Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To John Adams from Mercy Otis Warren, 8 April 1786 Warren, Mercy Otis Adams, John
From Mercy Otis Warren
Sir— Milton April 8th 1786

While in the silent watches of the Last night I was Contemplating the Vicissitudes of Life, the Fickleness of Mankind & the Instability of human Friendships.— I determined to take up my pen in the morning & inquire if it was possible that Mr Adams should never have directed one line to his frends at Milton since he held the Rank of Minister at the Court of Britain.

I have been always Confident he is among the Last in the united States that would forsake so known, so tryed, & so uniform a Friend as he has on that pleasant Hill, which I expect to Leave before long even if life is protracted—

But while we were at Breakfast we had the pleasure of yours dated 239 Dec 12th Confirming (what I sincerely wish may ever be the Case, with those who have observed so well of Their Country) that your situation is Eligible to the Height of your Wishes—

Another Circumstance inducing me to interrupt you by this Conveyance was to forward the inclosed.1 The Reason of this address to the public you will see in the Exordium, & my Motive for puting it into your hand is to Corroborate what I assertred in my Last, that the Gentleman whose signature you will there see, has not forsaken his Country, but his Country have forgoten him—and what is still more Extraordinary—He has not a political Friend Either in Braintree or Weymouth. 2

If you or yours Can investigate the Cause of this Remarkable Change you can do more at a distance, than we who reside in the Neighbourhood are able to discover—

Calihan is to sail on the Morrow3 so that you must Excuse but a short letter from me & perhaps none from Mr Warren— but be assured the next opportunity will Convey you the warm Expressions of a Frendly Heart, with the General Observations on political and Commercial affairs, of one who is invariably the same both in public and private life—

yours Came unaccompanyed with any thing Either from Mrs or Miss Adams though they are both much in arrears on the Epistolary score—4 But were my spirits on the usual key that would be no bar to my inclination to Cherish Every social Moment that Friendship may Claim. But while my mind is Clouded by the Recent pangs of Domestic sorrow, to which till of late my Heart has been a stranger, it would be hardly kind to Call her from the Zenith of prosperity, & the full Enjoyment of all the Felicity That Honour affluance & Health Can give, to listen to the plaintive strains of Maternal tenderness, which daily pours its tears over the tomb of a most amiable son—

My Charles is no more—5 my other Children yet live— God Grant they may live above any dependence on a Cold ungratful World. “prepare them Early like Their Excellent Brothers, to Enter in a state of Higher Perfection—[”]

To my dear Naby my best Love with the inclosed Momento, from the Boston Gazette—6

With every sentiment of Esteem Regard & / affection to Mrs Adams & yourself, / subscribes your Respectful Friend

M Warren

RC (Adams Papers).


The enclosed address has not been found but was likely a response to the 1 April attack on James Warren by “Veritas” in the Massachusetts Centinel. The anonymous writer, likely a supporter of Warren’s longtime adversary John Hancock, criticized his inconstant service record and queried Warren’s appropriation of public funds. “Veritas” concluded that Warren’s fleet of propagandists accomplished much of his electioneering in the press, with the result that Warren remained “in the shades, where your avarice and ill-nature placed you.” The reply, either by Warren or one of his supporters, appeared in the Boston American Herald on 3 April. There “A Lover of Truth” refuted the “gross falsities” of financial misconduct and explained to the “dirty scribbler” that only ill health had prevented Warren, a “faithful servant” operating among “old patriots,” from fulfilling his elected posts.


AA’s interpretation of James Warren’s “thwarted” political career—in view of his three refusals to serve when elected, successively, to each of Massachusetts’ three branches of government—differed from that of Mercy. To her sister Mary Smith Cranch, AA observed on 25 May that the Warrens must not complain if disappointed voters withdrew their support. “Had Genll W——n been appointed commissioner at the Court of France, instead of mr A——s would she, think you, have consented that he should have hazarded the Dangers of the sea in the midst of winter, and all the horrors of British Men of war to have served his Country, leaving her with a Young family, without even the means of giving them an Education, had any misfortune befallen him, at the same time relinquishing a profittable profession. If I may judge by what has taken place, I think she would not. … I have ever considerd him as a Gentleman of a good Heart, estimateing himself however higher than the World are willing to allow, and his good Lady has as much family pride as the first dutchess in England” ( AFC , 7:199).


