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Title: Abigail Adams and Her Times
Author: Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe, 1850-1943
Language: English
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ABIGAIL ADAMS AND HER TIMES

       *       *       *       *       *

Books By Laura E. Richards

    Abigail Adams and Her Times
    Pippin
    Elizabeth Fry
    Florence Nightingale
    Mrs. Tree
    Mrs. Tree's Will
    Miss Jimmy
    The Wooing of Calvin Parks
    Journals and Letters of Samuel Gridley Howe
    Two Noble Lives
    Captain January
    A Happy Little Time
    When I Was Your Age
    Five Minute Stories
    In My Nursery
    The Golden Windows
    The Silver Crown
    The Joyous Story of Toto
    The Life of Julia Ward Howe
    _With Maud Howe Elliott,
    etc., etc._

       *       *       *       *       *


[Illustration: ABIGAIL ADAMS

From an original painting by Gilbert Stuart]


ABIGAIL ADAMS AND HER TIMES

by

LAURA E. RICHARDS

Author of "Elizabeth Fry, the Angel of the Prisons,"
"Florence Nightingale, the Angel of the Crimea," etc.

[Illustration]

Illustrated



D. Appleton and Company
New York     London
1917

Copyright, 1917, by
D. Appleton and Company

Printed in the United States of America



    TO
    THE HONORED MEMORY OF
    FRANKLIN BENJAMIN SANBORN
    THE FRIEND OF MY PARENTS AND OF MY CHILDREN;
    TO THREE GENERATIONS A FAITHFUL,
    AFFECTIONATE, AND BELOVED
    COUNSELLOR.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                  PAGE
     I. BEGINS AT THE BEGINNING                               1
    II. GIRLHOOD AND MARRIAGE                                24
   III. THE BOSTON MASSACRE                                  40
    IV. THE BOSTON TEA PARTY                                 60
     V. AFTER LEXINGTON                                      88
    VI. BOSTON BLOCKADE                                     112
   VII. IN HAPPY BRAINTREE                                  124
  VIII. INDEPENDENCE AT LAST                                142
    IX. MR. ADAMS ABROAD                                    181
     X. THE COURT OF ST. JAMES                              197
    XI. VEXATIOUS HONORS                                    231
   XII. AFTERNOON AND EVENING                               260



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  Abigail Adams                                  _Frontispiece_

                                                         FACING
                                                           PAGE
  Abigail Adams                                              36
  John Adams                                                188
  South Elevation of the President's House                  252



For much of the local and contemporary color in this little book, the
author is indebted to the admirable works of the late Mrs. Alice Morse
Earle.



ABIGAIL ADAMS AND HER TIMES



CHAPTER I

BEGINS AT THE BEGINNING


SEVENTEEN HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOUR! George the Second on the throne of
England, "snuffy old drone from the German hive"; Charles Edward Stuart
("bonnie Prince Charlie") making ready for his great _coup_ which, the
next year, was to cast down said George from the throne and set Charles
Edward thereupon as "rightful, lawful prince--for wha'll be king but
Charlie?", and which ended in Culloden and the final downfall and
dispersion of the Scottish Stuarts.

In France, Louis XV., Lord of Misrule, shepherding his people toward the
Abyss with what skill was in him; at war with England, at war with
Hungary; Frederick of Prussia alone standing by him. In Europe,
generally, a seething condition which is not our immediate concern. In
America, seething also: discontent, indignation, rising higher and
higher under British imposition (not British either, being the work of
Britain's German ruler, not of her people!), yet quelled for the moment
by war with France.

I am not writing a history; far from it. I am merely throwing on the
screen, in the fashion of today, a few scenes to make a background for
my little pen-picture-play. What is really our immediate concern is that
on November eleventh of this same year, 1744, was born to the wife of
the Reverend William Smith of Weymouth, Massachusetts, a daughter,
baptized Abigail.

Parson Smith was a notable figure of the times; not a great man, but one
of character, intelligence and cultivation. He married a daughter of
Colonel John Quincy, so my heroine was a cousin--I cannot tell in what
precise degree--to Dorothy Q. of poetic-pictorial fame; cousin, too,
(her grandmother having been a Norton) to half Boston, the cultivated
and scholarly half.

Parson Smith kept a diary, as dry a document as I have often read. He
had no time to spare, and his brief entries are abbreviated down to the
finest possible point. For example, we read that

"By my Gd I am as'd and Ev. am as'd at my S and do now ys D Sol prom By
Thy God never to T. to s. ag."

This is puzzling at first sight; but the practiced reader will, after
some study, make out that the good Parson, writing for himself alone,
was really saying,

"By my God I am assured and Even am assured at my Strength, and do now
this Day Solemnly promise By Thy God never to Tempt to sin again."

Even this is somewhat cryptic, but we are glad of the assurance, the
more that we find the poor gentleman still troubled in spirit a week
later.

"Lord g't me S to res the e. so prej'd to me. Lord I am ashamed of it
and resolve to s. e. T. by thy S."

Which being interpreted is: "Lord, grant me Strength to resist the evil
so prejudicial to me. Lord, I am ashamed of it and resolve to shun evil
Temptation by thy Strength."

What the temptation was, we may not know. Possibly he was inclined to
extravagance in certain matters of personal dignity and adornment: we
read of his paying fifteen pounds "for my wig"; and again, "At Boston.
Paid Mr. Oliver for a cut whigg £10.00." But this is nothing. Parson
Smith came of "kent folk," and may have had private means beside the
salary of eight hundred dollars. Do we not read that Samuel Adams'
barber's bill "for three months, shaving and dressing," was £175, paid
by the Colony of Massachusetts?

Necessary expenses were also heavy. "Dec. 4th, 1749. Paid Brother Smith
for a Barrel of Flower £15.11.3." But on the other hand, he sold his
horse to Mr. Jackson for £200.

1751 was an eventful year. On April 23d we read,

"Weymouth Meeting House took fire about half an hour after 10 o'clock at
night and burnt to the ground in abt 2 hours."

This is all Parson Smith has to say about it, but the Boston _Post-Boy_
of April 29th tells us that:

"Last Tuesday Night the old Meeting-house in Weymouth was burnt to the
Ground: and three Barrels of Gunpowder, the Town-Stock, being in the
Loft, blew up with a great noise. 'Tis uncertain by what Means the Fire
happen'd."

Paul Torrey, the town poet, says of it:

    Our powder stock, kept under lock,
      With flints and bullets were
    By dismal blast soon swiftly cast
      Into the open air.

The poem hints at incendiaries.

    I'm satisfied they do reside
      Somewhere within the town:
    Therefore, no doubt, you'll find them out,
      By searching up and down.

    On trial them we will condemn,
      The sentence we will give:
    Them execute without dispute,
      Not being fit to live.

This was a heavy blow to minister and congregation, in fact to the whole
community; for the meeting-house was the centre and core of the village
life.

Meeting-house: (Cotton Mather found "no just ground in Scripture to
apply such a trope as 'church' to a home for public assembly.") Sabbath,
or more often Lord's Day: these are the Puritan names, which happily we
have not yet wholly lost. The early meeting-houses were very small; that
of Haverhill was only twenty-six feet long and twenty wide. They were
oftenest set on a hilltop, partly as a landmark, partly as a lookout in
case of prowling Indians. The building or "raising" of a meeting-house
was a great event in the community. Every citizen was obliged by law to
share in the work or the expense. Every man must give a certain amount
of "nayles." Contributions were levied for lumber, for labor of horses
and men, and for "Rhum and Cacks" to regale the workers. "When the
Medford people built their second meeting-house, they provided for the
workmen and bystanders, five barrels of rum, one barrel of good brown
sugar, a box of fine lemons, and two loaves of sugar. As a natural
consequence, two-thirds of the frame fell, and many were injured. In
Northampton, in 1738, ten gallons of rum were bought for £8 'to raise
the meeting-house'--and the village doctor got '£3 for setting his bone
Jonathan Strong, and £3 10s. for setting Ebenezer Burt's thy' which had
somehow through the rum or the raising, both gotten broken."[1] Finally
it was realized that rum and "raising" did not go well together, and the
workmen had to wait till night for their liquor.

Once up, the meeting-house became the centre of village life. On the
green outside stood the stocks, the whipping-post, the pillory, the
cage. We are told that the first man to occupy the Boston stocks was the
carpenter who made them, his charge for the lumber used being considered
over high. The pillory was much frequented by Quakers and other
non-orthodox persons. Here, too, were horse-blocks, and rows of
stepping-stones for muddy days. The Concord horse-block was a fine one;
it was erected by the women of the town, each housewife giving a pound
of butter toward the expense. On the walls and door of the meeting-house
were nailed grinning heads of wolf and bear, killed partly for safety,
possibly more for the reward: fifteen shillings for a live wolf, ten for
a dead one. We are not told what was done with the live wolves. A man in
Newbury killed seven wolves in one year; but that is nothing. We learn
from the history of Roxbury that in 1725, in one week in September,
twenty bears were killed within two miles of Boston! Wolves were far
more dreaded than bears, and save in this one remarkable instance, far
more abundant. In 1723, Ipswich was so beset by wolves that children
could not go to meeting or to school without a grown attendant.

In the early days, the meeting-house was unpainted; paint would have
been thought a sinful extravagance. The eighteenth century, however,
brought laxer ideas; brought also cheaper paint, and the result was a
sudden access of gayety. Pomfret, Connecticut, painted its meeting-house
bright yellow. Instantly Windham, near by, voted that its meeting-house
be "colored something like the Pomfret meeting-house." Killingly, in
turn, gave orders that "the cullering of the body of our meeting-house
should be like the Pomfret meeting-house, and the Roff shal be cullered
Read." But Brooklyn carried off the palm, with a combination of orange,
chocolate and white, which must have been startling even in 1762, and
which would surely have sent Cotton Mather into convulsions, had he been
alive to see.

Wolves' heads outside the meeting-house; inside, the village powder
magazine! It was the safest place, because there was never any fire in
the meeting-house. Sometimes in the steeple, sometimes under the
roof-beams, there the "powder-closite" was. If a thunder-storm came on
during service, the congregation ran out, and waited under the trees
till it was over.

Few meeting-houses boasted a bell. The shrill toot of a horn, the clear
blast of a conch-shell, or the roll of a drum, gave the signal for
prayer, and brought the villagers hurrying from their doors and across
the green to the meeting-house. In East Hadley, the man who "blew the
cunk" received three dollars a year for his services. The drummer was
better paid, receiving fourteen shillings of the town's money.

This digression on meeting-houses (drawn from Mrs. Alice Morse Earle's
delightful "Sabbath in Puritan New England") may be pardoned if it
gives some idea of the disaster so briefly recorded by Parson Smith.
Neither parson nor parishioners were one whit discouraged, however. On
May 16th, it is true, they kept a "Fast, to bewail the burning of our
Meeting House": but on August 7th we read: "Began to raise Weymouth
Meeting House, 3 days and half about it." And on September 1st: "Met in
our New Meeting House. I p(reache)d."

What heroic labor, what depth and height of earnest purpose, what
self-denial and sacrifice, these eight brief words represent, we may
well imagine, but Parson Smith gives us no help. The thing was done:
there was no more to say.

About this time, we begin to find ominous entries in the diary,
following one another in quick and grievous succession. On the same page
that records (August 15th) "P'd £15 for my wig," we read, "Mr. Benjamin
Bicknells Child Died of the throat Distemper." Two days later: "Mr.
Pettee's Daughter Died of the Throat D. aged 5. Paid £4 for a hat for my
Son."

Every day through the rest of the year they were dying, the little
children, of what we may suppose was diphtheria, or some kindred
affection. It was a dreadful time. On November 21st we read:

"Fast Day at Mr. Bayleys Parish on account of the throat Distemper
prevailing there. Mr. Colton p'd from 2 Jer. 30 'In vain have I smitten
yr c(hildre)n ye rec'd no Correction.'"

There had been a similar epidemic in 1735-6. In twelve months, nine
hundred and eighty-four died of the distemper, by far the greater part
under ten years of age--"the woful effects of Original Sin," remarks a
pious writer of the time.

All this time little Abigail Smith has been waiting patiently in her
cradle; now her turn has come. Remarkable woman as she was, perhaps the
most striking fact in her life was that she _lived_. Why or how any
Puritan baby survived its tribulations, one hardly knows; that is, any
baby born in winter, and late November is winter in New England. Within
a few days of its birth, the baby was taken to the meeting-house to be
baptized; the meeting-house, unwarmed, as we have seen, from year's end
to year's end, the wolf Cold waiting to receive the poor lamb, with jaws
opened wider than those that grinned on the outer walls of the building.
This expedition often completed the baby's earthly career. "Of Judge
Sewall's fourteen children but three survived him, a majority dying in
infancy; and of fifteen children of his friend Cotton Mather, but two
survived their father."[2] We are not actually told that the
christening expedition killed them, but we may infer it in many cases.

The baby slept in a hooded cradle; before going to his christening, he
must be carried upstairs, with silver and gold in his hand, and "scarlet
laid on his head to keep him from harm." If he had fits or rickets, he
was largely dosed with snail-water. To make the "admirable and most
famous Snail-water" you must "take a peck of garden Shel Snails, wash
them well in Small Beer, and put them in an oven till they have done
making a Noise, then take them out and wipe them well from the green
froth that is upon them, and bruise them shels and all in a Stone
Mortar, then take a Quart of Earthworms, scower them with salt, slit
them, and--"[3] but perhaps you do not wish to make Snail-water, even
the most admirable and famous; and after all, we have no reason to think
that Abigail Smith had rickets, though she was a delicate child. She was
not thought strong enough to go to school; possibly in any case it might
not have been thought necessary for her. The education of woman was
little thought of in those days; indeed, she herself says in one of her
letters that it was fashionable to ridicule female learning. In another
letter, written the year before her death, she says:

"My early education did not partake of the abundant opportunities which
the present days offer, and which even our common country schools now
afford. _I never was sent to any school._ I was always sick. Female
education, in the best families, went no further than writing and
arithmetic; in some few and rare instances, music and dancing."

How, then, did Abigail get her education? Easily enough; school was not
necessary for her. She loved books, and there were plenty of them, not
only in Parson Smith's study, but in the home of her grandfather,
Colonel John Quincy, then living at Mount Wollaston, not far from
Weymouth. A great part of her childhood was spent with her grandparents,
and to her grandmother Quincy, in particular, she always felt that she
owed a great deal.

"I have not forgotten," she writes to her own daughter in 1795, "the
excellent lessons which I received from my grandmother, at a very early
period of life. I frequently think they made a more durable impression
upon my mind than those which I received from my own parents. Whether it
was owing to the happy method of mixing instruction and amusement
together, or from an inflexible adherence to certain principles, the
utility of which I could not but see and approve when a child, I know
not; but maturer years have rendered them oracles of wisdom to me. I
love and revere her memory; her lively, cheerful disposition animated
all around her, whilst she edified all by her unaffected piety. This
tribute is due to the memory of those virtues the sweet remembrance of
which will flourish, though she has long slept with her ancestors."

We can fancy the child sitting by the delightful grandmother, imbibing
instruction and amusement, working the while at her sampler, or setting
delicate stitches in a shirt for father or grandfather. Girls do not
make the family shirts nowadays; but I know one dear lady who at seven
years old was set down at her grandmother's side to cut and make a shirt
for her grandfather, taking every stitch herself. We can see Abigail,
too, browsing among Colonel Quincy's bookshelves; reading Shakespeare
and Dryden and Pope and Prior; the _Spectator_, too, and all the history
she could lay her hands on, and perhaps the novels of Mr. Richardson,
Mr. Fielding, Mr. Smollett, three young men who were making a great stir
in those days. She wrote letters, too, in the fashion of the time;
endless letters to girl friends in Weymouth or Boston, "hifalutin" in
language, but full of good sense and good feeling. We elders are always
sighing, "Give us, ah! give us but yesterday!" and I cannot help
deploring the decay of letter-writing. Says Charles Francis Adams, in
the admirable Memoir with which he prefaces his collection of the
letters of John and Abigail Adams:

"Perhaps there is no species of exercise, in early life, more productive
of results useful to the mind, than that of writing letters. Over and
above the mechanical facility of constructing sentences, which no
teaching will afford so well, the interest with which the object is
commonly pursued gives an extraordinary impulse to the intellect. This
is promoted in a degree proportionate to the scarcity of temporary and
local subjects for discussion. Where there is little gossip, the want of
it must be supplied from books. The love of literature springs up where
the weeds of scandal take no root. The young ladies of Massachusetts, in
the last century, were certainly readers, even though only self-taught;
and their taste was not for the feeble and nerveless sentiment, or the
frantic passion, which comes from the novels and romances in the
circulating library of our day, but was derived from the deepest wells
of English literature. The poets and moralists of the mother country
furnished to these inquiring minds their ample stores, and they were
used to an extent which it is at least doubtful if the more pretending
and elaborate instruction of the present generation would equal."

However this may be, (and I believe every word of it myself!) we must
all be thankful that Abby Smith formed the letter-writing habit early in
life; if she had not, we might have lacked one of the most vivid
pictures of life in Revolutionary times. Her girlhood letters (those at
least to her girl friends) were signed "Diana," and were addressed to
Myra, Aspasia, Calliope, Aurelia. Later, in writing to her faithful
friend, lover and husband, "Portia" was the name she chose, a name that
suited her well. Here is a letter, written in her girlhood, to her
friend, Mrs. Lincoln:

                             "_Weymouth, 5 October, 1761._

      "MY DEAR FRIEND,

      "Does not my friend think me a stupid girl, when she
      has kindly offered to correspond with me, that I
      should be so senseless as not to accept the offer?
      Senseless and stupid I would confess myself, and that
      to the greatest degree, if I did not foresee the many
      advantages I shall receive from corresponding with a
      lady of your known prudence and understanding.

      "I gratefully accept your offer; although I may be
      charged with vanity in pretending to entertain you
      with my scrawls; yet I know your generosity is such,
      that, like a kind parent, you will bury in oblivion
      all my imperfections. I do not aim at entertaining. I
      write merely for the instruction and edification which
      I shall receive, provided you honor me with your
      correspondence. . . .

      "You bid me tell _one_ of my sparks (I think that was
      the word) to bring me to see you. Why! I believe you
      think they are as plenty as herrings, when, alas!
      there is as great a scarcity of them as there is of
      justice, honesty, prudence and many other virtues.
      I've no pretensions to one. Wealth, wealth is the only
      thing that is looked after now. 'Tis said Plato
      thought, if Virtue would appear to the world, all
      mankind would be enamoured with her, but now interest
      governs the world, and men neglect the golden mean.

      "But, to be sober, I should really rejoice to come and
      see you, but if I wait till I get a (what did you call
      'em?) I fear you'll be blind with age.

      "I can say, in the length of this epistle, I've made
      the golden rule mine. Pray, my friend, do not let it
      be long before you write to your ever affectionate

                                                 "A. S."

One feels sure that Abigail was a good child, as well as a bright one.
She was not an infant prodigy, one is glad to think; parents and
grandparents were too sensible to play tricks with her mind or her soul.
One sighs to read of the "pious and ingenious Jane Turell," a Puritan
child who could relate many stories out of the Scriptures before she was
two years old. "Before she was four years old, she could say the greater
part of the Assembly's Catechism, many of the Psalms, read distinctly,
and make pertinent remarks on many things she read. She asked many
astonishing questions about divine mysteries." It is comforting to know
that Jane liked green apples; her father, at the end of a pious letter
adjures her "as she loves him not to eat them," but it shows that after
all she was a human child.

We do not know much about the diet of Puritan children. Parson Smith was
a good farmer, killed his own pork and beef, planted apple trees, made
cider, etc. We may suppose that Abigail had plenty of good fish and
flesh, with a "sallet" now and then, and corn, squash, and pumpkins at
her desire. "Pompions," the latter were often called, while "squash"
were variously known as squantersquash, askutasquash, isquoukersquash,
all Indian variants of the one name which we clip into a monosyllable.
Wheat did not grow well in the Colonies; oaten and rye meal was chiefly
used in combination with the universal corn. They had hasty pudding,
boiled in a bag, or fried: "sukquttahhash," and jonne-cake, or journey
cake, which we have changed by the insertion of an _h_ till it appears
as if "Johnny" had either invented or owned it. Parched corn (our
pop-corn), a favorite food of the Indians, was also highly appreciated
by the Colonists. They were amazed at first sight of it: Governor
Winthrop explains carefully how, on being parched, the corn turns
entirely inside out, and is white and floury within. Sometimes they made
it into "No-cake," which is, we are told, "Indian corn, parched in the
hot ashes, the ashes being sifted from it; it is afterwards beaten to
powder and put into a long leatherne bag, trussed like a knapsacke, out
of which they take thrice three spoonfuls a day." This was considered
wonderfully sustaining food; it was mixed, before eating, with snow in
winter, with water in summer.

The pumpkins were made into "pyes," cakes, bread, sauce.

    We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
    If it were not for pumpkins we should be undone.

Potatoes were brought over from England as early as 1636, but were not
grown till some time later. People were still afraid of them: some
thought that "if a man eat them every day he could not live beyond seven
years." Some again fancied the balls were the edible portion, and "did
not much desire them." Nor were the recipes for cooking them specially
inviting. "The Accomplisht Cook" much in use about the year 1700 says
that potatoes must be "boiled and blanched; seasoned with nutmeg and
cinnamon and pepper; mixed with eringo roots, dates, lemon, and whole
mace; covered with butter, sugar, and grape verjuice, made with pastry;
then iced with rosewater and sugar, and yclept a 'Secret Pye.'"[4]

Let us hope that Mrs. Smith, a Quincy born, knew better than to torture
and overwhelm a worthy vegetable! We know little of this good lady, but
we may suppose that she was a notable housewife, since her daughter in
later life showed such skill in all household arts. We shall see by and
by how Abigail baked and brewed, spun and wove, clothed and fed and
cared for her family, often with little or no assistance. We may fancy
her now, trotting about after Mother Smith at Weymouth or Grandmother
Quincy at Wollaston, her bright eyes noting everything, her quick
fingers mastering all the arts of preserving, candying, distilling.
There was a passion for such work among the New England women in those
days.

"They made preserves and conserves, marmalets and quiddonies, hypocras
and household wines, usquebarbs and cordials. They candied fruits and
made syrups. They preserved everything that would bear preserving. I
have seen old-time receipts for preserving quinces, 'respasse,' pippins,
'apricocks,' plums, 'damsins,' peaches, oranges, lemons, artichokes;
green walnuts, elecampane roots, eringo roots, grapes, barberries,
cherries; receipts for syrup of clove gillyflower, wormwood, mint,
aniseed, clove, elder, lemons, marigold, citron, hyssop, liquorice;
receipts for conserves of roses, violets, borage flowers, rosemary,
betony, sage, mint, lavender, marjoram, and 'piony'; rules for candying
fruit, berries, and flowers, for poppy water, cordial, cherry water,
lemon water, thyme water, Angelica water, Aqua Mirabilis, Aqua Celestis,
clary water, mint water."[5]

Good living was cheap in Abigail's childhood. An English traveler,
visiting Boston in 1740, writes thus: "Their poultry of all sorts are as
fine as can be desired, and they have plenty of fine fish of various
kinds, all of which are very cheap. Take the butchers' meat all
together, in every season of the year, I believe it is about twopence
per pound sterling; the best beef and mutton, lamb and veal are often
sold for sixpence per pound of New England money, which is some small
matter more than one penny sterling.

"Poultry in their season are exceeding cheap. As good a turkey may be
bought for about two shillings sterling as we can buy in London for six
or seven, and as fine a goose for tenpence as would cost three shillings
and sixpence or four shillings in London. The cheapest of all the
several kinds of poultry are a sort of wild pigeon, which are in season
the latter end of June, and so continue until September. They are large,
and finer than those we have in London, and are sold here for
eighteenpence a dozen, and sometimes for half of that.

"Fish, too, is exceedingly cheap. They sell a fine fresh cod that will
weigh a dozen pounds or more, just taken out of the sea, for about
twopence sterling. They have smelts, too, which they sell as cheap as
sprats are in London. Salmon, too, they have in great plenty, and these
they sell for about a shilling apiece, which will weigh fourteen or
fifteen pounds."

Shad, strange to say, was profoundly despised. In Puritan times they
were fed to the hogs; in 1733 they sold two for a penny, and it was not
at all "the thing" to eat them--or at least to be seen eating them! A
story is told of a family in Hadley, Massachusetts, who were about to
dine on a shad; and who, hearing a knock at the door, delayed opening it
till shad and platter had been hustled out of sight.

"They have venison very plenty. They will sell as fine a haunch for half
a crown as would cost full thirty shillings in England. Bread is much
cheaper than we have in England, but is not near so good. Butter is very
fine, and cheaper than ever I bought any in London; the best is sold all
summer for threepence a pound. But as for cheese, it is neither cheap
nor good."

And milk was one penny a quart!

But we shall see great changes before we finish our story. These were
the years of plenty, of the fat kine and the full ears of corn. Eat your
fill, Abigail! drink your milk while it is a penny a quart; the lean
years are coming, when you will pinch and scrape and use all your wit
and ability to feed and clothe your family, and will look back with a
sigh on these full years of your childhood.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] "The Sabbath in Puritan New England." Alice Morse Earle.

[2] "Customs and Fashions in Old New England." Alice Morse Earle.

[3] _Ibid._

[4] "Customs and Fashions in Old New England." Alice Morse Earle.

[5] "Customs and Fashions in Old New England." Alice Morse Earle.



CHAPTER II

GIRLHOOD AND MARRIAGE


WE are told that Abigail Smith in her childhood and girlhood was
"surrounded by people of learning and political sagacity." Who were some
of these people? At home in Weymouth, there was her father, of course,
"remarkably lively and animated in all his public performances," as we
learn from his tombstone. Doubtless his company was stimulating to the
bright little girl; perhaps he took her with him now and then on his
trips to Boston or Hingham, when he went to preach or to buy "Flower";
and ministers and other godly folk often came to the parsonage. But
probably at her grandparents' home she saw even more people of learning
and political sagacity. The Quincy clan itself made a goodly fellowship
of cultivated men and women. The Hancocks lived near by. John Hancock
was a boy of seven when Abigail was born. In the year 1755, when she was
eleven, he was a lad of eighteen; had graduated the year before from
Harvard College and had already begun a brilliant mercantile career.
John was handsome and always fond of good clothes and gay colors. We
have no description of his youthful costumes, but we know that one day
in later life he wore "a red velvet cap within which was one of fine
linen, the last turned up two or three inches over the lower edge of the
velvet. He also wore a blue damask gown lined with velvet, a white
stock, a white satin embroidered waistcoat, black satin small-clothes,
white silk stockings and red morocco slippers."

Roxbury was not far off, and here lived the Warrens, warm friends of the
Quincys. Joseph Warren was three years younger than Abigail; they may
have played together in the Quincy gardens. We may fancy them, the
little maid in bib and apron, mitts and kerchief; the little lad in
flapped coat, knee-breeches, and waist-coat reaching to his knees; both
have buckled shoes. Abby's hair is rolled smoothly back over a cushion,
Pompadour-fashion, and tied behind with a ribbon; Joseph's worn in much
the same way, but without the cushion.

There was another young man named John, who may have made calls either
of ceremony or of friendship at the Quincy mansion. John Adams was a
year behind John Hancock in college, having graduated in this very year
1755, which I have chosen for a survey of my heroine's surroundings. He
came of good New England stock, his father being a substantial farmer,
and for many years a selectman of the town of Braintree. The Adamses
were never rich, yet we are told that there had been a silver spoon in
the family for four generations.

"In the year 1791, Miss Hannah Adams, the historian, in writing to John
Adams, made reference to the 'humble obscurity' of their common origin.
Her correspondent, in reply, while acknowledging the kinship, went on
energetically to remark that, could he 'ever suppose that family pride
were any way excusable, [he] should think a descent from a line of
virtuous, independent New England farmers for a hundred and sixty years
was a better foundation for it than a descent through royal or noble
scoundrels ever since the flood.'"[6]

When young John was sixteen, his father offered him the choice of
following the family pursuit of farming, and inheriting his share of the
family estate, worth some thirteen hundred pounds, or of having a
"learned education" for all his inheritance. There was no question of
John Adams' choice; he went to Harvard, as we have seen, and was one of
the four best scholars in college at the time.

Shortly after receiving his degree, he became the teacher of the grammar
school in the town of Worcester. This must have been a doleful change
from his college life, with its gay and stimulating companionship, but
he entered on the new work manfully, if not enthusiastically, and
prospered in it.

Why do my thoughts so cluster round this year 1755? Why not take 1754,
when Abigail was ten years old, or 1764, when she was twenty? Well, I
shall have plenty to say about 1764, for that was the year--but never
mind! The truth is, 1755 was a remarkable year, "a year never to be
forgotten in America,"[7] a year made memorable by the cruel expulsion
of the French from Nova Scotia, by the destruction of General Braddock's
army, by the unfortunate attempt of Sir William Johnson against Crown
Point. These were incidents in the so-called French and Indian War, a
war in some respects more dreadful than any other up to that of the
present day; a war specially momentous for all Americans, since it was
to pay the debts then contracted that Great Britain levied on the
American Colonies (which had voluntarily spent vast sums and suffered
untold hardships in this war), the taxes which brought about the
American Revolution.

So much from the historical point of view; but for myself, I must
confess that two events, one actual and terrible, the other conjectural
and delightful, fixed 1755 at an early age in my mind.

    That was the year when Lisbon town
    Saw the earth open and gulp her down.

I must have been a very small child when I proudly owned the Little
Green Geography Book. There has been no other geography book like it; it
was small, and square, and apple-green; it had many and wonderful
pictures. Among these pictures, three impressed me most deeply: one of
the Maelstrom, where a large vessel was going down over the edge of a
terrifying circle like a round Niagara Falls; another of Peruvian
Indians pulling up plants by the roots, and collecting quicksilver by
the quart, it would appear. The third, and by far the most thrilling and
terrifying, was of the Lisbon Earthquake. The ground was opening in
every direction in long horrid chasms, and into these chasms were
falling churches, houses, men, in dreadful confusion. This picture and
that of the Maelstrom had a strange fascination for me; I was forever
poring over them, when I should have been learning about the exports of
Russia, of which to this day I can give little account.

And then--but every one of my readers knows that

    'Twas on the terrible Earthquake Day
    That the Deacon finished the One Hoss Shay.

So it really is not surprising that 1755 is an _annus mirabilis_ to me.

It is interesting to find that the earthquake came over seas to this
country, and created considerable disturbance, though no serious damage
was done. November the first was Lisbon's day of doom; it was the
eighteenth before the internal commotion reached Massachusetts.

Parson Smith alludes to it with characteristic brevity: "A great and
terrible earthquake happened."

Six words! We can fancy Mrs. Smith rushing to his study, crying out that
the chimneys were falling, that Neighbor Wibird's great elm was down;
daughter Mary bringing the news that the "Chaney Teapot had fallen from
the dresser and was in a hundred pieces."

This, I say, we are at liberty to fancy, but Parson Smith will not help
us. His next entry is: "Married David Bicknell to Jerusha Vinsen. Lent
the Dr. a pail of hair."

(No; I don't believe it was his wig; it was probably cattle hair, to use
with mortar; but he does not say.)

John Adams is kinder to us. His diary begins thus:

"We had a very severe shock of an earthquake. It continued near four
minutes. I then was at my father's in Braintree, and awoke out of my
sleep in the midst of it. The house seemed to rock and reel and crack,
as if it would fall in ruins about us. Chimneys were shattered by it
within one mile of my father's house."

John Adams' diary is as different from that of his future father-in-law
as cheese from chalk. No abbreviations here; no dry statistics of birth,
death, marriage, as if they were of no human interest. He pours out his
rolling periods with evident enjoyment. His son, who edits the diary,
says:

"These are loose fragments of journal in the hand-writing of John Adams
upon scraps of paper scarcely legible, from 18 November, 1755, to 20
November, 1761. They were effusions of mind, committed from time to time
to paper, probably without the design of preserving them;
self-examinations at once severe and stimulative; reflections upon
others, sometimes, not less severe upon his friends; thoughts such as
occur to all, some of which no other than an unsullied soul would commit
to writing, mingled with conceptions at once comprehensive and
profound."

The future President was already deeply interested in public affairs;
his ardent patriotism was already forecasting the future of his beloved
country. Shortly before the beginning of the Diary, he writes to his
friend and kinsman, Nathan Webb:

"All that part of creation which lies within our observation, is liable
to change. Even mighty states and kingdoms are not exempt. . . . Soon
after the Reformation, a few people came over into this new world for
conscience's sake. Perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer
the great seat of empire into America. It looks likely to me; for if we
can remove the turbulent Gallicks, our people, according to the exactest
computation, will in another century become more numerous than England
itself. Should this be the case, since we have, I may say, all the naval
stores of the nation in our hands, it will be easy to obtain the mastery
of the seas; and then the united force of all Europe will not be able
to subdue us. The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves is
to disunite us. _Divide et impera._ Keep us distinct colonies, and then,
some great men in each colony desiring the monarchy of the whole, they
will destroy each others' influence and keep the country in
_equilibrio_.

"Be not surprised that I am turned politician. This whole town is
immersed in politics. The interests of nations, and all the _dira_ of
war, make the subject of every conversation. I sit and hear, and after
having been led through a maze of sage observations, I sometimes retire,
and by laying things together, form some reflections pleasing to myself.
The produce of one of these reveries you have read above. . . .

"Friendship, I take it, is one of the distinguishing glories of man; and
the creature that is insensible of its charms, though he may wear the
shape of man, is unworthy of the character. In this, perhaps, we bear a
nearer resemblance to unembodied intelligences than in anything else.
From this I expect to receive the chief happiness of my future life; and
am sorry that fortune has thrown me at such a distance from those of my
friends who have the highest place in my affections. But thus it is, and
I must submit. But I hope ere long to return, and live in that
familiarity that has from earliest infancy subsisted between yourself
and affectionate friend,

                                                   "JOHN ADAMS."


We shall see about this. Friendship played an important part in John
Adams' life; but it was not to form the chief happiness of his life.

He did not enjoy teaching; witness another letter to Nathan Webb.

"The situation of the town is quite pleasant, and the inhabitants, as
far as I have had opportunity to know their character, are a sociable,
generous, and hospitable people; but the school is indeed a school of
affliction. A large number of little runtlings, just capable of lisping
A B C, and troubling the master. But Dr. Savil tells me, for my comfort,
'by cultivating and pruning these tender plants in the garden of
Worcester, I shall make some of them plants of renown and cedars of
Lebanon.' However this be, I am certain that keeping this school any
length of time, would make a base weed and ignoble shrub of me."

