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Abigail Adams to John Adams

15 Apr. 1796

my dearest Friend Quincy April 15 1796

From the posthumous play of Shakspear which our son mentions under the title of vortigern and Rowena, I have been led to Serch the English History for an account of them; I find the most particular and accurate in Mapins History, in the early period of the British history when they were over run by the picts Scots and having applied to the Romans for assistance, and receiving from Aetius, who was then prepareing to repulse Attila, an answer, that the affairs of the Empire would not suffer him to assist them, they agreed to chuse a Monarch as the only expedient to save them from destruction in 445 Vortigern is Elected, count or King of the Dunmonia This prince as he was the most powerfull and Ambitious, could never brook a superiour, and therefore was a profess’d Enemy to the preceeding Monarchs, for previous to this period, several great Men had fortified themselves in various parts of the Country, and acted like Sovereigns, Vortigern is represented of an avaritious temper, not beloved by his Subjects feeling his own weakness he proposes to call the Saxons to the aid of the Britains, his proposal was agreed to by the Britains, but when they came to consider the terms to be offerd to the Saxons, great debates arose, Vortigern proposed the allotting them some province, that their own interest might induce them to Wage War more heartily and vigorously, tho no easy matter to agree on this point, it was finally resolved, that the Saxons should have the ile of Thanet in Kent, and that the Saxon soldiers should be allowd pay which should be setled by agreement on both sides, but Vortigerns policy proved fatal to the Country, and might with other instances of a similar nature \have/ taught Nations in modern times the fatal effects of foreign Nations gaining an assendency in politicks and government of other Nations, three Instances now call upon Americans to beware and to take Warning from Holland poland and Geneva—

We now behold the Saxons landing in Britain with Hengist, who is described as a young Warrior endowd with all the necessary qualifications for accomplishing so arduous an undertaking, possesst of valour and experience, a solid judgment, an easy address and engageing Behaviour, the first Battle fought proving successfull Vortigern in gratitude presented Hengist with some Lands near Linocln and \who/ under pretence of a place to Secure his Booty taken in war, obtaind leave to build Thong castle, Hengist soon feels a desire to setle in Britain and instills the same, into the Saxons, being tempted by the fruitfullness of the Country & the Effeminacy of the inhabitants, Witigifil the Father of Hengist, Sends him supplies and Equiping a number of vessels, send in them Efeus \&/ Rowena, Eldest son and Neice of Hengist, who having studied the Character of Vortigern, and perceiving Love and pleasure to be his predominant passions, lays a Snare for to entrap him, and \Hengist/ having expresst on many occasions much gratitude for favours received made a Splendid entertainment to which he invited the King. and so contrived it, that Rowena should be present, and serve the King at table with a gold cup filld with Wine, Vortegern was captivated and tho married, he demands Rowena in Marriage, in order to accomplish this, he divorced his wife by whom he had several Children, promises to Rowena the free exercise of her Religion, and gives to Hengist & Horsa the Sovereignty of Kent, the Britains murmer against the Kings Marriage, which finally proved his overthrow and great distress to them, Shakespear has ample Scope for his imagination, and if the play is Genuine much pleasure and entertainment may be expected from the discovery to all Lovers of the Drama.

Since I took my pen, I have received a letter from our son in London dated Janry 6. I know what he has felt by my own experience, and so do you by a thousand instances I will inclose his Letter which will give you more information than any extracts I can make from it, conscious rectitude can alone bear a Man through the insolence of office, the pride of State, and contumely of National arrogance, are very hard to Suffer. When a Man feels that he is equal, often Superiour to those very persons who assume to themselves merrit by what they Deem condesention, I received Yours of 1 & 7th April with the inclosures I shall notice them by the next post in the mean time

with Sincere affection / I am Your

A Adams

RC (MHi: Adams Papers).
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