Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Abigail Adams, 12 August 1785

From Abigail Adams

Grosvenor Square London August 12 1785

Dear Sir

I would not omit so good an opportunity as presents by Mr. Short, of continuing the correspondence which you have done me the honour to Say you consider as settled.

Your obliging favours of june 21 and july 7th were punctually deliverd, and afforded me much pleasure.

Were you to come to this Country, as I sincerely hope you will, for the sake of your American Friends1 who would rejoice to see you; as a Husbandman you would be delighted with the rich verdure of the field, and the high cultivation of the Lands. In the Manufactory of many articles, the Country can boast a superiority over their Galician Neighbours. But when you come to consider the Man and the social affections; ease, civility, and politeness of Manners, this people suffer by2 the comparison. They are more contracted and narrow in their Sentiments notwithstanding their boasted liberality3 and will not allow their Neighbours half the Merrit they really deserve. They affect to despise the French, and to hate the Americans, of the latter they are very liberal in their proofs. So great is their pride that they cannot endure to view us as independant, and they fear our growing greatness.

The late Arrets of his most Christian Majesty have given the allarm here. They term them Calamitous, and say they will essentially affect their trade.4 If Ireland refuses the propositions with steadiness, and firmness,5 England may be led to think more6 justly of America. If a person was to indulge the feelings of a moment, the infamous falshoods, which are daily retailed here against America, would prompt one to curse and quit them, but a statesman would be ill qualified for his station, if he feared the sarcasm of the sarcastic, the envy of the envious, the insults of the insolent or the malice of the dissapointed, or sufferd private resentment to influence his publick Conduct. You will not I dare say envy a situation thus circumstanced, where success is very dubious, and surrounded with so many difficulties.7 It is rather mortifying too, that Congress appear so inattentive to the situation of their Ministers. Mr. A has not received any letters of any concequence since the arrival of Col. Smith, nor any answers to the lengthy Letters he has written. Mr. Short informs us that you are in the same situation. What can have become of the said Mr. Lamb mentiond by Mr. Jay? Is he gone with all his papers directly to the Barbary powers? I suspect it, but Mr. A will not think so.

I fear Mr. Short will not have a very favourable opinion of England. Unfortunately Col. Smith set off, upon a tour a few days after his arrival, and Mr. Short having but few acquaintance will not find himself highly gratified; we have accompanied him once to the Theater, but after having been accustomed to those of France, one can have little8 realish for the cold, heavy action, and uncouth appearence of the English stage. This would be considerd as treason of a very black dye, but I speak as an American.9 I know not how a Siddons may reconcile me to English action, but as yet I have seen nothing that equals parissian ease, and grace. I should like to visit France once a year during my residence in Europe.

The English papers asscribe the late disturbances in the provinces of France, to the example set by the Rebellious Americans, as well as every failure of their own Merchants and Manufactories to the Ruinous American trade, tho perhaps two thirds10 of them never had any intercourse with America. O! for the energy of an absolute government, aya and for the power too. How many Letters de cachet have these abusive Beings deserved?

The cask of wine you mentiond in your Letter, Mr. Adams request you to take if agreeable to you. He has written to Mr. Garvey with respect to that which is under his care. As to the House rent which you mentiond, neither you or Mr. Adams can11 do yourselves justice unless you charge it,12 and Mr. A is fully determined to do it. There is an other heavy expence which I think he ought to Charge this year.13 These are14 the Court taxes. Being considerd as minister in Holland, the servants applied for their perquisites which was allowd them by Mr. Lotter, tho realy without Mr. Adams’s knowledge or direction. At Versailles he went through the same ceremony, and when he came to this Court all the servants and attendants from St. James came very methodically with their Books, upon which both the Names of the Ministers and the sums given were specified.15 Upon the New Years day this is again to be repeated: and the sum this year16 will amount to not less than17 a hundred pounds,18 which will be thought very extravagant I suppose; but how could it be avoided? Our Countrymen have no Idea of the expences of their Ministers, nor of the private19 applications which they are subject to, many of which cannot be dispenced with. All the prudence and oeconomy I have been able to exercise in the year past, has not enabled me to bring the year about; without falling behind hand. I have no objection to returning to America, but I have many, against living here at a greater expence than what our allowence is: because we have 3 children in America to Educate, whose expences must be, and have been borne by our private income which for 12 years past has been diminishing by Mr. Adams’s continued application to publick buisness; these are considerations sir which some times distress me. As I know you are a fellow sufferer you will excuse my mentioning them to you.

