Adams Family Correspondence, volume 8

Richard Cranch to John Adams, 24 May 1787 Cranch, Richard Adams, John
Richard Cranch to John Adams
Braintree May 24th. 1787 My dear Bror.

I herewith send you the News-Papers by which you will see the state of our publick proceedings.1 Our most excellent Governor Mr. Bowdoin is to be left out this Year—Mr Hancock will doubtless succeed him. Strenuous efforts have been made at the present Election to get a Genl. Court that will suit the minds of the Insurgents and their Friends—Many good Men, however, will be chosen into both Branches, who will, I hope, stem the Current in some degree and support in some measure the Dignity of Government. Our excellent Friend Doctr. Tufts is one of them. I am left out—the ostensible reason is my belonging to the Court of Com: Pleas, which Court the Populace want to have abolished, and many People now pretend that it is inconsistant with the spirit of the Constitution that any Justice of that Court should have a Seat in the Legislative Body or Council, and they are generally left out this year. The following Gentlemen who are Justices of that Court and were of the Senate and Council last year are not chosen this year. Vizt: Spooner & Durfee from Bristol County; Gill, Ward & Baker from Worcester; Prescot and Fuller from Middlesex; Holton and S: Philips junr. (the late President of Senate) from Essex; Freeman from Barnstable; Wells from York; Cranch &c.2

Your most excellent Book (for one of which I thank you) is eagarly read by Gentlemen of all the learned Professions here. It 60came to America at a very critical Moment just before the Meeting of the grand Convention at Philadelphia for revising and amending the Confederation, when the Subject matter of your Book will naturally be much talked of, and attended to by many of the greatest States-men from all parts of the United States. I have my self conversed with many Gentlemen here of the first Rank for Learning and Abilities, who, after reading your Book with great attention, gave it as their Opinion that you have supported your System of the Ballance in a most masterly manner. I find that the Litterati themselves are amazed at the vastness of your Reading on the Subject of Legislation and Government, from which you have been enabled so fully to bring your Theory to the Test of historical Facts, and to shew that the Continuance and Steadiness of every free Government, of any large extent, has been and must be in a just Proportion to the Perfection or Imperfection of that Ballance between the Powers of Government which you have so clearly and fully pointed out.

The Young Gentlemen of the Class who are to take their Degree next Commencement have petitioned for a private Commencement on account of the present Difficulty of raising money enough to defray the necessary charges of their Education, but their Petition was rejected so far as respected a private Commencement. The Corporation and Overseers Ordered, however, that the greatest œconomy should be observed, so as to save all needless Expences on that Occasion. It was Ordered that no [families] should give any Entertainment out of Colledge un[less the] Parents lived in Cambridge—that a cold Collation in a frugal Stile at their Chambers should be all that should be provided on that Occasion—That no new Suits of Clothes should be procured for that Day, but that the Schollars should all appear in their Black Gowns—That three Dollars of the Sum formerly paid towards the publick Dinner by each Schollar who took his Degree, should be remitted this Year &c. I suppose the Class will be satisfied with those Regulations. I hear that your very worthy and amiable Son is to deliver an English Oration on that Day; And my Son is to bear a part in a publick Conference on the necessity of having three independant Powers in Government, each having a negative on the others.— Please to present my best Regards to your most amiable Friend, and to Col: Smith and his Lady. I am with Sentiments of the highest Esteem your obliged and affectionate Brother—

Richard Cranch 61

We are all well in the several connected Families, and earnestly wish to see you safely returned to Braintree again, of which your late Letters give us the pleasing Prospect.

Mrs. Cranch wrote to Sister Adams by Capt. Barnard who sailed on Monday [last].3

P:S. Since writing the [above] I find Mrs. Cranch's Letter, (which was given to the Pilot by Uncle Smith after the Ship was gone down) came back again rumpled and dirty as you will see, and I have now enclosed it in the Pacquet.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To His Excellency / John Adams Esqr. / Grosvenor Square / Westminster.”; endorsed: “Mr Cranch. 24 / may. 1787—” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


The results of the statewide election were not official until 30 May and not published in complete form until they appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette, 1 June. The Boston American Herald, 9 and 16 April, and Worcester Magazine, 24 May, however, reported scattered results that showed John Hancock far ahead of James Bowdoin in the race for governor.


Walter Spooner (1720–1803) of Dartmouth, Thomas Durfee (1721–1796) of Freetown, Moses Gill (1734–1800) of Princeton, Artemas Ward (1727–1800) of Shrewsbury, Samuel Baker (1722–1795) of Bolton, James Prescott (1721–1800) of Groton, Abraham Fuller (1720–1794) of Newton, Samuel Holton (1738–1816) of Danvers, Samuel Phillips Jr. (1752–1802) of Andover, Solomon Freeman (1733–1808) of Harwich, Nathaniel Wells (1740–1816) of Wells (now Maine), and Cranch served their respective counties as senators in the 1786–1787 session but were not put forward in the 30 May elections (Massachusetts Spy, 1 June 1786; Charlestown, Mass., American Recorder, 2 June; Massachusetts Gazette, 1 June 1787; John A. Schutz, Legislators of the Massachusetts General Court, 1691–1780: A Biographical Dictionary, Boston, 1997).


