Benjamin Waterhouse to John Adams
Leyden 26th. Decembr. 1780
I was glad to find by your letter of the 23d. inst.1 that what we have hitherto done meets with your approbation, and it is with no small satisfaction that I see all three of my countrymen pleased and contented with their situation.
In regard to Mr Charles’s attending the lectures there is no rule or custom that forbids him. As there are none so young who attend the public-lectures, we only thought the students would consider him as a little boy brought by his governor to keep him out of harms way and treat him accordingly, but nothing hinders him from frequenting them if you desire it. They began with their language master this day. I stood by this afternoon while he taught them, and I am sure you would be highly pleased both with his method and his pains. He uses no printed grammar, but the boys form one from his dictating, so that I tell Mr. John that he can send his father a greek grammar in his own hand writing, and Charles a latin one. The Master spends an hour with them in the forenoon and an hour in the afternoon leaving them full two hours writing a peice every day. This with two Lectures is I am sure as much as they possibly can do at this season. Mr. Thaxter, Mr Gunther (preceptor of the german Noble) and myself have considered the point with attention and we are convinced they cannot go to three lectures a day and perform the task set them by the Master.
I am not a little afflicted at hearing by the last Mail that Dr. Fothergill was suddenly seized with a very dangerous disorder in the bladder, insomuch that I dread to hear the next news from London. If he dies he will not leave a better man behind him, nor has America a warmer or more constant friend in that country than he. We owe him much, his friendship for our country will be better known and felt in a future day, his partiality for us and our cause have drawn upon him more than once the calumny and hatred of a set of men who are prone to speak evil of the things they know not.2
I never knew till you mentioned it that the church where we now meet is the same where our venerable forefathers worshiped for a few years before they went to the Land of promise; had I known it, I should like you have venerated the very stones.3 With no less veneration and wonder will the transactions even of these our days be read and contemplated in future times. I often amuse myself by looking thro’, as it were, the mental-telescope to distant times to see if I can discover their opinions concerning us, I mean so far distant when some of our countrymen go over to England in the character of Antiquarians to search into a heap of rubish, where they can scarce believe once stood the capital of a mighty kingdom. I hear them disputing which side of the river St. Paul’s stood, and see them struck with astonishment when they are assured that the city which once stood there or thereabouts, was as large as Philadelphia is now! I say when I look thus into future times I am in hopes they will not at least curse their active forefathers of the present day, on the contrary I trust they will venerate some now living with a veneration equal to that of any men of any country that ever was. But I think of these things as I do of our own happy fire: sides in America without remembering the immense tract of rough, rude sea, that lies between us, so am I apt to forget the wars, bloodshed, horrors, and confusion, that will in all probability intervene between this and the time I speak of.
I imagine this frost will impede Comdr. Gillons preparations.4 If he is bound to Boston I should be very sorry to miss such a favourable oppetunity, but if [he does not]5 go to any port in New England I had pe[rhaps] better wait untill the next Ship.
I am with great respect your friend & Countryman,
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Son Excellence Monsieur Adams”; docketed in John Thaxter’s hand: “Dr. Waterhouse 26th. Decr. 1780.”
1. Not found.
2. John Fothergill (1712–1780), of London, Quaker physician, botanist, philanthropist, and friend of Americans and the American cause; he died on the day this letter was written (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1900; 63 vols. plus supplements. description ends ; Betsy Copping Corner and Christopher C. Booth, eds., Chain of Friendship: Selected Letters of Dr. John Fothergill of London, 1735–1780, Cambridge, 1971). Waterhouse’s close relationship with Fothergill has been noted in the sketch of the former under Waterhouse to JA, 13 Dec., above.
4. Alexander Gillon (1741–1794), said to have been born in Rotterdam but long established in Charleston as a merchant and shipowner, had introduced himself to JA on the road between Paris and Nantes in the spring of 1779. He held the title of commodore of the South Carolina navy and had come to Europe to obtain ships, stores, and funds to launch this navy. When JA arrived in Amsterdam in Aug. 1780, Gillon was readying a vessel, renamed the South Carolina, and supplies he had obtained on credit, and he proved helpful as an interpreter and in finding lodgings for JA and his family at the Widow Schorn’s. In Aug. 1781, when Gillon finally sailed with great secrecy from the Texel in order to escape his creditors, two of the passengers on board the South Carolina were CA and Benjamin Waterhouse. Gillon’s route was highly circuitous, quarrels broke out between him and some of his passengers, and in the end CA crossed the Atlantic in another vessel, from La Coruña in Spain. See Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774–1949, Washington, 1950. description ends , under Gillon; JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:446–447; JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot description begins Correspondence of the Late President Adams. Originally Published in the Boston Patriot. In a Series of Letters, Boston, 1809–1810; 10 pts. description ends , p. 178, 267–268, 345–346, 572; JQA, Diary, 11–12 Aug. 1780; Gillon to JA, 12 Nov. 1780 (Adams Papers); John Trumbull, Autobiography, ed. Theodore Sizer, New Haven, 1953 description begins The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull, Patriot-Artist, 1756–1843, ed. Theodore Sizer, New Haven, 1953. description ends , p. 75–77; D. E. Huger Smith, “Commodore Alexander Gillon and the Frigate South Carolina,” So. Car. Hist. & Geneal. Mag., 9 (1908): 189–219; Madison, Papers, ed. Hutchinson description begins The Papers of James Madison, eds. William T. Hutchinson and William M. E. Rachal, Chicago, 1962– . description ends , 4:111–113; also letters later in the present volume touching on CA’s voyage, especially AA to JA, 29 Sept. 1781, and Waterhouse to JA, 30 Sept. 1781.
5. Here and below, MS is torn by seal.