You were so kind sir as to tell me you would execute any little commission for me, and I now take the Liberty of20 requesting you to let petit go to my paris shoemaker and direct him to make me four pair of silk shoes 2 pr. sattin and two pr. fall silk; I send by Mr. Short the money for them. I am not curious about the colour, only that they be fashonable. I cannot get any made here to suit me, at least I have faild in several atempts.21 Col. Smith proposes visiting paris before he returns, and will be so good as to take Charge of them for me. An other article or two I have to add, a Glass for the middle of the table. I forget the French name for it. I think they22 are usually in 3 peices. If you will be so good as to procure it for me and have it put into a small Box well packed and addrest to Mr. Adams; Col. Smith will also have the goodness to take care of it for me; and to pay you for it: I do not know the cost, as we had one at Auteuil, which belongd to the House. I have to add four Godships,23 these are so saleable in Paris that I think they are to be had for Six livres a peice, but should they be double that price it cannot be thought much of for deitys. Apollo I hold in the first rank as the Patron of Musick Poetry and the Sciencies. Hercules is the next in my favour on account of his numerous exploits and enterprizing spirit. If he is not to be had, I will take Mercury as he is said to be the inventer of Letters, and God of eloquence. I have no aversion to Cupid, but as I mean to import them through the Hands of a Young Gentleman, one should be cautious of arming persons with powers; for the use of which they cannot be answerable; there cannot however be any objection to his accompanying Madam Minerva and Diana, Ladies whose company and example are much wanted in this city. If you have any command to execute here you will do a favour by honouring with them Your obliged Humble Servant

A. Adams

RC (DLC: C. W. F. Dumas Papers). Dft (MHi: Adams Papers); undated; incomplete; with variations and emendations, only the most important being noted below. Recorded in SJL as delivered by William Short on 23 Sep. 1785.

For the late arrets discouraging importation into France of English merchandise, see note to TJ to John Adams, 10 Aug. 1785. The propositions by which Prime Minister William Pitt attempted to liberalize Anglo-Irish trade regulations in return for a mandatory Irish financial contribution to imperial defense and Irish enactment of certain British commercial legislation were abandoned in the face of fears in Ireland that the scheme threatened that nation’s sovereignty (Theodore W. Moody and others, eds., A New History of Ireland, 7 vols. [Oxford, 1976– ], iv, 277–81). John Lamb was mentioned as a possible negotiator with the barbary powers in John Jay to the American Commissioners, 11 Mch. 1785. He did not reach Paris until 18 Sep. 1785 (Editorial Note on reports on Mediterranean trade and Algerine captives, Vol. 18: 384–90).

1Dft: “Friend.”

2Dft: “fail in.”

3Sentence to this point in Dft: “They possess in general a much greater narrowness of Sentiment.”

4Sentence not in Dft.

5Dft: “with proper firmness.”

6Dft here adds “seriously <of America>—and.”

7Sentence in Dft reads: “The Situation however is not very enviable and Success very dubious.”

8Dft: “no.”

9Dft lacks preceding sentence and instead reads “Indeed most of the Ammusments of this Metropolis are closed for the Season.”

10Dft: “and every failure of every Merchant and Manufactory in this Country to their connection with America, tho it is more than probable that <more than> two thirds.”

11Dft: “will.”

12Remainder of sentence not in Dft.

13Dft here adds: “I wish you would give me your opinion of it.”

14Remainder of sentence in Dft: “what is called Etraines.”

15This and the preceding sentence in Dft read: “As Mr. Adams was minister at the Hague the Court Servants applied for their perquisites which were paid by Mr. Lotter. At Versailles also, Mr. Adams was obliged to do the same, at his Reception here he had also to pay the Servants and attendants who are so methodical as to bring their Books which Shews you the Sum paid and by whom.”

16Dft: “repeated here so that in the course of <one> this year the tax.”

17Preceding three words not in Dft.

18Remainder of sentence not in Dft.

19Dft: “numerous.”

20Dft: “liberty to Send by Mr. Short a Louis.”

21Dft lacks preceding sentence and instead reads “They are all for me, and the whole four pr. will not cost me more than one pr. here.”

22Dft lacks preceding ten words and instead reads “These.”

23Dft ends here, at the foot of a page.

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