Yet at times he realized the value of his work. We read in the diary of
1756:

"I sometimes in my sprightly moments consider myself, in my great chair
at school, as some dictator at the head of a commonwealth. In this
little state I can discover all the great geniuses, all the surprising
actions and revolutions of the great world, in miniature. I have several
renowned generals but three feet high, and several deep projecting
politicians in petticoats. I have others catching and dissecting flies,
accumulating remarkable pebbles, cockle-shells, etc., with as ardent
curiosity as any virtuoso in the Royal Society. Some rattle and thunder
out A B C, with as much fire and impetuosity as Alexander fought, and
very often sit down and cry as heartily upon being outspelt, as Cæsar
did, when at Alexander's sepulchre he reflected that the Macedonian hero
had conquered the world before his age. At one table sits Mr. Insipid,
foppling and fluttering, spinning his whirligig, or playing with his
fingers, as gaily and wittily as any Frenchified cox-comb brandishes his
cane or rattles his snuff-box. At another, sits the polemical divine,
plodding and wrangling in his mind about 'Adam's fall, in which we
sinned all,' as his Primer has it. In short, my little school, like the
great world, is made up of kings, politicians, divines, L.D.'s, fops,
buffoons, fiddlers, sycophants, fools, coxcombs, chimney-sweepers, and
every other character drawn in history, or seen in the world. Is it not,
then, the highest pleasure, my friend, to preside in this little world,
to bestow the proper applause upon virtuous and generous actions, to
blame and punish every vicious and contracted trick, to wear out of the
tender mind everything that is mean and little, and fire the newborn
soul with a noble ardor, and emulation?"

Out of school hours, John Adams was studying law with all possible
diligence. By 1758 he was able to give up teaching, and was admitted to
practise at the Massachusetts bar. His ability was recognized at once. A
few years later, Governor Barnard, wishing to attach this promising
young lawyer to the royal party, offered him the office of
advocate-general in the Admiralty Court, which was considered a sure
step to the highest honors of the bench.

This was the young man who, in 1764, came knocking at the door of Parson
Smith of Weymouth, asking the hand of his daughter Abigail in marriage;
to whom she writes on April 20th:

"I hope you smoke your letters well, before you deliver them. Mamma is
so fearful lest I should catch the distemper, that she hardly ever
thinks the letters are sufficiently purified. Did you never rob a bird's
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 is smoking my letters.

"But heyday, Mr. What's your name, who taught you to threaten so
violently? 'A character besides that of a critic, in which if I never
did, I always hereafter shall fear you.' Thou canst not prove a villain,
impossible,--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 feared; 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 not repine,--it
is filled with balm.

"Here is love, respects, good wishes, regards--a whole wagon load of
them, sent you from all the good folks in the neighborhood.

"Tomorrow makes the fourteenth day. How many more are to come? I dare
not trust myself 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. S."

[Illustration: ABIGAIL ADAMS

From an early portrait]

We know little of the preliminary steps in the courtship. The young
lawyer, riding his circuit, naturally passed through Weymouth, perhaps
rode directly by the house of Parson Smith. The parson doubtless knew
the elder Adams, would naturally offer civility and hospitality to his
son; a man of parts himself, he would quickly perceive the intelligence
and character of the young lawyer. But the Family at Large was mightily
disturbed. Lawyers were looked askance at in those days; the law was a
new profession, probably a dangerous, possibly an iniquitous one.
Quincys, Nortons, Tynes, all shook their heads emphatically. The whole
parish followed suit. What! Abigail, with her wit, beauty, gentle blood
and breeding, marry "one of the dishonest tribe of lawyers," the son of
a small country farmer? Perish the thought!

The elder sister Mary had been married the year before to Richard
Cranch. This was thought a wholly suitable match. Parson Smith preached
a wedding sermon, taking for his text, "And Mary hath chosen that good
part, which shall not be taken away from her," and everybody was
pleased. But no one, except the contracting parties and the Parson,
seems to have approved of Abigail's marrying John Adams. This, however,
troubled none of the three overmuch. It is true that John had to do his
courting without assistance from his future "in-laws." He must tie his
horse to a tree and find his Abigail as he could: no one even offered
him a courting-stick, that "hollow stick about an inch in diameter and
six or eight feet long, fitted with mouth and ear pieces"[8] through
which some lovers, seated on either side of the great fireplace, had to
carry on their courtship in the presence of the whole family.

Possibly John Adams might have declined this privilege even had it been
offered. He has nothing to say about his courtship, but thus soberly and
gravely he writes of his marriage.

"Here it may be proper to recollect something which makes an article of
great importance in the life of every man. I was of an amorous
disposition, and, very early, from ten or eleven years of age, was very
fond of the society of females. I had my favorites among the young
women, and spent many of my evenings in their company; and this
disposition, although controlled for seven years after my entrance into
college, returned and engaged me too much till I was married.

"I shall draw no characters, nor give any enumeration of my youthful
flames. It would be considered as no compliment to the dead or the
living. This, I will say:--they were all modest and virtuous girls, and
always maintained their character through life. No virgin or matron ever
had cause to blush at the sight of me, or to regret her acquaintance
with me. . . .

"I passed the summer of 1764 in attending courts and pursuing my
studies, with some amusement on my little farm, to which I was
frequently making additions, until the fall, when, on the 25th day of
October, I was married to Miss Smith, second daughter of the Rev.
William Smith, minister of Weymouth, granddaughter of the Honorable John
Quincy, of Braintree, a connection which has been the source of all my
felicity, although a sense of duty, which forced me away from her and my
children for so many years, produced all the griefs of my heart, and all
that I esteem real afflictions in life."

So they were married, and the parson conveyed a gentle reproof to his
family and parishioners by preaching a sermon from Luke vii:33: "For
John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and ye say, '_He hath
a devil_.'"

FOOTNOTES:

[6] "Three Episodes of Massachusetts History." C. F. Adams.

[7] "History of Massachusetts." Minot.

[8] "Customs and Fashions in Old New England." Alice Morse Earle.



CHAPTER III

THE BOSTON MASSACRE


IT was not a gay wedding, this of Abigail Smith and John Adams. They
were married quietly by good Parson Smith, and then, hand in hand,
walked across the fields to the little lean-to farmhouse where they were
to find so much happiness and to live through such difficult times. It
seems unlikely that Abigail enjoyed the pretty Colonial custom of
"coming out Bride," of which we read in old diaries and letters. On the
first Sunday after the wedding it was customary for the bride and groom,
"whether old or young, gentle or simple," to go to church in the very
best finery they could muster. If they were well-to-do, they kept this
up for the four Sundays of the honeymoon, sometimes--oh, un-Puritan
extravagance!--in a new gown and suit each time!

"They usually arrived a bit late, in order to have their full meed of
attention; and proceeded slowly, arm in arm, down the broad aisle to
seats of honor, in the hushed attention of the entire congregation. . . .
At a certain point in the services, usually after the singing of the
second hymn, the happy couple, in agonies of shyness and pride, rose to
their feet, and turned slowly twice or thrice around before the eyes of
the whole delighted assembly, thus displaying to the full every detail
of their attire."[9]

This would not have suited either Abigail or John Adams. Their tastes
were simple, their minds set on far other things than clothes. Mrs.
Adams was always neat and trim in her dress, never extravagant or
ostentatious. Whether in the little Braintree farmhouse, at the Court of
St. James, or as Lady of the White House, she was always the
same--simple, modest, dignified: an example and an inspiration to all
around her.

The first ten years of her married life were passed happily and quietly,
partly in Braintree, partly in Boston, whither Mr. Adams' increasing law
practice often called him. Four children were born to her, a daughter
named for herself, and three sons, John Quincy, Charles and Thomas.

Mrs. Adams kept no diary; it is to her husband's that we naturally turn
for records of these ten years of happy family life. Alas! he has
nothing to say about them. He was _living_ his home life; it never
occurred to him to write about it. His diary is concerned with public
and professional affairs, and with them alone.

It was not till forced apart by the pressure of public duties and
private service, that these two loving hearts needed any other
expression than the spoken word of affection, cheer and sympathy. It is
to the breaking up of their happy home life that we owe the Familiar
Letters which are of such priceless value to all students of American
history, to all lovers of high and noble thought.

But we have not come to the separation yet; we must consider these ten
silent years, and fill in the picture as best we may.

Here is a sketch, boldly drawn by John Adams himself, writing in his old
age to a friend, which brings the time before us as nothing else can. He
is describing a scene in the Council Chamber in the old Town House, in
February, 1761.

"In this chamber, round a great fire, were seated five judges, with
Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson at their head as Chief Justice, all
arrayed in their new, fresh, rich robes of scarlet English broadcloth;
in their large cambric bands and immense judicial wigs. . . . In this
chamber were seated at a long table all the barristers at law of Boston,
and of the neighboring county of Middlesex in gowns, bands, and tie
wigs. They were not seated on ivory chairs, but their dress was more
solemn and pompous than that of the Roman Senate, when the Gauls broke
in upon them. . . .

"Samuel Quincy and John Adams had been admitted barristers at that term.
John was the youngest; he should be painted looking like a short, thick
archbishop of Canterbury, seated at the table with a pen in his hand,
lost in admiration.

"But Otis was a flame of fire, with . . . a torrent of impetuous
eloquence, he hurried away everything before him. . . . Then and there
the child Independence was born."

The year 1763 is usually regarded as the beginning of the American
Revolution, since it was in that year that George III and his ministers
determined to raise a revenue from the colonies. These matters belong
rather to history than to biography, but we must briefly note the most
striking events of this important time. In 1761 were issued the Writs of
Assistance, which empowered Government officials to enter and search the
houses of citizens for possible contraband goods. In 1765 came the
Stamp Act, imposing war-taxes on the Colonies, and struck cold on the
hearts of the colonists. Franklin, seldom stirred out of his philosophic
calm, cried aloud on hearing of it, "The sun of liberty is set!" For
John Adams, it was the call to action, and from it dates his entrance
into the field of politics. He was a selectman of Braintree at this
time: "he prepared at home a draft of instructions, and carried them
with him to the meeting. They were accepted by the town without a
dissenting voice, and being published in Draper's paper, from a copy
furnished to the printer at his request, were adopted by forty other
towns of the province, as instructions to their respective
representatives. Passages from them were also adopted in the
instructions from the town of Boston to their representatives, which
were drawn up by Samuel Adams."

Immediately after the Boston town meeting, John Adams was asked to
appear as counsel for the town before the governor and council, "in
support of the memorial of the town, praying that the courts of law in
the province" (closed by order of the governor, because the stamps had
not been delivered) might be opened.

Singularly enough, on the same evening, possibly at the same hour, when
the people of Boston were thus showing their trust and confidence in
him, Mr. Adams was recording in his diary the doubts and fears which
beset him at the prospect opened before him by the Stamp Act and its
consequences.

"The bar seem to me to behave like a flock of shot pigeons; they seem to
be stopped; the net seems to be thrown over them, and they have scarcely
courage left to flounce and to flutter. So sudden an interruption in my
career is very unfortunate for me. I was but just getting into my gears,
just getting under sail, and an embargo is laid upon the ship. Thirty
years of my life are passed in preparation for business; I have had
poverty to struggle with, envy and jealousy and malice of enemies to
encounter, no friends, or but few, to assist me; so that I have groped
in dark obscurity, till of late, and had but just become known and
gained a small degree of reputation, when this execrable project was set
on foot for my ruin as well as that of America in general, and of Great
Britain."

On receiving the invitation from Boston next day, he marveled.

"When I recollect my own reflections and speculations yesterday, a part
of which were committed to writing last night, and may be seen under
December 18th, and compare them with the proceedings of Boston
yesterday, of which the foregoing letter informed me, I cannot but
wonder, and call to mind Lord Bacon's observation about secret invisible
laws of nature, and communications and influences between places that
are not discovered by sense.

"But I am now under all obligations of interest and ambition, as well as
honor, gratitude and duty, to exert the utmost of my abilities in this
important cause. How shall it be conducted?"

As we all know, the Stamp Act was repealed in March, 1776, and we find
no more doubts or fears in John Adams' diary. Henceforth he belonged to
his country. So did the diary! From now on it is chiefly a record of
public affairs. This was natural, but one does wish he had said a little
more about his home and family. Only now and then do we find an entry of
this kind:

"A duller day than last Monday, when the Province was in a rapture for
the repeal of the Stamp Act, I do not remember to have passed. My wife,
who had long depended on going to Boston, and my little babe, were both
very ill, of an whooping cough. Myself under obligation to attend the
superior court at Plymouth the next day, and therefore unable to go to
Boston, and the town of Braintree insensible to the common joy!"

Or we read: "Set off with my wife for Salem; stopped half an hour at
Boston, crossed the ferry, and at three o'clock arrived at Hill's, the
tavern in Malden, the sign of the Rising Eagle, at the brook near Mr.
Emerson's meeting-house, five miles from Norwood's: where, namely, at
Hill's, we dined. Here we fell in company with Kent and Sewall. We all
oated at Martin's, where we found the new sheriff of Essex, Colonel
Saltonstall. We all rode into town together. Arrived at my dear brother
Cranch's about eight, and drank tea, and are all very happy. Sat and
heard the ladies talk about ribbon, catgut, and Paris net, ridinghoods,
cloth, silk and lace. Brother Cranch came home, and a very happy evening
we had."

Mr. Cranch was the gentleman in marrying whom Mary Smith had "chosen the
good part." The brothers-in-law were warm friends and there were many
pleasant family meetings.

"April 8th. Mounted my horse, in a very rainy morning, for Barnstable,
leaving my dear brother Cranch and his family at my house. Arrived at
Dr. Tufts', where I found a fine wild goose on the spit, and cranberries
stewing in the skillet for dinner. Tufts, as soon as he heard that
Cranch was at Braintree, determined to go over and bring him and wife
and child over, to dine upon wild goose, and cranberry sauce."

In the spring of 1768, Mr. Adams moved into Boston with his wife and
children. It was the first of several moves, which he thus records in
his diary four years later:

"In April, 1768, I removed to Boston, to the white house in Brattle
Square. In the spring, 1769, I removed to Cole Lane, to Mr.
Fayerweather's house. In 1770, I removed to another house in Brattle
Square, where Dr. Cooper now lives; in 1771, I removed from Boston to
Braintree, in the month of April, where I have lived to this time. I
hope I shall not have occasion to remove so often for four years and a
half to come."

In 1768, John Adams went on circuit as usual. Returning, he found the
town full of troops. They had landed "about one o'clock at noon, October
the first, under cover of the ship's cannon, without molestation; and,
having effected it, marched into the Common with muskets charged,
bayonets fixed, drums beating, fifes playing, etc., making, with the
train of artillery, upward of seven hundred men."[10]

The diary continues: "Through the whole succeeding Fall and Winter, a
regiment was exercised by Major Small, in Brattle Square, directly in
front of my house. The spirit-stirring drum and the ear-piercing fife
aroused me and my family early enough every morning, and the indignation
they excited, though somewhat soothed, was not allayed by the sweet
songs, violins and flutes, of the serenading Sons of Liberty under my
windows in the evening. In this way and a thousand others, I had
sufficient intimations that the hopes and confidence of the people were
placed in me as one of their friends; and I was determined that, so far
as depended on me, they should not be disappointed; and that if I could
render them no positive assistance at least I would never take any part
against them.

"My daily reflections for two years, at the sight of these soldiers
before my door, were serious enough. Their very appearance in Boston was
a strong proof to me, that the determination in Great Britain to
subjugate us was too deep and inveterate ever to be altered by us; for
every thing we could do was misrepresented, and nothing we could say was
credited. On the other hand, I had read enough in history to be well
aware of the errors to which the public opinions of the people were
liable in times of great heat and danger, as well as of the
extravagances of which the populace of cities were capable when
artfully excited to passion, and even when justly provoked by
oppression. . . .

"The danger I was in appeared in full view before me; and I very
deliberately, and, indeed, very solemnly, determined at all events to
adhere to my principles in favor of my native country, which, indeed,
was all the country I knew, or which had been known by my father,
grandfather, or great grandfather; but, on the other hand, I never would
deceive the people, nor conceal from them any essential truth, nor,
especially, make myself subservient to any of their crimes, follies, or
eccentricities. These rules, to the utmost of my capacity and power, I
have invariably and religiously observed to this day."

The drummings and fifings were to have more serious results than the
disturbing of good citizens' slumbers. The presence of the troops in
Boston proved a constant and growing irritation to the citizens, already
exasperated by repeated aggressions. The soldiers saw no reason why they
should be polite to the people, the people saw every reason why they
should be rude to the soldiers. There were constant wrangles and
jangles, growing more and more frequent, more and more violent, till at
length, on the night of March 5th, 1770, the seething pot boiled over.
John Adams writes:

"The evening of the fifth of March I spent at Mr. Henderson Inches'
house, at the south end of Boston, in company with a club with whom I
had been associated for several years. About nine o'clock we were
alarmed with the ringing of bells, and, supposing it to be the signal of
fire, we snatched our hats and cloaks, broke up the club, and went out
to assist in quenching the fire, or aiding our friends who might be in
danger. In the street we were informed that the British soldiers had
fired on the inhabitants, killed some and wounded others, near the
town-house. A crowd of people was flowing down the street to the scene
of action. When we arrived, we saw nothing but some field-pieces placed
before the south door of the town-house, and some engineers and
grenadiers drawn up to protect them. . . . Having surveyed round the
town house, and seeing all quiet, I walked down Boylston Alley into
Brattle Square, where a company or two of regular soldiers were drawn up
in front of Dr. Cooper's old church, with their muskets all shouldered,
and their bayonets all fixed. I had no other way to proceed but along
the whole front in a very narrow space which they had left for
passengers. Pursuing my way, without taking the least notice of them,
or they of me, any more than if they had been marble statues, I went
directly home to Cole Lane."

What had happened was the Boston Massacre, which is vividly described by
John Quincy Adams, at that time a child of two years.

It was nine o'clock of a moonlight night, he tells us, and there had
been a light fall of snow on the icy streets. A single sentry was pacing
slowly up and down before the door of the custom house in King Street.
From his beat he could hear shouts and tumult in the neighboring
streets; Boston did not go to bed at curfew these days. Parties of
citizens had met parties of soldiers, and exchanged uncomplimentary
remarks, with shouts and threats on either side. Probably the sentry
thought little of this: it went on every night, more or less. Presently,
however, round the corner came a barber's boy, and began to "slang" the
sentry himself. This was another matter, and he responded in kind. The
dispute ran high; other boys came running, and with them men, angry men
who had had their fill of British insolence. The sentry, who for his
part had had quite enough of "rebel impudence," called for support, and
out came a corporal and six men (or twelve--the accounts vary) under the
direction of Captain Preston, and ranged themselves in a semi-circle in
front of his post. Instantly, as if by magic, the soldiers were
surrounded by "forty or fifty of the lower order of town's people, who
had been roving the streets armed with billets of wood. . . . What
begins with jeering and profanity not seldom ends in some shape or other
of deepest tragedy. Forty or fifty of the coarsest people of a small
trading town and eight hirelings of an ordinary British regiment can
scarcely be imagined as types of any solid principle or exalted
sentiment, and yet at the bottom lay the root of bitterness which soon
afterwards yielded such abundant fruit. This was the first protest
against the application of force to the settlement of a question of
right."

We all know the outcome. Seven of the soldiers, "either under orders or
without orders," fired: five men fell mortally wounded: six others were
wounded less seriously. Each musket was loaded with two balls and every
ball took effect. "So fatal a precision of aim, indicating not a little
malignity, though it seems never to have attracted notice, is one of the
most singular circumstances attending the affray. No wonder, then, that
peaceable citizens of a town, until now inexperienced in events of the
kind, should, in their horror of the spectacle, have called the act a
massacre, and have demanded, in tones the most absolute, the
instantaneous removal of the cause. The armed hand, which had done this
deed, was that of England. It was not that of a friend or guardian. The
drops of blood then shed in Boston were like the dragon's teeth of
ancient fable--the seeds, from which sprung up the multitudes who would
recognize no arbitration but the deadly one of the battle-field."

There can have been little sleep that night for either Mr. or Mrs.
Adams. The latter was in delicate health. The roll of the drums, the
shouts of "Town-born, turn out, turn out!" the tramp of soldiers,
as company after company was hurried to the scene of action, must
have been terrifying enough. Still the tumult grew, till at length
Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson, with great difficulty making himself
heard from the balcony of the town house (now known as the Old State
House) pledged his word to the citizens that justice should be done, and
prevailed upon the commander of the troops to withdraw them to their
barracks.

This quieted the tumult, but still a crowd of anxious citizens--not the
rioters, but the sober patriots who realized the gravity of the
crisis--besieged the closed doors behind which Governor and Commander
and justices of the peace were in council. All night they waited,
watchful, silent: at three in the morning, it was announced that Captain
Preston had surrendered himself and was committed to prison; then, and
not till then, Boston went to bed.

The rest of the story must be told by John Adams himself.

"The next morning, I think it was, sitting in my office, near the steps
of the town-house stairs, Mr. Forrest came in, who was then called the
Irish Infant. I had some acquaintance with him. With tears streaming
from his eyes, he said, 'I am come with a very solemn message from a
very unfortunate man, Captain Preston, in prison. He wishes for counsel,
and can get none. I have waited on Mr. Quincy, who says he will engage,
if you will give him your assistance; without it, he positively will
not. Even Mr. Auchmuty declines, unless you will engage.' I had no
hesitation in answering that counsel ought to be the very last thing
that an accused person should want in a free country; that the bar
ought, in my opinion, to be independent and impartial, at all times and
in every circumstance, and that persons whose lives were at stake ought
to have the counsel they preferred. But he must be sensible this would
be as important a cause as was ever tried in any court or country of
the world; and that every lawyer must hold himself responsible not only
to his country, but to the highest and most infallible of all tribunals,
for the part he should act. He must, therefore, expect from me no art or
address, no sophistry or prevarication, in such a cause, nor any thing
more than fact, evidence, and law would justify. 'Captain Preston,' he
said, 'requested and desired no more; and that he had such an opinion
from all he had heard from all parties of me, that he could cheerfully
trust his life with me upon those principles.' 'And,' said Forrest, 'as
God Almighty is my judge, I believe him an innocent man.' I replied,
'That must be ascertained by his trial, and if he thinks he cannot have
a fair trial of that issue without my assistance, without hesitation, he
shall have it.'

"Upon this, Forrest offered me a single guinea as a retaining fee, and I
readily accepted it. From first to last I never said a word about fees,
in any of those cases, and I should have said nothing about them here,
if calumnies and insinuations had not been propagated that I was tempted
by great fees and enormous sums of money. Before or after the trial,
Preston sent me ten guineas, and at the trial of the soldiers
afterwards, eight guineas more, which were all the fees I ever received
or were offered to me, and I should not have said anything on the
subject to my clients if they had never offered me anything. This was
all the pecuniary reward I ever had for fourteen or fifteen days' labor
in the most exhausting and fatiguing causes I ever tried, for hazarding
a popularity very general and very hardly earned, and for incurring a
clamor, popular suspicions and prejudices, which are not yet worn out,
and never will be forgotten as long as the history of this period is
read.

"It was immediately bruited abroad that I had engaged for Preston and
the soldiers, and occasioned a great clamor, which the friends of the
government delighted to hear, and slily and secretly fomented with all
their art."

Their arts were of little avail. While the trial (which lasted through a
whole term) was still in progress, an election came on for a
representative of Boston, in the town meeting, and the people, eager to
show their confidence in John Adams, elected him by a large majority.

"I had never been at a Boston town meeting, and was not at this, until
messengers were sent to me to inform me that I was chosen. I went down
to Faneuil Hall, and in a few words expressive of my sense of the
difficulty and danger of the times, of the importance of the trust, and
of my own insufficiency to fulfill the expectations of the people, I
accepted the choice. Many congratulations were offered, which I received
civilly, but they gave no joy to me. I considered the step as a devotion
of my family to ruin, and myself to death; for I could scarce perceive a
possibility that I should ever go through the thorns and leap all the
precipices before me and escape with my life.

"At this time I had more business at the bar than any man in the
Province. My health was feeble. I was throwing away as bright prospects
as any man ever had before him, and I had devoted myself to endless
labor and anxiety, if not to infamy and to death, and that for nothing,
except what indeed was and ought to be all in all, a sense of duty. In
the evening, I expressed to Mrs. Adams all my apprehensions. That
excellent lady, who has always encouraged me, burst into a flood of
tears, but said she was very sensible of all the danger to her and to
our children, as well as to me, but she thought I had done as I ought;
she was very willing to share in all that was to come, and to place her
trust in Providence."

These apprehensions were unfounded. Thanks to Adams' eloquence, Preston
was acquitted, and so great was the public confidence in his advocate
that not a murmur of dissent was heard, nor was his popularity in any
degree lessened.

John Adams seldom condescends to anecdote, but he does tell us of "a
labored controversy, between the House and the Governor, concerning
these words: 'In General Court assembled, and by the authority of the
same.' I mention this merely on account of an anecdote, which the
friends of government circulated with diligence, of Governor Shirley,
who then lived in retirement at his seat in Roxbury. Having read this
dispute, in the public prints, he asked, 'Who has revived those old
words? They were expunged during my administration.' He was answered,
'The Boston seat.' 'And who are the Boston seat?' 'Mr. Cushing, Mr.
Hancock, Mr. Samuel Adams, and Mr. John Adams.' 'Mr. Cushing I knew, and
Mr. Hancock I knew,' replied the old Governor, 'but where the devil this
brace of Adamses came from, I know not.' This was archly circulated by
the ministerialists, to impress the people with the obscurity of the
original of the _par nobile fratrum_, as the friends of the country
used, to call us, by way of retaliation."

FOOTNOTES:

[9] "Two Centuries of Costume in America." Alice Morse Earle.

[10] "Gordon's History."



CHAPTER IV

THE BOSTON TEA PARTY


EVEN though it has little to say about his domestic life, I linger over
John Adams' diary. It is enthralling reading; most of it belongs rather
to history than to a slight record like this, yet here and there we get
pleasant glimpses of the man himself.

Here he is on circuit, riding through Maine, which was then
Massachusetts.

"Began my journey to Falmouth in Casco Bay. . . . Dined at Goodhue's, in
Salem, where I fell in company with a stranger, his name I knew not. . . .
One year more, he said, would make Americans as quiet as lambs; they
could not do without Great Britain, they could not conquer their luxury,
etc. Oated my horse, and drank balm tea at Treadwell's in Ipswich, where
I found Brother Porter, and chatted with him half an hour, then rode to
Rowley and lodged at Captain Jewett's. Jewett 'had rather the House
should sit all the year round, than give up an atom of right or
privilege. The Governor can't frighten the people with, etc.' . . .

"Sunday. Took a walk to the pasture to see how my horse fared. My little
mare had provided for herself, by leaping out of a bare pasture into a
neighboring lot of mowing-ground, and had filled herself with grass and
water. These are important materials for history, no doubt. My
biographer will scarcely introduce my little mare and her adventures in
quest of food and water. The children of the house have got a young
crow, a sight I never saw before;--the head and bill are monstrous; the
legs and claws are long and sprawling. But the young crow and the little
mare are objects that will not interest posterity."

I do not agree with you, John. I like to think of you watching the
little mare at her stolen breakfast, gravely observing the young crow;
later, with a whimsical smile curling the corners of your firm mouth,
entering the observations in your diary.

The climate of Boston did not suit Mr. Adams: he longed for his native
air of Braintree.

"The complicated cares of my legal and political engagements, the
slender diet to which I was obliged to confine myself, the air of the
town of Boston, which was not favorable to me, who had been born and
passed almost all my life in the country, but especially the constant
obligation to speak in public, almost every day for many hours, had
exhausted my health, brought on a pain in my breast, and a complaint in
my lungs, which seriously threatened my life, and compelled me to throw
off a great part of the load of business, both public and private, and
return to my farm in the country. Early in the Spring of 1771, I removed
my family to Braintree, still holding, however, an office in Boston. The
air of my native spot, and the fine breezes from the sea on one side,
and the rocky mountains of pine and savin on the other, together with
daily rides on horseback and the amusements of agriculture, always
delightful to me, soon restored my health in a considerable degree."

Yet still he wondered why he was not stronger. Turning the pages of the
diary, we feel no such surprise. He simply overworked himself,
continuously and relentlessly. "Now my family is away, I feel no
inclination at all, no temptation, to be anywhere but at my office. I am
in it by six in the morning, I am in it at nine at night, and I spend
but a small space of time in running down to my brother's to breakfast,
dinner and tea."

"Returned at night . . . to Braintree,--still, calm, happy Braintree--at
nine o'clock at night."

This was no way to live, John, for any length of time. Small wonder that
in November, 1772, he once more moved into Boston, having purchased a
house in Queen Street, "where I hope I shall live as long as I have any
connection with Boston."

How Abigail liked this "to-ing and fro-ing," we do not know. She is
silent, and John has little to say about her. Now and then we find an
entry like this: "My wife says her father never inculcated any maxim of
behavior upon his children so often as this,--never to speak ill of
anybody; to say all the handsome things she could of persons, but no
evil; and to make things, rather than persons, the subjects of
conversation. These rules he always impressed upon us, whenever we were
going abroad, if it was but to spend an afternoon. He was always
remarkable for observing these rules in his own conversation." This
gives us a pleasant glimpse of good Parson Smith.

Now and then, too, we read of a drive or walk or tea-drinking "with my
wife"; but that is all. As a rule, John felt no more need of mentioning
her, than the air he breathed, or the food that nourished him. She was
there, and that was enough. By and by, however, Abigail began to speak,
or rather to write for herself, and from now on her letters must be our
best guide.

Be it remembered that, in 1767, by the so-called Townshend Acts, a tax
had been levied on glass, lead, paper, painters' colors, and tea. Three
years later all these taxes had been repealed, except that on tea, which
was retained as the sign and token of Great Britain's right to tax her
colonies when and how she pleased. This fact, borne in mind, explains
the following letter, written by Mrs. Adams on December 5th, 1773, to
her friend, Mercy Warren, wife of General James Warren of Plymouth and
sister of James Otis:

"Do not, my worthy friend, tax me with either breach of promise or
neglect towards you; the only reason why I did not write to you
immediately upon your leaving town was my being seized with a fever,
which has confined me almost ever since. I have not for these many years
known so severe a fit of sickness. I am now, through the favor of
Heaven, so far returned as to be able to leave my chamber some part of
the day. I will not make any other apology for my past neglect, being
fully sensible that I alone have been the sufferer. My pen, which I once
loved and delighted in, has for a long time been out of credit with me.
Could I borrow the powers and faculties of my much valued friend, I
should then hope to use it with advantage to myself and delight to
others. Incorrect and unpolished as it is, I will not suffer a mistaken
pride so far to lead me astray as to omit the present opportunity of
improvement. And should I prove a tractable scholar, you will not find
me tardy.

"You, madam, are so sincere a lover of your country, and so hearty a
mourner in all her misfortunes, that it will greatly aggravate your
anxiety to hear how much she is now oppressed and insulted. To you, who
have so thoroughly looked through the deeds of men, and developed the
dark designs of a rapacious soul, no action however base or sordid, no
measure, however cruel and villanous, will be matter of any surprise.

"The tea, that baneful weed, is arrived. Great and, I hope, effectual
opposition has been made to the landing of it. To the public papers I
must refer you for particulars. You will there find that the proceedings
of our citizens have been united, spirited and firm. The flame is
kindled, and like lightning it catches from soul to soul. Great will be
the devastation, if not timely quenched or allayed by some more lenient
measures. Although the mind is shocked at the thought of shedding human
blood, more especially the blood of our countrymen, and a civil war is
of all wars the most dreadful, such is the present spirit that prevails,
that if once they are made desperate, many, very many of our heroes will
spend their lives in the cause, with the speech of Cato in their mouths.

"Such is the present situation of affairs, that I tremble when I think
what may be the direful consequences, and in this town must the scene of
action lie. My heart beats at every whistle I hear, and I dare not
express half my fears. Eternal reproach and ignominy be the portion of
all those who have been instrumental in bringing these fears upon me.
There has prevailed a report that tomorrow there will be an attempt to
land this weed of slavery. I will then write further. Till then, my
worthy friend, adieu."

During ten days more, Abigail Adams' heart was to "beat at every whistle
she heard." The patriots meant to make no mistakes in this important
matter. They steadfastly refused to receive the tea; they used their
utmost efforts to induce Governor Hutchinson to allow its return. It was
not till all had been done that man could do, that the final step was
taken and the tea disposed of. Trevelyan, in his history of the
American Revolution, says: "Boston, under circumstances which have been
too frequently described to admit of their ever again being related in
detail, gratified the curiosity of an energetic patriot who expressed a
wish to see whether tea could be made with salt water." It is the only
passage in that admirable work with which I have a quarrel. Boston born
and bred, I cannot be expected to pass over the Tea Party with a brief
word. I must recall, if only for the sake of that beating heart of
Abigail Adams', that scene on the night of December 16th: the painted
figures stealing from street and alley and crooked lane to the
rendezvous at the Old South Church; the war-whoop ringing out, the rush
down Franklin Street to Griffin's Wharf; the shouts and laughter, under
which lay such deadly earnestness; the scuffle on the decks, the splash!
splash! as chest after chest of best Bohea and Hyson (to the value of
eighteen thousand pounds) dropped into the icy water, and went "sailing
so merrily out to sea." How should I not call up the scene at least thus
briefly, when my own great-grandfather was one of the Mohawks? And how
do we know that little Abigail and John Quincy Adams were not singing,
in the days of turbulent excitement that followed the Tea Party, songs
something like the following, though this is of a somewhat later date:

    There was an old lady lived over the sea,
      And she was an Island Queen.
    Her daughter lived off in a new countrie
      With an ocean of water between.
    The old lady's pockets were full of gold,
      But never contented was she,
    So she called on her daughter to pay her a tax
      Of three-pence a pound on her tea,
      Of three-pence a pound on her tea.

    "Now, mother, dear mother," the daughter replied,
      "I shan't do the thing you ax.
    I'm willing to pay a fair price for the tea,
      But never the three-penny tax."
    "You shall," quoth the mother, and reddened with rage,
      "For you're my own daughter, you see.
    And sure 'tis quite proper the daughter should pay
      Her mother a tax on her tea,
      Her mother a tax on her tea."

    And so the old lady her servant called up
      And packed off a budget of tea,
    And, eager for three-pence a pound, she put in
      Enough for a large familee.
    She ordered her servant to bring home the tax,
      Declaring her child should obey,
    Or old as she was, and almost woman grown,
      She'd half whip her life away,
      She'd half whip her life away.

    The tea was conveyed to the daughter's door,
      All down by the ocean side,
    And the bouncing girl poured out every pound
      In the dark and boiling tide,
    And then she called out to the Island Queen,
      "Oh! Mother! Dear Mother!" quoth she,
    "Your tea you may have when 'tis steeped enough,
      But never a tax from me,
      No, never a tax from me!"[11]

The diary has little more to say than Trevelyan. We read "Twenty-eight
chests of tea arrived yesterday, which are to make an infusion in water
at seven o'clock this evening." And the next day: "Last night
twenty-eight chests and a half of tea were drowned."

It is clear that Mr. Adams knew what was to be done; he never knew the
names of the doers, steadfastly refusing to be told. "You may depend
upon it," he says, writing to a friend in 1819, "that they were no
ordinary Mohawks. The profound secrecy in which they have held their
names, and the total abstinence from plunder, are proofs of the
characters of the men. I believe they would have tarred and feathered
anyone of their number who should have been detected in pocketing a
pound of Hyson."

