Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 6 May 1787

Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams

London May 6 1787

My dear son

I would not omit writing you by captain Callihan, as your sister is unable to perform that office herself.

I know you will be anxious to hear from us, and in particular from her. Learn then my dear son that you became an uncle on the 2d day of April & that your Nephew is as fine a Boy for a month old as ever I saw. he has the Brow of his Grandpappa & the Shape & form of his Father. This will be no bad assemblage when Years mature the one & time strengthings & enlarges the other.

your sister has been very well, till within a few days, when from the badness of the weather she took cold and is again confined to her Chamber by a feverish disposition, but I hope it will prove only slight, and leave her in a few days

I have been sick myself with an intermitting fever, which has been an irregular companion for two months, by a proper Regimin and excercise I hope to rid myself of it, I am much better than I was.

Col Smith set of for Lisbon as I wrote you he would; as soon as he thought it safe to leave your sister, after her confinement, but we feel his absence not a little. he was not only the sensible rational companion, but the enlivener of all our scenes; & the soul of our little parties. mr Shipping & cutting are our domesticated acquaintance.— Mr & Mrs de Valney are here from France & have spent sometime in England;1 What think you of French politicks? The Death of Count de Vergennes the Disgrace of de Callone, & the meeting of the Notables, together with the objects presented to their discussion, will form a grand Epocha in the Reign of Louis the 16th2 it is said that the King of Spain is going to call an assembly of the Nobles of his kingdom.3 in Holland, Amsterdam & Roterdam have had a singular triumph lately, over the orange party, but of this the paper inclosed will inform you.4 in short there seems to be a universal commotion in the political World.

I wish most sincerely that the meeting of our Convention which is to take place this month, may reform abuses, Reconcile parties, give energy to Government & stability to the States, but I sometimes fear we Must experience new Revollutions, before we shall set under our vines in peace.

I hope you have received all my Letters & particularly, that by way of Newyork

I send you a performance of Your Friend murrys5 I have also sent to mr Cranch, the critical Review, in which the defence of the American Constitutions are Spoken as highly of as so hasty a performance as it really was could expect to be treated, but you know the subject has been long contemplated, and was in that respect no sudden work—the 2d Volm is in no small readiness—

adieu I shall write your Brothers if I have time, if I have not give my Love to them and be / assured of the affectionate / tenderness of your Mother


RC (Adams Papers).

1For Eunice Quincy and Joseph de Valnais, the former French consul in Boston, see vol. 5:430.

2The Assembly of the Notables began on 22 Feb. at Versailles. Charles Alexandre de Calonne, the comptroller general of finances, addressed France’s financial crisis, blaming it on the fiscal policy of the former French minister of finance, Jacques Necker, while justifying his own. Calonne’s speech was published as a pamphlet, and Necker refuted Calonne’s charges with a pamphlet of his own. Calonne was soon implicated in suspect real estate transactions and other financial scandals involving public monies and was dismissed on 8 April. The Comte de Vergennes had died on 13 Feb., depriving Louis XVI of a crucial advisor and Calonne of an influential defender at a key point in the political crisis (Schama, Citizens description begins Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, New York, 1989. description ends , p. 227–247). See also Objets proposés a l’Assemblée des notables, Paris, 1787; The Speech of Mr. de Calonne, Comptroller-General of the Finances, Delivered by the Order and in the Presence of the King, London, 1787; and Mr. Necker’s Answer to Mr. de Calonne’s Charge against Him in the Assembly of Notables, London, 1787. For a newspaper report of the pamphlet war, see London Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 25 April.

3Although the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser reported on 30 April that Charles III of Spain had called for a cortes, or national assembly, to meet in Madrid in the summer, no assembly was held until after his death in 1788. While the cortes was a powerful branch of the Spanish government in the seventeenth century, the Bourbon kings had vastly reduced its role, and it met only three times during the eighteenth century (John Lynch, Bourbon Spain 1700–1808, Cambridge, 1989, p. 106–107, 298; W. N. Hargreaves-Mawdsley, Eighteenth-Century Spain 1700–1788: A Political, Diplomatic and Institutional History, London, 1979, p. 11–12).

4Dutch society in the 1780s was rife with revolutionary political struggle. In April 1787, the Council of the Regency in Amsterdam and Rotterdam voted to dismiss members who were not adherents to the Patriot party cause. The Patriots’ political attacks on the pro-British Orange party turned to armed conflict in May 1787 when rioting broke out on the streets. News of the unrest received extensive coverage in the London press throughout the conflict and, in the early stages of the fighting, the Patriot party gained considerable ground (Schama, Citizens description begins Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, New York, 1989. description ends , p. 248–252). For press coverage see, for example, Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 3 May; London Daily Universal Register, 17 April and 17 May; and London Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 30 May. See also JA to AA, 1, 2, June, both below.

5William Vans Murray, Political Sketches, Inscribed to His Excellency John Adams, Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States to the Court of Great Britain, London, 1787. Murray (1760–1803) was a friend of JQA and an ardent political disciple of JA. In Political Sketches, Murray responds to Abbé de Mably’s Remarks Concerning the Government and the Laws of the United States of America: In Four Letters, Addressed to Mr. Adams, London, 1784. Mably’s belief in state control of the press and church, his contention that luxury was incompatible with democracy, and his belief that the American system of government was doomed to failure all came under vigorous attack in Murray’s work (Alexander DeConde, “William Vans Murray’s Political Sketches: A Defense of the American Experiment,” MVHR description begins Mississippi Valley Historical Review. description ends , 41:631–634 [March 1955]).

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