Papers of John Adams, volume 15

From John Thaxter

To Benjamin Franklin

From John Stockdale, 20 January 1784 Stockdale, John Adams, John
From John Stockdale
Sir London January 20th: 1784

(domestic News)

I have received by the packet some Medals inclosed in a Letter directed for You for which I paid 16/8 & shall not open it til I receive Your instructions1

I this day received a Basket sealed up & directed for You, as I suspected it was some sort of Game I resolved in the presence of Dr. John Jebb to commit an act of felony & break the Seals, with an intent for Dr. Jebb to seal it up again with his seal, should it prove to be any thing else,— but as it appear’d to be two fine Hares unaccompanyed with any Letter, I took the liberty to offer one to Dr Jebb in Your name which he very politely refused, desiring me at the same time to remember him to You in the Strongest terms, I am now left in the distrest situation of being oblig’d to eat (with the 466assistance of my little family) both the Hares we shall do ourselves the pleasure after dinner of Drinking, Yours, Your Sons. & familys Good Health in a glass of fine old Madeira, which I had from a friend.—2

(Political News)

Mr. Wm. Pitt rises every day higher in the estimation of the People & no doubt will be minister many Years, this night four of Mr. Fox’s friends in the House of Commons got up & begd. for a Coalition of Parties, which in fact is nothing less than Mr. Fox’s coming on his Knees to Mr Pitt, but you may rely upon it that Mr Pitt will never Join Lord North.—3


A very full Court at the Queens Birth Day Yesterday the Portuguese Ambassador was over turn’d in St. James’s St. in his Carriage but not hurt, but a Gentlemans Servt. who was near had both his legs broke by the accident.—

I am Sir Your much obligd / & very Humble Servant

J. Stockdale

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excy. John Adams Esqr. / Minister Plenipotentiary from / the United States of America / to the United Provinces of the / Low Countries / Hague”; endorsed: “Mr Stockdale / Jan. 20. ansd 31. 1784.”


For the medals, see Jean George Holtzhey’s letter of 5 Dec. 1783, above.


For the hares, see John Cranch’s letter of 17 Jan. 1784, above, and JA’s reply to Cranch of 31 Jan., below.


Stockdale presumably refers to the Commons debate on 20 Jan. over “Rumours of a Union of Parties.” Parliament was in the midst of a constitutional crisis. William Pitt had taken office on 19 Dec. 1783 because of the India Bill’s defeat in the House of Lords despite having been approved by the House of Commons. The defeat, and thus Pitt’s replacement of the Fox-North coalition, was principally owing to the disclosure of George III’s opposition to the bill. But even after Pitt formed his ministry the faction in Parliament allied to Charles James Fox retained a majority. Thus the Pitt ministry was charged with being the creature of George III, the product of the unconstitutional use of his prerogatives. This resulted on 16 Jan. 1784 in the Commons resolving, by a margin of 205 to 184, “that the appointments of his Majesty’s present ministers were accompanied by circumstances new and extraordinary, and such as do not conciliate or engage the confidence of this House; the continuance of the present ministers in trusts of the highest importance and responsibility, is contrary to constitutional principles, and injurious to the interests of his Majesty and his people.” During the debate on 20 Jan., the substance of which was that there would be no coalition, Fox stated very clearly the fundamental issue that divided him and his party from Pitt: “One set of men think that the opinion of the House of Commons ought not to guide the sovereign in the choice of ministers who may have the confidence of the people; while the other set of men think that no ministry can or ought to stand, but on the confidence and support of the House of Commons. The one party stand upon prerogative, the other upon responsibility and the constitution” (Cannon, Fox-North Coalition , p. 145, 147; Parliamentary Hist. , 24:360–392). See also JA’s 14 Dec. 1783 letter to the president of Congress, and note 4, above.