Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To John Adams from Thomas Pownall, 18 December 1786 Pownall, Thomas Adams, John
From Thomas Pownall
Dear Sir. Decr 18 / 86

I have often wished, since I came here into the Country, to fancy I could find a time when I might suppose you at leisure & Liberty having a few daies that you might pass in the Country. Christmass is a kind of Saturnalia when, for a week or ten daies, nothing but eating drinking & gambolling about is done in London I wish to seize this interval to claim a kind of promise You made me to come & pass a few daies with me & Mrs Pownall in our Country Retirement. & I will venture To ask the favor of You & Mrs Adams & Miss to do us The honor of coming this Christmass to us at Everton.1 We are but 49 miles from London, & about seven hours post— You can come between an early breakfast & dinner. In return for the pleasure You will do us We will endeavour to make the Christmass as pleasant To You as our house & neighbourhood will afford—

The Earl of Scarb’rough, nephew to the late Sr George Saville,2 has been here with me & leaves me today: & hearing me say I wished his frank to You, desires Me to give him My Letter, that by carrying it to You himself he might, without the Ceremony of a formal presentation, take an occassion of makng himself known to you—& of knowing You.

I will hope a favorable Answer & am Dr Sir / Yr most Obedt / & most humble / Sert

T Pownall

My address is Govr Pownall Everton House near Biggleswade

RC (Adams Papers).


Thomas Pownall (1772–1805), royal governor of Massachusetts from 1757 to 1759, was admired by and had considerable influence on JA. This was particularly true regarding 527 foreign policy, as is evident from JA’s redaction of Pownall’s A Memorial, Most Humbly Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe, on the Present State of Affairs Between the Old and New World, London, 1780, which he published as A Translation of the Memorial … into Common Sense and Intelligible English, London, 1781. JA and JQA visited Pownall when he resided at Richmond, outside London, during their visit to England in late 1783, but there is no record of any later visits and no response to Pownall’s invitation has been found (vols. 9:ix–x, 157–221; 15:381–382).


Pownall entrusted this letter to George Augusta Lumley Saunderson, 5th Earl of Scarbrough (1753–1807), who was the nephew of the distinguished parliamentarian Sir George Savile, 8th Baronet of Thornhill, Yorkshire (1726–1784). During the two men’s service in Parliament, Lumley Saunderson from 1774 to 1780 and Savile from 1759 to 1783, they opposed punitive measures against the American colonists (Namier and Brooke, House of Commons ).