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THE French consul had agreed to carry me, Mr. Dana, Mr. Allen, and my three children and our three servants, this day to Corunna, which is about five leagues from this place, by water, in a barge of four teen oars, but the weather proved so boisterous that it was impossible to go.
To give you some idea of the place where we are, Cape Finisterre and Cape Ortegal are two long arms of land stretched out into the sea, which embrace a large body of water. Within this bay are two other points of land, within one of which is Ferrol, where we now are, and within the other is Corunna, where we intended to have gone this day, if the weather had permitted ; but we hope to go tomorrow. We can get neither horses, nor mules, nor carriages, in this place, for ourselves or our baggage, which I am much surprised at, as it is so grand a port. Living and conveniences for conveyance are very dear in this place, which will run my expenses very high. There is nothing remarkable here but the natural strength of the place and the artificial fortifications, together with the arsenals, dry docks, barracks and military matters by sea and land. The city is small, not very well built nor accommodated. Very little commerce or manufactures, industry or diversions. There are two or three elegant churches, and there is an Italian opera. There is the appearance of much devotion, and there are many ecclesiastics.
It is dull enough to be in a country, so wholly ignorant of the language and usages ; but we have furnished ourselves with a dictionary and grammar, and are learning every hour. Charles is much pleased with what he sees and hears, and behaves very discreetly. John is writing to you and his sister and brother. I excused myself from dining today on board the Souverain and on board the Jason, two French men-of-war. Yesterday I dined on board the Triomphant, and the children on board the Jason. The French officers appear today with cockades in honor of the triple alliance a large white ribbon for the French, a smaller red one for the Spaniards, and a black one for the Americans, which makes a pretty appearance.
Upon looking a little into the Spanish language, I find it so very nearly like the Latin, that I am persuaded we shall learn more of it in a month than we did of French in half a year. The manners of the Spaniards and French are as opposite as grave and gay. The dress of the Spanish officers is much like the French. That of the people a little different. Men and women, gentlemen and ladies, are very fond of long hair, which often reaches, braided in a queue or bound round with a black ribbon, almost to their hams. The ladies wear cloaks, black or white, which come over their heads and shoulders and reach down to their waists. They have fine black eyes, and con sequently dark, but yet lively complexions.
When, O when shall I see you again and live in peace ?
The Russian ambassador lately appointed to relieve the one lately in London, passed through France and was a fortnight or three weeks at Paris, from whence the shrewd politicians have conjectured that peace was about to be mediated by that power. But it is said that England is as reluctant to acknowledge the independence of America as to cede Gibraltar, the last of which is insisted upon as well as the first. But this is only bruit.
- John Adams
- Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife. Edited by His Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume II, 1841