John Adams Responds to the Ladies
Yesterday I discussed Abigail Adams’ famous letter where she reminded her husband to ‘Remember the Ladies.’
Today, I thought it would be interesting to look at John’s response.
To be frank, John does not take Abigail’s request too seriously. Instead, he playfully reminds her that women were the ones actually pulling the strings in colonial society.
The Adams Family
In the weeks after the British evacuated Boston, future President and First Lady John and Abigail Adams passed a series of letters between Massachusetts and the Continental Congress which discussed the idea of women having a place in politics should independence be declared.
Abigail wrote a famous letter where she reminded John to ‘Remember the Ladies.’
Today we will focus on John’s response to this idea, but if you missed my article on Abigail’s letter you can read it here.
On April 14, 1776, John Adams begins a letter to his wife by apologizing for how short his letters are, citing just how busy he is as a Delegate to the Continental Congress.
John continues by responding to Abigail’s criticism of Virginia, acknowledging that they had been ‘duped’ by the Royal Governor but reminds her that most of the colonies had the same issues.
He also points out that many of the southern colonies had a great divide between rich and poor people. This made many of the southern Delegates at Congress weary of the populist message in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and, therefore, made them hesitant on declaring independence.
You Are So Saucy
John concludes his letter with a response to Abigail’s plea to ‘Remember the Ladies.’
Although his tone is playful, John dismisses Abigail’s request, saying, “I cannot but laugh,” and “you are so saucy.”
He goes on to say, “We know better than to repeal our Masculine systems.” The reason for this is that letting women get involved in the public sphere, “would completeatly subject Us to the Despotism of the Peticoat.”
As you can see, John is telling jokes in response to Abigail’s bold request.
A major reason for this is revealed in another letter he wrote about a month later to friend James Sullivan.
In this letter, he instructs Sullivan not to propose changes to voting requirements. Although this is mostly directed at giving men who don’t own property the right to vote, Adams mentions women.
First of all, John believed that this time of upheaval, on the precipice of independence, was not the appropriate time to be making these types of adjustments for the ballot box.
More importantly, John believed that women were too dependent on their husbands to make decisions as an individual.
While this vision in outdated today, we should keep in mind that he also believed that men who did not own property were just as dependent on others and therefore where in the same situation.
From John’s perspective, the issue was less about gender and more about an individual’s independence. It was about their ability to make decisions on their own without the possible influence of those who had any level of control over their lives.
Here are some other major Founders from Massachusetts:
There are lots of books I can recommend about John Adams.
How can I go wrong recommending a Pulitzer Prize winner? The David McCullough bio is an instant classic.
If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).