Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 18 June 1784 JQA JA John Quincy Adams to John Adams, 18 June 1784 Adams, John Quincy Adams, John
John Quincy Adams to John Adams
Honoured Sir London June 18th. 1784

In my last Letter, I informed you of my intention to set off for the Hague next Wednesday; since that I have thought that it would be more prudent for me to wait 'till the Saturday after;1 because Mr. Smith is now in the Country, and will in all probability return before in the course of the next week, and I shall then be able to see him before I go: I believe he intends returning to America with Captn. Callahan, who sails by the middle of next month; in that case he will not be able to go with the Ladies, to Holland if they come; however when he arrives I shall know for certain what his intentions are. . . . The wind has been for several days very favourable, for arrivals, and one or two Vessell's are hourly expected from Boston; this is another Reason for me to wait; for surely the first Vessell will bring letters, that will inform us whether the Ladies come over this Season or not. . . . However I expect to hear from you both by next tuesday's and next friday's posts, and if you then think I had best wait no longer I shall certainly leave this place, tomorrow se'ennight: either alone, or in Company with the young Gentleman I spoke of in my Last.2

I was in the house of Commons the day before yesterday again, and heard the debates upon the subject of parliamentary reform. I was witness to something very extraordinary: I mean that Mr. Fox spoke with Mr. Pitt in support of the motion, and Mr. Dundas, with Lord North against it. . . . I have never been so much pleased with the debates as that day. Alderman Sawbridge, moved for a Committee, “to enquire into the State of Parliamentary representation,”3 and after several of the secondary speakers had delivered briefly their opinions, Lord North, made a masterly speech, against the motion, and was about two hours and an half delivering it, but Mr. Pitt in a speech of a little more than an hour's length took Lord N—'s arguments all to pieces, and turned them all against them; he spoke in a most striking and pathetic manner of the unfortunate situation in which this Country now is, and endeavoured to show that, it was for the most part owing to the defects of the representation in Parliament; this speech confirmed me in my opinion that he is the best speaker in the house, and I really think, that “take him for all in all I shall not look upon his like again.”4 348Mr. Dundas spoke for about half an hour against parliamentary reform, at least for the present time. . . . Mr. Fox then spoke near an hour and a half extremely well for the motion; he made use of a great number of very artfull and specious arguments against Mr. Pitt and seemed as if he found some consolation for his misfortunes in teasing the minister, tho' he spoke on the same side of the Question. But tho' I don't pretend to say Mr. Pitt surpasses him in argumentation, yet I think no body will deny that he does in the delivery. Mr. Fox has a small impediment in his speech, and one would think his nose was stopped by a cold when he speaks, whereas, Mr. P—has the clearest voice and most distinct pronunciation, of any person I ever remember to have heard; but they are both very great men, and it is a real misfortune for this Country that those talents which were made to promote the honour and the power of the Nation, should be prostituted, to views of interest and of ambition.

Your dutiful Son. J. Q. Adams

RC (Adams Papers). addressed: “à Monsieur Monsieur J. Adams Ministre Plenipotentiaire Des Etats Unis de l'Amerique à La Haye Hollande”; postmarked: “18/IV”; endorsed: “J. Q. Adams. June 18 1784.” Some damage to the text where the seal was torn away.


JQA probably did leave London about 26 June—“the Saturday after” that he projects here—because by 1 July he was again entering letters into JA's Letterbook at The Hague (Adams Papers).


William Vans Murray.


Opening quotation mark supplied. JQA is paraphrasing John Sawbridge's motion of 16 June: “That a committee be appointed to take into consideration the present state of the Representation of the Commons of Great Britain in parliament” ( Parliamentary Hist. , 24:980).

At least twenty members of Commons spoke to this motion, with Pitt, North, and Sawbridge speaking several times (same, 24:975–1006). William Pitt, the prime minister, initially urged Sawbridge to withdraw the motion because he intended to bring in a motion for parliamentary reform in a later session, at what he judged would be a more favorable time (24:976). Sawbridge, however, insisted on an immediate consideration of the issue, and after Lord North's long denunciation of any and all attempts at reform (24:987–992), Pitt felt that he had to support Sawbridge, and he vigorously attacked North, not only for opposing reform, but also for his management of the American war (24:998–999). Henry Dundas, M.P. for Edinburghshire, treasurer of the Navy, member of the Board of Trade, and a firm supporter of Pitt on most questions, then opposed Sawbridge. Dundas expressed his doubt that the Commons could ever be reformed, but unlike Lord North, he was disturbed by the historic corruption of parliamentary representation (Namier and Brooke, House of Commons , 2:354–355; Parliamentary Hist. , 24:999). Finally, Charles James Fox, richly enjoying the irony of a debate that found William Pitt in agreement with him, supported Sawbridge's motion for reform. Fox used the occasion to attack both Crown influence in the Commons and Mr. Pitt, whom he charged with a lack of respect for the nation in his attack on Lord North's leadership during the American war when Pitt knew perfectly well that the war, which Fox had always opposed, had enjoyed popular support (24:999–1000).

