Papers of John Adams, volume 16

From Thomas Barclay

From Joseph Reed

Edmund Jenings to John Adams, 7 May 1784 Jenings, Edmund Adams, John
From Edmund Jenings
Sir London May 7th. 1784.

I have the Honour of having received your Excellencys Letter, wherein I find a most Obliging Introduction to Mrs Adams, which I shall certainly make Use of, should I Ever have an Opportunity.1

I return your Excellency many Thanks for the Abbé de Mablys Book— it is put in to the Hands of a Gentleman to be translated & published, under the Stipulations, you have prescribed. Will your Excellency give me leave to beg of you to direct the Publisher in Holland to inform Mr Debret in Piccadilly, when the Original comes out,2 for perhaps I may not be Able to do it, in Consequence of a Letter, which I wrote last Night to Mr Bridgen: a Copy of which I here inclose3

I have tried every possible Means to avoid coming to Extremities: but the violence of my Ennemies & the Coolness of my Friends are too great to bear

Should the worst happen to me, I trust your Excellency will not Suffer my Memory to be Insulted

May God bless you & yours in this sad World is the Prayer of / your Excellencys / Most Faithful Friend

Edm: Jenings
Copy Sir May 6th 1784.

The Sheets, which Accompany this, will Serve, I trust, as a full Answer to Mr Lawrens’s Pamphlet which, replete with the most 190 viralent Imputation & Charges, against me, was originated by you, who afforded Him the Pretences, on which He has Attacked my Character & has since Countenanced Him in the Exertions of his Malice4

Your whole Conduct in this Affair has astonished me & many others. I will not enter into it now but leave it to your private Reflections, being well Assured that altho, you have hitherto been deaf to what I have said & what others have offered to lay before you the Time will Come, when your Conscience will make itself be heard & you will be Sorry for the part you have taken.

I treated you in my Letter of the 30th of June with regard;5 on a Supposition, that you was not Entirely lost to the feelings of Friendship; & you will find, that I have done it with Tenderness in my Answer to Mr Lawrens out of Respect to my Benevolent Friend near you; but I am sensible I have done Enough, in vindicating my Character, which you wish to blast, to provoke your Utmost Rage.

You recollect, you advised me as Friend, not to Answer Mr Lawrens’s Pamphlet & thereby to acquiesce in & Acknowledge in Silence the truth of his groundless Charges. Was this, Mr Bridgen, the Advice of an undesigning Friend, or was it the threat of an Ennemy having the same Object Mr. Lawrens had in View, when He said He thought I acted prudently in not making the Affair public? Your Cruelty & Injustice have forced me to do it, & to reject the Advice you gave me in a most unfriendly Manner. and at the same time, makes me regret, that I have paid no Attention to the Council, which I find you offered me in three Letters, when we were on an amicable footing. one of these Letters is now before me. I will copy a part of it for your serious Meditation.

“Why you, dear Simpleton every person of real worth or who has any Grace or Knows You, must value you.

Tho Friends grow not thick on every Bough, nor every Friend Unrotten at the Core,

however it is best to think well provided it does not lead Us into too great Confidence.”6

Had I minded this your Advice & Information, I had escaped the present Evil, and you had not Exemplified your Poetry.

I will however trouble you no more on this Head, but come to the Object I had in writing to you.

As I cannot think, after what has passed that my Vindication of 191 myself in writing will give you or Mr Lawrens the Satisfaction which you have both been aiming at by the Hands of others I must now inform you & Mr Lawrens, by your means that I am ready to give you & Him a Chance of doing gaining it by yours & his when & where you please. a Line directed to me at Mr Canters in Vine Street Piccadilly will be receivd by me on Monday as I shall then come to Town for that purpose.

I am / Sir / your Humble Servant

E J.

RC and enclosure (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr.”; enclosure internal address: “Edward Bridgen Esqr.”; enclosure docketed: “Jennings to / Bridgen.”


Not found, but presumably it was a reply to Jenings’ letter of 6 April, above, in which he asked about AA’s arrival and the publication of the Abbé de Mably’s book.


JA presumably had sent Jenings a copy of Mably’s Observations sur le gouvernement et les loix des États-Unis d’Amérique, Amsterdam, 1784, which he received from the publisher, J. F. Rosart & Co., under cover of a letter dated 21 March, above. JA’s “Stipulations” regarding its publication in England are unknown, but John Debrett, who produced the London edition, had Mably’s work translated and accompanied it with notes and an appendix by the otherwise unidentified translator. Entitled Remarks Concerning the Government and the Laws of the United States of America, London, 1784, Debrett’s edition should be compared with Rosart & Co.’s English edition, Observations on the Government and Laws of the United States of America, Translated from the French … with a Preface by the Translator, Amsterdam, 1784, which JA received from the publisher in mid-July (to J. F. Rosart & Co., 18 July, below).


Jenings’ doubts over his future stemmed from the enclosed 6 May letter to the London merchant Edward Bridgen, in which he challenged Bridgen and Henry Laurens to duels. No duels were ever fought, but the challenges marked the climax, at least for Jenings, of his dispute with Laurens over the authorship of a series of anonymous letters. For JA’s reaction to Jenings’ effort to defend his honor, see his 13 May reply, below.


The enclosed “Sheets” were probably Jenings’ A Full Manifestation of What Mr. Henry Laurens Falsely Denominates Candor in Himself, and Tricks in Mr. Edmund Jenings. This may mean that Jenings’ pamphlet was published at London in early 1784, rather than late 1783, the usual date given for its publication. It seems likely Bridgen would already have seen it if it had appeared in 1783, and in a 3 Feb. 1784 letter to Benjamin Franklin, Laurens wrote that “I have heard nothing concerning Jenings except seeing a Letter to a Gentleman in which he speaks of his mild vindicatory answer, as if he had actually made a reply, but I can’t learn that any person has seen it” (Laurens, Papers , 16:381).


For Jenings’ 30 June 1783 letter to Bridgen wherein, as he does here, Jenings blamed Bridgen for instigating the controversy over the anonymous letters, see vol. 15:90, 91.


Bridgen’s letter has not been identified, but the quotation is from Edward Young’s Night Thoughts, Night II, lines 563–564.