Correspondence of John and Abigail Adams

 

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John and Abigail Adams

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Notable Letters of Their Courtship

First Known Letter written at Braintree in 1762 or 1763

Dr. Miss Jemima

I have taken the best Advice, on the subject of your Billet, and I find you cannot compell me to pay unless I refuse Marriage; which I never did, and never will, but on the Contrary am ready to have you at any Time.

Yours,
Jonathan

I hope Jemima’s Conscience has as good a Memory as mine.

October 4, 1762

Miss Adorable

By the same Token that the Bearer hereof satt up with you last night I hereby order you to give him, as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 O’Clock as he shall please to Demand and charge them to my Account: This Order, or Requisition call it which you will is in Consideration of a similar order Upon Aurelia for the like favour, and I presume I have good Right to draw upon you for the Kisses as I have given two or three Millions at least, when one has been received, and of Consequence the Account between us is immensely in favour of yours,

John Adams
February 14, 1763

Dear Madam

Accidents are often more Friendly to us, than our own Prudence. I intended to have been at Weymouth Yesterday, but a storm prevented. — Cruel, Yet perhaps blessed storm! — Cruel for detaining me from so much friendly, social Company, and perhaps blessed to you, or me or both, for keeping me at my Distance. For every experimental Phylosopher knows, that the steel and the Magnet or the Glass and feather will not fly together with more Celerity, than somebody And somebody, when brought within the striking Distance — and, Itches, Aches, Agues, and Repentance might be the Consequences of a Contact in present Circumstances. Even the Divines pronounce casuistically, I hear, “unfit to be touched these three Weeks.”

I mount this moment for that noisy, dirty Town of Boston, where Parade, Pomp, Nonsense, Frippery, Folly, Foppery, Luxury,Polliticks, and the soul — Confounding Wrangles of the Law will give me the Higher Relish for Spirit, Taste and Sense, at Weymouth, next Sunday.

My Duty, were owing! My Love to Mr. Cranch And Lady, tell them I love them, I love them better than any Mortals who have no other Title to my Love than Friendship gives, and that I hope he is in perfect Health and she in all the Qualms that necessarily attenda beginning Pregnancy, and in all other Respects very happy.

Your — (all the rest is inexpressible)
John Adams
Braintree Feby. 14th. 1763
Octr. 4th. 1762

August 1763: 

My dear Diana

Germantown is at a great Distance from Weymouth Meeting-House, you know; The No. of Yards indeed is not so prodigious, but the Rowing and Walking that lyes between is a great Discouragement to a weary Traveller. Could my Horse have helped me to Weymouth, Braintree would not have held me, last Night. — I lay, in the well known Chamber, and dreamed, I saw a Lady, tripping it over the Hills, on Weymouth shore, and Spreading Light and Beauty and Glory, all around her. At first I thought it was Aurora, with her fair Complexion, her Crimson Blushes and her million Charms and Graces. But I soon found it was Diana, a Lady infinitely dearer to me and more charming. — Should Diana make her Appearance every morning instead of Aurora, I should not sleep as I do, but should be all awake and admiring by four, at latest. — You may be sure I was mortifyed when I found, I had only been dreaming. The Impression however of this dream awaked me thoroughly, and since I had lost my Diana, I enjoy’d the Opportunity of viewing and admiring Miss Aurora. She’s a sweet Girl, upon my Word. Her breath is wholesome as the sweetly blowing Spices of Arabia, and therefore next to her fairer sister Diana, the Properest Physician, for your drooping

J. Adams
Saturday morning Aug. 1763
August, 1763

My dear Diana

Germantown is at a great Distance from Weymouth Meeting-House, you know; The No. of Yards indeed is not so prodigious, but the Rowing and Walking that lyes between is a great Discouragement to a weary Traveller. Could my Horse have helped me to Weymouth, Braintree would not have held me, last Night. — I lay, in the well known Chamber, and dreamed, I saw a Lady, tripping it over the Hills, on Weymouth shore, and Spreading Light and Beauty and Glory, all around her. At first I thought it was Aurora, with her fair Complexion, her Crimson Blushes and her million Charms and Graces. But I soon found it was Diana, a Lady infinitely dearer to me and more charming. — Should Diana make her Appearance every morning instead of Aurora, I should not sleep as I do, but should be all awake and admiring by four, at latest. — You may be sure I was mortifyed when I found, I had only been dreaming. The Impression however of this dream awaked me thoroughly, and since I had lost my Diana, I enjoy’d the Opportunity of viewing and admiring Miss Aurora. She’s a sweet Girl, upon my Word. Her breath is wholesome as the sweetly blowing Spices of Arabia, and therefore next to her fairer sister Diana, the Properest Physician, for your drooping