The following year, 1774, was a momentous one. The destruction of the
tea had roused George III and his ministers to frenzy; they bent all
their energies to punish the rebellious town of Boston. Edict followed
edict. The Five Intolerable Acts, they were called. This is not the
place to name them; be it merely said that one of them amounted
practically to a repeal of the Charter of Massachusetts. Early in May
General Gage arrived, with full powers as Civil Governor of the Colony,
and as Commander-in-Chief for the whole continent, to see that the
edicts were carried out. First came the Boston Port Bill, which closed
the harbor of Massachusetts and transferred the business of the
custom-house to Salem.

On May 26th, 1774, Governor Gage informed the General Court that its
sessions would be held at Salem from June first till further orders. The
court obeyed, met at Salem, under the leadership of Samuel Adams, and
proceeded to make arrangements for a general congress at Philadelphia.
Gage, hearing of this, sent a messenger post haste to Salem to dissolve
the meeting. The messenger found the door locked, nor was it opened till
the congress had been determined upon, and the Massachusetts committee
appointed: James Bowdoin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Thomas Cushing,
Robert Treat Paine. This was on June 17th, 1774. On the same day, a
great meeting was held at Faneuil Hall, with John Adams as moderator to
protest against the iniquitous Port Bill.

Jonathan Sewall, John Adams' bosom friend, was a strong Royalist. On
hearing of Adams' nomination to the projected Congress, he hastened to
protest against his accepting it, with all the eloquence of which he was
master. Every school child knows the answer by heart.

"I know," said John Adams, "that Great Britain has determined on her
system, and that very fact determines me on mine. You know I have been
constant and uniform in opposition to her measures; the die is now cast;
I have passed the Rubicon; to swim or sink, live or die, survive or
perish with my country, is my unalterable determination."

Meantime, on June 1st, the blockade of Boston Harbor was proclaimed, and
the ruin and starvation of the city zealously undertaken. "I'll put
Boston seventeen miles from the sea!" Lord North had vowed, and he was
better than his word.

"The law was executed with a rigour that went beyond the intentions of
its authors. Not a scow could be manned by oars to bring an ox, or a
sheep, or a bundle of hay, from the islands. All water carriage from
pier to pier, though but of lumber, or bricks, or kine, was forbidden.
The boats that plied between Boston and Charlestown could not ferry a
parcel of goods across Charles River. The fishermen of Marblehead, when
they bestowed quintals of dried fish on the poor of Boston, were obliged
to transport their offerings in wagons by a circuit of thirty
miles."[12]

The British troops, which had been removed after the "Massacre," came
back into the town, "sore and surly,"[13] and encamped on Boston Common.
The evil days had begun. Small wonder that under such conditions as
these, John Adams' heart was heavy at leaving his home, even on so high
an errand as that which called him to Philadelphia.

A month before this, he was writing to his wife the first of the famous
Familiar Letters. It is dated Boston, 12 May, 1774.

"I am extremely afflicted with the relation your father gave me of the
return of your disorder. My own infirmities, the account of the return
of yours, and the public news coming all together have put my utmost
philosophy to the trial.

"We live, my dear soul, in an age of trial. What will be the
consequence, I know not. The town of Boston, for aught I can see, must
suffer martyrdom. It must expire. And our principal consolation is, that
it dies in a noble cause--the cause of truth, of virtue, of liberty, and
of humanity, and that it will probably have a glorious resurrection to
greater wealth, splendor and power, than ever.

"Let me know what is best for us to do. It is expensive keeping a family
here, and there is no prospect of any business in my way in this town
this whole summer. I don't receive a shilling a week. We must contrive
as many ways as we can to save expenses; for we may have calls to
contribute very largely, in proportion to our circumstances, to prevent
other very honest worthy people from suffering for want, besides our own
loss in point of business and profit.

"Don't imagine from all this that I am in the dumps. Far otherwise. I
can truly say that I have felt more spirits and activity since the
arrival of this news than I had done before for years. I look upon this
as the last effort of Lord North's despair, and he will as surely be
defeated in it, as he was in the project of the tea.

"I am, with great anxiety for your health,

                                  "Your       JOHN ADAMS."

Abigail was probably visiting in the country at this time; but shortly
after, John moved his family once more to Braintree, "to prepare myself
as well as I could for the storm that was coming on." He rode his
circuit as usual, but for the last time. His letters are full of
foreboding; full also of courage, and resolve to meet whatever fate held
in store.

"Let us, therefore, my dear partner, from that affection which we feel
for our lovely babes, apply ourselves, by every way we can, to the
cultivation of our farm. Let frugality and industry be our virtues, if
they are not of any others. And above all cares of this life, let our
ardent anxiety be to mould the minds and manners of our children. Let us
teach them not only to do virtuously, but to excel. To excel, they must
be taught to be steady, active, and industrious."

He is not too anxious to give his usual keen attention to all he sees
and hears. From York he writes:

"This town of York is a curiosity, in several views. The people here are
great idolaters of the memory of their former minister, Mr. Moody. Dr.
Sayward says, and the rest of them generally think, that Mr. Moody was
one of the greatest men and best saints who have lived since the days of
the Apostles. He had an ascendency and authority over the people here,
as absolute as that of any prince in Europe, not excepting his Holiness.

"This he acquired by a variety of means. In the first place, he settled
in the place without any contract. His professed principle was that no
man should be hired to preach the gospel, but that the minister should
depend upon the charity, generosity, and benevolence of the people. This
was very flattering to their pride, and left room for their ambition to
display itself in an emulation among them which should be most bountiful
and ministerial.

"In the next place, he acquired the character of firm trust in
Providence. A number of gentlemen came in one day, when they had nothing
in the house. His wife was very anxious, they say, and asked him what
they should do. 'Oh, never fear; trust Providence, make a fire in the
oven, and you will have something.' Very soon a variety of everything
that was good was sent in, and by one o'clock they had a splendid
dinner.

"He had also the reputation of enjoying intimate communication with the
Deity, and of having a great interest in the Court of Heaven by his
prayers.

"He always kept his musket in order, and was fond of hunting. On a
time, they say, he was out of provisions. There came along two wild
geese. He takes gun and cries, 'If it please God I kill both, I will
send the fattest to the poorest person in this parish.' He shot, and
killed both; ordered them plucked, and then sent the fattest to a poor
widow, leaving the other, which was a very poor one, at home,--to the
great mortification of his lady. But his maxim was, Perform unto the
Lord thy vow.

"But the best story I have heard yet was his doctrine in a sermon from
this text, 'Lord, what shall we do?' The doctrine was that when a person
or people are in a state of perplexity, and know not what to do, they
ought never to do they know not what. This is applicable to the times."

On August 10th, Mr. Adams, with the other commissioners, took coach and
started from Boston for Philadelphia, escorted by enthusiastic crowds.
From this time, the Letters tell the story as nothing else can. I
therefore quote from them with only such comment as may be necessary.

"The particulars of our journey I must reserve, to be communicated after
my return. It would take a volume to describe the whole. It has been
upon the whole an agreeable jaunt. We have had opportunities to see the
world and to form acquaintances with the most eminent and famous men in
the several colonies we have passed through. We have been treated with
unbounded civility, complaisance, and respect. We yesterday visited
Nassau Hall College, and were politely treated by the scholars, tutors,
professors, and president, whom we are this day to hear preach. Tomorrow
we reach the theatre of action. God Almighty grant us wisdom and virtue
sufficient for the high trust that is devolved upon us. The spirit of
the people, wherever we have been, seems to be very favorable. They
universally consider our cause as their own, and express the firmest
resolution to abide by the determination of the Congress.

"I am anxious for our perplexed, distressed province; hope they will be
directed into the right path. Let me entreat you, my dear, to make
yourself as easy and quiet as possible. Resignation to the will of
Heaven is our only resource in such dangerous times. Prudence and
caution should be our guides. I have the strongest hopes that we shall
yet see a clearer sky and better times.

"Remember my tender love to little Abby; tell her she must write me a
letter and inclose it in the next you send. I am charmed with your
amusement with our little Johnny. Tell him I am glad to hear he is so
good a boy as to read to his mamma for her entertainment, and to keep
himself out of the company of rude children. Tell him I hope to hear a
good account of his accidence and nomenclature when I return. . . .

"The education of our children is never out of my mind. Train them to
virtue. Habituate them to industry, activity, and spirit. Make them
consider every vice as shameful and unmanly. Fire them with ambition to
be useful. Make them disdain to be destitute of any useful or ornamental
knowledge or accomplishment. Fix their ambition upon great and solid
objects, and their contempt upon little, frivolous, and useless ones. It
is time, my dear, for you to begin to teach them French. Every decency,
grace, and honesty should be inculcated upon them. . . ."


ABIGAIL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS.

"I own I feel not a little agitated with the accounts I have this day
received from town; great commotions have arisen in consequence of a
discovery of a traitorous plot of Colonel Brattle's,--his advice to Gage
to break every commissioned officer and to seize the province's and
town's stock of gunpowder. . . .

"I should be glad to know how you found the people as you traveled from
town to town. I hear you met with great hospitality and kindness in
Connecticut. Pray let me know how your health is, and whether you have
not had exceeding hot weather. The drought has been very severe. My poor
cows will certainly prefer a petition to you, setting forth their
grievances and informing you that they have been deprived of their
ancient privileges, whereby they are become great sufferers, and
desiring that they may be restored to them. More especially as their
living, by reason of the drought, is all taken from them, and their
property which they hold elsewhere is decaying, they humbly pray that
you would consider them, lest hunger should break through stone walls.

"The tenderest regard evermore awaits you from your most affectionate

                                                   "ABIGAIL ADAMS."


                                      "Braintree, 14 September, 1774.

"Five weeks have passed and not one line have I received. I would rather
give a dollar for a letter by the post, though the consequence should be
that I ate but one meal a day these three weeks to come. . . .

"We are all well here. I think I enjoy better health than I have done
these two years. I have not been to town since I parted with you there.
The Governor is making all kinds of warlike preparations, such as
mounting cannon upon Beacon Hill, digging intrenchments upon the Neck,
placing cannon there, encamping a regiment there, throwing up
breast-works, etc. The people are much alarmed, and the selectmen have
waited upon him in consequence of it. The County Congress have also sent
a committee; all which proceedings you will have a more particular
account of than I am able to give you, from the public papers. But as to
the movements of this town, perhaps you may not hear them from any other
person.

"In consequence of the powder being taken from Charlestown, a general
alarm spread through many towns and was caught pretty soon here. The
report took here on Friday, and on Sunday a soldier was seen lurking
about the Common, supposed to be a spy, but most likely a deserter.
However, intelligence of it was communicated to the other parishes, and
about eight o'clock Sunday evening there passed by here about two
hundred men, preceded by a horsecart, and marched down to the
powder-house, from whence they took the powder, and carried it into the
other parish and there secreted it. I opened the window upon their
return. They passed without any noise, not a word among them till they
came against this house, when some of them, perceiving me, asked me if I
wanted any powder. I replied, no, since it was in so good hands. The
reason they gave for taking it was that we had so many Tories here, they
dared not trust us with it. . . . This town appears as high as you can
well imagine, and, if necessary, would soon be in arms. Not a Tory but
hides his head. The church parson thought they were coming after him,
and ran up garret; they say another jumped out of his window and hid
among the corn, whilst a third crept under his board fence and told his
beads."

"The church parson" was probably the Rev. Anthony Wibird, of whom Mrs.
Adams said, when on Fast Day, 1775, she drove to Dedham to church, that
she did so because she "could not bear to hear our inanimate old
bachelor." A few days after the burning of Falmouth she wrote, "I could
not join today in the petition of our worthy pastor for a reconciliation
between our no longer parent, but tyrant state and these colonies. Let
us separate. They are not worthy to be our brethren. Let us renounce
them, and instead of supplications, as formerly, for their prosperity
and happiness, let us beseech the Almighty to blast their counsels and
bring to naught all their devices."


                                                        "16 September.

"I have always thought it of very great importance that children should,
in the early part of life, be unaccustomed to such examples as would
tend to corrupt the purity of their words and actions, that they may
chill with horror at the sound of an oath, and blush with indignation at
an obscene expression. These first principles, which grow with their
growth, and strengthen with their strength, neither time nor custom can
totally eradicate."


JOHN ADAMS TO ABIGAIL ADAMS.

                                       "Philadelphia, 20 September, 1774.

"I am anxious to know how you can live without Government. But the
experiment must be tried. The evils will not be found so dreadful as you
apprehend them. Frugality, my dear, frugality, economy, parsimony, must
be our refuge. I hope the ladies are every day diminishing their
ornaments, and the gentlemen, too. Let us eat potatoes and drink water;
let us wear canvas, and undressed sheepskins, rather than submit to the
unrighteous and ignominious domination that is prepared for us.

"Tell Brackett I shall make him leave off drinking rum. We can't let him
fight yet. My love to my dear ones.

                                                    "Adieu."


A few days after this, Abigail writes, dating her letter "Boston
Garrison, 24 September, 1774."

"I have just returned from a visit to my brother, with my father, who
carried me there the day before yesterday, and called here in my return,
to see this much injured town. I view it with much the same sensations
that I should the body of a departed friend--having only put off its
present glory for to rise finally to a more happy state. I will not
despair, but will believe that, our cause being good, we shall finally
prevail. The maxim 'In time of peace prepare for war' (if this may be
called a time of peace) resounds throughout the country. Next Tuesday
they are warned at Braintree, all above fifteen and under sixty, to
attend with their arms; and to train once a fortnight from that time is
a scheme which lies much at heart with many. . . .

"I left all our little ones well, and shall return to them tonight. I
hope to hear from you by the return of the bearer of this, and by
Revere. I long for the day of your return, yet look upon you as much
safer where you are--but I know it will not do for you. Not one action
has been brought to this court; no business of any sort in your way. All
law ceases and the gospel will soon follow, for they are supporters of
each other. Adieu."

In another letter she says: "All your family, too numerous to name,
desire to be remembered. You will receive letters from two who are as
earnest to write to papa as if the welfare of a kingdom depended upon
it."

These two were little Abby and Johnny, who were missing their father
sadly. One of John's letters reads thus:

      "Sir--I have been trying ever since you went away to
      learn to write you a letter. I shall make poor work of
      it; but, sir, mamma says you will accept my endeavors,
      and that my duty to you may be expressed in poor
      writing as well as good. I hope I grow a better boy,
      and that you will have no occasion to be ashamed of me
      when you return. Mr. Thaxter says I learn my books
      well. He is a very good master. I read my books to
      mamma. We all long to see you. I am, sir, your dutiful
      son,

                                     "JOHN QUINCY ADAMS."

It is pleasant to think of the little seven-year-old boy bending over
his paper, laboriously composing this letter. He must have been a pretty
boy, with his firm, clear-cut features. His dress was his father's in
little, flapped waistcoat, knee breeches, buckled shoes, coat with cuffs
and buttons and all the rest of it. I trust Mother Adams was too
sensible to put him in a wig, but I do not know; most sons of well-to-do
people wore wigs at that time. William Freeman was seven, just Johnny
Adams' age, when his father paid nine pounds for a wig for him. Wigged
or not, Johnny Adams knew how to write a letter. I wonder how many boys
of seven could equal it today!

I cannot resist quoting another letter of Master Johnny's, written two
years later.

                                 "Braintree, June 2d, 1777.

      "DEAR SIR:

      "I love to receive letters very well; much better than
      I love to write them. I make but a poor figure at
      composition. My head is much too fickle. My thoughts
      are running after birds' eggs, play and trifles, till
      I get vexed with myself. Mamma has a troublesome task
      to keep me a-studying. I own I am ashamed of myself. I
      have but just entered the third volume of Rollin's
      Ancient History, but designed to have got half
      through it by this time. I am determined this week to
      be more diligent. . . . I have set myself a stint this
      week, to read the third volume half out. If I can but
      keep my resolution, I may again at the end of the week
      give a better account of myself. I wish, sir, you
      would give me in writing, some instructions with
      regard to the use of my time, and advise me how to
      proportion my studies and play, and I will keep them
      by me, and endeavor to follow them. With the present
      determination of growing better, I am, dear sir, your
      son

                                      "JOHN QUINCY ADAMS."

      "P. S. If you will be so good as to favor me with a
      blank book, I will transcribe the most remarkable
      passages I meet with in my reading, which will serve
      to fix them upon my mind."

Johnny's taste in poetry was less mature. Writing in later years of
these times, he says: "With these books (a copy of Shakespeare) in a
closet of my mother's bedchamber, there was, (in 1778) also a small
edition in two volumes of Milton's Paradise Lost, which I believe I
attempted ten times to read, and never got through half a book. I might
as well have attempted to read Homer before I had learned the Greek
alphabet. I was mortified even to the shedding of solitary tears, that
I could not even conceive what it was that my father and mother admired
so much in that book, and yet I was ashamed to ask them an explanation.
I smoked tobacco and read Milton at the same time, and from the same
motive,--to find out what was the recondite charm in them which gave my
father so much pleasure. After making myself four or five times sick
with smoking, I mastered that accomplishment, and acquired a habit
which, thirty years afterward, I had more difficulty in breaking off.
But I did not master Milton. I was nearly thirty when I first read the
Paradise Lost with delight and astonishment."

FOOTNOTES:

[11] Author unknown.

[12] "History of the United States of America." Bancroft.

[13] "The American Revolution." Trevelyan.



CHAPTER V

AFTER LEXINGTON


ON October 28th, Mr. Adams set out on his return homeward. The Diary
reads:

"Took our departure, in a very great rain, from the happy, the peaceful,
the elegant, the hospitable, and polite city of Philadelphia. It is not
very likely that I shall ever see this part of the world again, but I
shall ever retain a most grateful, pleasing sense of the many civilities
I have received in it, and shall think myself happy to have an
opportunity of returning them."

John Adams was to see a good deal more of Philadelphia; but he spent
this winter of 1774-5 at home with Portia and the four children,
happily, so far as home life went, but beset by anxieties and tasks. He
was immediately elected into the Provincial Congress; besides this, he
was writing weekly letters, signed "Novanglus," for the Boston
_Gazette_, important letters answering those of "Massachusettensis" in
Draper's paper, which "were conducted with a subtlety of art and
address wonderfully calculated to keep up the spirits of their party, to
depress ours, to spread intimidation, and to make proselytes among those
whose principles and judgment give way to their fears; and these compose
at least one-third of mankind." Mr. Adams notes soberly that "in New
England, they [his own letters] had the effect of an antidote to the
poison of Massachusettensis, and," he adds, "the battle of Lexington, on
the 19th of April, changed the instruments of warfare from the pen to
the sword."

Abigail, naturally, has nothing to say about Lexington and Concord; how
should she? Her John was at home with her, and she kept no diary. But
John _might_ have given us a word about Paul Revere and the rising of
the countryside, about the gathering of the minute-men on that green
over which "the smoke of the battle still seems to hang": might have
mentioned at least that toy pistol of Major Pitcairn's--a pretty thing,
gold and mother-of-pearl, given him by admiring friends--which we are
told fired the actual first shot of the Revolution, provoking that other
which was "heard round the world": he might have told--as his son, long
years after when he was President of the United States, loved to
tell--how, the day after the battle, the minute-men came, and took Mrs.
Adams' pewter spoons to melt them into bullets: but no!

"A few days after this event," he says, "I rode to Cambridge, where I
saw General Ward, General Heath, General Joseph Warren, and the New
England army. There was great confusion and much distress. Artillery,
arms, clothing were wanting, and a sufficient supply of provisions not
easily obtained. Neither the officers nor men, however, wanted spirits
or resolution. I rode from thence to Lexington, and along the scene of
action for many miles, and inquired of the inhabitants the
circumstances. These were not calculated to diminish my ardor in the
cause; they, on the contrary, convinced me that the die was cast, the
Rubicon passed, and, as Lord Mansfield expressed it in Parliament, if we
did not defend ourselves, they would kill us. On my return home, I was
seized with a fever, attended with alarming symptoms; but the time was
come to repair to Philadelphia to Congress, which was to meet on the
fifth of May. I was determined to go as far as I could, and instead of
venturing on horseback, as I had intended, I got into a sulky, attended
by a servant on horseback, and proceeded on the journey."

This was an anxious journey for Mr. Adams, knowing as he did, that he
was leaving his beloved family exposed to many and grave dangers.
Parliament had, in February, 1775, declared the Colony of Massachusetts
to be in a state of rebellion, and things went from bad to worse in
Boston. The following letter gives the full measure of his anxiety:

"Mr. Eliot, of Fairfield, is this moment arrived, on his way to Boston.
He read us a letter from the Dr., his father, dated yesterday sennight,
being Sunday. The Dr.'s description of the melancholy of the town is
enough to melt a stone. The trials of that unhappy and devoted people
are likely to be severe indeed. God grant that the furnace of affliction
may refine them. God grant that they may be relieved from their present
distress.

"It is arrogance and presumption, in human sagacity, to pretend to
penetrate far into the designs of Heaven. The most perfect reverence and
resignation becomes us, but I cannot help depending upon this, that the
present dreadful calamity of that beloved town is intended to bind the
colonies together in more indissoluble bonds, and to animate their
exertions at this great crisis in the affairs of mankind. It has this
effect in a most remarkable degree, as far as I have yet seen or heard.
It will plead with all America with more irresistible persuasion than
angels trumpet-tongued.

"In a cause which interests the whole globe, at a time when my friends
and country are in such keen distress, I am scarcely ever interrupted in
the least degree by apprehensions for my personal safety. I am often
concerned for you and our dear babes, surrounded, as you are, by people
who are too timorous and too much susceptible of alarms. Many fears and
jealousies and imaginary dangers will be suggested to you, but I hope
you will not be impressed by them. In case of real danger, of which you
cannot fail to have previous intimations, fly to the woods with our
children. Give my tenderest love to them, and to all."

"Fly to the woods with our children"! The words tell only too plainly
how terrible was the danger the writer apprehended. The woods were--or
at any moment might be--full of prowling savages, from whom no mercy
could be expected; yet John Adams would choose to run this risk rather
than others that threatened, or seemed to threaten, his dear ones. One
feels through all the years the thrill of his anxiety.

"For the space of twelve months," says John Quincy Adams, "my mother
with her infant children dwelt liable every hour of the day and night
to be butchered in cold blood or taken into Boston as hostages by any
foraging or marauding detachment of men like that actually sent forth on
the 19th of April to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams, on their way
to attend the Continental Congress at Philadelphia. My father was
separated from his family on his way to attend the same congress, and
then my mother and her children lived in unintermitted danger of being
consumed with them all in a conflagration kindled by a torch in the same
hands which on the 17th of June lighted the fires of Charlestown."

Abigail, in Braintree, no longer "calm and happy," laments over the
sufferings of her friends and former neighbors.

                                             "5 May, 1775.

      "The distresses of the inhabitants of Boston are
      beyond the power of language to describe; there are
      but very few who are permitted to come out in a day;
      they delay giving passes, make them wait from hour to
      hour, and their counsels are not two hours alike. One
      day, they shall come out with their effects; the next
      day, merchandise is not effects. One day, their
      household furniture is to come out; the next, only
      wearing apparel; the next, Pharaoh's heart is
      hardened, and he refuseth to hearken to them, and will
      not let the people go. May their deliverance be
      wrought out for them, as it was for the children of
      Israel. I do not mean by miracles, but by the
      interposition of Heaven in their favor. They have
      taken a list of all those who they suppose were
      concerned in watching the tea, and every other person
      whom they call obnoxious, and they and their effects
      are to suffer destruction.

                                        "Yours, PORTIA."


                                             "24 May, 1775.

      "I suppose you have had a formidable account of the
      alarm we had last Sunday morning. When I rose, about
      six o'clock, I was told that the drums had been some
      time beating, and that three alarm guns were fired;
      that Weymouth bell had been ringing, and Mr. Weld's
      was then ringing. I immediately sent off an express to
      know the occasion, and found the whole town in
      confusion. Three sloops and one cutter had come out
      and dropped anchor just below Great Hill. It was
      difficult to tell their designs; some supposed they
      were coming to Germantown, others to Weymouth;
      people, women, children, from the iron-works, came
      flocking down this way; every woman and child driven
      off from below my father's; my father's family flying.
      The Dr. is in great distress, as you may well imagine,
      for my aunt had her bed thrown into a cart, into which
      she got herself, and ordered the boy to drive her to
      Bridgewater, which he did. The report was to them that
      three hundred British had landed, and were upon their
      march up into town. The alarm flew like lightning, and
      men from all parts came flocking down, till two
      thousand were collected. But it seems their expedition
      was to Grape Island for Levett's hay. There it was
      impossible to reach them for want of boats; but the
      sight of so many people, and the firing at them,
      prevented their getting more than three tons of hay,
      though they had carted much more down to the water. At
      last a lighter was mustered, and a sloop from Hingham,
      which had six port-holes. Our men eagerly jumped on
      board, and put off for the Island. As soon as they
      perceived it, they decamped. Our people landed upon
      the island, and in an instant set fire to the hay,
      which, with the barn, was soon consumed,--about eighty
      tons, it is said. We expect soon to be in continual
      alarms, till something decisive takes place. . . . Our
      house has been, upon this alarm, in the same scene of
      confusion that it was upon the former. Soldiers coming
      in for a lodging, for breakfast, for supper, for
      drink, etc. Sometimes refugees from Boston, tired and
      fatigued, seek an asylum for a day, a night, a week.
      You can hardly imagine how we live; yet,--

                To the houseless child of want,
                  Our doors are open still;
                And though our portions are but scant,
                  We give them with good will.

      "My best wishes attend you, both for your health and
      happiness, and that you may be directed into the
      wisest and best measures for our safety and the
      security of our posterity. I wish you were nearer to
      us; we know not what a day will bring forth, nor what
      distress one hour may throw us into. Hitherto, I have
      been able to maintain a calmness and presence of mind,
      and hope I shall, let the exigency of the time be what
      it will. . . ."


                                   "Weymouth, 15 June, 1775.

      "I sat down to write to you on Monday, but really
      could not compose myself sufficiently; the anxiety I
      suffered from not hearing one syllable from you for
      more than five weeks, and the new distress arising
      from the arrival of recruits, agitated me more than I
      have been since the never-to-be-forgotten 14th of
      April. I have been much revived by receiving two
      letters from you last night. . . .

      "We cannot but consider the great distance you are
      from us as a very great misfortune, when our critical
      situation renders it necessary to hear from you every
      week, and will be more and more so, as difficulties
      arise. We now expect our seacoast ravaged; perhaps the
      very next letter I write will inform you that I am
      driven away from our yet quiet cottage. Necessity will
      oblige Gage to take some desperate steps. We are told
      for truth that he is now eight thousand strong. We
      live in continual expectations of alarms. Courage I
      know we have in abundance; conduct I hope we shall not
      want; but powder,--where shall we get a sufficient
      supply? I wish we may not fail there. Every town is
      filled with the distressed inhabitants of Boston. Our
      house[14] among others is deserted, and by this time,
      like enough, made use of as a barrack. . . .

      "I have a request to make of you; something like the
      barrel of sand, I suppose you will think it, but
      really of much more importance to me. It is, that you
      would send out Mr. Bass, and purchase me a bundle of
      pins and put them in your trunk for me. The cry for
      pins is so great that what I used to buy for seven
      shillings and sixpence are now twenty shillings, and
      not to be had for that. A bundle contains six
      thousand, for which I used to give a dollar; but if
      you can procure them for fifty shillings, or three
      pounds (ten dollars), pray let me have them.

             "I am, with the tenderest regard,
                                        "Your PORTIA."

On June 17th, John Adams writes:

      "I can now inform you that the Congress have made
      choice of the modest and virtuous, the amiable,
      generous and brave George Washington, Esquire, to be
      General of the American army, and that he is to
      repair, as soon as possible, to the camp before
      Boston. This announcement will have a great effect in
      cementing and securing the union of these colonies.
      The continent is really in earnest, in defending the
      country. They have voted ten companies of riflemen to
      be sent from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, to
      join the army before Boston. These are an excellent
      species of light infantry. They use a peculiar kind of
      musket, called a rifle. It has circular or--(word
      effaced in manuscript) grooves within the barrel, and
      carries a ball with great exactness to great
      distances. They are the most accurate marksmen in the
      world. . . .

      "America is a great, unwieldy body. Its progress must
      be slow. It is like a large fleet sailing under
      convoy. The fleetest sailors must wait for the dullest
      and slowest. Like a coach and six, the swiftest horses
      must be slackened, and the slowest quickened, that all
      may keep an even pace. . . ."

Mr. Adams little thought that even while he wrote, the cannon were
roaring on Bunker Hill, and that on its slopes,

    In their ragged regimentals
    Stood the old Continentals,
      Yielding not,
    When the grenadiers were lunging,
    And like hail fell the plunging
      Cannon-shot.

Abigail Adams heard the cannon, and taking her seven-year-old Johnny
with her, mounted Penn's Hill, at the foot of which the house stood.
Standing there, mother and son saw with terror the smoke of burning
Charlestown, listened with beating hearts to the beating drums and
roaring cannon. The boy never forgot that hour. Long after he would tell
of it, and of his mother's deep distress on hearing of the death of
Warren.

The news of Bunker Hill reached Philadelphia on June 22d: on the 27th,
John Adams writes:

"This moment received two letters from you. Courage, my dear. We shall
be supported in life or comforted in death. I rejoice that my countrymen
behaved so bravely, though not so skilfully conducted as I could wish. I
hope this defeat will be remedied by the new modeling of the army.

"My love everywhere."

This brief letter crossed one from Abigail, dated June 25th.

"I hear that General Howe said that the battle upon the Plains of Abram
was but a bauble to this. When we consider all the circumstances
attending this action, we stand astonished that our people were not all
cut off. They had but one hundred feet intrenched, the number who were
engaged did not exceed eight hundred, and they with not half ammunition
enough; the reinforcement not able to get to them seasonably. The tide
was up, and high, so that their floating batteries came upon each side
of the causeway, and their row-galleys kept a continual fire. Added to
this, the fire from Copp's Hill, and from the ships; the town in flames,
all around them, and the heat from the flames so intense as scarcely to
be borne; the day one of the hottest we have had this season, and the
wind blowing the smoke in their faces,--only figure to yourself all
these circumstances, and then consider that we do not count sixty men
lost. My heart overflows at the recollection.

"We live in continual expectation of hostilities. Scarcely a day that
does not produce some; but, like good Nehemiah, having made our prayer
unto God, and set the people with their swords, their spears, and their
bows, we will say unto them, 'Be ye not afraid of them; remember the
Lord, who is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons,
and your daughters, your wives and your houses.'

"I have just received yours of the 17th of June, in seven days only;
every line from that far country is precious. . . . O North, may the
groans and cries of the injured and oppressed harrow up thy soul!"

While she wrote, Washington was on the march. He reached Watertown on
July 2d, and on the 3d, standing under the tree which still (1917) marks
the spot, he took command of the Continental Army.

On July 5th, she writes:

"I should have been more particular, but I thought you knew everything
that passed here. The present state of the inhabitants of Boston is
that of the most abject slaves, under the most cruel and despotic
tyrants. Among many instances I could mention, let me relate one. Upon
the 17th of June, printed handbills were posted up at the corners of the
streets, and upon houses, forbidding any inhabitants to go upon their
houses, or upon any eminence, on pain of death; the inhabitants dared
not to look out of their houses, nor to be heard or seen to ask a
question. Our prisoners were brought over to the Long Wharf, and there
lay all night, without any care of their wounds, or any resting-place
but the pavements, until the next day, when they exchanged it for the
jail, since which we hear they are civilly treated. Their living cannot
be good, as they can have no fresh provisions; their beef, we hear, is
all gone, and their wounded men die very fast, so that they have a
report that the bullets were poisoned. Fish they cannot have, they have
rendered it so difficult to procure; and the admiral is such a villain
as to oblige every fishing schooner to pay a dollar every time it goes
out. The money that has been paid for passes is incredible. Some have
given ten, twenty, thirty, and forty dollars, to get out with a small
proportion of their things. It is reported and believed that they have
taken up a number of persons and committed them to jail, we know not
for what in particular. Master Lovell is confined in the dungeon; a son
of Mr. Edes is in jail, and one Wiburt, a ship-carpenter, is now upon
trial for his life. God alone knows to what length these wretches will
go, and will, I hope, restrain their malice.

"I would not have you distressed about me. Danger, they say, makes
people valiant. Hitherto I have been distressed, but not dismayed. I
have felt for my country and her sons. I have bled with them and for
them. Not all the havoc and devastation they have made has wounded me
like the death of Warren. We want him in the Senate; we want him in his
profession; we want him in the field. We mourn for the citizen, the
senator, the physician, and the warrior. May we have others raised up in
his room. . . .

"I hope we shall not now have famine added to war. Grain, grain is what
we want here. Meat we have enough, and to spare. Pray don't let Bass
forget my pins. Hardwick has applied to me for Mr. Bass to get him a
hundred of needles, number six, to carry on his stocking weaving. We
shall very soon have no coffee, nor sugar, nor pepper, here; but
whortleberries and milk we are not obliged to commerce for. . . . Good
night. With thought of thee do I close my eyes. Angels guard and
protect thee; and may a safe return ere long bless thy

                                                    "PORTIA."


Dr. Lovell, who was "confined in the dungeon," was the Boston
schoolmaster, a worthy man, and a stout patriot. The story is told that
on the morning of the 19th of April, 1775, sitting at his desk in the
schoolroom, he saw Earl Percy march by with his troops, on the way to
Lexington. The master closed his book.

"War's begun, school's done!" he said. "_Deponite libros._"

On the 16th, Abigail writes again:

"The appointment of the generals Washington and Lee gives universal
satisfaction. The people have the highest opinion of Lee's abilities,
but you know the continuation of the popular breath depends much upon
favorable events. I had the pleasure of seeing both the generals and
their aids-de-camp soon after their arrival, and of being personally
made known to them. . . .

"I was struck with General Washington. You had prepared me to entertain
a favorable opinion of him, but I thought the half was not told me.
Dignity with ease and complacency, the gentleman and the soldier, look
agreeably blended in him. Modesty marks every line and feature of his
face. These lines of Dryden instantly occurred to me:--

    Mark his majestic fabric; he's a temple
    Sacred by birth, and built by hands divine;
    His soul's the deity that lodges there,
    Nor is the pile unworthy of the god.

"General Lee looks like a careless, hardy veteran, and by his appearance
brought to my mind his namesake, Charles the Twelfth, of Sweden. The
elegance of his pen far exceeds that of his person. . . .

"As to intelligence from Boston, it is but very seldom we are able to
collect anything that may be relied on; and to report the vague flying
rumors would be endless. I heard yesterday, by one Mr. Roulstone, a
goldsmith, who got out in a fishing schooner, that their distress
increased upon them fast. Their beef is all spent; their malt and cider
all gone. All the fresh provisions they can procure they are obliged to
give to the sick and wounded. Thirteen of our men who were in jail, and
were wounded at the battle of Charlestown, were dead. No man dared now
to be seen talking to his friend in the street. They were obliged to be
within, every evening, at ten o'clock, according to martial law; nor
could any inhabitants walk any street in town after that time, without a
pass from Gage. . . .

