John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, 25 August 1776

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Philadelphia, 25 August, 1776.

THE day before yesterday and yesterday, we expected letters and papers by the post, but by some accident, or mismanagement of the riders, no post is arrived yet, which has been a great disappointment to me. I watch with longing eyes for the post, because you have been very good, of late, in writing by every one. I long to hear that Charles is in as fair a way through the distemper, as the rest of you.

Poor Barrell is violently ill, in the next chamber to mine, of an inflammatory fever. I hear every cough, sigh and groan. His fate hangs in a critical suspense. The least thing may turn the scale against him. Miss Quincy is here, very humanely employed in nursing him. This goodness does her honor. Mr. Paine has recovered of his illness, and, by present appearances, is in better health than before. I hope it will not be my fate to be sick here. Indeed, I am not much afraid of these acute disorders; mine are more chronical, nervous and slow. I must have a ride, I cannot make it do without it.

We are now approaching rapidly to the autumnal equinox, and no great blow has yet been struck, in the martial way, by our enemies, nor by us. If we should be blessed, this year, with a few storms, as happy as those which fell out last year in the beginning of September, they will do much for us. The British fleet, where they now lie, have not a harbor so convenient or safe as they had, last year. Another winter, will do much for us too. We shall have more and better soldiers. We shall be better armed. We shall have a greater force at sea. We shall have more trade. Our artillery will be greatly increased, our officers will have more experience, and our soldiers more discipline, our politicians more courage and confidence, and our enemies less hope. Our American commonwealths will be all completely formed and organized, and every thing, I hope, will go on with greater vigor.

After I had written thus far, the post came in and brought me your favor of the 14th of August. Abby by this time, I conclude, is well and Charles, I hope, is broken out. Don't you recollect, upon this occasion, Doctor Bylcs's benediction to me, when I was inoculated ? As you will see the piquancy of it now, more than ever you could before, I will tell the story.

After having been ten or eleven days inoculated, I lay lolling on my bed in Major Cunningham's chamber under the tree of liberty, with half a dozen young fellows as lazy as myself, all waiting and wishing for symptoms and eruptions, all of a sudden appeared at the chamber door, the reverend Doctor with his rosy face, many-curled wig and .pontifical air and gait. " I have been thinking," says he, " that the clergy of this town ought, upon this occasion, to adopt the benediction of the romish clergy, and, when we enter the apartment of the sick, to say in the foreign pronunciation, Pax tccum. " These words are spoken by foreigners, as the Doctor pronounced them, Pox take Vm. One would think Sir Isaac Newton's discovery of the system of gravitation did not require a deeper reach of thought than this frivolous pun.

Your sentiments of the importance of education in women are exactly agreeable to my own. Yet the femmes sarantes, are contemptible characters. So is that of a pedant universally, how muchsoever of a male he may be. In reading history, you will generally observe, when you light upon a great character, whether a general, a statesman, or philosopher, some female about him, either in the character of a mother, wife or sister, who has knowledge and ambition above the ordinary level of women, and that much of his eminence is owing to her precepts, example or instigation, in some sliape or other. Let me mention an example or two. Sempronius Gracchus and Caius Gracchus, two great, though unfortunate men, are said to have been instigated to their great actions by their mother, who, in order to stimulate their ambition, told them, that she was known in Rome by the title of the mother-in-law of Scipio, not the mother of the Gracchi. Thus she excited their emulation and put them upon reviving the old project of an equal division of the conquered lands, (a genuine republican measure, though it had been too long neglected to be then practicable,) in order to make their names as illustrious as Scipio's.

The great Duke who first excited the Portuguese to revolt from the Spanish monarchy, was spurred on to his great enterprise by a most artful and ambitious wife, and thus indeed you will find it, very generally.

Author:
John Adams

Source:
Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife. Edited by His Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume I, 1841