Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Abigail Adams

                    Abigail Adams was born on November 22, 1744, in the North Parish Congregational Church in Weymouth, Massachusetts, to Reverend William Smith and Elizabeth Quincy Smith.  She was their second born and had one brother and two sisters:  Mary Smith Cranch (1739/1741-1811), William Smith (1746-1787), Elizabeth (Betsy) Smith Shaw Peabody (1750-1815).

The Reverend William Smith (born January 29, 1706, Charlestown, Massachusetts; died September 2783, Weymouth, Massachusetts) was a liberal Congregationalist minister and a leader in society as was his forebears.  He emphasized the importance of reason and morality instead of teaching predestination, original sin, or the full divinity of Christ.  He was a supporter of the American Revolution and was known as the father of Abigail Adams, the father-in-law of John Adams, and the grandfather of John Quincy Adams.

Elizabeth Quincy (born 1721, Braintree, Massachusetts; died 1775, Weymouth, Massachusetts; married in 1740) was the daughter of John Quincy, a member of the colonial Governor's council and colonel of the militia.  Mr. Quincy was also Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly for 40 years, ending at his death at age 77.  His interest in politics and his public service had a great influence on Abigail.  Through her mother, Abigail was a cousin of Dorothy Quincy, the wife of John Hancock.  She was also a great-granddaughter of the Rev. John Norton, founding pastor of Old Ship Church in Hingham, Massachusetts - the only remaining 17th-century Puritan meetinghouse in Massachusetts.

                    Abigail's ancestors were English and Welsh.  Her paternal great-grandfather, Thomas Smith, was born May 10, 1645, and left Dartmouth, England, to immigrate to Charleston, Massachusetts.  One of Abigail's great-great-great grandmothers came from a Welsh family.  Abigail's genealogy has been well-researched and her known roots preceded her birth by six centuries.  She descended from royal lines in France, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Holland, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Switzerland.

Abigail Smith was too sickly to receive formal schooling, but she and her sisters were taught to read, write, and cipher by
their mother.  The large libraries belonging to their father, uncle, and maternal grandfather enabled the girls to study English and French literature.  Abigail took special interest in philosophy, theology, Shakespeare, the classics, ancient history, government and law. 

Even though Abigail had no formal education, she was later known for advocating public education for girls equal to that given to boys.  Abigail was "an intellectually open-minded woman for her day" and had some distinct ideas on women's rights and government.  Her ideas eventually had a major but indirect effect on the founding of the United States.  She was "one of the most erudite women ever to serve as First Lady."

                    Abigail was described as being five feet 1 inch tall with brown hair and brown eyes.  There is no documentation showing that she worked in the parsonage activities with her father.  She was often in poor health and spent her time reading and writing letters.  She did not play cards, sing, or dance.

                    John and Abigail were third cousins and knew each other as children.  John's friend, Richard Cranch, was engaged to Abigail's older sister, Mary, when the two gentlemen visited the Smith home in 1762.  Abigail was 17 years old and perpetually reading, but John was quickly attracted to her.  He was surprised when he found out that Abigail was so well versed in poetry, philosophy, and politics because very few women were in that time period.

                    Abigail was 19 years old and John was almost 29 years old when they married on October 25, 1764, in the home of the bride's parents in Weymouth, Massachusetts.  The Reverend Smith approved of the married and performed the ceremony.  The mother of the bride was "appalled that her daughter would marry a country lawyer whose manners still reeked of the farm, but eventually she gave in."  The bride "wore a square-necked gown of white challis," and the groom wore "a dark blue coat, contrasting light breeches and white stockings, a gold-embroidered satin waistcoat his mother had made for the occasion, and buckle shoes." 

                    According to one source the newlyweds left "in a horse and carriage to a cottage that stood beside the one where John Adams had been born and raised.  This became their first home.  They moved to Boston in a series of rented homes before buying a large farm, `Peacefield,' in 1787, while John was Minister to Great Britain."

                    The other source said that "the couple mounted a single horse and rode off to their new home, the small cottage and farm that John had inherited from his father in Braintree, Massachusetts, before moving to Boston, where his law practice expanded."

                    Six children were born to the couple in the next ten years:  Abigail Amelia Adams Smith ("Nabby" - 1765-1813), John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), Susanna Boylston Adams (1768-1770), Charles Adams (1770-1800), Thomas Boylston Adams (1772-1832), and Elizabeth Adams (stillborn in 1777).

                    John and Abigail shared the management of the household finances and the farming of their property for sustenance while he practiced law in Boston.  While John was away on his long trips, Abigail was responsible for both family and farm.

                    When John Adams went to Philadelphia in 1774 as a delegate to the First Continental Congress, Abigail stayed at home.  It was during this separation that Abigail and John began their lifelong correspondence.  John sought advice from his wife frequently and on many matters; "their letters are filled with intellectual discussions on government and politics" and "serve as eyewitness accounts of the American Revolutionary War home front."  Their correspondence forms both a "rich archive that reflected the evolution of a marriage of the Revolutionary and Federal eras" as well as "a chronology of the public issues debated and confronted by the new nation's leaders."  

                    Abigail became the first Second Lady when John became the Vice President; when he was later elected as President, she became the second First Lady.  She was the wife of the second President and the mother of the sixth President, John Quincy Adams.  She was active in promoting the rights of married women and considered slavery to be "evil."

                    After John was defeated in his quest for a second term as President, the couple retired to Quincy in 1800.  "Lady Adams" died on October 28, 1818, of typhoid fever.  She was 73 years old but would have been 74 two weeks later.  She is buried beside her husband in a crypt located in the United First Parish Church (also known as the Church of the Presidents) in Quincy, Massachusetts.  She was Congregationalist but was buried in the Unitarian faith of her husband.  Her last words were, "Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend.  I am ready to go.  And John, it will not be long."  (John passed away on July 4, 1826.)

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