George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Bowdoin, 7 November 1778

From James Bowdoin

Boston Novr 7. 1778


I thank your Excellency for the Letter you caused to be Sent to me Some time ago. As it came from England I think it proper to mention to you, that it was from Mr Stewart, who married Mrs Bowdoin’s Sister, and beside family-matters contains nothing but a wish for the re-istablishment of peace between Britain & America.1

The Gentleman, who waits on you with this Letter, is John Temple Esqr. lately returned from England, where he has resided the last eight years. He held at different times Several respectable & lucrative Offices under the Crown: viz., those of Surveyor General & one of the Commissioners of the Customs in America, and Surveyer General of the Customs in England: the first with a salary of £500. & the last of £1000. sterling per Annum. Of these Offices he was successively deprived for his refusal to join in the infamous measures for oppressing the trade & liberties of America: and the last four years his continuance in England was the effect of ministerial persecution, from which he was released by the mediation of the late Earl of Chatham, & other friends in the minority.

As he intends in his way to Congress to pay his Compliments to your Excellency, I beg leave to introduce him for that purpose, and to mention him to you as a warm, steadfast, persecuted Friend to the Cause of America, whose merits in that view intitle him to the friendly notice of his Countrymen. If your Excellency should look on him in that light, you will permit me to think it would gratify your benevolence to favour him with a line of recommendation to Congress, which at the same time I Should esteem a particular favour.2 I have the honour to be with great respect Sir Yr Excellency’s most obedt hble Servt

James Bowdoin

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 78; ADf, MHi: Bowdoin-Temple Papers.

1James Bowdoin (1726–1790) of Boston, a scientist and politician, took a master’s degree at Harvard College in 1748, was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1753, and served as a member of the Massachusetts Council 1757–69 and 1770–74. An early advocate of the patriot cause, he became president of the revolutionary Massachusetts Council in 1776 and served for a year before resigning due to ill health. He returned to politics in 1780, presiding over the Massachusetts constitutional convention in that year and serving as governor of Massachusetts 1785–87. Bowdoin was one of the founders of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and became its first president in 1779; he also became first president of the Massachusetts Bank in 1784 and president of the Massachusetts Humane Society in 1786. Bowdoin’s wife, whom he married in 1748, was Elizabeth Erving (1731–1803). Her sister Ann (c.1741–1804) was married to Duncan Stewart (d. 1793), a former collector of customs at New London, Conn., who had recently left America. GW knew both the Bowdoin and Erving families well, having met and dined with them during his time in Boston after the British evacuation in March 1776.

2Temple, whose brother William had sought reconciliation with Congress in 1776 (see Joseph Reed to GW, 15 March 1776, n.12), also carried a “small box” for GW and a recommendation from Maj. Gen. John Sullivan; see Horatio Gates to GW, 10 Nov., and Sullivan to GW, 12 November. GW wrote John Temple a letter of recommendation enclosing Bowdoin’s letter and sent him on to Congress, but the delegates viewed him suspiciously and he returned to England in May 1779 (see GW to Henry Laurens, 23 Nov., and Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 11:358–59). Temple became British consul general at New York in 1785.

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