Papers of John Adams, volume 17

From William Wenman Seward, 1 September 1785 Seward, William Wenman Adams, John
From William Wenman Seward
Sr. No: 6. Warwick street Charingcross. 1. Septr: 1785

Having perused the ordinance of the United states dated 20th. May last, concerning the disposal of lands in the Western Territory; and finding that the money arising from the sale thereof is to be applied to the discharge of the Debt incurr’d by that Country during the late War: I feel the strongest desire of contributing my mite, toward the benefit of a People, who deserve so much from every friend to the common rights of mankind.

Unconnected however with any person there, thro’ whom I could receive the necessary intelligence, I hope you will excuse the freedom of this application, by which I would request being informed, if a purchase of part of the Lands might be compleated, & how— without the immediate presence of the Purchaser.

I think I might relie on the integrity of any Agent or Agents appointed by the States, or thro’ your recommendation, with respect to that busieness: and wish only to know the most proper & easy mode of conducting it.

Tho’ any service which thro’ this means I could render to America might possibly be small, when compared to that of others; yet certain I am, she can never receive from an individual more warmly attach’d to her Interests.— Nor do I doubt there will be found many of my fellow Countrymen (of Ireland)—who tir’d with oppressions 384wch. dayly accumulate, will at last seek an Assylum amongst the sons of Freedom; and be no longer deluded with that species of Liberty, whose existence is only in Name.1

Accept of every Apology wch. can be made for the freedom I have taken:— I trust my public charracter (if known to you) will satisfie you as to the sincerity of my intentions:—and beleive me to be wth. the greatest respect— / Sr. / Yr. most Obedt. / very humb. Servt.

Wm: Wenman Seward.2

RC (Adams Papers).


This word was written larger than the rest of the text.


William Wenman Seward (d. ca. 1805) was an Irish writer on the politics and topography of Ireland. At Dublin, in 1783, he published The rights of the people asserted, and the necessity of a more equal representation in Parliament stated and proved, which he dedicated to the Irish Volunteers ( DNB ). See also his letter of 4 Sept. 1785, below.

To John Hancock, 2 September 1785 Adams, John Hancock, John
To John Hancock
Sir, Grosvr: Square. 2d. septemr: 1785.

This letter will be delivered you by Mr: S.—a Gent: who has lived sometime in my family at the Hague, in Paris & in London.1 He will inform you in what manner the late Navigation-Act of the Massa: has been recd. here— Some say it is a measure taken in a passion, & not well-weighed in the scales of reason—that we are ruining ourselves—that an act of Parliament will be passed to retaliate upon us & to prohibit our vessells fm. entering the Ports of G: Britain—that the other States will not follow the example &c: &c: &c— On the contrary, I beleive that no measure was ever taken with more profound reflection—that we laying the foundation of wealth & power, and real Independance—that no act of Parliament will be passed to retaliate—& that some of the States will immediately follow the example—& all of them in time—

This Country is taking measures which will hurt us in the Whalefishery. They are encouraging their own by means wh: will give it an activity for some time. They have introduced into it a spirit of gambling, by giving a bounty of £500. to the vessell which takes the most Whales in the Season—£400. to the second &c: &c: 2 This has stimulated many adventurers— But I am persuaded that, excepting the four vessells wh: may receive the bounty, all the rest upon an average will be losers by their enterprises.—

There is such an immense Consumption of oyl in all the great 385Cities of Europe that I shd. think our Merchants might find markets for theirs. If we are indolent, this Country will get the supply of France. I wish I may be mistaken; but I have no hopes that this Court will take off the duty—at least untill the present Enthusiasm shall have subsided, and the Adventurers shall have found by experience that the trade is not profitable.

I have the honor to be, Sir, / Yrs: &c: &c:

LbC in Charles Storer’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excelly: / John Hancock Esqr”; APM Reel 111.


This letter served as an introduction for Charles Storer. JA also wrote letters of this date to introduce Storer to Samuel Adams (NN:George Bancroft Coll.) and James Bowdoin (LbC, APM Reel 111). In the letters to Adams and Bowdoin, JA commented on the navigation act passed by Massachusetts but did not mention the whale fishery, as he does in his letter to Hancock. Storer left London on 19 Sept. and was in Boston on 21 Dec. ( AFC , 6:369, 497).


These bounties dated from 1775, with the passage of “An Act for the Encouragement of the Fisheries” (15 Geo. 3, ch. 31).