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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 4

This note contained in document ADMS-04-04-02-0017
2. Undoubtedly one of these was a literary effort that had cost JA much time and trouble during the preceding months. Entitled Pensées sur la révolution de l'Amérique-unie, extraites de l'ouvrage anglois, intitulé Mémoire, adressé aux souverains de l'Europe, sur l'état présent des affaires de l'ancien & du nouveau-monde, Amsterdam [&c.], n.d. (Sabin 64829), it had a long and complex history which can be given in only summary form here. It was a translation of what JA called an “Abridgment,” from his own hand, of an influential pamphlet by Thomas Pownall, A Memorial Most Humbly Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe ..., London, 1780 (Sabin 64826). JA had prepared his version of this tract in the spring of 1780 and furnished a copy to Congress in the form of a letter to Pres. Samuel Huntington, 19 April (PCC, No. 84, I; LbC, Adams Papers). What appears to be JA's draft or working copy, a holograph MS in nineteen folio pages much corrected in his own and another hand (probably Edmund Jenings'), is in the Adams Papers under the assigned date of 5 Sept. 1780; it bears the title “A Translation of the 'Memorial to the Sovereigns of Europe,' into common Sense and intelligible English.” This or another English text was made available in June or early July 1780 to a Parisian named Addenet for translation into French. The translation followed JA to Amsterdam and was sent by him on 5 Sept. to the Leyden scholar-journalist Jean Luzac, who wrote a lengthy and valuable preface and caused the whole to be published anonymously under the title Pensées, &c. (as given above in this note). Copies reached JA in mid-November, and he at once began to circulate them diligently. Early in 1781, as a result of efforts by Edmund Jenings, JA's friend in Brussels (on whom see JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:355–356 and passim), the London publisher John Stockdale brought out an English edition under the by now sufficiently confusing title A Translation of the Memorial ... into Common Sense and Intelligible English (Sabin 35987). No subsequent edition has ever been issued, since CFA did not include it in JA's Works, and Wharton unaccountably omitted from the Diplomatic CorrespondenceJA's letter to Huntington of 19 April 1780 embodying JA's revision of Pownall's observations. This is the more regrettable because Pownall, who posited that the Americans had already won their independence, broke new ground in setting forth the future political and commercial relations between the Americas and Europe. JA's redaction is significant both for what it includes and what it omits.
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The foregoing summary is based on extensive correspondence during 1780 and early 1781 between JA and Addenet, Jenings, Luzac, and J. D. van der Capellen surviving in the Adams Papers.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.