Papers of John Adams, volume 2

18 From Edward Dilly, 4 March 1774 Dilly, Edward JA


From Edward Dilly, 4 March 1774 Dilly, Edward Adams, John
From Edward Dilly
Dear Sir London March 4th 1774

The Letters you sent for Mrs. Macaulay directed, under Cover, for me,1 were put into the Post office on Capt Scott's arrival at Dover, and on their coming to my Hands I immediately transmitted the same to Mrs. Macaulay. You mentioned in your Letter to her, that you had sent the Proceeding of the Assembly relative to Certain Letters, but upon examining the Packet, they were not inclosed.2 I applied to Capt Scott who said that he did not know any thing concerning them.

Mrs. Macaulay from her close application to the writing her History (Viz. The 6th Volume containing the Hist of Charles the Second) is now much indisposed, and obliged to go to Bath on Account of her Health,3 she has however found some benefit by Drinking the Waters, and requested me to present her best Compliments to you, and inform you that she will imbrace the earliest Opportunity (when her Health will permit) to Answer your last favour, and likewise that of the Bostonian Lady, in the mean Time I send you inclosed a Letter which was written by Mrs. Macaulay to a friend upon the necessary Qualifications for a representative in Parliament which will be distributed upon the Eve of the General Election.4 I have also sent you a copy of Mr. Burgh's Political Disquisiti ons a Book just published, which the Author begs you will accept of as a small token of his esteem for a just Character as a friend to Liberty.5 I flatter myself that you will find much pleasure in the perusal. His Ideas of Government are very just and clear, and many useful hints may be gathered, which may furnish sufficient matter for the establishment of a New Government upon a solid foundation. Long Parliaments are the bane to this, as well as every other Country, nothing is more conducive to the Welfare of a Nation as frequent Appeals to the People. We were speaking upon this Subject a few Days ago when I had the pleasure of a Select Number of friends to Dine with me Viz Dr Franklin, Mr Alderman Sawbridge (Brother to Mrs. Macaulay) The Red Mr. Ewin and Dr. Williamson.6 Dr. Franklin was observing the very great difference there was between a Person's soliciting for a Seat in Parliament in England, and in America, the former making great Promises of what he woud do for 19his Constituents, and the latter requesting that he may be excused from Serving any longer on account of his own Affairs—the first wants either a Place or Pension, and the other means only to serve his Country.

The Affairs relative to North America are expected to come on in the House of Commons in a few Days, and Lord Dartmouth will lay the Papers concerning the Transactions of Boston before the House of Lords at the same Time so that we shall know in a short Time, what Steps the Ministry will take to Subdue what they call the Evil Spirit which is gone forth in America, but what Others would Term a noble exertion of the just rights of the People against Ministerial encroachments. For my own part I am inclined to think that they will be fearful of pursueing vigorous Measures, and indeed we are not in a Capacity of doing much,—a Treasury almost exhausted, and burdened with an Immense National Debt. Under these Circumstances good Policy would lead me to pursue such Steps only as will Conciliate the Affections of the Colonies to the Mother Country, our Interest like that of Husband and Wife is reciprocal, one cannot be hurt without the Other's being equally injured. I most sincerely Wish the breach was healed, and that hence forward, we shall never be more at variance.

I presume you will have heard before this comes to your Hand of the Death of Mr. Thos. Hollis the great friend of America, and who was well known by the Donations he made to Harvard College. He has bequeathd about Ten Thousand Pounds in Legacies, among which he has left One Hundred Pounds to Dr. Mayhew's Widow and the like Sum to Mrs. Elliot of Boston.7 I shall be very happy to be favoured with a Line from you, when Opportunity offers, and of being informed of the present State of Affairs in Boston, and whatever you have for Mrs. Macaulay may be transmitted to me. I beg you will accept of my most cordial Wishes for the Prosperity of America.

I am Sir Your most Obedt Servt, Edwd Dilly

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To John Adams Esqr. Boston”; endorsed: “Dilly March 4th 1774.”


For a sketch of Edward Dilly, London bookseller, and his relations with JA, see Adams Family Correspondence , 1:73–74.


No letters from JA to Catharine Macaulay for the period June 1773 – March 1774 have been found. The “Proceeding of the Assembly” referred to here was probably the Edes & Gill edition of The Representations of Governor 20Hutchinson and Others, contained in certain Letters transmitted to England . . . Together with the Resolves of the two Houses thereon, Boston, 1773 (Evans, No. 12820).


Dilly had become Mrs. Macaulay's publisher after the 5th volume of her History appeared. The 6th volume was not published until 1781. For the reasons behind this delay and for a description of her life in Bath, see Lucy M. Donnelly, “The Celebrated Mrs. Macaulay,” WMQ , 3d ser., 6:173–207 (April 1949).


Mrs. Macaulay's essay on qualifications for a member of Parliament has not been found.


JA's copy of James Burgh, Political Disquisitions, vols. 1 and 2, London, 1774, is part of his library at MB. The flyleaf of volume 1 carries this inscription by Burgh: “London March 7th 1774 For John Adams Esqr. at Boston from the Author. As a small token of his regard for the Political Character of that Gentleman, who has distinguished himself as a Patriot, and the true friend of Civil and Religious Liberty.”


Catharine Macaulay's brother, John Sawbridge (1732?–1795), a founder of the Supporters of the Bill of Rights, had served as an alderman for London since 1768. Later in 1774, he was returned as a member of Parliament for the city ( DNB ). Rev. Ewin may have been the notorious Dr. William Howell Ewin (1731?–1804) of Cambridge ( DNB ). Dr. Hugh Williamson (1735–1819) of Pennsylvania had sailed to Europe from Boston shortly after the Tea Party of Dec. 1773. On his arrival in England, he struck up a friendship with Franklin and became his scientific collaborator ( DAB ).


Thomas Hollis (b. 1720), a benefactor of Harvard College, died on New Year's Day 1774. Until his death in July 1766, Jonathan Mayhew, pastor of Boston's West Church, had been Hollis' principal correspondent in Massachusetts as well as his agent in handling his donations to the College. (See Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 11:440–472; Bernhard Knollenberg, ed., “Thomas Hollis and Jonathan Mayhew: Their Correspondence, 1759–1766,” MHS, Procs. , 69 [1947–1950]: 102–193; Caroline Robbins, “The Strenuous Whig, Thomas Hollis of Lincoln's Inn,” WMQ , 3d ser., 7:406–453 [July 1950].) Rev. Andrew Eliot (1718–1778), pastor of New North Church and member of the Harvard Corporation, succeeded Mayhew as Hollis' confidant in the province (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 10:128–161; “Letters from Andrew Eliot to Thomas Hollis,” MHS, Colls. , 4th ser., 4 [1858]: 398–461). Mayhew's widow, Elizabeth Clarke (d. 1777), married Simeon Howard (1733–1804), her first husband's successor at West Church in Dec. 1771 (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 14:279–289).