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Abigail Adams Letter Discovered In Yarmouth Port

This article is more than 11 years old.

More than 220 years after it was sent, a letter written by Abigail Adams, the wife of the second U.S. president, has resurfaced.

Margaret Hogan, managing editor of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, called it a classic example of Adams' correspondence from Europe with the family's financial agent in the United States, Dr. Cotton Tufts, because it covers a range of topics.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: The first page of Abigail Adams' letter (Courtesy MHS)
CLICK TO ENLARGE: The first page of Abigail Adams' letter (Courtesy MHS)

"She mentions that John Adams has gone off to the Hague to deal with some diplomatic issues," Hogan said. "She is very concerned that a bill for some sherry wine be paid for that she's shipping home and that she looks forward to drinking with Dr. Tufts once she's back in the states.

"She comments on the politics in Great Britain. She comments on the Constitution and actually talking about how the lack of respect that the United States has received from Great Britain means that she's very anxious to see if the Constitution will work and will help sort of improve that situation. And then just all the difficulties of moving a household across the Atlantic. So as is often with Abigail's letters, she touches on a lot of different topics in a pretty short amount of space."

Abigail Adams joined her husband, John Adams, in Europe in 1784. He had been on diplomatic missions there since 1779. The letter is one of the last that Abigail Adams sent from London to the U.S. prior to her return in June 1788, Hogan said.

Historians had no record of the letter until Lawrence Perera, a Boston lawyer, contacted the historical society to donate it, Hogan said. Perera said he found the letter in a drawer in his late mother's Yarmouth Port home.

-- Here's a transcript of the letter:

my dear sir Grosvenor square March 2 1788

I wrote you by Captain Barnard who saild a few days since, but I am so much occupied by my preparations for our Voyage that I have very little time for any thing else I find it the most troublesome removal I have ever made, and You know my good Partners time is too much occupied by other matters to attend at all to Family affairs. indeed I have always endeavourd to free him intirely from them. after having taken leave here, he sat out on fryday morning for the Hague I do not expect that he will with the utmost expedition be able to return under a Fortnight, after which our stay here will be only a few days, as during his absence I shall have every thing Sent on Board ship. Mr & Mrs smith left us on the 19 of Feb’ry & took private Lodgings during their stay here.

I inclose to you a Bill of Lading of some sherry Wine shiped for us by our Friend Mr Harrison, who procured us some since we have been here. when it arrives you will be so good as to pay the Freight and all other charges. the wine itself is already paid for, & I hope e’er long to have the pleasure of drinking some of it with you

I send you a few of the latest papers—the affairs of this country do not wear quite so triumphant an appearence, as they did a few Months ago. a Great contest has arrisen respecting Sending out Some additional Regiments to India. Holland too, is said to refuse Signing the Treaty pending between them and this Country, unless their east India possessions are Gaurenteed to them. The Emperor has declared War against the Porte. France is still in a dissagreeable Situation with regard both to politicks & Finances, and the publick papers will tell you quite, unable any longer to pay the American Ministers Sallery in London, which they say is the cause of his going Home. stupid as this Lie, is I doubt not our wise Printers will give it all the Authenticity in their power by republishing it, without a comment as they have Several other grose falshoods. The Truth is John Bull is very desirious of blinding the Eyes of his countrymen, & giving any reason rather than the true one. Why America is still treated with neglect, you will see by mr Greenvile late Speach in the House upon the American intercourse Bill, not only the grosest falshoods palmed upon the House, but an insinuation that we have no Government, no Head, no Body in short capable of entering into any treaties, or giving authenticity to them

How necessary is it my dear sir, for our own National honour & dignity Safety & security, that we should not cavil away our present advantages, but that our Government should assume a New & more respectable form, and by experience rectify what we find amiss— Pray who is the writer of those excellent paper which appear in the Newyork paper Signd Publius. Brutus I know! & Cincinatus I know— beware says Shakspear of that thin tall Cassius—

Heaven direct & prosper you— I hope to sail early in April. adieu my dear sir. remember me affectionately to all my Friends. I have not time to write to them

Yours Sincereley and in great / Haste

A Adams—

RC (Adams Papers, All Gens.).

This program aired on June 14, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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