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Original Source. Source: p 168, The Portable John Adams, by John Adams

AA to JA [Braintree, 12-23 November 1778]

1 cannot charge myself with any deficiency in this perticular as I have never let an opportunity slip without writing to you since we parted, tho you make no mention of having received a line from me: if they are become of so little importance as not to be worth noticeing with your own Hand, be so kind as to direct your Secretary.
 I will not finish the sentence, my Heart denies the justice of the acqusation, nor does it believe your affection in the least diminished by distance or absence, but my Soul is wounded at a Seperation from you, and my fortitude all dissolved in frailty and weakness.

How do you determine/deduce the bolded's correct meaning? Is it truly ambiguous? I tried to infer something from the grey (independent) clause, but which I also don't understand, so please explain this as well? I contend against 2 possibilities (but please advise if there are even more):

1. Abigail Adams's Heart disbelieves her husband's affection in the least (= in the smallest degree), because it has been diminished by distance or absence.

2. Abigail Adams's Heart disbelieves that her husband's affection had been in the least diminished by distance or absence.

  • I am curious about the process that leads you to think #1 is a viable possibility. What would it mean for affection to be "in the least"? Are you thinking that could mean "at its lowest"? In the least" is adverbial and so you must scout around for the adjective it modifies. – TRomano Jan 10 '15 at 12:54
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"my Heart denies the justice of the acqusation" = "my heart refuses to accept the validity of the accusation".

"nor does it believe your affection in the least diminished by distance or absence" = "nor does it believe your affection has been diminished at all by distance or absence".

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