Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From Matthew Robinson-Morris

From the Marquis of Carmarthen

From John Adams to William White, 28 February 1786 Adams, John White, William
To William White
Sir Grosvenor Square Feb. 28. 1786

Your Favour of the 26 of Nov. by Mr Peters,1 I had not the Honour to receive, till a few days ago. I am much obliged to you, for this Mark of your Confidence, and for the Pamphlets and Papers inclosed, which I had Yesterday an Opportunity of communicating to the Archbishop of Canterbury, when his Grace did me the Honour of a Visit to deliver me the inclosed Letter, with the Desire of the Bishops that I would transmit it to the Committee.2

I have not understood, that there will be any political Objection against the Measure you desire. if any Such Should arise, as an American Citizen tho not an Episcopalian I can very consistently endeavour to remove it: because I do not believe that the Benevolence of the Father of all, is confined by our Lines of Distinction or differences of Opinion: and because I think that when We can enlarge our Minds to allow each other an entire Liberty in religious 190 matters the human Race will be more happy and respectable in this and the future Stage of their Existence. It would be inconsistent with the American Character, and with the Principles of our Constitutions to raise political Objections against the Consecration of Bishops as it is merely a religious Ceremony. The States will no doubt take Care that no Temperal Powers inconsistent with their civil Politics shall be annexed to the Character. This however is their Affair.

With great Respect and Esteem, I have the Honour / to be, Sir your most obedient and most / humble servant

John Adams.

RC (NHi:Joseph Reed Papers); internal address: “The Revd. William White D.D. / Philadelphia.”; endorsed: “His Excelly / John Adams Esqre / Feb. 28. 86.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 113.


Vol. 17:607–609. White replied on 28 June to thank JA for his aid in facilitating the ordination of Protestant Episcopal bishops (Adams Papers). See also the Episcopal convention’s 24 June vote of thanks to JA, enclosed with David Griffith’s 26 June letter, both below.

White’s 26 Nov. 1785 letter was carried by Richard Peters (1744–1828), University of Pennsylvania 1761, a Philadelphia lawyer, judge, and farmer. Peters served on the Continental Board of War from 1776 to 1781 and was elected to Congress in 1782. In 1785, he visited Europe to promote Episcopal ordination ( AFC , 7:46; DAB ). For a memorable evening at Dolly’s chophouse during his visit to London, see the [ca. 21 March 1786] letter from himself, WSS, and Thomas Jefferson, below.


As John Moore, archbishop of Canterbury, requested in his 27 Feb. letter (Adams Papers), JA enclosed a 24 Feb. letter from English prelates to the delegates of the American Episcopal Protestant Church’s first general convention. They pledged to make a legal appeal to aid Americans seeking ordination. Alarmed by talk of proposed American alterations to the liturgy, however, they pressed for details “lest we should be the instruments of establishing an ecclesiastical system which will be called a branch of the Church of England, but afterwards may possibly appear to have departed from it essentially, either in doctrine or in discipline” (William White, Memoirs of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, N.Y., 1880, p. 353–354).