Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch
Sepbr 1 1789 Richmond Hill
my dear sister
I Received your kind Letters and meant sooner to have replied to them, but many avocations have prevented me. I am fully apprizd of all you mention in your Letter respecting your situation and wanted no apoligies for your conduct, but I still insist upon what I first wrote you, & it will pain me to hear you say any thing more upon the subject I never could apply it more to my satisfaction, I shall never I trust feel the want of it, if I should and you are in a situation to render me service, I will then accept it— I regreet that it is not in my power to assist my Friends more than I do, but bringing our minds to our circumstances is a duty encumbent upon us we have lived through dangerous times, and have reason to be thankfull that we are still in possession of our Liberty & so much of our property; yet still there is no reason in our being cheated by our Friends as well as Robbed by our Enemies. I have reason to think that congress will take up the matter and Fund the Debt. I wish they would set about it before they adjournd or rather defered their adjournment, till they had compleated more buisness but they have had arduous work, and want a respit.1
I fear they will Remove from this place I am too happy in the situation of it, I fear to have it lasting I am every day more & more pleased with it; should they go to Philadelphia I do not know how I could possibly live through the voilent Heats but sufficient to the day; I am sorry to hear mrs Norten is unwell, but from your Letter suppose her situation will be mended by time and you will e’er long know that a Grandchild is almost as near to your Heart as your own children;2 my little Boys delight me and I should feel quite melancholy without them William came from his Gandmamma Smiths an almost ruind child, but I have brought him to be a fine Boy now.
my dear Lucy I long to see her I am glad she is gone from home to amuse herself a little. I wish she could come to Richmond Hill and she would say it was the most delightfull spot she ever saw. my Love to her and cousin William. Louissa is worried that her Mother does not write to her—I really am surprizd that she has not written a single line either to me or to her, because I wrote to her before I left home3 and I cannot suppose that she could take any umbrage at my taking her away; I wish you would write to her and let her know that Louissa is uneasy upon the subject, and has written to her I believe more than once.
I wish you would be so good as see if you can procure me two dozen Bottles of Rose water and send by Barnard who has saild for Boston.
I propose to have Louissa inoculated for the small pox this month. I have now nearly got through all the company that we propose to dine this Session & I have not heard, that any of them were so near being [. . .] as to render it necessary to apply to the Humane Society. the Spirit of Rebellion is not yet quell’d in Massachusets, the coals are blowing again and with a malice truly infernal, what will not dissapointed ambition Stick at?
“oh what a world is this, when what is comely
envenoms him that bears it,
Be thou as chast as Ice, as pure as snow
Thou shalt not escape calumny”4
pray present my duty to my worthy mother & a kind remembrance to all inquiring Friends and be assured that I am my dear sister most affectionately / Yours
ps I find the Author of the Libel (for such it is,) calld the Dangerous vice, is Ned Church, a dissapointed Seeker but why his malice should thus vent itself against mr A I know not, unless he thought himself neglected by him I remember he wrote a letter to mr A when we were abroad soliciting the place of consul to Lisbon which mr A never answerd. I have past him I recollect two or three times in comeing from Town & I rember now that mrs Smith observed to me that he look’d so surly she hated to see him. It appears now that he offerd this peice to the Printers here who all refused to be concernd with it, he sent it Boston & took himself off to Georgia.5 he never was the person that either visited or spoke a word to mr A. since he has been in N York mr A says, that one day at the Presidents Levee he was Speaking to the Pressident & Church bowed to him. he could not whilst addressing the President return his bow with Propriety. his intention was to have gone & spoken to him afterwards, but the Room being full he did not see him afterwards. this I suppose Church construed into Pride and contempt, & being dissapointed in obtaining a place from the Pressident, he vented all his malice upon the vice, & conceiving the Topick he took to be a popular one he has discoverd a temper as fit for Rebellion murder Treason as his unfortunate Brother.6 I could wish that the Author might be fully known to the publick with regard to the subject of a proper title for the Pressident mr A never has or will disguise his opinion, because he thinks that the stability of the Government will in a great measure rest upon it. Yet the subject here is scarcly mentiond, & the Boston News papers have rung more changes upon it, than all the News papers in the united states besides I think in holding up Church to view, it would not be amiss to state his conduct with regard to the spanish vessel7
It was a relief to my mind to find the Author Church. I was really apprehensive that a Female pen had been dipt in full in concequence of dissapointed views a Brute to attack me who never in thought word or deed offended him, or have ever been in this Country to Ball’s plays or Routes, but malice was his motive & Revenge his object. the vice Pressident ten times to one goes to Senate in a one Horse chaise, and Levee’s we have had none. the Pressident only, has his powderd Lackies waiting at the door, so that under a Hipocritical mask he attacks one & hold the other impiously up & stiles him a saviour & God how inconsistant, railing at Titles & giving those which belong to the deity. How must a wretch feel who can harbour Such a temper?—
but adieu my dear sister, thus it is to be seated high. I pray Heaven to give me a conscience void of offence, and then the curse causeless shall not come8
RC (MWA:Abigail Adams Letters); addressed by WSS: “Mrs Mary Cranch / Braintree.”
1. Congress did not take up the question of funding the debt until its second session in spring 1790 (First Fed. Cong. description begins Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1791, ed. Linda Grant De Pauw, Charlene Bangs Bickford, Helen E. Veit, William C. diGiacomantonio, and Kenneth R. Bowling, Baltimore, 1972–. description ends , 3:381, 399).
2. Jacob and Elizabeth Cranch Norton had their first child, Richard Cranch Norton, on 12 March 1790 (History of Weymouth description begins History of Weymouth Massachusetts, Weymouth, 1923; 4 vols. description ends , 4:444).
3. Not found.
4. AA is combining her Shakespeare quotations. The first two lines are from As You Like It, Act II, scene iii, lines 14–15; the second two are from Hamlet, Act III, scene i, lines 140–141.
5. In Aug. 1789, Edward Church (1740–1816), initially of Boston and later of Georgia, published a satirical poem entitled “The Dangerous Vice ——” in Boston (Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 21736). It attacked JA as “Ye lucky Fav’rites! dandled—G——d knows why! / In the soft lap of pamper’d luxury; / Who reap the harvest of the lab’rer’s toil, / And thankless batten on unlawful spoil; / Who drain your country of her stinted store, / And wasting thousands—yawn for thousands more” (lines 4–9).
Three years earlier, on 14 Jan. 1786, Church had written to JA (Adams Papers) requesting to be appointed U.S. consul at Lisbon, a letter JA apparently never answered. Prior to the publication of the poem in 1789, he had also approached George Washington and Henry Knox seeking an office. In June 1790, he was finally appointed consul at Bilbao, although he never served, and in 1792, consul at Lisbon, where he remained until 1796 (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley, Clifford K. Shipton, Conrad Edick Wright, Edward W. Hanson, and others, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873–. description ends , 14:389–393).
6. For Benjamin Church, Edward Church’s brother, who was jailed for treason during the Revolution, see JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:384–385.
7. In 1782 and 1783, the Continental Congress received complaints from the governors of Cuba and New Orleans regarding the seizure of the Spanish ship San Antonio in the Gulf of Mexico by the Massachusetts privateer Patty, owned by Edward Church. The Massachusetts courts eventually ruled the seizure illegal and a violation of neutral rights (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 , 20:144–146; JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford, Gaillard Hunt, John C. Fitzpatrick, Roscoe R. Hill, and others, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 24:227–228).
8. “As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come” (Proverbs, 26:2).