Advanced Search

Adams, Abigail.

LETTER: ALS to Judge William Cranch.


Adams, Abigail. Autograph Letter Signed, "A. Adams," with address panel also in her hand, to Judge William Cranch; Quincy, Massachusetts: June 17th 1811.
Single leaf, 7 5/8 x 4 7/8 inches, address panel, 4 x 2 5/8 inches, directing the letter to "Judge Cranch / city / Washington"; lower left tip chipped, not affecting text.
Together with:
Adams, Abigail. Engraved portrait.
Mounted on sand-colored mat with dark brown undermat; medium brown wood frame with soft gold-gilt highlighting; overall dimensions 20 ¼ x 14 ½ inches.
Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818), First Lady, feminist and letterist, descended from families notable in Colonial Massachusetts. As intellectually lively and open as was her father's home, Adams, like most women of the time, received no formal education, but rather "picked an eager gatherer." John Adams courted an older sister, but soon found himself attracted to her witty and outspoken younger sister Abigail. After a courtship of five years - Abigail was but fourteen when they first met - John and Abigail wed. As NAW remarks: "[t]heir partnership proved as perfect as any recorded in the annals of matrimony..." Her utter confidence in her husband and their kindred views gave John Adams a firm foundation as the colonies moved toward revolution and war. With his departure in 1774 for Philadelphia as delegate to the First Continental Congress, Abigail assumed responsibility for the family household. She proved an able manager and, thanks to her, the family farm and dairies not only remained solvent but prospered despite her husband's frequent extended absences. Adams' absences also inspired a remarkable correspondence between husband and wife. As the Constitutional Congress considered how to form a new government, she famously prodded her husband: "Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors..." She also lamented slavery and the racial bias which approved it. When neighbors objected to her sending a young free black to a local school, she insisted on the boy's "equality of Rights. The Boy is a Freeman as much as any of the young Men and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction?" Through their years abroad on diplomatic missions for the young country and her husband's years in Washington as Vice President and then President, Abigail used her pen to maintain a steady stream of contact with children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces as well as to direct the family's affairs. For Abigail, to live was to write.
Here she writes to her nephew Judge William Cranch, son of her sister Mary Smith Cranch, regarding her sister's decline: "I know not my dear Sir whether your Father has been able to apprize you that your beloved mother and my dear Sister lies dangerously sick with a plurisy fever. This is the 4th day. We have been some days encouraged that she might be restored but you will my dear nephew prepare your mind for one of the severest of times, that of losing so dear and valuable a parent." She continues: "God grant us submission to what now he sees fit to call us to endure - my poor Richard will lose a second mother and the dear girls - your afflicted Aunt." Thirty years later, her nephew, obviously having treasured this letter from his aunt regarding his mother, penned at the lower left margin: "This letter and address are/ entirely in the handwriting / of Mrs. Adams, wife of the first President Adams. / W. Cranch Aug. 1 1842." The letter, movingly, exhibits the weakness in spelling and punctuation which, due to her lack of formal education, embarrassed Abigail Adams throughout her life. At the same instance, this poignant letter reflects the directness and feeling which gave her writing such immediacy. Mrs. Adams' voluminous correspondence, clearly prized by her family and friends, has been preserved to an extraordinary extent in the Adams Papers held by the Massachusetts Historical Society. While prolific during her lifetime, letters by Abigail Adams now surface but infrequently. Her cumulative correspondence, albeit private and unpublished, made her one of the first great women writers of the Republic.

© 2011-2019 Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc. All Rights Reserved.