Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From John Jay

From Thomas Jefferson

To John Adams from Charles Storer, 19 August 1786 Storer, Charles Adams, John
From Charles Storer
Dear sir, Boston. 19th. August. 1786.

Excuse me if I only enclose letters to your family—1 I have not wherewithal to gratify you in the News way, as our brightest prospects are but gloomy—and I know you have enough to vex you where you are— I mentioned to Mrs: Adams a County Convention forming here in the County of Bristol— They have called upon almost every other County to join them— Worcester however has given them a positive denial & utterly disapproves their Conduct— This I hope will have weight—2

In my last I troubled you with particulars respecting our Eastern boundaries— All here depend upon your opinion on the subject—and I hope you will not be of the opinion with our Lt: Governor, who says—“pho! pho! don’t let us make any disturbance— let us give up this disputed Country— It is not worth quarrelling about”— This tract of Country, however, is from 15. to 20. miles on the Bay of Passamaquoddy, and stretching it to the sources of the two disputed Rivers includes some hundreds of miles— You will judge if this should be given up so tamely—3

I have the pleasure to inform you of your family’s being in usual health— Your Son Thomas is to be examined at Cambridge the next week—4 John & Charles have been […] resident there—

If I can get any Newspapers will enclose them to you—and have only to add that I am with great esteem & respect, dr: sir, / Yr: much oblig’d / humle: servt:

Chas: Storer.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “John Adams Esquire.”; endorsed by WSS: “August 19. 1786. / Charles Storer—” Some loss of text where the seal was removed.


These letters cannot be positively identified because there were apparently no replies, but they presumably included Storer’s letters to AA2 of 8 Aug. and to AA of 15 Aug. ( AFC , 7:311–312, 321–322).


Storer’s 15 Aug. letter to AA reported the calling of county conventions to seek redress for numerous outstanding grievances. There Storer expressed considerably more anxiety over the outcome of such assemblies than he did in his letter to JA. “The devil I am afraid,” Storer wrote, “has got in among us, and I dread his soon throwing us into a state of anarchy and confusion.” Storer’s comments are important because when his letters arrived in mid-October—possibly with the newspapers mentioned in this letter’s final paragraph—they constituted the first news received by the Adamses about the unrest that evolved into Shays’ Rebellion.

That Storer’s letters arrived in mid-October is indicated by a passage in AA’s Dft of her 15 Oct. letter to her sister Elizabeth Smith Shaw that was left out of the letter as sent (same, 7:374–375). AA wrote that “those who read our publick papers, more particularly some of the instructions to the Representitives and the county conventions will be led to think that our Liberty is become licentiousness. Publick principal and publick ends cannot be promoted by these illegal assemblies.”

Significantly, she did not refer to Storer’s reference in his letter to her that the protesters hoped to “shut up the Courts of Common Pleas.” The closing of the courts would have been even more disturbing to AA and JA than the calling of the conventions, but the first court closing occurred on 24 Aug. at Northampton, Mass., and thus would not have been mentioned in any newspapers received with Storer’s 19 Aug. letter. There are no extant replies by either JA or AA to Storer’s letters. Indeed, neither of them wrote to anyone about the disorders in Massachusetts until late November, after AA saw an account of the Hampshire convention in a London newspaper (same, 7:395), and JA received letters from Rufus King of 3 Oct., below, and John Jay of 4 Oct. (Adams Papers). For the progress of the revolt see the letters, none of which reached London until early 1787, from Storer of 16 and 26 Sept. 1786, Richard Cranch of 3 Oct., and James Warren of 22 Oct., all below.


For Storer’s interest in lands along the Passamaquoddy Bay in Maine, see his 21 July letter, above.


TBA and Rev. John Shaw, his uncle and tutor, journeyed to Cambridge on 21 August. He was examined on the morning of the 22d and admitted to Harvard that day (JQA, Diary , 2:81).