Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To Thomas Jefferson

From Richard Henry Lee

To Edward Newenham, 24 October 1785 Adams, John Newenham, Edward
To Edward Newenham
Sir Grosvenor Square October 24 [1785]

I have just received the Letter you did me the honour to write me, on the 16 of this Month.

The Editors of News papers find that nothing contributes more to the Sale of their Merchandize than paragraphs respecting Dr Franklin. at one time they put him to death by sickness on his passage; at 538another they Send him captive to Algiers: & then they wreck him on the coast of Madeira: & any Such Anecdotes answer their purpose as well as if they were true.

But I have the pleasure to inform You that the Dr is arrived in Philadelphia, has been received by his Fellow citizens with every possible demonstration of Respect: and his Health has been So much improved by his Voyage that he proposed a journey to New York to pay his respects to Congress. the News has arrived at L’orient by one vessel, and in London by an other, and is undoubtedly authentick1

I am much obliged to you Sir for giving me this opportunity of paying my respects, having been for Several years no stranger to the Name and character of Sir Edward Newenham. with great respect I have the Honour to be Sir your most obedient & Most Humble Servant J

J A—

LbC in AA’s hand (Adams Papers); APM Reel 107.


Sir Edward Newenham (1734–1814) was an Irish politician, champion of parliamentary reform, and longtime supporter of the American cause who corresponded with Benjamin Franklin and others ( DNB ). In his 16 Oct. letter (Adams Papers), Newenham expressed alarm over newspaper reports that Franklin perished in a shipwreck off the coast of Madeira en route to Philadelphia. There were also reports, taken from forged letters of Capt. Thomas Truxton of the London Packet, that the vessel had been captured by Algerian corsairs and Franklin had been sent into slavery ( AFC , 6:386–387, 389; London Daily Universal Register, 13 Sept., 13 and 14 Oct.). As JA noted, this was not the first time that the press aired false rumors of Franklin’s captivity or death. On 23 Feb. 1778, the Boston Gazette reported that Franklin had been fatally stabbed in his bedchamber (vol. 6:248, 249; AFC , 2:396, 397). “That Story like many others I Suppose arose from those set of People who pretend to be the best Lovers of their Country when they are all the time a seeking her ruin,” JQA observed to AA in a letter of 11 June 1778 ( AFC , 3:41). Two years later Franklin was again reported to be a target, this time of a poisoning plot masterminded by Peter Allaire, a New York merchant and British spy who was subsequently imprisoned in the Bastille (vol. 12:28). Franklin wrote to Newenham on 3 Oct. 1785 to notify him of his safe return to America (DLC:Franklin Papers).