Archive for the ‘Smith, Abigail “Nabby” Adams’ Category

“merit; not tittles, gave a man preeminence in our Country”

“I long for the day which will give us land,” ABIGAIL ADAMS says in the journal she kept for her sister MARY CRANCH. The ship Active, bearing her to England, is nearing the end of its journey. But Abigail still has time to describe a passenger she heartily dislikes, not only for his politeness to her merely because of her connections but also because he is haughty and overly impressed by titles and position in general. She proudly notes how mortifying it must have been to the class-conscious British to be defeated by a collection of “mere mecanicks and husband men”.

fryday,16 July
We have an other wet misty day; the Cabbin so damp that I dare not set in it; am therefore obliged confined as it is to keep in my own little room; and upon my bed. I long for the day which will give us land. . . . We have but one passenger which we should have been willing to have been without; I have no particular reason to dislike him, as he is studiously complasant to me; but I know his politeness to me, is not personally upon my own account; but because of my connection which gives me importance sufficient to intitle me to his notice. Nabby [the Adams’s daughter Abigail known as Nabby] says he is exactly Such a Character as Mr. Anger [Oakes Angier studied law with John Adams and remained his friend for many years; Abigail disliked him.] I realy think there is a stricking resemblance; he is always inquiring who was such a General? What was his origin and rank in Life? I have felt a Disposition to quarrel with him several times; but have restraind myself; and only observed to him mildly, that merit; not tittles, gave a man preeminence in our Country, that I did not doubt it was a mortifying circumstance to the British nobility, to find themselves so often conquerd by mecanicks and mere husband men—but that we esteemed it our Glory to draw such characters not only into the field, but into the Senate; and I believed no one would deny but what they had shone in both. All our passengers enjoyed this conversation, and the Gentleman was civil enough to drop the Subject, but the venom Spits out very often; yet the creature is sensible and entertaining when upon indifferent Subjects: he is a haughty Scotchman. He hates the French, and upon all occasions ridicules them and their Country. I fancy from his haughty airs, that his own rank in Life has not been superiour to those whom he affects to dispise. He is not a man of liberal Sentiments, and is less beloved than any passenger we have on Board. A mans humour contributes much to the making him agreable, or other ways, dark and sour humours, especially those which have a spice of malevolence in them are vastly dissagreable. Such men have no musick in their Souls. I believe he would hardly be so complasant if he knew how meanly I thought of him; but he deserves it all, his whole countanance shews his Heart.

“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 21st, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Ocean Voyages,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

“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

The Adamses: “quite out of their element”

MARY HILL LAMAR wrote again from London to her brother Henry Hill in Philadelphia this time including a couple of catty remarks about John and Abigail Adams as well as Ann Willing Bingham and her husband, said to be the wealthiest man in America.

London, March 18, 1786. . . . Please make my affectionate compliments to my sister Mrs. Hill, with my thanks for the nice cranberries. Before this gets to hand you will probably see Mr. and Mrs. Bingham, whom I have not seen since their return from France, although I called twice after I heard of their being in London. I am told the extreme of the French fashion, or her own taste, has made great alteration, while on the continent, in her manners, &c. When I mentioned her own taste, it was because she appeared at the opera in a hat unlike anything that ever made its appearance there before or since; fond as they are here of the French fashions. She has been introduced to their majesties, by Mr. and Mrs. Adams, our American plenipo [plenipotentiary], who, by the by, the girls have been to wait on several times, with myself. We have had them to a party of cards and tea, and she has been asked a second time, but as they have not returned the compliment, I think it unnecessary to pay them any farther attention.

They seem sensible people, one and all, but quite out of their element. Mrs. Adams has been very handsome, but an indifferent figure, being very short and fat. Miss [the Adams’s daughter Nabby], by some, reckoned handsome. . . .