J. Adams
Saturday morning Aug. 1763
September 12, 1763
Weymouth Sepbr. th 12 1763

You was pleas’d to say that the receipt of a letter from your Diana always gave you pleasure. Whether this was designed for acomplement, (a commodity I acknowledg that you very seldom deal in) or as a real truth, you best know. Yet if I was to judge of a certain persons Heart, by what upon the like occasion passess through a cabinet of my own, I should be apt to suspect it as a truth. And why may I not? when I have often been tempted to believe; that they were both cast in the same mould, only with this difference, that yours was made, with a harder mettle, and therefore is less liable to an impression. Whether they have both an eaquil quantity of Steel, I have not yet been able to discover, but do not imagine they are either of them deficient. Supposing only this difference, I do not see, why the same cause may not produce the same Effect in both, tho perhaps not eaquil in degree.

But after all, notwithstanding we are told that the giver is more blessed than the receiver I must confess that I am not of so generous a disposition, in this case, as to give without wishing for a return.

Have you heard the News? that two Apparitions were seen one evening this week hovering about this house, which very much resembled you and a Cousin of yours. How it should ever enter into the head of an Apparition to assume a form like yours, I cannot devise. When I was told of it I could scarcly believe it, yet I could not declare the contrary, for I did not see it, and therefore had not that demonstration which generally convinces me, that you are not a Ghost.

The original design of this letter was to tell you, that I would next week be your fellow traveler provided I shall not be any encumberance to you, for I have too much pride to be a clog to any body. You are to determine that point. For your —

A. Smith

P S Pappa says he should be very much obliged to Your Cousin if he would preach for him tomorrow and if not to morrow next Sunday. Please to present my complements to him and tell him by complying with this request he will oblige many others besides my pappa, and especially his Humble Servant,

A. Smith

April 12, 1764

My Dearest Friend

Here am I all alone, in my Chamber, a mere Nun I assure you, after professing myself thus will it not be out of Character to confess that my thoughts are often employ’d about Lysander, “out of the abundance of the Heart, the mouth speaketh,” and why Not the Mind thinketh.

Received the pacquet you so generously bestowed upon me. To say I Fasted after such an entertainment, would be wronging my Conscience and wounding Truth. How kind is it in you, thus by frequent tokens of remembrance to alleviate the pangs of absence, by this I am convinced that I am often in your Thoughts, which is a satisfaction to me, notwithstanding you tell me that you sometimes view the dark side of your Diana, and there no doubt you discover many Spots which I rather wish were erased, than conceal’d from you. Do not judge by this, that your opinion is an indifferent thing to me, (were it so, I should look forward with a heavey Heart,) but it is far otherways, for I had rather stand fair there, and be thought well of by Lysander than by the greater part of the World besides. I would fain hope that those faults which you discover, proceed more, from a wrong Head, than a bad Heart. E’er long May I be connected with a Friend from whose Example I may form a more faultless conduct, and whose benevolent mind will lead him to pardon, what he cannot amend.

The Nest of Letters which you so undervalue, were to me a much more welcome present than a Nest of Baskets, tho every stran of those had been gold and silver. I do not estimate everything according to the price the world set upon it, but according to the value it is of to me, thus that which was cheapest to you I look upon as highly valuable.

You ask whether you shall send a History of the whole voyage, characters, visits, conversations &c. &c. It is the very thing that Idesignd this Evening to have requested of you, but you have prevented my asking, by kindly offering it. You will greatly oblige me by it, and it will be no small amusement to me in my State of Seperation. Among the many who will visit, I expect Arpasia will be one, I want her character drawn by your pen (Aurelia says she appears most agreable in her Letters). I know you are a critical observer, and your judgment of people generally plases me. Sometimes you know, I think you too severe, and that you do not make quite so many allowances as Humane Nature requires, but perhaps this may be oweing to my unacquainedness with the World. Your Business Naturly leads you to a nearer inspection of Mankind, and to see the corruptions of the Heart,which [I] believe you often find desperately wicked and deceitful.

Me thinks I have abundance to say to you. What is next? O that I should have been extreemly glad to have seen you to Day. Last Fast Day, if you remember, we spent together, and why might we not this? Why I can tell you, we might, if we had been together, have been led into temptation. I dont mean to commit any Evil, unless setting up late, and thereby injuring our Health, may be called so. To that I could have submitted without much remorse of Conscience, that would have had but little weight with me, had you not bid me adieu, the last time I saw you. The reflexion of what I that forenoon endured, has been ever since sufficient to deter me from wishing to see you again, till you can come and go, as you formerly used to.

Betsy sends her Love to you, says she designd to have kissed you before you went away, but you made no advances, and she neverhaveing been guilty of such an action, knew not how to attempt it. Know you of any figure in the Mathematicks whereby you can convey one to her? Inclining lines that meet in the same center, will not that figure come as nigh as any?

