Papers of John Adams, volume 10

From William Gordon, 22 July 1780 Gordon, William JA From William Gordon, 22 July 1780 Gordon, William Adams, John
From William Gordon
My dear Sir Jamaica Plain July 22. 1780

The beginning of March I forwarded to You and friend Dana a joint letter,1 which I hope if received will be answered by one or other of 21you. The people, you will have heard before this can get to hand, have agreed upon a form of government, not so good as the Report of the Committee, but better than I expected. We begin to think of the ensuing elections. It is thought that Mr. Bowdoin or Mr. Hancock will be chosen governor. Heavens grant that it may be the former and not the latter, who is one of the most egregious triflers I know! He hath not yet settled his accounts as treasurer of the college—and probably never will by fair means.2 The corporation and overseers have the comfort to infer, that he means not any particular affront to them, from his serving every one else in the like manner. A hint has been given me, that he would serve as Lieut. Govr. under Mr. Bowdoin, but no one else; and this is not a little stoop for his ambition. I would have him kept out of the chair. He can't as Lt. Govr. do much hurt. I mean therefore to propagate the hint that has been given me; and possibly some may by that be taken off from voting for him as Govr. The most knowing and sensible I apprehend will not be for him, unless any of them should be induced by sinister views; but the common people who are ignorant of his character—his true character—and have had his name so often ding'd in their ears will be likely to pitch upon him. Should he happen to be chosen—May he do for himself before the Spring election, so as never more to be re-instated, till he is qualified! Imagine care will be taken to get your name sake as one of the council of State, that so we may have an Argus to watch over the Massachusetts Palladium of liberty.3 I mean to promote among persons of the first character for honesty ability and attachment to liberty, a Massachusetts constitutional Society, designed to support government while acting agreeable to the constitution, to stand up for the privileges of the people when infringed, and to promote revisions from period to period by new Conventions. Unless future Conventions can be secured, this State will go the way of all others, and the people after a run of years will have no more liberty in New England than they have in old. Some good and sensible men are from principle against them, lest they should prove dangerous opportunities for ambitious crafty popular men: but I am persuaded it will be far more dangerous to omit them, and that after they have been omitted, tyranny will shoot out its cancerous fibres and at length possess the whole body.

We are looking out for the arrival of the remaining force destined by our good ally to our assistance,4 and promise ourselves a successful campaign. May God of his great mercy grant it; or we shall get into greater difficulties. Twelve and fifteen hundred pounds lawful a man 22have been given in paper money for a three months tour of duty, reckoning from the time of their getting to the place of destination.

Intend going soon to visit good General Lincoln. That Charlestown could not be preserved longer was not his fault. May it prove like the taking of Tyconderoga; and may Genl. Gates do as effectual service in the Southern as he has done in the Northern States!

Mr. Storer goes on to increase and multiply. His wife the last monday charged another daughter to his account.5 Friends in general well. Pray my respects to Mr. Dana and Mr. Thaxter and sons. You will oblige me by forwarding the enclosed to G.B. If you doubt my virtue, break it open and satisfy yourself, that my correspondence is harmless. I continue with much esteem your sincere friend and very humble servant

William Gordon

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr. Paris”; endorsed by John Thaxter: “Dr. W. Gordon 22d. July 1780 Recd. 19th. Sept.” The removal of the seal has resulted in the loss of some text.


Of 8 March (above).


To honor his financial contributions, John Hancock was elected treasurer of Harvard College in 1773. Hancock, however, devoted little attention to his duties and refused to submit his accounts for an audit, thus beginning the college's long struggle to obtain an accounting of the funds under his supervision and to regain the records in his possession. In 1777 Ebenezer Storer replaced Hancock as treasurer, but the accounts were not settled and the money owed the college was not paid until after Hancock's death in 1793. Harvard finally regained the last of the records in 1936. William Gordon, as a member of the Board of Overseers, was a sharp critic of Hancock's actions as treasurer ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 13:75–76, 428–429, 437–439, 445; see also Gordon's letter of 28 June 1783 to JA, Adams Papers).


Gordon presumably means that Samuel Adams, JA's namesake, should watch over John Hancock, the ironic “Palladium of liberty.”


The fleet carrying Rochambeau's army reached Newport, R.I., on 11 July. Additional troops intended for the expedition had been left in France because of a shortage of transports. Although they were to be sent later, no second contingent ever arrived. See JA's letter of 18 March to Samuel Adams, and note 4 (above).


Gordon probably means Hannah Quincy Storer, who had married Ebenezer Storer in 1777 after the death of her first husband Bela Lincoln and his first wife Elizabeth Green. Although she reportedly had three children in her second marriage, only a daughter born in 1779 has been identified ( Sibley's Harvard Graduates , 12:208–214).

