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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

This note contained in document ADMS-06-09-02-0111
1. This is David Hartley's letter of 21 March to the chairman of the Committee of the County of York, a copy of which JA enclosed with this letter. The copy of Hartley's letter used by JA has not been found, but was probably that which Thomas Digges, in a letter of 6 April to Benjamin Franklin, indicated that he was sending, at Hartley's request, to Franklin under another cover (Digges, Letters, p. 185–189). Hartley's letter was published at London on or about 13 April as one of Two Letters from David Hartley, esq. M.P. Addressed to the Committee of the County of York (London Courant, 13 April). Thomas Digges sent JA a copy of that pamphlet on 25 April (from Thomas Digges, 8 June).
David Hartley was, in JA's view, a well intentioned but ineffectual member of Parliament, without the power or influence to materially effect British policy toward the war in America (see JA's letters of 23 March to the president of Congress, No. 23; and of 28 March to Edmund Jenings, both above). Despite their good intentions, Hartley and others who actually wanted to end the war in America displayed the same unwillingness to face reality that afflicted the British government and people in general and made it extremely unlikely that Anglo-American peace negotiations would occur anytime soon. For a clear expression of the position held by Hartley and others, which so frustrated JA, see the “Bill for Conciliation” that Hartley unsuccessfully sought to introduce in Parliament on 27 June (Descriptive List of Illustrations, vol. 10, below) and Hartley's letter of 17 July (below). JA's letter to Congress containing his strictures on Hartley's proposal was not published, but is similar to pieces that he wrote in May, June, and July that were printed in Paris and London (JA to Edmé Jacques Genet, 17 and 28 May; “Letters from a Distinguished American,” [ante 14–22 July], all below). All of them reflect JA's reading of Thomas Pownall's A Memorial Most Humbly Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe, on the Present State of Affairs, Between the Old and New World, London, 1780, which he had received on or about 15 April (A Translation of Thomas Pownall's Memorial, 19 April – [ca. 14 July], Editorial Note, below). The rebuttal of Hartley can be seen as the first step in a struggle to convince the British people and, through them, their government that peace would result only from an acknowledgment of American independence and that such an action, far from being detrimental to British interests, was the only means by which Britain could maintain its status among nations. From an examination of that effort it is possible to follow the development in 1780, not only of JA's attitude toward peace negotiations and the Anglo-American relationship that would result from them, but also his view of { 153 } the United States' position within the international community for the foreseeable future.
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, 2018.