Letters Project

Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March - 5 April 1776

Copied from the Adams Family Papers
a digital archives created by the Massachusetts Historical Society
About the Letters
Background on Abigail Adams

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Braintree March 31, 1776
I wish you would ever write me a Letter half as long as I write you; and tell me if you may where your Fleet are gone? What sort of Defence Virginia can make against our common Enemy? Whether it is so situated as to make an able Defence? Are not the Gentery Lords and the common people vassals, are they not like the uncivilized Natives Brittain represents us to be? I hope their Riffel Men who have shewen themselves very savage and even Blood thirsty; are not a specimen of the Generality of the people.

I [illegible] am willing to allow the Colony great merrit for having produced a Washington but they have been shamefully duped by a Dunmore.

I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Eaquelly Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and christian principal of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us.

Do not you want to see Boston; I am fearfull of the small pox, or I should have been in before this time. I got Mr. Crane to go to our House and see what state it was in. I find it has been occupied by one of the Doctors of a Regiment, very dirty, but no other damage has been done to it. The few things which were left in it are all gone. Cranch has the key which he never deliverd up. I have wrote to him for it and am determined to get it cleand as soon as possible and shut it up. I look upon it a new acquisition of property, a property which one month ago I did not value at a single Shilling, and could with pleasure have seen it in flames.

The Town in General is left in a better state than we expected, more oweing to a percipitate flight than any Regard to the inhabitants, tho some individuals discoverd a sense of honour and justice and have left the rent of the Houses in which they were, for the owners and the furniture unhurt, or if damaged sufficent to make it good.

Others have committed abominable Ravages. The Mansion House of your President is safe and the furniture unhurt whilst both


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the House and Furniture of the Solisiter General have fallen a prey to their own merciless party. Surely the very Fiends feel a Reverential awe for Virtue and patriotism, whilst they Detest the paricide and traitor.

I feel very differently at the approach of spring to what I did a month ago. We knew not then whether we could plant or sow with safety, whether when we had toild we could reap the fruits of our own industery, whether we could rest in our own Cottages, or whether we should not be driven from the sea coasts to seek shelter in the wilderness, but now we feel as if we might sit under our own vine and eat the good of the land.

I feel a gaieti de Coar to which before I was a stranger. I think the Sun looks brighter, the Birds sing more melodiously, and Nature puts on a more chearfull countanance. We feel a temporary peace, and the poor fugitives are returning to their deserted habitations.

Tho we felicitate ourselves, we sympathize with those who are trembling least the Lot of Boston should be theirs. But they cannot be in similar circumstances unless pusilanimity and cowardise should take possession of them. They have time and warning given them to see the Evil and shun it.—I long to hear 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 favourable 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 perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, 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


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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 immitation of the Supreem Being make use of that power only for our happiness.

April 5
Not having an opportunity of sending this I shall add a few lines more; tho not with a heart so gay. I have been attending the sick chamber of our Neighbour Trot whose affliction I most sensibly feel but cannot discribe, striped of two lovely children in one week. Gorge the Eldest died on wedensday and Billy the youngest on fryday, with the Canker fever, a terible disorder so much like the throat distemper, that it differs but little from it. Betsy Cranch has been very bad, but upon the recovery. Becky Peck they do not expect will live out the day. Many grown persons are now sick with it, in this street 5. It rages much in other Towns. The Mumps too are very frequent. Isaac is now confined with it. Our own little flock are yet well. My Heart trembles with anxiety for them. God preserve them.

