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Abigail Adams

American First Lady


A selection from

Narrated by Kimberly Schraf

Download mp3 file: The Letters of Abigail Adams to John Adams

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Braintree Sepbr. 7 1776

Last monday I left the Town of Boston, underwent the operation of a smoaking at the lines and arrived at my Brother Cranchs where we go for purification; there I tarried till wedensday, and then came Home, which seem'd greatly endeard to me by my long absence. I think I never felt greater pleasure at comeing Home after an absence in my Life. Yet I felt a vacuum in my Breast and sent a Sigh to Philadelphia. I long'd for a dear Friend to rejoice with me. Charlly is Banished yet, I keep him at his Aunt Cranch's out of the way of those who have not had the Distemper, his Arm has many Scabs upon it which are yet very soar. He is very weak and sweats a nights prodigiously. I am now giving him the Bark. He recoverd very fast considering how ill he was. I pitty your anxiety and feel sorry that I wrote you when he was so Bad, but I knew not how it might turn with Him, had it been otherways than well, it might have proved a greater Shock than to have known that he was ill.

This Night our good unkle came from Town and brought me yours of August 20, 21 , 25 and 28th for all of which I most sincerely thank you. I have felt uneasy to Hear from you. The Report of your being dead, has no doubt reach'd you by Bass who heard enough of it before he came away. It took its rise among the Tories who as Swift said of himself "By their fears betray their Hopes" but How they should ever take it into their Heads that you was poisond at New York a fortnight before that we heard any thing of that villans Zedwitz plan of poisoning the waters of the City, I cannot tell. I am sometimes ready to expect suspect that there is a communication between the Tories of every State, for they seem to know all news that is passing before tis known by the Whigs.

We Have had many Stories concerning engagements upon Long Island this week, of our Lines being forced and of our Troops retreating to New York.Perticuliars we have not yet obtaind. All we can learn is that we have been unsuccessfull there; having Lost Many Men as prisoners among whom is Lord Sterling and General Sullivan.

But if we should be defeated I think we shall not be conquered. A people fired like the Romans with Love of their Country and of Liberty, a zeal for the publick Good, and a Noble Emulation of Glory, will not be disheartned or dispirited by a Succession of unfortunate Events. But like them may we learn by Defeat the power of becomeing invincible.

It is said that the Efforts of our Enemies will be to stop the communication between the colonies by taking possession of Hudsons Bay. Can it be effected? The Milford frigate rides triumphant in our Bay, taking vessels every day, and no Colony nor Continental vessel has yet attempted to hinder her. She mounts but 28 Guns but is one of the finest sailors in the British Navy. They complain we have not weighty mettle enough and I suppose truly. The Rage for privateering is as great here as any where and I believe the success has been as great.

It will not be in my power to write you so regularly as when I was in Town. I shall not faill doing it once a week. If you come home the Post Road you must inquire for Letters where ever the Post sit out from.

Tis Here a very General time of Health. I think tis near a twelve month since the pestilance raged here. I fear your being seazd with a fever, tis very prevalant I hear where you are. I pray God preserve you and return you in Health. The Court will not accept your Resignation, they will appoint Mr. Dalton and Dana to releave you.

I am most affectionately Yours.

May 18 1778

I have waited with great patience, restraining as much as posible every anxious Idea for 3 Months. But now every Vessel which arrives sits my expectation upon the wing, and I pray my Gaurdian Genious to waft me the happy tidings of your Safety and Welfare. Heitherto my wandering Ideas Rove like the Son of Ulissis from Sea to Sea, and from Shore to Shore, not knowing where to find you. Sometimes I fancy'd you upon the Mighty Waters, sometimes at your desired Haven; sometimes upon the ungratefull and Hostile Shore of Britain, but at all times and in all places under the protecting care and Guardianship of that Being who not only cloathes the lilies of the Feild and hears the young Ravens when they cry, but hath said of how much more worth are ye than many Sparrows, and this confidence which the world cannot deprive me of, is my food by day and my Rest by Night, and was all my consolation under the Horrid Ideas of assassination, the only Event of which I had not thought, and in some measure prepaird my mind.

