Papers of John Adams, volume 15

From James Warren, 24 June 1783 Warren, James Adams, John
From James Warren
My Dear Sir Milton June 24th: 1783

I thank you for your Letters of the 6th. Sepr. & 15th. Decr. & should have done it long before now.1 but I Expected to do it viva voce at Braintree or Milton. in the Month of June at furthest. but as that may probably be postponed to November. I will not loose another Oppy. of writing to you & especially so good an one as this by the America.2 I Congratulate you on the Peace & the honourable Share you have had in making it. they both give me pleasure. Your Countrymen at present feel and Express their Gratitude for your Conduct on this occasion. & those that have lead to it. and if you return soon you may Enjoy it but it is not a permanent plant in your Country at least in every Instance. every Body thinks the Terms honourable on our part. & quite equal to the most sanguine 53Expectations. & yet every Body is not pleased. had such an Event taken place in 1778. we should have received it with Extacy. every Body would have rejoiced without any other Exception than the Tories. but we love Money now better than we did then. the Farmer cant bear to see the fall of his produce. & the Merchant regrets that there is an End of the prospects of makeing a fortune by a single Voayge. Indeed the Contrast is great. every thing is geting into its old Station. European Goods have got below it. Our Harbours are Crouded with Ships. Boston & Philadelphia can furnish those Goods as cheap as London or Paris. but that matter will come right when the European Merchants have paid for the Experiment & Larnd. to leave the Importation of Goods here to our Merchants.

I suppose you are now Engaged in the Treaty of Commerce with Britain. shall we have the Transport Trade as before from the West Indies. to Enable us to get our Ships to Market. this is a matter of Importance to this State. & perhaps more so to New Hampshire The Other States will be Indifferent which way it is decided. & some of them will prefer our being Excluded from it. because they may get their Goods to Market cheaper if our Ships have nothing else to do. The English Islands cannot be Indifferent. If we cannot Carry their freights they must pay dear for our Lumber on one hand while freight may rise on the Other. but if Britain should think it right to Confine that Business to their own Ships. they cant Complain if we do the same with regard to the Transport of Tobacco. rice Oil &c &c. for if the Cases are not Exactly similar they are near enough for policy to Accomodate the same measures to.

The Tories in all parts of America reprobate the Article that relates to their Brother refugees & say it would have been better for them if no mention had been made of them. while it gives some Uneasiness to the whiggs who think it may produce dissensions. among us. especially if any of them are Admitted. our Papers will by the Instructions to Representatives from several Towns. give you an Idea of the Temper & Sense of the People on this head— the only one that both sides agree in Excepting to & wishing Obliterated. but let it remain. it is best we should not have every thing we wish for. & it is a Trifle in Comparison of those great Acquisitions we have secured—3 if we could have foreseen this period & this state of things it would have made us happy ten years ago. it would certainly have saved you & I. many an Anxious day & night. but flattering as our present prospect is, I agree with you it is to be ascribed to the Providence of God.4 & that we have much yet before us. if we do 54not Improve our present advantages they may not make us happy. but how are we to Guard against “the Contagion of European Manners. & that Excessive Influx of Commerce. Luxury & Inhabitants from abroad which will soon Embarrass us” Commerce will flow with an irresistable Tide. Manners & Luxury will follow of Course. and Inhabitants from abroad wanted in some proportion. it will be difficult to draw the Line where to stop. You must come & help us do the Great work, we want a Cheif Magistrate of abilities you must be the Man. my wish is to see it. & you will be if you come. you can hardly Conceive the Inconveniencies we suffer from the Imbecillity of Administration in this State. and yet the Inchantment is too strong to be broken. without you. the necessity of a rotation provided for in the Constitution never appeared more evident. but even the Constitution is not Observed with that sacred regard it should be. it is violated upon any occasion to serve A purpose. Judge S——n was Chosen a Representative for the Town of Boston after being an Inhabitant only about six Months. & the House have declared the Election Valid.5 what security is there for the remaining parts of the Constitution— ways & Means to pay our Debts &c. are the principal Objects of Congress. & the Legislatures.6 Among these Imposts & Excises hold the first place. & are pursued with Enthusiasm. I wish they may not be to the ruin of Commerce. & Liberty. I have too much to say to you on this subject for the remaining part of this Letter. & too much on the dangers I apprehend from the Influence & Veiws of some Men at & about Congress. & the V[es?]ting that or any Body of Men. with a standing revenue out of the reach of our own Controul. The principal & Interest of our Debts must be paid. I Cant say what is the best method but I think it would be best to assign to eah State its proper porportion. & let them do it in their own way. this mode is not without Objections but I think it the safest.