"Every article in the West India way is very scarce and dear. In six
weeks we shall not be able to purchase any article of the kind. I wish
you would let Bass get me one pound of pepper and two yards of black
calamanco for shoes. I cannot wear leather, if I go barefoot. Bass may
make a fine profit if he lays in a stock for himself. You can hardly
imagine how much we want many common small articles which are not
manufactured amongst ourselves; but we will have them in time; not one
pin to be purchased for love or money. I wish you would convey me a
thousand by any friend traveling this way. It is very provoking to have
such a plenty so near us, but, Tantalus-like, not to be able to touch. I
should have been glad to have laid in a small stock of the West India
articles, but I cannot get one copper; no person thinks of paying
anything, and I do not choose to run in debt. I endeavor to live in the
most frugal manner possible, but I am many times distressed."

"This is the 25th of July. Gage has not made any attempt to march out
since the battle of Charlestown. Our army is restless, and wish to be
doing something to rid themselves and the land of the vermin and
locusts which infest it. Since I wrote you last, the companies stationed
upon the coast, both in this town, Weymouth, and Hingham, were ordered
to Nantasket, to reap and bring off the grain, which they accomplished,
all except a field or two which was not ripe; and having whaleboats,
they undertook to go to the Lighthouse and set fire to it, which they
effected in open day, and in fair sight of several men-of-war. Upon
their return, came down upon them eight barges, one cutter, and one
schooner, all in battle-array, and poured whole broadsides upon them;
but our men all reached the shore, and not one life lost, two only
slightly wounded in their legs. They marched up a hill, and drew into
order in hopes the marines would land; but they chose rather to return
without a land engagement, though 'tis thought they will burn the town
down as soon as our forces leave it. I had this account from Captain
Vinton, who with his company, were there. These little skirmishes seem
trifling, but they serve to inure our men, and harden them to danger. I
hear the rebels are very wroth at the destruction of the Lighthouse.

"There has been an offer from Gage to send the poor of Boston to Salem,
by water, but not complied with on our part; they returned for answer,
they would receive them upon the lines. Dr. Tufts saw a letter from
Deacon Newall, in which he mentions the death of John Cotton; he says it
is very sickly in town. Every fishing vessel is now obliged to enter and
clear out, as though she was going a foreign voyage. No inhabitant is
suffered to partake, but obliged to wait till the army is supplied, and
then, if one [fish] remains, they are allowed to purchase it. An order
has been given out in town that no person shall be seen to wipe his face
with a white handkerchief. The reason I hear is, that it is a signal of
mutiny. General Burgoyne lives in Mr. Sam Quincy's house. A lady, who
lived opposite, says she saw raw meat cut and hacked upon her mahogany
tables, and her superb damask curtains and cushions exposed to the rain,
as if they were of no value. . . ."

Up to this time, Mrs. Adams had only the sorrows of her neighbors to
chronicle, but now her own turn was come. A violent epidemic of
dysentery broke out in the surrounding country, and "calm, happy
Braintree" was calm no longer. One after another of the family sickened;
one of the servants first, Isaac, ("there was no resting-place in the
house, for his terrible groans!") Mrs. Adams herself was the next, and
she was sorely tempted to send for her husband, who was then but a few
days on his journey back to Philadelphia.

"I suffered greatly between my inclination to have you return, and my
fear of sending lest you should be a partaker of the common
calamity." . . . "Our little Tommy was the next, and he lies very ill
now. . . . Our house is a hospital in every part; and what with my own
weakness and distress of mind for my family, I have been unhappy enough.
And such is the distress of the neighborhood that I can scarcely find a
well person to assist in looking after the sick. . . . So sickly and so
mortal a time the oldest man does not remember. . . . As to politics, I
know nothing about them. The distresses of my own family are so great
that I have not thought of them. . . ."

One of the maids died; the others recovered, though Tommy, who had been
a "hearty, hale, corn-fed boy," was now "entirely stripped of the hardy,
robust countenance, as well as of all the flesh he had, save what
remains for to keep his bones together." In October, Abigail's mother,
after visiting a soldier home from the army on sick leave, was stricken
by the pestilence and died. This was a heavy blow, and the daughter's
heart cried out to her absent mate. "Have pity on me, O thou my
beloved, for the hand of God presseth me sore."

The letter which begins thus would move any heart even at this distance
of time: to John Adams, it brought deep distress. The loving husband and
father would fain take horse and ride post haste to Braintree; the
steadfast patriot must remain at his post. All he could do was to write
her frequently and as cheerfully as might be.

"I will never," he assures her on December third, "come here again
without you, if I can persuade you to come with me. Whom God has joined
together ought not to be put asunder so long, with their own consent. We
will bring master Johnny with us; you and he shall have the small-pox
here, and we will be as happy as Mr. Hancock and his lady. Thank Abby
and John for their letters, and kiss Charles and Tom for me. John writes
like a hero, glowing with ardor for his country and burning with
indignation against her enemies. . . ."

Now and then, but rarely, he tried to amuse her with a story.

"A few days ago, in company with Dr. Zubly, somebody said there was
nobody on our side but the Almighty. The Doctor, who is a native of
Switzerland, and speaks but broken English, quickly replied, 'Dat is
enough! Dat is enough!' And turning to me says he, 'It puts me in mind
of a fellow who once said, "The Catholics have on their side the Pope,
and the King of France, and the King of Spain, and the King of Sardinia,
and the King of Poland, and the Emperor of Germany, etc., etc., etc.:
but as to these poor devils the Protestants, they have nothing on their
side but God Almighty."'"

FOOTNOTES:

[14] I.e., their house in Boston.



CHAPTER VI

BOSTON BLOCKADE


WHILE John and Abigail were writing their letters in Philadelphia and
Braintree, Boston town was undergoing a winter of discontent indeed.
Ever since Bunker Hill and the burning of Charlestown, the British
troops had occupied the town, while Washington and his army lay encamped
in Cambridge and on Dorchester Heights, west of the city. In October,
the British command was transferred from General Gage to General Howe,
who proved a more energetic commander. He burned Falmouth (now
Portland), and threatened many other places. After the burning of
Charlestown, Franklin wrote:

"Britain must certainly be distracted. No tradesman out of Bedlam ever
thought of increasing the number of his customers by knocking them on
the head, or of enabling them to pay their debts by burning their
houses. It has been with difficulty that we have carried another humble
Petition to the Crown, to give Britain one more chance of recovering
the friendship of the colonies: which, however, she has not sense enough
to embrace; and so she has lost them for ever."

The rival armies watched each other closely, meantime passing the time
as best they might. Washington, with his newly levied troops, kept them
busy enough, marching and counter-marching, drilling and practising;
besides, the country was open to them on all sides, and they could come
and go as occasion required. The British troops, however, found time
hang heavy on their hands. Shut up in narrow quarters amid a bitterly
hostile population, often short of provisions and ruled by an iron hand,
they were having a forlorn time of it. One feels real compassion for the
ancestor of "Tommy Atkins": he was probably a very good fellow at heart,
as Tommy (to whom all honor!) is today. He had no personal quarrel with
the people of Boston; he did not care whether they were bond or free, so
he got his rations, his pint and his pipe. And here he was surrounded by
black looks and scowling faces, and could not so much as answer a gibe
or--possibly--prod an insulting urchin with his bayonet, without
bringing the whole hornet's nest of patriots about his ears. On the
other hand, if he were in any way remiss in his duties, he was flogged
with a brutality worthy of the Dark Ages. A forlorn winter for Tommy,
this of 1775-6. Small wonder that he was ready to lend his hand to any
mischief that promised relief from the monotony of daily life.

Obeying orders, the soldiers tore down many fine old buildings for
firewood, among them that of John Winthrop; cut down Liberty Tree,[15]
which yielded fourteen cords of fine wood; made havoc generally. The
grenadiers were quartered in West Church; two regiments of infantry in
Brattle Street Church, whose pillars saved it from sharing the fate of
the Old South, which was, as we know, used as a riding school by the
dragoons.

The British officers fared better than their men. They were quartered in
the homes of absent patriots. General Clinton was in the Hancock House,
Earl Percy in that of Gardner Greene, Burgoyne in the Bowdoin mansion;
while Gage and Howe successively inhabited the stately Province House.

The patriots, those who could afford to do so, had mostly left. Those
who remained were of the humbler class, with a sprinkling of physicians,
lawyers, and clergymen, who stood by their posts. Among the clergymen
was one with whose name I have a pleasant association: the Reverend
Mather Byles, pastor of Hollis Street Church. This gentleman was a
merry, as well as a devout person; full of quips and cranks, and not
always lacking in wanton wiles. John Adams quotes him as saying, when
first the British troops occupied Boston, that "our grievances would now
be red-dressed!" But my own thought of Mr. Byles recalls a story often
told by my mother, which she may have heard in childhood from her
grandfather, the old Revolutionary Colonel. It tells how one night the
Reverend Mather, returning home very late, passed by the house of a man
whom he greatly disliked. A sudden thought struck him; he went up the
steps and began to beat and bang on the door and halloo at the top of
his lungs. After some delay, the night-capped head of his neighbor was
thrust out of the window, demanding what was to do at this time o'
night.

"Have you lost a penknife?" asked Mr. Byles.

"No! Have you found one?"

"No, but I feel as if I should any minute!"

_Exeunt_ both parties, one chuckling, the other swearing.

The Tories, rich, prosperous, and loyal to King George, were ready
enough to help the officers in making merry. There were sleighing
parties, riding parties, parties of every description: no doubt the Tory
maidens found the winter a very gay one. Faneuil Hall was turned into a
theatre, and General Burgoyne wrote plays for it. A performance of
"Zara" was a brilliant success. After another performance, a farce
called "Boston Blockade," a "Vaudevil" was to be sung by the characters,
of which the following is a part:

    Ye Critics, who wait for an End of the Scene,
    T' accept it with Praise or dismiss it with Spleen;
    Your Candor we ask and demand your Applause,
    If not for our Action, at least for our Cause.
    'Tis our Aim by Amusement thus chearful and gay,
    To wile a few Hours of Winter away:
    While we rest on our arms, call the Arts to our Aid,
    And be merry in spite of the BOSTON BLOCKADE.

    Ye tarbarrel'd Lawgivers, yankified Prigs,
    Who are Tyrants in Custom, yet call yourselves Whigs;
    In return for the Favors you've lavish'd on me,
    May I see you all hanged upon _Liberty Tree_.
    Meantime take Example; decease from Attack;
    You're as weak under Arms as I'm weak in my Back,
    In War and in Love we alike are betrayed,
    And alike are the laughter of BOSTON BLOCKADE.

    Come round then, ye Comrades of Honour and Truth,
    Experienc'd Age and high-spirited Youth;
    With Drum and with Fife make the Chorus more shrill.
    And echo shall waft it to WASHINGTON'S Hill.
    All brave BRITISH Hearts shall beat Time while we sing,
    Due Force to our Arms, and Long Life to the King.
    To the Honour of both be our Banners display'd,
    And a glorious End to the BOSTON BLOCKADE.

As it turned out, the audience had not the pleasure of listening to
these polished verses. The performance was in full swing; a comic actor
held the stage, mimicking General Washington and holding him up to
ridicule, when a sergeant rushed on the stage, crying, "The Yankees are
attacking the works on Bunker Hill!"

The audience, supposing this to be part of the play, laughed and
applauded: a happy thought! a capital touch! What were their feelings
when the senior officer present rose and called, "Officers to their
posts!" The assembly broke up in disorder. The officers summoned their
men and hastened to Bunker Hill, where they arrived too late! Major
Knowlton, who had fought so bravely in the battle of June 17th, had paid
a second visit to the hill, burned some buildings and carried off
several prisoners.

Meanwhile the Tory ladies, deprived of their gallant red-coated escorts,
scuttled home as best they might through the dark, crooked streets, and
their patriot sisters, who had refused to go to the entertainment, made
merry over the episode for days afterward.

To lovers of Hawthorne, this story might well be followed by that
wonderful tale of "Howe's Masquerade,"[16] which used to thrill me as a
child, and which I cannot even now read unmoved. If not true in actual
fact, it gives with absolute truth the Spirit of Seventy-Six.

The winter was a mild one: all too mild for Washington. He was eager to
cross the ice on the Back Bay and attack the town; but the ice would not
bear. Week by week he watched and tested it; all in vain. It was not
till February, that "strong little month," that the real cold came.
"When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen." Day
followed day of keen, dry cold; night by night the ice "made," till a
floor of crystal, solid as rock, lay about the peninsula of Boston.
Washington called a council of war and urged an assault on the town.
Alas! his field officers demurred, shook their heads, would none of it.
Reluctantly he abandoned the plan, and determined to seize instead
Dorchester Heights and Noddle's Island (East Boston).

On March 2d, Abigail Adams writes to her husband:

"I have been kept in a continual state of anxiety and expectation ever
since you left me. It has been said 'tomorrow' and 'tomorrow,' for this
month, but when the dreadful tomorrow will be, I know not. But hark! The
house this instant shakes with the roar of cannon. I have been to the
door, and find it is a cannonade from our army. Orders, I find, are come
for all the remaining militia to repair to the lines Monday night by
twelve o'clock. No sleep for me tonight. And if I cannot sleep, who have
no guilt upon my soul with regard to this cause, how shall the miserable
wretches who have been the procurers of this dreadful scene, and those
who are to be the actors, lie down with the load of guilt upon their
souls?"

The story continues through the following days.

                                           Sunday evening.

      "I went to bed after twelve, but got no rest; the
      cannon continued firing, and my heart beat pace with
      them all night. We have had a pretty quiet day, but
      what tomorrow will bring forth, God only knows."

      "Monday evening. Tolerably quiet. Today the militia
      have all mustered, with three days' provision, and are
      all marched by three o'clock this afternoon, though
      their notice was no longer ago than eight o'clock
      Saturday. And now we have scarcely a man, but our
      regular guards, either in Weymouth, Hingham,
      Braintree, or Milton, and the militia from the more
      remote towns are called in as seacoast guards. Can you
      form to yourself an idea of our sensations?

      "I have just returned from Penn's Hill, where I have
      been sitting to hear the amazing roar of cannon, and
      from whence I could see every shell which was thrown.
      The sound, I think, is one of the grandest in nature,
      and is of the true species of the sublime. 'Tis now an
      incessant roar; but oh! the fatal ideas which are
      connected with the sound! How many of our dear
      countrymen must fall!

      "Tuesday morning. I went to bed about twelve, and rose
      again a little after one. I could no more sleep than
      if I had been in the engagement; the rattling of the
      windows, the jar of the house, the continual roar of
      twenty-four pounders, and the bursting of shells, give
      us such ideas, and realize a scene to us of which we
      could form scarcely any conception. About six, this
      morning, all was quiet. I rejoiced in a few hours'
      calm. I hear we got possession of Dorchester Hill
      last night; four thousand men upon it today; lost but
      one man. The ships are all drawn round the town.
      Tonight we shall realize a more terrible scene still.
      I sometimes think I cannot stand it. I wish myself
      with you, out of hearing, as I cannot assist them. I
      hope to give you joy of Boston, even if it is in
      ruins, before I send this away. I am too much agitated
      to write as I ought, and languid for want of rest.

      "Thursday. All my anxiety and distress is at present
      at an end. I feel disappointed. This day our militia
      are all returning, without effecting anything more
      than taking possession of Dorchester Hill. I hope it
      is wise and just, but, from all the muster and stir, I
      hoped and expected more important and decisive scenes.
      I would not have suffered all I have for two such
      hills. Ever since the taking of that, we have had a
      perfect calm; nor can I learn what effect it has had
      in Boston. I do not hear of one person's escaping
      since."

Abigail need not have suffered even this momentary discouragement, could
she have foreseen the outcome of these hours of suspense. The cannonade
which so shook the neighboring towns was ordered by Washington to divert
the attention of the British, and to drown the noise of carts crossing
the frozen ground: carts whose wheels were bound with straw, and before
which the road was strewn with straw, still further to deaden the sound.
General Thomas was moving from Roxbury to South Boston with twelve
hundred men. Silently, under cover of the darkness, and later of a thick
white fog, under shelter of that good thunder of the Cambridge guns,
they marched; silently, they took their new stand, laid down their arms
to take up pickaxe and spade. In the morning, when the fog lifted, the
amazed British looked out on a row of formidable entrenchments on
Dorchester Heights, just above their heads.

Great was the consternation. Howe summoned his officers, and prepared
for a counter-attack; but Dame Nature, apparently in league with the
patriots, responded with a furious storm which, lasting several days,
made the action from Castle Island which he had planned impossible.
During these days of storm, Washington was strengthening his defenses.
Howe looked, and realized that the game was up. Others realized it too:
the selectmen of Boston quietly intimated to him that if he left the
town uninjured, his troops would be suffered to embark undisturbed.
Washington gave no sign; waited, his powder dry, his matches burning.
Nor did Howe answer the citizens in words; no words were needed for what
he had to do. By daybreak on March 17th, the troops began to embark; by
nine o'clock the last boat had put off. Boston was evacuated, and
Washington and his Continentals entered the city.[17]

"The actors in the scene have vanished into deeper obscurity than even
that wild Indian band who scattered the cargoes of the tea ships on the
waves, and gained a place in history, yet left no names. But
superstition, among other legends of this mansion, (the Province House)
repeats the wondrous tale, that on the anniversary night of Britain's
discomfiture the ghosts of the ancient governors of Massachusetts still
glide through the portal of the Province House. And, last of all, comes
a figure shrouded in a military cloak, tossing his clenched hands into
the air, and stamping his ironshod boots upon the broad freestone steps,
with a semblance of feverish despair, but without the sound of a
foot-tramp."[18]

FOOTNOTES:

[15] It stood at the corner of Essex and Washington Streets.

[16] "Twice-Told Tales." Nathaniel Hawthorne.

[17] Be it remembered that Washington did not remain in Boston, but
anticipating Howe's attack on New York, was encamped in Brooklyn Heights
by April: these movements ended the operations in New England. New York
was the centre of the next campaign.

[18] "Legends of the Province House." Nathaniel Hawthorne.



CHAPTER VII

IN HAPPY BRAINTREE


WHAT was home life like, when Johnny and Abby Adams were little? It
would be pleasant to see something of it in detail; if Mrs. Adams had
only kept a diary! As it is, it is mostly by side-lights that we can get
a glimpse of that Braintree home, so happy in itself, so shadowed, in
the days of which I write, by the tremendous cloud of public events.

We know that Mrs. Adams spent some part of each day in writing letters;
but we have to stop and think about the other things she did, some of
them were so different from the things women do today. Take the spinning
and weaving! A spinning wheel, for us, is a pretty, graceful article of
furniture, very useful for _tableaux vivants_ and the like; in the Adams
household it was as constantly and inevitably used as our own
sewing-machine. So was the loom, which is banished altogether from New
England homes, though in some parts of the South it is still in use.
Mrs. Adams and her maids, Susie and Patty (poor Patty, who died that
summer of 1775!), not only made, but spun and wove, every article of
clothing, every sheet, blanket, table-cloth, that the house afforded.
The wool-wheel is a large clumsy affair, very different from the elegant
little flax-wheel. You may still find it in some New England households.
Some years ago, driving along a remote road, I came to a little brown
house, so old and moss-covered that it seemed almost a part of the wood
that surrounded it. I knocked, and hearing a cheery "Come in!" entered
to find a neat kitchen, half filled by an enormous wheel, in front of
which a little brownie of a woman was stepping back and forth,
diligently spinning yarn. It was a pretty sight.

Thinking of this, and trying, as I am constantly doing, to link the new
time to the old, I find myself calling up another picture, a scene on
Boston Common in the year 1749, when a society, formed for promoting
industry and frugality, publicly celebrated its fourth anniversary. "In
the afternoon about three hundred young female spinsters, decently
dressed, appeared on the Common at their spinning wheels. The wheels
were placed regularly in rows, and a female was seated at each wheel.
The weavers also appeared, cleanly dressed, in garments of their own
weaving. One of them working at a loom on a stage was carried on men's
shoulders, attended with music. An immense number of spectators were
present."

I wonder if Mrs. Adams and her maidens made any "Bounty Coats." When
Washington gathered his army in May, 1775, there were no overcoats for
the men. The Provincial Congress "made a demand on the people for
thirteen thousand warm coats to be ready for the soldiers by cold
weather." There were no factories then, remember: no steam-power, no
contractors, no anything--except the women and their wheels. All over
the country, the big wool-wheels began to fly, the shuttles sped back
and forth through the sounding looms. Every town, every village, every
lonely farmhouse, would do its part; long before the appointed time, the
coats were ready. Inside each coat was sewed the name of town and maker.
Every soldier, volunteering for eight months' service, was given one of
these coats as a bounty. We are told that "so highly were these 'Bounty
Coats' prized, that the heirs of soldiers who were killed at Bunker Hill
before receiving their coats were given a sum of money instead. The
list of names of soldiers who then enlisted is known to this day as the
'Coat Roll,' and the names of the women who made the coats might form
another roll of honor."

I cannot be sure that one or more of these coats came from the lean-to
farmhouse in Braintree, but I like to think so, and certainly nothing is
more probable.

The women who refused to drink tea determined also to do without
imported dress materials. From Massachusetts to South Carolina, the
Daughters of Liberty agreed to wear only homespun garments. General
Howe, finding "Linnen and Woollen Goods much wanted by the Rebels,"
carried away with him, when he evacuated Boston, all of such things as
he could lay hands on. He reckoned without the spinners! In town and
village, the Daughters flocked together, bringing their flax-wheels with
them, sometimes to the number of sixty or seventy. In Rowley,
Massachusetts, "A number of thirty-three respectable ladies of the town
met at sunrise with their wheels to spend the day at the house of the
Rev'd Jedidiah Jewell, in the laudable design of a spinning match. At an
hour before sunset, the ladies there appearing neatly dressed,
principally in homespun, a polite and generous repast of American
production was set for their entertainment. After which being present
many spectators of both sexes, Mr. Jewell delivered a profitable
discourse from Romans xii. 2: 'Not slothful in business, fervent in
spirit, serving the Lord.'"[19]

There was always a text and a sermon for the spinners; a favorite text
was from the Book of Exodus: "And all the women that were wise-hearted
did spin with their hands." The women of Northboro, forty-four of them,
spun two thousand, two hundred, twenty-three knots of linen and tow, and
wove one linen sheet and two towels, all in one day!

This is amazing; but another record outdoes it: an extract from the
diary of a young Connecticut girl, Abigail Foote, in this very year,
1775:

"Fix'd gown for Prude,--Mend Mother's Riding-hood,--spun short
thread,--Fix'd two gowns for Walsh's girls,--Carded tow,--Spun
linen,--Worked on Cheese-basket,--Hatchel'd flax with Hannah, we did 51
lbs. apiece,--Pleated and ironed,--Read a Sermon of Doddridge's,--Spooled
a piece,--Milked the cows,--Spun linen, did 50 knots,--Made a Broom of
Guinea wheat straw,--Spun thread to whiten,--Set a Red dye,--Had two
scholars from Mrs. Taylors,--I carded two pounds of whole wool and felt
Nationly,--Spun harness twine,--Scoured the pewter."

One feels confident that Abby Adams had no such record as this to show.
She was an industrious and capable girl, but Mother Abigail would see to
it that her day was not _all_ spent in household work. There were
lessons to learn and recite; the daughter of John Adams must have a
cultivated mind, as well as skilful fingers. John went to Mr. Thatcher's
school, but for "Nabby" and the two younger boys, "Mother" was the sole
instructress. Both parents were full of anxious care and thought for the
children's well-being. There is a beautiful letter from Mr. Adams,
written in April, 1776, in which, after describing his multifarious
labors, he thus pours out his mind.

"What will come of this labor, time will discover. I shall get nothing
by it, I believe, because I never get anything by anything that I do. I
am sure the public or posterity ought to get something. I believe my
children will think I might as well have thought and labored a little,
night and day, for their benefit. But I will not bear the reproaches of
my children. I will tell them that I studied and labored to procure a
free constitution of government for them to solace themselves under,
and if they do not prefer this to ample fortune, to ease and elegance,
they are not my children, and I care not what becomes of them. They
shall live upon thin diet, wear mean clothes, and work hard with
cheerful hearts and free spirits, or they may be the children of the
earth, or of no one, for me.

"John has genius, and so has Charles. Take care that they don't go
astray. Cultivate their minds, inspire their little hearts, raise their
wishes. Fix their attention upon great and glorious objects. Root out
every little thing. Weed out every meanness. Make them great and manly.
Teach them to scorn injustice, ingratitude, cowardice, and falsehood.
Let them revere nothing but religion, morality, and liberty.

"Abby and Tommy are not forgotten by me, although I did not mention them
before. The first, by reason of her sex, requires a different education
from the two I have mentioned. Of this, you are the only judge. I want
to send each of my little pretty flock some present or other. I have
walked over this city twenty times, and gaped at every shop, like a
countryman, to find something, but could not. Ask everyone of them what
they would choose to have, and write it to me in your next letter. From
this I shall judge of their taste and fancy and discretion."

Husband and wife are full of forebodings, yet have always a heartening
word for each other.

"I have some thought," writes Mr. Adams, "of petitioning the General
Court for leave to bring my family here. I am a lonely, forlorn creature
here. . . . It is a cruel reflection, which very often comes across me,
that I should be separated so far from those babes whose education and
welfare lie so near my heart. But greater misfortunes than these must
not divert us from superior duties.

"Your sentiments of the duties we owe to our country are such as become
the best of women and the best of men. Among all the disappointments and
perplexities which have fallen to my share in life, nothing has
contributed so much to support my mind as the choice blessing of a wife
whose capacity enabled her to comprehend, and whose pure virtue obliged
her to approve, the views of her husband. This has been the cheering
consolation of my heart in my most solitary, gloomy, and disconsolate
hours. . . . I want to take a walk with you in the garden, to go over to
the common, the plain, the meadow. I want to take Charles in one hand
and Tom in the other, and walk with you, Abby on your right hand and
John upon my left, to view the corn fields, the orchards, etc. . . ."

Shortly after this, on June 3d, Abigail writes:

"I wish to hear from you every opportunity, though you say no more than
that you are well. I feel concerned lest your clothes should go to rags,
having nobody to take any care of you in your long absence; and then,
you have not with you a proper change for the seasons. However, you must
do the best you can. I have a suit of homespun for you whenever you
return. I cannot avoid sometimes repining that the gifts of fortune were
not bestowed upon us, that I might have enjoyed the happiness of
spending my days with my partner, but as it is, I think it my duty to
attend with frugality and economy to our own private affairs; and if I
cannot add to our little substance, yet see to it that it is not
diminished. I should enjoy but little comfort in a state of idleness and
uselessness. Here I can serve my partner, my family, and myself, and
enjoy the satisfaction of your serving your country. . . .

"Everything bears a very great price. The merchant complains of the
farmer and the farmer of the merchant,--both are extravagant. Living is
double what it was one year ago.

"I find you have licensed tea, but I am determined not to be a
purchaser unless I can have it at Congress price, and in that article
the vendors pay no regard to Congress, asking ten, eight, and the lowest
is seven and sixpence per pound. I should like a little green, but they
say there is none to be had here. I only wish it for a medicine, as a
relief to a nervous pain in my head to which I am sometimes subject.
Were it as plenty as ever, I would not practice the use of it."

Beside spinning, weaving and making all the clothing, Mrs. Adams and her
maids must make all the soap for the family; this was a regular part of
the housewife's duty, and a disagreeable part it was.

"You inquire of me," she writes, "whether I am making saltpetre. I have
not yet attempted it, but after soap-making believe I shall make the
experiment. I find as much as I can do to manufacture clothing for my
family, which would else be naked."

Many women were making saltpetre for the gunpowder; let us hope they had
fewer other necessary occupations than Mrs. Adams.

Be sure that with all the plainer parts of housewifery, Abby was also
instructed in its graces. We can picture her sitting by her mother's
side (Brother Johnny, perhaps, reading aloud the while from "Rollin's
Ancient History," a work which he found entrancing) working at her
sampler, or knitting a purse for Papa, far away, or mittens for her
brothers. All the mittens and stockings, of course, were made at home as
well as the clothes. Mitten knitting could be a fine art in those days.
We read that one "young New Hampshire girl, using fine flaxen yarn, knit
the whole alphabet and a verse of poetry into a pair of mittens!" Then
there is the wonderful story of Nancy Peabody. How her brother, coming
in from work at night, announced that he had lost his mittens. How Nancy
ran to the garret for wool, carded and spun a big hank of yarn that
night, soaked and scoured it next morning, and as soon as it was dry,
sat down to knit. "In twenty-four hours from the time the brother
announced his loss he had a fine new pair of double mittens." "I tell
the tale as I've heard told."

Did Abby learn netting with all the rest? Doubtless she did. Lady
Washington set the fashion, and netted so well and so industriously that
all her family were proud of trimming their dresses with her work. Then
there was quilting, a fine art indeed in those days, and the exquisite
embroidery which we find in our grandmothers' cupboards, and over which
we sigh partly in admiration, partly in compassion for the eyes which
were so cruelly tried; and a dozen other niceties and exquisitenesses of
needlework. To quote the advertisement of Mrs. Sarah Wilson, who kept a
boarding-school for girls in Philadelphia:

"Young ladies may be educated in a genteel manner, and pains taken to
teach them in regard to their behaviour, on reasonable terms. They may
be taught all sorts fine needlework, viz., working on catgut or
flowering muslin, sattin stitch, quince stitch, tent stitch,
cross-stitch, open work, tambour, embroidering curtains or chairs,
writing and cyphering. Likewise waxwork in all its several branches,
never as yet particularly taught here; also how to take profiles in wax,
to make wax flowers and fruits and pinbaskets."

Boston would not be behind Philadelphia in matters of high fashion.

In the Boston _News-Letter_, in August, 1716, we read:

"This is to give notice that at the House of Mr. George Brownell, late
Schoolmaster in Hanover Street, Boston, are all sorts of Millinery Works
done; making up Dresses and flowering of Muslin, making of furbelow'd
Scarffs, and Quilting and cutting of Gentlewomen's Hair in the newest
Fashion; and also young Gentlewomen and children taught all sorts of
fine works, as Feather-work, Filigree and Painting on Glass,
Embroidering a new way, Turkey-work for Handkerchiefs two ways, fine new
Fashion purses, flourishing and plain Work, and Dancing cheaper than was
ever taught in Boston. Brocaded work for Handkerchiefs and short Aprons
upon Muslin; artificial Flowers work'd with a needle."

And what did Abby Adams wear, say in 1776, when she was ten years old?
Why, she wore a large hoop, and, I fear, very uncomfortable corsets,
with a stiff board down the front; high-heeled shoes, and mitts reaching
to her elbows, and a ruffled or embroidered apron. Of all this we may be
tolerably sure, as it was the costume of the time. We may hope, however,
Mrs. Adams being the sensible woman she was, that Abby did not suffer
like Dolly Payne (afterward Dolly Madison), who went to school wearing
"a white linen mask to keep every ray of sunshine from the complexion, a
sunbonnet sewed on her head every morning by her careful mother, and
long gloves covering the hands and arms."

When Nelly Custis was four years old, her step-father, General
Washington, ordered an outfit for her from England, "pack-thread stays,
stiff coats of silk, masks, caps, bonnets, bibs, ruffles, necklaces,
fans, silk and calamanco shoes, and leather pumps. There were also eight
pairs of kid mitts and four pairs of gloves." Poor Nelly!

But to return to Abby Adams. One article of her winter costume has a
personal interest for me, because it survived to my own time, and I
suffered under, or rather _in_ it, in my childhood. The pumpkin hood! It
has genuine historical interest, for it dates back to the days of the
unwarmed meeting-house, when a woman or a girl-child must wrap up her
head, and smuggle in a hot brick or a hot stick for her feet, if she
would keep alive through meeting. How ugly the thing was! Of clumsy
oblong shape, coming well forward over the face; heavily quilted, an
inch thick or so; knots of narrow ribbon or of worsted sticking up here
and there; I detested it, thought it a hardship to be condemned to wear
it, instead of being thankful for warm ears and a historic atmosphere. I
think our pumpkin hoods were among the last to survive, and some of the
other girls had already beauteous things called skating-caps, fitting
the head closely, displaying pie-shaped sections of contrasting colors,
gray and purple, blue and scarlet, knitted or crocheted, I forget
which. Looking back to the early Sixties, the skating-cap still seems
among the greatly desirable things of life.

Perhaps we have gone as far as we can in picturing little Abby Adams,
who grew up an accomplished and charming young woman, and in due time
married, by curious coincidence, a Mr. Smith, thus taking as a married
woman her mother's maiden name. Let us return to the elder Abigail.

Left alone to manage all affairs, household and educational, it is not
strange that her keen, alert mind sought wider fields for exercise than
home life afforded. She thought for herself, and her thought took a
direction which now seems prophetic. No doubt she was in merry mood when
she wrote to John on March 31st, 1776, yet there is a ring of
earnestness under the playfulness.

(Note that the Assembly of Virginia, roused by the burning of Norfolk,
had just voted to propose to Congress "that the colonies be declared
free and independent"; and afterward the British flag had been hauled
down at Williamsburg and replaced by a banner with thirteen stripes.)

"I long to hear," writes Abigail to her dearest friend, "that you have
declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which
I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would
remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your
ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the
husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If
particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are
determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by
any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

"That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly
established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be
happy willingly give up the harsh title of master for the more tender
and endearing one of friend. Why, then, not put it out of the power of
the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with
impunity? Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us
only as the vassals of your sex; regard us then as beings placed by
Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being
make use of that power only for our happiness."

Mr. Adams replies, in high amusement:

"As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been
told that our struggle has loosened the bonds of government everywhere;
that children and apprentices were disobedient; that schools and
colleges were grown turbulent; that Indians slighted their guardians,
and negroes grew insolent to their masters. But your letter was the
first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all
the rest, were grown discontented. This is rather too coarse a
compliment, but you are so saucy, I won't blot it out. Depend upon it,
we know better than to repeal our masculine systems. Although they are
in full force, you know they are little more than theory. We dare not
exert our power in its full latitude. We are obliged to go fair and
softly, and, in practice, you know we are the subjects. We have only the
name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely
subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington
and all our brave heroes would fight; I am sure every good politician
would plot, as long as he would against despotism, empire, monarchy,
aristocracy, oligarchy, or ochlocracy. A fine story, indeed! I begin to
think the ministry as deep as they are wicked. After stirring up Tories,
land-jobbers, trimmers, bigots, Canadians, Indians, negroes,
Hanoverians, Hessians, Russians, Irish Roman Catholic, Scotch renegades,
at last they have stimulated the----to demand new privileges and
threaten to rebel."

Doubtless John thought this settled the question; but Abigail had the
last word to say.

"I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for,
whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all
nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives. But you
must remember that arbitrary power is, like most other things which are
very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise
laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves,
but to subdue our masters, and, without violence, throw both your
natural and legal authority at our feet:--

    Charm by accepting, by submitting sway,
    Yet have our humor most when we obey."

FOOTNOTE:

[19] "Social Life in Old New England." Mary C. Crawford.



CHAPTER VIII

INDEPENDENCE AT LAST


WHILE John and Abigail were tilting merrily at each other, the days were
hastening on, and the first great climax of American history was drawing
near. We must turn to our histories for the account of those June days
in Philadelphia, when "the child Independence" was making his magical
growth to manhood; when it was coming to be finally realized that "the
country was not only ripe for independence, but was in danger of
becoming rotten for want of it"; when the notable Committee of Five was
appointed, charged with the duty of preparing a Declaration of the
Independence of the thirteen colonies. Everyone knows their names: Roger
Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas
Jefferson. Everyone knows that Jefferson wrote the Declaration; yet
Adams, it was said, stood forth as "the Atlas of Independence," bearing
on his shoulders the main burden of the tremendous decision.

