Papers of John Adams, volume 15

From John Thaxter, 7 August 1783 Thaxter, John Adams, John
From John Thaxter
Sir, London 7. August 1783.

The affair of surrounding the State House at Philadelphia terminated very differently from the expectations of our Enemies of all denominations— The Troops employed in this contemptuous daring Attack on the Civil Power have humbly solicited the forgiveness of Congress, while two of their Officers, the Ringleaders, have fled for safety to the Asylum of two of our choice Friends, D. & A.—1 They are here in this City—their Names are Sullivan & Crabrey Carberry, both one a foreigners the other a Native, Captains in our Service—2 One of them has been but a short time in the Army— I am sorry this Affair happened, but some good may spring from it.

I dined yesterday in Company with a Portsmouth Refugee, whom I found very candid— I think his Name is Hale—3 He does not like Republican Governments, & therefore means to continue a loyal & a British Subject. He says he early took a decided part & has been uniform to the last— He wishes well to America, that is to say, all sort of Prosperity to her as far as is consistent with that of England—Admires many Characters personally in our Country—spoke of Mr. J. & you as able Politicians—he thinks America will be productive of great Men & figure in the Sciences— In short he professed a good Opinion of America, declared he was always candid & never bigotted—that he had principles, which he must adhere to, thought them such as would prevent him from being a good subject of America, & that as an honest Man he ought to remain where he was— I told him I hoped he would, & every one else of the same Sentiments.— I was cautious & reserved before him, knowing him to be a disappointed Man, and that a Phiz dressed up with the smile of Complacency often disguises a rancorous Heart— I dont know him to be of this Cast— He appeared moderate enough—but as a Stranger & a Refugee it was my business not to be open— He had a great deal to say about the two Proclamations for opening the Trade with America—thought them very necessary, but by no means inimical to that Country— He said there were prohibitory Acts here against trading with America, that were annulled by the Proclamations, & that without the Proclamations would have been in force— He could not see how America would be excluded from carrying her own productions to the Islands, or from bringing those of the 208Islands to her own Ports, by the Proclamations— I asked him why Fish, Pot & Pearl Ash were excepted or rather not named in the Proclamations, & what would be the Consequence, if those Articles were exported from America in American Ships navigated by American Seamen, to the West Indies or even to G. Britain? He thought they could not be seized but might be sent back— Is not this then almost tantamount to an Exclusion? It would be ridiculous, says he, for Administration to pretend to say what America shall or shall not carry, & they were right in being silent— From all I could learn, he seemed to think it good Policy, & that it would operate as a stimulous to the Americans to bring the definitive Treaty to a close, & a Treaty of Commerce on the Carpet— Dont you think the Proclamations aimed at the Carrying Trade of our Country? That may be says he, & Britain must take Care of her own Interests.—

Since writing the above, I have waited on Mr. L. who will soon write to you— He says that Capt. Carberry has visited him, and is extremely unhappy for the part he took in the Philadelphia Mob—is very sensible of the Criminality of his own Conduct, & is much distressed here— The young fellow is a Native of America,— Sullivan is an Irishman— The former has borne a good Character—but was unfortunately led away— I hope they will be pardonned, but be made very sensible that an Error of a Moment might have produced most unhappy Consequences, & of how much Importance it is in a free Government that the Civil should be the Sovereign Power, & give not recieve the Law from the military.4

The Queen was delivered of a Daughter at 2o. Clock this morning—good News for the poor Civil List—5

’Tis lately been discovered here that Gold was very scarce, or rather the reason of it has been found out— It appears that vast Quantities of Guineas have been exported to Holland & Germany, one shilling being gained upon them in Holland, & 8 1/2 pr. Cent in Germany.— This is alarming, & there are sad Complaints about it, & some doleful Tales of Poverty— So much for endless Resources—

Mr. Jenings has published a Pamphlet, intitled the “Candor of Henry Laurens Esqr. manifested in his Conduct towards Emund Jenings,[] or a title much like it— I have not read it, nor had I heard of it ’till this morning. If there are any to be bought, I shall purchase one—but he will probably send you one— I waited on him this morning, but did not find him at home.— I have only to add my best wishes for your Health & an Assurance of that sincere Attachment 209& Respect, with which I have the honor to be, Sir, / your most obed— & / most humble Servt.


RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency / Mr. Adams.”; endorsed: “Thaxter. London / 7. Aug. 1783.”


Presumably Silas Deane and Benedict Arnold.


The changes made by Thaxter in this sentence likely reflect information obtained at his meeting with Henry Laurens mentioned in the second paragraph below.


This may be Samuel Hale (1747–1787), a Portsmouth, N.H., lawyer and 1766 Harvard graduate who had gone to London in 1778. In 1787 he was appointed British consul at Portsmouth but died before he could take up the post ( Sibley’s Harvard Graduates , 16:368–371). JA spent an evening with Hale at Portsmouth in 1771, describing him as “a sensible young Lawyer” (JA, D&A , 2:41).


For the ultimate disposition of the cases of Capt. Henry Carberry and Lt. John Sullivan and their later careers, see the 15 July letter from the president of Congress to the commissioners, note 11, above; and for Henry Laurens’ account of his conversation with Carberry see his letter to the commissioners of 9 Aug., below.


Princess Amelia (1783–1810) was the sixth daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte and the last of their fifteen children ( DNB ). David Hartley announced the event to the commissioners in a letter of 12 Aug., to which the commissioners sent a congratulatory reply on the 13th (both PRO: FO 4, 2:195, 198).

From Tristram Dalton, 8 August 1783 Dalton, Tristram Adams, John
From Tristram Dalton
Dear Sir Newburyport August, 8th. 1783

I did myself the Honor of writing You from Boston, the 16th Ulto, and endeavor’d to give a general State of our public Affairs. Having retired to my Country Estate since the Adjournment of the General Court, which was a little before the date of my last, I have not had opportunity to acquaint myself of the present Sentiments of the people at large on the several Matters that had agitated their Minds, as mentioned in my said Letter— In my Neighbourhood I am pleased to find the Inhabitants begin to view Things on a larger, and consequently less prejudiced, scale— They feel the Necessity of granting Congress some Money, or a Power to collect some— This Government has for near two Years collected only £50,000 of £400 thousand required—And nearly despair of obtaing any Sum adequate to the necessary demands, in the usual way of taxation—1 The longer a delay of supplies, the more dangerous the remedy of the defect—

Sensible of the absolute Necessities of furnishing the public Chest, Congress, as I mentioned to you, pressed, in the strongest and most pathetic pointed Terms, the Attention of the several Legislatures to this Object—& in a Pamphlet forwarded to Each of them, shewed the dangerous tendency of any further Neglects. Having an Oppy. by a careful Master of a Ship bound from this place to 210London, who promises to forward a packett to yourself in a Channel that will avoid Postage, I enclose one of those Pamphlets—also another containing a Collection of Papers respecting the halfpay of the Officers, and Commutation thereof—not knowing but, by Neglect of those, whose proper Business it may be to forward all such public papers, authentick, You might be indebted to the public News-Papers for Intelligence—as has been frequently the Case—Should You have recived them from any other hand, be pleased to accept my Wishes to be of the least Service—2

Having nothing worthy your Notice to communicate, I will not tresspass on your important time, any further at present, than to renew my Assurances of being, with the most unfeigned Regards / Dear Sir / Your affectionate Friend / And most hble Servant

Tristram Dalton

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Hnble, John Adams Esqr”; endorsed: “Mr Dalton Aug. 8.”; docketed by CFA: “1783.”


No specific reference to a requisition from Congress for £400,000 has been found. But for previous references to that sum and to the efforts of the Mass. General Court to raise it, see vol. 13:204, 206; 14:95, 96–97.


The first pamphlet was entitled Address and Recommendations to the States by the United States in Congress Assembled, Phila., 1783, Evans, No. 18223. The second, published by the Mass. General Court, was A Collection of Papers Relative to Half-Pay and Commutation Thereof Granted by Congress, Boston, 1783, Evans, No. 18256. For the origins and content of each, see Dalton’s letter of 16 July, and note 4, and Cotton Tufts’ letter of 26 June, and note 5, both above.