ADAMS, John (1735-1826), President. Autograph letter signed ("John Adams"), to Rev. Stephen Peabody, Quincy, 21 April 1815. 1 full page, 4to, light matburn, very slight fold separation.
"HOW THE WORLD HAS FALLEN TO PIECES, ABOUT ME...NEVERTHELESS I DELIGHT AND REJOICE IN LIFE...."
An emotional letter of condolence from the 80-year-old former President to his brother-in-law, Stephen Peabody, whose wife (Abigail Adams's sister Elizabeth) had just died: "I received...the account of the Apotheosis of your dearest Friend. At first I determined to attend you. But the Roads, the near departure of my Grandsons, Anxieties for their Parents and many cares that the World knows not, added to an Eightieth year, discouraged me. The Translation of the beattified Spirit was an Euthenasia devoutly to be wished. Away with all concern on that point. With you and your, and my dear William and Abigail, I sympathize most cordially. The pure Spirit mounted on high, has left them to their own Virtue and discretion, in which I have great confidence. May Heaven bless you and them." Thinking of so many dead relatives and friends--William Smith, Abigail Adams's brother, and John and Abigail's own daughter, Abigail, or "Nabby" as she was known, who had died in 1813--Adams declares: "How the world has fallen to pieces about me my Brother! Ancestors, Collaterals, in public and private Life, all gone! Except Dr. [Cotton A.] Tufts and my dear blind and deaf Brother [Adams's closest friend, Richard Cranch]! Thanks to God! My dearest Friend remains, I hope if not to close my Eyes, yet to see me in the Tomb. Nevertheless I delight and rejoice in Life: yea, and I will, if I can rejoice."
Infirm, and beset by family tragedies (son Charles died of alcoholism in 1800, daughter Abigail from cancer in 1813, his "dearest Friend," wife Abigail, would pass in 1818), Adams nevertheless remained resolutely hopeful and intellectually active throughout his long retirement in Quincy. He found more than a measure of political redemption in the success of his son John Quincy, whom President Madison named in February 1815 to Adams's old post--American ambassador to the Court of St. James (the grandsons Adams mentions in this letter, George and John, were preparing to join their father, whom they had not seen in six years). In 1811, Adams and Jefferson had renewed their friendship, creating in the process one of the epistolary treasures of American history. Writing John Quincy in 1815, Adams professed: "I assure you in the sincerity of a father, the last fourteen years have been the happiest of my life." (McCullough, 615)