American Revolution Vignette – Separation from Family

When John Adams boarded the frigate Boston in 1778 to go to France to assume an appointment as commissioner to the Court of King Louis XVI, it was the dead of winter, one of the most treacherous and dangerous times of the year to embark on a voyage across the Atlantic. It was also at a time when the country was at war with the British whose ships were everywhere trying to capture Americans making contact with France. On that trip, Adams took his 10 year old son John Quincy with him.

Leaving like that meant that Adams and his son would be away from their family, Adam’s wife and three other children, for periods lasting years. At one time John and Abigail were apart for more than four years. With trips by ship taking months, the only way to be in contact were letters.

But think about it, a letter from France to Boston would also have to wait for a ship and then travel by ship, then by coach, until it finally reached its destination. There were many letters that never arrived, when ships were captured and plundered, when they sank, or when the mail was stolen outright. Even letters that got through in record time, say two or three months, could expect answers in six or seven months. By that time, dozens of letters could be en route and just matching up letters and their answers must have been a real challenge.

Adams was gone during most of the time his children grew up, with the exception of John Quincy, his oldest son, who was with him in Europe. But then, he was away from his mother and siblings for most of his youth.

In an agrarian country, most citizens lived and worked on farms and never left a radius of about 20 miles around their homes. But being in Congress of a country as geographically large as the United States at the time, ranging from Massachusetts to Georgia, the congressional delegates from the north and south had to travel far to meet in the middle, which was Philadelphia at the time. You could only make the trip to a session of Congress once per season. Congress stayed in session over the winter for about half a year, and then in the spring, for recess, everyone traveled home.

The sacrifices that the people that created our government and founded our country made at the time, in the service of their country, was enormous, considering that their pay was inadequate to compensate them even for the immense expenses associated with that style of living.

And not only they had to sacrifice. Their families and children grew up mostly without them. They most likely paid the highest price of all.

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