Abigail Smith Adams

Abigail Adams

Remember the Ladies

March 31, 1776 – Abigail to John

“Tis a heavy inelegant verbose performance.”

“Tis a liberty I take with you.”

Risking his finding her saucy, Abigail proceeded:

I long to hear that you have declared an independency – and by the way, in the new code of laws, which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation…That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such a view as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity and impunity. Men of Sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.

On the subject of slavery

“You know my mind upon the Subject. I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province. It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me – fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have.”

John responds:

“As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been told that our struggle has loosed the bands of government everywhere. That children and apprentices were disobedient – that colleges and schools were grown turbulent – that Indians slighted their guardians and negroes grew insolent to their masters. But your letter was the first intimation that another tribe has grown discontented.”

Abigail responds, May 7, 1776:

Lydia in Colonial garb

“I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies, for whilst you are proclaiming peace and goodwill to Men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over Wives. But you must remember that Arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken, and we have it in our power not only to free ourselves but to free ourselves but to subdue our masters, and without violence throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet.”

I Would Go A-Roving (song)

Women you know sir, are considered Domestic Beings and although they inherit an equal share of curiosity with the other sex few venture abroad and explore the amazing variety of distant lands. The many dangers we are subject to from your sex renders it almost impossible Single Lady to travel without injury to her character. These are obstacles sufficient to prevent their roving.”