We must read of it in his own words of solemn rejoicing:

"Yesterday, the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in
America, and a greater, perhaps, never was nor will be decided among
men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting colony 'that these
United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent
States, and as such they have, and of right ought to have, full power to
make war, conclude peace, establish commerce, and to do all other acts
and things which other States may rightfully do.' You will see, in a few
days, a Declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to
this mighty revolution, and the reasons which will justify it in the
sight of God and man. A plan of confederation will be taken up in a few
days. . . .

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the
history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by
succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be
commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to
God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with
shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from
one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward
forevermore.

"You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well
aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to
maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States. Yet,
through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.
I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that
posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even although we
should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not."

We celebrate the Fourth of July, the day upon which the form of the
Declaration of Independence was agreed to, instead of the second, when
it was determined upon by Congress. It matters little; these words of
John Adams' shine like a halo round our Independence Day. May it ever be
solemnized as he would have it, "from this time forward forevermore."

We can fancy the feelings of the faithful and loving wife as she read
these words, which no American can ever read unmoved. We can see the
tears rise to her bright dark eyes, tears of love and pride and trust
unspeakable. We can see her gathering the children around her, Abby and
John, Charles and even little Tommy, and reading the letter out to them
in faltering but exultant tones. Yes, and we can see young John's head
flung up, see his dark eyes, so like his mother's, brighten responsive,
see, almost, the high beating of his answering heart. It was their great
moment; we are glad to share in it, even a little.

Yet Abigail's reply is sober and discreet, like herself. She writes:

"By yesterday's post I received two letters dated 3d and 4th of July,
and though your letters never fail to give me pleasure, be the subject
what it will, yet it was greatly heightened by the prospect of the
future happiness and glory of our country. Nor am I a little gratified
when I reflect that a person so nearly connected with me has had the
honor of being a principal actor in laying a foundation for its future
greatness.

"May the foundation of our new Constitution be Justice, Truth,
Righteousness! Like the wise man's house, may it be founded upon these
rocks, and then neither storm nor tempests will overthrow it!"

And again on the 21st:

"Last Thursday, after hearing a very good sermon, I went with the
multitude into King Street [Boston] to hear the Proclamation for
Independence read and proclaimed. Some field-pieces with the train were
brought there. The troops appeared under arms, and all the inhabitants
assembled there (the small-pox prevented many thousands from the
country), when Colonel Crafts read from the balcony of the State House
the proclamation. Great attention was given to every word. As soon as he
ended, the cry from the balcony was, 'God save our American States,' and
then three cheers which rent the air. The bells rang, the privateers
fired, the forts and batteries, the cannon were discharged, the platoons
followed, and every face appeared joyful. Mr. Bowdoin then gave a
sentiment, 'Stability and perpetuity to American independence.' After
dinner, the King's Arms were taken down from the State House, and every
vestige of him from every place in which it appeared, and burnt in King
Street. Thus ends royal authority in this State. And all the people
shall say Amen."

Meantime a foe appeared far more terrible than any who wore a red coat,
though he bore the same color; a foe whose little scarlet flag still
carries terror to the heart, shorn as he is today of half his power.

The letters of this year are full of allusion to the small-pox; in
fact, a fearful epidemic was raging. Mr. Adams writes in June:

"The small-pox! the small-pox! what shall we do with it? I could almost
wish that an inoculating hospital was opened in every town in New
England. It is some small consolation that the scoundrel savages have
taken a large dose of it. They plundered the baggage and stripped off
the clothes of our men who had the small-pox out full upon them at the
Cedars."

Vaccination was not yet, but careful people were hastening to be
inoculated, all the country over. Mrs. Adams took all the children into
Boston for this purpose, and a miserable time they had of it. Her eyes
were much affected, and for some days she could not write. Mr. Adams,
receiving no letters, on July 20th grew anxious:

"This has been a dull day to me. I waited the arrival of the post with
much solicitude and impatience, but his arrival made me more solicitous
still. 'To be left at the Post Office,' in your handwriting on the back
of a few lines from the Dr. was all that I could learn of you and my
little folks. If you were too busy to write, I hoped that some kind hand
would have been found to let me know something about you. Do my friends
think that I have been a politician so long as to have lost all
feeling? Do they suppose I have forgotten my wife and children? Or are
they so panic-struck with the loss of Canada as to be afraid to
correspond with me? Or have they forgotten that you have a husband, and
your children a father? What have I done, or omitted to do, that I
should be thus forgotten and neglected in the most tender and affecting
scene of my life? Don't mistake me. I don't blame you. Your time and
thoughts must have been wholly taken up with your own and your family's
situation and necessities; but twenty other persons might have informed
me.

"I suppose that you intended to have run slyly through the small-pox
with the family, without letting me know it, and then have sent me an
account that you were all well. This might be a kind intention, and if
the design had succeeded, would have made me very joyous. But the secret
is out, and I am left to conjecture. But as the faculty have this
distemper so much under command, I will flatter myself with the hope and
expectation of soon hearing of your recovery."

A few days later he writes:

"How are you all this morning? Sick, weak, faint, in pain, or pretty
well recovered? By this time, you are well acquainted with the
small-pox. Pray, how do you like it?"

He had been inoculated himself, and knew all about it. He longed to send
some comforting thing to his beloved, and fixed upon a canister of green
tea, for which she had sometimes sighed, though she would not buy it. He
sent the tea by a friend, Mr. Garry, "an old bachelor, and what is worse
a politician." I must add, "what is worse still, an absent-minded
person!" for he carried the tea to Mrs. _Samuel_ Adams, who received it
with great delight. Meantime, John Adams was flattering himself that his
Abigail, amidst all her fatigues and distresses, was having "the poor
relief of a dish of good tea." Mr. Garry returned to Philadelphia and
Mr. Adams, meeting him, asked without a misgiving, "You delivered the
tea?"

"Yes, to Mr. Samuel Adams' lady."

Poor John! he was so vexed that he ordered another canister and sent it
by a surer hand. He bids his wife "send a card to Mrs. S. A., and let
her know that the canister was intended for you, and she may send it
you, if she chooses, as it was charged to me. It is amazingly dear;
nothing less than forty shillings, lawful money, a pound."

Meantime Abigail was writing:

"The herbs you mention I never received. I was upon a visit to Mrs. S.
Adams about a week after Mr. Garry returned, when she entertained me
with a very fine dish of green tea. The scarcity of the article made me
ask her where she got it. She replied that her _sweetheart_ sent it to
her by Mr. Garry. I said nothing, but thought my sweetheart might have
been equally kind, considering the disease I was visited with, and that
it was recommended as a bracer. A little after, you mentioned a couple
of bundles sent. I supposed one of them might contain the article, but
found they were letters. How Mr. Garry should make such a mistake I know
not. I shall take the liberty of sending for what is left of it, though
I suppose it is half gone, as it was very freely used. If you had
mentioned a single word of it in your letter, I should have immediately
found out the mistake."

Moral: Don't send "surprises" unless you are sure of the hand by which
they are sent.

There are no letters between October, 1776, and January, 1777, which
means that John Adams had a happy visit at home with his dear ones. A
winter, too, of tremendous excitement, of breathless waiting for mails
and despatches. We can see Mr. Adams in his arm chair, one January day,
trying to read--let us say Xenophon! he would be good reading in those
days--one eye on the book, the other out of window: Madam Abigail
opposite, with Abby beside her, both at their tambour work.

"Isn't it time he was here?" says Mr. Adams for the tenth time; and he
gets up and starts on parasangs of his own up and down the room. Madam
Abigail probably suggests patience, after the manner of women, but she
looks out of window just as often as he does.

At last! at last comes the clatter of hoofs. The post-rider (only nine
years old, and he has ridden all the way from Boston!) is here. The gate
clicks, and Master Johnny's legs come flying up the path. He is waving a
paper over his head; I don't know who gets to the door first, but I seem
to see the Head of the Family tearing the despatch open in
unstatesmanlike haste.

On Christmas night, he reads, General Washington crossed the Delaware
above Trenton, amid ice and snow, storm and tempest. He surprised the
British camp, captured a thousand Hessians and carried them off with him
to Pennsylvania.

Glory! glory! Stay! there is more. On the second of January, he was once
more face to face with the British at Trenton, surrounded by them; they
had him fast. "I have the old fox penned!" chuckles Cornwallis; "I'll
bag him in the morning!"

But morning showed a row of empty earthworks, and the fox and his cubs
well on their way to Princeton, where they fell upon another body of
British, routed them in twenty minutes, and carried off three hundred of
them, with much ammunition and arms, whereof they, to wit, fox and cubs,
stood grievously in need.

This was the gist of the despatch; I do not pretend to give its wording.
But fancy the effect of it, however worded, on the quiet Braintree
household! John and Charles and even little Tommy, dancing up and down
in their flapped waistcoats, shouting and huzzaing; Abby, very likely,
shedding tears of happiness over her tambour frame; Father John striding
up and down the room again, but now in different mood, probably
declaiming lines from Horace in a voice that will not allow itself to
tremble; Mother Abigail trying still to be Portia, and to pretend that
she knows one end of the needle from the other. A pleasant picture
indeed; and--who knows? Possibly not so far from the truth.

All the harder was it, amid all these great happenings, for Mr. Adams to
mount and ride, leaving his dear ones to face the winter without him;
but mount he must, and did.

He writes on his way back to Philadelphia:

"Present my affection in the tenderest manner to my little deserving
daughter and my amiable sons. It was cruel parting this morning. My
heart was most deeply affected, although I had the presence of mind to
appear composed. May God Almighty's providence protect you, my dear, and
all our little ones. My good genius, my guardian angel, whispers me that
we shall see happier days, and that I shall live to enjoy the felicities
of domestic life with her whom my heart esteems above all earthly
blessings."

The war began to press heavily on New England housekeepers. Prices went
steadily up, and the necessaries of life became hard to procure. Abigail
writes in April, of 1777: "Indian corn at five shillings; rye, eleven
and twelve shillings, but scarcely any to be had even at that price;
beef, eight pence; veal, sixpence and eightpence; butter, one and
sixpence; mutton, none; lamb, none; pork, none; cotton-wool, none; mean
sugar, four pounds per hundred; molasses, none; New England rum, eight
shillings per gallon; coffee, two and sixpence per pound; chocolate,
three shillings."

She tells at the same time a curious story, of five Tories being carted
out of town under the direction of "Joice junior," for refusing to take
the paper money of the new Republic. "Joice junior" was a name which
might be assumed by any patriot who wished to redress a grievance. He
wore a horrible mask, and in this case "was mounted on horseback, with a
red coat, a white wig, and a drawn sword, with drum and fife following.
A concourse of people to the amount of five hundred followed. They
proceeded as far as Roxbury, when he ordered the cart to be tipped up,
then told them if they were ever caught in town again it should be at
the expense of their lives. He then ordered his gang to return, which
they did immediately without any disturbance."

In July, it is the women who take matters into their own hands.

"You must know," writes Abigail, "that there is a great scarcity of
sugar and coffee, articles which the female part of the State is very
loath to give up, especially whilst they consider the scarcity
occasioned by the merchants having secreted a large quantity. There had
been much rout and noise in the town for several weeks. Some stores had
been opened by a number of people, and the coffee and sugar carried
into the market and dealt out by pounds. It was rumored that an eminent,
wealthy, stingy merchant (who is a bachelor) had a hogshead of coffee in
his store, which he refused to sell to the committee under six shillings
per pound. A number of females, some say a hundred, some say more,
assembled with a cart and trucks, marched down to the warehouse, and
demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver. Upon which one of them
seized him by his neck, and tossed him into the cart. Upon his finding
no quarter, he delivered the keys, when they tipped up the cart and
discharged him; then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee
themselves, put it into the trucks, and drove off.

"It was reported that he had personal chastisement among them; but this,
I believe, was not true. A large concourse of men stood amazed, silent
spectators of the whole transaction."

This delighted John. "You have made me merry," he writes, "with the
female frolic with the miser. But I hope the females will leave off
their attachment to coffee. I assure you the best families in this place
have left off, in a great measure, the use of West India goods. We must
bring ourselves to live upon the produce of our own country. What would
I give for some of your cider? Milk has become the breakfast of many of
the wealthiest and genteelest families here."

In August a report was spread that Howe's fleet was off Cape Ann. Boston
took the alarm, and all was confusion, people packing up and carting out
of town their household goods, military stores, in fact everything that
was portable. Abigail writes:

"Not less than a thousand teams were employed on Friday and Saturday;
and, to their shame be it told, not a small trunk would they carry under
eight dollars, and many of them, I am told, asked a hundred dollars a
load; for carting a hogshead of molasses eight miles, thirty dollars. O
human nature! or rather O inhuman nature! what art thou? The report of
the fleet's being seen off Cape Ann Friday night gave me the alarm and
though pretty weak, I set about packing up my things, and on Saturday
removed a load.

"When I looked around me and beheld the bounties of Heaven so liberally
bestowed, in fine fields of corn, grass, flax, and English grain, and
thought it might soon become a prey to these merciless ravagers, our
habitations laid waste, and if our flight preserved our lives, we must
return to barren fields, empty barns, and desolate habitations, if any
we find (perhaps not where to lay our heads), my heart was too full to
bear the weight of affliction which I thought just ready to overtake us,
and my body too weak almost to bear the shock, unsupported by my better
half.

"But, thanks be to Heaven, we are at present relieved from our fears
respecting ourselves. I now feel anxious for your safety, but hope
prudence will direct to a proper care and attention to yourselves. May
this second attempt of Howe's prove his utter ruin. May destruction
overtake him as a whirlwind."

John's reply to this letter is characteristic.

"I think I have sometimes observed to you in conversation, that upon
examining the biography of illustrious men, you will generally find some
female about them, in the relation of mother or wife or sister, to whose
instigation a great part of their merit is to be ascribed. You will find
a curious example of this in the case of Aspasia, the wife of Pericles.
She was a woman of the greatest beauty and the first genius. She taught
him, it is said, his refined maxims of policy, his lofty imperial
eloquence, nay, even composed the speeches on which so great a share of
his reputation was founded. . . .

"I wish some of our great men had such wives. By the account in your
last letter, it seems the women in Boston begin to think themselves able
to serve their country. What a pity it is that our Generals in the
northern districts had not Aspasias to their wives!

"I believe the two Howes have not very great women for wives. If they
had, we should suffer more from their exertions than we do. This is our
good fortune. A woman of good sense would not let her husband spend five
weeks at sea in such a season of the year. A smart wife would have put
Howe in possession of Philadelphia a long time ago."

A week later he writes:

"If Howe is gone to Charleston, you will have a little quiet, and enjoy
your corn, and rye, and flax, and hay and other good things, until
another summer. But what shall we do for sugar and wine and rum? Why
truly, I believe we must leave them off. Loaf sugar is only four dollars
a pound here, and brown only a dollar for the meanest sort, and ten
shillings for that a little better. Everybody here is leaving off loaf
sugar, and most are laying aside brown."

Still the prices rose and rose. On August 29th, John quotes:

"Prices current. Four pounds a week for board, besides finding your own
washing, shaving, candles, liquors, pipes, tobacco, wood, etc. Thirty
shillings a week for a servant. It ought to be thirty shillings for a
gentleman and four pounds for the servant, because he generally eats
twice as much and makes twice as much trouble. Shoes, five dollars a
pair. Salt, twenty-seven dollars a bushel. Butter, ten shillings a
pound. Punch, twenty shillings a bowl. All the old women and young
children are gone down to the Jersey shore to make salt. Salt water is
boiling all round the coast, and I hope it will increase. For it is
nothing but heedlessness and shiftlessness that prevents us from making
salt enough for a supply. But necessity will bring us to it. As to
sugar, molasses, rum, etc., we must leave them off. Whiskey is used here
instead of rum, and I don't see but it is just as good. Of this the
wheat and rye countries can easily distill enough for the use of the
country. If I could get cider I would be content."

In September he describes at length the making of molasses out of
corn-stalks. "Scarcely a town or parish within forty miles of us but
what has several mills at work; and had the experiment been made a month
sooner many thousand barrels would have been made. No less than eighty
have been made in the small town of Manchester. It answers very well to
distill, and may be boiled down to sugar. Thus you see," he adds, "we go
from step to step in our improvements. We can live much better than we
deserve within ourselves. Why should we borrow foreign luxuries? Why
should we wish to bring ruin upon ourselves? I feel as contented when I
have breakfasted upon milk as ever I did with Hyson or Souchong. Coffee
and sugar I use only as a rarity. There are none of these things but I
could totally renounce. My dear friend knows that I could always conform
to times and circumstances. As yet I know nothing of hardships. My
children have never cried for bread nor been destitute of clothing. Nor
have the poor and needy gone empty from my door, whenever it was in my
power to assist them."

Though the patriot ladies were ready enough to do without Hyson or
Souchong they none the less greatly desired a cheering cup of
_something_, and managed to get it without tax or expense. We read of
tea made from ribwort, from sage, from thoroughwort, from strawberry and
currant leaves. "Hyperion tea," called by a good patriot, "very delicate
and most excellent," was made from raspberry leaves; "Liberty tea" from
the four-leaved loose-strife. So there was great boiling and steeping
going on, and every housewife who had a garden patch, or who was near
enough the woods and fields to go out "yarb-gathering," could be sure of
a "dish of tay," without thought of King George or his myrmidons.

There was a great harvest, in this year 1777; once more Mother Nature
proclaimed herself on the side of Independence. The valleys lay so thick
with corn that they did laugh and sing. Most of the able-bodied men
being in the field (for the war was now in full swing) there were not
enough hands to gather in the crops. Abigail fears that "if it is
necessary to make any more drafts upon us, the women must reap the
harvests"; and adds, "I am willing to do my part. I believe I could
gather corn, and husk it; but I should make a poor figure at digging
potatoes."

Indeed, most of the harvesting that autumn was done by women, aided by
old men and young boys. Delicate ladies, sturdy farmers' wives and
daughters, they worked side by side: and we read that "towards the end
of August, at the Forks of Brandywine, girls were harnessing the
ploughs, and preparing fallows for the seed, on the very fields where,
a twelvemonth from that date, a costly crop of human life was reaped."

The reader of this little book, holding it in his right hand, should
hold in his left a history of the United States and should have an atlas
"handy by."

Far and wide the war spread: campaign followed campaign: New York, White
Plains, Crown Point: our affair is not with them, but with our faithful
married lovers, still separated by the long leagues that lie between
Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. I must, however, describe briefly what
happened in and near Philadelphia, where John Adams and his brother
Congressmen were sitting. All through the spring and summer Washington
had been harrying the British with varying fortunes. On August 24th, he
entered Philadelphia with his army: four regiments of light horse,
writes John Adams, four grand divisions of infantry, and the artillery
with the matrosses. "They marched twelve deep, and yet took up above two
hours in passing by." Washington led the march, and beside him rode the
young Marquis de Lafayette, newly arrived; a lad of nineteen, who had
left his young wife and his brilliant circle, to lay his sword at the
feet of the American Republic.

This "dress-parade" was not a magnificent one. The soldiers' boots were
worn through; their clothes were ragged, and of every hue and style. The
least badly dressed among them, we are told, were those who wore the
hunting shirt of brown linen. But the brown faces above the shirts were
strong and keen, and alight with purpose and resolve; their horses were
in prime condition: the green boughs they wore lent a touch of color;
there was even a hint of splendor where the Stars and Stripes, newly
assembled, fluttered on the breeze. "Fine and warlike troops," Lafayette
pronounced them, "commanded by officers of zeal and courage." John Adams
writes in sober exultation to Portia:

"The army, upon an accurate inspection of it, I find to be extremely
well armed, pretty well clothed, and tolerably disciplined. . . . There is
such a mixture of the sublime and the beautiful together with the useful
in military discipline, that I wonder every officer we have is not
charmed with it." Mr. Adams, after watching the parade, is convinced
that he, in military life, should be a decisive disciplinarian. "I am
convinced there is no other effective way of indulging benevolence,
humanity, and the tender social passions in the army. There is no other
way of preserving the health and spirits of the men. There is no other
way of making them active and skilful in war; no other way of guarding
an army against destruction by surprises; and no other method of giving
them confidence in one another, of making them stand by one another in
the hour of battle. Discipline in an army is like the laws of civil
society."

Dark days followed. Howe had landed with fresh troops of highly trained
soldiers, bent on taking Philadelphia and driving out the Rebel
Congress. On September eleventh, Mr. Adams writes:

"The moments are critical here. We know not but the next will bring us
an account of a general engagement begun, and when once begun, we know
not how it will end, for the battle is not always to the strong. . . .
But if it should be the will of Heaven that our army should be defeated,
our artillery lost, our best generals killed, and Philadelphia fall in
Mr. Howe's hands, still America is not conquered."

Three days later Brandywine was lost and won; then came the fatal night
of Paoli, when Anthony Wayne first measured swords with Cornwallis, and
found his own the shorter: and on September 26th, the British army
entered Philadelphia.

"Don't be anxious about me," John Adams had written on the 14th, "nor
about our great and sacred cause. It is the cause of truth and will
prevail."

On the 19th, Congress, yielding to the inevitable, removed to Yorktown
and there continued its work. Mr. Adams, describing the removal briefly,
says, "I shall avoid everything like history, and make no reflections."
I hasten to follow his example and return to Braintree.

On October 25th, 1777, Abigail writes:

"The joyful news of the surrender (at Saratoga) of General Burgoyne and
all his army, to our victorious troops, prompted me to take a ride this
afternoon with my daughter to town, to join, tomorrow, with my friends
in thanksgiving and praise to the Supreme Being who hath so remarkably
delivered our enemies into our hands. And, hearing that an express is to
go off tomorrow morning, I have retired to write you a few lines. I have
received no letters from you since you left Philadelphia, by the post,
and but one by any private hand. I have written you once before this. Do
not fail of writing by the return of this express, and direct your
letters to the care of my uncle, who has been a kind and faithful hand
to me through the whole season, and a constant attendant upon the
post-office."

The leagues were to stretch yet farther between Portia and her dearest
friend. A month after this, Mr. Adams asked and obtained leave of
Congress to visit his family, mounted his horse, and rode joyfully home
to Braintree. We can well imagine the rejoicings that greeted his
return; but they were short-lived. He had barely reached home when word
came that he was appointed ambassador to France, and that the frigate
_Boston_ was being prepared to carry him thither as soon as possible.

Here was a thunderbolt indeed! Weary and worn after four years of
incessant labor, John Adams had longed almost passionately for the joys
and comforts of home life and family affection. He weighed the matter
well: the probability of capture on the high seas, of imprisonment or
execution in England: the needs of his family, which he had been forced
to neglect these four years past. "My children were growing up without
my care in their education, and all my emoluments as a member of
Congress for four years had not been sufficient to pay a laboring man
upon my farm. . . . On the other hand, my country was in deep distress
and in great danger. Her dearest interests would be involved in the
relations she might form with foreign nations. My own plan of these
relations had been deliberately formed and fully communicated to
Congress nearly two years before. The confidence of my country was
committed to me without my solicitation. My wife, who had always
encouraged and animated me in all antecedent dangers and perplexities,
did not fail me on this occasion. But she discovered an inclination to
bear me company, with all our children. This proposal, however, she was
soon convinced, was too hazardous and imprudent."

Help from France was imperative. Franklin was already there, but greatly
needing stronger support.

There was no real question of John Adams' decision: it was soon made,
his faithful Portia acquiescing without a murmur. She even agreed to
Johnny's going with his father--or proposed it, we know not which; and
preparations were made for the departure. Fortunately, the frigate took
longer to prepare than the trunks; it was not till February that all was
ready, and the final parting came. Had it been known that even while he
was embarking a treaty was being signed in Paris between France and
America, this parting might have been delayed.

Mr. Adams' diary gives us glimpses of the voyage, which was a stormy
one and threatened other dangers beside. They fell in with some British
ships, and one of them gave chase.

"When the night approached, the wind died away, and we were left rolling
and pitching in a calm, with our guns all out, our courses drawn up and
every way prepared for battle; the officers and men appeared in good
spirits and Captain Tucker said his orders were to carry me to France,
and to take any prizes that might fall in his way; he thought it his
duty, therefore, to avoid fighting, especially with an unequal force, if
he could, but if he could not avoid an engagement he would give them
something that should make them remember him. I said, and did all in my
power, to encourage the officers and men to fight them to the last
extremity. My motives were more urgent than theirs; for it will easily
be believed that it would have been more eligible for me to be killed on
board the _Boston_, or sunk to the bottom in her, than to be taken
prisoner. I sat in the cabin, at the windows in the stern, and saw the
enemy gaining upon us very fast, she appearing to have a breeze of wind,
while we had none. Our powder, cartridges, and balls, were placed by the
guns, and everything ready to begin the action. Although it was calm on
the surface of the sea, where we lay, the heavens had been gradually
overspread with black clouds, and the wind began to spring up. Our ship
began to move. The night came on, and it was soon dark. We lost sight of
our enemy, who did not appear to me very ardent to overtake us. But the
wind increased to a hurricane."

The hurricane proved a terrible one. The diary tells us:

"It would be fruitless to attempt a description of what I saw, heard,
and felt, during these three days and nights. To describe the ocean, the
waves, the winds; the ship, her motions, rollings, wringings, and
agonies; the sailors, their countenances, language, and behavior, is
impossible. No man could keep upon his legs and nothing could be kept in
its place; an universal wreck of everything in all parts of the ship,
chests, casks, bottles, etc. No place or person was dry. On one of these
nights, a thunderbolt struck three men upon deck, and wounded one of
them a little by a scorch upon his shoulder; it also struck our
maintop-mast. . . .

"It is a great satisfaction to me, however, to recollect that I was
myself perfectly calm, during the whole. I found, by the opinion of the
people aboard, and of the captain himself, that we were in danger, and
of this I was certain also, from my own observation: but I thought
myself in the way of my duty, and I did not repent of my voyage. I
confess I often regretted that I had brought my son. I was not so clear
that it was my duty to expose him as myself, but I had been led to it by
the child's inclination, and by the advice of all my friends. My
Johnny's behavior gave me a satisfaction that I cannot express; fully
sensible of our danger, he was constantly endeavoring to bear it with a
manly patience, very attentive to me, and his thoughts constantly
running in a serious strain."

A few days later came a yet more thrilling event. The log of the
_Boston_ says:

"Saw a ship to the south-east standing to the westward. Asked the favor
of the Hon. John Adams to chase, which was immediately granted. Made
sail and gave chase. At 3 p. m. came up with the chase, gave her a gun
and she returned me three, one shot of which carried away my mizzen
yard. She immediately struck. Out boat. Got the prisoners on board. She
proved the ship _Martha_ from London, bound to New York. I ordered a
prize-master on board, intending to send her to France, but on
consulting Mr. Adams, he thought most advisable to send her to
America."

Thus Commodore Tucker, commander of the _Boston_, brief and
business-like. Mr. Adams notes that "she was a letter of marque, with
fourteen guns. She fired upon us, and one of her shot went through our
mizzen yard. I happened to be upon the quarter deck, and in the
direction from the ship to the yard, so that the ball went directly over
my head. We, upon this, turned our broadside, which the instant she saw
she struck. Captain Tucker very prudently ordered his officers not to
fire."

"I happened to be upon the quarter deck!" Mr. Adams, what were you doing
on the quarter deck? You certainly had no business there during a
battle. Log and diary are equally discreet, but in his later years
Commodore Tucker used to tell the story of that hour; how on discovering
the enemy's ship, "neither he nor Mr. Adams could resist the temptation
to engage, although against the dictates of prudent duty. Tucker,
however, stipulated that Mr. Adams should remain in the lower part of
the ship, as a place of safety. But no sooner had the battle commenced,
than he was seen on deck, with a musket in his hands, fighting as a
common marine. The Commodore peremptorily ordered him below; but called
instantly away, it was not until considerable time had elapsed, that he
discovered this public minister still at his post, intently engaged in
firing upon the enemy. Advancing, he exclaimed, 'Why are you here, sir?
I am commanded by the Continental Congress to carry you in safety to
Europe, and I will do it;' and, seizing him in his arms, forcibly
carried him from the scene of danger."

I trust Master Johnny was safe in his cabin while all this was going on:
be very sure that Portia was never told of it, or at least not till long
afterward. She, poor lady, was meantime cheering herself as well as she
could; visiting the French fleet, just arrived in Boston Harbor, and
entertaining some of its officers, who, she thought, were being
neglected in Boston town.

"Generals Heath and Hancock have done their part, but very few, if any,
private families have any acquaintance with them. Perhaps I feel more
anxious to have them distinguished, on account of the near and dear
connections I have among them. It would gratify me much, if I had it in
my power, to entertain every officer in the fleet."

This letter was written (I think) on a tired or discouraged day, for in
it we actually find Portia reproaching her John, a strange thing indeed.
His first letter had been all too short for her anxious heart.

"In the very few lines I have received from you, not the least mention
is made that you have ever received a line from me. I have not been so
parsimonious as my friend,--perhaps I am not so prudent; but I cannot
take my pen, with my heart overflowing, and not give utterance to some
of the abundance which is in it. Could you, after a thousand fears and
anxieties, long expectation, and painful suspense, be satisfied with my
telling you that I was well, that I wished you were with me, that my
daughter sent her duty, that I had ordered some articles for you, which
I hoped would arrive, etc., etc.? By Heaven, if you could, you have
changed hearts with some frozen Laplander, or made a voyage to a region
that has chilled every drop of your blood; but I will restrain a pen
already, I fear, too rash, nor shall it tell you how much I have
suffered from this appearance of--inattention."

She adds that the articles sent by Captain Tucker have "arrived safe,
and will be of great service to me. Our money is very little better than
blank paper. It takes forty dollars to purchase a barrel of cider; fifty
pounds lawful for a hundred of sugar, and fifty dollars for a hundred of
flour; four dollars per day for a laborer, and find him, which will
amount to four more. You will see, by bills drawn before the date of
this, that I had taken the method which I was happy in finding you had
directed me to. I shall draw for the rest as I find my situation
requires. No article that can be named, foreign or domestic, but what
costs more than double in hard money what it once sold for."

Poor Portia! poor John! Some of the letters she longed for were taken by
the enemy and thrown overboard. John was writing constantly, and
Portia's complaining letter was not a consoling one to receive in
"Europe, the dullest place in the world," as he calls it. On December
2d, 1778, he writes:

"For Heaven's sake, my dear, don't indulge a thought that it is possible
for me to neglect or forget all that is dear to me in this world. It is
impossible for me to write as I did in America. What should I write? It
is not safe to write anything that one is not willing should go into all
the newspapers of the world. I know not by whom to write. I never know
what conveyance is safe. . . . I know nothing of many vessels that go
from the sea-ports, and if I knew of all, there are some that I should
not trust. Notwithstanding all this, I have written to you not much less
than fifty letters. I am astonished that you have received no more. But
almost every vessel has been taken. . . . God knows I don't spend my
time in idleness, or in gazing at curiosities. I never wrote more
letters, however empty they may have been. But by what I hear, they have
been all, or nearly all, taken or sunk. My friends complain that they
have not received letters from me. I may as well complain. I have
received scarcely any letters from America. I have written three where I
have received one."

On Sunday evening, December 27th, Abigail writes a letter that makes our
hearts ache with her.

"How lonely are my days! how solitary are my nights! secluded from all
society but my two little boys and my domestics. By the mountains of
snow which surround me, I could almost fancy myself in Greenland. We
have had four of the coldest days I ever knew, and they were followed by
the severest snow-storm I ever remember. The wind, blowing like a
hurricane for fifteen or twenty hours, rendered it impossible for man or
beast to live abroad, and has blocked up the roads so that they are
impassable. A week ago I parted with my daughter, at the request of our
Plymouth friends, to spend a month with them; so that I am solitary
indeed.

"Can the best of friends recollect that for fourteen years past I have
not spent a whole winter alone? Some part of the dismal season has
heretofore been mitigated and softened by the social converse and
participation of the friend of my youth.

"How insupportable the idea that three thousand miles and the vast ocean
now divide us! but divide only our persons, for the heart of my friend
is in the bosom of his partner. More than half a score of years has so
riveted it there, that the fabric which contains it must crumble into
dust ere the particles can be separated; for

        In one fate, our hearts, our fortunes,
    And our beings blend.

"I cannot describe to you how much I was affected the other day with a
Scotch song, which was sung to me by a young lady in order to divert a
melancholy hour; but it had quite a different effect, and the native
simplicity of it had all the power of a well-wrought tragedy. When I
could conquer my sensibility I begged the song, and Master Charles has
learned it, and consoles his mamma by singing it to her. I will inclose
it to you. It has beauties in it to me which an indifferent person would
not feel, perhaps.

    His very foot has music in 't,
    As he comes up the stairs.

"How oft has my heart danced to the sound of that music!

    And shall I see his face again?
    And shall I hear him speak

"Gracious Heaven! hear and answer my daily petition, by banishing all my
grief.

"I am sometimes quite discouraged from writing. So many vessels are
taken that there is little chance of a letter's reaching your hands.
That I meet with so few returns is a circumstance that lies heavy at my
heart. If this finds its way to you, it will go by the _Alliance_. By
her I have written before. She has not yet sailed, and I love to amuse
myself with my pen, and pour out some of the tender sentiments of a
heart overflowing with affection, not for the eye of a cruel enemy, who,
no doubt, would ridicule every humane and social sentiment, long ago
grown callous to the finer sensibilities, but for the sympathetic heart
that beats in unison with

                                                    "PORTIA'S."


John replies to this:

"Dr. J. is transcribing your Scotch song, which is a charming one. Oh,
my leaping heart!

"I must not write a word to you about politics, because you are a woman.

"What an offense have I committed! A woman!

"I shall soon make it up. I think women better than men, in general, and
I know that you can keep a secret as well as any man whatever. But the
world don't know this. Therefore if I were to write my sentiments to
you, and the letter should be caught and hitched into a newspaper, the
world would say I was not to be trusted with a secret."

To us, it need be no secret that there were divisions in the American
Legation at Paris. Franklin was at odds with his colleagues, who seem to
have been more hindrance than help to him. Moreover, Congress, in the
excitement of the treaty, forgot, for a time, all about John Adams and
his mission. In short, he came too late for the fair, found no orders,
and little to do, save talk with the old philosopher and the Comte de
Vergennes. Now and then the diary gives us a sidelight on Franklin.

"Dr. Franklin, upon my saying the other day that I fancied he did not
exercise so much as he was wont, answered, 'Yes, I walk a league every
day in my chamber; I walk quick, and for an hour, so that I go a league;
I make a point of religion of it.' I replied, 'That as the commandment,
"thou shalt not kill," forbids a man to kill himself as well as his
neighbor, it was manifestly a breach of the sixth commandment not to
exercise; so that he might easily prove it to be a religious point.'"

John Adams could not be idle. "I cannot eat pensions and sinecures," he
writes: "they would stick in my throat." He was in no mood to follow
Franklin's advice and wait quietly for further orders. There was nothing
for him to do, and he would go home in the first available ship.
Accordingly, on June 17th, 1779, he sailed on the _Sensible_, with son
John beside him, and that episode was closed.

