Archive for the ‘Adams, John’ Category

“. . . I have Safely landed upon the British coast.”

In July of 1784, ABIGAIL ADAMS was nearly at the end of her journey across the Atlantic to London where she was to join her husband John. As readers who have been following her story will appreciate, it was a fraught passage. The vessel finally arrived in the English Channel where the seas can be rough. Since it could take a long time to reach London by water the decision was made to land at Deal and proceed by coach, via Canterbury, to the city. Unfortunately the town of Deal had no wharf so landing the pilot boat would be difficult, to say the least.

Saturday 17 of julyGive me joy my dear sister, we have sounded to day and found bottom 55 fathom. We have seen through the course of the day 20 different Sail, Spoke with a small Boat, upon a smuggling expedition, which assured us we were within the Channel.
july 18This day four weeks we came on Board, are you not all calculating to day that we are near the land? Happily you are not wrong in your conjectures, I do not dispair of seeing it yet before night, tho our wind is very Small and light. The Captain has just been down to advise us as the vessel is so quiet, to get what things we wish to carry on shore into our small trunks. He hopes to land us at Portsmouth 70 miles distant from London tomorrow or next, day. From thence we are to proceed in post chaises to London. The ship may be a week in the channel before she will be able to get up. . . .
Deal july 20Heaven be praised I have Safely landed upon the British coast. How flattering how smooth the ocean how delightfull was Sunday the 18 of July. We flatterd ourselves with the prospect of a gentle Breeze to carry us on shore at Portsmouth where we agreed to land, as going up the channel always proves tedious, but on sunday Night the wind shifted to the south-west, which upon this coast, is the same with our north East winds: it blew a gale on sunday night on monday and monday night equal to an Equinoctial. We were obliged to carry double reef top sails only, and what added to our misfortune was; that, tho we had made land the day before it was so thick that we could not certainly determine what land it was; it is now twesday and I have slept only four hours since Saturday night, such was the tossing and tumbling in Board our ship. The Captain never left the deck the whole time either to eat or sleep, tho they told me there was no danger, nor do I suppose that there realy was any; as we had sea room enough. Yet the great number of vessels constantly comeing out of the channel and the apprehension of being run down, or being nearer the land than we imagined kept me constantly agitated. Added to this I had a voilent sick head ack. O! what would I have given to have been quiet upon the land. You will hardly wonder then at the joy we felt this day in seeing the cliffs of Dover: Dover castle and town. The wind was in Some measure subsided. It raind, however; and was as squaly as the month of March, the sea ran very high. A pilot boat came on Board at about ten oclock this morning; the Captain came to anchor with his ship in the downs and the little town of Deal lay before us. Some of the Gentlemen talkd of going on shore with the pilot Boat, and sending for us if the wind subsided. The boat was about as large as a Charlstown ferry boat and the distance from the Ship about twice as far as from Boston, to Charlstown. A Shore as bald as Nantasket Beach, no wharf, but you must be run right on shore by a wave where a number of Men stand to catch hold of the Boat and draw it up. The surf ran six foot high.

Read next about the landing.

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed September 29, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted October 26th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Deal, England,Ocean Voyages

Such a fellow is a real imposition upon the passengers . . . .

After a rather long absence due to family medical problems I am posting again on In the Words of Women.

We left ABIGAIL ADAMS on board the ship Active sailing for England in 1784 where she was to join her husband John. She had been keeping a journal for her sister MARY CRANCH which she promised to post when she arrived. Abigail and many others had been seasick. When she recovered, she set about supervising a cleanup. She described her fellow passengers for her sister and wrote of the awe she felt seeing “a blazing ocean” (bioluminescence, caused by the slow oxidation of material found in certain marine organisms). In the following passage Abigail complains about the victuals and the Negro cook.

Saturday [July] 10thYesterday was a very pleasent day, very little wind; but a fine sun and smooth sea. I spent the most of the day upon deck reading; it was not however so warm; but a Baize gown was very comfortable; the ship has gradually become less urksome to me. If our cook was but tolerably clean, I could realish my victuals, 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 hickel tapickelta [higgledy piggledy], on they come with a leg of pork all Brisly, 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 peice of Beaf and when dinner is nearly compleated 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 eat upon our whole passage, more than just enough to satisfy nature; or to keep body and soul together. . . .

It is uncomfortable to read this passage for Abigail sounds like a racist: the cook’s faults seem more attributable to his race than his ineptitude. That may be. It is well, however, to recall that Abigail had entrusted the care of her house and furniture back in Massachusetts to Pheby, a slave whom her father had freed in his will, and who had recently married William Abdee. Abigail expressed confidence in the pair: “I have no doubt of their care and faithfulness, & prefer them to any other family.”

