John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, 3 June 1778

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Passy, 3 June, 1778.

MY DEAREST FRIEND,

ON the 13th of February I left you. It is now the 3d of June, and I have not received a line, nor heard a word, directly nor indirectly, concerning you, since my departure. This is a situation of mind in which I never was before, and I assure you, I feel a great deal of anxiety at it ; yet I do not wonder at it, because I suppose few vessels have sailed from Boston since ours. I have shipped for you the articles you re quested, and the black cloth for your father, to whom present my most affectionate and dutiful respects. Captain Tucker, if he should not be unlucky, will give you an account of your things.

It would be endless to attempt a description of this country. It is one great garden. Nature and art have conspired to render every thing here delightful. Religion and government, you will say, ought to be excepted. With all my heart. But these are no afflictions to me, because I have well fixed it in rny mind as a principle, that every nation has a right to that religion and government, which it chooses, and as long as any people please themselves in these great points, I am determined they shall not displease me.

There is so much danger that my letter may fall into malicious hands, that I should not choose to be too free in my observations upon the customs and manners of this people. But thus much I may say with truth and without offence, that there is no people in the world who take so much pains to please, nor any whose endeavors in this way have more success. Their arts and manners, taste and language, are more respected in Europe than those of any other nation. Luxury, dissipation and effeminacy are pretty nearly of the same degree of excess here, and in every other part of Europe. The great cardinal virtue of temperance, however, I believe, flourishes here more than in any other part of Europe.

My dear countrymen ! how shall I persuade you to avoid the plague of Europe ! Luxury has as many and as bewitching charms on your side of the ocean as on this ; and luxury, wherever she goes, effaces from human nature the image of the Divinity. If I had power I would forever banish and exclude from America all gold, silver, precious stones, alabaster, marble, silk, velvet and lace.

0, the tyrant ! the American ladies would say. What ! Ay, my dear girls, these passions of yours which arc so easily alarmed, and others of my own sex which are exactly like them, have done, and will do the work of tyrants in all ages. Tyrants different from me, whose power has banished, not gold indeed, but other things of greater value, wisdom, virtue and liberty. My son and servant are well. I am, with an ardor that words have not power to express.

Yours,

JOHN ADAMS.

Author:
John Adams

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