Mary Smith Cranch to AA, April 22, above, which Cranch did not complete until 20 May, but see also Cranch to AA, 27 May, below.

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 27 May 1787 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
Braintree May 27th 1787 My dear Sister

I went to Boston yesterday & had the mortification to find my Letters did not go by Barnard or Davis although they had been on Board each of them. they got to town just as the vessels were sailing. Knox the Pilot took them as he was going on Board, & promiss'd to deliver them to the captain, but forgot it So after wearing them in His Pockit four or five days he return'd them as dirty as I suppose you will recieve them.1 captain Scot Who now has them, is to sail this day & although a week after the others he may arrive first— I had been uncommonly busy about the time I wrote my Letters or I Should not have been so late with them: I wanted to write 62much more & keept them back hopeing to have done it. I will not be so foolish again

I have receiv'd the shirts for your eldest son, & the Linnen & cambrick for the others. the latter came as snug as could be nobody was the wiser for it. I Thank you my dear sister for your Present to my son. He sends his Duty & his thanks also— I saw cousin Charles yesterday in Boston he was well, & said his Brothers were too. There was a Publick exhibition at the end of the last term, the day before the spring vacation. your son JQA had a conference with two others upon this Question: which was the most benificial to mankind Law, Physic or Divinity? JQA mantaind the usefulness of Law. they all did well. your son was greatly applauded, both for the manner & matter, as also for the composition2 There were a number who presented Pieces to the gentlemen who were met that Day to inquire into the state of the college— Billy present'd a calculation of a Transit of Venus which is to take place some years hence & was so happy as to find that it agree'd within a few seconds with the calculations of some celebrated Astronomers.3 It was a labourious work for the Head—but he got himself honour by it.

June 10th.

We have had a great bustle in Braintree about our Representitive The two upper Parishs are Plague'd with a number of People unfriendly to goverment. Steven Penneman & captain Vintin set up in oppositition to Coll. Thayer who appear'd firm last year in supporting it for which reason he had the vote of every Friend of it, & got his Election by a majoraty of 12 this so nettle'd & dissapointe'd that party that they got the select men who by the way are every one of their side, to call a Town meeting, which they did in so private a way warning the People of a Sunday for the next day, & warning only such as they knew would answer their purpose that the meeting was over several days before the greatest part of the Town knew there had been one. In this meeting they agree'd to Petition the court to exclude coll Thayer from a seat in the House for the reasons set forth in the Petition some of which were, That many voted who were not qualified, some put in more votes than one & some whole handfulls. The great schoolar Faxen drew this wonderfull Instrument which for spelling grammer & composision was just what we could have expected from such a profound genious It was sign'd by a hundred & Two persons old capt Beals & his wise son Natt, were 63all who sign'd in this Parish— They got mr Morton to support their cause before a committee of the court which was chosen to consider of it— As soon as this was known our Party sent in a Petition also sign'd by a much greather number, of People all of them Men of property & respectability uncle Quincy & mr Cranch at their Head, declaring that they knew of no such transactions that most of them were present at the choise & did not hear of, or see any such things done. They beg that the matter may be examin'd into & if it should be found that they had no foundation for their charges they pray that their Petition may be dismiss'd as “The Brat of a Party who are endeavouring to raise sedition & tumults in the commonwealth.” Last Friday they had a hearing, all Braintree were there almost they were not able to support one charge & look'd very silly. They beg'd for another hearing which they are to have, but they will make nothing of it.4 Colln. Thayer had no reason to expect the support mr cranch has given him when he consider'd how ill he had formerly treated him: Coll Bass's son told him he would not have him too proud upon the occation That it was not him but the cause we were supporting. This son of coll. Bass is a very worthy sensible man—one of the last acts of mr cranchs Political Life was to get mr Thaxter & him made a Justice of the Peace

The governor has got such a counsel as I should think would mortify him at least some of them. The Friends of goverment chose such of the Senate as they knew would refuse in order to get a chance to chuse out of the People at large some good men but they missd their aim by seting up men which the others hated. General Warren is Speaker of the House, & nobody now is so proper for the chair as mr Hancock— He is more Learn'd more wise, more every thing, than mr Bowdoin

“get Place & Wealth, if possible with grace. If not, by any means get wealth & Place”

well apply now to some characters as well in those days when Pope writ these lines5

June 13th

Cushing is to sail in a few days I hear I hope I shall not be too late for him. I wish I had any thing to send you that would be acceptable—but why should I be proud? no— I will rejoice that Providence has set you above the want of any thing I can do for you— I 64was in Boston yesterday & found all uncle Smiths Family with Docr. Welsh & Lady seting off for Newbury to the wedding of our cousin William— he is to be married this day. May they be as happy as virtue & good dispositions can make them— mrs otis & her Brother went yesterday morning earley. I should have lik'd to have seen him— I wonder when he will leave Blushing. we could not speak to him about miss Hannah without fetching up his colour— Mrs Otis & Welch are increasing in size fast—6

