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The courtship and fifty-four-year marriage of John and Abigail Adams was, despite separation and war and tragedy, a moving and highly literate love feast between two
October 1968 | Volume 19, Issue 6
I have possession of my Aunts chamber in which you know is a very conveniant pretty closet with a window which looks into her flower Garden. In this closet are a number of Book Shelves, which are but poorly furnished, however I have a pretty little desk or cabinet here where I write all my Letters and keep my papers unmollested by any one. I do not covet my Neighbours Goods, but I should like to be the owner of such conveniances. I always had a fancy for a closet with a window which I could more peculiarly call my own.
Here I say I have amused myself in reading and thinking of my absent Friend, sometimes with a mixture of paine, sometimes with pleasure, sometimes anticipating a joyfull and happy meeting, whilst my Heart would bound and palpitate with the pleasing Idea, and with the purest affection I have held you to my Bosom till my whole Soul has dissolved in Tenderness and my pen fallen from my Hand.
How often do I reflect with pleasure that I hold in possession a Heart Eaqually warm with my own, and full as Susceptable of the Tenderest impressions, and Who even now whilst he is reading here, feels all I discribe.
Forgive this Revere, this Delusion, and since I am debared real, suffer me, to enjoy, and indulge In Ideal pleasures—and tell me they are not inconsistant with the stern virtue of a senator and a Patriot.
I must leave my pen to recover myself and write in an other strain. I feel anxious for a post day, and am full as solicitious for two Letters a week and as uneasy if I do not get them, as I used to be when I got but one in a month or 5 weeks. Thus do I presume upon indulgance, and this is Humane Nature, and brings to my mind a sentiment of one of your correspondents viz. “That Man is the only animal who is hungery with His Belly full.” …
I am sorry to find from your last as well as from some others of your Letters that you feel so dissatisfied with the office [chief justice of the superior court of Massachusetts] to which you are chosen. Tho in your acceptance of it, I know you was actuated by the purest motives, and I know of no person here so well qualified to discharge the important Duties of it, Yet I will not urge you to it. In accepting of it you must be excluded from all other employments. There never will be a Salery addequate to the importance of the office or to support you and your family from penury. If you possess a fortune I would urge you to it, in spight of all the flears and gibes of minds who themselves are incapable of acting a distintrested part, and have no conception that others can.
I have never heard any Speaches about it, nor did I know that such insinuations had been Thrown out.
Pure and disintrested Virtue must ever be its own reward. Mankind are too selfish and too depraved to discover the pure Gold from the baser mettle.
I wish for peace and tranquility. All my desires and all my ambition is to be Esteemed and Loved by my Partner, to join with him in the Education and instruction of our Little ones, to set under our own vines in Peace, Liberty and Safety.
Adieu my Dearest Friend, soon, soon return to your most affectionate Portia
Four days later she awoke to “a Beautifull Morning. I see it with joy, and I hope thankfullness. I came here with all my treasure of children, have passed thro one of the most terible Diseases to which humane Nature is subject, and not one of us is wanting.” How much more beautiful it would be if John were home. She had reason now to believe that Congress would soon complete its business. New delays arose. “I have been here, untill I am stupified. If I set down to write even to you, I am at a Loss what to write,” John reported on the seventh of October. When he could not write, he confessed, he felt more pain than did Abigail when she waited and heard nothing, but he simply did not have time. On October 11, he abruptly announced: “… I am coming to make my Apology in Person.”
Two months and nine days they shared together. Then John rode off into the northern January cold of 1777 to return to Philadelphia. “When I reflect,” he wrote en route from Baltimore, “upon the Prospect before me of so long an Absence from all that I hold dear in this World, I mean all that contributes to my private personal Happiness, it makes me melancholly. When I think on your Circumstances I am more so, and yet I rejoice at them in spight of all this Melancholly.—God almightys Providence protect and bless you and yours and mine.” Abigail was pregnant.
Never had John Adams so longed to be at home. He sent tender messages and letters to the children, reminding young John that “a Taste for Literature and a Turn for Business, united in the same Person, never fails to make a great Man. A Taste for Literature, includes the Love of Science and the fine Arts. A turn for Business, comprehends Industry and Application as well as a faculty of conversing with Men. …”