I want to hear much oftener from you than I do. March 8 [John to Abigail, 08 March 1776] was the last date of any that I have yet had.—You inquire of whether I am making Salt peter. 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 cloathing for my family whowhich would else be Naked. I know of but one person in this part of the Town who has made any, that is Mr. Tertias Bass as he is calld who has got very near an hundred weight which has been found to be very good. I have heard of some others in the other parishes. Mr. Reed of Weymouth has been applied to, to go to Andover to the mills which are now at work, and has gone. I have lately seen a small Manuscrip describing the proportions for the various sorts of powder,such asfit for cannon, small arms and pistols [illegible] . If it would be of any Service your way I will get it transcribed and send it to you.—Every one of your Friends send their Regards, and all the little ones. Your Brothers youngest child lies bad with convulsion fitts. Adieu. I need not say how much I am Your ever faithfull Friend.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 03/28 at 10:44 PM
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©2005 Montana Heritage Project

Ideas for Valentines Day—letters and family history

Interview a Couple

We may know Grandma and Grandpa (or Mom and Dad, or Aunt Sue and Uncle Bill) were married on such-and-such date, in whatever town, but do we know the story behind their romance? Interview your family members and ask how they met, where they went for their first date, how and where they proposed/were proposed to, etc. By recording these stories you’ll be adding a depth and interest to your family’s history, and you may uncover some clues to more research through the story.

Love Letters

Do you have love letters that your ancestors may have written? Why not make copies and share them with other family members? Maybe you have saved love letters from your loved one. Why not preserve them in an album and let your honey know how much you treasure them.

Ancestry Quick Tip
Wedding Stories

by Joyce Holder

I discovered that I have legal marriage records for eight generations, from Pennsylvania in 1755 to Arkansas in 1982. There is one for which I do not have the legal record, but I have an eyewitness account from the bride’s sister in the husband’s Revolutionary War pension file.

My plans are to write a story covering all of these weddings. I will do research to learn the wedding trends of the day, the style of dress, etc.

What can you learn from marriage announcements published in local newspapers?

Family History and the Wedding Portrait

Donít limit your wedding search to images of the couple on their wedding day. Create a story of the couple with their marriage certificate, invitations, photographs, the minister, and the place where they married. For instance, in the nineteenth century, pre-printed forms could be purchased to hold small photographs of the bride, groom, and in some cases the minister, along with the date and place of the marriage. These were suitable for framing and were hung in many homes. There may also be artifacts in your family that add to the tale, including linens or wedding gowns. In some families, quilts are part of the wedding traditions.

Researching the stories of weddings

Have you documented the stories that you know? Have you written down the story of how your grandma and grandpa met at a local dance? Or the story of how your Dad pulled some strings to send your Mom’s beau overseas? Or how your husband proposed to you on a warm starlit night, or on bended knee in the family garden, the air smelling of jasmine?

If you have not recorded these details, you are leaving out one of the most compelling human elements in your family story. If you have living parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents, have you asked them how they met their spouse? What attracted them to each other? Where did they go on their first date? Did they exchange any special gifts when they were courting? Were any love letters or poems written and saved?

What details are known about the wedding? Did they date for a long time before getting married? Was it a church wedding or was it held at the family home? Who stood up or witnessed the event? Was there a reception? Did anything interesting, romantic, or funny happen that day? Was there music? What songs were played? Wedding invitations can also add to the story, as well as offering insights to personalities and other genealogical clues.  Full Article

Valentines Day Assembly

What about an assembly somewhat like the veterans assemblies several schools now do? The focus of the interviews could be couples in the community who have been married 30 years or more. The powerpoints could feature documentation from the weddings--with a bit of cultural interpretation as to why weddings were celebrated as they were. If the courtship included letters that still exist, students might quote from a few of these.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 03/25 at 09:56 AM
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©2005 Montana Heritage Project

Asking students to bring in a family letter

I visited Renee’s class on the day her students each brought a family heirloom to class and told what they knew of its story. I was surpised by how deep and rich the connections were, brought to the surface by this simple assignment.

I wonder what would happen if each year teachers asked students to bring to class one letter written by a family member at some time in the past. Would this lead to conversations at home that would in turn lead to finding collections of letters that nobody really knew existed?

I, for example, know of a couple letters that nobody else knows I have. They will never come up in ordinary conversation. But if a grandchild came asking me about family letters for a school assignment. . .

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 03/25 at 09:41 AM
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©2005 Montana Heritage Project
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