Adams Papers

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March 1797

Abigail Adams to John Adams

Quincy March 31 1797

my Dearest Friend

With my borrowed Money I have just paid the collector my tax Bill. I have the satisfaction to know that I did not borrow it to pay any expences of my own creating, but having been twice before call’d upon, I could not submit to a third, without discharging it. I have not any Letter from you of a later date than the 17th nor do I expect to get an other untill the 4th of April. the weather is exceeding cold and sour. our dreadfull east winds prevail and Peirce one through and through. I have not been confined, but fear every day least I should. we are all in affliction. Polly smith is just gone. I do not expect she will continue an other week. her decline has been rapid, about two months since she was first confined. my spirits are low. I want something to Cheer them up. I think you are fastned to a spot which you cannot leave at Will, and I believe you want your Family more than when you was occupied by a daily attendance in congress Your Mind is however so fully employd that you cannot think much of it. we are suffering under the same apprehensions which have afflicted other places. the attempts to destroy Boston by fire are daily, or rather Nightly repeated. Patroles are constantly kept. they have detected but few. the vile wretches have got into the Country.1 at Milton they keep a Nightly Watch. it is really a Distressing calamity, but we shall be infested with more vagabonds, if the states go on to abolish capital punishments2

you write me that you shall not procure any furniture untill I come, but if it is to be made, it will require time. I have written to mrs otis to request her to go through the House with Brisler after you get into it, and to tell me what she thinks will be necessary.3 When an inventary is taken of what is in the House, I can judge better. I have not heard of the oats. I have got mr smith to inquire. Billings is at work upon the wall it takes an immence number of stones. our people have been several days carting them. it is so very wet, that they have only been able to plow a part of the ground, before the House the medow below the House is flow’d and the Brooks are very high. we have floods of Rain every day or two. the manure has all been pitch’d over some of it carted out. our people say there are two hundred load of it. the season is backward. when a fair day comes I am obliged to hire three or four hands to get any thing forward, and after all Your Eye is wanted, and your direction too.

I cannot mount on Horse back. I can only direct. I mourn the loss of a Man who had zeal in his nature, and activity in his bones, as well as Strength of Body, and was not a rum drinker. he however tells me that he will let himself to me an other year if I should want him Money will be of more value I trust. there is complaint of a scarcity of it, Yet every thing is high, but Grain which is much lower. corn may be had at a dollors Rye & 6.8, flower 10 dollors and half— Provision is yet very high. west India produce also.

Yours as ever

Abigail Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs A. March 31. / Ansd. April 11. 1797.”

1A recent spate of “frequent and distressing” fires, some in conjunction with thefts in and around Boston, prompted newspaper reports on fire prevention and the formation of neighborhood watches, such as in Boston where on 15 March because of the “alarming situation … arising from Incendiaries” the town meeting appointed a watch “consisting of ten persons from each Ward to patrole the Town, for apprehending of vagrants and suspicious persons in the streets.” The Mass. General Court passed “An Act to Secure the Town of Boston against Damage from Fires” requiring the use of brick or stone in the construction of new buildings and restricting certain activities such as boiling tar, tobacco smoking, and carrying open flames (Boston Columbian Centinel, 1, 8, 25 March; Massachusetts Mercury, 14, 17 March; Boston Independent Chronicle, 16 March; Mass., Acts and Laws description begins Acts and Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [1780–1805], Boston, 1890–1898; 13 vols. description ends , 1796–1797, p. 193–196).

2Capital punishment was an increasingly contested issue in the 1790s. Between 1794 and 1798 five states restricted the use of the death penalty to cases of murder or murder and treason. Virginia and New Jersey joined New York and Pennsylvania in enacting reforms by this time; Kentucky did so in 1798 (vol. 11:165; Stuart Banner, The Death Penalty: An American History, Cambridge, 2002, p. 88, 97–98). For the Pennyslvania law, see AA to JA, 25 March 1797, and note 9, above.

3Not found.

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