John Adams


With Granddaughters



Discusses his Family Name.  Mentions Family Relations of Jewish, Greek, Roman & Christian Families

Quincy, May (post 19), 1810.  To Rev. William Bentley, Salem.


     One of the most unusual letters; scrawled over by a child during his absence from his desk and explained by the surprised old statesman in the postscript.  The culprit is believed to have been Elizabeth Coombs Adams, daughter of his son Thomas B. Adams.

     The letter combines praise for the “Endicott Pear Tree,” some commentary on the futility of genealogical research into the Smith and Adams families, a passage on divine right, and “at the end a little Politicks.”

     “I received from our Quincy stage under the direction of Mr. Thayer a box of Scions from the Endicott Pear Tree, carefully preserved and in admirable order…accept my best Thanks.  I have engrafted a number of Stocks which have taken very well according to their present appearance, and have distributed others to several Gentlemen in this and the Neighbouring Towns…”

     “Mr. Smith of Weymouth and Mr. Isaac Smith of Boston the first my (father-in-law)…were the sons of a Mr. Smith who lived and died in Charleston.  He possessed an estate…which is descended to my Wife and her Sister Peabody but as I understand he comes from England and cannot be nearly related to the Gentleman whose Farm you mention.  He was related to the Palatine family of Smiths in South Carolina…an acquaintance and correspondence has been continued with them.  But it is idle to trace families by the name of Smith for there are as I am told seventy families of that name in New York who know of no relation to each other.  The same may be said of Adams for there are seven hundred families of them I believe in France Spain Italy England Scotland Ireland and Germany who know of no Relation nearer than Adam in Paradise…”

     “Among the Jews, the distinction of Families was by divine appointment; among the Greeks and Romans Families were demigods by descent from Jupiter…Mars Bacchus and Apollo, that is by Rapes Fornications and Adulteries and Incest.  Among the Christian Nations the Nobles have claimed…Divine Right to Power Priviledge and Distinction…there is nothing in human Nature and human history more ridiculous than this whole subject; and yet there is nothing more immoveably fixed by Nature in the weakness of human Understanding Habits Prejudices and Passions…”

     “…the portrait of the Endicott Pear Tree is beautiful in the highest degree and the hand writing equal to any I have seen of any engrossing Clerk in Europe or America.  The tree had died at top as Dean Swift and his melancholy Oak did.  The Ladies say that the little Urchin of a Cupid who holds up the wreath; a little fat, broad faced square headed spright resembles me more than the portrait…”

     “Excuse me at the end a little Politicks.  Have you read Mr. John Bristed's Scottish and Methodistical Hints on the National Bankruptcy of Great Britain?  Have you read the Boston Patriot of last Saturday?  What think you of an alliance between G. Britain, the U. States of America and the Spanish Provinces of S. America?   Would this not make of Great Britain the most Universal and most despotick Empire that ever existed on this Globe?...”


     “P.S.  I am ashamed to send this without an Apology.  The Blotts and Scrawls were done by a little Grand Daughter of three years old who stole into my Chamber…my Babe taking advantage of…my momentary Absence Spoiled my Paper.  I cannot copy it.”