Papers of John Adams, volume 15

From James Warren

To C. W. F. Dumas

From Henry Laurens, 25 June 1783 Laurens, Henry Adams, John
From Henry Laurens
Dear Sir, Bath 25th June 1783.

I beg leave to refer you to my Letters of the 17th. and 20th. Instant to the American Ministers.

I had very early applied to Ramsden one of the most celebrated opticians in London for the Spectacles which you desired me to 56procure for you he was dilatory in finishing them and occasioned the loss of an excellent opportunity for transmission, they came to me just as I was leaving London in that circumstance I caused them to be packed up with an Article for Mr Jay, and another for Count Moustier in a little Box directed to yourself and Mr. Jay which I left in the hands of Mr. Bridgen to be forwarded by the first proper conveyance, intending to have done what I am now performing by another hand, immediately upon my arrival at Bath.1 But I was attacked by a fever on the road and obliged to take to bed as soon as I had alighted, this is the first day I have been able to write and even now I remain in a very feeble State. I directed Ramsden to put up a pair of spare Glasses of a different focus from those fixed in the frame, one or the other ’tis probable will suit your Eye, possibly both. His Bill accompanies the Articles and will shew the cost.

I am with great Respect and Regard, / Dear Sir, / Your obedient humble servant,

Henry Laurens.

I had almost omitted to inform you that your two Packets for Mr. Secretary Livingston and Letter for Arthur Lee Esqr. were dispatched under my own cover to the Secretary the 17th. Instant by the hands of Mr. John Vaughan who I suppose is now on his voyage in a Packet from Falmouth to New York—2

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency / John Adams Esquire. / Paris.”


JA’s spectacles were obtained from the Piccadilly shop of Jesse Ramsden (1735–1800), one of the most celebrated British producers of precision scientific and optical instruments of the eighteenth century ( DNB ). Laurens’ execution of this commission is of particular significance because JA had long complained about problems with his eyes ( AFC , 5:401), but this letter and JA’s reply of 12 July, below, contain the first references in any of JA’s correspondence to date to his obtaining and wearing glasses. In letters to John Jay and Elénore François Elie, Comte de Moustier, of 25 June, Laurens indicated that he had obtained from Ramsden and was sending a “little Pocket-compass” to the former and “a spying Glass” to the latter (NNC:Jay Papers; ScHi:Laurens Papers).


The letter to Arthur Lee was likely that of 12 April, JA’s most recent extant letter to his former colleague (vol. 14:397–399). The content of the packets intended for Robert R. Livingston cannot be determined with certainty, but they were likely sent under cover of JA’s 2 June letter to Livingston (PCC, No. 84, IV, f. 395). There JA indicated that he was sending Livingston letters that had been saved and returned to him when the vessel carrying them had been lost. He hoped that the secretary had received the originals of the letters. Congress’ dispatch book indicates that the 2 June letter arrived on 15 Aug. and contained “copies of sundry old letters” (PCC, No. 185, III, f. 75). The packets were carried by Benjamin Vaughan’s brother John (1756–1841). Vaughan had gone to America in 1782, returned to England in early 1783 carrying letters for JA and his colleagues, and was now returning to the United States where he would settle permanently and serve as the longtime secretary of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia (Morris, Papers , 4:79; vol. 14:199–200; JA, D&A , 3:226).