Adams Papers

To John Adams from William Gordon, 13 August 1785

From William Gordon

New York Aut 13. 1785

My dear Sir

Yours by your son was a very agreeable letter.1 I recd it last wednesday while at the President’s, where I had the pleasure of viewing your living picture. You have confirmed me in my suspicion, that tho’ there were many pictures abroad there was little likeness. I shall do my best, & it may be well for one who is not a writer of the first talents, nor been employed thirty years in making my collection. I shall pay more attention to resemblance, than the colours & the drapery. I mean not to publish the whole truth of what I know, tho’ nothing but what I know or believe to be true.

I hope to see you in England by this time twelve month; & to be engaged in drawing off from the dreggs an historical spirit, that shall deserve the attention of the public.2 Mr Jay & I have got great & thick since my arrival in the city. Propose returning, the way I came, by water, to Newport so to Providence &c, the beginning of next week; & being accompanied by your son, whom I persuade to go in that way rather than in the land carriages, whose drivers are furious & careless, so as to make it dangerous.3 It is feared, that for want of a sufficient representation, the Congress will not get thro’ their requisitions—which will be bad for our character.

Mr Hancock you will know before this can reach you, is chosen one of our delegates.4 Politicians conjecture, he is laying out for the Presidents chair, that there will be all the apparatus of his coming on, & that if chosen during absence he will answer to appearances; but that if not chosen, illness real or feigned will prevent it.

This will be handed by Dr Rodgers, a young gentleman of fair character & good behaviour, who served in the army in the physical line, & has since been studying in Scotland. He is the son of Dr Rodgers the Presbyterian minister of this city, whom you cannot but know by the hearing of the ear, tho’ you may not by the seeing of the eye.5 Th[o’ the] bearer is not a Bayman, yet as he has ever been a high son of liberty & a thorough American, I am persuaded he will meet with many civilities from you. Pray my best regards to your Lady & daughter, & accept the same yourself, from Your Excellency’s, sincere friend / & very humble servant

William Gordon

[No]t having my own study & tackling, I cannot write as I would; but hope to be legible.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “[. . .] Europe”; endorsed: “Dr Gordon. 13. Aug. 1785 / N. York.”; notation: “Favoured / by / Dr Rodgers.” Some loss of text where the seal was removed and due to a torn manuscript.

1Of 27 April, above.

2Gordon and his wife sailed from Boston on 16 April 1786 and arrived at London in late May. For AA’s comments on the prospects for and publication of Gordon’s history of the American Revolution in England, where it appeared in 1788, see her 27 May 1786 letter to Isaac Smith Sr., AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 7:11, 207, 208.

3Although it was arduous, JQA elected to go overland to Boston in order to see the country. He admitted to AA2 his fear that “our Parents will think this is an imprudent, headless scheme of mine,” but he reached Boston safely on 25 Aug. 1785 (AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 6:252– 253, 289).

4John Hancock was elected to Congress on 16 June (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Paul H. Smith and others, Washington, D.C., 1976–2000; 26 vols. description ends , 23:xxi). For his selection as its president in November, see John Jay’s 26 Nov. letter, and note 1, below.

5Dr. John Richardson Bayard Rodgers (1757–1833), Princeton 1782, was the son of Rev. John Rodgers, patriot pastor of New York’s First Presbyterian Church. A former Continental Army surgeon, the younger Rodgers earned his medical degree at the University of Edinburgh in 1785 and later taught midwifery and obstetrics at Columbia College (Princetonians description begins James McLachlan, Richard A. Harrison, Ruth L. Woodward, Wesley Frank Craven, and J. Jefferson Looney, Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, Princeton, N.J., 1976–1991; 5 vols. description ends , 2:518–520).

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