Richard Cranch to John Adams
Boston April 26th. 1780
I have this Moment heard of an Oportunity of writing a line to you by Coll. Tyler of this Town who sets out this Day from hence and is going in a Vessel bound to France from New London.1 I would in the first Place (to fore-close Anxiety) inform you that your Wife and Children, your Mother, Brother &c. are well.
Mr. Partridge is return’d from Congress last Week—brings no News of importance. Genl. Hancock and Genl. Ward are not yet set out for Congress. Mr. Adams, it is said, will soon set out for Philadelphia.2 We have no News from Charlestown, South Carolina, later than the 22d of March, when the Inhabitants were in good Spirits, had got the Works in the Town in good order, and their out-works, for preventing the Enemy’s approach, so strong that they were in no great apprehension of their succeeding in their Attempt on that Place. The storm that overtook the Enemy’s Fleet after they left N: York, was very Providential. The Loss of their Cavalry and Warlike Stores was very great, but the Delay of their Attack upon Charlestown by that means for so long a Time, was of unspeakable Advantage to the State of S. Carolina and to the Town of Charlestown in particular, as by that means they had time to compleat their Works and collect Forces from distant Parts to defend them.
We have a strong Rumour in Town, via Plymouth, that a very formidable French Fleet is arrived at Martinico consisting of 17 Sail of the Line, 20 Frigats and 100 Transports with a large Body of Troops. Should this News prove true I fancy Britain may soon bid farewell to the West Indies as well as to North America.
You will see by the Papers the Congress has recommended a total Revolution in the Paper Currency. The Genl. Court is now sitting here. We have adopted the Spirit of the Recommendation, and a Bill for that purpose has pass’d both Houses but is not yet enacted. By this Act a Tax of £72,000 per Annum for seven Years including the present Year, is to be raised in hard Money, or Produce at a certain Rate; which Sum is supposed sufficient to redeem our Quota of the Continental Currency at its present depreciated value, estimated at forty Paper Dollars for one hard one. This Tax is to be paid in Silver at 6/8 per Oz. or Gold in proportion: or else in Wheat, Rye, Corn, Merchantable Fish, Barrell’d Pork and Beef, &c. &c. which are to be deliver’d into the State-Stores free of Charge at a certain stipulated Price, such as the Merchants would be willing to pay for them in Silver and Gold.3
This is the Fund on which the New Bills proposed by Congress for this State are to be founded, and will at the end of seven Years be sufficient to redeem them with Gold and Silver, and pay the intervening Interest. The Form of Constitution has received various alterations since you left it in less able Hands, that as I conceive are not for the better. It is now printed and sending out to the People. I let sister Adams have one of them to send to you in her Pacquet by Mr. Guile (one of the Tutors) who is going in a Vessel from Beverly, bound to Holland. I will endeavour to send you another by this Conveyance per favor of Coll. Tyler, if I can get it soon enough.4 Sister Adams has received from Mr. Tracey of Newbury Port the Goods that you directed Messrs: Gardoqui and Sons to send to her, consisting of several Pieces of family Linnen, some silk Handkerchiefs, a sett of Knives and Forks, some Glass-Ware &c. I suppose such Articles, if to be sold here, would fetch four Dollars in hard Money, for what cost one Dollar in Europe; so that I think a few Remittances of that kind from time to time to Mrs. Adams would be very proper. And upon this occasion I would beg leave to mention to you that if any of your Mercantile Friends should be willing to become Adventurers to America in that way, I should be very glad to serve them in disposing of any Merchandize that might be consign’d to me. I am oblig’d to keep in my Hands part of a very good Warehouse built with Brick and cover’d with Tile, on the Town Dock in Boston where I could store the Goods without Expence of Truckage, and would transact the Business on the most reasonable Terms. And should any of them be inclined to purchase Lands now when so many Confiscated Estates will soon be to be sold (as I wrote you more at large in my Letter of the 18th. of Jany. last, which I hope you have received) my Connection with Public Affairs would enable me to transact such Business with some Advantages that a Person in a more private Station of Life would not have: and my knowledge of the French Language may also facilitate such a Correspondence.
