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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10


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Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0198

Author: Digges, Thomas
Author: Church, William Singleton
Recipient: Adams, John
Recipient: San, Fernando Raymond
Date: 1780-11-22

From Thomas Digges

[salute] Dear Cozen

I understood from seeing a letter lately from Paris there had appeard at a Dutch Bankers in that City sundry seconds of Bills for acceptance the first of which had been paid by regular indorsements to Vieve Babet and Co., Nantes, which seconds of Bills appeard to have been taken among Mr. L—s papers and forwarded to Paris unindorsd for acceptance. This causd some uneasiness at Paris; the Bills were tracd to a Dutch Bankers who had them in remittance from Messr. Hopes. This transaction appearing rather too mean even for my Countrymen the English, I probd the matter to the bottom, and find it was all done for the best. A particular friend of a person2 who has frequently been the subject of my late letters, got the bills above alluded to, slipt into His hands during a first and watchd interview, and they were that way forwarded to prevent any unfair method being used of obtaining their value in another way. This affair has been cleard up by the friend of Our friend both in Yours and a neighbouring Country.3
No news from abroad save a disagreeable account of the dispersion of the expected Jamaica fleet. I fear I shall be ruind by it for the produce of my valuable Estate in that Island is on its way uninsurd.4
Since the news of Adjut. Genl. Andre's Execution in the Rebel Washingtons Camp nothing has been talkd of here but “making Examples,” acts of retaliation, &ca. &ca. A person of the name of Trumbull was taken up for high Treason on Sunday night and committed Irond to Prison. A search has been made after a Companion of His a Mr. Tyler who I am told got away some days ago. Many people were also carryd before the Magistrate who accidentally calld to visit either of these Gentlemen on Monday. Many names are talkd of in this last list. Mr. De Neufville a Dutch Merchant, Mr. Digs, Mr. Stewart a Limner of Rhode Island, Mr. H. Laurens Jur.,5 and sundry others, but nothing as I can learn was got out of them and it is impossible to say to what lengths they will go against Mr. Trumbull—report says that the affadavits of two Refugee N. England men and his own papers are quite sufficient to hang Him, and hang him they certainly will if they can, for my Countrymen seem to thirst after blood most exceedingly since Andre's execution.6
{ 366 }
Many others Americans are threatend, but as I know none of them having no connexion with that Country I realy forget their names. I can assure you Sir from present conversations and dispositions for revenge which is dayly <expected> expressd, my Country has become exceedingly disagreable to live in, and I heartily wish I could live among people fonder of Philosophy and philanthropy.
Adieu Yrs Affecy &ca.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Myn Heer De Heer Ferdinand Raymond San Ten Huyze De Heer Hendrick Shorn Amsterdam”; endorsed: “W.S.C. Novr 22d 1780.”
1. This letter, as well as those of 8 Nov. [i.e. Dec.] , 22 and 26 Dec. (all below), are notable for Digges' attempt to conceal his identity because of his concern over the arrest of John Trumbull for treason (see note 6). He tried to produce a letter that clearly was not by an American, and certainly not by Thomas Digges. Opening his letter with “Dear Cozen,” he refers to the English as “my Countrymen” and England as “my Country,” implies that Trumbull is unknown to him, and even lists “Mr. Digs” among those questioned about Trumbull's activities. Digges had reason to be apprehensive. Newspaper accounts of Trumbull's arrest mentioned Digges as a sympathizer, and possible agent, for the American cause and the person who, under the alias of Mr. Waters, forwarded at least one of the letters seized from Trumbull (London Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 24 Nov. and 1 Dec.; London Chronicle, 21–23 Nov.). Digges' role in this affair is unclear, but he surely had some direct or indirect contact with Trumbull and his three December letters indicate that he probably helped John Steele Tyler escape from England.
2. The “person” was Henry Laurens, and the “friend” was William Manning Sr., who, with Henry Laurens Jr., was allowed to visit Laurens after his commitment to the Tower (from Thomas Digges, 17 Oct., and note 1, above). The letter from Paris was that of 7 Nov. from Benjamin Franklin, for which see Digges' letter to Franklin of 21 Nov., and notes, Digges, Letters , p. 335–337.
3. The Netherlands and France.
4. For the misfortunes that befell the Jamaica fleet, see the London Chronicle of 21–23 November. The reference, however, is apparently another effort by Digges to conceal his identity, since there is no evidence that he owned property on the island.
5. These were Leendert de Neufville, son of Jean de Neufville; Digges, himself; Gilbert Stuart, a member of Benjamin West's household; and Henry Laurens' son.
6. John Trumbull and John Steele Tyler visited JA at Paris in June and then, despite the two men's service in the Continental Army and Trumbull's status as son of the governor of Connecticut, went on to London in July, Trumbull to study painting under Benjamin West. They informed the ministry of their arrival and plans to reside in London, apparently expecting no interference in their affairs, but the Morning Post of 17 Aug. noted their arrival and declared that “if such persons are suffered to be at liberty in England another conflagration may soon happen.” The loyalists did not forget and with the arrival of news of the arrest and execution of Maj. John André as a spy a new opportunity presented itself, for as the Morning Post of 24 Nov. pointed out in its lengthy account of Trumbull's arrest, Trumbull and André had held identical ranks in their respective armies. But the original warrant for high treason was issued for Tyler, although orders were given to secure the person and possessions of Trumbull. Tyler was warned of his impending arrest by Winslow Warren and escaped, leaving John Trumbull to face the charges. Trumbull was arrested early on the morning of 20 Nov., with the first report appearing in the Morning Post of 21 Nov., but see also the issues of 22, 23, and 24 Nov., as well as the London Courant of the 22d. Trumbull remained in custody until June 1781, when he was released on bail and set off for America. For Trumbull's account of his journey to London, imprisonment, and eventual release, see The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull, ed. Theodore Sizer, New Haven, 1953, p. 60–72.