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[TO Abigail Adams]
HONOURED MAMMA :
It is indeed a long time since I have received any letters from my friends in America, and I must own I have been a little behind hand within these two years, in writing to them. However, I hope they will consider that I have been all that time almost at the world's end, or to make the best of it, in such an out of the way place, as made it very inconvenient for me to write. But, I should think myself deficient in my duty, if I should let pass the present opportunity, without giving you some account of my travels, since I left Mr. Dana.
I set off from Petersburg the 19/30 of last October, in company with Count Greco, an Italian gentleman, with whom I was acquainted, at that place ; and on account of the badness of the roads and weather, and of our having a great number of considerable water passages, which had began to freeze over, did not arrive in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, until the 25th of November. The distance is about 800 English miles. I staved at Stockholm about six weeks, and was much pleased with the polite manner in which the people of the country treat strangers. Sweden is the country in Europe which pleases me the most, that is, of those I have seen, because their manners resemble more those of my own country than any I have seen. The King is a man of great ability. In the space of one day from being the most dependent, he rendered himself one of the most absolute monarchs of Europe. But he is extremely popular, and has persuaded his people that they are free, and that he has only restored them their ancient constitution. They think they are free, and are therefore happy. However, in the interior parts of the Kingdom, he has lost a little of his popularity, because he has laid some heavy taxes upon brandy and some other articles.
I left Stockholm the 31st of December and was obliged to stop at a small town, called Norrkoping, at about 120 miles from Stockholm, for a fortnight, because of a very heavy fall of snow, which happened just at that time. I stopped also about three weeks at Gottenburg, and arrived at Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark (it is about 600 miles from Stockholm), the I5th of February, of the present year. I found there Count Greco, who had taken a different road from Stockholm. He had taken a place in a vessel, which was to sail three days after my arrival, for Kiel, a town in Germany, near Hamburg. Not to lose the opportunity, I had a place in the same vessel, but after having waited three weeks for a good wind, the harbor froze up, and we were obliged, after all, to go to Hamburg by land. The people in Denmark treat strangers with a great deal of politeness and civility, but not with the same open-heartedness, which they do in Sweden. The government is entirely monarchical. But it astonishes me that a whole people can place at the head of their government such a man as the King of Denmark, because his father was a king. The hereditary prince, it seems, is, at least, possessed of common sense, and is regarded in the country as a prodigy, as he indeed is, if he is compared to his father.
I arrived at Hamburg (which is about 300 English miles from Copenhagen) on the nth of March. I stayed there near a month. It is a large city, quite commercial, and will, I dare say, carry on hereafter a great deal of trade with America. But its commerce is somewhat restrained, because it is surrounded by the dominions of the King of Denmark, and of the Elector of Hanover. The Danes have built a town, at about a quarter of a mile from Ham burg, which is become now its rival in commerce. The Hamburgers have named this place Al-to-na, which signifies, much too near, as, indeed, it is for their commercial interests.
The last city where I made my stay, before I arrived at Amsterdam, was Bremen, which is another commercial Republic, but the city is much smaller than Hamburg. It was anciently one of the Hanseatic league, and has been in a much more flourishing condition than it is at present. There are at Bremen some public cellars, which are famous. I drank there some Rhenish wine, about 160 years old. I stayed only four days at Bremen and arrived at Amsterdam the 5th, and at this place the 2ist of April, and here I have been ever since. Hamburg is about 450 English miles from this place.
Last night, at about n o clock, Pappa arrived here from Paris, all alone, only accompanied by a servant. He in tends to return to Paris in about three weeks...
- John Quincy Adams