From Jonathan Williams
Providence Decr 20th 1775
I1 have just heard of your return from Philadelphia, and am exceeding sorry I had not the pleasure of seeing you as you passed thro’ Providence;2 I want very much to consult you Sir, about entering into the Practise of Law, and the favour you did me when an Opportunity offered for my going into Business at Portsmouth, encourages me to make this Application.
I have for this some time past had a great desire to enter the Army, [and?] I find the Thoughts of it, affects my [Mother] so much, that I think it ungenerous to urge it farther; I have now turned my thoughts to the Practise of Law, and according to your advice, am determined to pursue my Studies. I think a favourable opportunity now offers, and I wish to take advantage of it. You know Sir, I have now been in the Study of the Law, above the Period, necessary for an Introduction to Court, and as the Court is to meet here the first Wednesday in Jany. I wanted to ask you, if you woud think it adviseable for me, to offer myself to be sworn—and if you shoud, whether it woud not be necessary for me to have some Credentials, or Recomendations from you. I am not determined to settle here, that I shall leave to a future day, but I think if I was sworn, I might perhaps get some Business, which woud relieve me from a state of Idleness, and have a tendency to fix me to a close application to my Books.
If it woud not be too much trouble, I shoud be much obliged to you for your advice.
Sometime ago you put Hawkins’s Pleas of the Crown,3 into my hands. I read him thro and have since read Finch, and Burns Justice and am now reading Plowden’s Reports.4 I have several of your Books in my possession which I will take good care off, and if possible prevent them from falling into the Hands of any one, that woud sacrifice them [because] they belong to you.
I am exceeding unhappy Sir that I cannot immediately pay you the price of my Education, but my Father’s Absence,5 and the embarrassment of our Family, woud make it at present difficult. Sir, if you shoud want a sum of Money I will exert myself to answer your purpose.
I heartily wish you Joy upon the honorable Appointment lately [assigned?] you, by your Countrymen, and congratulate you as a Patriot, upon the late acqui[sition?] to our Cause, in Cannada, and the success [. . .] prizes obtained at Sea by the vigillance [of] Manly and others.
My Respects to Mrs. Adams. I hope She, and all your Family are well. I am Sir your much obliged & sincere Friend
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To The Honble John Adams Esqr in Braintree”; in another hand below the address: “To be delivered to Mr Tudor”; docketed in an unidentified hand: “J Williams to Jno. Adams Esqr” and in another hand: “Decr. 20th 1775”; in the lower right corner of the address portion: “Thos. Smith.” The MS is badly mutilated, but relatively few words are missing.
1. Jonathan Williams (d. 1780) had been JA’s law clerk from Sept. 1772–Oct.(?) 1774 (JA, Legal Papers description begins Legal Papers of John Adams, ed. L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel, Cambridge, 1965; 3 vols. description ends , 1:lxxxi, cxiii).
2. JA passed through Providence on either 19 or 20 Dec. (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:171).
3. William Hawkins, A Treatise of the Pleas of the Crown, 4th edn., 2 vols. in 1, London, 1762 (Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends ).
4. Sir Henry Finch, A Description of the Common Laws of England, according to the Rules of Art, Compared with the Prerogatives of the King, London, 1759; or Law, or a Discourse Thereof, in Four Books . . . Notes and References, and a Table . . . by Danby Pickering, [London,] 1759. Richard Burn, The Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer, 7th edn., 3 vols., London, 1762 (Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends lists vol. 1). Edmund Plowden, The Commentaries, or Reports of Edmund Plowden, [London,] 1761 (same).
5. John Williams, father of Jonathan, was a former inspector general of customs at Boston, who at this time was probably still in London, where in 1774 he had a number of meetings with Josiah Quincy Jr. and prevailed upon him to meet with several officials in the ministry (MHS, Procs. description begins Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings. description ends , 50 [1916–1917]:437, 438, 439, 441, 442, 443, 446).