Archive for the ‘Britain’ Category

“a tour of about six hundred miles”

When John and ABIGAIL ADAMS were in London—John being the American minister to England from 1785 to 1788—they lived at 9 Grosvenor Square. As an expat in London I visited the site which is on the northeast corner at the intersection of Duke Street and Brook Street. A plaque, placed by the Colonial Dames of America in 1933, includes the information that the Adams’s daughter Abigail (Nabby) was married there to William Stevens Smith.
In 1787 Abigail and John decided to see some of England outside London before they departed. They set out on a journey to the West Country; Abigail recounted some of her observations and experiences in a letter to her sister Mary Cranch.

Grosvenor Square [London], 15 September, 1787My Dear Sister,
When I wrote you last, I was just going to set out on a journey to the West of England. I promised you to visit Mr. Cranch’s friends and relatives. This we did, as I shall relate to you. We were absent a month, and made a tour of about six hundred miles. The first place we made any stay at was Winchester. There was formerly an Earl of Winchester, by the name of Saer de Quincy. He was created Earl of Winchester by King John, in 1224, and signed Magna Charta, which I have seen; the original being now in the British Museum, with his handwriting to it.

After conveying some information to her sister about the Cranch ancestry Abigail expressed curiosity about her family, the Quincys.

I have a perfect remembrance of a parchment in our grandmother’s possession, which, when quite a child, I used to amuse myself with. This was a genealogical table, which gave the descent of the family from the time of William the Conqueror. This parchment Mr. Edmund Quincy borrowed, on some occasion, and I have often heard our grandmother say, with some anger, that she could never recover it. As the old gentleman is still living, I wish Mr. Cranch would question him about it, and know what hands it went into, and whether there is any probability of its ever being recovered; and be so good as to ask uncle Quincy how our grandfather came by it, and from whence our great-grandfather came, where he first settled, and take down in writing all you can learn from him and Mr. Edmund Quincy respecting the family. You will smile at my zeal, perhaps, on this occasion; but can it be wondered at that I should wish to trace an ancestor amongst the signers of Magna Charta? Amongst those who voted against receiving an explanatory charter in the Massachusetts, stands the name of our venerable grandfather, accompanied with only one other; this the journals of the House will show, to his immortal honor. I do not expect either titles or estate from the recovery of the genealogical table, were there any probability of obtaining it. Yet, if I was in possession of it, money should not purchase it from me.

But to return to Winchester. It is a very ancient place, and was formerly the residence of the Saxon and Norman kings. There still remains a very famous cathedral church, in the true Gothic architecture, being partly built in the year 1079. I attended divine service there, but was much more entertained with the venerable and majestic appearance of the ancient pile, than with the modern, flimsy discourse of the preacher. A meaner performance I do not recollect to have heard; but, in a church which would hold several thousands, it might truly be said, two or three were met together, and those appeared to be the lower order of the people.

More to follow.

Abigail’s letter is from the volume Letters of Mrs. Adams, The Wife of John Adams With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume II, 1840. The illustration of the Adams’s Grosvenor Square House is taken from this SITE. The engraving of Winchester Cathedral can be found HERE.

posted August 4th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Americans Abroad,Britain,Cranch, Mary (Smith),London,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams,Smith, William Stevens,Travel

“we are struggling for our liberties”

In a letter to her brother dated 28 October 1775, Esther De Berdt Reed, back in Philadelphia, expanded on the mood of the times.

