Mary Smith Cranch comments on politics, 1786-87
In the aftermath of the Revolution, politics became a sport consumed by both men and women. In a series of letters sent to her sister, Mary Smith Cranch comments on a series of political events including the lack of support for diplomats, the circulation of paper or hard currency, legal reform, tariffs against imported tea tables, Shays rebellion, and the role of women in supporting the nation’s interests.
On foreign policy, pending legislation, and women’s political participation
I began to write you last night but my eyes were so poor that I could not continue it. I am now risen with the sun to thank you for the charming budget you have sent me. Such frequent communications shortens the idea of distance by many miles. I believe there have been letters constantly upon the water for each other ever since you left us. The idea of your returning soon to your dear friends here would be a much more joyful one if this country would suffer you first to do all the good your inclinations lead you too, and what they really wish you to do though they put it out of your power to do it. I hope they will come to their senses before winter. The court is adjourned to next January. The House have been disputing half this session whether we should have paper money, any lawyers or any court of common pleas. They voted finally, against paper money, sent up to the Senate a curious bill with regards to lawyers and the inferior court. A committee of five from the Senate have it to consider till next term. Mr. Cranch is one of them. Thus do they spend their time in curtailing tea tables, while they are suffering thousand to be wrested from them for want of giving ampler powers to Congress. It is dreadful to those who see the necessity of different measures to stand by and see such pursued as they fear will ruin their country. Ask no excuse my dear sister for writing politics. It would be such a want of public spirit not to feel interested in the welfare of our country as the wives of ministers and Senators ought to be ashamed off. Let no one say that the ladies are of no importance in the affairs of the nation. Persuade them to renounce all their luxuries and it would be found that they are, and believe me there is not a more effectual way to do it, than to make them acquainted with the causes of the distresses of their country. We do not want spirit. We only want to have it properly directed.
“Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 10 July 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives.
Her frustration with the Massachusetts state legislature
May 22, 1786
“Not one word of politics have I written nor shall I have time to do it now. If I had I would tell you what wonderful things the House are doing with the lawyers, the court of common pleas, &c, but the newspapers will do it for me. I am thankful there is a Senate as well as a House. What has Congress done? Anything to detain you in Europe. I love my country too well to wish you to return yet, much as I wisht to see you. I did design to write to my dear niece by this vessel but fear I shall not have time. My sincere love and good wishes attend her and hers. Tis very late good night my ever dear Sister and believe me, yours affectionately.
“Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 22 May 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives.
Commenting on Shays’ Rebellion
November 26, 1786
There is like to be a great disturbance in Cambridge at the sitting of the Court of Common Pleas this week. There is an express come to the governor to inform him that Shays, one of the heads of the incendiaries, (it is a many headed beast) is determined to come with eighteen hundred men to stop the court. There will be force sent to oppose them I suppose, and I wish there may not be blood shed. Are we not hastening fast to monarchy, to Anarchy? I am sure we are unless the people discover a better spirit soon. We are concerned for our children I assure you. The college company are wishing to be allowed to march out in defence of government but they will not be permitted. Mr Cranch will go tomorrow and take care of them, of our children I mean…
“Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 26 November 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives
Further thoughts on Shays’ Rebellion
February 9, 1787
“If you have received our Letters by Captain Callahan, you will be in some measure prepared for the accounts which Captain Folger will bring you of the rebellion which exists in this state. It had arisen to such a height that it was necessary to oppose it by force of arms. We are always in this country to do things in an extraordinary manner. The militia were called for, but there was not a copper in the treasury to pay them or to support them upon their march. Town meetings were called in many places and promises were made them that if the would enlist, they would pay them and wait till the money could be collected from the public for their pay. And for their present support people contributed as they were able and in this manner in less than a week was collected an army of five thousand men who marched under the command of General Lincoln to Worcester to protect the court. The result you will see in the papers. The season has been stormy and severe our army have suffered greatly in some of their marches, especially last Saturday night. Many of them were badly froze, they marched thirty miles without stopping to refresh themselves in order to take Shays and his army by surprise. They took about 150 of them. Shays and a number with him scampered off and have gotten to New Hampshire.
Shays and his party are a poor deluded people. They have given much trouble and put us and themselves to much expense and have greatly added to the difficulties they complain off. I think you must have been very uneasy about us. Shays has not a small party in Braintree but not many in this parish. They want paper money to cheat with. They called a town meeting about a week since to forbid collection. Thayers attending the general court but they could not get a vote.
“Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 9 February 1787,” Founders Online, National Archives.