Your Son JQA & mine were in Boston yesterday7 They were well your other sons were so also. I told you in my last Letters that cousin would remain in Cambridge. he tells me he has alter'd his mind & thinks he shall live with mr Parsons— We are making some little preparation for commencment. I have sent my most respecfull complements to mr Tufts & Family at Newbury with an invitation to commencment—

There are to be three english orations Bridge who was to have held a conference with Billy has obtain'd leave not to be present at commencment, so that instead of a conference, he is to have an oration upon Goverment He has been studying his uncle Adams late publication with care. I hope he will perform well He will not excell as a speaker till he has several more years over his head—but he will have no conceit'd airs—

I drank Tea at mrs Quncys as I return'd from Boston yesterday. mrs Hall & miss Polly were there, they were dress'd in their new gowns & look'd very well. The thought of seeing her dear children return seems to give her new spirits she desires that I would give her kind & affectional Love to you all. Mrs Quincy & Nancy express their Joy at the prospect of your return as extatically as usual— our good uncle Quincy is as well as usual but cannot yet be perswaid'd out—

Before this time you are I hope dandling your little Grandchild upon your knee—does it not make you feel old? or do you fancy it is your own & so feel your youth renew'd? as these relations increase you will find your unwillingness to have them settled at any great distance will not diminish—

Betsy & Lucy are making up the linnen you sent your sons. We make cousin Tom no more than just sufficcent for present use he grows so fast it is imposible to keep any thing to fit him three months. JQA has two dozen which he has never yet had on. I often tell the girls they mend more than you would. your eldest son will want some more cotton stockings soon those he brought with him 65are so fine that I have been oblig'd to put new feet to them several times. those you sent will do much more service, & are cheaper than I can get them made here—

We have been much affraid that mrs Russel was in a consumtion & are not yet without our fears although she appears to be much better She is with her Parents. She has a fine Baby but has been oblig'd to wean it, or rather to get a nurse for it. she carrys them about with her wherever she goes. I hope she will recover. She was always lovely, but appears more amiable now than ever— Her gentle spirit seems fitted for a better World, but we cannot help wishing to detain her a little longer with us—

Remember me affectionatly to mr Adams to mr & Mrs Smith, to mrs Elworthy & Family also whenever you see them. tell her I mean to write when I can get time & believe me my dear sister yours affectionatly

Mary Cranch

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mrs Cranch / May 27 1787”; docketed by AA2: “Mrs Cranch.”


Cranch to AA, 22 April, above. Thomas Knox served as the first appointed Boston Harbor pilot from 1783 to 1790 (Ralph M. Eastman, Pilots and Pilot Boats of Boston Harbor, Boston, 1956, p. 3, 24–25).


For the text of JQA's composition, see his Diary, 2:199–204. JQA also noted that he did not particularly like the subject and had difficulty writing on it (Diary, 2:175, 176, 177).


The next transit of Venus would not occur until 1874. The transit prior to this, in 1769, was promoted, calculated, and recorded by the American Philosophical Society and, especially, Harvard's John Winthrop, America's first astronomer. Europeans noticed the accuracy of their predictions, resulting in prestige and future funding for the American scientific community (Brooke Hindle, The Pursuit of Science in Revolutionary America, 1735–1789, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1956, p. 146–165; Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 9:240–264).


On 17 May 1787 the Braintree town meeting elected Ebenezer Thayer Jr. as representative by a margin of twelve votes over Stephen Penniman (1743–1827) and John Vinton (1735–1803). The election was protested on 4 June when a second town meeting appointed Azariah Faxon (1731–1802), Eliphalet Sawin (1722–1801), and Vinton to “take cair of and surport Petition of a number of the Inhabitants of this town to the General Court objecting to the choice of our Representative, being legal.” Benjamin Beale (1702–1793) and his son Nathaniel (1753–1832) are the men Cranch reports as favoring the petition. The action went no further than the hearing before the legislative committee sponsored by Perez Morton. Thayer, who had been the subject of an unsuccessful recall effort in January as well, was re-elected in 1788 ( Braintree Town Records , p. 574–581; Sprague, Braintree Families , p. 493–494, 3767R; John Adams Vinton, The Vinton Memorial, Boston, 1858, p. 57–61; George L. Faxon, The History of the Faxon Family, Springfield, Mass., 1880, p. 71–72; Thomas E. Sawin, Sawin: Summary Notes Concerning John Sawin, and His Posterity, Athol, Mass., 1867, p. 9; vol. 7:463, 465).


Pope, Satires, Epistles, and Odes of Horace, Epistle I, Book I, lines 103–104.


Mary Smith Gray Otis, wife of Samuel A. Otis, gave birth to a daughter, Harriet, in Dec. 1787. At about the same time, Abigail Kent Welsh, wife of Dr. Thomas Welsh, gave birth to a son, Henry. See Cotton Tufts to AA, 18 Dec., and Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 22 Dec., both below.


JQA and William Cranch went to Boston to hear the debates in the legislature (JQA, Diary , 2:239).