All this time the war was going on and prices were rising. Abigail
"blushes" while giving John the prices current: "All butcher's meat from
a dollar to eight shillings per pound; corn twenty-five dollars, rye
thirty, per bushel; flour fifty pounds per hundred; potatoes ten dollars
per bushel; butter twelve shillings a pound, cheese eight; sugar twelve
shillings a pound; molasses twelve dollars per gallon; labor six and
eight dollars a day; a common cow from sixty to seventy pounds; and all
English goods in proportion."

By March, labor was eight dollars per day, with twelve dollars in
prospect; goods of all kinds at such a price that Abigail hardly dares
mention it.

"Linens are sold at twenty dollars per yard; the most ordinary sort of
calicoes at thirty and forty; broadcloths at forty pounds per yard;
West India goods full as high; molasses at twenty dollars per gallon;
sugar four dollars per pound, bohea tea at forty dollars; and our own
produce in proportion; butcher's meat at six and eight shillings per
pound; board at fifty and sixty dollars per week." She adds:

"In contemplation of my situation, I am sometimes thrown into an agony
of distress. Distance, dangers, and oh, I cannot name all the fears
which sometimes oppress me, and harrow up my soul. Yet must the common
lot of man one day take place, whether we dwell in our own native land
or are far distant from it. That we rest under the shadow of the
Almighty is the consolation to which I resort, and find that comfort
which the world cannot give. If He sees best to give me back my friend,
or to preserve my life to him, it will be so."

She little thought that even while she wrote, her friend was spreading
his wings--or rather, the broad white wings of the frigate _Sensible_,
for his homeward flight.



CHAPTER IX

MR. ADAMS ABROAD


IN August, 1779, Mr. Adams returned, and all was joy; but again the joy
was short-lived. There seemed really no end to the trials of these two
loving hearts. In November, Mr. Adams was again ordered to France on
public service, and sailed in November. This time he took not only John
but little Charles with him, and Abigail's heart was doubly desolate.

      "DEAREST OF FRIENDS,--My habitation, how desolate it
      looks! my table, I sit down to it, but cannot swallow
      my food! Oh, why was I born with so much sensibility,
      and why, possessing it, have I so often been called to
      struggle with it? I wish to see you again. Were I sure
      you would not be gone, I could not withstand the
      temptation of coming to town, though my heart would
      suffer over again the cruel torture of separation.

      "What a cordial to my dejected spirits were the few
      lines last night received! And does your heart
      forebode that we shall again be happy? My hopes and
      fears rise alternately. I cannot resign more than I
      do, unless life itself were called for. My dear sons,
      I cannot think of them without a tear. Little do they
      know the feelings of a mother's heart. May they be
      good and useful as their father! Then they will in
      some measure reward the anxiety of a mother. My
      tenderest love to them. Remember me also to Mr.
      Thaxter, whose civilities and kindness I shall miss.

      "God Almighty bless and protect my dearest friend,
      and, in his own time, restore him to the affectionate
      bosom of

                                                "PORTIA."


It was all the more lonely for Mrs. Adams that the winter was a severe
one: "the sublimest winter" she ever saw. In December and January there
fell the highest snow known in forty years; all through January and
February, the Bay was frozen over, so that no vessel could pass through
for a month. "We had neither snow, rain, nor the least thaw. It has been
remarkably healthy, and we have lived along very comfortably, though
many people have suffered greatly for food."

In the long winter days, how eagerly Mrs. Adams must have watched for
the incoming mails! I do not know what were the postal arrangements of
Braintree; very likely there were none. In Boston, the Post Office was
opened every Monday morning from the middle of March to the middle of
September, "at 7 of the clock, to deliver out all letters that do come
by the post till twelve o'clock; from twelve to two o'clock, being
dinner-time, no office kept; and from two o'clock in the afternoon to
six o'clock the office will be open to take in all letters to go by the
Southern and Western post."

A single letter cost one shilling to send; this rate held to the middle
of the nineteenth century. Beside letters, the faithful Portia sent to
her John all the papers and news-letters she could lay hands on.

Boston by this time had several newspapers. The first of these,
appearing as early as 1704, was the _Boston News-Letter_, "Published by
Authority." For some time this little sheet held the field alone; but in
1721 appeared the _Boston Gazette_, and the _New England Courant_. In
both these, James Franklin, Benjamin's elder brother, had a hand;
indeed, the _Courant_ was his own paper, started when he was discharged
from the staff of the _Gazette_. He seems to have been a quarrelsome
fellow, was twice arraigned for contempt, and once imprisoned.
Benjamin, then a boy of sixteen, astute from his cradle, contributed by
stealth to the _Courant_ more or less; but slipped away to Philadelphia
without getting into trouble.

These papers, doubtless, Portia sent regularly to her John, who received
them as often as Fate or the enemy allowed.

Now and then Mrs. Adams took her chaise and went into town to make some
visits in Boston or Cambridge.

"Present my compliments to Mr. Dana," she writes. "Tell him I have
called upon his lady, and we enjoyed an afternoon of sweet communion. I
find she would not be averse to taking a voyage, should he be continued
abroad. She groans most bitterly, and is irreconcilable to his absence.
I am a mere philosopher to her. I am _inured_, but not hardened, to the
painful portion. Shall I live to see it otherwise?"

This was written in July, 1780. We may fancy Madam Abigail setting out
on this expedition, stately and demure in hoop petticoat and high-heeled
shoes. We cannot be sure whether she wore a Leghorn hat or a calash.
Here I pause for a moment; I remember a calash, in my childhood. It was
made of thin green silk, shirred on pieces of rattan or whalebone,
placed two or three inches apart. These were drawn together at the back
by a cape, and thus, bent into hoop-shape, could be drawn so far over
the face as to cover it entirely. The "bashful bonnet," the thing was
called; certainly, no headdress ever was uglier, but it must have been
"matchless for the complexion," as Madam Patti says of a certain
well-known soap.

On the whole, knowing what the calash looked like, I should prefer to
think that Madam Abigail wore a Leghorn hat over her fine dark hair.
Leghorns were costly. I have heard of their costing twenty-five or even
fifty dollars: but they lasted for years and years. It was not till some
years after this that American women began to make their own bonnet
straw. It became the rage, both here and in England, and women vied with
each other in the amount and quality of their "straw-work." Hats and
bonnets were not enough; women wore "straw-coats" or _paillasses_; these
were made of "sarcenet, calico, or linen, and ornamented profusely with
straw." A writer in the _European Magazine_ exclaims:

"Straw! straw! everything is ornamented in straw, from the cap to the
shoe-buckles; Ceres is the favorite, not only of the female but the
male part of the fashionable world, for the gentlemen's waistcoats are
ribbed with straw."

Here is a long digression; let us hope that Mrs. Dana gave Mrs. Adams a
good dish of tea and that she went home refreshed.

There are but few letters of 1780: probably many were lost. In October
Mrs. Adams again quotes the current prices, for which her husband
frequently asks.

"You tell me to send you prices current. I will aim at it. Corn is now
thirty pounds, rye twenty-seven, per bushel. Flour from a hundred and
forty to a hundred and thirty per hundred. Beef, eight dollars per
pound; mutton, nine; lamb, six, seven, and eight. Butter, twelve dollars
per pound; cheese, ten. Sheep's wool, thirty dollars per pound; flax,
twenty. West India articles: sugar, from a hundred and seventy to two
hundred pounds per hundred; molasses, forty-eight dollars per gallon;
tea, ninety; coffee, twelve; cotton-wool, thirty per pound. Exchange
from seventy to seventy-five for hard money. Bills at fifty. Money
scarce; plenty of goods; _enormous_ taxes."

And what were young John and Charles doing, far from home and mother?
They were studying, and improving themselves in every proper way. In
December, 1780, they were sent to Leyden, which Mr. Adams thinks
"perhaps as learned a University as any in Europe." He notes in his
diary of January, 1781, "John is transcribing a Greek Grammar . . . of
his master's composition, and Charles a Latin one; John is also
transcribing a treatise on Roman antiquities. . . . After dinner they
went to the Rector Magnificus to be matriculated into the University;
Charles was found to be too young, none under twelve years of age being
admitted; John was admitted after making a declaration that he would do
nothing against the laws of the university, city, or land."

I have to exercise stern self-control to keep from quoting too much from
Mr. Adams' diary: after all, it is his wife's story that I am trying to
tell. Yet--surely never were husband and wife more entirely one--I must
indulge myself, and my readers, with his account of the Royal Family of
France at supper. He did not admire Queen Marie Antoinette as much as
Edmund Burke did, and does not scruple to say so.

"She was an object too sublime and beautiful for my dull pen to
describe. I leave this enterprise to Mr. Burke. But, in his description,
there is more of the orator than of the philosopher. Her dress was
every thing that art and wealth could make it. One of the maids of honor
told me she had diamonds upon her person to the value of eighteen
millions of livres; and I always thought her majesty much beholden to
her dress. Mr. Burke saw her probably but once. I have seen her fifty
times perhaps, and in all the varieties of her dresses. She had a fine
complexion, indicating perfect health, and was a handsome woman in her
face and figure. But I have seen beauties much superior, both in
countenance and form, in France, England, and America."

[Illustration: JOHN ADAMS

Painted by Gilbert Stuart]

He goes on to describe the spectacle of the _grand couvert_:

"I was selected, and summoned indeed, from all my company, and ordered
to a seat close beside the royal family. The seats on both sides of the
hall, arranged like the seats in a theatre, were all full of ladies of
the first rank and fashion in the kingdom, and there was no room or
place for me but in the midst of them. It was not easy to make room, for
one more person. However, room was made, and I was situated between two
ladies, with rows and ranks of ladies above and below me, and on the
right hand and on the left, and ladies only. My dress was a decent
French dress, becoming the station I held, but not to be compared
with the gold, and diamonds, and embroidery, about me. I could neither
speak, nor understand the language in a manner to support a
conversation, but I had soon the satisfaction to find it was a silent
meeting, and that nobody spoke a word, but the royal family, to each
other, and they said very little. The eyes of all the assembly were
turned upon me, and I felt sufficiently humble and mortified, for I was
not a proper object for the criticisms of such a company. I found myself
gazed at, as we in America used to gaze at the sachems who came to make
speeches to us in Congress, but I thought it very hard if I could not
command as much power of face as one of the chiefs of the Six Nations,
and, therefore, determined that I would assume a cheerful countenance,
enjoy the scene around me, and observe it as coolly as an astronomer
contemplates the stars. . . . The king was the royal carver for himself
and all his family. His majesty ate like a king, and made a royal supper
of solid beef, and other things in proportion. The queen took a large
spoonful of soup, and displayed her fine person and graceful manners, in
alternately looking at the company in various parts of the hall, and
ordering several kinds of seasoning to be brought to her, by which she
fitted her supper to her taste. When this was accomplished, her majesty
exhibited to the admiring spectators, the magnificent spectacle of a
great queen swallowing her royal supper in a single spoonful all at
once. This was all performed like perfect clock work; not a feature of
her face, nor a motion of any part of her person, especially her arm and
her hand, could be criticized as out of order. A little, and but a
little, conversation seemed to pass among the royal personages of both
sexes, but in so low a voice, that nothing could be understood by any of
the audience.

"The officers about the king's person brought him many letters and
papers, from time to time, while he was at table. He looked at these.
Some of them he read, or seemed to read, and returned them to the same
officers who brought them, or some others.

"These ceremonies and shows may be condemned by philosophy and ridiculed
by comedy, with great reason. Yet the common sense of mankind has never
adopted the rigid decrees of the former, nor ever sincerely laughed with
the latter. Nor has the religion of nations, in any age, approved of the
dogmas or the satires. On the contrary, it has always overborne them
all, and carried its inventions of such exhibitions to a degree of
sublimity and pathos, which has frequently transported the greatest
infidels out of themselves. Something of the kind every government and
every religion has, and must have; and the business and duty of
lawgivers and philosophers is to endeavor to prevent them from being
carried too far."

Mr. Adams is full of anxieties:

"I am sorry to learn you have a sum of paper. How could you be so
imprudent? You must be frugal, I assure you. Your children will be
poorly off. I can but barely live in the manner that is indispensably
demanded of me by everybody. Living is dear indeed here. My children
will not be so well left by their father as he was by his. They will be
infected with the examples and habits and tastes for expensive living
without the means. He was not. My children shall never have the smallest
soil of dishonor or disgrace brought upon them by their father, no, not
to please ministers, kings, or nations. At the expense of a little of
this, my children might perhaps ride at their ease through life, but
dearly as I love them, they shall live in the service of their country,
in her navy, her army, or even out of either in the extremest degree of
poverty, before I will depart in the smallest iota from my sentiments of
honor and delicacy; for I, even I, have sentiments of delicacy as
exquisite as the proudest minister that ever served a monarch. They may
not be exactly like those of some ministers. . . .

"General Washington has done me great honor and much public service by
sending me authentic accounts of his own and General Greene's last great
actions. They are in the way to negotiate peace. It lies wholly with
them. No other ministers but they and their colleagues in the army can
accomplish the great event.

"I am keeping house, but I want a housekeeper. What a fine affair it
would be, if we could flit across the Atlantic as they say the angels do
from planet to planet! I would dart to Penn's Hill and bring you over on
my wings; but, alas, we must keep house separately for some time. But
one thing I am determined on. If God should please to restore me once
more to your fireside, I will never again leave it without your
ladyship's company--no, not even to go to Congress to Philadelphia, and
there I am determined to go, if I can make interest enough to get
chosen, whenever I return. I would give a million sterling that you were
here; and I could afford it as well as Great Britain can the thirty
millions she must spend, the ensuing year, to complete her own ruin.
Farewell, farewell."

I like to picture John Adams as he wrote those words: sitting erect at
his desk, his chin up, his eyes flashing. So, I fancy, he may have
looked, in his "decent French dress" in the crowd of court ladies, that
evening at Versailles.

More and more as time went on, did the two friends long for each other.
I say "friends," because it is their own word; most of the letters begin
with it. Abigail writes:

"MY DEAREST FRIEND,--The family are all retired to rest; the busy scenes
of the day are over; a day which I wished to have devoted in a
particular manner to my dearest friend; but company falling in prevented
it, nor could I claim a moment until this silent watch of the night.

"Look (is there a dearer name than _friend?_ Think of it for me), look
to the date of this letter, and tell me what are the thoughts which
arise in your mind. Do you not recollect that eighteen years have run
their circuit since we pledged our mutual faith to each other, and the
hymeneal torch was lighted at the altar of Love? Yet, yet it burns with
unabating fervor. Old Ocean has not quenched it, nor old Time smothered
it in this bosom. It cheers me in the lonely hour; it comforts me even
in the gloom which sometimes possesses my mind."

She begs to be allowed to join him in Europe.

"I have repeatedly expressed my desire to make a part of your family.
But 'Will you come and see me?' cannot be taken in that serious light I
should choose to consider an invitation from those I love. I do not
doubt but that you would be glad to see me, but I know you are
apprehensive of dangers and fatigues. I know your situation may be
unsettled, and it may be more permanent than I wish it. Only think how
the words, 'three, four, and five years' absence,' sound! They sink into
my heart with a weight I cannot express. Do you look like the miniature
you sent? I cannot think so. But you have a better likeness, I am told.
Is that designed for me? Gracious Heavens! restore to me the original,
and I care not who has the shadow."

John was fully convinced that Portia would not like Paris, and that it
would not agree with her or the children. "It would be most for the
happiness of my family," he says, "and most for the honor of our
country, that I should come home. I have, therefore, this day written to
Congress a resignation of all my employments, and as soon as I shall
receive their acceptance of it, I will embark for America, which will be
in the spring or beginning of summer. Our son is now on his journey
from Petersburg, through Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, and if it please
God he come safe, he shall come with me, and I pray we may all meet once
more, you and I never to separate again."

It was about this time that "a person" asked Mrs. Adams, "If you had
known that Mr. Adams should have remained so long abroad, would you have
consented that he should have gone?"

"I recollected myself a moment," says Portia, "and then spoke the real
dictates of my heart: 'If I had known, sir, that Mr. Adams could have
effected what he has done, I would not only have submitted to the
absence I have endured, painful as it has been, but I would not have
opposed it, even though three years more should be added to the number
(which Heaven avert!). I feel a pleasure in being able to sacrifice my
selfish passions to the general good, and in imitating the example which
has taught me to consider myself and family but as the small dust of the
balance, when compared with the great community."

And now the long separation was to end. In December, 1782, Mr. Adams
writes:

"Whether there should be peace or war, I shall come home in the summer.
As soon as I shall receive from Congress their acceptance of the
resignation of all my employments, which I have transmitted many ways, I
shall embark, and you may depend upon a good domestic husband for the
remainder of my life, if it is the will of Heaven that I should once
more meet you. My promises are not lightly made with anybody. I have
never broken one made to you, and I will not begin at this time of life.

"My children, I hope, will once at length discover that they have a
father who is not unmindful of their welfare. They have had too much
reason to think themselves forgotten, although I know that an anxiety
for their happiness has corroded me every day of my life.

"With a tenderness which words cannot express, I am theirs and yours
forever."

The war was over; the child Independence had grown to full stature, and
the Republic took her place among the nations. On the 21st of January,
1783, articles of peace were drawn up between Great Britain, France, and
the United States.



CHAPTER X

THE COURT OF ST. JAMES


NOT yet, Abigail! The treaty of peace was signed on the 21st of January,
1783; but Congress refused to John Adams the leisure he had so amply
earned, and so ardently desired. A treaty of commerce must be
established between Great Britain and the United States, and he, with
Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, must make it. The faithful patriot
accepted the new charge without hesitation, but this time his body
rebelled. He fell dangerously ill of a fever, brought on by anxiety and
over-work. For some days his life hung in the balance: but he could not
die then. His work was not done. Barely recovered, while still weak and
suffering, he hastened to London, to take up the new task. This
accomplished, another waited him. Orders came for him to go at once to
Holland, to obtain a loan for the new Republic. This, he felt, might
well be the last straw for him; yet he did not falter.

"It was winter. My health was very delicate. A journey and voyage to
Holland at that season would very probably put an end to my labors. I
scarcely saw a possibility of surviving it. Nevertheless, no man knows
what he can bear till he tries. A few moment's reflection determined me;
for although I had little hope of getting the money, having experienced
so many difficulties before, yet making the attempt and doing all in my
power would discharge my own conscience, and ought to satisfy my
responsibility to the public."

Here follows a detailed account of the trip, which I exercise much
self-control not to quote. He adds:

"I had ridden on horseback often to Congress, over roads and across
ferries, of which the present generation have no idea; and once, in
1777, in the dead of winter, from Braintree to Baltimore, five hundred
miles, upon a trotting horse, as Dean Swift boasted that he had done or
could do. I had been three days in the Gulf Stream, in 1778, in a
furious hurricane and a storm of thunder and lightning, which struck
down our men upon deck, and cracked our mainmast; when the oldest
officers and stoutest seamen stood aghast, at their last prayers,
dreading every moment that a butt would start, and all perish. I had
crossed the Atlantic, in 1779, in a leaky ship, with perhaps four
hundred men on board, who were scarcely able, with two large pumps going
all the twenty-four hours, to keep water from filling the hold, in
hourly danger, for twenty days together, of foundering at sea. I had
passed the mountains in Spain, in the winter, among ice and snow, partly
on mule-back and partly on foot; yet I never suffered so much in any of
these situations as in that jaunt from Bath to Amsterdam, in January,
1784. Nor did any of those adventures ever do such lasting injuries to
my health. I never got over it till my return home, in 1788."

Still the tasks multiplied; still the Hills of Difficulty rose before
the devoted statesman. Finally, in the summer of 1784, seeing his return
home indefinitely postponed, he dismissed his anxieties and summoned his
faithful Portia to his side. She sailed on the 20th of June, on the ship
_Active_.

It was her first voyage, and she did not enjoy it. There are no more
letters to her "dearest friend"; the faithful pair were not to be
separated again for any length of time; but she writes a little every
day to her sister, Mrs. Cranch, and does full justice to the discomforts
of life in a small sailing vessel.

"Of this I am very sure, that no lady would ever wish a second time to
try the sea, were the objects of her pursuit within the reach of a land
journey. I have had frequent occasion, since I came on board, to
recollect an observation of my best friend's, 'that no being in nature
was so disagreeable as a lady at sea,' and this recollection has in a
great measure reconciled me to the thought of being at sea without him;
for one would not wish, my dear sister, to be thought of in that light
by those, to whom we would wish to appear in our best array. The decency
and decorum of the most delicate female must in some measure yield to
the necessities of nature; and, if you have no female capable of
rendering you the least assistance, you will feel grateful to any one
who will feel for you, and relieve or compassionate your sufferings."

She was woefully seasick at first, poor lady. After a time she felt
better and writes: "The ship has gradually become less irksome to me. If
our cook was but tolerably clean, I could relish my food. But he is a
great, dirty, lazy negro, with no more knowledge of cookery than a
savage, nor any kind of order in the distribution of his dishes; but on
they come, higgledy-piggledy, with a leg of pork all bristly; a quarter
of an hour after, a pudding, or perhaps, a pair of roast fowls, first of
all, and then will follow one by one a piece of beef, and when dinner
is nearly completed, a plate of potatoes. Such a fellow is a real
imposition upon the passengers. But gentlemen know but little about the
matter, and if they can get enough to eat five times a day, all goes
well. We ladies have not eaten, upon our whole passage, more than just
enough to satisfy nature, or to keep body and soul together."

Her first impression of England was more exciting than agreeable.
Driving to London in a post chaise, "from Chatham we proceeded on our
way as fast as possible, wishing to pass Blackheath before dark. Upon
this road, a gentleman alone in a chaise passed us, and very soon a
coach before us stopped, and there was a hue and cry, 'A robbery, a
robbery!' The man in the chaise was the person robbed, and this in open
day with carriages constantly passing. We were not a little alarmed, and
everyone was concealing his money. Every place we passed and every post
chaise we met was crying out, 'A robbery!' Where the thing is so common,
I was surprised to see such an alarm. The robber was pursued and taken
in about two miles, and we saw the poor wretch, ghastly and horrible,
brought along on foot: his horse ridden by a person who took him, who
also had his pistol. He looked like a youth of twenty only, attempting
to lift his hat, and looked despair. You can form some idea of my
feelings when they told him, 'Ay, you have but a short time; the assize
sits next month; and then, my lad, you swing.' Though every robber may
deserve death, yet to exult over the wretched is what _our_ country is
not accustomed to. Long may it be free from such villanies, and long may
it preserve a commiseration for the wretched."

At last she found herself in London, at Osborne's new family hotel,
"Adelphi," where rooms had been engaged for her. Mr. Adams was at the
Hague, detained by public business; Portia must be patient as she might.

"Here we have," she writes, "a handsome drawing-room, genteelly
furnished, and a large lodging-room. We are furnished with a cook,
chambermaid, waiter, etc., for three guineas a week; but in this is not
included a mouthful of victuals or drink, all of which is to be paid for
separately."

There was now little leisure for writing, for callers came thick and
fast. Mr. This, Mrs. That, Dr. the Other, all thronged to pay their
respects. Many of these were former friends and neighbors of the Tory
persuasion, living in more or less willing exile. "I hardly know how to
think myself out of my own country, I see so many Americans about me."
She knows that her sister will desire news of the fashions.

"I am not a little surprised to find dress, unless upon public occasion,
so little regarded here. The gentlemen are very plainly dressed, and the
ladies much less so than with us. 'Tis true, you must put a hoop on and
have your hair dressed, but a common straw hat, no cap, with only a
ribbon upon the crown, is thought sufficient to go into company. Muslins
are much in taste; no silks but lutestrings worn; but send not to London
for any article you want; you may purchase any thing you can name much
lower in Boston. . . . Our country, alas! our country! they are
extravagant to astonishment in entertainments compared with what Mr.
Smith and Mr. Storer tell me of this. You will not find at a gentleman's
table more than two dishes of meat, though invited several days
beforehand. . . . At my lodgings I am as quiet as at any place in
Boston; nor do I feel as if it could be any other place than Boston; Dr.
Clark visits us every day; says he cannot feel at home anywhere else;
declares he has not seen a handsome woman since he came into the city;
that every old woman looks like Mrs. H----, and every young one
like--like the D----l. They paint here nearly as much as in France, but
with more art. The head-dress disfigures them in the eye of an American.
I have seen many ladies, but not one elegant one since I came; there is
not to me that neatness in their appearance, which you see in our
ladies.

"The American ladies are much admired here by the gentlemen, I am told,
and in truth I wonder not at it. O, my country, my country! preserve,
preserve the little purity and simplicity of manners you yet possess.
Believe me, they are jewels of inestimable value; the softness,
peculiarly characteristic of our sex, and which is so pleasing to the
gentlemen, is wholly laid aside here for the masculine attire and
manners of Amazonians."

A few days later, she describes one of the numerous dinners to which she
was invited.

"After we had dined, which was in company with five American gentlemen,
we retired to the drawing room, and there I talked off the lady's
reserve, and she appeared agreeable. Her dress pleased me, and answered
to the universal neatness of the apartments, furniture, and
entertainment. It was a delicate blue and white copper-plate calico,
with a blue lutestring skirt, flounced; a muslin apron and handkerchief,
which are much more worn than gauze; her hair, a fine black, dressed
without powder, with a fashionable cap, and straw ribbons upon her head
and breast, with a green morocco slipper. Our dinner consisted of fried
fish of a small kind, a boiled ham, a fillet of veal, a pair of roast
ducks, an almond pudding, currants and gooseberries, which in this
country are very fine. Painted muslin is much worn here; a straw hat
with a deep crown, lined, and a white, green, or any colored ribbon you
choose."

The visitors came and went, and Mrs. Adams received them graciously, and
returned their visits, and wrote to sisters and nieces; but all the time
her heart was in Holland, and she found the days long and weary that
kept her friend from her. At last,--at long, long last--the Great Day
came. On August 7th, Mr. Adams writes in his diary:

"Arrived at the Adelphi Buildings (London) and met my wife and daughter,
after a separation of four years and a half; indeed, after a separation
of ten years, excepting a few visits. Set off the next day for Paris."

September, 1784, found the Adamses settled at Auteuil, four miles from
Paris, in much contentment, after the long years of separation. Mrs.
Adams writes to her sister, Mrs. Cranch:

"The house is much larger than we have need of: upon occasion, forty
beds may be made in it. I fancy it must be very cold in winter. There
are few houses with the privilege which this enjoys, that of having the
saloon, as it is called, the apartment where we receive company, upon
the first floor. This room is very elegant, and about a third larger
than General Warren's hall. . . . But with an expense of thirty thousand
livres in looking-glasses there is no table in the house better than an
oak board, nor a carpet belonging to the house. The floors I abhor, made
of red tiles in the shape of Mrs. Quincy's floor-cloth tiles. These
floors will by no means bear water, so that the method of cleaning them
is to have them waxed, and then a manservant with foot brushes drives
round your room dancing here and there like a Merry Andrew. This is
calculated to take from your foot every atom of dirt, and leave the room
in a few moments as he found it. The dining-rooms, of which you make no
other use, are laid with small stones, like the red tiles for shape and
size. The servants' apartments are generally upon the first floor, and
the stairs which you commonly have to ascend to get into the family
apartments are so dirty, that I have been obliged to hold up my clothes,
as though I was passing through a cow-yard."

She finds living in Paris very expensive; moreover, some of the expenses
seem to her republican mind unreasonable. "There is now a Court
mourning, and every foreign minister, with his family, must go into
mourning for a Prince of eight years old, whose father is an ally to the
King of France. This mourning is ordered by the Court, and is to be worn
for eleven days only. Poor Mr. Jefferson had to hie away for a tailor to
get a whole black silk suit made up in two days; and at the end of
eleven days, should another death happen, he will be obliged to have a
new suit of mourning, of cloth, because that is the season when silk
must be left off. We may groan and scold, but these are expenses which
cannot be avoided; for fashion is the deity everyone worships in this
country, and, from the highest to the lowest, you must submit."

In a letter to her niece, Betsey Cranch, she describes the house in
greater detail, and dwells with delight on the beauty of the garden.
"But Paris, you must not ask me how I like it, because I am going to
tell you of the pretty little apartment next to this in which I am
writing. Why, my dear, you cannot turn yourself in it without being
multiplied twenty times; now that I do not like, for being rather
clumsy, and by no means an elegant figure, I hate to have it so often
repeated to me. This room is about ten or twelve feet large, is
eight-cornered and panelled with looking-glasses; a red and white India
patch, with pretty borders encompasses it; low back stuffed chairs with
garlands of flowers encircling them, adorn this little chamber; festoons
of flowers are round all the glasses; a lustre hangs from the ceiling
adorned with flowers; a beautiful sofa is placed in a kind of alcove,
with pillows and cushions in abundance, the use of which I have not yet
investigated; in the top of this alcove, over the sofa in the ceiling is
another glass; here is a beautiful chimney piece, with an elegant
painting of rural life in a country farm-house, lads and lasses jovial
and happy. This little apartment opens into your cousin's bed-chamber;
it has a most pleasing view of the garden, and it is that view which
always brings my dear Betsey to my mind, and makes me long for her to
enjoy the delights of it with me."

Mrs. Adams certainly did not like Paris. "They tell me I am no judge,
for that I have not seen it yet. One thing I know, and that is that I
have smelt it. . . . It is the very dirtiest place I ever saw. . . .
Boston cannot boast so elegant public buildings; but, in every other
respect, it is as much superior in my eyes to Paris, as London is to
Boston."

It is hard to choose among these sprightly letters, so full of color and
gayety. Here is an account of the Marquise de Lafayette, written to Mrs.
Cranch:

"The Marquise met me at the door, and with the freedom of an old
acquaintance, and the rapture peculiar to the ladies of this nation,
caught me by the hand and gave me a salute upon each cheek, most
heartily rejoiced to see me. You would have supposed I had been some
long absent friend, whom she dearly loved. She presented me to her
mother and sister, who were present with her, all sitting together in
her bed-room, quite _en famille_. One of the ladies was knitting. The
Marquise herself was in a chintz gown. She is a middle-sized lady,
sprightly and agreeable; and professes herself strongly attached to
Americans. She supports an amiable character, is fond of her children,
and very attentive to them, which is not the general character of ladies
of high rank in Europe. In a few days, she returned my visit, upon which
we sent her a card of invitation to dine. She came; we had a large
company. There is not a lady in our country, who would have gone abroad
to dine so little dressed; and one of our fine American ladies, who sat
by me, whispered to me, 'Good Heavens! how awfully she is dressed.' I
could not forbear returning the whisper, which I most sincerely
despised, by replying that the lady's rank sets her above the little
formalities of dress. She had on a Brown Florence gown and
petticoat,--which is the only silk, excepting satins, which are worn
here in winter--a plain double gauze handkerchief, a pretty cap with a
white ribbon in it, and looked very neat. The rouge, 'tis true, was not
so artfully laid on, as upon the faces of the American ladies who were
present. Whilst they were glittering with diamonds, watch-chains,
girdle-buckles, etc., the Marquise was nowise ruffled by her own
different appearance. A really well-bred French lady has the most ease
in her manners, that you can possibly conceive of. It is studied by them
as an art, and they render it nature. It requires some time, you know,
before any fashion quite new becomes familiar to us. The dress of the
French ladies has the most taste and variety in it, of any I have yet
seen; but these are topics I must reserve to amuse my young acquaintance
with. I have seen none, however, who carry the extravagance of dress to
such a height as the Americans who are here, some of whom, I have reason
to think, live at an expense double what is allowed to the American
ministers. They must however, abide the consequences."

The months spent in France proved interesting enough. When in May, 1785,
Mr. Adams was appointed United States Minister Plenipotentiary to Great
Britain, his wife had some things to regret, though more to anticipate.
"Delightful and blooming garden, how much I shall regret your loss! . . .
It will not be easy to find in the midst of a city so charming a scene."

But Paris was soon forgotten in the excitement of the London season.
London was very full this May and June. The Adamses had hard work to
find a house, but were finally established in lodgings "at the moderate
price of a guinea per day, for two rooms and two chambers at the Bath
Hotel, Westminster, Piccadilly."

The first great event was the presentation to Royalty, first of Mr.
Adams in private, then of the family, in public. Mrs. Adams notes rather
ruefully that "one is obliged here to attend the circles of the Queen,
which are held in summer once a fortnight, but once a week the rest of
the year; and what renders it exceedingly expensive is, that you cannot
go twice the same season in the same dress, and a Court dress you cannot
make use of anywhere else." This was hard indeed for people of moderate
means and simple tastes; but as usual, Mrs. Adams was mistress of the
emergency.

"I directed my mantuamaker to let my dress be elegant, but plain as I
could possibly appear, with decency; accordingly, it is white
lutestring, covered and full trimmed with white crape, festooned with
lilac ribbon and mock point lace, over a hoop of enormous extent; there
is only a narrow train of about three yards in length to the gown waist,
which is put into a ribbon upon the left side, the Queen only having her
train borne. Ruffle cuffs for married ladies, treble lace ruffles, a
very dress cap with long lace lappets, two white plumes, and a blonde
lace handkerchief. This is my rigging. I should have mentioned two pearl
pins in my hair, ear-rings and necklace of the same kind."

On the day of the festivities she writes: "My head is dressed for St.
James's, and in my opinion, looks very tasty. Whilst my daughter's is
undergoing the same operation, I set myself down composedly to write you
a few lines. 'Well,' methinks I hear Betsey and Lucy say, 'what is
cousin's dress?' White, my dear girls, like your aunt's, only
differently trimmed and ornamented; her train being wholly of white
crape, and trimmed with white ribbon; the petticoat, which is the most
showy part of the dress, covered and drawn up in what are called
festoons, with light wreaths of beautiful flowers; the sleeves white
crape, drawn over the silk, with a row of lace round the sleeve near the
shoulder, another half way down the arm, and a third upon the top of the
ruffle, a little flower stuck between; a kind of hat-cap, with three
large feathers and a bunch of flowers; a wreath of flowers upon the
hair. Thus equipped, we go in our own carriage, and Mr. Adams and
Colonel Smith in his. But I must quit my pen to put myself in order for
the ceremony, which begins at two o'clock. When I return, I will relate
to you my reception; but do not let it circulate, as there may be
persons eager to catch at every thing, and as much given to
misrepresentation as here. I would gladly be excused the ceremony."

