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tv   First Ladies Influence Image  CSPAN  August 6, 2013 9:00pm-10:31pm EDT

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the conversation continues at and # cspanchat on twitter. and washington journal tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. eastern with your phone calls and comments. formerst guest is the department of, and security chief. homeland security chief. will beseo medina talking about the august recess and immigration reform. on later, a spotlight $4.5zines and the recent billion construction project for the and tomorrow evening, we will focus our attention on the issue of media coverage of war.
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live at 7:00 eastern tomorrow night here on sees and. ,eason two of first ladies influence and image, began monday -- begins monday, and.mber 9, with a second all this month, we are showing encore presentations of season one each weeknight at this time, 9:00 a.m. eastern. programs on every first lady tom barbara washington abigail adams. tonight, abigail adams area -- adams. ♪ > abigail would grow to be the equal of john adams as confidante and dearest friend. >>she has really revealed herself as, yes, an 18th-century woman, but her concerns sound very modern to us today. >> john and abigail adams have become so prominent in the minds
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of americans because of this collection of papers. >> the story of abigail adams and the revolutionary war is the story of sacrifice, of commitment to country. abigail rose to the occasion. >> abigail was adamantly opposed to slavery. >> she was quite a behind-the- scenes dynamo. she warned her husband, you cannot rule without including what women want and what women have to contribute. >> the backdrop to the occupancy of the white house is one of political defeat and personal tragedy. >> she is worried about her husband and defends him against slander. she is concerned about her children, their upbringing, their education. >> she could hold her own with anybody in her own time and since. she was in every way her husband's equal.
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>> born in 1744, abigail smith married john adams at age 19. over 54 years of marriage, they had five children together, including a future president. ahead of her time in many ways, and a writer unparalleled to any first lady, she penned this to her husband during the american revolution -- good evening, and welcome to c- span's "first ladies: influence and image." for the next 90 minutes, we will be learning more about abigail adams, the second first lady of the united states. we have two guests at our table who have spent much of their professional careers learning about the adamses and bringing their writings to the public. let me introduce them to you. edith gelles is the author of numerous books, including
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"abigail adams: a writing life" and "abigail and john: portrait of a marriage." c. james taylor is the editor- in-chief of the "adams papers" at the massachussetts historical society. thanks to both of you and welcome. abigail adams, just by virtue of the fact of being wife of the second president and the mother of another president, earned her place in history. you say in your book that she is an historical figure in her own right. how so? >> primarily because she left us letters, and we have a record of her life. her letters are not ordinary. they are extraordinary. they are wonderfully written and there are many of them. abigail was a letter writer at a time when women could not
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publish for publication. her letters became her outlet, and they are the best record we have of women's role in the american revolution and the period of the early national government of the united states. >> last week in the martha washington program, we learned with great sorrow martha washington burned all of her papers, her letters, her correspondence with her husband george. only two of them remained. we have just the opposite here. thousands and thousands of them. explain the scope of the trove of materials that you have to work with as scholars through the writings of the adams family. >> the adams family gave to the massachusetts historical society a collection. we have never counted them individually, but probably 70,000+ documents over several generations, and probably about 300,000 pages. for abigail and john, which is the most important of the collection, there are about 1,170 letters they exchanged over the years. >> how frequently did they write to one another?
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>> it depended. when they were together -- for example, we do not have any letters after 1801 because after john leaves the white house, they're together almost all the time. for periods, for example, when there is fairly regular mail delivery between massachussetts and philadelphia, or later washington, d.c., they wrote at least once a week and sometimes twice a week. i almost like to think of it like phone calls. >> this program is an interactive one, which makes it more enjoyable for all of us, and we hope you take part. in about 15 minutes, we will be taking your telephone calls. we will put the phone numbers on the screen so you can phone in a question. there are two other ways you can be involved. if you go to twitter and use the hashtag #firstladies, we will include some of your tweets. you can also go to c-span's facebook page, and we have posted a spot where you can send questions. i am going to start with a facebook comment. "she looks like a tough cookie." by looking at the words of abigail adams, was she a tough cookie? >> oh, my goodness, no. yes and no. one of the important things to understand about abigail is that she started out as a naive young woman whose expectations were to have a normal life like her
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mother did. the revolution disrupted that, and her whole life shifted. this is one of the reasons why she has become such a great model for us women. she used the opportunity of this disruption in her life to grow as a person. she begins as a naive young woman, and she does become a very sophisticated, worldly, opinionated, kind woman. >> i think this is one of the things that makes her the most attractive. a good character in a novel develops over time. she is like a good character in a novel. she develops. >> what were her roots? where was she born? what was her upbringing such that she became a woman of letters? >> she was the daughter of a minister, reverend william smith.
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her mother was descended from -- if there was nobility in new england -- the clergy and the political world of new england., of the massachussetts bay colony. her mother's family were nortons and quincys. she grew up in a household that was quite middle-class for that time and had two sisters and one brother. she was, by all reports, sickly as a child, and therefore did not go to any kind of public schooling, of whic hthere a few, but was educated at home by her mother. she read at random in her father's library. >> when, in the course of reading her writing, did she become political? can you describe her politics? >> i am trying to think.
