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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3

This note contained in document ADMS-04-03-02-0270
2. Winslow Warren, in leaving for the Netherlands and France designed to seek his fortune by setting up a commission business dealing in goods to and from America. (See a brief sketch of Warren, vol. 2:151, above.) The Warrens were at least as protective of their children as other parents; Winslow's youthful friendships and proclivities had evidently already caused them concern; and his mother had solicited AA's advice to a son about to face temptations of a kind assumed to be far more numerous and seductive in Europe than in America; see AA to Winslow Warren, 19 May, above.
The departure of the Pallas was delayed until late in June, and not long after it finally sailed, from Newburyport, it was captured by the British man-of-war Portland and carried into St. John's, Newfoundland, where Warren at least briefly joined other Americans aboard the prison ship Proteus (James Warren to JA, 11 July, Warren-Adams Letters, 2:134; Winslow Warren and others to Adm. Richard Edwards, 20 July, MHi:Misc. Bound), then remaining at St. John's until September when he continued to England. (For the events of this interval, see below, AA to JA, 23 Aug., note 1.) For a time after arriving in London, Warren suffered no restraints and enjoyed the pleasures of London life with two other young Americans who had recently arrived there via Nantes, Paris, and Ostend. They were the fledgling artist John Trumbull, of Connecticut, and John Steele Tyler, a Bostonian whose errand was not to be known until 150 years later; see above, Richard Cranch to JA, 26 April, and note 1 there. In passing, Trumbull characterized Warren as “a somewhat amphibious character, and withal young, handsome and giddy,” but they must all have seemed so to the British authorities, who, following the news of Major John André's execution for his part in Arnold's treason, moved with vigor to restrain the Americans' movements. Trumbull was arrested, Tyler escaped arrest only by fleeing to the Continent, and Warren was allowed early in 1781 to leave the country only after submitting to repeated examinations of himself and his papers. According to his own account, written to his mother from Amsterdam in April 1781, one of the grounds for the leniency shown him was the fact that Secretary of State Lord Hillsborough was impressed by reading Mercy Warren's letters sent to her son in London: “His Lordship Condescended to Give me a great deal of advice saying he was prepossessed in my favour from my appearance. He and others to whom my papers were exposed, lavished many praises on my Mothers Letters—said 'they would do honour to the Greatest Writer that ever wrote,' and added, 'Mr. Warren I hope you will profit by her instructions and advice.' I had the honour of three private Conferences with him.”
Warren remained in Europe for more than three years without settling down to anything anywhere. He looked up JA in Amsterdam in March and April 1781 and in Paris in July (AA to JA, 28 May 1781, in vol. 4 below; Winslow Warren to Mercy Warren, 28 April, 25 July 1781, MHi:Mercy Warren Papers), but JA's mentions of him are laconic and unenthusiastic. The fullest reference he made to Warren is in a letter he wrote Mercy Warren, 29 Jan. 1783:
“I have never had an Opportunity, Madam, to see your Son since he has been in Europe, but once or twice at Amsterdam, and that before I had an House there. He has been travelling from Place to Place, and altho' I have often enquired after him, I have seldom been able to hear of him. I have heard nothing to his disadvantage, except a Shyness and Secrecy, which, as it is uncommon in young Gentlemen of his Age and Education is the more remarked, and a general Reputation which he brought with him from Boston of loving Play. But I have not been able to learn, that he has indulged it improperly in Europe. But { 360 } my Advice to him and every young American is and uniformly will be, to stay in Europe but a little while” (LbC in John Thaxter's hand, Adams Papers).
The whole of the foregoing paragraph has been scratched out beyond legibility in RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); it strains belief to suppose that this could have been done by the sender.
The chief source of information about Winslow Warren is in his travel journals and correspondence with his parents in MHi:Mercy Warren Papers and Winslow Warren Travel Journals and Letters; the materials there concerning his first sojourn in Europe have been drawn on in Charles Warren, “A Young American's Adventures in England and France during the Revolutionary War” (MHS, Procs., 65 [1932–1936]:234–267). Though useful in bringing together scattered materials, Charles Warren's account must be used with caution as to details, particularly on matters of date. The Warren-Adams Letters of course contain numerous references to Winslow; see index. For John Trumbull's characterization of Winslow and his part in helping John Steele Tyler to escape arrest in London, see Trumbull's Autobiography, ed. Theodore Sizer, New Haven, 1953, p. 64.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.