Revolutionary writings — Abigail Adams to John Adams Oct 1782

Massachusetts Historical Society

Just as families today are separated in wartime, and in other measures of public service, Abigail and John Adams  were separated for 10 of their 54 years of marriage. He left for Philadelphia in 1774 for the Continental Congresses, spent time in France, and eventually rejoined her in 1784. (Source: Our Country’s Founders: A Book of Advice for Young People, Ed. William J. Bennett, Aladdin Paperbacks, 2001)  She wrote many letters that are preserved and they demonstrate superior strength of character and conviction, along with undeniable love. What appears to be a complete archive is housed and digitized at The Massachusetts Historical Society.  Here is one of them (in part), dated October 25, 1782 written at a time that they had been continuously separated for three years. The comments in [ ] are from the Historical Society.  Note the quaint language and odd (to us) spelling, and especially note her references to a “the untitled Man to whom [she] gave [her] heart’ and then to her “titled Husband.”

My Dearest Friend

The family are all retired to rest, the Busy scenes of the day are over, a day which I wished to have devoted in a particular manner to my dearest Friend, but company falling in prevented nor could I claim a moment untill this silent watch of the Night.

Look — (is there a dearer Name than Friend; think of it for me;) Look to the date of this Letter — and tell me, what are the thoughts which arise in your mind? Do you not recollect that Eighteen years have run their anual Circuit, since we pledged our mutual Faith to each other, and the Hymeneal torch was Lighted at the Alter of Love. Yet, yet it Burns with unabating fervour, old ocean has not Quenched it, nor old Time smootherd it, in the Bosom of Portia. It cheers her in the Lonely Hour, it comforts her even in the gloom which sometimes possessess her mind.

It is my Friend from the Remembrance of the joys I have lost that the arrow of affliction is pointed. I recollect the untitled Man to whom I gave my Heart, and in the agony of recollection when time and distance present themseves together, wish he had never been any other. Who shall give me back Time? Who shall compensate to me those years I cannot recall? How dearly have I paid for a titled Husband; should I wish you less wise, that I might enjoy more happiness? I cannot find that in my Heart. Yet providence has wisely placed the real Blessings of Life within the reach of moderate abilities, and he who is wiser than his Neighbour sees so much more to pitty and Lament, that I doubt whether the balance of happiness is in his Scale.

I feel a disposition to Quarrel with a race of Beings who have cut me of, in the midst of my days from the only Society I delighted in. Yet No Man liveth for himself, says an authority I will not dispute. Let me draw satisfaction from this Source and instead of murmuring and repineing at my Lot consider it in a more pleasing view. Let me suppose that the same Gracious Being who first smiled upon our union and Blessed us in each other, endowed him my Friend with powers and talents for the Benifit of Mankind and gave him a willing mind, to improve them for the service of his Country

You have obtaind honour and Reputation at Home and abroad. O may not an inglorious Peace wither the Laurels you have won. * * * *

Adieu my dear Friend.

Ever Ever Yours Portia

They had adopted pen names


About Gil Jones

CPA/Attorney/Judge by training and trade. Hobby nut at heart with BMW m/c, computers, ham radio, kayak fishing, photography, hiking and, starting in 2010 some semi-serious running and bicycling (road and mountain bikes). Retired after 16 years on a Texas District Court bench and since 2013 have been mediating cases. I am a Credentialed Distinguished mediator (TMCA).
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One Response to Revolutionary writings — Abigail Adams to John Adams Oct 1782

  1. kathybohlin says:

    I am a real fan of Abigail Adams (and early American history for that matter). Have enjoyed watching the HBO series on John Adams several times. How easily we forget the sacrifices made by our founders so we could enjoy the freedoms we have today.

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