ratif. Const. description begins The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, ed. Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, and others, Madison, Wis., 1976–. description ends , 13:81–90; C. Bradley Thompson, “John Adams and the Science of Politics,” John Adams and the Founding of the Republic, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson, Boston, 2001, p. 257–259).

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