You will see by the enclosed Paper that I have lost a very worthy Relative Mr. Natl. Cranch by an unlucky Fall: What makes this Event truly melancholy is the Connection between him and Betsy Palmer—they were soon to be Married.5
I want to write a thousand things to you but have not time, as I must Seal this directly. Give my kindest Love to the dear Boys Johnney and Charley, and to Mr. Thaxter. I intend writing to Mr. Thaxter by the next Oportunity that offers. His Friends at Hingham, Father Smith, Uncle Quincy &c. are all well. Sister Adams has drawn a Bill on you for one Hundred Dollars or £22–10–0 Sterling in favour of Mr. Thos. Bumstead who is making a genteel Chaise for her, she pays the rest here. The lowest Price I could get it for was three hundred hard Dollars. I suppose Mr. Bumstead has sent the Bill by Coll. Tyler.6 We were very happy in hearing from you soon after your dangerous Passage. Your Letters from Spain I suppose all arriv’d safe to hand, but we have not receiv’d a Line from you since your Arrival in France. I hope we shall soon have that Pleasure, which will add greatly to the Happyness of our friendly Circle, and particularly to that of your affectionate Brother,
P.S. I mentioned in my last that it was probable that Borland’s Estate in Braintree would be to be sold before long by Order of Government; should that be the case I should be glad to buy it if I could without selling my own Farm that joins upon it and makes it so very convenient for me. I should therefore be glad to know from you, by the first Oportunity, whether if I should be able to purchase that Place [for a]bout7 four or five Hundred Pounds Sterling you would let me draw [on yo]u for that Sum, on my Mortgaging the Place to you for security of Payment? Your Answer either to Sister Adams or to me would greatly oblige yours, ut supra,
RC (Adams Papers); addressed (half of address leaf torn away; missing matter supplied from indication of address at foot of text in Dft): “[To his Excellency John] Adams Esqr. [Minister Plen]epotentiary [from the United] States of [Americ]a at Paris”; endorsed by JA: “Mr. Cranch 26 April 1780”; endorsement repeated in Thaxter’s hand. Dft (MHi:Cranch Family Collection); indication of address (as given above) follows text; docketed: “Lettr. to Bror. Adams Apl. 26th. 1780.” Concerning the enclosed newspaper see notes 5 and 8.
1. This was John Steele Tyler (d. 1813), older brother of Royall Tyler the (future) playwright whose tangled relations a few years later with the Adams family have been fully set forth in The Earliest Diary of John Adams description begins The Earliest Diary of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1966. description ends . John Steele had served in the Continental Army, resigning as major in 1779, and thereafter in the ill-fated Massachusetts expedition against Penobscot, in which he held a commission as lieutenant colonel. A fellow passenger on his voyage from New London to Nantes in 1780 was the aspiring artist John Trumbull, and the two young men made their way, apparently without difficulty even though they were both former Continental officers, to London via Paris, where Tyler called on JA late in June; see note 6 below.
On Tyler and his career see Grandmother Tyler’s Book description begins Frederick Tupper and Helen Tyler Brown, eds., Grandmother Tyler’s Book: The Recollections of Mary Palmer Tyler (Mrs. Royall Tyler), 1775–1866, New York and London, 1925. description ends , p. 257 and passim; Mass. Soldiers and Sailors description begins Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, Boston, 1896–1908; 17 vols. description ends ; John Trumbull, Autobiography, ed. Theodore Sizer, New Haven, 1953 description begins The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull, Patriot-Artist, 1756–1843, ed. Theodore Sizer, New Haven, 1953. description ends , p. 58–59, 64–66; G. Thomas Tanselle, Royall Tyler, Cambridge, 1967, passim. In the early 1930’s, while investigating Trumbull’s sojourn in London during the Revolution, Lewis Einstein brought to light in the Public Record Office a letter written by Tyler to Lord George Germain from Bordeaux, 6 Aug. 1781, in which the writer offered to serve in the British forces, asking only £1,000 in compensation for the property he would thus forfeit in America (Einstein, Divided Loyalties . . ., Boston and New York, 1933, p. 365–366, 447). The offer was not taken up, and Tyler later returned to Boston without known damage to his reputation.
2. George Partridge had been elected to the Continental Congress in June 1779 and had attended from the following August until early April 1780. John Hancock, although a delegate, did not attend at all in 1779 or 1780. Artemas Ward, elected in Nov. 1779, did not attend until mid-June 1780. Samuel Adams extended his leave from Congress, begun in June 1779, for a whole year. See Burnett, ed., Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1921–1936; 8 vols. description ends , 4: liii; 5: lvii–lviii.
