Richard Cranch to John Adams
Boston the 20th of Augt. 1783
My Dear Brother
This will be convey’d to you by the Honble. Natl. Gorham Esqr. our late Speaker, who return’d this Summer from Congress in which he has Serv’d this Commonwealth as a Delegate, with great Ability and Honour. I hope he will, if possible, have a personal Interview with you, as he can doubtless throw much Light on many of the Transactions of that Body. The special Purpose for which Mr. Gorham now goes to Europe, is, to solicit Donations for the distressed Inhabitants of his native Town of Charlestown. You are well acquainted with the uncommon Sufferings that worthy Community has undergone by having all their Houses burnt, and a great part of their Moveables, by the British Army; and then forced to retire almost naked, and destitute, to every part of the State where any Provision could be made for their Support, either by private Charity, or by the Publick permitting them to be entertained for the present as the Poor of the Towns to which they were sent.1
In this unhappy Condition most of the Inhabitants of Charlestown have remained ever since the time when that wanton Violence took place. Some of the former Inhabitants of that Town who yet retain some Property, have formed the laudable design of assisting in rebuilding the Town on a much more regular and elegant Plan than it stood on before it was burnt. An Act of the General Court has pass’d to enable them to lay out the new Streets commodiously and regularly, according to a Plan exhibited to the Legislature.2 The Honble. Mr. James Russell is among the foremost (notwithstanding his great Age)3 to bring forward the Rebuilding of the Town, and has earnestly requested his old Friend, our Father Smith, to write to you on the Subject. Father says he cannot write to you at present but wishes me to write.4 He says his Friend Mr. Russell is so engaged in raising up Charlestown (like the Phoenix from its Ashes) that he has scarce another Object on Earth for which he wishes to live.
The Plan, therefore, on which the Honble. Mr. Gorham now comes to Europe, is, to solicit Benefactions from the Rich and Generous, to assist the Poor of Charlestown (many of whome yet retain the small Spots of Ground on which their former Houses stood) in erecting such necessary Buildings, in the room of those that were burnt, as may enable them to return to their native Place, and enjoy with some degree of Independence, the common Blessings of Providence.
The manner in which you may best give Assistance in the prosecution of such a Plan, must be left entirely to your Prudence and Wisdom: But it is thought that the high Character you have so deservedly acquired both in Europe and America, would give great weight and encouragement to the Undertaking if it should meet with your approbation.
You know the Interest that Father Smith and the whole Family take in the Rebuilding of their native Town—it would be peculiarly pleasing to them if any thing of this sort should take place.
I wrote you the 26th. of June by Cousin Wm. Smith, who sail’d for London in Capt. Callahan; and two Letters of the 18th. of July, by Mr. Ben. Austin, who sail’d for London in Capt. Love, by him I sent you two Pamphlets containing some late Transactions of Congress—which I hope are come to hand. Your Mother and your Lady and Family are all well. Master Charles is just got well of the Meazels, he has had them favourably. Master Tommy was not at home, so that he has not catch’d them. The Ladies Adams, Dana, Warren, Quincy &c. drank Tea at our [House?] last Monday, all well, and wishing for your Re[turn] to crown the other Blessings of Peace, in the procuring of which you have born so essential a Part. My Family and all our Connections are as well as usual, and desire to be remember’d to you. I am, with the highest Esteem, your affectionate Brother
Please to present my kindest Regards to your Son and to our worthy Friends Thaxter and Storer, and let them know that their Friends are all well. Your Lady has received your Letters of the 20th. and 30th. of May.
The Ship Lady Ann, Capt. Richard Chapman arriv’d here last Saturday Night, by which I rec’d a Letter from Mr. Eyma fils of Amsterdam, by which I perceive that he has sent me a considerable Consignment thro’ your recommendation, for which I thank you. You may please to inform him that I shall take the utmost care of his Interest, and make Sale of them as quick as possible. The Goods are not yet come on shore. I shall write him very particularly as soon as I have examined the Goods. Adieu.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To His Excellency John Adams Esqr. Minister from the United States of America at Paris”; endorsed by JQA: “Mr. Cranch. Boston. Augt. 20th. 1783.” The cutting out of the seal caused the loss of two words of text.
1. The burning of Charlestown occurred during the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775. Only a few buildings escaped the flames; estimates placed the number of houses destroyed at 400 and property loss at over £115,000. After the British evacuated Boston, the residents began slowly to return, but rebuilding did not begin in earnest until 1783. Nathaniel Gorham had been involved in relief efforts for Charlestown since 1777, when he had presented a petition to Congress for that purpose. See vol. 2:214, and note 1, 240; JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint (from vol. 6), and others, Cambridge, 1977-. description ends , 5:198–199; Richard Frothingham Jr., The History of Charlestown, Massachusetts, Boston, 1845, p. 367–368; Souvenir of the 50th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument, Charlestown, 1893, p. 8–9.
2. This act was dated 30 Oct. 1781 (Private and Special Statutes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from . . . 1780 to 1805, 3 vols., Boston, 1805, 1:21–24).
3. James Russell, age sixty-eight in 1783, was a representative from 1746 to 1759, a member of the Council, 1759–1771, and a superior court justice from 1771 until the Revolution (Thomas Bellows Wyman, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown, Boston, 1879, 2:831, 832; William Davis, History of the Judiciary of Massachusetts, Boston, 1900, p. 141).
4. Rev. William Smith, AA’s father, was born in Charlestown in 1707, and joined the First Church there before graduating from Harvard in 1725 (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873–. description ends , 7:588). It may have been failing health that prevented Smith from writing to JA; he would die on 17 Sept. (AA to JA, 20 Sept., below).