Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From Mercy Otis Warren

From James Bowdoin

To John Adams from Samuel Williams, 9 April 1786 Williams, Samuel Adams, John
From Samuel Williams
Sir, Cambridge in America, April 9. 1786—

I wish to present to the Royal Society of London the memoirs of our American Academy of Arts and Sciences: and to convey to Manheim the inclosed packet of papers.1 As we have no direct conveyance from America, may I take the liberty to commit them to your care?

It gives us much pleasure to have two of your Sons in this University. Both of them are young Gentlemen from whom their friends have the most encouraging hopes and prospects. The youngest is 241 not yet under the mathematical and philosophical instruction. The eldest has been with us but a short time; and appears to engage with ardor in mathematical and philosophical studies. He can not do me a greater pleasure than to put it into my power to be of any service to him in this way.2

The public attention was much engaged the last winter, by Dr. Gordons proposals of publishing an history of the american Revolution. The idea of his leaving this country to publish his history in Great Britain occasioned an almost universal suspicion. He has met with very little encouragement here: and unless his history shall appear to be very impartial, it will be altogether disregarded in America.3

With due regards to your good Lady, and Daughter, I am, Sir, / Your most obedient, / and humble Servant

Samuel Williams.

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


Samuel Williams, Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural and Experimental Philosophy, was on the panel that examined and admitted JQA to Harvard College on 15 March, with junior standing ( AFC , 7:33; JQA, Diary , 2:1). Presumably, Williams enclosed meteorological observations for the Palatine Academy of Science, founded in Mannheim, Germany, in 1763. Members of the Palatine Academy led the first international observing network (Roger Daley, Atmospheric Data Analysis, Cambridge, 1991, p. 9; Christian Bode, Werner Becker, and Rainer Klofat, eds., Universities in Germany, Munich, Germany, 1995, p. 185).


JQA joined CA, who began his studies at Harvard in Aug. 1785. TBA followed his brothers to Cambridge in Aug. 1786. In a [3 June] letter to JQA, JA reported that “Dr Williams writes me, handsomely of You” ( AFC , 7:212).


In London, where Rev. William Gordon and his wife, Elizabeth Field Gordon, ventured in April, the author met with better success, at least insofar as publication was concerned. Gordon’s History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America finally appeared there in 1788, and although it earned him only £300, the work remained a basic text on the Revolution for the next century. The first American edition was published in New York City in 1789. After brief stints preaching in St. Neots in Huntingdonshire and Ipswich, England, Gordon died in poverty in 1807; his wife, Elizabeth, died nine years later ( DNB ).