Abigail Adams

after Mather Brown (1761—1831)

Portrait by unknown artist after a 1785 painting by Brown.

by James Sharples (c. 1751—1811)

Pastel on gray (now oxidized) laid paper. 9 9/16 x 7 7/16 in. • 24.3 x 18.9 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.

by Gilbert Stuart (1755—1828)

Oil on canvas; 73.4 x 59.7 cm (28 7/8 x 23 1/2 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

by Benjamin Blythe (b. 1746; active until 1787)

Pastel on paper; 57 cm x 44.3 cm. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA.

America had a common language, unlike the European nations, none of which was linguistically homogeneous. in 1789 the majority of Frenchmen did not speak French but were divided by a variety of provincial patois. Englishmen from Yorkshire were incomprehensible to those from Cornwall and vice versa. By contrast, Americans could understand one another from Maine to Georgia. It was very obvious why this should be so, said John Witherspoon, president of Princeton. Since Americans were much more unsettled, and move frequently from place to place, they are not as liable to local peculiarities, either in accent or phraseology.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)