Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To the Comte de Sarsfield

To Rufus King

To John Adams from Granville Sharp, 21 January 1786 Sharp, Granville Adams, John
From Granville Sharp
Sir Old Jewry 21 January 1786

The Books which I had the honour to request your Excellency’s acceptance of, (vizt. My—Grandfathers Works) are but this moment returned from my Bookbinder, or I should have fulfilled my promise sooner.1

I had an opportunity of making some Enquiries concerning the Reports which I mentioned to your Excellency about the supposed backwardness of Government to permit the Bishops to consecrate Bishops for America; and I am happy to find that these Reports had no foundation in truth.

Nevertheless I am under great concern on accot. of some other reports that are current, vizt. that the Convention of the American Churches has so far altered the Liturgy as to give room to suspect that they do not maintain the Profession of the primitive Church: for if that should really be the case the English Bishops cannot, consistently with their duty to God, give consecration to any Man, who does not unequivocally acknowledge “the Faith that was once 113 delivered to the Saints” and the Creeds by which that Faith has since been maintaind.

The Promise which I wrote to Dr. Franklin on this Head, through the Assurances I had received from a person of high Authority, I read over this day to the same worthy person, and I have had the satisfaction to receive his entire approbation of my manner of expressing it; and he again assured me, in the most solemn manner, this day, that he will abide by that promise.2

If your Excellency should desire to see any part of the Correspondence I have had with America on this point, I will wait upon you at any time you shall be pleased to appoint to shew you the Letters, & will give you copies of any that you may think worthy your notice.

I am with great respect and esteem Sir / Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

Granville Sharp.—

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency Jno Adams Esqr.”


Sharp sent JA The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Sharp, Late Lord Archbishop of York, 7 vols., London, 1754, which are in JA’s library at MB ( Catalogue of JA’s Library ). In his 23 Jan. reply, JA thanked Sharp for the “valuable present” so “eligantly bound” and invited him to visit him any morning before noon (LbC, APM Reel 113). JA was familiar with the archbishop’s writings, indicating in his Diary entry for 10 Nov. 1761 that he had that day read a number of Sharp’s sermons, characterizing Sharp as “a moving, affectionate Preacher” if “not so moral” as his contemporary John Tillotson, archbishop of Canterbury (JA, D&A , 1:9–10, 224; DNB ).

Granville Sharp (1735–1813) was a noted philanthropist, scholar, and pamphleteer. Following the American Revolution, which he supported, Sharp became interested in the development of the American Episcopal Church, particularly the nature of its liturgy and the ordination of American bishops. He carried on an extensive correspondence with Benjamin Franklin on the subject and was presumably of assistance to JA in his efforts on behalf of the American church, for which see note 2, below.

Sharp, however, was most noted for his antislavery efforts, in support of which he produced numerous pamphlets, many of which are in JA’s library at MB, but see also JA’s 31 Jan. 1786 letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, below. He also became interested in the settlement of freed slaves in Africa and in 1786 at London published A Short Sketch of Temporary Regulations: (Untill Better Shall be Proposed) for the Intended Settlement on the Grain Coast of Africa, Near Sierra Leona. Prior to its publication, Sharp sent JA a manuscript copy of the pamphlet, dated “Old Jewry / 3 July 1786,” with authorial insertions that were included in the published text (Adams Papers). A copy of the pamphlet’s 3d edition, published in 1788, is in JA’s library at MB.


As he wrote to Franklin on 29 Oct. 1785, Sharp supported the American election of Episcopal bishops, provided that they were consecrated at the hands of English clergy and not by Scottish non-juring bishops, whose “popish” practice signified a possible departure from apostolic succession (CtY:Benjamin Franklin Papers). Sharp, who met with the archbishop of Canterbury shortly after JA’s visit, proposed that English clergy forgo the usual oaths of allegiance for American candidates. Through his correspondence with Franklin, Sharp continued to monitor the Episcopal general convention’s revisions to the Book of Common Prayer and liturgy, observing that “America is not the only part wherein Protestant Episcopacy is likely to be extended, when the rights of election are better understood.” Sharp’s reassurances to the archbishop, emphasizing American commitment to the use of standing creeds and 114 the opportunity to counter Socinian growth, likely influenced John Moore’s final assent (vol. 17:540; William White, Memoirs of the Protestant Episcopal Church, N.Y., 1880, p. 370–377).