Adams Papers

Adams Elected to Membership in Supporters of the Bill of Rights, 21 September 1773

Adams Elected to Membership in Supporters of the Bill of Rights

London Tavern, 21st. Sepr., 1773


Supporters of the Bill of Rights.1

In pursuance of a Resolution of this Society, I am to signify to you that you have this Day been duly elected a Member thereof.

I am, Sir! Your most humble Servant,

Thomas Wilson Chairman.

Signed by his order, John Wilkes

N.B. Subscriptions are received by frederick bull, Esq; Treasurer to this society, at his House in Leadenhall-Street, No. 96.2

Printed form on folded sheet approx. 13 by 8 inches (Adams Papers); addressed: “John Adams Esqr. Boston”; endorsed on address leaf: “Jan’y 25. 74 Society of bill of rights.” For letter of transmittal on the verso, see note 2, below.

1Presumably at the suggestion of John Horne Tooke, the Society of Supporters of the Bill of Rights had been started in 1769 while John Wilkes was in prison to raise money for his debts and election expenses (Tooke in 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 ). By 1771, the society, split over the issue of raising money for Wilkes, had announced a reform program that included reducing the length of life of Parliaments, more nearly equal representation, and decreasing the number of placemen in the Commons (J. R. Pole, Political Representation in England and the Origins of the American Republic, N.Y., 1966, p. 428–429). No record has been found to show whether JA contributed money to the cause.

2On the verso appears the following letter, endorsed at the foot, “rec’d. Jan. 25 1774”:

London, 15th Octor. 1773


I have the honor of transmitting you the inclosed Resolution of the Society of the Bill of Rights which was unanimous.

It affords me great pleasure to find so very respectable a Gentleman of America, disposed to unite with the Friends of Liberty in England for our mutual safety and Defence.

I am most respectfully your very Obedient Humble Servant,

Stephen Sayre

Sayre, whom JA may have met during his visits to New England in 1766 and 1772, credited himself with being the “chief founder” of the Supporters, but he tended greatly to exaggerate his accomplishments and importance (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– . description ends , 14:207). For a brief sketch of Sayre and bibliographic references for his career, see Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963– . description ends , 4:264–265, note.

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