Abigail Adams to John Adams
London june 7th 1787
My Dearest Friend
I expected to have heard from you by the last post, but was dissapointed, only a few lines from Mr Cutting have come to hand since you left me. I wrote you on the 29th of May, and inclosed two Letters respecting mr Barclay. Since that time a Letter from the Frenchs, has arrived, in which they inform you that Mr Barclay was liberated by applying to the Parliament of Bordeaux in virtue of his commission to moroco, but they make most heavy complaints stating their case to you, and conceiving it in your power to relieve them.1 I do not think it prudent to commit the Letter to the post. mrs Smith has a Letter from mr Smith dated at Bayonne the 26 of may. he had received a Letter from his Friend mr Harrison informing him that mr Charmical had procured him Letters & a passport from the King of Spain, which might facilitate his progress and serve him on his journey.2
The News here is that stocks have fallen 5 prcent in concequence of a paragraph in his Majestys Speach respecting Holland.3 the News papers tell us of terible Roits committed by the patriotick party and make one almost anxious for their Friends there.4
The prince of Wales has been most dangerously sick, has been Bled Six times, his disorder a voilent fever which fixd upon his Lungs. the papers tell us that his Royall highness bore his disorder with Christian fortitude; he is better to day—5
The monthly Reviewers have made open war upon the Defence of the American constitutions, and torn it all to peices, “ostentatious display of learning, an embarrassed affectation of Elocution— The balances the balances are perpetually rung in our ears like Lord Chesterfields graces, but in all the constitutions here passed in Review before the reader, those of America and England not excepted, there is not given a distinct account of the real balancing powers of any State, or the particulars in which the balance consisted had the Book been written by a youth with a view to obtain some academical prize we should have said, that it afforded indications of an active mind that gave hope of future acquirements, but that the young man too eager to discover the extent of his reading, had carelessly adopted some confused notions of government and hastily skimmed the surface of the subject without having taken time to investigate particulars and sift the matter to the bottom, but we cannot bring ourselves to think that a man of dr Adams’s known abilities could possibly be in the same prediciment, for which reason we conclude that he must have some point to carry, some object in view beyond the atlantick with which we are not acquainted. the Book may indeed amuse the ignorant it may mislead the unwary, but neither can inform nor entertain the phylosopher nor the man of Letters.”6 In various parts I thought I discoverd Satans cloven foot, but did not know that any individual was permitted to send in his comments upon a work untill I heard this peice ascribed to that poor envy ridden, contemptable, Ignorant self conceited wretch Silas dean.7 This at once disarmed me of my resentment, (for I own it fretted me for one Night so that I did not sleep quietly) and I felt in perfect good humour. I have only given you a small portion of the compliments of which he has been very profuse, & having got his lesson by Heart has retaild it in all companies, mr Shippen is my Author.
I am very anxious to hear from you, and to know when I may expect your return. The Weather remains very cold here. I hope you find it warmer in Holland compliments to mr Cutting, from your affectionate
thursday P M.
just after writing this Letter, yours & mr. Cuttings was brought me by the post. I was very glad to hear you were well and safe. mr cuttings Letter carried me to Holland made me Sick on board the packet jostled me in the Waggon, in short so pictureish were his descriptions that I realized them all. The little Boy is well and perks up his Head like a Robbin. his Mamma has had a little of the Holland disorder8 bordering upon an ague. my Ladyship is better. I send this to Harwick with order to forward it if you do not come in Wednesdays packet, adieu—
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency john Adams / Minister plenipotentiary from the / united States of America to His / Britanic Majesty / Harwick”; endorsed: “Mrs A june 7 / 1787.”
1. V. & P. French & Nephew wrote to JA on 26 May to recount Thomas Barclay’s “disgrace brot. on himself by his unwarrantable Conduct” four years earlier when he diverted a shipment of goods contracted to them to another port and “Sold the Cargo applying it to Some other purpose.” Barclay had been released from prison by order of the Parliament of Bordeaux, the Frenches reported, leaving them no choice but to write to JA “hoping for Justice thro’ your Excellency, the protector of the oppressed” (Adams Papers).
2. Not found. On 31 May WSS reported to AA2 that he had received a letter from Richard Harrison assuring him that a passport would be waiting for him in Bordeaux. In fact no travel document was left for him, and he was forced to pay 27 Spanish dollars to border officials to cross into Spain (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–; 3 vols. description ends , 1:157).
3. In his closing speech to Parliament on 30 May, George III noted that dissension within the Netherlands posed a “real concern.” At least one London newspaper later reported that the king’s speech had negatively affected the price of stocks in England (Parliamentary Hist. description begins The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, London, 1806–1820; 36 vols. description ends , 26:1123; London Daily Universal Register, 9 June).
4. The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser reported on 6 June of the “sad doings in Amsterdam,” saying that Patriots had plundered homes and businesses and that supporters of the stadholder had carried out attacks on Patriot homes in reprisal. “Commerce is at a stand in that once opulent city. The principal houses have shut their counting-houses, and are removing their effects to their country seats.”
5. The prince’s illness was reportedly severe; a rumor of his death on 4 June occasioned St. George’s Church to fly its flag at half-mast. By 7 June his condition had greatly improved (Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 7 June; London Daily Universal Register, 8 June).
6. AA is quoting from the review 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 . in the Monthly Review, May 1787, 76:394–399.
7. JA blamed Silas Deane for the negative review the 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 . received in the Monthly Review. In reality, James Anderson (1739–1808), an economist, was the author; Deane was never a contributor to that periodical. The enmity between the Adamses and Silas Deane began when Deane was accused of financial impropriety while serving as commissioner to France and recalled in Nov. 1777. Congress chose Adams as his replacement leading to rumors that Adams had conspired in his downfall. Deane attempted to defend his actions by publishing an address “To the Free and Virtuous Citizens of America,” which JA believed caused divisions in Congress. JA continued to question Deane’s moral character—which was further damaged by the publication in 1781 of some of Deane’s private letters advocating reconciliation with Britain—and considered him a traitor to the American cause (Benjamin Nangle, The Monthly Review, First Series 1749–1789: Indexes of Contributors and Articles, Oxford, 1934, p. x, 1, 14, 49; John Ferling, John Adams: A Life, Knoxville, Tenn., 1992, p. 187–188, 207–208; JA, D&A, 2:345–346; DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ).
8. A colloquial term for a strain of malaria that was usually not fatal but that resulted in persistent fevers and shaking. The amount of water in and around the Netherlands made the country susceptible to malaria, which is carried by mosquitoes (Alan Macfarlane, The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan and the Malthusian Trap, Cambridge, 1997, p. 195).