The next day she thus continues: "Congratulate me, my dear sister, it is
over. I was too much fatigued to write a line last evening. At two
o'clock we went to the circle, which is in the drawing-room of the
Queen. We passed through several apartments, lined as usual with
spectators upon these occasions. . . . We were placed in a circle round
the drawing-room, which was very full. I believe two hundred persons
present. Only think of the task! The royal family have to go round to
every person, and find small talk enough to speak to all of them, though
they very prudently speak in a whisper, so that only the person who
stands next you can hear what is said. The King enters the room, and
goes round to the right; the Queen and Princesses to the left. The
lord-in-waiting presents you to the King; and the lady-in-waiting does
the same to her Majesty. The King is a personable man, but, my dear
sister, he has a certain countenance, which you and I have often
remarked; a red face and white eyebrows. The Queen has a similar
countenance, and the numerous royal family confirm the observation.
Persons are not placed according to their rank in the drawing-room, but
promiscuously; and when the King comes in, he takes persons as they
stand. When he came to me, Lord Onslow said, 'Mrs. Adams'; upon which I
drew off my right-hand glove, and his Majesty saluted my left cheek;
then asked me if I had taken a walk today. I could have told his Majesty
that I had been all the morning preparing to wait upon him; but I
replied, 'No, Sire.' 'Why, don't you love walking?' says he. I answered,
that I was rather indolent in that respect. He then bowed and passed on.
It was more than two hours after this before it came to my turn to be
presented to the Queen. The circle was so large that the company were
four hours standing. The Queen was evidently embarrassed when I was
presented to her. I had disagreeable feelings, too. She, however, said,
'Mrs. Adams, have you got into your house? Pray, how do you like the
situation of it?' Whilst the Princess Royal looked compassionate, and
asked me if I was not much fatigued; and observed, that it was a very
full drawing-room. Her sister, who came next, Princess Augusta, after
having asked your niece if she was ever in England before, and her
answering, 'Yes,' inquired of me how long ago, and supposed it was when
she was very young. And all this is said with much affability, and the
ease and freedom of old acquaintance. The manner in which they make
their tour round the room is, first, the Queen, the lady-in-waiting
behind her, holding up her train; next to her, the Princess Royal; after
her, Princess Augusta, and their lady-in-waiting behind them. They are
pretty, rather than beautiful, well shaped, with fair complexions, and a
tincture of the King's countenance. The two sisters look much alike;
they were both dressed in black and silver silk, with a silver netting
upon the coat, and their heads full of diamond pins. The Queen was in
purple and silver. She is not well shaped nor handsome. As to the ladies
of the Court, rank and title may compensate for want of personal charms;
but they are, in general, very plain, ill-shaped, and ugly; but don't
tell anybody that I say so."

Mrs. Adams did not enjoy Court occasions. "I know," she says to Sister
Mary, "I am looked down upon with a sovereign pride, and the smile of
royalty is bestowed as a mighty boon. As such, however, I cannot receive
it. I know it is due to my country, and I consider myself as
complimenting the power before which I appear as much as I am
complimented by being noticed by it. With these ideas, you may be sure
my countenance will never wear that suppliant appearance, which begs for
notice. Consequently I never expect to be a Court favorite. Nor would I
ever again set my foot there, if the etiquette of my country did not
require it. But, whilst I am in a public character, I must submit to the
penalty; for such I shall ever esteem it."

In the same letter she describes one of the Queen's 'drawing-rooms.'

"The company were very brilliant, and her Majesty was stiff with
diamonds; the three eldest Princesses and the Prince of Wales were
present. His Highness looked much better than when I saw him before. He
is a stout, well-made man, and would look very well if he had not
sacrificed so much to Bacchus. The Princess Elizabeth I never saw
before. She is about fifteen; a short, clumsy miss, and would not be
thought handsome if she was not a princess. The whole family have one
complexion, and all are inclined to be corpulent. I should know them in
any part of the world. Notwithstanding the English boast so much of
their beauties, I do not think they have really so much of it as you
will find amongst the same proportion of people in America."

Mrs. Siddons was then in her glory, and Abigail did not fail to see her,
and to describe her to the sisterhood at home. This time it is Sister
Shaw who hears how "the first piece I saw her in was Shakespeare's
'Othello.' She was interesting beyond any actress I had ever seen; but I
lost much of the pleasure of the play, from the sooty appearance of the
Moor. Perhaps it may be early prejudice; but I could not separate the
African color from the man, nor prevent that disgust and horror which
filled my mind every time I saw him touch the gentle Desdemona; nor did
I wonder that Brabantio thought some love potion or some witchcraft had
been practised to make his daughter fall in love with what she scarcely
dared look upon.

"I have been more pleased with her since, in several other characters,
particularly in Matilda in 'The Carmelite,' a play which I send you for
your amusement. Much of Shakespeare's language is so uncouth that it
sounds very harsh. He has beauties which are not equalled; but I should
suppose they might be rendered much more agreeable for the stage by
alterations. I saw Mrs. Siddons a few evenings ago in 'Macbeth,' a play,
you recollect, full of horror. She supported her part with great
propriety; but she is too great to be put in so detestable a
character. . . . You must make as much interest here to get a box when she
plays, as to get a place at Court; and they are usually obtained in the
same way. It would be very difficult to find the thing in this country
which money will not purchase, provided you can bribe high enough.

"What adds much to the merit of Mrs. Siddons, is her virtuous character;
slander itself never having slurred it. She is married to a man who
bears a good character; but his name and importance are wholly swallowed
up in her fame. She is the mother of five children; but from her looks
you would not imagine her more than twenty-five years old. She is happy
in having a brother who is one of the best tragic actors upon the stage,
and always plays the capital parts with her; so that both her husband
and the virtuous part of the audience can see them in the tenderest
scenes without once fearing for their reputation."

To Thomas Jefferson she wrote on June 6, 1785:

"I went last week to hear the music (Handel's) in Westminster. 'The
Messiah' was performed. It was sublime beyond description. I most
sincerely wished for your presence, as your favorite passion would have
received the highest gratification. I should have sometimes fancied
myself amongst a higher order of Beings if it had not been for a very
troublesome female, who was unfortunately seated behind me; and whose
volubility not all the powers of music could still."

Mrs. Adams was certainly an admirable correspondent; the long years of
separation from her "dearest friend" had taught her how letters were
longed for by those at home; and she writes without stint to sisters,
nieces and friends. Here are two letters to Betsey and Lucy Cranch,
describing the gayeties of London:

"I believe I once promised to give you an account of that kind of
visiting called a ladies' rout. There are two kinds; one where a lady
sets apart a particular day in the week to see company. These are held
only five months in the year, it being quite out of fashion to be seen
in London during the summer. When a lady returns from the country she
goes round and leaves a card with all her acquaintances, and then sends
them an invitation to attend her routs during the season. The other kind
is where a lady sends to you for certain evenings, and the cards are
always addressed in her own name, both to gentlemen and ladies. The
rooms are all set open, and card-tables set in each room, the lady of
the house receiving her company at the door of the drawing-room, where a
set number of courtesies are given and received with as much order as is
necessary for a soldier who goes through the different evolutions of his
exercise. The visitor then proceeds into the room without appearing to
notice any other person, and takes her seat at the card table.

    Nor can the muse her aid impart,
    Unskilled in all the terms of art,
    Nor in harmonious numbers put
    The deal, the shuffle, and the cut;
    Go, Tom, and light the ladies up,
    It must be one before we sup.

"At these parties it is usual for each lady to play a rubber, as it is
termed, when you must lose or win a few guineas. To give each a fair
chance, the lady then rises and gives her seat to another set. It is no
unusual thing to have your rooms so crowded that not more than half the
company can sit at once, yet this is called _society and polite life_.
They treat their company with coffee, tea, lemonade, orgeat and cake. I
know of but one agreeable circumstance attending these parties, which
is, that you may go away when you please without disturbing anybody. I
was early in the winter invited to Madame de Pinto's, the Portuguese
minister's. I went accordingly. There were about two hundred persons
present. I knew not a single lady but by sight, having met them at
Court; and it is an established rule, that though you were to meet as
often as three nights in the week, never to speak together, or know each
other, unless particularly introduced. I was, however, at no loss for
conversation, Madame de Pinto being very polite, and the Foreign
Ministers being the most of them present, who had dined with us, and to
whom I had been early introduced. It being _Sunday_ evening, I declined
playing cards; indeed, I always get excused when I can. And Heavens
forbid I should

    catch the manner living as they rise.

". . . At eight o'clock we returned home in order to dress ourselves for
the ball at the French ambassador's, to which we had received an
invitation a fortnight before. He has been absent ever since our arrival
here, till three weeks ago. He has a levee every Sunday evening, at
which there are usually several hundred persons. The Hotel de France is
beautifully situated, fronting St. James's Park, one end of the house
standing upon Hyde Park. It is a most superb building. About half past
nine, we went and found some company collected. Many very brilliant
ladies of the first distinction were present. The dancing commenced
about ten, and the rooms soon filled. The room which he had built for
this purpose is large enough for five or six hundred persons. It is most
elegantly decorated, hung with a gold tissue, ornamented with twelve
brilliant cut lustres, each contained twenty-four candles. At one end
there are two large arches; these were adorned with wreaths and bunches
of artificial flowers upon the walls; in the alcoves were cornucopiae,
loaded with oranges, sweetmeats, etc. Coffee, tea, lemonade, orgeat,
etc., were taken here by every person who chose to go for them. There
were covered seats all round the room for those who did not choose to
dance. In the other rooms, card-tables, and a large faro-table, were
set: this is a new kind of game, which is much practised here. Many of
the company who did not dance, retired here to amuse themselves. . . ."

This was Betsey's letter: Lucy was to hear about the dresses:

"To amuse you then, my dear niece, I will give you an account of the
dress of the ladies at the ball of the Comte d'Adhémar; as your cousin
tells me that she some time ago gave you a history of the birthday and
ball at Court, this may serve as a counterpart. Though, should I attempt
to compare the apartments, St. James's would fall as much short of the
French Ambassador's as the Court of his Britannic Majesty does of the
splendor and magnificence of that of his Most Christian Majesty. I am
sure I never saw an assembly room in America, which did not exceed that
at St. James's in point of elegance and decoration; and, as to its fair
visitors, not all their blaze of diamonds, set off with Parisian rouge,
can match the blooming health, the sparkling eye, and modest deportment
of the dear girls of my native land. As to the dancing, the space they
had to move in gave them no opportunity to display the grace of a
minuet, and the full dress of long court-trains and enormous hoops, you
well know were not favorable for country dances, so that I saw them at
every disadvantage; not so the other evening. They were much more
properly clad:--silk waists, gauze or white or painted tiffany coats
decorated with ribbon, beads, or flowers, as fancy directed, were
chiefly worn by the young ladies. Hats turned up at the sides with
diamond loops and buttons of steel, large bows of ribbons and wreaths of
flowers, displayed themselves to much advantage upon the heads of some
of the prettiest girls England can boast. The light from the lustres is
more favorable to beauty than daylight, and the color acquired by
dancing, more becoming than rouge, as fancy dresses are more favorable
to youth than the formality of a uniform. There was as great a variety
of pretty dresses, borrowed wholly from France, as I have ever seen; and
amongst the rest, some with sapphire-blue satin waists, spangled with
silver, and laced down the back and seams with silver stripes; white
satin petticoats trimmed with black and blue velvet ribbon; an odd kind
of head-dress, which they term the 'helmet of Minerva.' I did not
observe the bird of wisdom, however, nor do I know whether those who
wore the dress had suitable pretensions to it. 'And pray,' say you, 'how
were my aunt and cousin dressed?' If it will gratify you to know, you
shall hear. Your aunt then wore a full-dress court cap without the
lappets, in which was a wreath of white flowers, and blue sheafs, two
black and blue flat feathers (which cost her half a guinea a-piece, but
that you need not tell of), three pearl pins, bought for Court, and a
pair of pearl ear-rings, the cost of them--no matter what; no less than
diamonds, however. A sapphire blue _demi-saison_ with a satin stripe,
sack and petticoat trimmed with a broad black lace; crape flounce, etc.;
leaves made of blue ribbon, and trimmed with white floss; wreaths of
black velvet ribbon spotted with steel beads, which are much in fashion,
and brought to such perfection as to resemble diamonds; white ribbon
also in the Vandyke style, made up the trimming, which looked very
elegant; a full dress handkerchief, and a bouquet of roses. 'Full gay, I
think, for my _aunt_.' That is true, Lucy, but nobody is old in Europe.
I was seated next the Duchess of Bedford, who had a scarlet satin sack
and coat, with a cushion full of diamonds, for hair she has none, and is
_but seventy-six_, neither. Well, now for your cousin; a small, white
Leghorn hat, bound with pink satin ribbon; a steel buckle and band
which turned up at the side, and confined a large pink bow; large bow of
the same kind of ribbon behind; a wreath of full-blown roses round the
crown, and another of buds and roses withinside the hat, which being
placed at the back of the hair brought the roses to the edge; you see it
clearly; one red and black feather with two white ones, completed the
head-dress. A gown and coat of Chambéri gauze, with a red satin stripe
over a pink waist, and coat flounced with crape, trimmed with broad
point and pink ribbon; wreaths of roses across the coat; gauze sleeves
and ruffles."

Mrs. Adams was very fond of her nieces, and they must have their share
of London finery. In July, 1786, she writes to "my dear girls":

"I bought me a blue sarcenet coat not long since; after making it up I
found it was hardly wide enough to wear over a straw coat, but I thought
it was no matter; I could send it to one of my nieces. When I went to
put it up, I thought, I wished I had another. 'It is easily got,' said
I. 'Ned, bring the carriage to the door and drive me to Thornton's, the
petticoat shop.' 'Here, Madam, is a very nice pink coat, made too of the
widest sarcenet.' 'Well, put it up.' So back I drove, and now, my dear
girls, there is a coat for each of you. Settle between yourselves which
shall have the blue and which the pink, pay no regard to the direction,
only when you put them on, remember your aunt wishes they were better
for your sakes."

Sarcenet was in those days "a fine soft silk," the word being "probably
derived from 'Saracen.'"[20]

It is pleasant to fancy the delight of the nieces when the box from
London arrived. How they shook out the shining folds and tried the coats
on before the glass, and cried, "Dear, kind Aunt Abby!"

Though London claimed most of their time, there were pleasant jaunts now
and then for the Adamses, to this or that famous place. They went to
Windsor, to Bath (which Abigail disliked heartily), to Portsmouth. Mr.
Adams' diary gives glimpses of some of these excursions:

"April, 1786. Edgehill and Worcester were curious and interesting to us,
as scenes where freemen had fought for their rights. The people in the
neighborhood appeared so ignorant and careless at Worcester, that I was
provoked, and asked, 'And do Englishmen so soon forget the ground where
liberty was fought for? Tell your neighbors and your children that this
is holy ground; much holier than that on which your churches stand. All
England should come in pilgrimage to this hill once a year.'

"This animated them, and they seemed much pleased with it. Perhaps their
awkwardness before might arise from their uncertainty of our sentiments
concerning the civil wars."

A trip like this must have been a great refreshment to Mrs. Adams; she
did not like London. She tells her friend, Mrs. Warren:

"I have resided in this country nearly two years, and, in that time, I
have made some few acquaintances whom I esteem, and shall leave with
regret; but the customs and manners of a metropolis are unfriendly to
that social intercourse which I have ever been accustomed to. Amusement
and diversion may always be purchased at the theatres and places of
public resort, so that little pains are taken to cultivate that
benevolence and interchange of kindness which sweetens life, in lieu of
which mere visits of form are substituted to keep up the union. Not only
the wrinkled brow of age is grasping at the card-table, and even
tricking with mean avarice, but the virgin bloom of innocence and beauty
is withered at the same vigils. I do not think I should draw a false
picture of the nobility and gentry of this metropolis, if I were to
assert that money and pleasure are the sole objects of their ardent
pursuit; public virtue, and, indeed, all virtue, is exposed to sale, and
as to principle, where is it to be found, either in the present
administration or opposition? Luxury, dissipation, and vice, have a
natural tendency to extirpate every generous principle, and leave the
heart susceptible of the most malignant vices."

I think she longed for home throughout the three years of her stay in
London. It was _not her own place_. She met many famous people, and was
glad to meet them, but their ways were not her ways. Besides this, her
reception at Court, as well as her husband's, had been as cold as policy
and bare civility would allow. How could it be otherwise? How could
George III, honest creature that he was, pretend to be glad to see the
Minister of his own lost dominion? It was perhaps too much to expect of
him, and Queen Charlotte was of no more heroic mold than he, of no more
tact or innate courtesy, and behaved accordingly. Abigail Adams was too
proud to allude to this at the time; there is no hint of it in the
letters from London. It was not till long after this that in a letter to
her daughter she shows something of the bitterness that still remained
in her heart. It was when the French Revolution seemed to threaten
disaster to the throne of England.

"Humiliation for Charlotte," she says, "is no sorrow for me. She richly
deserves her full portion for the contempt and scorn which she took
pains to discover."

Those must have been grave affronts indeed that made so deep and abiding
an impression on a heart so good and kind.

The stay in London brought her two great joys: the happy marriage of her
daughter Abigail to Colonel W. S. Smith, the young secretary of the
American Legation, and the birth of her first grandson. But when all was
said, it was a glad day that brought Mr. Adams' decision to petition
Congress for leave to return home; and a far gladder one for Mrs. Adams,
when she set foot once more, in May 1788, on the shore of the country
she so deeply loved.

FOOTNOTES:

[20] "Concise Oxford Dictionary."



CHAPTER XI

VEXATIOUS HONORS


WHILE the Adamses were still in England, the Constitution of the United
States had been framed; had been signed, September 17th, 1787, by George
Washington, as president of the convention charged with its preparation,
and ratified by a majority of the States. Now, a few months after their
return, the first Presidential election took place, and John Adams,
after nominating George Washington for President, found himself by
general consent elected Vice-President. He took the new honor quietly
and seriously, as he took everything; nor is it likely that Mrs. Adams
was unduly elated by it. They made little change in their sober way of
life. We are told that "the town of Hartford could think of no gift so
appropriate for John Adams on his way to be inaugurated Vice-President
as a roll of cloth from its own looms. All true patriots heard with joy
that . . . when the American Fabius stood forth to take the oath of
office he was clad from head to foot in garments whose material was the
product of the soil." But by the time John Adams was inaugurated
President, he had advanced so far that he went to the ceremony in a
coach and six, followed by a procession of coaches and four.

New York was then the seat of government, and it was near New York that
Mr. Adams established his family. There were to be no more long
separations, no weary leagues stretching between Portia and her dearest
friend. Both of them longed for Braintree, the home of their hearts, but
since both could not be there, neither would be. A suitable home was
found at Richmond Hill, then a lovely country place, a mile and a half
from New York, and here some pleasant months were passed. Mrs. Adams
thus describes Richmond Hill to her sister:

"The house in which we reside is situated upon a hill, the avenue to
which is interspersed with forest trees, under which a shrubbery rather
too luxuriant and wild has taken shelter, owing to its having been
deprived by death, some years since, of its original proprietor, who
kept it in perfect order. In front of the house, the noble Hudson rolls
his majestic waves, bearing upon his bosom innumerable small vessels,
which are constantly forwarding the rich products of the neighboring
soil to the busy hand of a more extensive commerce. Beyond the Hudson
rises to our view the fertile country of the Jerseys, covered with a
golden harvest, and pouring forth plenty like the cornucopiae of Ceres.
On the right hand, an extensive plain presents us with a view of fields
covered with verdure, and pastures full of cattle. On the left, the city
opens upon us, intercepted only by clumps of trees, and some rising
ground, which serves to heighten the beauty of the scene, by appearing
to conceal a part. In the background is a large flower-garden, enclosed
with a hedge and some very handsome trees. On one side of it, a grove of
pines and oaks fit for contemplation. . . . If my days of fancy and
romance were not past, I could find here an ample field for indulgence;
yet, amidst these delightful scenes of nature, my heart pants for the
society of my dear relatives and friends who are too far removed from
me. . . ."

She was not long to enjoy the beauties of Richmond Hill. In 1790, the
seat of government was transferred to Philadelphia, and thither the
faithful pair journeyed. The change was a most uncomfortable, even a
dangerous one for Mrs. Adams, who had barely recovered from a serious
illness. Soon after her arrival (November 21, 1790), she writes to her
daughter from her new abode:

"Bush Hill, as it is called, though by the way there remains neither
bush nor shrub upon it, and very few trees, except the pine grove behind
it,--yet Bush Hill is a very beautiful place. But the grand and sublime
I left at Richmond Hill. The cultivation in sight and prospect are
superior, but the Schuylkill is not more like the Hudson, than I to
Hercules. The house is better finished within; but, when you come to
compare the conveniences for storeroom, kitchen, closets, etc., there is
nothing like it in the whole house. As chance governs many actions of my
life, when we arrived in the city, we proceeded to the house. By
accident, the vessel with our furniture had arrived the day before, and
Briesler was taking in the first load into a house all green-painted,
the workmen there with their brushes in hand. This was cold comfort in a
house, where I suppose no fire had been kindled for several years,
except in a back kitchen; but, as I expected many things of this kind, I
was not disappointed nor discomfited. As no wood nor fodder had been
provided before-hand, we could only turn about, and go to the City
Tavern for the night.

"The next morning was pleasant, and I ventured to come up and take
possession; but what confusion! Boxes, barrels, chairs, tables, trunks,
etc.; every thing to be arranged, and few hands to accomplish it, for
Briesler was obliged to be at the vessel. The first object was to get
fires; the next to get up beds; but the cold, damp rooms, the new paint,
etc., proved almost too much for me. On Friday we arrived here, and late
on Saturday evening we got our furniture in. On Sunday, Thomas was laid
up with rheumatism; on Monday, I was obliged to give Louisa an emetic;
on Tuesday, Mrs. Briesler was taken with her old pain in her stomach;
and, to complete the whole, on Thursday, Polly was seized with a violent
pleuritic fever. She has been twice bled, a blister upon her side, and
has not been out of bed since, only as she is taken up to have her bed
made. And every day, the stormy ones excepted, from eleven until three,
the house is filled with ladies and gentlemen. As all this is no more
nor worse than I expected, I bear it without repining, and feel thankful
that I have weathered it out without a relapse, though some days I have
not been able to sit up. . . .

"I have not yet begun to return visits, as the ladies expect to find me
at home, and I have not been in a state of health to do it; nor am I
yet in a very eligible state to receive their visits. I, however,
endeavored to have one room decent to receive them, which, with my own
chamber, is as much as I can boast of at present being in tolerable
order. The difficulty of getting workmen, Mr. Hamilton pleads as an
excuse for the house not being ready. Mrs. Lear was in to see me
yesterday, and assures me that I am much better off than Mrs. Washington
will be when she arrives, for that their house is not likely to be
completed this year. And, when all is done, it will not be Broadway. If
New York wanted any revenge for the removal, the citizens might be
glutted if they would come here, where every article has become almost
double in price, and where it is not possible for Congress, and the
appendages, to be half so well accommodated for a long time. One would
suppose that the people thought Mexico was before them, and that
Congress were the possessors."

This was indeed an ominous beginning of the winter. A week later Thomas,
Mrs. Adams' third son, was taken very ill with rheumatic fever, the
natural result of moving into a damp, unfinished house in November.

"It seems," writes the poor lady, "as if sickness followed me wherever
I go . . . I had a great misfortune happen to my best trunk of clothes.
The vessel sprunk a leak, and my trunk got wet a foot high, by which
means I have several gowns spoiled; and the one you worked is the most
damaged, and a black satin;--the blessed effects of tumbling about the
world."

A month later, things were scarcely better.

"I would tell you that I had an ague in my face, and a violent
toothache, which has prevented my writing to you all day; but I am
determined to brave it out this evening, and enquire how you do. Without
further complaint, I have become so tender, from keeping so much in a
warm chamber, that, as soon as I set my feet out, I am sure to come home
with some new pain or ache."

Philadelphia was gay that winter: a "constellation of beauties" was
sparkling in the social firmament. Mrs. Adams cannot say enough about
"the dazzling Mrs. Bingham," who "has certainly given laws to the ladies
here, in fashion and elegance: their manners and appearance are superior
to what I have seen." She adds: "I should spend a very dissipated
winter, if I were to accept one-half the invitations I receive,
particularly to the routs, or tea and cards. Even Saturday evening is
not excepted, and I refused an invitation of that kind for this
evening. I have been to one assembly. The dancing was very good; the
company of the best kind. The President and Madam, the Vice-President
and Madam, Ministers of State, and their Madams, etc.; but the room
despicable; the etiquette,--it was difficult to say where it was to be
found."

She is writing to Mrs. Smith, the beloved daughter whom she missed daily
and hourly. In this same letter (January 8th 1791) we catch a glimpse of
the Vice-President which would have astonished his fellow-workers in
Congress. Little John Smith was visiting his grandparents at this time.
"As to John," says Grandmother Abigail, "we grow every day fonder of
him. He has spent an hour this afternoon in driving his grandpapa round
the room with a willow stick."

I shall never again see a portrait of John Adams, dignified and portly,
in powder and pigtail, without calling up this pleasant companion
picture of the grandfather capering about the room to the whistling of a
willow switch.

The following letters, written by Mr. Adams while on a visit to Quincy,
show him in his most delightful aspect.

"You apologize for the length of your letters, and I ought to excuse
the shortness and emptiness of mine. Yours give me more entertainment
than all the speeches I hear. There are more good thoughts, fine
strokes, and mother wit in them than I hear in the whole week. An ounce
of mother wit is worth a pound of clergy; and I rejoice that one of my
children, at least, has an abundance of not only mother wit, but his
mother's wit. It is one of the most amiable and striking traits in his
composition. It appeared in all its glory and severity in 'Barneveldt.'

"If the rogue has any family pride, it is all derived from the same
source. His Pa renounces and abjures every trace of it. He has curiosity
to know his descent and comfort in the knowledge that his ancestors, on
both sides, for several generations, have been innocent. But no pride in
this. Pomp, splendor, office, title, power, riches are the sources of
pride, but even these are not excuse for pride. The virtues and talents
of ancestors should be considered as examples and solemn trusts and
produce meekness, modesty, and humility, lest they should not be
imitated and equalled. Mortification and humiliation can be the only
legitimate feelings of a mind conscious that it falls short of its
ancestors in merit. I must stop."

"You say so many handsome things to me, respecting my letters, that you
ought to fear making me vain; since, however we may appreciate the
encomiums of the world, the praises of those whom we love and esteem are
more dangerous, because we are led to believe them the most sincere. . . .

"Prince Edward sailed last Saturday. He sent his aides to visit the
Lieutenant-Governor, but would not go himself. He dined with Mrs.
Hancock, and was visited by many gentlemen in town. He went to the
assembly with Mr. Russell, and danced with Mrs. Russell. He went to
visit the college, but I did not hear that he had any curiosity to see
Bunker Hill. He related an anecdote at the table of the English consul.
As he was coming from Quebec, he stopped at an inn, where an elderly
countryman desired to see him. After some bowing, etc., the countryman
said: 'I hear you are King George's son.' 'They tell me so,' said the
prince. 'And, pray how do you like this country?' 'Why, very well,'
replied his highness. 'And how do you think your father liked to lose
it?' 'Why, not half so well as I should like to live in it,' replied the
prince, which answer pleased the countryman. I hear he took notice of
all the French refugees, and offered any of them a passage with him to
the West Indies. His stay here was very short, and it was best it
should be so."

One has pleasant glimpses of George Washington, in Mrs. Adams' letters.
One day she dined with him and Mrs. Washington and found him "more than
usually social. . . . He asked very affectionately after you and the
children, and at table picked the sugar-plums from a cake, and requested
me to take them for master John."

The custom of sending bonbons to the children dates back to Colonial
times, when any social entertainment was apt to be followed by what was
pleasantly called "Cold Party." The day after, the hostess would send a
judicious assortment of leftover delicacies to such neighbors as had
been unable to join the party. In my own childhood, my mother's going to
a dinner party was always an occasion of excitement, because of
wonderful bonbons that we children would receive the next day; pieces of
red or white sugar candy, in elaborate wrappings of gilt paper, tinsel
and gauze: I do not see the like today.

Philadelphia society was certainly brilliant in those days. The Duke of
Rochefoucauld-Liancourt was deeply impressed by it, and wrote in his
book of Travels:

"The profusion and luxury of Philadelphia on great days, at the tables
of the wealthy, in their equipages, and the dresses of their wives and
daughters, are, as I have observed, extreme. I have seen balls on the
President's birthday where the splendor of the rooms, and the variety
and richness of the dresses did not suffer in comparison with Europe;
and it must be acknowledged that the beauty of the American ladies has
the advantage in the comparison. The young women of Philadelphia are
accomplished in different degrees, but beauty is general with them. They
want the ease and fashion of Frenchwomen; but the brilliancy of their
complexion is infinitely superior. Even when they grow old they are
still handsome; and it would be no exaggeration to say in the numerous
assemblies of Philadelphia it is impossible to meet with what is called
a plain woman. As for the young men, they for the most part seem to
belong to another species."

What were these rich and various dresses? We have chapter and verse for
some of them. One lady wore at a certain ball "a plain celestial-blue
satin, with a white satin petticoat. On the neck was worn a very large
Italian gauze handkerchief, with border stripes of satin. The head-dress
was a pouf of gauze, in the form of a globe, the creneaux or headpiece
of which was composed of white satin, having a double wing in large
plaits, and trimmed with a wreath of artificial roses, falling from the
left at the top to the right at the bottom, in front, and the reverse
behind. The hair was dressed all over in detached curls, four of which,
in two ranks, fell on each side of the neck, and were relieved behind by
a floating _chignon_."

The gentleman who led this gorgeous costume and its wearer through "Sir
Roger de Coverley" was doubtless dressed in more sober fashion. One of
these republican exquisites thus describes his own costume, possibly at
the same ball: "I was dressed in a light French blue coat, with a high
collar, broad lappels, and large gilt buttons, a double-breasted
Marseilles vest, Nankeen-colored cassimere breeches, with white silk
stockings, shining pumps, and full ruffles on my breast and at my
wrists, together with a ponderous white cravat, with a pudding in it, as
we then called it; and I was considered the best dressed gentleman in
the room."

The winter of 1790-91 was one of extremes. The Adamses burned forty
cords of wood in four months. On the 17th and 18th of March, Mrs. Adams
dined with all the windows open, put out the fires, and "ate ice to
cool her; the glasses at 80." On the 20th, it snowed all day, the snow
followed by a keen northwester and frost. In bad weather it was
difficult for the dwellers at Bush Hill to stir from their abode.

"We are only two miles from town, yet have I been more of a prisoner
this winter than I ever was in my life. The road from hence to the
pavement is one mile and a half, the soil a brick clay, so that, when
there has been heavy rain, or a thaw, you must wallow to the city
through a bed of mortar without a bottom, the horses sinking to their
knees. If it becomes cold, then the holes and the roughness are
intolerable."

The next published letter of Mrs. Adams is dated Quincy, 11 February,
1793. It is to Mrs. Smith, and is largely concerned with political
issues which today have lost their poignancy. She has much to say of the
"artifices and lies of the Jacobins," meaning the anti-Federalist party,
which was opposed to Washington and Adams. It is strange indeed to read
today that "the President has been openly abused in the _National
Gazette_,--abused for his levees as an ape of royalty; Mrs. Washington
abused for her drawing-rooms; their celebration of birth-days sneered
at; himself insulted because he has not come forward and exerted his
influence in favor of a further compensation to the army. They even tell
him that a greater misfortune cannot befall a people than for their
President to have no competitor; that it infuses into him a supercilious
spirit, renders him self-important, and creates an idea that one man
only is competent to govern. They compare him to a hyena and a
crocodile; charge him with duplicity and deception. The President has
not been accustomed to such language, and his feelings will be wounded,
I presume."

I presume they were. Nobody likes to be called a hyena and a crocodile,
and _Pater Patriae_ could not fail to be sensible of a lack of propriety
in the epithets.

It was all natural enough, perhaps. These were the days of the French
Revolution, and all the world was heaving with the throes of that
tremendous convulsion. We were fortunate to get nothing worse than a
little recrimination, which did no lasting harm. We are ignorant of the
names of those who called Washington hyena and crocodile, and we have no
curiosity on the subject.

Neither President nor Vice-President had much comfort in their second
term. The political pot was seething furiously; men were burning their
fingers, and crying out with pain of the burning. "Envy, hatred,
malice, and all uncharitableness" ran rife in the Republic where
brotherly love should rule in peace. Six months before the end of his
second term, Washington announced his resolve to retire from public
service; a resolve not to be shaken by any entreaties. By this time the
country, which had stood united through the first Presidential election,
and divided only on the minor issue (the choice of a Vice-President), in
the second was definitely split into two factions: Federalists and
Democratic-Republicans faced each other in ardent strife. As I have said
before, I am not writing a history: suffice it to say that John Adams,
as Federalist candidate, was elected President, his rival, Thomas
Jefferson, becoming Vice-President.

Mrs. Adams' letter to her husband on the day of his inauguration,
February 8th, 1797, has become a classic, and is in every way worthy of
her.

    "The sun is dressed in brightest beams,
    To give thy honors to the day.

"And may it prove an auspicious prelude to each ensuing season. You have
this day to declare yourself head of a nation. 'And now, O Lord, my God,
thou hast made thy servant ruler over the people. Give unto him an
understanding heart, that he may know how to go out and come in before
this great people; that he may discern between good and bad. For who is
able to judge this thy so great a people?' were the words of a royal
sovereign; and not less applicable to him who is invested with the chief
magistracy of a nation, though he wear not a crown, nor the robes of
royalty.

"My thoughts and my meditations are with you, though personally absent;
and my petitions to Heaven are, that 'the things which make for peace
may not be hidden from your eyes.' My feelings are not those of pride or
ostentation, upon the occasion. They are solemnized by a sense of the
obligations, the important trusts, and numerous duties connected with
it. That you may be enabled to discharge them with honor to yourself,
with justice and impartiality to your country, and with satisfaction to
this great people, shall be the daily prayer of your

                                                    "A. A."

Philadelphia was still the seat of government, the new city of
Washington not being yet ready for occupation. There are few published
letters of this period; the cares and calls of society were heavy upon
Mrs. Adams. She had never fully recovered from the illness of 1790, and
was subject to recurrent attacks of fever. She spent as much of her time
as was possible at Quincy, the name now given to that part of Braintree
where they lived. When in Philadelphia, and later in Washington, she
performed the duties of her high office carefully, thoroughly, with her
own stately dignity, but I doubt if she ever enjoyed them. She writes to
her friend, Mrs. James Warren, on March 4th, 1797:

"For your congratulations upon a late important event accept my
acknowledgments. Considering it as the voluntary and unsolicited gift of
a free and enlightened people, it is a precious and valuable deposit and
calls for every exertion of the head and every virtue of the heart to do
justice to so sacred a trust. Yet, however pure the intentions or
upright the conduct, offences will come,

    High stations tumult but not bliss create.

"As to a crown, my dear Madam, I will not deny that there is one which I
aspire after, and in a country where envy can never enter to plant
thorns beneath it. The fashion of this world passeth away--I would hope
that I have not lived in vain, but have learnt how to estimate and what
value to place upon the fleeting and transitory enjoyment of it. I
shall esteem myself peculiarly fortunate, if, at the close of my public
life, I can retire esteemed, beloved and equally respected with my
predecessor."

Mr. Adams' feelings are expressed in the following words, written to his
wife the day after the election.

"Your dearest friend never had a more trying day than yesterday. A
solemn scene it was indeed, and it was made more affecting to me by the
presence of the General, whose countenance was as serene and unclouded
as the day. He seemed to me to enjoy a triumph over me. Methought I
heard him say, 'Ay! I am fairly out, and you are fairly in! See which of
us will be happiest.' When the ceremony was over, he came and made me a
visit, and cordially congratulated me, and wished my administration
might be happy, successful and honorable."

