Adams Papers

Edmund Jenings to John Adams, 12 March 1784

From Edmund Jenings

London March 12th 1784.


I take the Liberty of enclosing an American. newspaper & an Extract out of an English one.1

The House of Commons sat until 12 O Clock last night; and after very Warm Debates Mr Foxs resolutions, Stating all that has passed in the present Dispute, & justifying or attempting to do so, the Conduct of the House were Carried by a Majority of One.2

I am told Lord Sidney has sent to the Merchants a Plan for opening the Trade of the West Indias to the American Ships— a part of it is to suffer Vessels of 80 Ton to bring Lumber & take back the produce of the Islands.3

I am with great Consideration / Sir / your Excellencys / Most Obedient / Humble Servant

Edm: Jenings

RC (Adams Papers).

1No reply by JA to this letter has been found and neither newspaper has been identified.

2This letter is dated 12 March, but the only debate matching Jenings’ description occurred on the 8th. That day marked the climax of the contest between George III and William Pitt on the one side and Charles James Fox on the other over royal prerogative versus parliamentary supremacy. Fox offered a remonstrance to George III over the king’s refusal to remove an administration—Pitt’s—“which does not enjoy the confidence of this House.” Fox’s victory by one vote shows the steady decline of his forces since early January when he could command a 39-vote majority in the Commons, and it foretold the outcome of the soon to be contested general election. Jenings wrote the word “One” in letters considerably larger than the rest of the text, presumably to emphasize Fox’s predicament (Parliamentary Hist., description begins The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, London, 1806–1820; 36 vols. description ends 24:733–744; Cannon, Fox-North Coalition, description begins John Cannon, The Fox-North Coalition: Crisis of the Constitution, 1782–4, London, 1969. description ends p. 164–165, 201–205, 223–224).

3Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, was Pitt’s home secretary. With a letter to Benjamin Franklin of 28 Feb., Henry Laurens enclosed Benjamin Vaughan’s account of proposals made by Lord Sydney to a meeting of West Indian merchants on 27 February. Sydney suggested that only ships of eighty tons or less be admitted to the trade, that exports to America must equal imports from America, and that the trade would be confined to one port on each island except for three that would be permitted on Jamaica. The proposals were justified as being “designed with a View to avoid the Jealousy attending the carrying Trade from the West Indies to Europe being broken in upon by the Americans.” Sydney’s audience was critical of his proposals, and Laurens thought them foolish (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements. description ends ; Laurens, Papers, description begins The Papers of Henry Laurens, ed. Philip M. Hamer, George C. Rogers Jr., David R. Chesnutt, C. James Taylor, and others, Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003; 16 vols. description ends 16:400–401).

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