My Dearest Friend

AA to JA April 1764

My Friend

I think I write to you every Day. Shall not I make my Letters very cheep; don’t you light your pipe with them? I care not if you do, tis a pleasure to me to write, yet I wonder I write to you with so little restraint, for as a critick I fear you more than any other person on Earth, and tis the only character, in which I ever did, or ever will fear you. What say you? Do you approve of that Speach? Dont you think me a Courageous Being? Courage is a laudable, a Glorious Virtue in your Sex, why not in mine? (For my part, I think you ought to applaud me for mine.) — Exit Rattle.

Solus your Diana.

I shall suppress my urge to say “Brilliant! Stupendous! Abigail is a superb writer.” All of which is absolutely true, but I shall commence to tell you just why it is so brilliant. I promise, I will not bore you with my Adams obsession without reason.

This letter was written when Abigail, just over 19, was preparing for their wedding. Hardly the most traditionally educated girl in the colonies, Abigail radiated brilliance, especially in this letter. Her life at home as a somewhat sickly, weak teenager left time to peruse her father’s library (with his permission, of course) and she read nearly as much as John himself, a great reader. Her most well-known feminist letter is of course “Remember the Ladies”, but I find this equally if not more brave of young Abigail for a few reasons.

When writing the famous “Remember the Ladies,” 12 more years had been added to Abigail’s life. She had lived with John for over eleven, and had six children (Susanna died a year after birth, and Elizabeth was stillborn). She was older, wiser, and generally more teasing in her letter to John. In contradiction, unmarried Abigail was extremely shy (John Adams passed her by the first time he saw her), young, and still not married to John Adams. Though this may seem a bit atypical and unmoral of me, but if Abigail Smith had written anything of the ideas in “Remember the Ladies” before marriage, she might not have ended up marrying John Adams. I would like to esteem John Adams in that he would not have broken the engagement, because this intellectual tenacity was one of the reasons he was attracted to her. Though if the letter had fallen into the wrong hands, as the daughter of Reverend Smith, it is unclear whether the already doubtful Smith would have allowed the marriage. Abigail married lower than her family, although, the Adams ended up as a “dynasty” of the United States in the end.

Because of the risks taken in writing a letter to John, Abigail was much more of a feminist in this letter, posted above, than in “Remember the Ladies.” I was astounded when I read the single, mighty sentence “Courage is a laudable, a Glorious Virtue in your Sex, why not in mine?”
After all, why not? We should be courageous, too. Abigail put it very nicely, and she truly wielded a mighty pen.

Two treats today. One is a very interesting Youtube video featuring David McCullough saying about Abigail, “She would’ve made a great candidate.”

Secondly, I made a wordle of the letter on courage. So, if you want to make a background of it, or print it…

on courage and teasing John

Advertisements