“. . . 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

“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

I am quite out of conceit with calms.

ABIGAIL ADAMS continues the journal she kept on the Atlantic crossing, intending to send it to her sister MARY CRANCH when she joined her husband in London. She describes a “calm” at sea and claims that it is harder on the body “than in rideing 50 miles in a day.” The damp causes her rheumatism to recur and she fervently wishes the journey would soon be over.

thursday 15 of july. . . . Monday we had a fair wind but too much to be able to write, as it was right aft, and we pitch’d exceedingly, which is a motion more dissagreeable to me than the rocking’s tho less fatigueing; a twesday a Calm. Should you not suppose that in a Calm we at least had the Satisfaction of lyeing still? Alass it is far otherways; as my flesh, and bones, witness. A Calm generally succeeds a storm or a fresh Breeze; the Sea has a great swell after the wind is silent, so that the Ship lies intirely at the mercy of the waves, and is knocked from side to side with a force you can form no Idea of without experience; I have been more wearied and worn out with the motion and exercise of a calm, than in rideing 50 miles in a day. We have had 3 days in succession nearly calm. The first is the most troublesome, as the motion of the Sea Subsides in a degree. It is however a great trial of ones patience, to think yourself within a few days of your desired port, to look at it, as the promised land; and yet to be held fast. . . .
I begin to think that a Calm is not desireable in any situation in life, every object is most Beautifull in motion, a ship under sail trees Gently agitated with the wind, and a fine women danceing, are 3 instances in point; Man was made for action, and for Bustle too I believe. I am quite out of conceit with calms. I have more reason for it too, than many others, for the dampness of the ship has for several day threatned me with the Rheumatisim, and yesterday morning I was seazed with it in good earnest; I could not raise my Head, nor get out of bed without assistance, I had a good deal of a fever and was very sick; I was fearfull of this before I came to sea and had medicine put up proper, which the doctor administerd. What with that, good Nursing and rubbing, flannel, &c. I am able to day to set up in my Bed, and write as you see. To day we have a small wind, but tis night a Head. This is still mortifying, but what we had reason to expect. Patience, patience, patience is the first second and third virtues of a seaman, or rather as necessary to them, as to a statesman. 3 days good wind would give us land.

“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 18th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail, Cranch, Mary (Smith), 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

Dear Reader

Please excuse the absence of posts in the past week. Have been dealing with a family medical problem. Expecting to return to Abigail Adams’s journal of her sea voyage shortly. Thank you.

posted July 2nd, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Uncategorized

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