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]).

From Wilhem & Jan Willink and Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst, 12 July 1785 Willink, Wilhem & Jan (business) Staphorst, Nicolaas & Jacob van (business) Adams, John
From Wilhem & Jan Willink and Nicolaas & Jacob van Staphorst
Sir! Amsterdam. 12th: July 1785.

In answer to your favour of the 2d: of this Month, we are Sorry to Confirm your Idea that the Misfortune of Messrs: de La Lande & fynje is most probably irretrivable, and it proves Still more to be so in proportion, we get more acquainted with the nature of their Engagements with Mr: Geyer and the Gentlemen in America: we Shall 241endeavour to give you a General Idea of those Connexions, and don’t doubt but you will have opportunity to enquire more particularly about the same by one or other Gentlemen in London.

De La Lande & fynje being people of Little property, but as they fancied in the Situation of doing good buziness in the American Trade fell upon the Idea of Establishing a fund for that purpose and opened a Subscription in the Year 1783. in which diffrent people toke Shares for the amount of ƒ240/m. to which according to the Conditions, they were obliged to add ƒ25000. which together made a fund of abt: ƒ265000. upon this fund they made diffrent expeditions of Goods to the Houses in Boston, Newyork, and Philadelphia, which we Mentioned in our letter to the Commissioners, of the Treasurÿ.— but being desirious to extend the Buziness to the Benifit of the Concerned they agreed with Mr: Geyer to establish a House in England, where they could get goods on long Credit. the Joint Capital was Stipulated at £30000.—of Which de La Lande & fynje were to furnish 2/3, and Geyer 1/3. De La Lande & fynje not only furnished their part in the Stock but yet more than £20,000.—Sterlg over and above it, but the Exports amounting to gether to more than £100,000, there Remains a Sum of £40,000, due to the Creditors in England. for which as we now hear, there is made an arrangement in London by Mr. Geyer, who is the actif partner of that partnership of Geyer & de la Lande & fynje QQ in Consequence of which powers are Send out by the last packet to attach the goods in Boston & Philadelphia, and, bills drawn in favour of the Said English Creditors, With order that all the bills or Remittances Shall be made over to Mr. Geyer. we observe that by this arrangement the English Creditors are Secured, because there is no probability that the Sale of the goods will neat less than their claim. we could wish that Congress and the dutch Creditors were in the Same Situation, and it has been from the beginning our View that it should become a General Masse1 and in Consequence of that idea we wrote to the Commissioners, that for the benefit of the Joint Concerned we hoped there would not be made attachement in America we Still think that would have been the fairest way, but we cannot Say, that we are att all pleased with the Settlement in England, and we apprehend it may be of bad Consequenses for the other Creditors. notwithstandig this we dont believe it would be prudent to oppose it, and to begin Expensive and uncertain Law-Suits in So Complicate a matter.— we do not Know to propose any thing to Secure the Intrest of our Constituents. unless it could be done with a good prospect in 242America (Since de La Lande & fynje have no property nor effects here, but almost outstanding in America) this Seems to be a Delicate matter, from diffrent considerations; For 1o: Congress has no claim to the Society of Geyer, de la Lande & fynje QQ to which the Stores belong, and 2o: It would hurt the American Credit, which is already So low, that it would be Very impolitic to expose it to Remarks of a new Kind and Certainly people here would not be pleased with attachements from the part of Congress. we think our Selves obliged to make this observation, from the desire we have to Act for the benefit of America, for we would be extreemly Sorry to give occasion, that the Confidence of the dutch Moneylenders for Congress, Should be lost only for the purpose of Saving a Sum of £10.000 Stlg: which is in our eyes of less Value for it, here nothing can be done, not only because de la Lande & fynje in their diffrent Relations have obtained Surcheance,2 but also because there is no property att all in Europe that can be attached.

Mr: Danl: Parker offers to Charge himselves with all the goods, which were Send out by the Society of Geyer de la Lande & fynje QQ at the first cost, and to Run the Risk of Loss and profit, he would pay in 12 and 15 Years, and offers Security for the Double Amount in funds of the United States of America, which would be brought in the treasury books to the Credit of Houses there to appointed, till the payment of the whole Capital, and to pay an intrest of 5 perC he assumes that those funds are of the Same Nature & Solidity and of Consequence as Safe as the Dutch American Loans, and that his proofs were exposed to your Excellency, but that you decline to give a Certificate, because you thought it was not in your department.3 we could wish you had given it, and that it was practicable to Raise money here on that Security to Remove all difficulty, but we fear it will not Succeed and that every attempt to raise Loans for America will be unsuccesfull as long as the present Confusion in private and public busines Subsist, in America, which people are too much informed & is not likely to be Soon Remedied. Notwithstanding this the offer of Mr: Parker will be taken into Consideration, and there fore your opinion about the Security which he offers may be of Service, and we beg you’ll be So Kind to give it in Answer to this letter, and you would in the Same manner oblige us, by giving us notice of every Circumstance Relative to the American finances, which may be Known to you, in order that we may be able to Support its Credit as much as will be in our power.

Messrs de la Lande & fynje will have a meeting next week of their 243Creditors and trustees will be appointed we Shall adsist to the Same to care the Intrest of Congress and advice the Result to your Excellency.

Since we have no Opportunity here at present to forward Letters we pray you to forward the Contents of this letter to America, which Copy we Shall Send by the L’Orient packet.

We have the honour to be with the utmost Consideration / Sir! / Your most humb: & obedt: servants

Wilhem & Jan Willink Nichs. & Jacob van Staphorst

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “To His Excellency John Adams Esqre: / London.”; endorsed: “M.M. Willinks and / Van Staphorsts. 12. July / 1785. ansd. 16.”


That is, the consortium would have preferred that all of De la Lande & Fynje’s creditors be treated equally rather than divided into two groups whereby the interests of the English creditors would be secured by attaching the American property of Geyer, De la Lande & Fynje, while Congress and the firm’s Dutch creditors were dependent on what, if anything, could be realized from De la Lande & Fynje’s assets in the Netherlands.


Possibly the Dutch word “surséance,” meaning that De la Lande & Fynje had obtained a postponement in the payment of their debts. See the consortium’s letter of 8 July, above.


At this point, De la Lande & Fynje’s dissolution and the liquidation of the firm’s debt took another critical turn, marked by the sudden involvement of independent speculator Daniel Parker. Parker, a Watertown, Mass., merchant and former contractor to the Continental Army, relocated to Europe after the war, leaving behind a trail of unresolved debts and irate partners. Shortly after securing commercial credit from the Willinks, Parker learned of De la Lande & Fynje’s bankruptcy, and he immediately availed himself of the opportunity to profit by exchanging American domestic debt certificates for securities. Parker then assumed the trade association’s goods and claims, promising to pay off the firm’s debts over the next fifteen years and taking on a relatively low annual interest rate of 5 percent. Parker’s actions encouraged a successive wave of Dutch speculation that targeted not American trade but American domestic debt as a new source of profit for Amsterdam bankers ( AFC , 7:221; Winter, Amer. Finance and Dutch Investment , 1:219, 223–229).