Papers of John Adams, volume 8

From Edmund Jenings

To Samuel Cooper

To Samuel Adams, 23 February 1780 JA Adams, Samuel


To Samuel Adams, 23 February 1780 Adams, John Adams, Samuel
To Samuel Adams
Dear Sir Paris Feby. 23d. 1780

You will see by the public Papers, that your Committee of Correspondence is making greater progress in the World, and doing greater things in the political World than the Electrical Rod ever did in the Physical.1 Ireland2 and England have adopted it, but mean Plagiaries as they are, they do not acknowledge who was the Inventor of it.

Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard will go with this Letter in the Alliance, and probably go to Boston. They will be able to inform You of every thing of a public Nature, much better than I can do, as I have scarcely had Opportunity to look about me as Yet. They will give You few Hopes of Peace, at least very speedily.

The Associations of Counties and Committees of Correspondence in England, are very ominous to our old Acquaintances, the Refugees, as they attack unmerited Pensions in the first place—but they must do greater things than distressing these Gentry. They must necessarily produce great Commotions in the Nation. The Speakers of these Meetings go great Lengths, some of them openly justifying and applauding the Americans, and others even applauding France and Spain for stepping in to our Assistance.3

The Court here seems determined more than ever, to pursue the War with Vigour, especially by Sea, and above all in the American Seas. They have already sent seventeen Ships of the Line under M. de Guichen to reinforce M. de la Motte Piquette, and seven others are preparing at Brest. They are sending out Cloathing and Arms for fifteen thousand Men for our Army, and seem confident that the next 354Campaign will be better than the last. I hope the Spirit of Privateering among Us will increase, because I think this is the Way, in which we can do the most Service to the Common Cause.

I hope You will be so good as to inform me of what passes, particularly what progress the Convention makes in the Constitution. I assure You it is more comfortable making Constitutions in the dead of Winter at Cambridge or Boston, than sailing in a leaky Ship, or climbing on foot or upon Mules over the Mountains of Gallicia and the Pyranees. My Respects to Mrs. A. and Miss H.,4 and believe me your Friend and Servant.

John Adams

RC in John Thaxter's hand (NN: George Bancroft Collection); docketed: “Paris Feb 23 1780.”


See JA to Elbridge Gerry of this date, and note 3; and JA to the president of the congress, 25 Feb. (both below).


For events in Ireland, see the letter to Gerry of this date, and note 4 (below).


Led by Rev. Christopher Wyvill, the county association movement began formally with a meeting in Yorkshire on 30 Dec. 1779. By the Yorkshire association's next meeting, on 28 March 1780, Parliament had received 39 petitions from similar groups in various counties, cities, and towns. Although the associations were linked by committees of correspondence and many of their petitions expressed opposition to the continuation of the war, they were only indirectly emulating the earlier American example and indicating sympathy for the American cause. The primary motivation for most of the petitioners was the war's great cost, which was inflicting hardships on merchants and landholders, and a desire for parliamentary reform. In pursuit of these objectives the petitioners proposed solutions ranging from the relatively conservative, in the outlying counties, to the quite radical, espoused by the Westminster association.

The association movement was able to generate considerable popular support; at its height it was estimated that up to one-fifth of the very limited electorate had signed petitions. Numerous bills were brought before Parliament, the most significant being that, “For the better Regulation of His Majesty's Civil Establishments, and of certain public Offices; for the Limitation of Pensions, and the Suppression of sundry useless, expensive, and inconvenient Places; and for applying the Monies saved thereby to the Public Service,” which was introduced by Edmund Burke on 11 Feb. 1780. Initially Burke's bill enjoyed some success, the high point being the passage of the section abolishing the Board of Trade by a margin of eight votes on 13 March. Eventually, though, the ministry was able to force the withdrawal of the entire bill, thus dooming any chances for success that the association movement may have had in 1780. The character of its supporters, however, gave legitimacy to the movement for parliamentary reform, and by 1782 their dissatisfaction was a significant force in the fall of the North ministry (Ian R. Christie, Wilkes, Wyvill and Reform, London, 1962, p. 68–99; Dora Mae Clark, British Opinion and the American Revolution, New Haven, 1930, p. 143–151; Allen Valentine, Lord North, 2 vols., Norman, Okla., 1967, 2:191–201; Colin Bonwick, English Radicals and the American Revolution, Chapel Hill, 1977, p. 131–143; see also Almon's Remembrancer for 1780, which contains the proceedings of many local meetings). JA offered a more detailed but less optimistic analysis of the association movement in his letter to the president of the congress of 27 Feb. (below).


Hannah Adams, Samuel Adams' daughter by his first marriage.