There were thorns enough in the presidential "crown," for both Mr. and
Mrs. Adams. The storm, instead of abating, rose higher and higher. There
was danger of war with France: a danger only averted by the rise of
Napoleon Bonaparte to power, as First Consul of France. Consequent upon
these troubles came the Alien and Sedition Acts, which brought endless
vexation of spirit for President Adams and for everyone else concerned
in them. The details of the struggle may not be given here: suffice it
to say that through four tempestuous years the old statesman fought
gallantly and steadfastly for the political principles which were dearer
to him than life itself, but fought in vain. The tide had set against
him, and in November, 1800, he had the intense mortification of seeing
his colleague, his former friend and present rival, Thomas Jefferson,
elected President in his place.

This was bitter indeed to the stout patriot who had given his whole life
to the service of his country. Conscious of his absolute integrity ("He
is vain and irritable," said Jefferson himself, "but disinterested as
the being who made him!"), and his unfailing devotion, John Adams could
not but resent the slight put upon him; nor, strive as she might, could
his faithful Portia help resenting it for him. She writes to her son
Thomas (November 13th, 1800):

"Well, my dear son, South Carolina has behaved as your father always
said she would. The consequence to us, personally, is, that we retire
from public life. For myself and family, I have few regrets. At my age,
and with my bodily infirmities, I shall be happier at Quincy. Neither my
habits, nor my education, or inclinations have led me to an expensive
style of living, so that on that score I have little to mourn over. If I
did not rise with dignity, I can at least fall with ease, which is the
more difficult task. I wish your father's circumstances were not so
limited and circumscribed, as they must be, because he cannot indulge
himself in those improvements upon his farm, which his inclination leads
him to, and which would serve to amuse him, and contribute to his
health. I feel not any resentment against those who are coming into
power, and only wish the future administration of the government may be
as productive of the peace, happiness, and prosperity of the nation, as
the two former ones have been. I leave to time the unfolding of a drama.
I leave to posterity to reflect upon the times past; and I leave them
characters to contemplate. My own intention is to return to Quincy as
soon as I conveniently can; I presume in the month of January."

It was at this trying time that the seat of government was transferred
to Washington. What the President's wife thought of the move is apparent
from the following letters to her daughter:

[Illustration: SOUTH ELEVATION OF THE PRESIDENT'S HOUSE

Copied from the design of proposed alterations, 1807]

"I arrived here on Sunday last, and without meeting with any accident
worth noticing, except losing ourselves when we left Baltimore, and
going eight or nine miles on the Frederick road, by which means we were
obliged to go the other eight through woods, where we wandered two hours
without finding a guide, or the path. Fortunately, a straggling black
came up with us, and we engaged him as a guide, to extricate us out of
our difficulty; but woods are all you see, from Baltimore until you
reach _the city_, which is only so in name. Here and there is a small
cot, without a glass window, interspersed amongst the forests, through
which you travel miles without seeing any human being. In the city there
are buildings enough, if they were compact and finished, to accommodate
Congress and those attached to it; but as they are, and scattered as
they are, I see no great comfort for them. The river, which runs up to
Alexandria, is in full view of my window, and I see the vessels as they
pass and repass. The house is upon a grand and superb scale, requiring
about thirty servants to attend and keep the apartments in proper order,
and perform the ordinary business of the house and stables; an
establishment very well proportioned to the President's salary. The
lighting the apartments, from the kitchen to parlors and chambers, is a
tax indeed; and the fires we are obliged to keep to secure us from daily
agues is another very cheering comfort. To assist us in this great
castle, and render less attendance necessary, bells are wholly wanting,
not one single one being hung through the whole house, and promises are
all you can obtain. This is so great an inconvenience, that I know not
what to do, or how to do. The ladies from Georgetown and in the city
have many of them visited me. Yesterday I returned fifteen visits,--but
such a place as Georgetown appears,--why, our Milton is beautiful. But
no comparisons;--if they will put me up some bells, and let me have wood
enough to keep fires, I design to be pleased. I could content myself
almost anywhere three months; but, surrounded with forests, can you
believe that wood is not to be had, because people cannot be found to
cut and cart it! Briesler entered into a contract with a man to supply
him with wood. A small part, a few cords only, has he been able to get.
Most of that was expended to dry the walls of the house before we came
in, and yesterday the man told him it was impossible for him to procure
it to be cut and carted. He has had recourse to coals; but we cannot get
grates made and set. We have, indeed, come into _a new country_.

"You must keep all this to yourself, and, when asked how I like it, say
that I write you the situation is beautiful, which is true. The house
is made habitable, but there is not a single apartment finished, and all
withinside, except the plastering, has been done since Briesler came. We
have not the least fence, yard, or other convenience, without, and the
great unfinished audience-room I make a drying-room of, to hang up the
clothes in. The principal stairs are not up, and will not be this
winter. Six chambers are made comfortable; two are occupied by the
President and Mr. Shaw; two lower rooms, one for a common parlor, and
one for a levee-room. Up stairs there is the oval room, which is
designed for the drawing-room, and has the crimson furniture in it. It
is a very handsome room now; but when completed, it will be beautiful.
If the twelve years, in which this place has been considered as the
future seat of government, had been improved, as they would have been if
in New England, very many of the present inconveniences would have been
removed. It is a beautiful spot, capable of every improvement, and, the
more I view it, the more I am delighted with it."

                                        27 November, 1800.

      "I received your letter by Mr. Pintard. Two articles
      we are much distressed for; the one is bells, but the
      more important one is wood. Yet you cannot see wood
      for trees. No arrangement has been made, but by
      promises never performed, to supply the new-comers
      with fuel. Of the promises Briesler has received his
      full share. He had procured nine cords of wood;
      between six and seven of that was kindly burnt up to
      dry the walls of the house, which ought to have been
      done by the commissioners, but which, if left to them,
      would have remained undone to this day. Congress
      poured in, but shiver, shiver. No woodcutters nor
      carters to be had at any rate. We are now indebted to
      a Pennsylvania waggon to bring us, through the first
      clerk in the Treasury office, one cord and a half of
      wood, which is all we have for this house, where
      twelve fires are constantly required, and where, we
      are told, the roads will soon be so bad that it cannot
      be drawn. Briesler procured two hundred bushels of
      coals or we must have suffered. This is the situation
      of almost every person. The public officers have sent
      to Philadelphia for woodcutters and waggons.

      "You will read in the answer of the House to the
      President's Speech a full and explicit approbation of
      the Administration; a coöperation with him equal to
      his utmost expectations; this passed without an
      amendment or any debate or squabble, and has just now
      been delivered by the House in a body. The vessel
      which has my clothes and other matters is not arrived.
      The ladies are impatient for a drawing-room; I have no
      looking-glasses but dwarfs for this house; nor a
      twentieth part lamps enough to light it. Many things
      were stolen, many more broken, by the removal; amongst
      the number, my tea china is more than half missing.
      Georgetown affords nothing. My rooms are very pleasant
      and warm whilst the doors of the hall are closed.

      "You can scarce believe that here in this wilderness
      city, I should find my time so occupied as it is. My
      visitors, some of them, come three and four miles. The
      return of one of them is the work of one day; most of
      the ladies reside in Georgetown or in scattered parts
      of the city at two and three miles distance. Mrs.
      Otis, my nearest neighbor, is at lodgings almost half
      a mile from me; Mrs. Senator Otis, two miles.

      "We have all been very well as yet; if we can by any
      means get wood, we shall not let our fires go out, but
      it is at a price indeed; from four dollars it has
      risen to nine. Some say it will fall, but there must
      be more industry than is to be found here to bring
      half enough to the market for the consumption of the
      inhabitants.

      "With kind remembrance to all friends,

                "I am your truly affectionate mother,
                                                "A. A."

John Cotton Smith, Member of Congress from Connecticut, adds these
details:

"One wing of the Capitol only had been erected, which with the
President's House, a mile distant from it, both constructed with white
sandstone, were striking objects in dismal contrast with the scene
around them. Instead of recognizing the avenues and streets, pourtrayed
on the plan of the city, not one was visible, unless we except a road
with two buildings on each side of it, called the New Jersey Avenue. The
Pennsylvania, leading, as laid down on paper, from the Capitol to the
Presidential Mansion, was then nearly the whole distance a deep morass,
covered with alder bushes, which were cut through the width of the
intended avenue the then ensuing winter. . . . The roads in every
direction were muddy and unimproved; a sidewalk was attempted in one
instance by a covering formed of the chips of the stones which had been
hewed from the Capitol. It extended but a little way, and was of little
value, for in dry weather the sharp fragments cut our shoes, and in wet
weather covered them with white mortar."

Mrs. Adams was to have only four months of this disturbed existence. The
climate of Washington, the general discomfort added to anxiety and
distress of mind, made her ill, and she left the city before Mr. Adams
did. During her short stay, however, she won the admiration of all by
the dignity, grace and judgment with which she filled a most difficult
position. She _never lost her cheerfulness_. "I am a mortal enemy," she
said, "to anything but a cheerful countenance and a merry heart, which
Solomon tells us, does good like a medicine." So in those dark days,
when the tide of abuse and calumny raged around her beloved husband, she
was more than ever the lamp that lighted and the fire that warmed him.
Whatever was said of him--and one fancies that "hyena" and "crocodile"
were mild epithets compared with those showered on the brave old
statesman,--no one had anything but praise for Mrs. Adams. On January
1st, 1801, was held the first New Year's reception at the White House.
She received the guests with her own calm grace and dignity. No one
would have guessed that the house was half finished, the principal
stairs still lacking, her china stolen and her husband defeated; she was
mistress, not only of the White House, but of the situation.

The closing days of the winter must have been painful to both Mr. and
Mrs. Adams. They longed for the end, for the permanent return to "calm,
happy Braintree," and before March came, Mrs. Adams was already there,
ready to receive her dearest friend. One of Mr. Adams' last acts was the
appointment of John Marshall as chief-justice of the supreme court; for
this alone, he would deserve the lasting gratitude of the American
people. He could not meet Jefferson, whom he had once loved, with whom
he had toiled, suffered, triumphed, by whom he was now defeated. On
March 3rd, 1801, he labored far into the night, signing commissions,
arranging papers in his own methodical way, closing, as it were, his
accounts with a nation which he could not but think ungrateful. Early on
the morning of the 4th, while the city was still wrapped in slumber, he
entered his carriage and left Washington forever.



CHAPTER XII

AFTERNOON AND EVENING


IT was not in the little "hut" of former days that Portia awaited her
dearest friend. A statelier dwelling was theirs henceforth, the house
built by Leonard Vassall, a West India planter. It stood, and still
stands, in its ample grounds, under its branching elms. The original
building has received many additions, but it is the same house to which
John Adams came on that spring day of 1801; the home of his later life,
and of three generations of his descendants.

John Adams was now seventy-six years old, still in the fullness of
vigorous manhood. I seem to see him entering that door, a defeated and
disappointed man, yet holding his head as high, and looking forward with
as clear and steadfast a gaze as if he were come home in triumph. He
might be angry, he might be hurt; but no injury could bow the head, or
bend the broad shoulders, of him who had once been acclaimed as the
Atlas of Independence. Thus seeing him, I cannot but recall the summing
up of his character by another strong man, Theodore Parker, the
preacher.

"The judgment of posterity will be, that he was a brave man,
deep-sighted, conscientious, patriotic, and possessed of Integrity which
nothing ever shook, but which stood firm as the granite of his Quincy
Hills. While American Institutions continue, the People will honor
_brave, honest old John Adams_, who never failed his country in her hour
of need, and who, in his life of more than ninety years, though both
passionate and ambitious, wronged no man nor any woman.

"And all the people shall say Amen!"

In this peaceful and pleasant home, Mr. and Mrs. Adams were to pass the
rest of their days. They wasted no time in repining; they were thankful
to be at home, eager to enjoy the fruits of leisure and the quiet mind.
By early May, Mrs. Adams was setting out raspberry bushes and strawberry
vines, and working daily in her dairy. She sends word to her daughter
that she might see her at five o'clock in the morning, skimming her
milk.

She was not the only busy one. "You will find your father," she writes
to her son Thomas, "in his fields, attending to his hay-makers. . . .
The crops of hay have been abundant; upon this spot, where eight years
ago we cut scarcely six tons, we now have thirty."

Mr. Josiah Quincy, in his "Figures of the Past," gives us delightful
glimpses of Mr. and Mrs. Adams. He was a child of five when he used to
gaze in wonder at the second President in Quincy meeting-house.

"The President's pew was conspicuous in the reconstructed edifice, and
there the old man was to be seen at every service. An air of respectful
deference to John Adams seemed to pervade the building. The ministers
brought their best sermons when they came to exchange, and had a certain
consciousness in their manner, as if officiating before royalty. The
medley of stringed and wind instruments in the gallery--a survival of
the sacred trumpets and shawms mentioned by King David--seemed to the
imagination of a child to be making discord together in honor of the
venerable chief who was the centre of interest."

As Josiah Quincy recalls his childhood, so the old President loved to
recall his own. "I shall never forget," he would say, "the rows of
venerable heads ranged along those front benches which, as a young
fellow, I used to gaze upon. They were as old and gray as mine is now."

When he was six, Josiah Quincy was put to school to the Reverend Peter
Whitney, and, while there, was often asked to dine at the Adams house of
a Sunday. "This was at first," he says, "somewhat of an ordeal for a
boy; but the genuine kindness of the President, who had not the smallest
chip of an iceberg in his composition, soon made me perfectly at ease in
his society." With Mrs. Adams, he found "a shade more formality"; but
this wore off, and he became much attached to her. "She always dressed
handsomely, and her rich silks and laces seemed appropriate to a lady of
her dignified position in the town." He adds:

"I well remember the modest dinner at the President's, to which I
brought a school-boy's appetite. The pudding, generally composed of
boiled cornmeal, always constituted the first course. This was the
custom of the time,--it being thought desirable to take the edge off
one's hunger before reaching the joint. Indeed, it was considered wise
to stimulate the young to fill themselves with pudding, by the assurance
that the boy who managed to eat the most of it should be helped most
abundantly to the meat, which was to follow. It need not be said that
neither the winner nor his competitors found much room for meat at the
close of their contest; and so the domestic economy of the arrangement
was very apparent. Miss Smith, a niece of Mrs. Adams, was an inmate of
the President's family, and one of these ladies always carved. Mr. Adams
made his contribution to the service of the table in the form of that
good-humoured, easy banter, which makes a dinner of herbs more
digestible than is a stalled ox without it. At a late period of our
acquaintance, I find preserved in my journals frequent though too meagre
reports of his conversation. But of the time of which I am writing there
is not a word discoverable. I can distinctly picture to myself a certain
iron spoon which the old gentleman once fished up from the depths of a
pudding in which it had been unwittingly cooked; but of the pleasant
things he said in those easy dinner-talks no trace remains."

Henry Bradshaw Fearon, an Englishman who visited the Adamses in 1817,
gives this description of the dinner:

"1st course a pudding made of Indian corn, molasses and butter. 2nd,
veal, bacon, neck of mutton, potatoes, cabbages, carrots and Indian
beans, Madeira wine, of which each drank two glasses. We sat down to
dinner at one o'clock. At two nearly all went a second time to church.
For tea we had pound cake, wheat bread and butter, and bread made out of
Indian corn and rye. Tea was brought from the kitchen and handed round
by a neat white servant girl. The topics of conversation were various:
England, America, politics, literature, science and Dr. Priestley, Miss
Edgeworth, Mrs. Siddons, Mr. Kean, France, Shakespeare, Moore, Lord
Byron, Cobbett, American Revolution, the traitor, Gen. Arnold. . . . The
establishment of the political patriarch consists of a house two stories
high, containing, I believe, eight rooms; of two men and three
maidservants, three horses and a plain carriage."

Mrs. Adams' strength continued to decline, though her spirits never
flagged. She writes to her sister, Mrs. Shaw, in June, 1809:

"I was unable to reply to my dear sister's letter of May 19th when I
received it, being visited by St. Anthony, who scourged me most cruelly.
I am sure I wished well to the Spanish patriots, in their late struggle
for liberty, and I bore no ill-will to those whose tutelar saint, thus
unprovoked, beset me. I wish he had been preaching to the fishes, who,
according to tradition, have been his hearers; for so ill did he use
me, that I came near losing my senses. I think he must be a very bigoted
saint, a favorer of the Inquisition, and a tyrant. If such are the
penances of saints, I hope to hold no further intercourse with them. For
four days and nights my face was so swelled and inflamed, that I was
almost blind. It seemed as though my blood boiled. Until the third day,
when I sent for the doctor, I knew not what the matter was. It confined
me for ten days. My face is yet red; but I rode out today, and feel much
better. I think a little journey would be of service to me; but I find,
as years and infirmities increase, my courage and enterprise diminish.
Ossian says, 'Age is dark and unlovely.' When I look in my glass, I do
not much wonder at the story related of a very celebrated painter,
Zeuxis, who, it is said, died of laughing at a comical picture he had
made of an old woman. If our glass flatters us in youth, it tells us
truths in age. The cold hand of death has frozen up some of the streams
of our early friendships; the congelation is gaining upon vital powers
and marking us for the tomb. 'May we so number our days as to apply our
hearts unto wisdom.'

    "The man is yet unborn, who duly weighs an hour.

"When my family was young around me, I used to find more leisure, and
think I could leave it with less anxiety than I can now. There is not
any occasion for detailing the whys and wherefores. It is said, if
riches increase, those increase that eat them; but what shall we say,
when the eaters increase without the wealth? You know, my dear sister,
if there be bread enough, and to spare, unless a prudent attention
manage that sufficiency, the fruits of diligence will be scattered by
the hand of dissipation. No man ever prospered in the world without the
consent and coöperation of his wife. It behoves us, who are parents or
grandparents, to give our daughters and granddaughters, when their
education devolves upon us, such an education as shall qualify them for
the useful and domestic duties of life, that they should learn the
proper use and improvement of time, since 'time was given for use, not
waste.' The finer accomplishments, such as music, dancing, and painting,
serve to set off and embellish the picture; but the groundwork must be
formed of more durable colors.

"I consider it as an indispensable requisite, that every American wife
should herself know how to order and regulate her family; how to govern
her domestics, and train up her children. For this purpose, the
all-wise Creator made woman an help-meet for man, and she who fails in
these duties does not answer the end of her creation.

    Life's cares are comforts; such by Heaven designed;
    They that have none must make them, or be wretched.
    Cares are employments, and, without employ,
    The soul is on a rack, the rack of rest.

I have frequently said to my friends, when they have thought me
overburdened with cares, I would rather have too much than too little.
Life stagnates without action. I could never bear merely to vegetate;

    Waters stagnate when they cease to flow."

Some of the most delightful letters of her later years are addressed to
her granddaughter, Caroline Smith. The two following ones give a lively
picture of her daily life.

"Your letter, my dear Caroline, gave me pleasure. As all yours are
calculated to enliven the spirits, I take them as a cordial, which
during the residence of the bald-pated winter and a close confinement to
my chamber for several weeks, I have been much in want of. And now what
return can I make you? What can you expect from age, debility and
weakness?

"Why, you shall have the return of a grateful heart, which amidst
infirmities is not insensible to the many blessings which encompass it.
Food, raiment and fuel, dear and kind friends and relatives, mental food
and entertainment sufficient to satisfy the craving appetite, and the
hopes and prospect of another and better country, even an heavenly.

    Eternal power! from whom these blessings flow,
    Teach me still more to wonder--more to know,
    Here round my home still lift my soul to thee,

    And let me ever midst thy bounties raise
    An humble note of thankfulness and praise.

"Although my memory is not so tenacious as in youth, nor my eye-sight so
clear, my hearing is unimpaired, my heart warm and my affections are as
fervent to those in whom 'my days renew' as formerly to those from 'whom
my days I drew.' I have some troubles in the loss of friends by death,
and no small solicitude for the motherless offspring, but my trust and
confidence are in that being who 'hears the young ravens when they cry.'
I do not know, my dear Caroline, that I ever gave you encouragement to
expect me at the valley, although I should rejoice to be able to visit
you--but I now look forward with the hope of seeing you here as an
attendant upon your mother as soon as the spring opens and the roads
will permit.

"We have snow by the cargo this winter. Not a bird flits but a hungry
crow now and then, in quest of prey. The fruit trees exhibit a mournful
picture, broken down by the weight of the snow; whilst the running of
sleighs and the jingle of bells assures us that all nature does not
slumber.

"As if you love me, proverbially, you must love my dog, you will be glad
to learn that Juno yet lives, although like her mistress she is gray
with age. She appears to enjoy life and to be grateful for the attention
paid her. She wags her tail and announces a visitor whenever one
appears.

"Adieu, my dear child--remember me with affection to your brother and
with kind affection to your honored father and also to your uncle whose
benevolent qualities I respect and whose cheerful spirits have made 'the
wilderness to smile and blossom as the rose.' Most affectionately,

                                                "Your Grandmother,
                                                      "ABIGAIL ADAMS."


                                          "Quincy, 19 November, 1812.


"MY DEAR CAROLINE:

"Your neat, pretty letter, looking small, but containing much, reached
me this day. I have a good mind to give you the journal of the day.

"Six o'clock. Rose, and, in imitation of his Britannic Majesty, kindled
my own fire. Went to the stairs, as usual, to summon George and Charles.
Returned to my chamber, dressed myself. No one stirred. Called a second
time, with a voice a little raised.

"Seven o'clock. Blockheads not out of bed. Girls in motion. Mean, when I
hire another manservant, that he shall come for _one call_.

"Eight o'clock. Fires made, breakfast prepared. L---- in Boston. Mrs. A.
at the tea-board. Forgot the sausages. Susan's recollection brought them
upon the table.

"_Enter_ Ann. 'Ma'am, the man is come with coals.'

"'Go, call George to assist him.' (_Exit_ Ann.)

"_Enter_ Charles. 'Mr. B---- is come with cheese, turnips, etc. Where
are they to be put?' 'I will attend to him myself.' (_Exit_ Charles.)

"Just seated at the table again.

"_Enter_ George with, 'Ma'am, here is a man with a drove of pigs.' A
consultation is held upon this important subject, the result of which is
the purchase of two spotted swine.

"Nine o'clock. _Enter_ Nathaniel, from the upper house, with a message
for sundries; and black Thomas's daughter, for sundries. Attended to
all these concerns. A little out of sorts that I could not finish my
breakfast. Note: never to be incommoded with trifles.

"_Enter_ George Adams, from the post-office,--a large packet from
Russia,[21] and from the valley also. Avaunt, all cares,--I put you all
aside,--and thus I find good news from a far country,--children,
grandchildren, all well. I had no expectation of hearing from Russia
this winter, and the pleasure was the greater to obtain letters of so
recent a date, and to learn that the family were all in health. For this
blessing give I thanks.

"At twelve o'clock, by a previous engagement, I was to call at Mr.
G----'s for Cousin B. Smith to accompany me to the bridge at
Quincy-port, being the first day of passing it. The day was pleasant;
the scenery delightful. Passed both bridges, and entered Hingham.
Returned before three o'clock. Dined, and,

"At five, went to Mr. T. G----'s, with your grandfather; the third visit
he has made with us in _the week_; and let me whisper to you he played
at whist with Mr. J. G----, who was as ready and accurate as though he
had both eyes to see with. Returned.

"At nine, sat down and wrote a letter.

"At eleven, retired to bed. We do not so every week. I tell it you as
one of the marvels of the age. By all this, you will learn that
grandmother has got rid of her croaking, and that grandfather is in good
health, and that both of us are as tranquil as that bald old fellow,
called Time, will let us be.

"And here I was interrupted in my narrative.

"I re-assume my pen upon the 22d of November, being this day sixty-eight
years old. How many reflections occur to me upon this anniversary!

"What have I done for myself or others in this long period of my
sojourn, that I can look back upon with pleasure, or reflect upon with
approbation? Many, very many follies and errors of judgment and conduct
rise up before me, and ask forgiveness of that Being, who seeth into the
secret recesses of the heart, and from whom nothing is hidden. I think I
may with truth say, that in no period of my life have the vile passions
had control over me. I bear no enmity to any human being; but, alas! as
Mrs. Placid said to her friend, by which of thy good works wouldst thou
be willing to be judged? I do not believe, with some divines, that all
our good works are but as filthy rags; the example which our great
Master has set before us, of purity, benevolence, obedience, submission
and humility, are virtues which, if faithfully practiced, will find
their reward; or why has he pronounced so many benedictions upon them in
his sermon on the mount? I would ask with the poet,

    Is not virtue in mankind
    The nutriment that feeds the mind,
    Then who, with reason, can pretend
    That all effects of virtue end?

I am one of those who are willing to rejoice always. My disposition and
habits are not of the gloomy kind. I believe that 'to enjoy is to obey.'

    Yet not to Earth's contracted span,
      Thy goodness let me bound;
    Or think thee Lord alone of man,
      Whilst thousand worlds are round."

This period of quiet retirement did not lack its thrills of interest,
public and private. Europe was in the throes of the Napoleonic Wars, a
conflict surpassed in bitterness only by that of our own day. In due
time came our own War of 1812, and for three years this country was in a
continual state of alarm. On December 30th, 1812, Mrs. Adams writes to
her friend of many years, Mrs. Mercy Warren:

"So long as we are inhabitants of this earth and possess any of our
faculties, we cannot be indifferent to the state of our country, our
posterity and our friends. Personally we have arrived so near the close
of the drama that we can experience but few of the evils which await the
rising generation. We have passed through one revolution and have
happily arrived at the goal, but the ambition, injustice and plunder of
foreign powers have again involved us in war, the termination of which
is not given us to see.

"If we have not 'the gorgeous palaces of the cloud-capp'd towers' of
Moscow to be levelled with the dust, nor a million of victims to
sacrifice upon the altar of ambition, we have our firesides, our
comfortable habitations, our cities, our churches and our country to
defend, our rights, privileges and independence to preserve. And for
these are we not justly contending? Thus it appears to me; yet I hear
from our pulpits and read from our presses that it is an unjust, a
wicked, a ruinous and unnecessary war. If I give an opinion with respect
to the conduct of our native State, I cannot do it with approbation.
She has had much to complain of as it respected a refusal of naval
protection, yet that cannot justify her in paralyzing the arm of
government when raised for her defence and that of the nation. A house
divided against itself--and upon that foundation do our enemies build
their hopes of subduing us. May it prove a sandy one to them.

"You once asked what does Mr. Adams think of Napoleon? The reply was, I
think, that after having been the scourge of nations, he should himself
be destroyed. We have seen him run an astonishing career. Is not his
measure full? Like Charles the XII of Sweden, he may find in Alexander
another Peter. Much, my friends, might we moralize upon these great
events, but we know but in part and we see but in part. The longer I
live, the more wrapt in clouds and darkness does the future appear to
me."

British cruisers patrolled the New England coast, and could frequently
be seen from the upper windows of the Quincy houses. If Mrs. Adams had
climbed Penn's Hill on June 1st, 1813, she could have watched the naval
duel between the _Chesapeake_ and the _Shannon_, as in 1776 she had
watched the burning of Charlestown.

A few months later, the neighborhood of Boston assumed once more the
military aspect of forty years before. "Troops from Berkshire were
quartered in Dorchester, at Neponset Bridge, generally considered the
last outpost toward the enemy, who, it was thought, would land on Mr.
Quincy's farm. One Sunday, a report came that the British had actually
landed at Scituate, and were marching up to Boston. The drums beat to
arms; and the elders, who remembered the Revolution, increased the
trepidation of their juniors by anecdotes of devastation. These
apprehensions were much exaggerated."[22]

In the midst of these alarms, John and Abigail Adams celebrated their
golden wedding. "Yesterday," she writes to a granddaughter on the 26th
of October, 1814, "yesterday completes half a century since I entered
the married state, then just your age. I have great cause of
thankfulness, that I have lived so long and enjoyed so large a portion
of happiness as has been my lot. The greatest source of unhappiness I
have known in that period has arisen from the long and cruel separations
which I was called, in a time of war and with a young family around me,
to submit to."

In the same house, their son, John Quincy Adams, and their grandson
Charles Francis Adams, were in time to celebrate their golden weddings;
a notable series of festivals.

A member of the Adams family tells me the Second President "has the
reputation in the family of being very high tempered, and it is said
that when he wrote letters which his wife thought unwise, she would hold
them back and give them to him a week or so later, saying she thought
perhaps he would prefer to change them! The singular thing was that he
apparently never resented the tampering with his correspondence."

There can be no stronger proof than this of the oneness of this
remarkable couple. President John may have been high tempered, but I
fancy there are few men of today who would receive with meekness such
action on the part of their wives.

The winter of 1814-15 opened gloomily enough. There seemed no immediate
prospect of peace. Accordingly, when, on the 14th day of February, 1815,
the bells began to ring, people merely said, "Fire!" and looked out of
window for the smoke. There was no smoke till the bonfires sprang up at
night. More and more joyfully the bells pealed, till all knew that the
war was over, that peace had been declared. Boston and Quincy and all
the other neighboring towns went mad with joy. "The whole population
were abroad, all classes congratulating each other on the happy tidings.
Almost every house displayed a flag. Drums beat; cannon fired; the
military were in motion. Sailors in large sleds, each drawn by fifteen
horses,--the word 'Peace' in capitals on the hat of the foremost
man,--greeted everyone with loud huzzas. The joy and exultation were in
proportion to the previous fear and despondency. It was a day never to
be forgotten."[23]

There were to be no more alarms for Abigail Adams; no more thunder of
cannon or marching of troops: the rest of her life was peace. She had
the joy of welcoming her eldest son, after his foreign service of eight
long years, and of seeing him appointed Secretary of State. This, her
grandson thinks, was the crowning mercy of her life. A few years more,
and she might have seen him exalted to the loftier office which his
father had held; but this was not to be. In October, 1818, she was
stricken with typhus fever; and on the 28th day of that month, she died.

In closing the record of such a life as this, one longs for some perfect
tribute which may fitly sum it up. I find this tribute, in the words of
Josiah Quincy: "Clear and shedding blessings to the last, her sun sank
below the horizon, beaming with the same mild strength and pure radiance
which distinguished its meridian."

Another beautiful word was that of President Kirkland of Harvard
University, spoken at Mrs. Adams' funeral:

"Ye seek to mourn, bereaved friends, as becomes Christians, in a manner
worthy of the person you lament. You do, then, bless the Giver of life,
that the course of your endeared and honored friend was so long and so
bright; that she entered so fully into the spirit of these injunctions
which we have explained, and was a minister of blessings to all within
her influence. You are soothed to reflect that she was sensible of the
many tokens of divine goodness which marked her lot; that she received
the good of her existence with a cheerful and grateful heart; that, when
called to weep, she bore adversity with an equal mind; that she used the
world as not abusing it to excess, improving well her time, talents, and
opportunities, and, though desired longer in this world, was fitted for
a better happiness than this world can give."

John Adams survived his dearest friend by eight years, preserving his
faculties to the last, clear-minded and vehement as on the day when he
signed the Declaration of Independence. At noon on the fiftieth
anniversary of the "day of deliverance," amid the "pomp and parade," the
"shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations," which
he had bespoken for it, his valiant spirit passed from earth. His last
words were, "Thomas Jefferson still survives!" This was not the case.
His ancient colleague, at one time his bitter opponent, but of late
years once more his affectionate friend, had died an hour before.

Husband and wife lie side by side, under the portico of the First Church
of Quincy, a building given by Mr. Adams to his beloved town. On the
walls of that church are inscribed their epitaphs, which may most fitly
close this simple record.

              LIBERTATEM, AMICITIAM, FIDEM, RETINEBIS

                              D. O. M.

                        BENEATH THESE WALLS

                ARE DEPOSITED THE MORTAL REMAINS OF

                            JOHN ADAMS.

              SON OF JOHN AND SUZANNA (BOYLSTON) ADAMS,

                SECOND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES;

                    BORN 19/30 OCTOBER, 1735.
                    ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, 1776,
          HE PLEDGED HIS LIFE, FORTUNE, AND SACRED HONOR
                                TO THE

                    INDEPENDENCE OF HIS COUNTRY.

                  ON THE THIRD OF SEPTEMBER, 1783,
          HE AFFIXED HIS SEAL TO THE DEFINITIVE TREATY WITH
                            GREAT BRITAIN,
              WHICH ACKNOWLEDGED THAT INDEPENDENCE,
          AND CONSUMMATED THE REDEMPTION OF HIS PLEDGE.
                    ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, 1826,
                        HE WAS SUMMONED
                TO THE INDEPENDENCE OF IMMORTALITY,
                            AND TO THE

                      JUDGMENT OF HIS GOD.

            THIS HOUSE WILL BEAR WITNESS TO HIS PIETY;
          THIS TOWN, HIS BIRTHPLACE, TO HIS MUNIFICENCE;
                    HISTORY TO HIS PATRIOTISM;
          POSTERITY TO THE DEPTH AND COMPASS OF HIS MIND.

                          AT HIS SIDE
              SLEEPS, TILL THE TRUMP SHALL SOUND,

                          ABIGAIL,

                HIS BELOVED AND ONLY WIFE,
      DAUGHTER OF WILLIAM AND ELIZABETH (QUINCY) SMITH;
            IN EVERY RELATION OF LIFE A PATTERN
      OF FILIAL, CONJUGAL, MATERNAL, AND SOCIAL VIRTUE.
                    BORN NOVEMBER 11/22, 1744,
                    DECEASED 28 OCTOBER, 1818,
                            AGED 74.

                  MARRIED 25 OCTOBER, 1764.
        DURING AN UNION OF MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY
      THEY SURVIVED, IN HARMONY OF SENTIMENT, PRINCIPLE,
                        AND AFFECTION,
              THE TEMPESTS OF CIVIL COMMOTION;
            MEETING UNDAUNTED AND SURMOUNTING
          THE TERRORS AND TRIALS OF THAT REVOLUTION,
          WHICH SECURED THE FREEDOM OF THEIR COUNTRY;
            IMPROVED THE CONDITION OF THEIR TIMES;
          AND BRIGHTENED THE PROSPECTS OF FUTURITY
                TO THE RACE OF MAN UPON EARTH.


                        PILGRIM.

    FROM LIVES THUS SPENT THY EARTHLY DUTIES LEARN;
    FROM FANCY'S DREAMS TO ACTIVE VIRTUE TURN:
    LET FREEDOM, FRIENDSHIP, FAITH, THY SOUL ENGAGE,
    AND SERVE, LIKE THEM, THY COUNTRY AND THY AGE.

FOOTNOTES:

[21] John Quincy Adams was at this time Ambassador at St. Petersburg.

[22] "Memoir of S. E. M. Quincy."

[23] "Memoir of S. E. M. Quincy."



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Obvious punctuation errors were corrected.

Varied hyphenation was retained, such as "a-piece" and "apiece",
"bed-chamber" and "bedchamber", and "cox-comb" and "coxcomb."

Page 53, "cirumstances" changed to "circumstances" (singular
circumstances attended)

Page 109, "scarely" changed to "scarcely" (scarcely find a well person)

Page 119, "oclock" changed to "o'clock" (night by twelve o'clock)

Pages 124-125, "Engand" changed to "England" (banished altogether from
New England)

Page 136, "Filigre" changed to "Filigree" (Feather-work, Filigree and)

Page 171, "comander" changed to "commander" (Tucker, commander of the)

Page 191, "indipensably" changed to "indispensably" (manner that is
indispensably)





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