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Saturday, October 25, 2014

John and Abigail Adams: 250 Years Strong

Today marks the "sestercentennial" (250th anniversary) of the marriage of John and Abigail Adams, who were by far the coolest couple of the founding era.  Today, several historical societies, to include the Abigail Adams Historical Society, the Adams National Historical Park, and the First Church in Weymouth will be celebrating this historical event in a variety of ways to include a complete reenactment of the Adams wedding!

For anyone who has studied the American Revolution and the lives of the key founders in particular, you are more than familiar with the relationship between John and Abigail Adams.  Their bond ran much deeper than husband and wife. They were each other's closest confidants. Each relied on the other in a way that no other "founding couple" ever did. Their vast collection of correspondence with one another is a treasure trove for all Americans to enjoy. For historians today, John and Abigail Adams are authentic and "accessible" in a way that other Founding Fathers are not.  And in the fifty four years they had together, John and Abigail Adams forged a bond that would easily rival that of Romeo and Juliet, Mork and Mindy, or Sonny and Cher!

Below are a few small excerpts from some of my favorite letters between John and Abigail Adams during their courtship years. You can access all of their surviving correspondence by clicking here:

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ABIGAIL SMITH to JOHN ADAMS: MAY 9, 1764

Welcome, Welcome thrice welcome is Lysander to Braintree, but ten times more so would he be at Weymouth, whither you are affraid to come. -- Once it was not so. May not I come and see you, at least look thro a window at you? Should you not be glad to see your Diana? I flatter myself you would.
[...]
As to a neglect of Singing, that I acknowledg to be a Fault which if posible shall not be complaind of a second time, nor should you have had occasion for it now, if I had not a voice harsh as the screech of a peacock. The Capotal fault shall be rectified, tho not with any hopes of being lookd upon as a Beauty, to appear agreeable in the Eyes of Lysander, has been for Years past, and still is the height of my ambition. The 5th fault, will endeavour to amend of it, but you know I think that a gentleman has no business to concern him self about the Leggs of a Lady, for my part I do not apprehend any bad effects from the practise, yet since you desire it, and that you may not for the future trouble Yourself so much about it, -- will reform. The sixth and last can be cured only by a Dancing School. -- But I must not write more. I borrow a hint from you, therefore will not add to my faults that of a tedious Letter -- a fault I never yet had reason to complain of in you, for however long, they never were otherways than agreeable to your own 

 A. Smith

JOHN ADAMS to ABIGAIL SMITH: SEPTEMBER 30, 1764
I have this Evening been to see the Girl. -- What Girl? Pray, what Right have you to go after Girls? -- Why, my Dear, the Girl I mentioned to you, Miss Alice Brackett. But Miss has hitherto acted in the Character of an House-Keeper, and her noble aspiring Spirit had rather rise to be a Wife than descend to be a Maid.
To be serious, however, she says her Uncle, whose House she keeps cannot possibly spare her, these two Months, if then, and she has no Thoughts of leaving him till the Spring, when she intends for Boston to become a Mantua Maker.
[...]
Tomorrow Morning I embark for Plymouth -- with a (fowl) disordered stomach, a pale Face, an Aching Head and an Anxious Heart. And What Company shall I find there? Why a Number of bauling Lawyers, drunken Squires, and impertinent and stingy Clients. If you realize this, my Dear, since you have agreed to run fortunes with me, you will submit with less Reluctance to any little Disappointments and Anxieties you may meet in the Conduct of your own Affairs. 

I have a great Mind to keep a Register of all the stories, Squibbs, Gibes, and Compliments, I shall hear thro the whole Week. If I should I could entertain you with as much Wit, Humour, smut, Filth, Delicacy, Modesty and Decency, tho not with so exact Mimickry, as a certain Gentleman did the other Evening. Do you wonder, my Dear, why that Gentleman does not succeed in Business, when his whole study and Attention has so manifestly been engaged in the nobler Arts of smutt, Double Ententre, and Mimickry of Dutchmen and Negroes? I have heard that Imitators, tho they imitate well, Master Pieces in elegant and valuable Arts, are a servile Cattle. And that Mimicks are the lowest Species of Imitators, and I should think that Mimicks of Dutchmen and Negroes were the most sordid of Mimicks. If so, to what a Depth of the Profound have we Page 4 page image View larger image plunged that Gentlemans Character. Pardon me, my dear, you know that Candour is my Characteristick-as it is undoubtedly of all the Ladies who are entertained with that Gents Conversation. 

