A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
The Adams Papers Digital Edition is undergoing active maintenance while we work on improvements to the system. You may experience slow performance or the inability to access content. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will endeavor to return to full capabilities as soon as possible.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0012

Author: Jenings, Edmund
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-07-21

From Edmund Jenings

[salute] Sir

I have had the Honour of receiving your Excellencys Letter of the 14th Instant: in Answer to which, I can only return your Excellency my most humble Thanks and assure you that the Confidence, with which I am honored, shall not be Abusd by me, and Care shall be taken, that it shall not be so by any One Else. I will Keep together what I receive from Your Excellency, to be returnd to You or your Order on demand, and in the mean while your Signature shall be most carefully erased from all your Letters. I have remarked, in the History of Mankind, much Abuse and Mischief resulting from the discovery of Confidential Communications and have even felt it myself in these troublesome Times, and therefore have had it in my Mind for some time to take the Liberty of suggesting to your Excellency the Expediency of writing under feignd Names.1
Your Excellencys early concern and intimate acquaintance with the great Transactors of the Times must have given you more than Ordinary Knowledge of Men and things. I am Happy, when you Communicate any thing to me relative to them; as I find my mind enlarged and Strengthned by such means. I have heard much of the Glorious Patriots, who have signalizd themselves in the Cause of their Country; but my Information has been general and therefore by no means sufficient to Satisfy me. Your Excellency however flatters me much with your promise of making me more acquainted with them. There is a Mr. Emmery here, a refugee Merchant of Boston, with whom I sometimes talk of the beginning of these troubles—He is one of the proscribed—but at the same time a Moderate and Candid Man—when He speaks of your Excellency He does it with much Respect.2
I have receivd from your Excellency five Sheets entitled a Translation, and two Letters of Observations on Mr. Galloways Pamphlet3—which I will take Care shall be sent to England; but not having yet had an Opportunity of conveying them by a safe Hand, and not { 19 } having had an Account of the receipt of Mr. Dana Character and the Letters to Mr. Wyth and the Report of the Convention &c. (at which I am Surprizd) I have hitherto deferrd it.
I agree with your Excellency, that these Things will have but little Effect in England, but to rise in Judgment against it in future, but they will operate in other places, for the Meridian of which, they are well Calculated. If I was in England, there are many things, that might be done of this Nature, which appearing at the Moment might have more Effect—for which purposes I frequently wish myself there.
I am much pleased to find it was in the Contemplation of the Northern Powers to take our part 18 Months Ago. It shews that there Conduct now is founded on something more than the present insulting behaviour of England. But if it is So, it appears to me much too irresolute and Indecisive—if they would Act with half the Peremptoriness of England, this Business would be soon finishd; at present great Advantage is taken of their Backwardness—the American Independance ought to be immediately Acknowledged, all Trade with England for Naval Stores prohibited and the English Ships now in the Baltic stopped—I trust that the Russian Fleet has orders to Act immediately in Conjunction with France Spain and Holland, or Else the Time for Action will be over.
I was surprizd at the News from Holland, that many of the English Rioters had been seized there. I thought at first it proceeded from Complaisance to England—but it turns out to be a Mere Dutch Trick. They are seized as Vagabonds, and will be sent to Batavia to settle that Province—No Uncommon Maneuvre in Holland.
Hearing that the Dutch are much alarmed at the Event of Charles Town (being imposed on by the boastings of England) I shewed to Mr. L. something I had drawn up to wipe away unfavorable Impressions. He has given the Heads thereof to be inserted in their Papers, and by the next post I shall send fuller Observations to be printed and dispersed there. I shall take the Liberty of sending to your Excellency a Copy thereof, which I trust will meet with your Excellencys Approbation.4
I am fearful that Admiral Greaves will interrupt Monsr. Ternays Operation.
I Know not whether your Excellency has sent to Madrid the Account and Description of Hussey. There is certainly a person of that Name formerly connected with the Spanish Embassadours family at London—He holds a correspondence with England. I beg He may be attended to.
{ 20 }
I am Sir your Excellencys Most Devoted & Obt. Humble servt.
[signed] E. Freeman
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr Jennings July 21 ansd 24.”; by John Thaxter: “1780.” No reply of 24 July has been found.
1. For Jenings' earlier suggestion that JA use a pseudonym, see his letter of 10 March 1779 (vol. 8:10, 12). JA , however, never used a pseudonym in his correspondence with Jenings.
2. This was John Amory, member of a prominent Boston mercantile family ( Adams Family Correspondence , 4:332–333). In a letter to Richard Cranch of 17 June 1782, JA noted that Amory had lived for some time in Brussels and, so far as he knew, had done nothing to oppose the American cause (same, p. 332).
3. According to Jenings' letter of 15 July (above), the first four parts of the “Translation” of Thomas Pownall's Memorial had been enclosed with JA 's letter of 8 July (Adams Papers). Since this letter is a reply to JA 's of 14 July (above), it is likely that the fifth part of the “Translation” and the first two “Letters from a Distinguished American” were enclosed with that letter. The ten remaining “Letters” were sent under a covering letter of 22 July (Adams Papers). There JA wrote that “I have done with this Pamphlet—but I have 20 more as full of Nonsense.”
4. For Jenings' proposed newspaper piece, which he presumably showed to William Lee, see his letter of 27 July, note 2 (below).

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0013

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: President of Congress
Recipient: Huntington, Samuel
Date: 1780-07-22

To the President of Congress, No. 98

Paris, 22 July 1780. Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 211–218). printed: Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:873–875.
This letter, read in Congress on 26 Dec., contains a series of newspaper reports, the first of which concerned George III's speech of 8 July proroguing Parliament, which John Adams thought did little to promote the cause of peace. For his detailed critique of the speech, see Adams' “Letters from a Distinguished American,” <ante 14–22 July>, No. XII, and notes 1 and 2 (above). The remaining reports concerned Spanish and French naval activities and the efforts of the northern powers to implement the armed neutrality. John Adams observed that while all the maritime powers were determined to resist British attacks on neutral commerce and prevent Britain from resuming its monopoly of the American trade, it was up to the United States to “fight our own battles, and bear our own Expences” in pursuit of its interests. Finally, in words very close to those used in his first letter to Edmund Jenings of 18 July (above), Adams declared that the combination of the maritime powers against England showed “the Wisdom of Congress in planning the first Treaty, which was first sent to the Court of Versailles upon the principle of perfect equality and reciprocity; granting no exclusive priviledges, and binding herself to no obligations not to admit any other and all other nations to the same: principles from which it is to be presumed We shall not depart.”
Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (PCC, No. 84, II, f. 211–218). printed : (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:873–875.)

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0014

Author: Gordon, William
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-07-22

From William Gordon

[salute] My dear Sir

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 { 21 } you. 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 na]me sake as one of the council of State, that so we may have an Argus to watch ov[er the M]assachusetts 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 { 22 } have 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 [s]ons. 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
[signed] 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.
1. Of 8 March (above).
2. 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).
3. Gordon presumably means that Samuel Adams, JA 's namesake, should watch over John Hancock, the ironic “Palladium of liberty.”
4. 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).
5. 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).