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very early on when john is at the continental congress, she craves news. she wants the newspapers. she wants pamphlets when they are published. one of the things -- we know she was consuming the news at that time. all of the news is what was printed. she begins -- i would say by the middle 1770s -- she is on board. >> in what capacity? what was her political thinking? >> she was an ardent revolutionary, she was very supportive, not only of the revolution, of the fact that john was participating. as a matter of fact, they were partners in everything that he did. at some point, he writes to her thanking her for being a partner in the activites. later on, i think she is more perhaps conservative than john in some ways when it came to national politics. >> we will be looking at some of her letters throughout the program. a very famous one is -- and we used it in the open -- was her,
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"remember the ladies." that is a letter that is of particular interest to you. you write that the scope of it we always hear that section -- is really much broader. why is that letter significant in understanding abigail adams? >> the letter does many things. my sense of abigail is she wrote at night, and she would enter a kind of reverie in which she followed her thought pattern wherever she went. she changes topics in her letters very many times. it starts out with a political statement about why the southerners can favor slavery and still be doing a rebellion against atyranny. >> and she questions that. >> and she questions that. and then she moves on, and in
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the middle of a paragraph, makes this, "remember the ladies" statement. then it goes on further to suggest that if john did not like this idea -- actually it was a remarkable thing because he was in a position to do something, to make a change, because he was on the committee that was drafting a declaration of independence. he actually could have made a move for women's rights at that time. it is remarkable that she did suggest that. >> can you give us a sense of what powers women had in society at that time? they could not publish under their own names. they certainly could not vote. how could women be influential? >> it is a much more subtle thing. in the same way -- many times, a decision is made today, and
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people think that the husband makes the decision. there is a kitchen table discussion that goes on before that. in the adams household, there were a lot of kitchen table discussions between john and abigail. abigail may not have been the most obvious in making the decisions, but i think she influenced john a lot. we know much later after the revolution when he has his political careerthat she is very influential in helping him formulate his ideas. >> we want to tell you a little bit about what the country looked like in 1800, as john adams was leaving office. we have some statistics we will put on screen to give you some of the scope. by that point, the census in 1800, interestingly, was done by john marshall who went on to the supreme court, and ultimately done by secretary of state james madison. all such familiar names from history -- the job of census chief at that time. the population was 5.3 million
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across 16 states. they were 998,000 blacks, about 19% of the population, only 12% of them free. that 5.3 million was a 35% growth in the country in 10 years since the 1790 census. one interesting thing though, the average life expectancy if you were born in 1800 was just 39 years. the largest cities were in the country new york, philadelphia, baltimore, unchanged from 10 years ago. what are some of the things we should take away from those statistics, that snapshot of america? >> one of the things is there is an expansion going on. this is one of the things that is very difficult for the adamses because politics are changing, and the changing
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politics means they are new englanders. they are federalists. as time goes by, as the population moved south and westward, it makes it more difficult for politics that they believe in. >> we are going to invite your telephone calls.
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we will be going to calls in just a few minutes. i am told you want to read us a passage from one of the letters. >> i would like to remark on the 39-year life span. that is not exactly accurate to the extent that children died much more rapidly. if a child survived to 12, probably the life span was much longer. many, many people lived into their 70's, as the adamses did. >> the five children -- how many of them survived to adulthood? >> four. >> four? you are getting a passage ready for us. you wanted to read us from the letter we talked about earlier, "remember the ladies"? >> right. in this particular letter, abigail was ruminating about conditions in her life and what was going on in her world. she says, "i would long to hear that you have declared an independancy." she knew john was on this committe. "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." which is a bold and remarkable statement for a woman to have made in that era. >> based on the relationship we have seen detailed in the letters, would it have been a surprising thing for her to say to john adams? >> no, i don't think so at all. as we go back to the kitchen table, i am sure that before he rode off to philadelphia, she filled his ear with a lot of
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ideas along the way. john in his response notesthat there are several groups of people -- servants, slaves, etcetera -- who are also moved during this time to think about their rights and their independence. >> what was her viewpoint on slavery? >> she was opposed to slavery. she had a servant, a black servant, who had in fact been a slave of her fathers. i think the woman -- what was the story? >> phoebe. >> phoebe abdee. did she have the right to be free after -- i cannot remember. >> abigail cared for her for the rest of her life after her parents died. in fact, she lived in the adams house. >> when they were in europe. >> the adams business was a
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farm. how did they manage to work the farm? what kind of labor did they use to support family labor? >> tenant farming mostly. they did have hired labor. it became very problematic for abigail during the war, the situation of having labor on the land. i want to go back to the letter just a little bit. you mentioned john's response to her, and what she does in this letter in addition to saying, "why is it that southerners can support our revolution when they keep people in slavery?" -- then she goes on and says, "remember the ladies" -- and then she says, "if you do not pay attention to this, we ladies are going to foment our own rebellion." and then it goes on further to say that you should treat us the same way that god treats people. she invokes the puritan hierarchy. in this one letter, she brings out so many ideas. i would suggest that her threat to foment a revolution is
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indicative of one of the ways the adamses related to each other. they teased eachother. his response to her was a tease also. "well, it sounds to me as if every group, any tribe is going to make a revolution." jokes are a way that people have of deescalating an argument. it brings it down to normal. they really -- one of the ways in which they related, it seems to me. >> these two prolific letter writers, how did they meet each other? >> they met at her father's house. he went as a dinner guest with a lifelong friend, a guy named richard cranch who then married the elder sister of abigail's. abigail was not yet 15 at that time, and john, at least in his diary, was not particularly enthusiastic about her at first. apparently, things changed over the years.
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he was 9 years older than her, so he was 23-24 years old. >> he also had a girlfriend at the time. >> there's an amazing story that he was about to propose to this woman, and one of his friends burst in and broke the mood,, and she went off and married somebody else. it came within a whisker of him proposing to somebody. >> he was a lawyer. would that have been a profession that her family would have appreciated her falling for? >> the family lore suggests that it was not. when charles francis adams wrote about it, he suggested that her family disapproved of her marrying a lawyer. she was also very young when she met him. i think they were being protective of her, as well. >> was john political at that point? did she know she was going to be choosing a life of politics? >> no one knew about the revolution. that is one thing we need to keep in mind, that all of this is happening at a period of time
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when there is no revolution. there is no revolution on the horizon. they think of themselves as british people. sure, he was interested in politics the way young men were, and he was running for office by this time, wasn't he? >> a very, very local -- his trajectory was to be a great lawyer in massachusetts. that's what he saw he was following that line and probably would have been >> it is important to note because these two were married for 54 years, and as we're hearing from our guests, were great partners. even if it was in the beginning not a love match, it grew to become one. we have as an example this one letter. this is called the "miss adorable" letter, and we are going to show that to you next. >> what is so appealing about the family series is the intimacy that the letters reveal.