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted October 14th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Negroes,Ocean Voyages

“hopes of a joyfull meeting of my long absent Friend”

ABIGAIL ADAMS continues writing to her sister MARY CRANCH on board the ship Active on its way to England where Abigail will join her “long absent Friend”, her husband John. Abigail promises to post the journal to her sister immediately upon landing and finding a ship bound for America.

Our accommodations on Board are not what I could wish, or hoped for. We cannot be alone, only when the Gentlemen are thoughtfull enough to retire upon deck, which they do for about an hour in the course of the day; our state rooms are about half as large as Cousin Betsys little Chamber, with two Cabbins in each. . . . This place has a small grated window, which opens into the Companion, and is the only air admitted. The door opens into the Cabbin where the Gentlemen all Sleep; and wh[ere] we sit dine &c. We can only live with our door Shut, whilst we dress and undress. Necessity has no law, but what should I have thought on shore; to have layed myself down to sleep, in common with half a dozen Gentlemen? We have curtains it is true, and we only in part undress, about as much as the Yankee Bundlers*, but we have the satisfaction of falling in, with a set of well behaved, decent Gentlemen, whose whole deportment is agreeable to the strickest delicacy both in words and action.
If the wind and weather continues as favorable as it has hietherto been; we expect to make our passage in 30 days, which is going a hundred miles a day. Tis a vast tract of ocean which we have to traverse; I have contemplated it with its various appearences; it is indeed a secret world of wonders, and one of the Sublimist objects in Nature.
“Thou makest the foaming Billows roar
Thou makest the roaring Billows sleep.”
They proclaim the deity, and are objects too vast for the controul of feble Man. . . .

Abigail describes for her sister what the various passengers are doing as she writes.

I will now tell you, where I am sitting, at a square table in the Great Cabin, at one corner of which is Col. Norten and Mr. Foster engaged in playing back Gammon, at the other, Mr. Green writing, and at the fourth, Dr. Clark eating ham. Behind Col. Norten, Mr. Spear reading Tompsons Seasons with his Hat on, young Lawrence behind me reading Ansons Voyages, Ester kniting, the Steward and Boys Bustling about after wine and porter, and last of all as the least importantly employ’d Mrs. Adams**, and Nabby in their Cabbin a sleep and this at 12 oclock in the day. O Shame! The Captain comes down and finds me writing, kindly tenders me some large paper to write upon. I believe he thinks I shall have occasion for it. This man has a kindness in his disposition which his countanance does not promise.
Mr. Green comes down from deck and reports that the Mate says we are 16 hundred miles on our Way. This is good hearing. I can scarcly realize myself upon the ocean, or that I am within 14 hundred miles of the British coast. I rejoice with trembling. Painfull and fearfull Ideas, will arise and intermix, with the pleasureable hopes of a joyfull meeting of my long absent Friend. . . .
I shall write whilst I am on Board when ever I can catch a quiet time, it is an amusement to me, reading tires me, work I do sometimes, but when there is no writing there is less pleasure in working; I shall keep the Letter open untill I arrive and put it on Board the first vessel I find comeing to America.

* a courtship practice in 18th century New England in which two people of the opposite sex, partially clothed, lay side by side in bed.
** Love Lawrence Adams, daughter of Rev. William Lawrence of Lincoln. Her husband Joseph Adams, a physician, was a loyalist refugee.

Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted June 11th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Ocean Voyages,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

“that most disheartning, disspiriting malady, Sea sickness”

After the treaty of peace between Britain and the United States had been signed in 1783 John Adams, who had been named Minister to Britain, begged his wife Abigail to join him in London. His pain at their continued separation— it had been nearly six years since he “first crost the Atlantick”—was palpable: “What Shall I do for Want of my Family. . . . Will you come to me this fall and go home with me in the spring? If you will, come with my dear Nabby. . . . This is my sincere Wish, although the Expence will be considerable, the Trouble to you great. . . . I am So unhappy without you that I wish you would come at all Events.”

Abigail was reluctant to go: “the ocean is so formidable, the quitting my habitation and my Country, leaving my Children, my Friends, with the Idea that perhaps I may never see them again . . . there are hours when I feel unequal to the trial.” In the end she could not resist her husband’s entreaties.

She made all the preparations necessary for her departure. Her two boys were left with her sister ELIZABETH SHAW and her husband who would prepare them for Harvard. Her sister MARY CRANCH was to look in on John’s mother. The care of her house and furniture she entrusted to Pheby, a slave whom her father had freed in his will, and who had recently married William Abdee. Abigail expressed confidence in the pair: “I have no doubt of their care and faithfulness, & prefer them to any other family.” She let the farm to a tenant and enlisted two servants—a man and a woman—to accompany her.