Excuse haste, and believe me, my dear brother,
Your sincerely affectionate sister,
MARY LAMAR

John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881 (Philadelphia: 1854), 260-61. Anne Willing Bingham (above) was the model for an early coin design. More than 23 million non-gold coins of Bingham were introduced into circulation from 1795 to 1808.

posted February 16th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Americans Abroad,Bingham, Anne Willing,Bingham, William,Fashion,Hill, Henry,Lamar, Mary Hill,London,Paris,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

“I hope and pray, I may never again be left to go to sea”

ABIGAIL ADAMS continued to describe the voyage from England to Boston in a letter written at sea {May 29, 1788) to her daughter Abigail Adams Smith. Ships met in passing are “spoken to,” that is contacted for news or an exchange of letters. The Lucretia met several en route. Normally there were doctors on board to tend to the health of the crew and passengers, to deal with accidents and with injuries sustained in wars. (Dr. Stephen Maturin in the O’Brian books). One assumes that the doctor on the Lucretia delivered Mrs. Briesler’s baby. Ships’ crews also always included carpenters to repair damage to the vessel due to battles or severe weather.

My Dear Daughter:
Tis agreed by all the hands, that they never knew so blustering a May. We have met with several ships, with which we have spoken; and one morning after a very heavy wind we espied a ship in distress, having lost her masts; we steered immediately for her, and found her to be an American ship, captain M——, called the Thomas and Sally, bound to Baltimore. We lay to, and sent hands on board of her, to assist in getting up another mast. We sent our old doctor on board to bleed two men, much hurt by the fall of their masts; and Mr. Boyd [William Boyd of Portsmouth], one of our passengers, said he would go on board and see if there were any passengers; as the sea ran high I thought it was rather dangerous, but he was young and enterprising; our mate, carpenter, doctor, and four sailors, accompanied him. It was late in the afternoon before they could get back, and really at the hazard of their lives, for the wind had increased to a storm and the sea ran mountain high; we were all very anxious for them, but happily they all returned safe; Mr. Boyd bringing us an account, that there were four passengers on board, amongst whom was poor Hindman [possibly William Hindman, an American lawyer who had studied at the Inns of Court in London], almost terrified to death; but as the ship was a very good one, and they had got up a new mast, we left them, we hope, safe. We spoke the same day with a brig from London to Virginia, and an American ship from Bordeaux to Boston. For these four days past we have had finer weather, but alas no good winds, and no prospect of reaching Boston until the middle of June, if then.

You will be anxious to know how we have done: really better than my fears. With respect to myself, I have been less seasick than when I crossed before: want of sleep I have suffered more from. Your papa has been very well. But Esther you say, what have you done with her? Yesterday at five, she had a daughter, a poor little starvling, but with special lungs, old nurse Comis is just the thing, never sick, can eat and sleep, at all times, as well as any sailor on board. We got through this business much better than I feared we should. I had for the first time in my life, to dress the little animal, who was buried in its clothes. At present, we seem to want only a good wind. I am almost exhausted, and my patience wearied out; if we had been favoured with a fair wind, we should have got home before this matter took place. Brisler has been much the sickest person on board ship. I expected him to have been half nurse, instead of which, he has wanted constant nursing. I hope and pray, I may never again be left to go to sea: of all places, it is the most disagreeable, such a sameness, and such a tossing to and fro. Our passengers are agreeable; our captain is very clever; our ship very clean. We have many things to be thankful for. Adieu!
Yours,
A. A.

The Thomas and Sally, Capt. F. Dorset (Dorsett), left London on 15 April and arrived safely in Baltimore by 24 June. The Adamses arrived in Boston Harbor on June 17 and the next day there was a public reception for them after their nine-year absence from America. Read the newspaper account here.

Source: “Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams Smith, 29 May 1788,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-08-02-0130. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 8, March 1787 – December 1789, ed. C. James Taylor, Margaret A. Hogan, Jessie May Rodrique, Gregg L. Lint, Hobson Woodward, and Mary T. Claffey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007, pp. 266–269.]

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