Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To Edward Newenham, 24 October 1785 Adams, John Newenham, Edward
To Edward Newenham
Sir Grosvenor Square October 24 [1785]

I have just received the Letter you did me the honour to write me, on the 16 of this Month.

The Editors of News papers find that nothing contributes more to the Sale of their Merchandize than paragraphs respecting Dr Franklin. at one time they put him to death by sickness on his passage; at 538another they Send him captive to Algiers: & then they wreck him on the coast of Madeira: & any Such Anecdotes answer their purpose as well as if they were true.

But I have the pleasure to inform You that the Dr is arrived in Philadelphia, has been received by his Fellow citizens with every possible demonstration of Respect: and his Health has been So much improved by his Voyage that he proposed a journey to New York to pay his respects to Congress. the News has arrived at L’orient by one vessel, and in London by an other, and is undoubtedly authentick1

I am much obliged to you Sir for giving me this opportunity of paying my respects, having been for Several years no stranger to the Name and character of Sir Edward Newenham. with great respect I have the Honour to be Sir your most obedient & Most Humble Servant J

J A—

LbC in AA’s hand (Adams Papers); APM Reel 107.


Sir Edward Newenham (1734–1814) was an Irish politician, champion of parliamentary reform, and longtime supporter of the American cause who corresponded with Benjamin Franklin and others ( DNB ). In his 16 Oct. letter (Adams Papers), Newenham expressed alarm over newspaper reports that Franklin perished in a shipwreck off the coast of Madeira en route to Philadelphia. There were also reports, taken from forged letters of Capt. Thomas Truxton of the London Packet, that the vessel had been captured by Algerian corsairs and Franklin had been sent into slavery ( AFC , 6:386–387, 389; London Daily Universal Register, 13 Sept., 13 and 14 Oct.). As JA noted, this was not the first time that the press aired false rumors of Franklin’s captivity or death. On 23 Feb. 1778, the Boston Gazette reported that Franklin had been fatally stabbed in his bedchamber (vol. 6:248, 249; AFC , 2:396, 397). “That Story like many others I Suppose arose from those set of People who pretend to be the best Lovers of their Country when they are all the time a seeking her ruin,” JQA observed to AA in a letter of 11 June 1778 ( AFC , 3:41). Two years later Franklin was again reported to be a target, this time of a poisoning plot masterminded by Peter Allaire, a New York merchant and British spy who was subsequently imprisoned in the Bastille (vol. 12:28). Franklin wrote to Newenham on 3 Oct. 1785 to notify him of his safe return to America (DLC:Franklin Papers).

From Richard Henry Lee, 24 October 1785 Lee, Richard Henry Adams, John
From Richard Henry Lee
Dear Sir New York October the 24th. 1785

Having yesterday written a long letter to you, I have now only to request your attention to the following business, which is of very great importance to those whom it concens; and who form a considerable portion of the Citizens of these States. The Representatives of those professing the Church of England system of religion, having been lately assembled at Philadelphia, where Lay & Clerical deputies from seven States were convened in General Convention 539for the purpose, among other things, of preserving and maintaining a succession of divines in their Church, in a manner which they judge consonant to the gospel, and no way interfering with the religious or civil rights of others—have sent an address to the Archbishops and Bishops of England proposing a plan for the consecration of American Bishops— It is imagined, that before anything is done in this business by the Bishops of England, that they will consult the King and Ministry; who, it is apprehended may now, as heretofore, suppose that any step of the kind being taken in England, might be considered here as an officious intermeddling with our affairs that would give offence on this side the water— Should this be the case, the Church of England Members in Congress have the greatest reliance on your liberal regard for the Religious rights of all men, that you will remove mistaken scruples from the mind of administration, by representing how perfectly consonant it is with our Revolution principles professed thro-out all the States, that every denomination of Christians has a right to pursue its own religious modes, interfering not with others. That instead of giving offence, it must give consent, by evidencing a friendly disposition to accommodate the people here who are members of the Church in question.1

In proof of this, Congress did lately shew their attention to the accommodation of this Class of Christians, by communicating to the different Executives your information from the Danish Minister of that Kings willingness to facilitate the business of ordination for our church— And the Assembly of Virginia hath incorporated this Scociety—Under which act of incorporation the Convention was held in that State that sent both Lay & Clerical deputies to the General Convention lately held in Philadelphia.

I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the truest esteem and regard, dear Sir Your most obedient and very humble servant

Richard Henry Lee.

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “R. H. Lee Oct: 24. 1785 / ansd. 4. Jan. 1786.” This letter was enclosed with John Jay’s third letter of 1 Nov., below. The LbC of JA’s 4 Jan. 1786 reply indicates that it was directed to both Jay and Lee, but the internal address to the RC of the 4 Jan. letter indicates that it was directed only to Jay (LbC, APM Reel 112; NNC:John Jay Papers).


From 27 Sept. to 7 Oct., delegates from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and South Carolina met in Philadelphia for the first general convention of the newly formed Protestant Episcopal Church in America. The delegates adopted an ecclesiastical constitution, made key changes to the liturgy, and put forth a proposed new Book of Common Prayer. Finally, they drafted a letter on 5 Oct. to 540the archbishops of Canterbury and York (Journal of a Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, 1785, Evans, No. 19209). The delegates asked the archbishops to consecrate the American nominees for ordination and thereby avoid the obstacles Bishop Samuel Seabury had faced, for which see John Jay’s third letter of 1 Nov., in which he enclosed this letter from Lee, and note 3, below. The English prelates replied on 24 Feb. 1786 with cautious support for the reorganized American Church (Clara O. Loveland, The Critical Years: The Reconstitution of the Anglican Church in the United States of America: 1780–1789, Greenwich, Conn., 1956, p. 152–158, 175–177).

JA carried this letter, and Jay’s copy of the convention’s appeal, to his 3 Jan. 1786 meeting with John Moore, archbishop of Canterbury, both of which Moore “read attentively.” Moore told JA that “it was a great satisfaction to him to see that gentlemen of character and reputation interested themselves in it; for that the Episcopalians in the United States could not have the full and complete enjoyment of their religious liberties without it.” Privately, Moore supported the validity of American prelates ordained by Scottish non-juring bishops, and on 4 Feb. 1787, Moore presided over the consecration of two American nominees, William White and Samuel Provoost (to John Jay, 4 Jan. 1786, JA, Works , 8:361–362; DNB ).