What think you of the weather. We have had a very promissing afternoon, tho the forenoon threatned a Storm. I am in great hopes that Sol will not refuse his benign influence tomorrow.

To-Morrow you leave Braintree. My best wishes attend you. With Marcia I say

“O Ye immortal powers! that guard the just
Watch round his Head, and soften the Disease
Banish all Sorrow from his Mind
Becalm his Soul with pleasing thoughts
And shew Mankind that virtue is your care.”

Thus for Lysander prays his A Smith 

April 19, 1764

Why my good Man, thou hast the curiosity of a Girl. Who could have believed that only a slight hint would have set thy imagination a gig in such a manner. And a fine encouragement I have to unravel the Mistery as thou callest it. Nothing less truly than to be told Something to my disadvantage. What an excellent reward that will be? In what Court of justice did’st thou learn that equity? I thank thee Friend such knowledg as that is easy eno’ to be obtained without paying for it. As to the insinuation, it doth not give me any uneasiness, for if it is any thing very bad, I know thou dost not believe it. I am not conscious of any harm that I have done, or wished to any Mortal. I bear no Malice to any Being. To my Enimies, (if any I have) I am willing to afford assistance; therefore towards Man, I maintain a Conscience void of offence.

Yet by this I mean not that I am faultless, but tell me what is the Reason that persons had rather acknowledg themselves guilty, than be accused by others. Is it because they are more tender of themselves, or because they meet with more favor from others, when they ingenuously confess. Let that be as it will there is something which makes it more agreeable to condemn ourselves than to be condemned by others.

But altho it is vastly disagreeable to be accused of faults, yet no person ought to be offended when such accusations are deliverd in the Spirit of Friendship. — I now call upon you to fullfill your promise, and tell me all my faults, both of omission and commission, and all the Evil you either know, or think of me, be to me a second conscience, nor put me off to a more convenient Season. There can be no time more proper than the present, it will be harder to erase them when habit has strengthned and confirmd them.

Do not think I triffle. These are really meant as words of Truth and Soberness — for the present good Night.

April 20, 1764

What does it signify, why may not I visit you a Days as well as Nights? I no sooner close my Eyes than some invisible Being, swift as the Alborack of Mahomet, bears me to you. I see you, but cannot make my self visible to you. That tortures me, but it is still worse when I do not come for I am then haunted by half a dozen ugly Sprights. One will catch me and leep into the Sea, an other will carry me up a precipice (like that which Edgar describes to Lear,) then toss me down, and were I not then light as the  [illegible] Gosemore I should shiver into atoms — an other will be pouring down my throat stuff worse than the witches Broth in Macbeth. — Where I shall be carried next I know not, but I had rather have the small pox by inoculation half a dozen times, than be sprighted about as I am. What say you can you give me any encouragement to come? By the time you receive this hope from experience you will be able to say that the distemper is but a triffle. Think you I would not

endure a trife for the pleasure of seeing Lysander, yes were it ten times that triffle I would. — But my own inclinations must not be followed — to Duty I sacrifice them. Yet O my Mamma forgive me if I say, you have forgot, or never knew — but hush. — And do youLysander excuse me that something I promis’d you, since it was a Speach more undutifull than that which I Just now stop’d my selfin — for the present good by.

Fryday Evening

I hope you smoke your Letters well, before you deliver them. Mamma is so fearful least I should catch the distemper, that she hardly ever thinks the Letters are sufficently purified. Did you never rob a Birds nest? Do you remember how the poor Bird would fly round and round, fearful to come nigh, yet not know how to leave the place — just so they say I hover round Tom whilst he issmokeing my Letters.

But heigh day Mr. whats your Name? — who taught you to threaten so vehemently “a Character besides that of critick, in which if I never did, I always hereafter shall fear you.”

Thou canst not prove a villan, imposible. I therefore still insist upon it, that I neither do, nor can fear thee. For my part I know not that there is any pleasure in being feard, but if there is, I hope you will be so generous as to fear your Diana that she may at least be made sensible of the pleasure.

Mr. Ayers will bring you this Letter, and the Bag. Do no [t] repine — it is fill’d with Balm.

Here is Love, respects, regards, good wishes — a whole waggon load of them sent you from all the good folks in the Neighbourhood.

To morrow makes the 14th Day. How many more are to come? I dare not trust my self with the thought. Adieu. Let me hear from you by Mr. Ayers, and excuse this very bad writing, if you had mended my pen it would have been better, once more adieu. Gold and Silver have I none, but such as I have, give I unto thee — which is the affectionate Regard of Your

A Smith
John Adams wrote to Abigail on the date of their marriage, October 25, 1764, but the enclosure that was referenced is unknown. 
Miss Abigail Smith

Madam

Please to accept of the inclosed [no enclosure with letter] from

Madam your well-wisher
John Adams

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