3. This was An Act making Provision for Calling in, to be destroyed, this State’s Quota, according to the present Apportionment, of all the Public Bills of Credit which have been emitted by Congress, &c., through a title of fifteen lines, passed 5 May 1780 and printed in Province Laws, 5:1178–1183. See, further, note 8 below.
4. The third session of the Convention had adjourned on 2 March until 7 June after having empowered a committee to print and distribute the text of the Constitution as agreed on for the consideration of the towns, together with an Address of the Convention . . . to Their Constituents (Mass. Constitutional Convention, 1779–1780, Journal description begins Journal of the Convention for Framing a Constitution of Government for the State of Massachusetts Bay, . . . September 1, 1779, . . . to June 16, 1780, Boston, 1832. description ends , p. 163–164, 168–169, 216–221). For the background see above, JA to AA, 13 Nov. 1779, note 3.
5. Nathaniel Cranch was a nephew of Richard Cranch, who probably wrote the following obituary, printed in the Boston Independent Ledger, 24 April 1780, p. 3, col. 2:
“On Wednesday evening last , a very melancholy event happened near this place. As Nathaniel Cranch, Esq; (lately returned from a public employment at Philadelphia) was passing over the Neck that leads from this town to Roxbury, the weather being very stormy, and he walking alone as is supposed, too near the edge of the Abuttment built there to guard against the tide, by some mis-step fell over, and striking his head against a sharp rock that lay on the Beach, received such a wound, that to all appearance put an instant period to his life.
“Mr. Cranch was the Son of a very worthy Clergyman in England: He came into America some years before the commencement of the present contest; when that interesting event had taken place, he did not stand an inattentive spectator, but throwing aside his local prejudices, carefully weighed the merits of the cause, and seeing clearly on which side truth and justice lay,—that honesty of mind, that invincible attachment to truth and justice, that were the characteristic qualities of his Soul, determined him to risk every thing in defence of the American cause. In this glorious struggle, he was engaged from the first forming of the army at Cambridge, untill a few weeks past—when the flattering prospect of a settlement in life, that would have crown’d his tenderest wishes, brought him back.—The feeling heart alone can tell the sequel!”
At the time of this “melancholy event” young Cranch was engaged to his cousin Elizabeth (1748–1814), daughter of Brig. Gen. Joseph Palmer; in 1790 she married Nathaniel’s younger brother Joseph; see Tyler, Grandmother Tyler’s Book description begins Frederick Tupper and Helen Tyler Brown, eds., Grandmother Tyler’s Book: The Recollections of Mary Palmer Tyler (Mrs. Royall Tyler), 1775–1866, New York and London, 1925. description ends , p. 55–56, and Adams Genealogy. See also Thaxter to AA, 12 May, below.
6. JA’s record of personal expenditures contains an entry showing that on 28 June he paid Tyler 535 livres to redeem AA’s bill of exchange in the amount of 100 dollars (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:440). Cranch, as he states here, had made the arrangements with Thomas Bumstead, a carriage-maker, dealer, and auctioneer of “Long Acre,” Boston, who advertised frequently in the papers in 1780. It is clear that AA had JA’s approval for this personal indulgence, but when he heard its cost he pronounced it “horribly dear” (JA to AA, 17 June, below).
7. Here and below, MS is torn by seal.
8. JA received Cranch’s letter on 16 June and immediately sent on to Vergennes the enclosed newspaper (presumably the Independent Ledger, 24 April; see note 5 above), together with an extract from the letter itself, namely the third paragraph, on the measures of Congress and of Massachusetts to check further depreciation of the currency. See JA to Vergennes, 16 June (RC in Archives Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., Etats-Unis, vol. 12; LbC in Adams Papers, printed, with the enclosed extract, in JA, Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , 7:187). Since many of Congress’ creditors were French, Vergennes deeply disapproved of the Gordian method adopted to redeem the old currency, and JA’s defense of it was one of the chief causes of the breach between him and Vergennes that took place in June–July 1780. The fullest account of this historic quarrel is in John E. Little, John Adams and American Foreign Affairs, 1755–1780, Princeton Univ. doctoral dissertation, 1966, ch. 8.