When my Imagination sits you down upon the Gallick Shore, a Land to which Americans are now bound to transfer their affections, and to eradicate all those national prejudices which the Proud and Haughty Nations whom we once revered, craftily instilld into us whom they once stiled their children; I anticipate yourthe pleasure you must feel, and tho so many leagus distant share in the joy of finding the great Interest of our Country so generously espoused, and nobly aided by so powerfull a Monarck. Your prospects must be much brightned, for when you left your Native Land they were rather Gloomy. If an unwearied Zeal and persevering attachment to the cause of truth and justice, regardless of the allurements of ambition on the one Hand or the threats of calamity on the other, can intitle any one to the Reward of peace, Liberty and Safety, a large portion of those Blessings are reserved for my Friend, in His Native country Land.

Difficult as the Day is, cruel as this War has been, seperated as I am on account of it from the dearest connextion in life, I would not exchange my Country for the Wealth of the Indies, or be any other than an American tho I might be Queen or Empress of any Nation upon the Globe. My Soul is unambitious of pomp or power.

Beneath my Humble roof, Bless'd with the Society and tenderest affection of my dear partner, I have enjoyed as much felicity, and as exquisite happiness as falls to the share of mortals; and tho I have been calld to sacrifice to my Country, I can glory in my Sacrifice, and derive pleasure from my intimate connextion with one who is esteemed worthy of the important trust devolved upon him.

Britain as usual has added insult to injustice and cruelty, by what she calls a concilitary plan. From my Soul I dispice her meaness, but she has lost long ago lost that treasure which a great authority tells us exalteth a Nation, and is receiving the reproaches due to her crimes.

Our Publick finnances are upon no better footing than they were when you left us. 500 Dollors is now offerd by this Town per Man for 9 Months to recruit the Army, 12 pounds a Month for Farming Labour is the price, and not to be procured under. Our Friends are all well and desire to be rememberd to you. So many tender sentiments rush upon my mind when about to close this Letter to you, that I can only ask you to measure them by those as your which you find in your own Bosome for your affectionate Portia.

Janry. 28 1781

My dearest Friend

Last Evening General Lincoln call'd here introducing to me a Gentleman by the Name of Col. Laurence the Son as I suppose, of your much esteemed Friend, the late president of congress who informed me that he expected to sail for France in a few days, and would take dispatches from me. Altho I closed Letters to you by way of Holland a few days ago, I would not omit so good an opportunity as the present. Tis a long time since the date of your Last Letters, the 25 of Sepbr. I wait with much anxiety, listning to the sound of every Gun, but none anounce the arrival of the Fame from Holland, which we greatly fear is lost, or taken, nor the Mars from France. I wish you had been fortunate enough to have sent Letters by Updike to Providence, who saild the day after the Fame, but suppose you wrote by her, and sailing so near together, did not think it worth your while to write by him.

It is reported that (Benedict) Arnold with a Body of troops is gone to Virginia, where it is hoped he and his Myrmidons will meet their fate. Had Clinton been a generous Enemy, or  known humane Nature, he would like Aurelian upon a like occasion, have given up thetraitor to the hands of justice, knowing that it was in vain to expect fidelity in a man who had betrayed his own Country, which from his defection may learn to place a higher value upon integrity, and virtue, than upon a savage ferocity so often mistaken for courage. He who as an individual is cruel, unjust and immoral, will not be likely to possess those virtues necessary in a General or Statesman. Yet in our Infant Country, Infidelity and debauchery are so fashionably prevalent that less attention is paid to the characters of those who fill important offices, than a Love of virtue, and zeal for publick Liberty, can warrant, which we are told by wise Legislators of old, are the surest preservatives of publick happiness.

You observe in a late Letter that your absence from your Native State will deprive you of an opportunity of being a man of importance in it. I hope you are doing your country more extensive Service abroad than you could have done, had you been confined to one State only, and whilst you continue in the same Estimation amongst your fellow citizens, which you now hold, you will not fail of being of importance to them: at home or abroad.

Heaven preserve the life and Health of my dear absent Friend and in its own time return him to his country, and to the Arms of his ever affectionate Portia

PS Love to my Dear Boys. I have sent you a present by Col. Laurence.

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