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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 4


This foot note contained in document ADMS-04-04-02-0135
1. John Boylston (1709–1795), son of the famous Dr. Zabdiel Boylston and first cousin of JA 's mother. He had been a merchant in Boston and is depicted in JA 's diary in the 1760's as a lively but somewhat affected conversationalist ( Diary and Autobiography , 1:293–294). By 1771 he had taken up residence in London, and he remained in England for the rest of his life, though with misgivings because (despite statements commonly made to the contrary, including notes in the present edition) he seems always to have been more of an American patriot than a loyalist at heart. His correspondence with the Smith family in Boston (MHi: Smith-Carter Papers) shows that he remained sympathetic with the American cause and that he continued his charitable activities in Massachusetts, through intermediaries, during and after the war. In the Franklin Papers are letters respecting his proposal in 1778 to take an oath and give security in order to return to America ( Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 4:272, 274), but this did not occur. In a letter to JA , 28 June 1782 (below), Boylston heatedly denied he was in any sense a loyalist “Refugee,” having “ever been constantly and invariably attach'd to the cause and interest of my native Country.” In his reply of 5 July 1782 (also below), JA assured Boylston that “I have long known your Sentiments to be favourable to your native Country, as well as to Liberty in General.”
When JA and JQA came to England late in 1783, Boylston was established in prosperous retirement at Bath, where he entertained his relatives handsomely, as he again did JA and AA some years later (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:151; AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 20 Jan. 1787 [ MWA ]). As the present and later letters relate, Boylston was active in efforts to relieve the distresses of American seamen imprisoned in England. See further, Adams Genealogy.
On the whole subject of American seamen in British prisons during the war, particularly Forton Prison at Portsmouth and Mill Prison at Plymouth, their treatment, British policy relating thereto, and humanitarian efforts by both Americans and British, see the authoritative and well-documented articles by John K. Alexander, “'American Privateersmen in the Mill Prison during 1777–1782': An Evaluation,” Essex Inst., Hist. Colls. , 102:318–340 (Oct. 1966); and “Forton Prison during the American Revolution ...,” same, vol. 103:365–389 (Oct. 1967).
On JA 's activities in behalf of captured American seamen in general, and of a number of Braintree men at Mill Prison in particular, see below, AA to JA , 9 Dec. 1781, and note 3 there.