ABIGAIL ADAMS sailed with her daughter Nabby on the ship Active on June 20, 1784. On the voyage she kept a journal, with entries on most days, that she sent to MARY CRANCH when she was able to find a ship bound for America.

Latitude 44 Long 24 on Board the Ship Active twesday July 6 1784
from the ocean
My dear Sister
I have been 16 days at sea, and have not attempted to write a single Letter; tis true I have kept a journal when ever I was able, but that must be close locked up; unless I was sure to hand it you with safety.
Tis said of Cato the Roman censor, that one of the 3 things which he regreted during his Life, was going once by sea when he might have made his journey by land; I fancy the philosopher was not proof against that most disheartning, disspiriting malady, Sea sickness. Of this I am very sure, that no Lady would ever wish; or a second time try the Sea; were the objects of her pursuit within the reach of a land journey. . . .
And this was truly the case of your poor sister, and all her female companions, when not one of us could make our own Beds; put on, or take of our shoes, or even lift a finger. As to our other cloathing we wore the greater part of it, untill we were able to help ourselves; added to this misfortune Brisler my Man servant was as bad as any of us. . . .
Our sickness continued for ten days; with some intermissions. We crawled upon deck when ever we were able, but it was so cold and damp that we could not remain long upon it, and the confinement of the Air below, the constant rolling of the vessel and the Nausea of the Ship which was much too tight, contributed to keep up our disease. The vessel is very deep loaded with oil and potash, the oil leaks the potash smoaks and ferments, all adds to the flavour. When you add to all this the horrid dirtiness of the ship, the slovenness of the steward, and the unavoidable sloping spilling occasiond by the tossing of the Ship, I am Sure you will be thankfull that the pen is not in the hands of Swift, or Smollet, and still more so that you are far removed from the Scene.

More from Abigail Adams’s journal in the next post.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 September 1783, Adams Family Papers: Electronic Archive Massachusetts Historical Society; In the Words of Women by Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011), 257-259. “Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted May 26th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Ocean Voyages,Shaw, Elizabeth Smith,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

” you possess a guide more certain than any I can give”

When John Adams was elected to succeed George Washington as President, ABIGAIL ADAMS wrote to former First Lady MARTHA WASHINGTON before the inauguration in 1791 soliciting her advice on how best to to carry out the duties of her new position. She asked Martha for some rules to guide her. Martha wrote the following letter spelling out what she perceived as good practice.

Philadelphia. 20th February 1797My Dear Madam
your kind and affectionate letter of the 9th instant has been duly received.— For the favourable sentiments you have been pleased to express for me, and for the testimony it contains of the aprobation of my conduct in the station I am about to retire from, I pray you to accept my grateful acknowledgments—

It is very flattering for me, my dear Madam, to be asked for rules, by which I have acquired the good opinion, which you say is entertained of me.— With in your self, you possess a guide more certain than any I can give, to direct you:— I mean the good sence and judgment for which you are distinguished;—but more from a willingness to comply with your request, than from any conviction—of the necessity, I will concisely add—

That the practice with me, has been always to receive the first visits, and then to return them.— These have been repeated (when received) after an absence of considerable length from the seat of the government.—

It has been a custom for the ladies of the diplomatic corps, to be introduced in their first visits by the secretary of state;—and for strangers by those who are known to them and to me; after which the visits have been returned.— This has been the general etequette;—but familiar morning visits have been received and made without cerimoney.—

The President having resolved to accept no invitations, it followed of course that I never dined or supped out, except once with the vice President, once with each of the Governers of the state whare we have resided—and (very rarely) at the dancing assemblies.— In a few instances only—I have drank tea with some of the public characters—and with a particular friend or acquantance.—

with respect to the Trades people of this city, I find but little difference in them: and of domestics, we have none I would venture to recommend, except the steward; who is capable, sober, active and obliging; and for any thing I know, or believe to the contrary, is honest.—

The President feels very sensibly for the politeness of your expressions as they relate to him self; and unites most cordially and sincerely with me in wishing that you, and the President elect, may enjoy every honour happiness and ease which the station you are to fill, can afford— and with compliments to Miss smith [Nabby Adams Smith] in which Nelly Custis [Eleanor Parke Custis, granddaughter of Martha called Nelly] joins us

I am my dear Madam with great / esteem and affectionate regard your / your obedient
Martha Washington

Citation: Martha Washington to Abigail Adams, 20 February 1797,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 11, July 1795 – February 1797, ed. Margaret A. Hogan, C. James Taylor, Sara Martin, Neal E. Millikan, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, and Gregg L. Lint. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013, pp. 570–571.The portrait of Abigail Adams (circa 1800-1815) is at the National Gallery in Washington, DC. Martha Washington’s portrait is by Gilbert Stuart, 1796.

posted May 2nd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, John,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

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