J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Follow by Email


Friday, July 17, 2020

“I have removed H——n out of the house”

As I quoted yesterday, in July 1775 John Adams sent his wife Abigail confirmation in writing that their tenant hand, an “old Man” named Hayden, should move out of the rooms he occupied in one of their Braintree houses.

Hayden had refused Abigail’s request, saying her husband would never have asked that of him. But that was just a delaying tactic.

John was still in Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress on 21 October when Abigail updated him on the effect of his letter:
Hayden does not stir. Says he will not go out of the parish [i.e., north Braintree, now Quincy] unless he is carried out—and here nobody will let him come in. I have offerd him part of the House that [a neighbor named] Field is in if he will but go out, but no where suits, and it is not to be wonderd at as he has wood at free cost and has plunderd pretty well from the family they live [with] many articles. I have a great mind to send a sheriff and put him out.
But she didn’t. For one thing, Abigail still needed men to work the farm, and the war made labor even more expensive.

Finally on 9 Apr 1778 Abigail Adams could write to her sons’ tutor, John Thaxter:
There is no reformation with regard to prices here, tho money grows scarcer, Labour is much more exorbitant than it was when you left us. The most indifferent Farmer is not to be procured under 10 and 12 pounds per month.

I know you will give me joy when I tell you that I have wrought almost a miracle. I have removed H——n out of the house, or rather hired him to remove and have put in a couple of Industerous young Fellows, to whom I let the Farm to the Halves.
In a letter to John that month, Abigail went into more detail about the new arrangements:
Many domestick affairs I wish to consult upon. I have studied for a method of defraying the necessary expences of my family. In no one Instance is a hundred pound L M better than thirteen pounds Six and Eight pence used to be, in foreign Articles no ways eaquel, in taxes but a fourth part as good. Day Labour at 24 shillings per day. What then can you think my situation must be?

I will tell you after much embaresment in endeavouring to procure faithfull hands I concluded to put out the Farm and reduce my family as much as posible. I sit about removeing the Tenants from the House, which with much difficulty I effected, but not till I had paid a Quarters Rent in an other House for them. I then with the kind assistance of Dr. [Cotton] T[uft]s procured two young Men Brothers newly married and placed them as Tenants to the halves retaining in my own Hands only one Horse and two Cows with pasturage for my Horse in summer, and Q[uinc]y medow for fodder in winter
Abigail had paid old Hayden’s rent for his first three months somewhere else—anywhere else.

I’ve quoted at extra length from those 1778 letters to show how Abigail Adams became more explicit about prices and economic trends over the course of the war. Eventually she was managing the Adams family’s finances, reporting to John on investments but no longer asking him for permission in advance.

No comments: