Abigail Adams Lost Letter Shares Future First Lady's Views on US Politics, Life Abroad

Letter shares future first lady's views on U.S. politics, life abroad

June 18, 2011— -- Abigail Adams wrote thousands of letters in her lifetime, but a newly discovered letter sheds light on the future first lady's mind as she prepared to leave London in 1788.

The letter, which Adams wrote as she was packing up her belongings after three years abroad, now has been given to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

"In many ways this is a very typical Abigail letter," said Margaret Hogan, managing editor of the Adams papers at MHS. "What makes it unique is it's the last letter we know of that she sent back to the U.S."

John and Abigail Adams spent three years in Great Britain, where he served as the U.S. ambassador.

In the letter, dated March 2, 1788, Adams shares personal and political musings with Dr. Cotton Tufts, who was a cousin by birth and an uncle through marriage. Tufts was acting as the Adams' financial agent while they were abroad.

When John Adams was sent to The Hague on a last-minute trip, Abigail Adams was left to pack the couple's belongings by herself.

"I am so much occupied by my preparations for our voyage that I have very little time for any thing else," she wrote. "I find it the most troublesome removal I have ever made."

She also advised Tufts to pay the freight charges on her behalf for some sherry she sent ahead and told him she hoped to drink some of it with him upon her return.

Personal musings aside, the most striking points of the letter are political, Hogan said.

"You can tell how much being in England influenced her thinking about government," Hogan said. "After watching her husband serve as ambassador, she felt America was not treated seriously by the British."

Adams wrote of "an insinuation that we have no Government, no Head, no Body in short capable of entering into any treaties, or giving authenticity to them."

The letter was written at a time when Adams' home state, Massachusetts, and five others had ratified the Constitution. Eight others were still debating it.

She closed the letter by telling Tufts the Constitution must be ratified for the sake of national dignity and security.

"She knew the importance of a strong central government," said Hogan.

The letter will be displayed at the Massachusetts Historical Society beginning July 8 as part of an exhibit on Massachusetts and the Constitution.