Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To John Jay

From Thomas Jefferson

24 From John Adams to Elizabeth Brown, 10 December 1785 Adams, John Brown, Elizabeth
To Elizabeth Otis Brown
Madame Grosvenor Square Decemr 10th 1785

I have this moment received your favour of the 8th of this month, inclosed a Letter from your unkle Warren of the 30th of August which is returned to you here inclosed.1

I sent off your former Letter with my first dispatches to New York, there not being any Vessell at that time bound to Boston.—2 you ask my advice Madame, and I hold myself bound by every obligation to give it you according to the best of my judgment: and if there is any Way in which I can be of service to you I beg of you freely to command me— I owe every Civility and service in my power to the Daughter of a Gentleman whom I always Loved as one of my best Friends, esteemed as one of the best and admired as one of the greatest Men I ever knew. If it can consist with your Views to go to Boston, there is no doubt to be made, that it would be the surest Course you can take, to secure your Property in the most advantageous manner. you alone are the judge of this.

you ask my advice concerning a Lawyer. you have a Brother in Law Madame—Benjamin Lincoln Esqr, who although personally unknown to me has an undoubted Character as a Man of Honour & abilities in his Profession. But if his connections in the Family are an objection to him you will find either in the Honourable John Lowell Esqr or in William Tudor Esqr a Lawyer who will do your Business with all the Care and Fidelity you Can desire—3

If you go to America Madame—Mr Brown I presume will go with you— if you send a Letter of Attorney it must be executed by him as well as you—

The Failure of your Uncles is an Event as unexpected and unaccountable to me as any thing that could have happened, and the state of affairs in and about Boston is so precarious in Money matters, that if Mr Brown and you can go there, I should certainly advise it.— you may there secure your Interest and Principle in any manner you may find most agreeable to you,—but if you write, I will with pleasure inclose any Letters for you by the earliest opportunities I hear of— it would be well to send Duplicates & Triplicates that the Chances of a safe arrival may be multiplied

I am extreemly sensible Madame of your Politeness & Kindness in sending two Baskets of Game, yet I Confess to you they hert my feelings as I seemed to be accepting a reward for doing a very 25 inconsiderable service for a Lady whose Person and Family I hold in the highest estimation be so good as to present my Regards to Mr Brown—and / beleive me yrs &c—

LbC in AA2’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mrs Elisabth Brown—”; APM Reel 107.


Elizabeth Otis Brown was James Otis Jr.’s eldest daughter and the niece of James and Mercy Otis Warren. She married British lieutenant Leonard Brown on 25 Feb. 1776, and the couple spent the war in England. Her father effectively disowned her, but her grandfather James Otis Sr. left her a legacy at his death in 1778 ( AFC , 7:199, 201; Tudor, James Otis , p. 19–20; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates , 11:284). Brown’s 8 Dec. 1785 letter (Adams Papers) with its enclosed letter from James Warren (not found) provided information on the £1,000 left her by her grandfather. A year earlier she had sent Warren a power of attorney to receive from the executors, Joseph and Samuel Allyne Otis, the interest which they would forward to her, but she received no acknowledgment until 7 Dec., when Warren’s letter arrived, presumably reporting the financial failure of the Otis brothers, for which see John J. Waters Jr., The Otis Family in Provincial and Revolutionary Massachusetts, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1968, p. 199–201.


Brown had written JA twice before. On 8 Oct. she asked him to forward a letter to James Warren with his next dispatches to America, and then, after receiving no reply, she wrote again on 24 Nov., leaving the letter with the gift baskets acknowledged by JA in the final paragraph (both Adams Papers).


Benjamin Lincoln Jr., the son of the American general, married Brown’s younger sister, Mary Otis (Tudor, James Otis , p. 20). John Lowell and William Tudor were both prominent Massachusetts attorneys and friends of JA’s, Tudor having been JA’s law clerk (vol. 2:105).