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the earliest extent letter we have dates to october 1762. we call it the "miss adorable" letter because that is how john adams opens the letter. it was john writing to abigail. he says, "miss adorable, by same token that the bearer hereof sat up with you last night, i hereby order you to give him as many kisses and as many hours of your company after 9:00 as he shall please to demand and charge them to my account." he continues, "i presume i have good right to draw upon you for the kisses as i have given two or three millions at least. when one has been received, and as consequence, the account between us is immensely in favor of yours." a very teasing, affectionate
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tone. there are just some wonderful moments in the courtship correspondence. >> it's fun during this series to bring these founding fathers, people that we see in these very two-dimensional poses, come to life and have real human personalities. these people were clearly having fun and enjoyed one another. >> this is one of the most appealing things about john and abigail, and some of the other adamses, but particularly john and abigail. they have a life that you can follow because of the documents. you see them in good times and in bad. you see death in the family, you see triumph. i was going to say, it's like "downton abbey," but it's not
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exactly, but it's a wonderful story. the reason is because we have so many documents. there is texture there that you do not have with the other founders. >> based on how you've described her admonitions to john about remembering the ladies, brenda elliott on twitter wants to know >> one of the things that we know by reading abigail's letters is that women were aware of their subordinate role in the 18th century. because we have abigail's letters where she writes about this, we know that she was not exemplary.
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other women in her period of time time, her good friend mercy otis warren, for instance, was totally agreeing with her and totally a colleague. i think that one of the things we have learned in the women's movement in the late 20th and early 21st centuries is that we can trace the movement for women's rights back further and further in history. abigail happens to be an outstanding example because she left us letters that say these things. she was also very eloquent. not everyone could write like abigail. abigail was a wonderful writer.
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>> our first telephone call on abigail adams comes from jan, watching us in new york city. >> hi, good evening. while abigail certainly was one of the first great american female writers, shouldn't it also be acknowledged that she was a poor mother, despite john quincy, since another son committed suicide and another son drank himself to death? >> thank you what she a good mother? >> yes, she was a very good mother. we live in a post-freudian world in which when something goes wrong inside of a family, the mother gets the blame. first of all, these children were living through a revolution. second of all, their father was not at home for 25 years. she was doing it all by herself. she was coping in a situation
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which was extraordinary. i think that applying 21st century standards to mothering and even the psychology that has developed in the early 20th century does not fly for the 18th century. >> mary is up next in santa rosa, california. >> hi, thanks for taking my call. i am interested in finding out what the relationship between abigail and thomas jefferson was. did abigail and thomas jefferson correspond during john and thomas' year of not really speaking to each other? i've also heard that abigail had an intimate relationship with him as far as correspondence went. i am wondering how true that is. >> they were very good friends at one time. the highest point of the relationship was when abigail was for a while in france and
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then in england, and thomas jefferson was a diplomat abroad at that time. they were very close, very close. as a matter of fact, for a while, while jefferson was in paris and she was in london, they bought goods for one another and kept little accounts for one another. at one point, one of -- jefferson's younger daughter came from virginia to france but stopped in london on the way, and abigail took care of her during that time. during the national period, particularly after the election of 1800, the relationship really fell apart. it was over politics. during that time, abigail was very disappointed with jefferson. >> next up is matt in osh kosh, wisconsin.
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>> thanks for taking my call. i was wondering what some of the intellectual and stylisitc influences on abigail's writing were, other writers she might have read and how they might have influenced her. >> thank you. did she have influences on her writing? >> of course, she was a great reader. this is the beginning point of beginning to write well, to read good literature. she read the bible, she read pope. i am going to let jim also talk to this. >> when we do the research on her letters, one of the things if she is quoting somebody or citing somebody, we always want to identify who it is. sometimes, she is not using quotation marks. educated people in the 18th century knew a lot of things automatically. i would say the things she quoted most often or things that she referenced most were shakespeare, the bible, alexander pope, and the classics. >> this next call is from their hometown quincy, massachusetts. this is kumu, you're on. >> hello. congratulations on having this wonderful series on the first ladies. i live in quincy, massachusetts, and we are very lucky see and experience and breathe the adamses life up close every day. my comment was going to be about abigail's sentiment about remembering the ladies. i think she pretty much -- not paved the way -- but she shined light on the fact that women can shape and change destinies, not just of one's life, but of nations and the world if they set their mind to it.
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it is very important because women are the primary factor in bringing up the children. she did it just at the brink of the united states as we know it today because the adamses were instrumental in the constitution and the forming of this nation. in fact, quincy is actually called the birthplace of the american dream. she may not be formally recognized as a primary role in women's rights, but she definitely had a very important role in shaping women's place in this country and in history. >> thank you. more of a comment and observation than a question. that caller was from quincy. we will taking you next to the quincy home of the adamses as we prepare to tell you the story of the revolutionary times in which the adamses lived. >> the story of abigail adams and the revolutionary war is a story of sacrifice, of commitment to country. abigail rose to the occassion. for the first 10 years, they lived in this home, from 1764- 1774. it is where they raise their four children. this is the birthplace of their second child, john quincy adams,
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who went on to become president of the united states. the primary link between she and john adams would be letter writing. it was from this house that he was provided a window into what was happening back here in the colony of massachusetts. she would report to john about the militia in boston. during the battle of bunker hill, she took her son and she would watch the battle of bunker hill with her son and report about the fires and smoke. she was the eyes of the revolution to john adams and the second continental congress in philadelphia. we are in the hub of the household. this room in particular could be considered the classroom for abigail the schoolmistress and hurt corporate children. one must remember the schools were closed down. the children cannot benefit from
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a formal education. it was up to abigail to teach them the lessons. not only arithmetic and french, but also morality, literature, and what was going on in the revolutionary war. she was their primary educator here in this home. this is the room where many of those lessons would have taken place. she reported to john adams at one point, she began to take up the works of ancient history, and she was having john quincy read her at least two pages a day. i do not know if anybody has read that history, but for a seven-year-old, he had a very
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good instructor in abigail adams. during the occupation of boston, there were many refugees leaving boston and into the country. they needed a place to live. abigail adams wanted to open the home next door, john adams's birthplace, for the refugees. she rented a house out to a farmer and his son. but would provide assistance to abigail on the farm. she reported to john that she met with some ill treatment. she asked mr. hayden and to share his house with refugees, but he refused. by the time she received a response, like many things, she had solved the problem yourself. she paid mr. hayden to leave the press -- the premises, providing her the opportunity to house refugees. there are troops marching in her yard, practicing their maneuvers and preparation for war. she reports to john that john quincy is out behind the house, marching proudly behind the militia. at one point there were militia's living in the upstairs attic and the second floor. she welcomed these men to her
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home and support to the revolutionary war with her actions. >> the adams's lights put them in the defense in the founding of our country. we have a timeline of key events in the adams life. 1744, she was born and married john adams 20 years later. soon after that, the stamp act. then in 1770, the boston massacre. i wanted to ask our guest about how endangered the addams family were living in the midst of this preparation for war. having been sympathizer's against the british government. >> for the first decade of their marriage, abigail and john lived together. it was during this decade that event escalated towards war. there is a simultaneous parallel current -- occuring a personal level and global, a political level. during this period of time, there was no danger. there was danger once, once there was fighting in the massachusetts bay area, yes, there was danger.
