Abigail Adams: interracial relationships and immigration.
Everyone loves Abigail Adams, it is not difficult to conclude, and I do as well, however, I am a little concerned by the growing amount of people who seem to believe Abigail never did a single thing wrong in her life. She may of almost not done anything horrid but her views on certain aspects primarily concerning interracial relationships and immigrants are far from it. I have seen quite often historical women not being held accountable for their actions mainly, it seems, because they were women and facing injustices already for their sex. These women still held the same racist, xenophobic or sexist views we point to men of the time. It is a failure to recognize these regards especially those towards Abigail Adams.
While Abigail never owned a slave in her life and was far ahead of her time when it came to the institution–she still was racist. On the 18th of September 1785 penned from her current residence in London while her husband, John Adams served in diplomatic missions, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her son-in-law William Stephens Smith. Having recently attended a London performance of Othello, Abigail Adams admitted her “disgust and horrour” at seeing the “Sooty” title character “touch the Gentle Desdemona.”
“I was last Evening however at Drury Lane and Saw for the first time Mrs. Siddons… She appeard in the tradegy of Othello, and acted the part of Desdemona. Othello was represented blacker than any affrican… I saw the sooty… [man] touch the fair Desdemona”
After the sentence above, she crossed out this text:
“but I So powerfull was prejudice that I could not seperate the coulour from the Man and by which means”
“That most incomparable Speach of Othellos lost half its force and Beauty, because I could not Seperate the coulour from the Man…”
To her sister, Elizabeth she wrote of the event:
“I lost much of the pleasure of the play from the Sooty appearance of the Moor… I could not separate the affrican colour from the man, nor prevent the disgust and hourror while filld my mind every time I saw him touch Gentle Desmodona.”
As you can see, even Abigail Adams who held a famous abhorrence for enslavement of slavery, still could not find in her self acceptance toward interracial relationships or discover a way she could put the races of these persons aside. Above she goes as far as to admit she could not separate the race from the character and held such a “powerfull” distaste at the performance that it ruined the entire night for her. It filled her with “disgust and hourror” to even witness a black touching a white.
After the Alien and Sedition Acts were striding through Congress during her husband’s presidency, she grew embittered over the published public scorn against him and the Acts. She wrote fervent letters in support of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Until Congress passed a sedition ill, she warned her sister-in-law that nothing would halt the “wicked and base violent and calumniating abuse” of the Republican papers.” She added that in “any other country, Bache [in reference to Benjamin Franklin Bache, grandson of the founder Benjamin Franklin who authored a famous Republican paper titled the Aurora before dying of yellow fever in 1798] and all of his papers would have been seized long ago.”
She hoped the Alien Act would be invoked to out the Swiss-born Republican Albert Gallatin, a leader in the House of Representatives after James Madison’s departure. She considered the immigrant Gallatin a traitor to his country. Abigail also distrusted immigrants, averting that “a more careful and attentive watch ought to be kept over foreigners.”
It is beliefs such as these that I frequently observe being swept under the rug. Abigail Adams was in no way pure and could not locate in herself a way to overlook race nor was she for immigrants, the very thing her country was founded upon.