Capt. John Callahan sailed from Boston on 16 April and reached London on 23 May. He carried letters to AA from Mary Smith Cranch of 22 March and Richard Cranch and Cotton Tufts of 13 April ( AFC , 7:103–113, 138–140, 142–144, 197; Boston American Herald, 17 April; Massachusetts Centinel, 12 July). For the letters to JA carried by Rev. William Gordon, a passenger on the Neptune, see Charles Storer’s 7 April letter, and note 1, above, and JA’s 26 May letter to Storer, and note 1, below.


AA2 last wrote to Mercy Warren on 5 Sept. 1784, and AA’s most recent letter was of 10 May 1785 ( AFC , 5:453–454; 6:138–141).


Traveling home to Milton after a brief reunion with brother Winslow at Lisbon, Charles Warren died of tuberculosis in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, near Cádiz, Spain, on 30 Nov. 1785 ( AFC , 7:111; A Study in Dissent: The Warren-Gerry Correspondence, 1776–1792, ed. C. Harvey Gardiner, Carbondale, Ill., 1968, p. 196, 199). An obituary appeared in the 23 March 1786 Boston Independent Chronicle.


Not found.

To John Adams from Samuel Williams, 9 April 1786 Williams, Samuel Adams, John
From Samuel Williams
Sir, Cambridge in America, April 9. 1786—

I wish to present to the Royal Society of London the memoirs of our American Academy of Arts and Sciences: and to convey to Manheim the inclosed packet of papers.1 As we have no direct conveyance from America, may I take the liberty to commit them to your care?

It gives us much pleasure to have two of your Sons in this University. Both of them are young Gentlemen from whom their friends have the most encouraging hopes and prospects. The youngest is 241 not yet under the mathematical and philosophical instruction. The eldest has been with us but a short time; and appears to engage with ardor in mathematical and philosophical studies. He can not do me a greater pleasure than to put it into my power to be of any service to him in this way.2

The public attention was much engaged the last winter, by Dr. Gordons proposals of publishing an history of the american Revolution. The idea of his leaving this country to publish his history in Great Britain occasioned an almost universal suspicion. He has met with very little encouragement here: and unless his history shall appear to be very impartial, it will be altogether disregarded in America.3

With due regards to your good Lady, and Daughter, I am, Sir, / Your most obedient, / and humble Servant

Samuel Williams.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency J. Adams Esqr.


Samuel Williams, Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural and Experimental Philosophy, was on the panel that examined and admitted JQA to Harvard College on 15 March, with junior standing ( AFC , 7:33; JQA, Diary , 2:1). Presumably, Williams enclosed meteorological observations for the Palatine Academy of Science, founded in Mannheim, Germany, in 1763. Members of the Palatine Academy led the first international observing network (Roger Daley, Atmospheric Data Analysis, Cambridge, 1991, p. 9; Christian Bode, Werner Becker, and Rainer Klofat, eds., Universities in Germany, Munich, Germany, 1995, p. 185).


JQA joined CA, who began his studies at Harvard in Aug. 1785. TBA followed his brothers to Cambridge in Aug. 1786. In a [3 June] letter to JQA, JA reported that “Dr Williams writes me, handsomely of You” ( AFC , 7:212).


In London, where Rev. William Gordon and his wife, Elizabeth Field Gordon, ventured in April, the author met with better success, at least insofar as publication was concerned. Gordon’s History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America finally appeared there in 1788, and although it earned him only £300, the work remained a basic text on the Revolution for the next century. The first American edition was published in New York City in 1789. After brief stints preaching in St. Neots in Huntingdonshire and Ipswich, England, Gordon died in poverty in 1807; his wife, Elizabeth, died nine years later ( DNB ).