John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia Saturday Septr. 14. 1776
Yesterday Morning I returned with Dr. F. and Mr. R. from Staten Island where We met L[ord] H[owe] and had about three Hours Conversation with him. The Result of this Interview, will do no disservice to Us. It is now plain that his L[ordshi]p has no Power, but what is given him in the Act of P[arliament]. His Commission authorises him to grant Pardons upon Submission, and to converse, confer, consult and advise with such Persons as he may think proper, upon American Grievances, upon the Instructions to Governors and the Acts of Parliament, and if any Errors should be found to have crept in, his Majesty and the Ministry were willing they should be rectified.
I found yours of 31. of Aug. and 2d. of September.1 I now congratulate you on your Return home with the Children. Am sorry to find you anxious on Account of idle Reports.—Dont regard them. I think our Friends are to blame to mention such silly Stories to you. What good do they expect to do by it?
My Ride has been of Service to me. We were absent but four days. It was an agreable Excursion. His L[ordshi]p is about fifty Years of Age. He is a well bred Man, but his Address is not so irresistable, as it has been represented. I could name you many Americans, in your own Neighbourhood, whose Art, Address, and Abilities are greatly superiour. His head is rather confused, I think.2
When I shall return I cant say. I expect now, every day, fresh Hands from Watertown.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. Adams at Mr. John Adams’s Braintree Massachusetts Bay”; franked: “free John Adams”; postmarked: “PHILA. SEP 14.” LbC (Adams Papers).
2. JA’s “Ride” to and from Staten Island, with Benjamin Franklin and Edward Rutledge, began on the 9th and ended on the 13th. The interview with Lord Howe occurred on the 11th at the Christopher Billopp house in Tottenville. JA’s retrospective account of the journey and interview is justly famous, and is accompanied by pertinent passages from the Journal of Congress and from his own contemporaneous letters (Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:414–430). Congress published the relevant papers, including the report of the committee, under date of 17 Sept. (broadside in NN; Evans description begins Charles Evans and others, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends 15168). The best British account is by Henry Strachey, secretary to the Howe brothers’ commission, whom JA was to encounter again during the negotiations for a preliminary peace with Great Britain in the fall of 1782; Strachey’s narrative was first printed accurately (from a MS in NN) by Paul L. Ford in an article entitled “Lord Howe’s Commission to Pacify the Colonies,” Atlantic Monthly, 77:758–762 (June 1896); see also Ambrose Serle, American Journal, ed. Edward H. Tatum Jr., San Marino, Calif., 1940, p. 100–101, and various sources cited in Stokes, Iconography of Manhattan Island description begins I. N. Phelps Stokes, The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498–1919, New York, 1915–1928; 6 vols. description ends , 5:1010. On 19 Sept. the Howes issued in broadside form a further “Declaration,” in which they gave up on Congress but appealed again to all persons disposed to reconciliation with Great Britain; an example in MHi is reproduced as an illustration in this volume.