Papers of John Adams, volume 16

From Robert Morris

Charles Thomson to the American Commissioners

Joseph Palmer to John Adams, 16 June 1784 Palmer, Joseph Adams, John
From Joseph Palmer
Dear Sir Germantown, 16th June 1784.

I heartily give you joy of your meeting your Mrs Adams & her amiable Daughter, as you will receive them before you See this— They are to Sail from Boston about 3 or 4 days hence. We Sincerely mourn our loss in their departure, & as Sincerely rejoice at the foreseen happy meeting of Such dear Friends after Such a long absence— may you all return in Safety, & bless your native Country, after having render’d her the most essential Services abroad. I thank you for your exertions for the public good, & hope you will receive more Substantial proofs of the peoples gratitude, than Patriots usually receive.

The embarrassmt of my private affairs, & having no concern in public business, has long prevented my writing to you; but as my own affairs begin to wear a better face, I hope to feel that freedom that is necessary for epistolary conversation.1

I have a prospect of carrying on, once more, the SpCe Candle Manufr; but it has been greatly impeded by the uncertainty of a Market for the oil. £18 Stg: per Ton, duty, on its importation into G B, is a prohibition.2 Shall Britain Say, whether we Shall have a Whale fishery, or not?! They will doubtless do all in their power to prevent our growth in the Maratime way: But will they Sacrifice their Manufrs to obtain that end? But Supposing they will run that risque; will not France, or Holland readily Supply us with Goods, & receive Oil in payment, at as good a price as G B used to give? It is of great national concern, that we encourage our fisheries; in this point of view, I have mention’d the matter, & Shou’d be honor’d by a reply.

Large quantities of SpCe Candles used to be Ship’d from hence to Holld; & I suppose the demand will rather increase, than diminish, as they are now freely admitted into the Romish Chhs. Upon this ground, I think it probable, that Some great Mercht there, might be willing to Supply 8 or 10 m̃ £ Stg, in Goods, to receive Oil 241 & Candles, principally, if not wholly, in payment. I Shou’d be willing to enter into a contract of this kind, upon a fair bottom. With our Works, & Sufficient Stock, may be annually turn’d out, about 50 m̃ lb of Candles & 100 Tons Oil. If one of your Secretaries be desired to inquire into this matter, & reply, it will greatly oblige / Dear Sir, Your Sincere Frd & hble Servt:

J: Palmer

P.S. My Son has hired a Store in Boston, & is going into the Com̃: way, & wou’d be glad of Consignmts.3

18th. a Second PS.

Since the foregoing, I have revolved a matter in my mind, which being attended with great delicacy, I found myself under some diffeculty in determining, whether friendship oblig’d me to Speak of it, or not; but knowing the candour of those most nearly concerned, I Shall venture to say, that it is commonly Spoken of, that Mr Tyler pays his addresses to Your very Amiable Daughter; & appearances countenance the report: neither of the parties, nor Mrs Adams, have said a word to me about the affair; but I tho’t it proper to say what I know of my very good friend Tyler. Previous to his coming to Braintree, I knew not any thing of him, but ’tis said that he scattered some wild Oats; be this as it may, since he came hither, his conduct, so far as I know, has been unexceptionable, & he is generally respected, & has, I believe, his full Share of business. As to his circumstances in life, I know nothing, only that he has purchased Mr Borland’s farm here, about 100 Acres, for about £1000. In my embarrassments, he has been exceeding friendly, which lies me under great obligations, & perhaps has prejudiced me in his favor.4 But in this delicate matter, I did not think it my duty to intrude advice; only to represent matters of fact, which I have truly done; & I trust that you will excuse one who is always your reel friend—

J: Palmer

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency / John Adams Esqr. / Honr’d by Mrs Adams.”; internal address: “His Excellency / John Adams Esqr.”; endorsed: “General Palmer / June 16. 1784 / ansd. 26. Aug.”


Joseph Palmer of Germantown, a section of Braintree, was the brother-in-law of Richard Cranch. His last extant letter to JA was dated 28 Jan. 1777 (Adams Papers). For additional information regarding Palmer, see AFC , 1:18.


For the heavy British duty on American whale oil and its consequences for the whaling industry in Massachusetts, see the 5 Feb. 1784 letter from Alexander Coffin and Peleg Coffin Jr., and note 2, above. For JA’s view of the situation, see his reply of 26 Aug., below.


Joseph Pearse Palmer’s Boston shop had a short life. In a letter of 16 Jan. 1785, Mary Smith Cranch informed AA that the younger Palmer “had goods … upon commission, but 242 he could not do business enough to pay his rent and support his Family and make payments … which oblig’d him to Shut up” ( AFC , 6:60).


Royall Tyler’s courtship of AA2 was put into abeyance for the duration of the visit to Europe by herself and AA, but in June 1784 it was assumed that the two would eventually marry. By Aug. 1785, however, the affair had ended with AA2’s dismissal of Tyler. Palmer may have felt obliged to offer a testimonial to Tyler’s character because of friendship, but his precarious finances made Tyler’s financial support ever more important to the Palmer family ( AFC , 5:xxv; 6:238, 262).