It is with particular pleasure I now sit down to write to my dear Dennis, as I am free from the fear of any prying intruder; the thought that my late letters have been subjected to such curiosity has been a painful restraint upon me, and perhaps I have not been cautious enough in what I have written, but so it is, and if I have committed treason, it must remain. . . . [Mr. Reed’s] service has proved of so much consequence in the councils of the Camp, that he has devoted himself to the service of the public, and I doubt not it will give him as much pleasure in the recollection as any occurrence in his life; —indeed, my dear Dennis, the cause in which he is engaged is the cause of Liberty and virtue, how much soever it may be branded by the names of rebellion and treason. But I need not vindicate or explain the motives of our conduct to you. . . . It seems now to depend on the reception of our last Petition from the Congress to the King, if that should be so considered as to lay a foundation for negotiation, we may be again reconciled,—if not, I imagine WE SHALL DECLARE FOR INDEPENDENCE, and exert our utmost to defend ourselves. This proposition would have alarmed almost every person on the continent a twelvemonth ago, but now the general voice is, if the Ministry and Nation will drive us to it, we must do it, rather than submit, after so many public resolutions to the contrary. In this case . . . no trade can be carried on between the two countries. . . .
My dear little girl . . . has again recovered her usual health, but she is of so delicate a constitution, that she often droops and alarms me. My son Joseph and daughter Hetty are both well. Mama keeps her health and spirits amazingly. Mr. Reed has recovered his by his journey to the Camp. Everybody tells me he is grown so fat I should hardly know him on his return, which I expect will be one day this week. He has been gone from home above four months; his business has suffered not a little, but in such times like these every person must sacrifice something. . . . Adieu, my dear Dennis,—think of us often; remember we are struggling for our liberties and everything that is dear to us in life.
I am ever, most affectionately,
Yours, E. Reed

Joseph Reed gave up a lucrative law practice in Philadelphia to become the secretary and aide-de-camp to General George Washington. He held the rank of colonel.

The letter can be found on pages 96-97 of In the Words of Women. Reed’s portrait is by Charles Willson Peale, engraved by John Sartain.

posted October 22nd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Britain,Patriots,Philadelphia,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph,Resistance to British,Washington, George

“Where sleeps the Virtue & Justice of the English Nation?”

This post is a repeat of one dated February 6, 2012 as it properly belongs in this extended examination of Esther DeBerdt Reed. In July, 1775, increasing danger as well as the poor health of her daughter Martha forced Esther to move in with a friend in Green Bank (Burlington), New Jersey, and from there to Perth Amboy. After George Washington asked her husband Joseph Reed, now a lieutenant colonel with the Pennsylvania troops, to be his military secretary, he was absent from home a great deal. In this letter to her brother in England she shows herself to be a staunch supporter of the American cause.

Amboy Septr 8th 1775You will see by the date of this my dear Dennis that I am from home; the health of my dear Girl which always suffers in the Summer Months was the Chief reason of my coming here. I find it very beneficial to her & pleasant for myself. . . . My dr Mr. R . . . . is . . . there amidst all the confusion & horrors of War, before this time you knew our dreadful situation, here indeed & every Southern Province. We only here the Sound, but it is such a one, as sometimes shakes my firmness & resolution, but I find the human Mind can be habituated to all most anything, even the most distressing Scenes, after a while become familiar.
I am happy that Mr. R’s situation at the Camp is the most eligable he coud have been placed in, his accomodations, with the General [Washington], in his Confidence, & his Duty in the Councils, rather than the Field. While his person is safe from danger I chearfully give up his profitts in Business (which were not trifling) & I acquies without repining at his being so long absent from me. I think the Cause in which he is engaged so just, so Glorious & I hope will be so victorious that private interest & pleasure may & ought to be given up without a murmur.
But where sleeps all our Friends in England? Where sleeps the Virtue & Justice of the English Nation? will nothing rouse them? or are they so few in Number & small in Consequence that tho’ awake, their voice cannot be heard for the multitude of our Enemies—how strange woud this Situation of things have appeared even in Prospect a few years ago? coud we have forseen it when we parted in England it would probably have prevented that Seperation. We might often, if we coud forsee Events provide against approaching evils, but I believe it is right we shoud not, for tho our private happiness might have been promoted, yet our Country woud not been benefited, for at this time she requires all her friends & has a right to expert services from such heads & hearts as can most conduce to her Safety. We impatiently wait to hear what effect the Battle of Bunker Hill has both on our friends & Enemies. A few weeks I suppose will let us know. . . .
I take it for granted that I am writing to some curious person in office & that my Letter, insignificant as it is, will be open’d before you get it. One from Mr. Lane Secry of the Jersey Society to Mr. R came here with the seal quite broke as if it was done on purpose to shew they dare & woud do it.
I hope it is no Treason to say I wish well to the cause of America tho’ guess Treason is not now tho’t much of—however I am safe in telling you how much my love is kept alive tho’ at this distance & with what undiminished Affectn I am Ever truly Yours,
No Reason sign name now

The excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 4, pages 95-96.

posted October 19th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Battles,Britain,Children,Patriots,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph,Washington, George

“what is to be the fate of this once rising country”

Over time the tone of the letters of Esther De Berdt Reed to her brother Dennis in England began to change. She became more sympathetic to the patriot cause, eventually becoming a committed supporter. She wrote to Dennis on 2 November 1774 of the determined resistance to the Parliamentary Acts which Americans perceived as depriving them of their rights as Englishmen.

when I tell you I have another daughter, you will not wonder that I have this time been a little negligent in answering letters. I assure you my hands are pretty full of business. Three children seem to take up all my time and attention. . . .
Many people here are very sanguine in their expectations that the Acts will be repealed immediately. . . . The People of New England . . . are prepared for the worst event, and they have such ideas of their injured Liberty, and so much enthusiasm in the cause, that I do not think that any power on earth could take it from them but with their lives. The proceedings of the Congress will show you how united the whole continent is in the cause, and from them you may judge of the sense of the people. . . .

She wrote again on 13 February 1775:

[Mr. Reed’s] business requires so much head work. . . . This with his late attention to politics has engrossed him more than common. . . . Of politics, I suppose you will expect me to say something, though everything now must come from you, and we are anxious to know what is to be the fate of this once rising country. It now seems standing on the brink of ruin. But the public papers will tell you everything, and Mr. Reed will also write you on the subject, so that little will be left for me to say, only that the people are in general united. The Quakers are endeavouring to steer a middle course, and make perhaps a merit of it to Government at home. How far their conduct will answer, I don’t know, but it is despised here. One great comfort I have is, that if these great affairs must be brought to a crisis and decided, it had better be in our time than our childrens. . . .
I love to think of England and of old times, perhaps I may see it again. It is surely a noble country, but such wishes and hopes I must keep concealed: perhaps they had better not rise at all. . . . adieu. Believe me, ever most assuredly and affectionately,
Yours, E. Reed

The above excerpts can be found on page 95 of In the Words of Women.

posted October 15th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Britain,Children,New England,Patriots,Philadelphia,Quakers,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

“I wish I could stop with that number . . . “

Esther De Berdt Reed kept up her correspondence with her brother in England wishing she could see him either in England or America. As tensions increased between Britain and her American colonies it became less and less likely that Joseph Reed would take a place in England as his law practice was doing quite well in Philadelphia, or that Dennis would obtain a position in America. Though Esther followed political events closely—she applauded the return of Lord Dartmouth as Secretary of State for the Colonies—she was still largely occupied with her children and their needs. She wrote to Dennis on October 20, 1772 with domestic news and new commissions.

We have not yet had the box from on board the vessel: the basket we have opened; the walnuts are very fine indeed. . . . they are a great rarity here. The lamps, if we can manage them, will be of great use in summer, and perhaps will do to write by in the office. . . . The caps for Patty I would not have you purchase of Miss Gabells,—the ones you sent last year were made of such bad materials that they are now of no use. . . . To my other commission, I add a box of ivory letters for Patty, and a hat or cap for my son, fit for a child of a year old. I don’t like hussar caps and feathers; it must be something genteel, like a gentleman’s child, not a butcher’s. The gown I proposed to send for, I find I can have done here, and as it is not worth much, I shan’t take the trouble of sending. I have been confined the week past with my dear children, and the nursery has been almost all my care. . . . You see I have fulfilled your wish of a son. I wish I could stop with that number, but I don’t expect that. . . .
Ever most affectionately,
Yours,
E. Reed.

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 180-82.

posted October 8th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Britain,Children,Clothes,London,Philadelphia,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

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