Mr Gerry goes to Congress this week. if you ask why I dont go. I will tell you because I have been sick the whole Spring. & dare not Venture to go at this Season. Mrs. Adams & Nabby are on a Visit at Haverhill. you may suppose they are well. & will doubtless have it under their hands by this oppy. 7 Mrs. Warren Joins in Wishes for your Health & prosperity. our Good wishes Extend to Mr Thaxter. Mr Storer & your Son. will you make my respectful regards to your Freind Mr Jay I Love him for his Friendship for you, I honour him for his Probity & Patriotism in the Execution of his Important Commissions— I am / Sir Your Friend & with / Great Esteem—

J Warren

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr.


Vol. 13:439–440; 14:132–133.


The America was built for the Continental Navy as a 74-gun ship of the line to be commanded by John Paul Jones. Construction, however, took several years, and when the French ship of the line Magnifique was destroyed in Boston Harbor, Congress presented the vessel to France in compensation. The America sailed for France on the very day of Warren’s letter, but by 1 Jan. 1787 it had been struck from the French fleet (vol. 13:233; Dict. Amer. Fighting Ships , 1:40; Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 378).


From early May through mid-June 1783 the Boston newspapers, particularly the Independent Chronicle, carried accounts of meetings held by various towns to adopt instructions for their representatives in the General Court. Among the towns represented were Acton, Boston, Cambridge, Lexington, Malden, Raynham, and Roxbury. In all cases the towns were adamant in their opposition to the return of the loyalists to Massachusetts and the restoration of their property. Several referred specifically to Art. 5 of the Anglo-American preliminary peace treaty. The town of Malden declared that it would be prepared to “hazard and abide” the consequences of the return of the “Conspirators, Absentees and Tories . . . were the article in the treaty of peace relating to them binding and definitive: That it is not, is evident to us from the articles of confederation, which never gave Congress authority to supercede or dispense with the internal government, and police of individual States, or repeal any acts which they have made relative to those” (Independent Chronicle, 29 May). All of the towns indicated the extreme opprobrium in which the loyalists were held, but Raynham was perhaps the most colorful in declaring that “when light and darkness can have communion—the north pole and south be united in one central point—when water can nourish flame, and men take fire into their bosoms, and arsenic in their bowels, without being poisoned or burnt, then may those, who have distinguished themselves by their cruelties and barbarities toward their own flesh, return and be happy among them—then can they breath, without suffocation, the free air of Independent America” (same, 5 June).


The previous three words and the quoted passage below are from the final paragraph of JA’s letter of 15 Dec. 1782 (vol. 14:132–133). There the paragraph begins “it is the Providence of God, not the good Will of England of France, nor yet the Wisdom and Firmness of Congress that has done this [the Anglo-American preliminary peace treaty].”


On 10 June 1783 Thomas Clarke of Roxbury moved that the Mass. house of representatives consider James Sullivan’s qualifications as a representative from Boston. The issue was that Sullivan had not lived in Boston for a year previous to his election as required by Ch. I, Sect. III, Art. III of the Mass. Constitution of 1780 and thus his election was revoked. On the 11th the issue was debated and the question was decided in Sullivan’s favor (Mass. House, Journals, Records of the States, Microfilm, Mass., A.1b, Reel 11, Unit 1, p. 70, 72). For a more detailed critique of the incident, see William Gordon’s letter of 28 June, below.


In the remainder of this paragraph Warren refers to the controversy over the proposed commutation of pay for Continental Army officers and impost to pay the national debt, for which see Cotton Tufts’ letter of 26 June, and note 4, below.


The French consul at Boston, Philippe André Joseph de Létombe, informed AA of the sailing of the America, and she used the opportunity to send her letter of 20 June ( AFC , 5:179–184, 188).

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).