Richard Cranch to John Adams
Boston July 18th. 1783
The Bearer Mr. Benjamin Austin is a Son of the Honble. Benjamin Austin Esqr. of this Town, and Brother to Mr. Jona. Loring Austin who was lately in Europe.1 He expects to see France and Holland before he returns, and wishes that he may have an Oportunity of being made personally known to your Excellency. I am not very particularly acquainted with this young Gentleman, but the great Esteem that I have for his Father and Family makes me wish that you would take a friendly notice of him, not doubting but his Conduct will be such as to make him deserving of it.
I wrote you the 26th. ultimo by Cousin William Smith, who sail’d from hence the 7th. Instant, bound to London, on board Capt. Callahan. I then gave you an account of domestick matters, and that all our dear Connections were well. Nothing remarkable has taken place since. Our Honble. Friend Cotton Tufts Esqr. wrote you at the same time,2 giving you some account of our Publick Affairs. The General Court was adjourned the 11th. Instant to the 24th. of September. The two chief Objects of Debate this session have been the 5 Per Cent Duty recommended by Congress as a Fund for paying the Interest of the National Debt; and the Commutation with the Officers of the Army in lieu of the half Pay for life that Congress had promised them. The former was pass’d, but clog’d with such Conditions as, I fear, will make a Difficulty.3 But the present Spirit of the House seems very averse to the Commutation, (how consistant with Justice and good Faith is yet to be shewn) so that nothing is done in that behalf; but a Remonstrance, on the contrary, has been agree’d upon to be sent to Congress to shew their disapprobation of the Conduct of Congress in making such a Promise to the Army. I now send you, by the care of the Bearer, a Collection of State Papers on the Subject, and among the rest the cellebrated Letter of his Excellency Genl. Washington on his quitting the publick Theater and retiring to his Farm and private Life; which he does with a Dignity that would do honour to a Roman General in the most virtuous Days of their Republick.4
Please to present my best Regards to your Son, if return’d, and to our very worthy Friends Thaxter and Storer; and believe me to be, with the highest Esteem, your affectionate Brother
I saw your Lady and Daughter, and Master Charles at Commencement yesterday, all well. They were at Mrs. Dana’s who with her Family are all well. Master Tommy was well, the Day before Commencement, at Haverhill.
RC (Adams Papers).
1. In 1780 the Massachusetts Council named Jonathan Loring Austin to negotiate a loan in Europe (vol. 3:262, note 6, and 263; Council to JA and Francis Dana, 13 Jan. 1780, JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint (from vol. 6), and others, Cambridge, 1977-. description ends , 8:308–309, and notes).
2. Cotton Tufts to JA, 26 June (Adams Papers).
3. For Congress’ action on the debt and its address to the people concerning it, see JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 24:257–261, 277–283. During this summer session the Massachusetts General Court did not in fact agree upon an impost bill for the benefit of the Confederation; but the legislative history is complicated, and Cranch, who was not in the legislature, could easily have been confused (Records of the States, Microfilm, Mass., A.1b, Reel No. 11, Unit 1, p. 148, 155, 157–159, 163, 165–167, 170; Mass. A.1a, Reel No. 16, Unit 2, p. 113). The impost was passed during the second session on 20 Oct., the measure repealing the impost of 4 May 1782. Again the legislative struggle was prolonged and sharp (Mass., Acts and Laws description begins Acts and Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [1780–1805], Boston, 1890–1898; 13 vols. description ends , 1782–1783, p. 541–543; same, 1780–1781, p. 589–592; AA to JA, 27 Dec., note 9, below). The text of the final impost act heaped up conditions: violators were to be tried by jury only in Massachusetts with final appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court. Excessive fines and cruel punishments were forbidden. The state was to have an annual accounting of monies received and the amount for each imported item and an annual statement of receipts taken by Congress from each of the other states.
4. See also Cotton Tufts to JA, 26 June (Adams Papers). Washington’s long circular letter, sent to each of the thirteen states, addressed several topics that the General deemed of the utmost importance, among them the commutation of the army’s half-pay as recommended by Congress (The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, 39 vols., Washington, 1931–1944, vol. 26:483–496). On an order from the Massachusetts General Court, Washington’s letter was printed along with earlier letters of his and of other army officers, and the related actions of Congress, as A Collection of Papers Relative to Half-Pay and Commutation thereof Granted by Congress . . ., Boston, 1783. The collection is similar to, but contains fewer documents than, that with a like title printed in Fishkill, New York, 1783, by Samuel Louden. The title of this collection ran, in part, Compiled, by Permission of General Washington, from the Original Papers in His Possession; although quite extensive, it omitted Washington’s farewell to the states (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 Nos. 18256 and 18255). Washington probably sent this larger collection with his farewell letter to Massachusetts, and the General Court chose to print several documents from it along with the farewell.