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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 3

This note contained in document ADMS-06-03-02-0052
4. In British contemporary copies Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5, listed in note 1 (above), this word appears as “distressful.” The same form is used in the copy furnished by an officer on board the Swan, the vessel which seized the ferry that was carrying Hichborn from Newport to Providence. The account of the seizure was carried in the Newport Mercury, 7 Aug. (reprinted in Naval Docs. Amer. Rev., 1:1086–1087). The Swan officer, writing to London on 14 Aug., two weeks after the capture, says the letters were sent on to Graves, “but I found an opportunity of copying two of them, and herewith send the copies to you” (Willard, ed., Letters on the American Revolution, p. 187). If the officer made his copies from the originals, his text may be more accurate in this one respect than that used by the Massachusetts Gazette. It is conceivable, however, that the Swan officer, given the passage of time, made his copies from copies produced for Graves. In the latter case, one must assume that some copyist made the mistake of writing “distressful” for “distressed,” the word that appears in both the Gazette and in the copy Graves forwarded to London. Of course, if “distressful” was in the original, then the newspaper was furnished with an inexact copy and Graves sent a second such copy to London. No evidence has been found that the British tampered with the wording as JA claimed (Diary and Autobiography, 3:319).
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.