With both the Fox-North and the Pitt coalitions temporarily in disarray, Sawbridge's motion failed, 199–125. Pitt did introduce a parliamentary reform measure in Feb. 1785, but after weeks of debate the prime minister was no more successful in carrying reform than the radical London alderman had been. The reform of the House of Commons' uneven 349electoral districts and its pocket and rotton buroughs had to wait until 1832.

John Sawbridge, the younger brother of Catharine Macauley, the historian so much admired by JA and other Americans of whiggish views, had introduced motions for shorter parliaments every year since 1771. A founding member of the Supporters of the Bill of Rights and an ally of John Wilkes, Sawbridge had served as sheriff (1769–1770), alderman (1769), and lord mayor (1775–76) of London, and had sat for the City in Commons almost continuously since 1774. He was an ardent friend of America and one of Lord North's fiercest opponents during the War for Independence. In March 1785 it was Sawbridge who successfully moved, over William Pitt's objections, that Charles James Fox be finally seated for Westminster (Namier and Brooke, House of Commons , 3:409–411).


Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, ii, lines 187–188.

Richard Cranch to John Adams, 18 June 1784 Cranch, Richard JA Richard Cranch to John Adams, 18 June 1784 Cranch, Richard Adams, John
Richard Cranch to John Adams
Dear Brother Boston June 18th. 1784

The Oportunity that now presents of sending this by your most amiable Friend, while it makes me glad to think that so great an Addition will be made to your Happiness by the arrival of two Persons so deservedly dear to you; yet at the same time our Loss is such, as, in spight of all our Philosophy must throw a melancholly Shade over our remaining social Enjoyments. May Heaven preserve those dear Objects of your Love! Our Hopes have long been that you would have return'd to us America and added to the general Happiness by further helping us to conduct and regulate the Motions of that great political system, to the bringing of which into Being your unequal'd Exertions have so essentially contributed. But this Happiness must be postponed. I heartily wish you Success in your further Labours for the good of your Country, and will wait with Patience for that happy Period when I shall again be able to tell you by Word of Mouth with what sincere Friendship and high Esteem I am your affectionate Brother

Richard Cranch

Mrs. Adams and Miss Nabby will inform you of our Domestick and Family Circumstances. Please to give my kindest Regards to your Son, and tell him I should be happy to receive a Line from him.

RC (Adams Papers).

Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Ellery Dana, 20 June 1784 AA Dana, Elizabeth Ellery Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Ellery Dana, 20 June 1784 Adams, Abigail Dana, Elizabeth Ellery
Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Ellery Dana
ante 20 June 1784 1

Little my Dear Mrs. Dana did I think I should leave America without seeing you, but a slow fever, your absence and now a thousand thousand cares are like to deprive me of that pleasure. I must 350therefore submit to biding you adieu in this way. I am going to embark very soon upon the mighty waters. Never did I think I could have been persuaded to such an undertakeing unaccompanied with Husband son or some near connection, but thus it is. Hope that springs Eternal in the Humane Breast, I pray may in some early day realize to me the promised blessing. You know the joy of meeting the long absent partner of your Heart without the personal dangers to which Your Friend may be exposed in search of that happiness.2 May your Seperations in future be of short duration and your happiness be as large as your wishes. Make my Respectfull Regards to Mr. Dana and tell him I was much dissapointed in not seeing him at Braintree. Let me hear of your welfare, and recollect that the daughter; is bethrothed and that She must be called Harriet.3 Make my Compliments to Your Brother and Sister,4 and accept my dear Madam the affectionate Regard of Your Friend

A Adams

Dft (Adams Papers). docketed at the top, by CFA: “1784”; originally filed and filmed under the date of ca. 15 June (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 363). At the bottom of the page AA wrote “serch,” followed by “search,” undoubtedly in an attempt to spell more accurately.


On 20 June, AA and AA2 departed from Boston for London on the Active, Capt. Nathaniel Byfield Lyde.


Francis Dana had returned to Elizabeth Ellery Dana from Europe on 12 Dec. 1783 (AA to JA, 7 Dec. 1783, above, under “December 13”).


The daughter in this cryptic sentence refers to Elizabeth Dana's unborn child, whom AA evidently wished the Danas to name Harriet, if a daughter, and whom she apparently imagined as marrying one of her sons. Elizabeth Dana did in fact give birth to her first daughter on 29 Sept., but Francis Dana, writing to JA on 12 Dec. (Adams Papers), explained that: “She is not named Hariot, as Mrs. Adams requested, but Martha Remington after our Elizabeth's much esteemed late Aunt.” Martha Remington Dana married the painter Washington Allston ( NEHGR , 8:318 [Oct. 1854]).


Elizabeth Ellery Dana, the eldest of seven children, had two brothers, William and Edmund Trowbridge, and three sisters, Lucy (wife of William Channing), Ann, and Almy (later married to William Stedman). She also had several quite young half-brothers and sisters (same, p. 318, 320).