May 18, 1778 found Mr. and Mrs. Adams separated, as they so often were -- this time by the Atlantic Ocean. Earlier that year, John had been appointed to replace Silas Deane as part of the Commission to negotiate an alliance with the French to be allies in the colonies' war for independence. Deane, it seems, could not get along with Benjamin Franklin. As it turned out, Adams would fair no better, but that is a story for another time.
Back then, a journey across the Atlantic took several weeks. There was no mail service, of course, on the ship, so the first opportunity John would have had to write to Abigail would have been, perhaps, in April. His letter would then have taken another six weeks or so to get to Abigail in Braintree, Massachusetts.
So, the Adams correspondence for May 18, 1778 finds Abigail complaining, as she would do so often in the years to come, of the long wait for word to come from her husband:
"I have waited with great patience, restraining as much as posible every anxious Idea for 3 Months. But now every Vessel which arrives sits my expectation upon the wing, and I pray my Gaurdian Genious to waft me the happy tidings of your Safety and Welfare. Heitherto my wandering Ideas Rove like the Son of Ulissis from Sea to Sea, and from Shore to Shore, not knowing where to find you. Sometimes I fancy'd you upon the Mighty Waters, sometimes at your desired Haven; sometimes upon the ungratefull and Hostile Shore of Britain, but at all times and in all places under the protecting care and Guardianship of that Being who not only cloathes the lilies of the Feild and hears the young Ravens when they cry, but hath said of how much more worth are ye than many Sparrows, and this confidence which the world cannot deprive me of, is my food by day and my Rest by Night, and was all my consolation under the Horrid Ideas of assassination, the only Event of which I had not thought, and in some measure prepaird my mind." She worried constantly for his safety and imagined the most terrible of fates for him when she did not hear from him.
Yet, as was her nature, she recognized the great sense of duty that drove John and, even in her sorrow, she put a good face on her predicament: "Difficult as the Day is, cruel as this War has been, [illegible] seperated as I am on account of it from the dearest connextion in life, I would not exchange my Country for the Wealth of the Indies, or be any other than an American tho I might be Queen or Empress of any Nation upon the Globe."
John's letter to Abigail on June 3, 1778 expresses the same sense of loss of companionship: "My dearest Friend,
On the 13 of Feb. I left you. It is now the 3d. of June, and I have not received a Line, nor heard a Word, directly nor indirectly, concerning you since my departure. This is a Situation of Mind, in which I never was before, and I assure you I feel a great deal of Anxiety at it: yet I do not wonder at it, because I suppose few Vessels have sailed from Boston since ours." John was also constantly mindful of the very real possibility that his letters would be intercepted (as they, in fact, were on more than one occasion), so he was guarded in his observations: "There is so much danger that my Letter may fall into malicious Hands, that I should not choose to be too free in my Observations upon the Customs and Manners of this People." But he was not reticent in letting Abigail know exactly how he felt about her: " I am, with an Ardour that Words have not Power to express, yours. . . ."
GEM Theatrics presents "My Dearest Friend" by Mary G. Kron at the Women's City Club, Grand Rapids, Michigan July 16, 2015 at 11:00 am. Watch the Home Page for details.