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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6


This note contained in document ADMS-04-06-02-0137
5. In the draft this passage reads: “Dumbars deposition was sent by Mr. Bowdoin himself to Mr. Adams and is not amongst the papers forwarded by Congress. The abuse of Stanhope to Mr. Bowdoin is however evident enough without knowing the real cause. He has powerfull connections here and is of a respectable family, but his own Character is said to be that of a profligate. The Marquis of Carmarthan has been absent which has prevented his yet receiving the communications. Tomorrow they will be presented.”
Gov. James Bowdoin wrote JA on 10 Aug. (Adams Papers), to state his side of the affair so that Adams could defend the honor of Massachusetts and the United States in this controversy. With his letter Bowdoin enclosed both a copy of the deposition of Jesse Dunbar (not Dumbar) of Hingham, Mass., dated 10 Aug. (Adams Papers), and copies of the five letters that he exchanged with Stanhope between 1 and 4 Aug. (all Adams Papers), which Bowdoin had sent to Congress. Dunbar's deposition, which AA's account here follows almost verbatim, gives the rough dates of his captivity, from 1780 until the peace, but not the date of his whipping aboard the 74-gun ship Russell at Antigua. It also names his companion, both on the Russell and in the Mall in Boston on 31 July, as William (not Isaac) Lathrop of Sandwich, Mass. (although “William” is inserted above the line).
In his letter of 10 Aug., Gov. Bowdoin told JA that until Congress decided what action to take the enclosed letters were only for his information. On 18 Aug., Congress voted to accept Secretary for Foreign Affairs John Jay's report, based on the five letters, which strongly protested Stanhope's behavior to the British government. Jay wrote JA on 6 Sept., forwarding this protest and directing him to present it, with the letters, to the British secretary of state (Adams Papers; Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, 2:387–296). The Bowdoin-Stanhope correspondence appeared in the London Daily Universal Register on 21 October.
Dunbar's deposition, however, was neither sent to Congress nor presented to Lord Carmarthen, and therefore was not part of the official account of this incident. Capt. Stanhope, in his letters to Bowdoin, had not mentioned Dunbar by name, but said only that he had “been pursued and my Life as well as that of one of my Officers [had] been endanger'd by the violent Rage of a Mob Yesterday Evening without Provocation of any sort.” He then urged Bowdoin “to adopt such Measures as may discover the Ringleaders of the Party that Assassinated me, and bring them to Public Justice” (Stanhope to Bowdoin, 1 Aug., copy in Adams Papers). While Bowdoin disapproved of Dunbar's assault, he felt that Stanhope had overreacted, particularly considering the orderly behavior of the crowd and the prompt action of the sheriff to protect Stanhope. And because Stanhope had not named Dunbar, Bowdoin saw no need to refer to him, but answered: “If you have been insulted, and your Life has been endangered, in manner as you have represented to me, I must inform you, that our Laws afford you ample satisfaction” (Bowdoin to Stanhope, 1 Aug., copy in Adams Papers). This reply incited Stanhope to stronger protests, prompting Bowdoin to send the correspondence to Massachusetts' delegates for presentation to Congress.
Jefferson became deeply interested in this incident, and sometime in November he wrote a brief account of the affair, to which he added a legal defense of Gov. Bowdoin's position, probably with an eye to publishing it in the Continental press to counter versions of the story that had just appeared in English newspapers which AA had forwarded to him (AA to Jefferson, 25 Oct., below; see AA2 to JQA, 18 Oct., note 16, above). Jefferson's principal source, in addition to the Bowdoin-Stanhope letters that had already appeared in { 440 } print, was Dunbar's deposition, in the form in which AA summarized it in this letter. See Jefferson to AA, 20 Nov., below, and “Jefferson's Account of the Stanhope Affair,” undated, in Jefferson, Papers, 9:4–7. Congress' handling of the affair is in JCC, 29:637–647 [18 Aug. 1785].
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.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/