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more than that, they did not know that there would be dangerous. they never knew where the next troop deployment was going to happen. she was ready at any minute to move away from the house, to move inland, to take her children to safety. >> how much time was she alone while john adams was off working on the foundation of the government? >> my goodness, from 1774-1784, they were apart most of the time. he came home a couple of times for a couple of months. during that time, she worked alone on the farm by herself or raising the children. >> she was writing these letters explaining the situation -- a concern was he about his family?
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>> he was very concerned. there is one heart wrenching moment in which she is pregnant and she is writing right up until the time that she begins labor, and because of the time and distance -- which is so hard for us to understand now, with our instant communication -- he is writing hoping that she will have a daughter and that everything will be fine. in the meantime, the infant is born dead. she had a premonition that this was going to happen. while he is writing happily, joyfully, she has buried this child. he knows that she is capable of doing almost anything that a woman or man could do during that time, but there is a certain helplessness on his part. he is so consumed by what he is doing their, but then reflex -- he will send letters, kiss tommy and johnny. a lot of it is very emotional.
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>> when war broke out, i read that she was so supportive that she would do things like how the effort by melting down a cuter housewares said they could be made into bullets. was that common? >> sure, people were doing that altogether. i'm going to pass on that. >> let's keep it up -- a couple more calls as we learn more about the revolutionary years of the adams family. next is a call from denise in michigan. >> hello. i would like to know if the series from hbo was reflected in any way of how things really work, in the sense of family. i know they did not go too deep into that. i would also like to know, when you talk about five kids, was that the baby who died? was it correct about the sun drinking? -- the son drinking? >> first, the hbo mini series. >> it was good history. it was drawn up also, so you
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have to understand in order to make it appealing, a little license was taken. generally, it was pretty good history. >> there was this tweet --
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the caller asked about the five children and didn't include the child who died? >> the child who died was the third child, born before charles. there was abigail jr., then john quincy, then a third child named susana who lived only one year, and there is very little reference to this child in their correspondence. we know very little about it. abigail was pregnant at the time of the death of susana. her third child charles was born.
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at the end of life, when her daughter in log lost a child and the daughter-in-law was in st. petersburg, abigail wrote to her, and for the first time i have seen, she made reference to having lost a baby daughter. it was a closed topic. >> the caller also wanted to know about the son who was an alcoholic and died. >> charles -- people did not know about alcoholism in those days.
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it was considered simple. it was not considered a disease. charles is throughout the correspondent's treated as a person -- correspondence treated as a person who was sensitive. he went to europe with his father in 1779, and he had to come back because he was home sick. he was a sweet child, a pleasant child. but also fragile, and he may have got into trouble when he was in hartford. >> you know from the letters between abigail and her sisters and that they kept an eye on him, that there was a problem. it is never fully discussed. one of the things that was difficult for abigail was that her brother was an all collect. -- an alcoholic. >> on twitter --
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if she had been born at a different age, would she have been like eleanor roosevelt? >> that is hard to do. she certainly would, she had all the attributes of a very dynamic woman who was opinionated and would have had her own goals to pursue. she would have been very influential. she was very influential in the presidency. >> a lot of historians -- there have been a four surveys of historians over the past decades abigail adams always comes in the number two or number three position as most influential. why? >> who would be number one? >> eleanor roosevelt, i think. why does she end up in the number two spot? >> there is a distant in time. people have other images. people that knew -- people are still alive and that no eleanor roosevelt. she is modern. if you did a survey now, jacqueline kennedy would probably rate much higher because people know and like her
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at that time. the only thing we have from abigail are the letters. >> and she is still in the number two spot. not bad. she seemed to route this to hundred years being the second most influential first ladies based on the letters you have been spending your career on. >> also, if you see her influence on her husband, i do not know there have been many first ladies that have had that based on the letters you have been spending your career on. >> also, if you see her influence on her husband, i do not know there have been many first ladies that have had that kind of influence. >> a specific example of an important policy that you see she worked on him? >> i do not know of a particular policy. it is that he consults her all the time. her letters at a certain point are divided into two things, this is what is happening with the children, this is what is happening on the farm, here are my thoughts about politics. she shared all the time. by the time he got to be president, and he was not popular with his party, she was his major adviser. >> here is another in a video piece of a letter, add if to john, focus on virginia. [video clip] >> everybody knows this letter and associates it with abigail adams. what is lessening -- lesser- known and what is fascinating is that the remember the ladies comment comes quite far down in the letter.
