21 August 2011

For Love and Country: John and Abigail Adams and the United States of America, part 9

1782 - 1784 

Oh When shall I see my dearest Friend.–All in good Time. My dear blue Hills, ye are the most sublime object in my Imagination. At your reverend Foot, will I spend my old Age, if any, in a calm philosophical Retrospect upon the turbulent scænes of Politicks and War.”
--John Adams to Abigail Adams from Amsterdam, Mar 22, 1782 (Butterfield, IV. 301)

A month before John would take up residence in the first American legation in Europe in the Hôtel des Etats-Unis at the Hague, Abigail wrote him a lengthy letter. “Eight years have already past, since you could call yourself an Inhabitant of this State,” she remarked.  “I shall assume the Signature of Penelope, for my dear Ulysses has already been a wanderer from me near half the term of years that, that Hero was encountering Neptune, Calipso, the Circes and Syrens.”  She closed the letter letting him know how she wished to be there to “partake of your Labours and cares, sooth you to rest, and alleviate your anxieties” (Butterfield, IV. 306, 308).  Two days after John moved into the Hôtel des Etats-Unis, on May 14, 1782, he wrote Abigail, “I must go to you or you must come to me.  I cannot live, in this horrid Solitude, which it is to me, amidst Courts, Camps and Crowds” (Butterfield, IV. 323).  This letter would be the first of many calls by John over the next couple of years for Abigail to make the voyage to join him in Europe.

In August, with an American victory seemingly more clear, Abigail wrote to John, “But will you can you think of remaining abroad? Should a peace take place I could not forgive you half a years longer absence… I begin to think there is a moral evil in this Seperation, for when we pledged ourselves to each other did not the holy ceremony close with, ‘What God has joined Let no Man put assunder’” (Butterfield, IV. 358).  In September, she wrote that she had started to feel even more pained at the separation day after day.  She let John know, “To say I am happy here, I cannot, but it is not an idle curiosity that make me wish to hazard the Watery Element. I much more sincerely wish your return. Could I hope for that during an other year I would endeavour to wait patiently the Event” (Adams Family Papers, Correspondence 5 Sep 1782).  In October, Abigail shifted her request.  “I resolve with myself, to do as you wish,” she wrote.

If I can add to your Happiness, is it not my duty? If I can soften your Cares, is it not my duty? If I can by a tender attention and assiduity prolong your most valuable Life, is it not my duty?[. . . ]Yet if you do not consent so much is my Heart intent upon it, that your refusal must be couched in very soft terms, and must pledge yourself to return speedily to me[. . . .]I feel loth you should quit your station untill an Honorable peace is Established, and you have added that to your other Labours. Tis no small satisfaction to me that my country is like to profit so largely by my sacrifices. (Adams Family Papers, Correspondence 8 Oct 1782)

Again, Abigail is willing to do whatever John wishes; she will love him no less.  She will be satisfied if he returns to her and she will be satisfied if he continues to serve his country well. 

On October 25th, John and Abigail’s wedding anniversary, Abigail wrote to John that eighteen years have passed yet their fire still “Burns with unabating fervour, old ocean has not Quenched it, nor old Time smootherd it.”  She missed John dearly, but she also supported his position and where it took him.  “How dearly have I paid for a titled Husband,” she wrote in the same letter.  “Should I wish you less wise, that I might enjoy more happiness? I cannot find that in my Heart” (Adams Family Papers, Correspondence).  John wrote only once to her in November and twice in December.  Sentiments were few, but in his diary on November 13 he marked an anniversary: “This is the Anniversary of my quitting home. Three Years are compleated. Oh when shall I return?” (Adams Family Papers, Diary).

On December 23rd, Abigail wrote a touching letter to John.  “I look back to the early days of our acquaintance; and Friendship, as to the days of Love and Innocence; and with an undiscribable pleasure I have seen near a score of years roll over our Heads, with an affection heightned and improved by time,” she wrote, letting him know that her love was as strong as ever for John.  Ending the letter, Abigail recalled a conversation she had a few days prior.  The person asked Abigail if she would have consented to John’s appointment if she knew he would be gone so long. “If I had known Sir that Mr. A. could have affected what he has done,” she wrote, “I would not only have submitted to the absence I have endured; painfull as it has been; but I would not have opposed it” (Adams Family Papers, Correspondence).  Again, the intense love shared by Abigail and John was entangled with the love of their country, and there was no giving up one for the other in their minds.

The new year would send John off to The Hague once again, after he spent the end of 1782 signing the preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain.  In August, John and John Quincy went back to Paris and on September 3, 1783, the final peace treaty between the new United States and Great Britain, the Treaty of Paris, was signed by David Hartley representing the King of England and Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams representing the United States. 

With the treaty signed, John and John Quincy traveled to England to visit London, Oxford, and Bath.  While in London, John wrote to Abigail, “I cannot be happy, nor tolerable without you” (Adams Family Papers, Correspondence 8 Nov 1783).  In the letters John had sent to Abigail during the year, he had requested her to come to Europe to be with him.  In her responses, Abigail attempted to persuade John to come home.  When she realized that was not likely to happen, Abigail tried to excuse herself by claiming she did not think she could make the voyage or that she was not fit for the courts of Europe.  In December, Abigail made one last effort to bring John home.  “If you felt yourself under obligations during the dangers and perilous of war,” she wrote him on the thirteenth, “to sacrifice, your Health your ease and safety, to the independance and freedom of your Country, those obligations cannot now be equally binding” (Adams Family Papers, Correspondence 7 Dec 1783). 

She knew there was no convincing him though, and in February she wrote again to John, this time of her apprehensions about leaving her Country, her family and her friends to make a long, dangerous and harsh journey across the Atlantic.  “But on the other hand,” she wrote, “I console myself with the Idea of being joyfully and tenderly received by the best of Husbands and Friends, and of meeting a dear and long absent Son” (Adams Family Papers, Correspondence 11 Feb 1784).  It was with this consolation that Abigail would set sail from Boston with her daughter Abigail 2nd to England on June 20, 1784.

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