Oh my dear Girl, I thank Heaven that another Fortnight will restore you to me -- after so long a separation. My soul and Body have both been thrown into Disorder, by your Absence, and a Month of two more would make me the most insufferable Cynick, in the World. I see nothing but Faults, Follies, Frailties and Defects in any Body, lately. People have lost all their good Properties or I my justice, or Discernment.


ABIGAIL SMITH to JOHN ADAMS: APRIL 20,1764
Fryday Morning April th 20

What does it signify, why may not I visit you a Days as well as Nights? I no sooner close my Eyes than some invisible Being, swift as the Alborack of Mahomet, bears me to you. I see you, but cannot make my self visible to you. That tortures me, but it is still worse when I do not come for I am then haunted by half a dozen ugly Sprights. One will catch me and leep into the Sea, an other will carry me up a precipice (like that which Edgar describes to Lear,) then toss me down, and were I not then light as the [illegible] Gosemore I should shiver into atoms -- an other will be pouring down my throat stuff worse than the witches Broth in Macbeth. -- Where I shall be carried next I know not, but I had rather have the small pox by inoculation half a dozen times, than be sprighted about as I am. What say you can you give me any encouragement to come? By the time you receive this hope from experience you will be able to say that the distemper is but a triffle. Think you I would not endure a trife for the pleasure of seeing Lysander, yes were it ten times that triffle I would. -- But my own inclinations must not be followed -- to Duty I sacrifice them. Yet O my Mamma forgive me if I say, you have forgot, or never knew -- but hush. -- And do you Lysander excuse me that something I promis'd you, since it was a Speach more undutifull than that which I Just now stop'd my self in -- for the present good by. 

Fryday Evening 

 I hope you smoke your Letters well, before you deliver them. Mamma is so fearful least I should catch the distemper, that she hardly ever thinks the Letters are sufficently purified. Did you never rob a Birds nest? Do you remember how the poor Bird would fly round and round, fearful to come nigh, yet not know how to leave the place -- just so they say I hover round Tom whilst he is smokeing my Letters. 

 But heigh day Mr. whats your Name? -- who taught you to threaten so vehemently "a Character besides that of critick, in which if I never did, I always hereafter shall fear you." Thou canst not prove a villan, imposible. I therefore still insist upon it, that I neither do, nor can fear thee. For my part I know not that there is any pleasure in being feard, but if there is, I hope you will be so generous as to fear your Diana that she may at least be made sensible of the pleasure. 

Mr. Ayers will bring you this Letter, and the Bag. Do no [t] repine -- it is fill'd with Balm. Here is Love, respects, regards, good wishes -- a whole waggon load of them sent you from all the good folks in the Neighbourhood. To morrow makes the 14th Day. How many more are to come? I dare not trust my self with the thought. Adieu. Let me hear from you by Mr. Ayers, and excuse this very bad writing, if you had mended my pen it would have been better, once more adieu. Gold and Silver have I none, but such as I have, give I unto thee -- which is the affectionate Regard of Your 

 A. Smith

JOHN ADAMS to ABIGAIL SMITH: OCTOBER 4, 1762


Miss Adorable
By the same Token that the Bearer hereof satt up with you last night I hereby order you to give him, as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 O'Clock as he shall please to Demand and charge them to my Account: This Order, or Requisition call it which you will is in Consideration of a similar order Upon Aurelia for the like favour, and I presume I have good Right to draw upon you for the Kisses as I have given two or three Millions at least, when one has been received, and of Consequence the Account between us is immensely in favour of yours,
John Adams

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