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the first section of her letter to john is questioning and voicing her concerns about virginia's role in the revolutionary war. she writes, what sort of defense virginia can make against our common enemy, whether it is so situated as to make an able defense, are not the gentry lords and the common people of vassals? are they not like the uncivilized natives? she continues, and one of her probably most pointed comments on slavery -- i am sometimes ready to think that the passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the breast of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of their spirit of this i am certain, that it is not founded
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upon that generous and christian principle of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us. >> how influential was this opinion about enslaved people on john adams's thinking? >> he had to be more practical. he is in congress. he is dealing with these people. he cannot alienate them. he had to help pull this together. it is easy to be a critic when you're not there. throughout the first 60 years of the country, people had to tread softly in order to keep the union together. >> we are going to fast forward. the country is formed. the washingtons are elected president and serving in new york, than philadelphia. john adams is vice-president. how does he and abigail decide their household? did she move to new york, or philadelphia? >> john was vice-president for eight years. she moved to new york for one year, the first year, because the capital was new york for the first-year.
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she loved it. she had a beautiful house on the hudson river overlooking the city of manhattan and overlooking new jersey's sore. she loved it -- shore. she loved it. then she moved to philadelphia and she spent the entire year ill. her health was always precarious. she decided after that year in philadelphia, they decided together that she would stay at home. there was no precedent for the first lady and the second lady to be living with the men. it was by choice that martha did it. abigail had the liberty to choose to go home. she did for the next six years.
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>> we learned last week that the city of philadelphia was decimated at the start of the second washington term with yellow fever. 12% of the population died. did she have an illness related to that? >> it is hard to put a name on it, but no.
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she did have rheumatism. beyond that, the symptoms she describes are very hard to diagnose. >> there was no role model for being the second lady at the time. on twitter -- >> i am not sure about that. >> was she a national figure? >> no, not at all. she was known because she had been -- of the problems they had is that people thought they were monarchical, they had been tainted by their time in europe. i think this is one other interesting things about abbot rell -- abigail, she grew up minister's daughter, and then she sat beside -- is at versailles, so she is a much more sophisticated person. abigail was international. >> what is the relationship between martha washington and abigail adams? >> it was wonderful. abigail loved martha. she met her once -- when she was the mother of the vice- president. whenever they had a social event, there were very close.
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whenever she wrote about martha, which was not much, but when she did write about martha, it was in the most glowing terms. >> one of the things she did was just after she knew that john was going to be elected, she rode to martha washington, asking her about how to be the first lady, how she would carry the role. >> martha wrote back and said, you know inside yourself how to behave.
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>> we know that is a tradition that continues today for new incoming first ladies, reach out to the people that served before, to understand the enormity of the task. here is a call. >> good evening. thank you for the program. i read one of your guests books and some earlier works on john adams. i still think the most comprehensive biography, technically of john adams, but really of them both, was one done more than half a century ago, two volumes by page smith paige smith. i think that stands out. >> nobody writes about john adams without consulting paige smith.
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he is a foundation for writing about it. what is remarkable to me was that the adams papers had just been opened to the public at a time when he started writing his book, and yet, they were so thoroughly researched. >> it was the first thing i read in graduate school. it was my introduction. >> the caller was nice to mention your books. i want to show some of them. we're hoping people be intrigued enough to read more. "abigail adams: a writing life." "my dearest friend: the letters of abigail and john adams." can you dive right in and get a sense of the person? >> yes, you might need a little bit of historical context, the letters are personal.
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in some ways, they are timeless. the talk about problems that people have today, concerns that people have today. but the political context, but the intimacy. but your book is excellent because of the footnotes and you take people into it. abigail's letters had been in print and she has been read since 1840 when her grandson's first published an edition of her letters. she was a best seller through the 19th century, people knew her. she has always been famous. >> i am not able to find a tweet as quickly as i need to. somebody asked a question, did the adams to think about their letters being published? >> as early as 1776, don is telling her to keep the letters. at a certain point, there is a consciousness in some, particularly his letters. they know at a certain point, and i'm not sure when the cross the threshold, that they are
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important. that is one of the reasons the family saves the letters. early on, it is the motion with the mists of four letter. later on, their letters extend from 1762 -- the miss adorable letter. later on, their letters extend from 1762 onward. >> this is a tweet -- >> i do not know that is true.
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>> what we said is that abigail and martha's friendship helpd facilitate the relationship between washington and adams, when they were trying to understand what a president and vice-president might do. is there any evidence of that? >> i think john and george washington got along pretty well all the time. john adams was extraordinarily supportive of washington and was personally injured when some of the press turned on washington, could not believe it. martha and george were a hard act to follow. they knew they would be difficult. >> we will move into the years of their one-term presidency. before that video, there's a time in one of your books, you call it a splendid missouri being in the white house. explain what that phrase meant.
