By Don Vitale
I hope you don’t think that my previous post recounting John and Abigail’s letter writing was the last word on the subject. Good Godfrey, friends, we could shoot the breeze from now to eternity on that subject. Yessirree, that post was merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
John and Abigail Adams gave us– if not the world at large– a running commentary
of the leadup to the Revolutionary War, the days of the War itself….and the years beyond.
As a for instance….after his election moving into the president’s house,
he complained in a letter to Abigail that the place was a mess. “The furniture…
is in a deplorable condition. There is not a chair fit to sit in. The beds and bedding
are in a woefil pickle.”
Let me ask…can you ever recall any of our presidents ragging about the furniture
in the White House? Or at least going public with it. Or revealing their inner most
thoughts that they would not want disclosed. The unabashed truth? Not on your life, kiddo.
Was Adams concerned that the letters to his wife would be made public? Absolutely….and I do mean Absolutely! If any of his letters to Abigail were somehow intercepted and published, he’d be out of a job, like real fast.
His frank comments spared no one. Alexander Hamilton he wrote, “had as debauched morals as old Franklin.” He described Thomas Jefferson as “prisoned with ambition.” And the French Revolution? Not the daring adventuresome event many painted it. It was, he wrote, “…a shambles.”
To refresh your memory….John and Abigail were attracted to each other when she was 17. He was 23. After a courtship of three years, they married.
In the letters they wrote when away from each other, she was his “Miss Adorable”
and he was “My Dearest Friend.” Although these pen names may seem a bit mawkish… let’s not forget this was a love story, unique in its own way….but a love story nonetheless.
Quote John to Miss Adorable: “I hereby order you to give….as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 O’Clock as he shall please to Demand and charge them to my Account…..I have good right to draw upon you for the Kisses as I have given two or three Millions at least…”
Abigail to My Dearest Friend: “….should I draw you a picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you still would Love; tho it contained nothing new; the early possession you obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied….I look back to the early days of our acquaintance; and Friendship , as to the days of Love and Innocence…”nor have the dreary days of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the image of the dear untitled man to whom I gave my Heart….”
Adams today may not have the same name identification by the public as do Jefferson and Washington….but his credentials both before and after the War brought him two terms as Washington’s vice-president and his own election in 1796 as the country’s second president.
In the political area of women’s rights, Abigail considered John her equal. Letting him know her feelings on this issue, she wrote:
“I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are
proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon
retaining an absolute power over wives.
But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very
hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims,
we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters,
and without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet.”
After some 40 years after they first met, John’s letters to Abigail still displayed his undying love, ending with: “I am with tenderness inexpressibly ever yours.”–dv