Papers of John Adams, volume 7

To the Comte de Vergennes

From Ferdinand Grand

From Jonathan Williams III, 16 February 1779 Williams, Jonathan JA From Jonathan Williams III, 16 February 1779 Williams, Jonathan Adams, John
From Jonathan Williams III
Dear Sir Nantes Feby 16 Feby 1779

I arrived at Brest last Wednesday, in twenty five days Passage from Boston,1 and had the Pleasure of spending a day with Mrs. Adams the week before, at Braintree; She was then well and wrote the inclosed for my Care.2

Mrs. Adams had occasion for some solid Coin to answer some particular Purposes and I had it in my Power to afford her ten Guineas, for which She gave me the inclosed Bill;3 I know not what Apology to make for presenting this Draught; but it gives me an Oppertunity of Assuring You, that I feel a particular Gratitude for your Attention to me, and I shall be anxious Sir till I have it in my Power to make you full Compensation for your Patronage.

I have made this Voyage in part for my Health, and to enter into 418some more active Scenes of Life, I have been long confined in America, with Nervous Disorders, attented with Convulsions, but am now much recovered. I think I have received a Signal Advantage from the Voyage.

There is nothing New of public Moment that I can acquaint you with; Mr. Benjamin Andrews lost his Life two or three days before I left Boston, in a very tragical Manner, Mr. Hitchborn cleaning a Pistol by accident, in scraping with his Penknife, some Rust that had contracted near the touch hole communicated a spark of Fire, and shott the Pistol off, the Ball pierced his Temple and he died without a Struggle, in the presence of his Lady.4

I find my Father's Situation is not the better for his Attendance upon the Virtuous Ministry of Great Brittain.5

I inclose you Sir the last Gazette, and have the Honour to be with the utmost Respect Your most Obedient & much obliged Servant

Jon Williams third

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr. Jon. Williams 3d.”; by CFA: “Feby. 16. 1779.”


Jonathan Williams, JA's former law clerk and cousin of the Jonathan Williams who had served as the commercial agent at Nantes until May 1778, came to France for his health, but died soon after his return to America in 1780 (vol. 2:104; 6:153; JA, Legal Papers , 1:cxiii).


AA to JA, 2 Jan. 1779 ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:145–147).


See AA's letter of 2 Jan. for an account of the circumstances under which the loan was made and the difficulty of obtaining hard currency. JA paid Williams 240 livres on 15 March (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:339).


The accidental death of Boston merchant Benjamin Andrews occurred on 9 Jan. According to the newspaper account, Benjamin Hichborn, after cleaning the pistol, handed it to Andrews who “grasp'd it in such a Manner as brought his Thumb upon the Trigger, (which happened to have no Guard) and it instantly discharged its Contents into his Head near his Temple.” Hichborn married the widow a year later (Boston Gazette, 11 Jan. 1779; Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 17:39).


This was John Williams, former inspector general of the Customs at Boston. See his letter to JA of 27 June 1778 (vol. 6:235–236).