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>> it was blended in that they were at the pinnacle of his political career and her career. they had risen to the top. it was nothing but trouble, agonizing trouble from the very beginning. at very first, john was very enthusiastic about becoming president. abigail said, i'm going to stay here in quincy. she said, i will not be there until october. he said, that's fine, you do not come until october. once he was in the presidency, he discovered it was the loneliest place in the world. he started writing letters, drop everything that you're doing,
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come here, i need you immediately. she did. >> one of the interesting things, one of the reasons she was hesitant was she said, i like to be outspoken. she knew that in that context, she cannot. when she was in quincy, she could. >> when she was in quincy, there was a house they built another called peace field. >> in 1787, abigail realized they outgrew their cottage. she began to negotiate through her cousin to purchase a house we're standing in front of right now. john adams enjoyed a lot of peace and tranquility at this time, as did abigail. he called it peacefield. there were two rooms on the first floor, to go on the second, and smaller bedrooms on the third floor. there were about seven and half rooms to this home -- to this home. this was their home base. before becoming first lady, abigail would spend nine years in this house. the first year, she was setting up the house after returning from europe. she had remembered this house as one of the grand houses in quincy. her perception of grant had changed after living in europe. she began making plans to
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enlarge the house. she wanted to improve on the size and height of the ceilings and the space. she would write to her daughter, warning her not to wear any of her large the other hats because the ceilings were too low. she began working with an architect to enlarge the home. they added a long haul and along entertainment room where she would receive her guests. with sensitivity to the architecture on the outside and the flow of the home, she had the builder did down so they could lower the floors and get the high ceilings that she desired without disrupting the architecture. you step down two steps and you're in a whole different world. a typical day for abigail would be to rise at 5:00 in the morning. she had many chores to do much for time was spent in the farm, taking care of the orchard,
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taking care of the house. she also liked the early morning hours to spend by herself, preparing herself for the day. most of portly, having a chance to indulge in one of her novels. although this was a presidential home, it is the home of a family. abigail, instead of having servants do all the work, even as a first lady, she would also be contributing to the kitchen and running of the household. this is something she continued throughout her life no matter what her position was. she was very involved. she had children and grandchildren visiting. it was an active and lively household. she spent a great deal of time
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writing. again, their misfortune was our fortune. in one letter when he is asking her to come to philadelphia, abigail would write of the room that she was in and the view that she saw. the beauty that unfolds outside the window thames' me to forget the past. this is an indication that while abigail was back here, she was on a new beginning as the first lady of the united states, as the wife of the president, and still a mother. she would describe life. so romantically that john adams would reply in one of his letters, oh my sweet little farm, what i would do to enjoy thee without interruption. >> of the four years of his presidency, how much time did
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she spend their vs. the capitol? >> she had to stay there for an extended time. john actually followed her and stayed there, too long according to his cabinet. she tried to stay there for as much time as she could. again, her health caused her to be at home. she was quite ill. she was possibly close to death during that time. >> how did he serve as chief executive from afar? >> this also happened during the vice presidency. when congress was needed, the vice president would go back to where he lived. especially during the summer, they would usually lead in the spring and come back in the fall. it was a seasonal thing. although he did overdo it a little bit during this time. it was not unusual for the president to be away. >> these were very trying and tent -- tempestuous years for a brand new nation. can you give us a sense of the history, what was happening during the adams administration, key policy issues? >> the major problems were international. you had a political tiffs. you had the creation of political parties.
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we had problems with the french, the british. american political parties were divided, pro-french, pro- british. one of the problems john had was keeping the country out of war. he was successful. i think that is probably the thing that he should be most recognized for during the period. >> i also find it ironic that he is one of president who kept us out of four -- war. the u.s. would have collapsed in a second war with britain. it subverted his career. the politicians of the time were like politicians forever, they enjoyed making the exercise of the u.s. would have collapsed in a second war with britain. it subverted his career. the politicians of the time were like politicians forever, they enjoyed making the exercise of war.
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they were very close to war. the population in general was outraged by the piracy, american ships were being -- being taken on seas. diplomats were being treated poorly in france in particular. the french revolution happened. john adams kept us out of war. , and have a few key dates a historic four years, 1797- 1801. presidents then were inaugurated in march. now, the date is in january, but march to march was the timeframe. you can see washington, d.c. it was selected as the capital. chief justice john marshall
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selected. i want to go back to the passage of the alien and sedition act. what is the view of both adamses >> the alien sedition acts were a reaction to some of the international problems at that time. there was a believe on the part of some people that we were about to be overrun by french revolutionaries and they were influencing people in america. there were rumors that cities would be burned. it was terrorism they were anticipating. for example, the opposition party, the democratic republican party was very enthusiastic about the french and some of the ideals of the french revolution. >> jefferson in particular. >> this is where they begin to go in different directions.
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also, some of the press is very vehement in their criticism of the administration. so they muzzled the press and said that this is probably the thing that john adams is most criticized for. abigail, i believe, supported it was not john that started it. it came out of congress, and he signed the legislation. abigail was even more vehement during i think she is even more conservative than john during that time. >> the upshot of this, the people who were breaking the alien and sedition acts -- >> tou could be jailed. recall page smith, who was mentioned earlier, the it was said the press at this time was the most
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scoreless in american history. they made things up. there were no standards. it was not the they were supporting the french, but they were making up stories that were not the truth europe adams was very seriously worried about it should be said that jefferson also supported the alien and sedition acts, except that he believed the states should be passing sedition laws, not the national government, because he was in favor of states rights, and it was part of what separated them. -- at thatthing that time, people did not have the same horror about suppressing the press that we have today. >> and it was in the heat of the moment. >> stephen from chicago. >> they say history repeats itself. i was wondering if there any presidents and first ladies or first couples that most resemble or are analogous of the adams is arehe adamses?-- or
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analogous of talk abouts?people george and barbara bush, because of the one term presidency, and the sun that went on to be president. is that the relationship standard? >> i hope you will take that question. [laughter] >> there was no one else like abigail and john. first of all, we don't have the insight into anybody else's lives. these letters were recently revealed. lyndon johnson's love letters to lady bird were revealed. but there is nothing like the abigail and john exchange. [laughter] >> it is when they are situated in such a important time and there were so many players in so many stages. that is what sets them apart. this is from twitter.
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>> people came by, but not so much during the presidency. later, in retirement. there is a time when john is really quite is a little while after abigail has passed. cadets from west point came and they had a band and they played and marched and they were served punch and john adams gave a talk to the -- a patriotic talk to the troops. occasionally, people would come by. but they did not entertain in the sense of politically entertaining. it was family for the most part. >> which is a contrast frommount vernon and the washingtons, they seem to be constantly be welcoming people
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to their house.>> there was a lot of traffic through their houses. people wanted to be close to the president. social standards would different than. and standards of hospitality were different. if someone came to your door, you just didn't turn them away. although they might like to have >> during the white house years, she continued to write letters during the time they were separated? >> she did. when she is with john, it isn't that she's at writing letters.-- that she is not writing letters. she is writing letters to other people. while he was president, two of their children were in europe on a diplomatic mission. so there are a lot of letters between thomas boylston and john quincy adams to their parents, especially to abigail, and she writes to her sister. she writes wonderful letters to her sisters who were back in acid usage and new hampshire.-- massachusetts, or, for a while, in new hampshire. >> we have another example of a
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letter from john adams to abigail. >> i have been much diverted with little occurrence and it shows how little founded in nature the so much posted notion of liberty and equality is. neighbor paxon came in and requested to speak to me. his errand was to inform me itat, if james went to school, would break up the school for the other lads refuse to go. why, mr. paxton? has the boy misbehaved?if he has, let the master turn him out of school. there was no complaint at that time, but they did not choose to go to school with a black boy. it continues on in this vein saying that they allowed him to play at the dance and they would still go. and she closes this section saying, "the boy is a free man as much as any of the young men.
