John and Abigail Adams’ Letters

The second president of the United States, John Adams, and his wife, Abigail Adams, exchanged letters that numbered over 1,100. They started writing letters to each other in 1762 during their courtship, and the letters continued until John reached the end of his political career. The couple’s letters were not only heart-warming but also descriptive of the politics of the day because John wrote about the Continental Congress. He was always away from home and was immersed in Philadelphia, engaged in work connected with Congress and independence. The Revolutionary War had started, and Abigail was left in the house to take care of their children and the family farm. As a result, she often wrote to him about everyday life, how the Revolution affected the local town, the lack of food, and the dangers posed by British soldiers.

John and Abigail’s earliest correspondence started during their courtship. These first letters included sixteen exchanges written by the couple in April and May of 1762 when John was in Boston receiving a vaccine against smallpox. They married on the 25th of October 1764, and in the 1770s, John wrote to Abigail about his legal practice, which required him to be absent from home. John eventually became taken up with work in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777, but the couple continued with their letters. 

Abigail’s letters to John in 1774 contained Abigail’s reactions and advice to John’s questions about politics. She also wrote to him about her observations on how the newspapers reported legislation and how citizens reacted to the happenings brought about by the American Revolution. During this time, John wrote to Abigail, saying that he was filled with joy to learn she had received many letters from him, even though he knew that those letters did not contain anything important. He informed her, though, that he would go on writing about unimportant matters, anyway. He also expressed to her that he terribly missed home and that he worried about her health and the situation in the house. In turn, Abigail narrated to him the news she had learned about a battle in Brunswick. However, she clarified that the letters show no date, so she cannot trust them. She expressed to John that although she knew that Philadelphia was not as far away as a foreign country, she still had trouble accepting the fact that he was 500 miles away.

In 1778, John was sent on his first diplomatic mission to Europe. This assignment further encouraged John and Abigail to write letters to each other until he returned home to the United States in 1779. Their correspondence was now more difficult because their letters had to cross the ocean. However, even when John returned to Europe in late 1779 up until 1784, they wrote to each other. Abigail set foot in London in 1784, and when they were in Europe but were sometimes apart, they still wrote to one another. They went back home to the United States in 1789 when John had to take on the vice presidency.

When John became the second president of the US in 1797, Abigail wrote to him that she was worried about what her duties were as First Lady. She wrote to him that she wanted to write him m any things, but she realized that, being the First Lady, she must now be careful about her words. She expressed that, as a result, her letters might become uninteresting. 

In a letter showing the date 2 November 1800, John wrote to his wife from the recently-completed President’s House, saying, “May none but honest and wise Men rule under this roof.”

Throughout John’s term as president, Abigail wrote public papers supporting John’s political objectives. Abigail became the first First Lady to live in the President’s House, where she used the East Room as a place to hang the laundry.