Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From Lewis Denis Ward, 11 July 1785 Ward, Lewis Denis Adams, John
From Lewis Denis Ward
Sir July the 11th. 1785

It is with great respect I trouble you with these lines, the peculiarity of my situation, is the only excuse I can make for sending them. My Wife, the daughter of Mrs. Vesey of Boston wishes to convince you of her Behaviour as a Prudent Woman, since her leaving Boston.1 I think myself happy that there are Gentlemen of known Probity who can speak for her— She has not a Certificate of Marriage and the Revd. Doctor Byles is in America who alone can give it; Doctor Jeffries is in Town who for near two Years attended her in her Illness in Halifax and in more than one of his Visits met Doctor Byles, who visited her allso—2 On the Battalion of Marines being ordered to Europe there was but those Women to return who had came from England, the enclosed Order will shew in what light she was held by the Commanding officer, by his not only ordering her Passage, but Provisions—3 On coming to England we were two Years stationed in this Town under Major Johnston late Aid De Camp to Earl Percy—4 I was then sent to Ireland under Major Duval, for my behavior there beg leave to refer you to his Certificate—after which acted as Quarter Master Serjeant to Plymouth Division of Marines, but my inclination being to my Business, I applied for and by great Interest obtained my discharge, I then set up Bookbinding, but by several losses was unable to proceed— I came here with an intent to work at my Business but cannot get employment, this being the deadest time of the Year—have an offer of going to Evesham in Worcestershire, but have not either the means of setling my Wife here, or taking her with me for want of Money to pay for things burned at my Lodging by an accidental Fire, or her Carriage down. Doctor Jeffries will convince you Sir, in what light I was held by my Officers and the Inhabitants at Halifax—and enclosed you have a Certificate of Mr. Fletcher a Merchant of Halifax for whom I did Business both as Book binder and Clerk—5 Major Johnston who will be in Town within a Week, will wait on you respecting both my Wife and me— I beg Sir, you will excuse the length of this—and favor me with your answer to No. 14. Catherine Street Strand—


I am Sir / with great respect / Your Most Obedient / and Most humble Servant

Lewis Denis Ward

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams / Ambassader from America &C &C &C— / Grosvenor Square”; internal address: “His Excellency John Adams &C &C”; docketed: “L D Ward / 1785.”


Lewis Denis Ward was a former Royal Marine and his wife, Ann Veasey (Vesey) Ward (b. 1752), was JA’s cousin, daughter of his maternal aunt Jerusha Boylston Veasey. The two presumably went to Nova Scotia upon the British evacuation of Boston. On 14 June Ann Ward wrote a brief note to JA, requesting the “liberty of speaking” with him ( AFC , 8:245–246; Adams Papers). The resulting meeting apparently did not go well, for Lewis Ward wrote to JA on 29 Feb. 1788, shortly before the Adamses returned to America, that “if near three years of sorrow can atone for words spoken by a person in despair, My Wife may hope for your pity, if not forgiveness” (Adams Papers). In JA’s absence in the Netherlands, AA replied that her husband harbored “no resentment against mrs Ward but wishes both of you success in Life” ( AFC , 8:245). At that time Ward and his wife were living at Birmingham, where he was presumably employed as a bookbinder by the printing firm of Pearson & Rollason, but Ann Ward’s health had apparently not improved.


The Rev. Mather Byles Jr. (1735–1814), Harvard 1751, was a proscribed loyalist and Anglican minister, formerly of Boston’s Christ Church. He fled to Halifax in 1776 where he served as chaplain to the British garrison and likely married Ward and Veasey ( Sibley’s Harvard Graduates , 13:6, 18–25). Dr. John Jeffries (1745–1819), Harvard 1763, was a loyalist and like Byles fled Boston in 1776 for Nova Scotia. There he served as a British military phy sician and in that capacity likely treated Ann Ward. In 1780 Jeffries transferred his medical practice to London and served as the Adamses’ family physician during their residence in England (same, 15:419–427; AFC , 7:474).


The enclosed “Order” regarding Ann Ward’s passage to England noted here and the certificates from Duval, otherwise unidentified, and Robert Fletcher (see note 5), mentioned later in the letter, have not been found.


This is Maj. David Johnston, who was injured at the Battle of Bunker Hill. His son, George Johnston (1764–1823), enjoyed the patronage of Lord Percy throughout his life (Geoffrey Lemcke, Reluctant Rebel: Lt. Col. George Johnston, 1764–1823, [Watsons Bay, New South Wales], Australia, 1998, p. 1–4). In the Adams Papers, at 19 July 1785, is a copy of a letter from Lewis Ward to Johnston in which he requested his former commander “to inform Mr. Adams what you know of my Wife’s and my behavior, in America and during my being under your command in Town.” There is no indication that Johnston responded to Ward’s request or, as Ward indicates in the letter’s penultimate sentence, waited on JA.


This is probably Robert Fletcher, former printer of the Nova Scotia Gazette and Halifax bookseller (J. J. Stewart, “Early Journalism in Nova Scotia,” Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, 6:106–109 [1888]).