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and as because his face is black he is not to be denied to is he qualified to procure a livelihood? is this the christian principle of doing to others as we would have others do to us?" this is a letter to john adams as he is serving in the presidency. she is recounting an experience in her own life will stop -- life. she is hoping to influence his thinking. how concerned was he with rights and equality at his point in his presidency? >> it is a little different is james she is talking about, who was an adams servant. james was a special person to abigail.when abigail goes to philadelphia, john says, don't bring james.
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he did not want blacks in philadelphia as his servants. not really clear why, but i think he sensed that they could be corrupted.there were many fewer blacks in massachusetts. and there was a larger fleet -- free blacky community, and slaves, in philadelphia. he says, don't have him come beyond new york. have him go back. he writes a second letter. he says, you have babied him. he was special. i think she taught him to read. i don't know that she was instructing john adams so much on this as that she was showing her love and affection for james as an individual regardless of his race. >> here is something from our viewers. it looks like she is quoting a intter from john to abigail.
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1774. do you have any thoughts on th?t >> it is a wonderful quote. they had no idea there would be a war. they may have suspected there would be a war. they had no idea of its duration or that it would separate the all of the things we take for granted that we know about them, we have to erase if we go back to a letter like this, and view it from their point of view. he is saying we don't know what is going to happen. >> we said at the outset that she was criticized by the press who sometimes used the phrase to describe her as mrs. president. what is the context of that reference? >> the context is the spirit is -- the scurrilous press at the
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time, for one thing. that they attacked a woman was not very nice. the british press referred to them as darby and joan and attacked them, because he was the american investor to great written. -- the accustomed to not american ambassador to great britain. accustomed to not having good relationships with the press. that was journalism at that time. >> did she complain to family members about this? was she hurt by the way she was treated in the press? >> i think she was more defensive about her husband. abigail did not have great ambition for herself, but she had great ambition for john and for boys.-- for her boys. but particularly for john quincy adams. and she was very defensive of them. i think this is one of the reasons why the relationship with jefferson is so difficult because she had really loved thomas jefferson as a friend and
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she believed jefferson turned on her husband. >> how did she express herself >> how did she express her support of her husband? >> she went there. she was with him all of the time. when he needed her, she was there. >> was there an avenue for her to respond to the press? >> not that i can think of. her avenues to responding to the press was that she was in favor of the sedition laws. she liked the idea of curtailing the press. >> let's take our next phone call, from alan, from boca raton, florida. >> good program. thank you for taking my call. i am a member of the press.i have heard two colors tonight kind of insinuate that abigail
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was not a good mother, because of the situation with charlie. they talk nothing about john quincy becoming president and a leading abolitionist. and here we are following american history. whether it is the kkk doing their thing in the south today, the john birch society, the tea party now which is 97% caucasian, can we at least give abigail -- throw her a bouquet of roses and say that she might have influenced john quincy in terms of the color of a man's --in should not be placed -- should not determine how he is placed in society? now, you got scumbags -- >> we are going to stop you there. >> john quincy lived with her until he was 11 years old. then he went to europe with john. she did not see him again until he was 17 or 18. so he became a man. >> under the tutelage of his father. >> but she was very influential
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in the first 11 years. i balk at this tendency to blame the mother every time something goes wrong with the children. circumstances happen. there are genes. there is possibly a genetic disposition to alcoholism in that family. abigail's brother died of it and there were apparently other family members.and it certainly was in the culture. the kind of sensitivity to alcohol. a revolution happened when her children grew up. they grew up in wartime. that can be very damaging to children's psyches. >> the year 1800 was a very, very difficult year for the adamses. a campaign for reelection hard- fought. thomas jefferson, he lost that
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good the year that he moved to the white house.and they also lost their son in that year. can we talk about those individually for a little bit? first of all, the decision to run for the office again. did abigail support this? >> we don't have as much as we had in the decision for the previous election where they agonized over it. it went back and forth. there are letters -- should i or shouldn't i? i don't have as much of that for the second term.this was -- he was in harness. things were going. part of it was, because by this time the political parties were so strong, he felt he didn't want the other party in. he wanted to follow through with had,he was doing.and he even though there were several bad things happening around or to the adams family during that
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time, actually, in 1800, he had one of his great successes. the convention with the french that ended the undeclared war. >> i would also emphasize that the political parties were not written into the constitution. and washington and adams both and many of the people around them did not anticipate political parties. they thought they had a constitution. they had a government. everybody would agree to it would be harmonious. it did not work out that way. and it was a surprise to them. it was a surprise to adams that there was so much dissension during his administration. >> they lived the last four months of his administration as occupants of the white house.we have this graphic of the white house in 1800. it looks pretty miserable. what was life like in the
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mansion for the adamses? >> it was pretty miserable. they didn't have heat. they had to gather wood in that area. the mansion was not finished when they moved in. abigail describes georgetown as a swamp. the city was not yet built. they moved in before there was a proper white house. also, i think it affected the way she entertained. it affected her entire role as for slater -- first lady. it's limited what she could do in that drafty, cold, incomplete they had one stairway they could use to go to the second floor. >> it must have been shared misery by the members of congress who were arriving in the city. >> most of them lived in rooming houses and boarding houses.
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another thing was, it was seasonal. congress came and went. there weren't a lot of people who lived year-round in washington at that time. >> we have this graphic we have been showing of laundry being hung inside the white house. >> ithat really happen? don't know. >> i don't either. i suspect it is apocryphal. >> it sounds like abigail. pragmatic. >> it would not have been a good place to dry laundry because it was drafty and cold. >> we talked about charles dying. anymore on how that affected her and the death of the sun in that turbulent year? >> it was a terrible heartache he deniedd for him.>> it, though. he tried to stand off. >> he did write to jefferson in later years that it was the greatest grief of my life.
