Love, Freedom and a Revolution: The Story of John and Abigail
Once upon a time, a boy met a girl. Their love story unfolded amidst the backdrop of a revolution and the founding of a new nation…
They met when Abigail was only 15 years old and John was a young man (reports vary as to whether he was 23 or 24) and neither was at all impressed with the other. Abigail was a lithe girl, when society only found women of more weight to be attractive, and John was noted to be a bit round in the middle and already showed the promise of baldness. John noted in a diary that he didn’t particularly care for Abigail’s father. And, Abigail’s mother did not like John.
The two encountered each other again several years later, when business brought John to work with Abigail’s brother-in-law, and they got to know each other with routine contact. In time, Abigail’s mother came to like John. More importantly, Abigail came to love John and he loved her.
The couple was married on October 25, 1764 and a genuine partnership began, one that would affect a new nation.
Fifty Years and Freedom
John and Abigail were married for 50 years. During that time, they had five children and their marriage endured revolution, war, scandal, diplomatic crises and the birth of a new nation. Throughout their marriage, their many letters to each other depict a deep friendship, mutual respect, a lasting love and how significantly their shared thoughts and discussion influenced the direction of a new nation.
Most famously, Abigail made her beliefs on slavery (against) and women rights (for) known to John and her work with John garnered her the nickname, “Mrs. President”. Because the couple was often separated due to John’s government involvements, they communicated by letters to each other. To help protect their privacy, they wrote to each other under the names of “My Dearest Friend” and “Lysander” for John and “Miss Adorable” and “Diana” for Abigail for a number of years and later used their own names.
The Adams’ love letters to each other number at over 1000 and also serve as a diary of the founding of freedom through the eyes of a marriage. Only a small sampling of their letters are included in this article for The Founding Project, but others are readily available online. Additionally, several books have been dedicated to these letters.
Their Letters Tell of Long Separations
“My Dear Diana…
… Oh my dear Girl, I thank Heaven that another Fortnight will restore you to me — after so long a separation. My soul and Body have both been thrown into Disorder, by your Absence, and a Month of two more would make me the most insufferable Cynick, in the World. I see nothing but Faults, Follies, Frailties and Defects in any Body, lately. People have lost all their good Properties or I my justice, or Discernment.
But you who have always softened and warmed my Heart, shall restore my Benevolence as well as my Health and Tranquility of mind. You shall polish and refine my sentiments of Life and Manners, banish all the unsocial and ill natured Particles in my Composition, and form me to that happy Temper, that can reconcile a quick Discernment with a perfect Candour.
Believe me, now & ever yr. faithful
Their Shared Love of Country
During John’s long absences from home, Abigail ran their home’s business, managing it and their family in his absence. The letter, below, makes mention of their son, Johnny, who would become a U. S. President himself. This letter was sent from their home in Braintree, Massachusetts. The content makes it clear the couple was dedicated to the quest for freedom of their country.
To John Adams
Sent from Braintree, 19 August 1774
“The great distance between us, makes the time appear very long to me. It seems already a month since you left me. A great anxiety I feel for my Country, for you and for our family renders the day tedious, and the night unpleasant. The Rocks and quick Sands appear upon every Side. What course you can or will take is all wrapt in the Bosom of futurity. Uncertainty and expectation leave the mind great Scope. Did ever any Kingdom or State regain their Liberty, when once it was invaded without Blood shed? I cannot think of it without horror.
Yet we are told that all the Misfortunes of Sparta were occasioned by their too great Sollicitude for present tranquility, and by an excessive love of peace they neglected the means of making it sure and lasting. They ought to have reflected says Polibius that as there is nothing more desirable, or advantages than peace, when founded in justice and honour, so there is nothing more shameful and at the same time more pernicious when attained by bad measures, and purchased at the price of liberty. […]
I have taken a very great fondness for reading Rollin’s ancient History since you left me. I am determined to go thro with it if possible in these my days of solitude…I find great pleasure and entertainment from it, and I have persuaded Johnny to read me a page or two every day, and hope he will from his desire to oblige me entertain a fondness for it. – We have had a charming rain which lasted 12 hours and has greatly revived the dying fruits of the earth.
I want much to hear from you and long impatiently to have you upon the Stage of action. The first of September or the month of September, perhaps may be of as much importance to Great Britan as the Ides of March were to Caeser. I wish you every Publick as well, as private blessing, and that wisdom which is profitable both for instruction and edification to conduct you in this difficult day. The little flock remember Pappa, and kindly wish to see him. So does your affectionate…
The Fondness Endured
Distance, time and revolution did not dampen the fondness John and Abigail had for each other. This letter is from Abigail to John when he traveled to the Netherlands to seek funding for the new American government:
“My Dearest Friend,
…should I draw you the 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; and with an indescribable pleasure I have seen near a score of years roll over our Heads, with an affection heightened and improved by time — nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the Image of the dear untitled man to whom I gave my Heart…
Love And Also Mutual Respect
The devotion and love the Adams’ had for each other over the years was always apparent in their correspondence. A glance at the many letters between them, shows the most common closing for John’s notes to Abigail:
“I am with tenderness inexpressibly ever yours.”
A Famous Partnership
John acknowledged Abigail Adams as a partner and an equal many times, but none was quite so touching as the one he wrote at the end of his presidency:
“It is fit and proper that you and I should retire together and not one before the other.
I am with unabated Confidence and affection your
Even after the loss of Abigail from his life, his devotion to her was still evident. John wrote this 4 years after the death of his beloved Abigail:
“This Lady (Abigail) was far more beautiful than Lady Russell (an admired English personality of the time), had a brighter genius, more information, a more refined taste, and (was) at least her equal in virtues of the heart. [She also had] equal fortitude and firmness of character, equal resignation to the will of Heaven, . . . equal in all the virutes of the Christian life.”
And, Sacrifice for Freedom
The most haunting of the many thoughts Abigail expressed to John might be her words about all that their love faced in the forming of a new nation and freedom:
“I wonder if future generation will ever know what we have suffered on their behalf.”
Perhaps this most American love story leaves a legacy for the future, not only in how important their relationship was to the founding of America, but also in how they both prioritized the need for freedom and fought for it for the benefit of their children and ours.
https://www.voanews.com/a/a-13-2009-04-23-voa53-68814782/413114.html http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/ageless-love-story-john-abigail-adams/ http://stevenallenbooks.com/abigail-adams-is-remembered/ https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130862704 https://www.varsitytutors.com/earlyamerica/dear-miss-adorable-john-abigail-love-story-continues
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