Cartoon Truth:

Letters paint picture of Revolutionary love

There is a love story in the letters of John and Abigail Adams.
There is a love story in the letters of John and Abigail Adams.

At one point during the musical, 1776, John Adams sings to his wife, Abigail: "I am, as I ever was and ever shall be, yours, yours, yours, yours, yours..."

     Those lyrics, put to the music of Sherman Edwards, paint a picture of an adoring husband -- who was also a tough statesman with a tempestuous personality. That line also happens to be a direct quote.
     On Feb. 16, 1780, while in France, Adams wrote a letter to Abigail and signed it:
               "I am, as I ever was and ever shall be,
                Yours, yours, yours."
     Adams, the driving force behind American independence, would eventually become the second president of the United States. Abigail would be remembered as a feminist, political thinker, writer, mother of President John Quincy Adams and able adviser to her husband. (She is best known, perhaps, for a letter in which she admonished him, "Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.")      
     But both John and Abigail Adams were prolific letter writers, for John was often away from home --  delegate to the Continental Congress or overseas as foreign minister.
     When reading their letters, it is easy to imagine a couple capable of intense sparring balanced with intense affection. They married in 1764. She died first, in 1818. In the years between, they formed a partnership. (That word -- partner -- is evident in their writing.)
     Here, in honor of St. Valentine's Day, are a few examples:

     Oct. 4, 1762 -- During courtship, John Adams wrote this to Abigail:

     "Miss Adorable
      By the same Token that the Bearer hereof sat up with you last night I hereby order you to give him, as many kisses, and as many hours of your company after 9 o’clock as he shall please to demand and charge them to my account ..."

     July 16, 1775 -- A decade into the marriage, Abigail complains that John is busy thinking about politics and has forgotten how to say sweet things to his wife:

     “… You have made frequent complaints that your friends do not write to you. I have stirred up some of them. May not I in my turn make complaints? All the letters I receive from you seem to be written in so much haste that they scarcely leave room for a social feeling. They let me know that you exist, but some of them contain scarcely six lines. I want some sentimental effusions of the heart. I am sure you are not destitute of them. Or are they all absorbed in the great public?…”  

     May 22, 1776 --John writes wistfully of home:

     “…Yet I read and read again your charming letters, and they serve me, in some faint degree, as a substitute for the company and conversation of the writer. I want to take a walk with you in the garden, to go over to the common, the plain, the meadow. I want to take Charles in one hand and Tom in the other, and walk with you, Abby on your right hand and John upon my left, to view the corn fields, the orchards, etc. Alas, poor imagination!”

     May 6, 1777 -- Abigail writes John and says she misses him:

     " ...Not ten minutes pass without thinking of you. 'Tis four months wanting three days since we parted. Every day of the time I have mourned the absence of my friend, and felt a vacancy in my heart which nothing, nothing can supply. In vain the spring blooms or the birds sing. Their music has not its former melody, nor the spring its usual pleasures. I look around with a melancholy delight and sigh for my absent partner. I fancy I see you worn down with cares, fatigued with business, and solitary amidst a multitude."   

   Feb. 21, 1779 -- John writes Abigail and tells her that he would like to write more:

   “…You complain that I don’t write often enough; and that when I do, my letters are too short. If I were to tell you all the tenderness of my heart, I should do nothing but write to you. I beg of you not to be uneasy. I write you as often and as much as I ought. ….”       

   Dec. 23, 1782 -- Abigail writes of her love: 

   “There are few occurrences in this northern climate, at this season of the year, to divert or entertain you; and, in the domestic way, should I draw you the picture of my heart, it would be what I hope you still would love, though it contained nothing new. The early possession you obtained there, and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it, leave 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.”


    See this and other animations on our sister website,


    Quick Study: The complicated John Adams


    The Letters of John and Abigail Adams (SMK Books) 

    Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 May 1776 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. 

    The National Archives: Founders Online

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