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>> jan from boise. >> thank you for putting on this series. i am curious about what role religion played in her life given that her father was a pastor. my sense is that john was raised with more calvinist bent, but was more unitary as an older man. what about abigail? >> thank you for that question. abigail was a very religious woman. she was so religious that, in times of turbulence, when things went wrong in her life, she thought it was a case of there was an epidemic during the war years, when john was away. people were dying. her servants were sick. a scourge sents upon us for some sin."
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she truly believed life was providential. her letters continually reference the bible. i think that, when things got added in her life, she became -- got bad in her life, she became more religious and more and conservatively religious. you that she was probably more conservative in her religion then john adams. >> we have about 10 minutes left in our discussion in this series about the first lady's. when john adams realized he lost the presidency, how did he take it? how did abigail take it?>> i think they were -- by the time the electoral vote was counted, they very well knew that he would not be elected. i think they were disappointed. one of the things that john said throughout his public life was that he was always going to retire.
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he was always going to go back to the farm and retire. he loved the farm. in that sense, it wasn't so bad. but i think it was the defeat of the ideas and what some people refer to as the revolution of 1800, because it was such a dramatic change in the other party coming in. he did not attend the indash the inauguration. did not attend the inauguration. some thought he was being spiteful.those who defend adams said he had to catch an early stage to get back. part of it was a man who, in a sense, he felt betrayed him. i think that was probably the hardest thing. spent so many years apart in the development of their country, and now had this opportunity to live together. how long did they live together in the white house years? >> abigail lived to 1818. he lived together for 18 years. >> how was it for them?
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>> they were right deal it for-- they were idyllic in some ways, and very difficult in other ways. it was not an easy retirement all the time. they were very happy to be together. abigail refused to visit her daughter because she said i can't leave john. during that time, her daughter had a mastectomy in 1811 without anesthesia. >> that is so hard to think of. >> she ultimately died two years but she came from new york state to her parents' home to die, so they were very close. it was a time of satisfaction and peace and also very great disruptions in their lives. they had problems with grandchildren and children and constant drama going on. one grandson went and fought in
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the revolution in venezuela and they had to bail him out. or not bail him out. .ohn refused to bail him ou >> they had some financial difficulties during there was a bank failure that their son had invested in.>> this is beginning to sound like "downtown abbey." >> the daughter had a terrible husband and they were terribly not justabout her. physically, but just everything about her life. >> from the perspective of your life's work and the letters, they were together.they stopped writing letters at that point? >> they stopped writing letters to each other. but they wrote letters to others. >> was more prolific?-- to who most prolifically? >> john quincy adams is frequently away on diplomatic assignments or would later be secretary of state.
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he was in washington and a senator and at sort of thing.-- and other things. abigail has a sister who lives in new hampshire at that time. her favorite -- i think mary krantz is her favorite, her she lives nearby, so there is not much correspondence there. she had friends. >> she was close to her granddaughter caroline. so there is correspondence between her and this young girl. >> when john quincy goes to europe, he meets his wife. what was the relationship between the two adams women?>> it was a good one. i think lisa cochran was quite shocked by the culture he knew that she experienced in new agland, after having relatively genteel upbringing in england and france, and was
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shocked by the people and the customs. even church attendance. >> when she went to the old house, she said it was like going to noah's ark. >> we have a closing video, "a return to peace field."that is where the adams spent their final years. >> abigail enjoyed 17 years of retirement here at sealed with-- with her husband john adams. here, the old couple could dote on their children and grandchildren and enjoy the peace and tranquility that this place offer them throughout their lives. the president that -- the president's bedroom was inviting, sunny and right. abigail enjoyed many hours in this room writing to her friends, writing to her emily,-- to her family, enjoying the time with her husband. on october 27, 1818, abigail passed away from typhoid fever. she was 74 years old and john adams had lost his dearest friend. the only way he could find comfort was in the 10.-- the
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pen. he would pen a letter to thomas jefferson, leading jefferson know that he had lost a dear friend and he would say to his family, if only i could lie down beside her and die, too. >> can you talk about john adams life in the years after abigail died? >> john was surrounded by family. so he was not isolated. thatad always is hostess and she had always had his hostess and caretaker, a niece who lived with him, and had lived with him for most of her life. grandchildren came and children came. there was always traffic through the house and people came and militia came from boston, as you said. so there was a lot going on he was quite years.
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palsied. he couldn't write his own he had someone right for him. -- write for him. he kept this incredible correspondence with jefferson in those years. >> culminating with the two of them finally coming to peace and dying together on the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence, july 4, which is really quite an amazing piece of american history. there is a question here about whether or not there is a lead-- a bloodline still living for john and abigail. is there an addams family? >> oh, yes. why don't you respond to that?>> there were several. the massachusetts historical family and the adams have been close over the centuries. the adams family association have more than a hundred members. we were joking about it we
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frequently get questions from people thinking, believing that they are related or a descendent of john and abigail. some of them may be, but there are many more descendents than we think are possible. >> the name is lost because adamsmarry the name gets lost. >> stephanie, you will be our final western.-- our last caller. what is your question? >> what became of her children after she died very young? did they remain with the adams at peace field?thank you for taking my call. i have enjoyed this show. >> they were adults when they-- when she died. the daughter caroline was married at the time. and son was also an adult. so there were no small children. >> our last video of abigail's
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death at peacefield. all right, we don't have that during we have a very little bit in bringing this. what was thecle, important thing to note about abigail adams? >> she was influential. as we think back to the american revolution, she is the only woman -- her record of letters provides the only insights we have of the revolution at a sustained level during the entire revolution and the early national period. she is historically significant. she also is an exemplary person. she talks about women's lives at the time and what it was like to be america's first lady and not just the wife of an american mr.


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