Committee of the Massachusetts General Court to John Adams and Francis Dana, 22 July 1780 Massachusetts General Court Cushing, Thomas Davis, Caleb Walley, Thomas Gorham, Nathaniel JA Dana, Francis Committee of the Massachusetts General Court to John Adams and Francis Dana, 22 July 1780 Massachusetts General Court Cushing, Thomas Davis, Caleb Walley, Thomas Gorham, Nathaniel Adams, John Dana, Francis
Committee of the Massachusetts General Court to John Adams and Francis Dana
Boston July 22d: 1780

This Government the last Winter appointed Jonathan Loring Austin Esq. their Agent to repair to Europe and procure the Loan of One hundred and fifty Thousand Pounds Sterling, part of which he 23 image was impowered and directed to invest in Goods for the use of the Officers and Soldiers belonging to the Army, as the Papers herewith inclosed will more fully inform you. Mr. Austin sailed the 22d day of last January in a Continental Packet called the Zephyr Commanded by Capt. Richard and as he has never been heard of since, it is strongly Suspected he is lost. The Government therefore have thought it absolutely necessary to dispatch the Armed Ship Mars commanded by Capt. Simeon Sampson to Nantz in order to bring the goods the Government had ordered to be purchased for the Army and have directed us to request that, in case Mr. Austin should not have arrived in Europe You would procure the Loan above mentioned agreeable to the Instructions given to Mr. Austin and that You would also purchase and Ship or cause to be purchased and Shipped by the Mars the Articles enumerated in the Schedule of Goods designed for the Army And please to omit shipping the Goods mentioned in the Second and third Schedules and instead thereof please to send to our Address by the first good Opportunity that offers, a Second Parcel of Goods consisting of the same Articles that you may Ship by the Mars and also a Third parcel of Goods by any other Opportunity that presents, consisting of the same Articles as one of the Former Invoices consisted of. The great Importance of securing Cloathing for our Quota of the Continental Army is the reason of our ordering these three different Parcels of Goods by three different Conveyances, that in Case one or two of the Vessels by which the Goods are Shipped should be Captured, we may perhaps be supplied by the Third. And provided they should all arrive and the Goods should not all be wanted by the Government they may easily be disposed off. The Reason we have to apprehend Mr. Austin has miscarried and the great Importance of Seasonably procuring Cloathing for our Quota of the Continental Army must be our Apology for giving You this Trouble and in Case your Attention to the interest of the United states will not admit of your undertaking this Matter we must earnestly Request you would employ some suitable Person to execute this Business and to supply Capt. Samson with such necessarys as he may stand in need of for the use of his Ship.1

We are with great Respect Gentlemen, Your most obedient & humble Servants

Thomas Cushing } Committee
Caleb Davis
Thos: Walley
Nath Gorham

P.S. Whatever Goods are Shiped must be Insured and the Premium Covered Agreable to former directions, and in Case of Mr. Austin's Arrival and he should not have procured and Shiped the Goods Agreable to his Instruction, he will Govern himself by the Intructions given in this Letter. The Council have Agreed that the officers and men belonging to the Mars Shall have a Certain Sum advanced to them in France, you will therefore be pleased to furnish Capt. Sampson with a Sum of Money for this Purpose and also that we have agreed to Allow to him in leiu of Prizeage and for his Expences While in France.

yr M Supra T. C.

RC , both closing and postscript in Thomas Cushing's hand (Adams Papers); addressed: “Public Service The Honble: John Adams & Francis Dana Esqr: Paris”; endorsed by John Thaxter: “Letter from Messs. Thos. Cushing, Caleb Davis, Thos. Walley & Natl. Gorham to Mr. Adams & Mr. Dana. 22d. July 1780.”


For Jonathan Loring Austin's appointment to negotiate a loan and purchase supplies in Europe, see the Mass. Council's letter of 13 Jan. to JA and Francis Dana, and notes (vol. 8:308–309). That letter requested, as a precaution rather than the result of a resolve of the General Court, that JA and Francis Dana act in Austin's place if he was unable to execute his commission (Mass., Province Laws , 21:348–349). The present letter from the committee appointed to over see Austin's mission stemmed from the General Court's resolves of 22 June, ordering Capt. Samson to prepare the Mars for a European voyage and specifically requesting JA and Dana to act because of fears that Austin had not reached Europe (same, p. 573). JA and Dana never exercised the powers given them by this letter because Austin reached Paris in early May (to Jonathan Williams, 14 May, note 3). The Adams Papers has a manuscript copy of a letter dated 22 July from Austin to Vergennes in which Austin proposed that Massachusetts supply the French navy with masts in exchange for money and clothing. For the result of this appeal, which was apparently referred to Gabriel de Sartine, see Francis Dana's letter of 1 Aug., note 3 (below). Austin's instructions and the “schedules” enclosed with the Council's letter of 13 Jan. have not been found, but for the instructions, see Mass., Province Laws , 21:346–348.